Janice Williams

Tombstone Tuesday: Eldora Jewell Cunningham

In Abilene, Gravestones, Obituary, Second generation, Second Generation Stories, Tombstone Tuesday on December 13, 2016 at 1:14 am

John Valentine Cunningham had three beautiful daughters. Here is his family in about 1895:

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Our subject today is Eldora Jewell Cunningham, the second oldest in the family. I assume she is second from the left. She was born January 27, 1869, so she was about 26 in this photo. She went by the name Jewell.

Jewell

Jewell was born in Bosque County when John V. and Mattie had moved there to ranch and he also served as the postmaster. The family moved to Buffalo Gap and her father became the second Sheriff of Taylor County. At that time, Buffalo Gap was a bustling town of 1200 and a Presbyterian College there gave the town the moniker “The Athens of the West.” Jewell was a student at the college.

The Cunninghams moved into the new county seat of Abilene in 1883 and John V. continued as sheriff of Taylor County.

I don’t know how Jewell met her husband Dick Bracken, but the story of their elopement to Anson, Texas, (23 miles north) became a family legend and was recalled for an article in the Abilene newspaper in 1956, many years after their deaths.

“The hack with two couples in it dashed up to the Star Hotel at 11:30 and after Bracken quickly obtained the license, he and 19-year-old Jewell were married in the hotel parlor by the Rev. J.H. Wiseman. Jinks Magee, the driver, later took them to Merkel to catch the train for the groom’s home in San Antonio.”

Dick was 9 years older than Jewell. Since her father was always well armed, maybe elopement was the best decision!

Dick Bracken had been raised in several places in Texas and his father had been a grocery owner in Lampasas at one time.

It looks like they lived in New Mexico in their early married life where he managed a ranch for a short time. They then returned to Abilene and Dick Bracken owned the Gilt Edge saloon and possibly another called Gray’s Saloon.

In 1893 they left Abilene and moved with their two children to Mineola, Texas. He was a cow buyer there and they had two more children and were there at least until 1900.

Dick Bracken died February 20, 1904, age 43, and is buried in Abilene. I am not sure if they were living there by the time he died and I don’t know what he died of. But I know that Jewell was left with children ages 13, 10, 8, and 4. She never remarried.

It appears that Jewell and her children lived at 342 Sycamore in Abilene, just a couple of blocks from the Courthouse. I wish Google Street View would go back about 100 years so we could see what the house looked like. Now that area is all warehouses and parking lots.

It must have been a very large home because in 1920 Jewell was running it as a rooming house. Her son (now in his 20s) is still living with her along with about 10 men and women that work at a hotel.

Jewell was a widow for 38 years and she died on her father’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, 1942, at St. Ann’s hospital in Abilene. She had been there for five weeks. She was 73.

BRACKEN_Jewell_OBIT_AbileneReporterNews(AbileneTexas)

So you don’t have to read the small print, here is the obit text:

Early Taylor County Resident, Indian Fighter’s Daughter, Dead

Funeral service for Mrs. Jewell Bracken, pioneer Abilenian, will be held at 5 o’clock this afternoon from Laughter’s Chapel with burial in the Masonic Cemetery. The Reverend J.H. Hamblin, pastor of the First Methodist Church of which Mrs. Bracken was a member will conduct the service assisted by the Rev. Willis P. Gerhart, rector of the Heavenly Rest Episcopal Church.

Mrs. Bracken died at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at St. Ann’s Hospital where she had been a patient five weeks. She had been ill since December. She is survived by 3 children, Mrs. H.O. Everts of San Angelo, Mrs. D.A. Winter, and Charles Bracken, and four grandchildren, Bob Kennedy, Jerry, Joe, and Jean Bracken. Mrs. Bracken died on the birthday of her father, the late John Valentine Cunningham, who had received his name from his birthdate Valentine Day. Cunningham was Taylor County’s second sheriff and tax assessor , an office which he held for 25 years. When he was 13 years of age he was an Indian fighter and with his two brothers and father Capt. James Cunningham he fought in the Dove Creek Battle in which his father was commander of the 500 white men who attacked 1000 Indians.

The Cunningham family moved from Comanche County to Buffalo Gap in 1880 and Mrs. Bracken was a student there in the old Presbyterian College. Sheriff at the time, the county seat was moved from Buffalo Gap to Abilene, Cunningham moved his family here at that time. He later served as a U.S. Marshall. Mrs. Bracken was born January 27, 1869 in Bosque County and was married to Dick Bracken on August 7, 1888, at Anson. Bracken died in 1904. Pall bearers will be Wylie Norwood, Art Faustgen, George Elliot, Earl Walker, Emmette Chandler, and Will Stevens.

Feb. 15, 1942 Abilene Reporter News Sunday

——

I think the saddest part of the story could be that her oldest son is not listed as a survivor. He was still alive and living in Washington State, but apparently had been out of touch with the family for many years. On his draft registration for World War I there is a blank for “someone who will always know where you are” (or something like that) and he wrote “None.”

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Jewell is buried in the Abilene Municipal Cemetery by her husband, and infant son John Valentine Bracken. Nearby are her parents and sister Erie Ligon.

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  1. Great article! Thanks for all the work you do so we can read about our Cunningham ancestors. Jewel died in 1942 which isn’t that far back to me. Well, maybe quite awhile. I was a freshman in high school.

  2. She was so pretty!!

    On Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 1:14 AM, Texas Cunninghams wrote:

    > Janice Williams posted: “John Valentine Cunningham had three beautiful > daughters. Here is his family in about 1895: Our subject today is Eldora > Jewell Cunningham, the second oldest in the family. I assume she is second > from the left. She was born January 27, 1869, so she was a” >

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