Janice Williams

1913 Reunion

In Aaron, Abilene, Basic Family Information, Dave Cunningham, David Houston Cunningham, Elizabeth Holmsley, George Washington Cunningham, James Washington Cunningham, Mary Jane Neely, Newspaper articles, Original 12 Cunninghams, Photos, San Angelo, Sheriffs, T.J. Holmsley, William Henry on January 1, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Below is the transcription of an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about our family. This picture was also printed in the paper with the article.

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Cunninghams of Comanche Largest Family in This State; 400 Members

Nine Brothers and Three Sisters and their Offspring Hold Notable Reunion—Five Men Have Served as Sheriff in Various Counties

Special to the Star-Telegram

COMANCHE, Texas, Aug. 30—The largest family in Texas, the Cunninghams, 400 in number, held a reunion last week at the home of David Cunningham, south of here. It appeared more like a state convention. Many of the younger members had to be introduced to their relatives. Captain James and Susan Cunningham, the progenitors, have not been dead long. But the family is remarkable in other ways than number. Five Cunninghams, all brothers, have served as sheriffs in Texas. The five meet at a recent state convention of sheriffs.

George W. Cunningham of San Angelo claims to have been the first child born in Comanche county. G.A. Cunningham is now mayor of Comanche.

Capt. James Cunningham and his wife came from Alabama to Texas in 1842 and after a few years in Travis and Williamson counties, located permanently in Comanche county. This was in 1955. This section was then part of the “wild West” and settlers lived far apart.

Mr. and Mrs. T.J. Holmsley were the first couple married in this county, this taking place in 1876. Holmsley was formerly Miss Bettie Cunningham, daughter of Captain Cunningham.

Jack Cunningham is the present sheriff of Comanche county. The Cunninghams had twelve children, nine sons and three daughters. These now have children and grandchildren of their own. They may be found in the picture as follows: Bottom row, left to right, Aaron Cunningham, Comanche; Mrs. T.J. Holmsley, Comanche; D. H. Cunningham, Comanche; R.T. Cunningham, Comanche; J.V. Cunningham, Huntsville; W. H. Cunningham, Newberg; J.W. Cunningham, Comanche; J.J. Cunningham, Pridy; T.A. Cunningham, Newberg; G. W. Cunningham, San Angelo; Mrs. J. M. Neeley, Spur; Mrs. J.R. Lewis, Brownwood.

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I have a Xerox copy of a copy of this article in my possession, taken from a wonderful trove of family history saved by William Aaron Cunningham, Sr., the grandson of Aaron Cunningham, the father of Betty Mitchell and Nancy Satterfield that you may know from the reunion. Grandfather of Scott Olguin and Amy Pownall who are always with us in August.

The article says that 5 Cunningham men were sheriffs. Three served as sheriff of Comanche County:  Dave, Bill, and James.  John Valentine Cunningham was sheriff of Taylor County (Abilene) for many years. George was the first sheriff elected in Mills County and also served in law enforcement in San Angelo (Tom Green County). T.J. Holmsley, the husband of oldest daughter Betty, was also sheriff of Comanche County (1856-57), and Jack Cunningham, the son of Richard Cunningham (grandson of Capt. James) was sheriff of Comanche County from 1912-1916.

I need some more information about the dates of the 3 brothers that served as Comanche sheriffs. Alma Meadows Cox reports they were all sheriffs in her first genealogy of the family. The Patchwork of Memories, a book put out in 1976 by the Comanche Heritage Division Committee, has Dave’s term from 1878-80, James (J.W.) from 1884-1886, but there is no W.H. Cunningham. There is W.C. Cunningham, but his term from 1869-70 would have been when Bill was only 21 years old so I don’t think that is him. More research needed.

This was the last Cunningham reunion with all 12 children, by the way. Aaron Cunningham, the oldest, was the first to pass away in January of 1914. 

It is also interesting to me to see that the Neelys were in Spur (at least according to this article) at this time. They were in Hamlin just a few years later when Joe Neely died. Also, I see that John Valentine Cunningham was in Huntsville. I didn’t know he ever strayed that far from his home in Abilene, but I bet some research could find him working for the State prison system as his nephew Kinlock Faulkner Cunningham was about this time. Gov. Colquitt was making some big reforms in the prison systems and the conditions there were being examined during this era. Again, more research needed.

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  1. JR Burton was teaching at El Paso near the end of his career. At some point, he traveled to France pursuing interest in art. His brother, Sid, was a Comanche County rancher all of his life. He was something of a “character” and had a good sense of humor. Linda Rippetoe, their sister, could provide a wealth of information about her parents and brothers. I gather that Pearl, half sister of my Grandfather, Leroy, played a substantial role in raising her younger siblings. She was much admired by my mother, Kathleen Kretzschmar, as were her children, Mom’s cousins.

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