Janice Williams

Archive for September, 2014|Monthly archive page

Tombstone Tuesday

In Gravestones, Newburg Cemetery, Tombstone Tuesday, Unity Ann Lewis on September 23, 2014 at 12:38 am

I think Unity Lewis, the youngest child of the Cunningham family, must have had a close relationship with her big brother John Valentine Cunningham. He was 16 years old when she was born, already out fighting Indians and making a name for himself. Two years later he was married and off on his own, but there had to be some extra relationship between them. I say that because, one, when he died in 1921 he was living in Abilene, but was visiting her in her home in Brownwood while on a fishing trip. I’m sure all the Cunninghams visited one another, but the fact that he visited her and died in her home stands out to me. And, two, she named her second son for him.

John Valentine Lewis was born July 15, 1884, and she named him after her big brother… even though he wasn’t born on Valentine’s Day like John had been.


John Valentine Lewis was born when Unity and James Russell Lewis still lived near Priddy, Texas, and were farmers. But when John and his 3 younger brothers were still young, Unity wanted the family to move to Brownwood so the boys would be able to get a better education. They moved to town and J.R. Lewis was an elected county official.

John Valentine Lewis married Gertie Grindstaff of Burnet July 3, 1904. He was 19, but she was just 16. They moved back to the family farm in Mills County and began their family. They had 5 children over the next 12 years. In 1910 they were still in Mills County farming, but by 1920 the family had moved east to Pottsville in Hamilton County and John was working as a ginner at the cotton gin (and probably farming, too).


Gertie is the woman in this picture, standing next to her father-in-law James Lewis. John is the taller young man in front of her. Is her hand resting on his shoulder lightly?

By the late 20s they had moved to San Angelo. John was working as a laborer for the highway department. These were very hard times and I wonder if they moved for a job or moved because other family members were in Tom Green County or because of John’s health. San Angelo had a reputation for its dry air and in the time of tuberculosis many people moved there in hopes of healing. That is a possibility because John Valentine Cunningham died Feb. 6, 1931, from meningitis and tuberculosis. He was only 46 years old.

When John died, 2 of their children were still under 20. I don’t know if their 2 older daughters were married or not. They may have still been living at home as well. Gertie was left with a family to take care of in the Depression. Before many years passed, she married a young soldier, Charles Murphy, and she is buried with him at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

We have lost touch with the John Valentine Lewis family, probably because the children lost touch with his family after their mother remarried. I have information on one descendant from one daughter and know that their youngest son, John Valentine Lewis, Jr., died very young at the State Hospital in Austin without descendants and is buried in the Oakwood Annex without a headstone.

But John Valentine Lewis is buried in the Newburg Cemetery by his mother and father and near so many other Cunninghams that he grew up among.


I think this picture was in 1928 when the family gathered for the parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.



Tombstone Tuesday

In Elizabeth Holmsley, T.J. Holmsley, Tombstone Tuesday on September 15, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I have begun a project where I’m researching the grandchildren of James and Susannah Cunningham more in depth. I began with the first grandchild, Mary Susannah Holmsley, the first child of Betty and T.J. Holmsley. But we’ll start with the end of her life and her gravestone in the Fairmount Cemetery in San Angelo.

Thank you to Steve Voss who has taken so many wonderful photos of our family gravestones in this cemetery for Findagrave.

While we think of the separate generations of the Cunningham family with the 12 “aunts” and “uncles” we refer to and then the 100 or so grandchildren, it is hard to remember that the generations are all muddled. George Washington Cunningham, the youngest boy in the family, was just a baby when Mary, the first grandchild, was born. And Mary was older than her own Aunt Mary Jane and Aunt Unity. So while it is easy to picture Susannah Cunningham being the doting grandmother, she was still the mother of babies and small children and certainly didn’t get to play the role of grandmother that most do today.

Mary Susannah Holmsley was born to the Cunningham’s oldest daughter Betty who was the first in the county to marry. Mary was born August 30, 1858. There is no clear indication of where she was born, but it looks like they were still living in Comanche County and she was possibly born in the old homestead.

The family moved soon after to Uvalde County, Texas, and continued their pioneering ways, still encountering Indian raids. Mary met Monroe Bell Pulliam who had been born in Collin County, Texas (north of Dallas), but he was in Uvalde as a small boy. Two of his brothers were killed by Indians and Monroe himself was wounded in an Indian raid when he was just 14.

Mary married Monroe Pulliam in 1874. She was the grandchild of the Cunninghams, but she married before 5 of her aunts and uncles did. The couple married in Uvalde when he was 22 and she was 15.

Soon after they married, they traveled north with a head of 1000 cattle. They stopped where the Spring Creek converged with the Concho River and built an adobe house about 20 miles west of Fort Concho. Mary was pregnant during the move and had their first child, a daughter in November. In that first winter the Indians stole all of their saddle horses and they went through a very hard time.

The next year, Monroe drove 600 cattle to Kansas City. Mary may have been left at home with her little girl to mind the ranch.

Three more children were born to the family and in 1887 they moved to San Angelo, built a beautiful home, and Pulliam was the president of the old San Angelo National Bank. In 1905 he became the director of the First National Bank and had an office there for 30 years.

All of the Pulliam children were grown and Mary Susannah was just a few weeks shy of 55 when she died in San Angelo in 1913. She died from complications from a surgery. It was only a week before the big annual Cunningham Reunion that was already important to family members. She had planned to be there. We can only imagine how sad family members were at the reunion to have lost their first niece and cousin.


(Not the best picture.)

Monroe Bell Pulliam, who had been called “Nub” his whole life, remarried after a few years and lived with his second wife for 20 years until his death in 1937. He is buried next to Mary in the Pulliam plot at the Fairmount Cemetery.