Janice Williams

Archive for the ‘Second generation’ 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.


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:


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 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.


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.”


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.



Tombstone Tuesday: Thomas J. Cunningham

In Aaron, Gravestones, Second generation, Tombstone Tuesday on October 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm


It’s high time I unearth this blog and relay some information a before it gets lost by time. Last week I “inherited” a car load of Cunningham and Holmsley information. Two huge boxes of papers and letters and notes and genealogies along with photos, big and small. Even 4 pages of the Comanche Chief from 1903 under glass and framed. Yes, I want to share it all with you.

But, because my attention deficit disorder is telling me I need to show you everything, I’m trying to tame it down to something simple. Something that didn’t even arrive in those big boxes. This is just a tidbit to get me back in the habit.

Thomas J. Cunningham was the ninth child of Aaron Cunningham and his wife Minerva. Aaron was married twice and Minerva was his first wife. Tom was the ninth child, but only the sixth that lived beyond age 2. He was born when his grandparents, Capt. James and Susannah, were still in their mid-60s.

Tom’s mother, Minerva, died when he was just 21 months old. He had 5 older brothers and sisters, from “Susa” at 19 and just married, down to 4-year-old Bertie.

Amanda Jane Henson became a widow when she was just 28. She had two small children and was pregnant with a third. She married again at age 31 to 48-year-old widower, Aaron Cunningham. He had 6 children, 5 still at home. She had 3. Together they had 5 more. A couple of his children were in their teens, but all in all, Amanda cooked for and raised 14 children in their yours, mine, and ours household.

So little Tom Cunningham grew up with Amanda Jane Cunningham as his mother. Most everything I know about him is from his obituary in the Comanche Chief June 23, 1939.


Tom had three children who are all deceased now. While some of his descendants are still on our Cunningham mailing list, I don’t think any have been to the reunion in many years. The name Tom has been carried on for three more generations, not as Jr., III, and IV, but as Thomas Rogers Cunningham (after Tom’s wife Catherine Rogers’ family), Thomas Cunningham (with no middle name), and Thomas Ryan Cunningham.

Thanks to GenLady from findagrave.com for the photo of Tom Cunningham’s grave in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche.

Tombstone Tuesday: Erie Palestine Cunningham Ligon

In Abilene, Genealogy records, Gravestones, Second generation, Second Generation Stories, Tombstone Tuesday on January 7, 2014 at 10:05 am


Erie Palestine Cunningham was the youngest of the five children of John Valentine Cunningham. He was one of “Indian fighting” sons of Capt. James and Susannah Cunningham; the son who moved on to Taylor County to become their longest serving sheriff.

Erie had two older sisters and two older brothers.


Erie married Lewis Preston Ligon when she was 18 years old and he was 22. I have read that he was possibly a confectioner and brought that talent over from his family in France (that fact from his great-granddaughter Kim Frost England, cited on the web).

Erie and Lewis had 8 children, but the first died as a baby and the second as only a 4-year-old. But Erie must have had difficulty with the birth of her youngest, John James Ligon, because she died only a month later, at age 38. She is buried in the Abilene City Cemetery near her daughter, Irene, her husband, and her parents. 

We have lost touch with most of her descendants, but it appears that they mostly live in California, Washington, and Oregon now.


Born: Feb. 22, 1876

Married: Nov. 20, 1894

Died: July 17, 1914

Tombstone Tuesday: Bernard Cunningham

In Gravestones, Photos, Second generation, Tombstone Tuesday, William Henry, World War I on September 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Our first 2 tombstones for Tombstone Tuesday were in the cemetery that is nearest and dearest to me as a Cunningham, the Newburg Cemetery. But today we’ll move 30 miles west to a cemetery you may never have been to. It’s the Old I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Hamilton and the grave of Bernard Cunningham.

This is one of the prettiest gravestones I have seen in our family:


This is the east side of the gravestone. The west side is the side that you’ll see first if you are driving through the cemetery looking for it. It is hard to miss:


And this is a close-up of the name and dates.


Now, who is Bernard Cunningham? I have many pictures and stories about Bernard Cunningham. But the shortest version is that he was the son of Tom and Lona Cunningham and Bernard was killed in World War I. Tom, Bernard’s father, was the oldest son of Bill Cunningham of the original 12 Cunningham “kids.” Bill Cunningham raised his family very close to the Mountain Creek Ranch.

Tom married Lona, who was born in Alabama, but lived with her family in Hamilton County. She was 20 and he was 18 when they married. He was the first child in the Bill Cunningham family to marry, though his older sister Mollie wasn’t far behind.

Tom and Lona had their first child, Edna, about a year into their marriage. This was an era when the Cunningham family was still relatively small. Small in terms of where it ended up 100 years later, of course. Betty had quite a few grandchildren by 1890 since she was the first in the family to marry, Aaron had a few, and there were a few others, but I would expect that the birth of a grandchild would still get a little bit of notice in the family. The birth of little Edna prompted the Bill Cunningham family to have another formal family portrait taken.


That is Tom and Lona on the right and the baby in the picture is little Edna. [If you need a better copy of this picture with full IDs, just write me.]

This whole story has so many sad aspects and the first is that little Edna died before she was 6 years old. I don’t know the cause. She is buried in the Pottsville Cemetery in Hamilton County. Lona was pregnant with Bernard when Edna died. Bernard was born 4 months later in February 1896.

As you can imagine after having gone through a tragedy and losing a child, Bernard was especially dear to Tom and Lona. He was also a much-photographed boy.


When Bernard was 20, he married Annie Cathey of Hamilton.


But things get sad here again…  The couple moved to Fort Worth and before they had been married 2 full years, Annie got pneumonia and died. Heartbroken, Bernard moved back home to Hamilton and soon after enlisted in World War I.

To Be Continued…

James Rector Burton

In Aaron, General Musings, Photos, Second generation, World War I on September 3, 2013 at 1:02 am

I stumble upon many things that surprise me and make me happy when I’m researching the family. Most of what I am doing right now is just trying to find official confirmation for the birth and death dates that we have and add place locations to those births. There are many more government records online than there ever have been, so I’m just adding sources to information that has just been given to us by family members.

But I stumble upon things. Like the fact that James Rector Burton was a schoolteacher at Austin High School. I use the website findagrave.com frequently and I found where a girl named “fluttergirl” had added this picture of James Rector Burton to the picture of his grave from the Oakwood Cemetery.


She says in her comments that this is from the 1935 Austin High School yearbook where “Mr. Burton” was teaching Spanish and drama.

I’m sure there are AHS yearbooks at the Austin History Center here in Austin. I will have to go see if there are other pictures.

Now, who is he? There are several men with the name “James Rector” in our family. In the Aaron Cunningham family, James Rector Cunningham fought in World War I and was killed overseas. His death prompted other people in our family to name their children James Rector.

This James Rector Burton, this schoolteacher, is not actually a blood descendant of the Cunninghams. But his mother, Willie Pearl Henson, was just a toddler when her father died and her mother, Amanda Jane Henson, married Aaron Cunningham. Aaron Cunningham was the only father that Willie Pearl Henson ever knew and James Rector Cunningham, the fifth child born to Aaron and Amanda, was Willie’s baby brother, born when she was just 10 years old. She named her son John Rector Burton after her baby brother when her baby brother was only 14 years old. John Rector Burton was named for his uncle before his uncle was a war hero.

This James Rector Burton served in World War II (after he was a schoolteacher at AHS). He continued to be a schoolteacher and I assume he taught in Comanche because he died in Comanche in 1969.

What is also amazing to me as I find these stories and they seem to be from so long ago… I look at the connections and figure out how he fit into the family and realize that his younger sister is Linda Rippetoe. She is an active member of the Comanche community and a frequent guest of our reunion. She was there last month with us. Linda may be in her 90s now, but she is as vital and engaged as she can be. Now I want to go to her and find out more about John Rector Burton, her brother, and know the stories her mother told about growing up with Aaron Cunningham.

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.