Janice Williams

Archive for the ‘Newspaper articles’ Category

Tombstone Tuesday: Jim Holmsley

In Elizabeth Holmsley, Gravestones, Newspaper articles, Oakwood Cemetery, Obituary, Second generation, Second Generation Stories, T.J. Holmsley, Tombstone Tuesday on January 17, 2017 at 12:01 pm


This is a great photo that comes to me from Ruth Adele Moore and from my great-grand-aunt Edrie Cunningham.

It is a souvenir photograph from Mineral Wells, Texas, taken around 1905. There are several photos similar to this one on The Portal to Texas History, a great source for research or entertainment.


Apparently photos like this were taken as people enjoyed the recreation available on East Mountain in Mineral Wells. According to The Portal, J.C. McClure, an early photographer, first owned the donkeys for the trail. He was killed while riding a wild stallion in town and J.L. Young and his wife took over the photography stand. The back of this picture advertises the Texas and Pacific Railway and also the Jericho Photo Co. with “Fine Photographic Productions and Mountain and Donkey Groups / View Souvenirs & Scenery of Minwells.” Little truly identifies this picture for us except in small handwriting it does have “Jim Holmsley” written above the man on the right side. No identification on the other man and I think he would be identified if he had been a family member.

The picture is of our cousin James Jefferson Holmsley, who went by the name of Jim. He was the youngest son of the Holmsley children, second youngest overall. By the time he was born, two of his older sisters were married and had children–Jim’s nieces and nephews–who were older than their uncle. 

Jim probably had the most advantages of the Holmsley children because he was born after the native Americans were no longer a threat and the Holmsleys were settled and prosperous in Comanche.

Jim was only 21 when his father T.J. Holmsley died. Jim continued to live with his mother, Betty Holmsley, in Comanche until her death when he was 40 years old. He had continued to farm and raise livestock, according to the censuses of 1910 and 1920.

After her death, at some point Jim moved to the Hotel Carter in Comanche and lived there for several years. He was working for the highway department in some capacity, too. Sadly, in the summer of 1932, the hotel burned to the ground. Fifteen other residents and guests were able to escape with their lives, but losing their belongings, but Jim was asleep on the second floor and did not make it out of the burning building.

He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery. He never married and had no children.

An article in the Abilene paper about his relatives living there notes that nephew T.J. Holmsley had immediately left for Comanche. T.J. (Tom) had lived with his grandmother Betty and Jim perhaps all of his life. He is listed at 6 and 16 years old with them in the census. He was Jim’s oldest brother Billy’s son, but Tom’s mother had died when he was born, so perhaps he came to live with Betty at that time.


Jim was only 49 years old when he died.


Thank you to findagrave.com contributor Russ Davies for this photo.


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.


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 1855. 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.


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.

Virginia Wood

In Dave Cunningham, Newspaper articles on October 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I have neglected this Cunningham blog for a few weeks and knew I needed to get back to it tonight. So it was serendipitous to read the Comanche Chief and find Cunninghams right there on the front page.

I suppose most of the folks that read this blog do not live in Comanche, but you would enjoy receiving the Comanche Chief and you should subscribe. I have taken the paper for the last few years and mostly enjoy the library column written by our Tate cousin Margaret Waring. I also enjoy the Museum Musings that occasionally touch on pieces of history that have to do with Newburg or our family. And hardly a week goes by that I don’t see a member of the Perkins family involved in something in the community. Each week I also peruse the ads, hoping one day I’ll find the perfect little rock house on isolated acreage in the south part of the county to retire to (I can dream).

But today on the front page was a beautiful picture of Virginia Wood. If you come to the reunion, I’m sure you know Virginia and Weldon. They never EVER miss a reunion. Virginia has told me she has been to every reunion in her life except one. At that time she and her husband Bally lived in Indiana and there was no way they could get home for it. But she has never let that happen again and she is always a joy to see in August.

Here are Virginia and Weldon with a cart they have donated to the depot restoration project in Comanche.

They are also donating a bell:

If you are wondering how you are related to Virginia, her grandmother, Callie Cunningham Burton, was Dave Cunningham’s second oldest child. Virginia was the daughter of Eaver Strother who preached all over the Central Texas area and officiated a lot of weddings and funerals in our family.

Annabelle the Riveter

In Joseph Jackson Cunningham, Newspaper articles on September 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I spend a lot more time doing genealogy than I do writing about it – as evidenced by the lack of entries here! It’s hard to settle down and put all the facts straight and in order… I’d rather continue on the hunt.

As I do genealogy, I spend a lot of my time entering names in Google in various ways, with and without spouses’ names, with and without names of cities, and on and on, looking for a hit that gives me a little more information about one of the members of our family.

It surprises me how often I will Google a name and discover that they only recently died. Though I’m happy to have the information in their obituary, it makes me sad to know I didn’t get a chance to know them and make sure they knew about their Cunningham heritage.

Tonight I Googled the name of Floyd Beck. He is in our record as the husband of Annabelle Syble Cunningham, the granddaughter of Joseph Jackson Cunningham of the original 12. I frequently have more hits if I Google a man’s name rather than the wife’s.

But I got extra lucky with this search. Up pops an article from just 2 months ago about our cousin Annabelle and her exciting life contributing to the war effort during World War II.

I love this article because it shows what an adventure seeker Annabelle was – and is! She took a ride in a B-24 bomber over Texas this summer. She is 91 years old now, by the way.

I checked our mailing list and Annabelle is invited to the reunion and has attended within the last 10 years or so. I’m sorry I didn’t get the opportunity to meet her. She sounds like a pistol – like so many of the other strong women in our family!

Read the article and see if you agree.

Mary Neely Day

In Mary Jane Neely, Newspaper articles, Second generation on August 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Saturday afternoon, before heading out to the Cunningham Reunion, I was in the Newburg Room of the Comanche Museum. I got to meet several members of the Neely family visiting from Amarillo and El Paso while I was there. It was fun to see them discover this great newspaper article on the wall about their multi-great-grandmother Neely. She is not the Mary Jane Cunningham Neely of the original 12 children of the Cunningham family, but their daughter-in-law, the wife of Joseph Holmes Neely.



Here is the text so you can read it

Honoring a Comanche County native, Governor Mark White proclaimed Saturday, December 28, as Mary Neely Day in Texas in honor of an outstanding woman, Mary L. Neely of Hudspeth County.

Mary Neely was born in 1880 in Comanche County to Frank and Lucretia Holmsley. On December 28, 1985, she celebrated her 105th birthday. Her father was a frontier doctor and she was his assistant during her girlhood. She used this early medical training for the next several decades, ministering to the needs of family and neighbors in isolated West Texas communities where there was no other medical help.

At age 23, she married Joe Holmes Neely. Their honeymoon was a three-month trip in a covered wagon to New Mexico, where several months later their first child, Joe Jr., was born. They moved back to Texas to manage a ranch where Mrs. Neely faced rattlesnakes, panthers, and outlaws. She had to rope wild cows to get milk for the family to drink.

In 1905, the Neelys moved to Dell City, Texas, where they managed another ranch for ten years. Their second son Tom was born there. In a final move, the family bought several sections of land west of McNary, Texas, near the Rio Grande, and about 75 miles down the river from El Paso. They made the move in wagons and a Model T Ford, according to Mrs. Neely, “driving cattle eight or ten miles a day, keeping them out of bogs and arroyos, dodging flashfloods.”

At that time, the border was a haven for Pancho Villa’s band and cattle rustlers and the Neely’s newly acquired house was full of bullet holes. Their ranch was a success, providing them with the necessities, plus cattle, hogs, cotton, and mohair to sell.

Wherever she lived, Mrs. Neely used her medical training, treating broken bones and wounds, and acting as midwife for neighbors on both sides of the border.

In addition to grueling work, heavy outdoor ranch work and keeping a frontier household going – and acting as the only medical help within many mile, the 4’ 11” Mrs. Neely found time to read aloud daily to the children. The family valued education and Mrs. Neely has continued her reading, study and intellectual correspondence throughout her life.

Her husband died in 1952 and for several years Mrs. Neely, known as “Grandma,” continued to run the ranch by herself. She now has sold or leased portions of the ranch, but she still lives in their original adobe ranch house with her son Joe and his wife.

Mrs. Neely has combined rare qualities in her unusual life that has spanned more than a century: fearlessness in the face of frontier dangers, selflessness in caring for family and neighbors, and lifetime pursuit of knowledge. She has developed words of wisdom in raising her family and doing so much good in her corner of the state of Texas. “I learned long ago to be happy. I could never understand how people can waste their lives in hatred and misery when there is so much love in the world that is theirs if they will look for it and give some in return.” Governor White’s proclamation notes, “Few of us will have the opportunity to live a life such as Mary’s. But we can all learn from her, if only through her basic philosophy, “You’ve got to do the best you can with what you’ve got.” He designated December 28 as Mary Neely Day in honor of this pioneer woman “whose life epitomizes the greatness that is our heritage.”

“White Proclaims Mary Neely Day.” Comanche Chief 2 January 1986: unknown page.

If you find that I have transcribed this wrong, please let me know. Also note that I can’t find the connection to the other Holmsleys in our family at this point.