Tag Archives: cunningham

Unknown Subjects

Do you ever watch Criminal Minds? Maybe un-subs isn’t the best terms for these folks. As far as I know, they’re decent, law-abiding people. My aunt Carolyn sent these photos to me hoping I could identify the people in them, but I can’t. We think they may be connected with the Kennedy family. If you recognize anyone, feel free to enlighten us.

This appears to be the same man. I am wondering if he might be Michael Danaher. The image in that previous post did have “Uncle Mike Danaher” penciled on the reverse.

The man in this next series of images appears to be the same person. He resembles Palmer Danaher, but these photos are too old to be of Palmer, which makes me wonder if the man in the images above could possibly be a Kennedy, perhaps one of the sons of William Wesley Kennedy and Cynthia Walker Palmer Kennedy. My reason for saying that is my great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling had a severe sort of countenance, especially along the brow, which looks to be a straight line, just like the man in those images. So, first an image of the Bowlings before the series with the same man. My great-great-grandmother is the woman seated on the right.

If Michael Danaher is in these images, then the woman is likely Adelia Parthenia Kennedy Danaher, and to be honest, she does resemble Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling, who would be her sister. However, the images could just as easily be George Payne and Panthea Narcissa Kennedy Payne, another aunt and uncle Stella mentions often in her diary.

He kind of resembles my great-great-grandfather William Jones Bowling (the man in the photo with the family above), but I feel sure my aunt would have been able to identify photos of him. He did have a brother named Isham Merriman Bowling, and it could as easily be a picture of him.

This is probably the same woman as above with the photo of the couple because it was attached to the second images of the man above in a hinged frame.

I wonder if this one is of LulaBab Danaher:

The quality of this image is fairly bad:

I have a hunch that the photos are of various members of the Danaher and Kennedy families, but I’m not sure.

These photos were in a box belonging to Aubrey Bowling Cunningham, who was my great-grandfather Herman Cunningham’s younger brother. Carolyn noted that it is not like my great-great-grandmother Stella Bowling Cunningham to leave the name off the back of an image—thanks to her good habits, almost all the photos Carolyn has are identified, I believe.

The Old House in Lockney

My aunt shared with me this portrait of my great-grandparents’ home in Lockney, Texas. (Click for a larger image.)

The watercolor was painted by Ted Bell in July 1977. My great-grandparents, Herman Cunningham and Annie Jennings Cunningham, bought this house in 1936 and lived in it until they both passed away in the 1980’s.

This painting of the house is exactly like I remember it. The windmill was one of our favorite playgrounds. We used to climb it, which was probably dangerous. You can see a tree between the house and what I think was a small barn or shed. There was a knothole in that tree. My great-grandfather used to whittle and carve out of nut seeds and fruit pits—little owls, little baskets. He had hidden one of his owls in the knothole of that tree. He called me over to show it to me, and I remember being filled with wonder. I also remember feeling very special. I didn’t see my great-grandparents much, and when I did, it seemed there were always so many people that a moment of attention from my great-grandfather, whom we called Pa Pa,  felt very special.

The tree in the front of the house near the road had low-hanging branches that were perfect for climbing.

The barn had brand new kittens inside it, and the whole farm was littered with Pa Pa’s Prince Albert Tobacco cans.

It was amazing to be able to see it again in this watercolor. I’m so glad it exists.

Stella

Stella Ophelia BowlingAugust 11, 2010 will mark the 72nd anniversary of the death of my great-great-grandmother, Stella Ophelia Bowling Cunningham. I find her endlessly fascinating, perhaps because I know more about her than I many of my other ancestors. She left behind a diary (pdf), a letter to my great-uncle Alvin Cunningham, and several other letters I haven’t shared on this site.

Stella’s father served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, as did most of my ancestors who were the right age because most of my ancestors lived in the South. If I had relatives in the Union Army, I haven’t discovered them yet. He was captured and sent as a POW to Camp Douglas in Illinois, where he had a conversion experience and became a minister. Stella’s mother was Mary Elizabeth Kennedy. Stella and her mother both played the organ. They came from a musical family. Family legend has it that David Kennedy, Stella’s great-great-grandfather, charmed the secret for making gun locks from the New York factory from which he purchased them for his gunsmithing business by playing the fiddle for the workers. Probably untrue, but a great story.

Stella and her family traveled from Tennessee to Texas in a covered wagon and settled near Dallas, living in Wise County (1880 Census) and perhaps Collin or Denton County, as Stella married in Collin County, and her family lived in Denton when the 1900 Census was taken. She definitely lived in Denton with her husband after her marriage.

Stella was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Texas in the 1880’s and 1890’s. She seemed primarily to be concerned with keeping good order in her classes. She stayed with different families, one of which was the Cunninghams. She married their son Amos in 1894. They had seven children together: Herman Cunningham (my great-grandfather, 1895-1980), Dessie Mary (1897-1992), Lillie Manila (1899-1974), Alfred Morgett (January-April 1901), Velma Helen (1903-1996), Aubrey Bowling (1908-1977), and Nina Varena (1910-1990).

The family moved out the Panhandle region of Texas between 1910 and 1920. Stella lived in Swisher County, where my grandfather was born, and in Armstrong County. Her son Herman would meet his future wife Annie Lola Jennings in the same way that Stella met Amos: she was a teacher and boarded with Stella and Amos.

Stella had been engaged previously to John William Tolleson and Roscoe M. Payne. I actually had some really nice exchanges with descendants of John William Tolleson a few years back. All of us were very interested in the story of our ancestors’ engagement. Stella mentions burning some of Tolleson’s letters with Amos, though she did keep some from Roscoe, which I have copies of and have promised not to share. It looks as though Stella broke off her engagement with Roscoe because she didn’t approve of his business, which sounds like a pool hall.

For a time in the 1930’s, she lived in Rosebud, New Mexico, a town that no longer exists. Stella died in Claude, Armstrong County, Texas.

Perhaps one of the reasons I find her so interesting is that she did leave enough of herself behind in her writing for me to get a sense of her personality. To me, that’s what family history and genealogy are all about: learning about the real people in your family, what they were like, what they did. It saddens me that so many people think it’s a waste of time or that genealogists are only interested in finding famous ancestors.

Childhood Memories

I wrote this piece about a year and a half ago at an English teacher conference here in Georgia. It’s about my grandparents’ garden.

Bruce's MarigoldsMy grandparents kept a garden, or to be more precise, several gardens in their yard. In the front yard, right in front of the front door, they grew marigolds with large, bulbous orange and yellow heads, almost too perfect and too similar to look real. Around the corner from the front door, on the side of the house they grew roses. You had to be careful with the roses. They were beautiful, but terrible. In the backyard, way in the corner of the yard, they planted purple irises. The power lines hung low over their backyard, and I can never hear doves today without being once again in the back yard. The other two gardens were devoted mainly to experiments. Granna usually had some zucchini going, but we tried watermelon with some success, and one year she let me pick out some seeds, and I grew some pretty little flowers that looked like closed mouths. I could squeeze right under the bud and make the mouths look like they were talking. Princess was buried in the corner of the garden with a little wooden cross to mark her resting place. The grass was thick and green and cool under my bare feet in the summer. We used to lie under the bean tree in her front yard at night and look up into the sky filled with stars and almost feel like we were falling into the sky. I knew how much work went into cultivating this yard. Every year I somehow wound up being dragged along to Dardano’s Flowerland for the big spring trip. We circled around the greenhouses for hours as they puttered, inspecting and selecting plants. I tried to do anything to relieve the boredom. I looked for rocks with green moss growing on them under the wet flower trays. I touched all the plants. It seemed like the yard was transformed as if by magic almost overnight somehow into a wonderland of plants and trees and flowers. The sprinkler ran every other day; Papa never tried to cheat the water restrictions that I knew of, but his lawn was always verdant and lush.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Muffet

Letter from Johnson Franklin Cunningham

Johnson Franklin Cunningham, pictured below with my great-great grandfather Amos Blakey Cunningham, sent the letter that follows to Amos’s daughter Dessie Cunningham Gray. I think it could mean a great deal to an African-American family if I only knew how to get the information to that family. If anyone knows of a good place to send this letter that might help it get into the right hands, please let me know. I have written about Johnson Franklin Cunningham in previous posts:

Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Amos Blakey Cunningham

Lexington, Georgia

Rte. 2 Box 8

Sept. 13, 1952

Mrs. John R. Gray

Pampa, Texas

Dear Mrs. Gray:

Your letter has been received. I was happy to know that you all arrived safe and that your father made the trip just fine.

I too was sorry I did not get to see you all again before you left for Texas, however, I am hoping that you can make a trip back to Georgia again soon.

Thanks very much for sending the pictures. I have enjoyed looking at them. I shall pray continually for your boy and all others that are in Korea.

I am inclosing a copy from those papers in this letter that you want.

Best wishes to your father.

From

J.F. Cunningham

The pages that follow appear to be a record of slave and free births in his family and are not in an order that was discernible to me, but may make sense to someone who knows more about the family.

Births

Isabel child of Tillis was born on the 8th day of July 1856

Alford child of Tillis was born on the 29th of June 1858

Eliza Ann child of Charlotty was born on the 5th day of April 1859

George Alexander child of Charlotty was born on Monday the 12th of November 1860

Louisa child of Charlotty was born the 7th of December 1862

Hal child of Tillis was born on the [blank space] of June 1860

Green child of Conelia was born on the 14th day of August 1862

Lucy child of Elizabeth was born on the 23rd day of April 1862

Isaah child of Tillis was born on the 4th October 1862

Warren child of Conelia was born on the [missing word] of Jan. 1864

John Washington child of Thena [unsure if that is the correct name; handwriting difficult to decipher] was born on the 1st day of March 1865

Green Terrel of Franklin County was born on the 19th day of October 1829

Correy Isibel child of Kidy was born 1st day of September 1872

Mandy child of Kidy was born the 15th September 1874

Dewit Clinton child of Kidy was born on the 1st day of Oct. 1877

Samuel Terrel Sherman child of Green T. Conelser [handwriting difficult to read] Terrel was was born on 31st day of January 1871

Thomas child of Tom T. Julian was born on Tuesday the 8th day of Oct. 1867

John Henry child of Tom T. Julian was born on the 16th October 1869

Susan Anna child of Latty was born on the 22nd day of March 1874

William Robertson child of Julian Anna Tom was born on 30th day of June 1874

Clarinda Allin child of Latty T. Tom was born 26th day of April 1878

Mandy child of Charlotty was born on the 13th day of September 1864

Martha child of Henrietta was born on the 25 day of April 1865

Johnson Franklin child of Charlotty was born on Saturday the 17th day of July 1868

S. Elizabeth child of Sarah T. Robert was born on Monday night the 7th of December 1868

James William Rufus child of Henrietta was born on the 14th of January 1867

John Terrel child of Conelia Ann Warren was born on the 27th of January 1868

Eddy child of Sarah T. Robert was born on the 25 day of June 1865

Rolley James Franklin child of Sara T. Robert was born on the 25th December 1866

Charlotty (or Charlotte), Henrietta, and Elizabeth are sisters, the daughter of a woman named Louiza, and all are mentioned in the will of Barbara Williams, November 5, 1850, along with their brother Robert. Barbara Williams owned them and left them to her niece Mary Anne Penelope Anthony in her will. Later, Mary Anne Penelope Anthony would marry Johnson Franklin Cunningham, for whom the writer of the letter quote above was presumably named. Thus, the slaves passed from the Williams to the Anthony to the Cunningham family. Johnson Franklin Cunningham concludes his letter as follows:

My father was a bought slave from Toll Goolsby. His name is James Tolbert Cunningham. You’ll know my family by the name of my mother’s name Charlotty.

My name Johnson Franklin child of Charlotty was born on Saturday the 17th day of July 1868

I was able to discover a great deal about Johnson Franklin Cunningham with some detective work (see the posts I linked at the beginning of this one). I had narrowed his birthdate down to some time between June 11 and October 13, 1868. Also, I was able to deduce his mother was Charlotte and that his father, James, might not have been owned by the Cunninghams. However, I think J. F. Cunningham could be indicating here that his father was bought by the Cunninghams from a man named Toll Goolsby and thus not part of the existing Cunningham family. I believe Toll Goolsby may be Toliver B. Goolsby, who is listed in the 1860 Slave Schedules for Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Readers of this blog may not realize I have a book blog where I discuss all my reading. I am currently reading a book I think would appeal to genealogists, and I want to cross-post a blog entry from that blog here in the hopes that some of you might enjoy it, too.

I am about halfway through The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and what a delightful read it has been so far. Not since I first picked up Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander have I read a book that contains a confluence of so many things that interest me or that I can relate to. First of all, I was taken aback when the protagonist, Connie, referred to her grandmother as “Granna.” That’s what I call my grandmother, and I have always believed I invented it. I had to do a Google search to assure myself that other women have indeed been called Granna. You can learn more about my own Granna here.

Second, Connie studies Colonial American history, a time period I have always found fascinating. She finds a mysterious key with a piece of parchment tucked inside its pipe or barrel or whatever you want to call the hollow part of an old key. The parchment has the name Deliverance Dane written on it. Connie sets out on a quest to find out more about Deliverance, whom she discovers was part of the Salem Witch Trials furor in 1692. I have been fascinated with this aspect of American history since about fourth grade. I just couldn’t believe that people in my own country, which prides itself now on freedom, had acted in such a bizarre fashion. I still don’t understand it.

Finally, in the last chapter I read, Connie is reading the diary of Prudence Lamson Bartlett. I was struck by how similar the diary entries were to my own great-great-grandmother Stella Bowling Cunningham’s own diary—so devoid of comment on emotions (although Stella occasionally discusses being irritated at someone), so repetitive in their description of the seemingly menial tasks of life. But as Connie says, “In some respects, Prudence’s daily work was her inner life” (158). In the last entry that Connie recounts, this is the entire text:

Febr. 24, 1763. Too cauld to write. Mother dies. (163)

I felt tears well into my eyes, despite the seemingly lack of emotion on the part of Prudence. Connie ascribes it to Prudence’s “cold practicality, her obstinate refusal to reveal her feelings, no matter how culturally proscribed” (163). My own Grandma Stella’s diary was so similar in the respects of recounting the weather, the daily work, where she went, what she bought and how much it cost. I could feel her relief when she wrote the following entry for April 4, 1894:

I paid Mrs. Bragg $7.50 for board & am now even. Owe no man anything (i.e. in $ and cts.)

On the day when her own grandmother died, she wrote:

9-3-’94

Homer & I went to town early.
Grandma died at 6 P.M.
Mr. Amos came & we came home.
Bought a buggy from John Houston $20.00.
Papa was at Aunt Panthea’s.

It couldn’t be more like Prudence Bartlett’s diary in the way it recounts so much pain alongside the mundane. It’s so spooky that if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Katherine Howe must have cribbed my genealogy blog! If you like, you can read my Grandma Stella’s journal (PDF). I transcribed it from a photocopy of the original.

Staying up at night reading this book under the low light of a book lamp over the last few nights has been a pleasure indeed, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next in Connie’s research.

Vital Records: A Case Study in Error

My grandfather Udell Cunningham is fond of telling the story about how his birth was erroneously recorded, causing a great deal of trouble for him later on.

My grandfather was born 3 May 1925 in Tulia, Swisher County, Texas.  The Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997 (available on Ancestry.com) lists his birthday as 3 March 1925. The way my grandfather tells the story, the clerk in charge of recording births on the ledger was “too lazy” to turn the page to May. His memory is that he was recorded with an April birthdate; however, the record says March.

At some point, it became necessary for him to have the error corrected, but making the change proved to be difficult, as vital records employees refused to make the change without evidence. Ultimately, my grandfather had to bring his parents to the record office to swear as to the date of his birth before he was able to get a corrected birth certificate. The date in the Texas Birth Index is still incorrect.

While vital records are excellent proof, and genealogists should always cite sources, we should always remember that even vital records can be incorrect. It’s better, if you can, to check information against several sources. Worse errors than birthdate mistranscription have occurred, and we can save ourselves a lot of time in correcting erroneous files if we use multiple sources.

This post was written in response to the Geneabloggers Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt.

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