Category Archives: Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 3

The reason the Navy gave for assigning me to the Seabees was that they could repair my eyeglasses if needed. Well, I was trying to play basketball in the Gym on Attu and broke my glasses. Naturally no facilities existed closer than Seattle. They advised me to write home and have my original optometrist make me a new pair from existing records. Oh, better get two pairs — that got me in trouble. I wrote Dad a letter asking for “two” pair of glasses. All letters were read by a censor and they had this iron-clad rule that you could not tell where you were, what you did, and never use a “number.” Yes I got my ass chewed, but when they saw my scotch-taped glasses they relented and let me order two pair of eyeglasses. This brings up a question… You see these books compiling “letters from the Battle Zone” etc. Just how in hell could these letters be genuine if all mail was censored?

Mother decided that if I went overseas she preferred to know where I was. Then when something happened, she would know if I was there or not. Well, we decided that I would use a code word to let her know that if that letter was encoded to let her know where I was. In the letter we used the second letter of each paragraph to spell out the location. Using the first letter of the first word of the paragraph was too easy to see. When I was talking to a chaplain later he said that he had a system to tell his wife where he was. Before embarking they got two large world maps. Across the top he placed Bible book titles. Along the side he placed numbers to signify chapters of the Bible. Thus when you said the subject of your sermon was Chapter 80 of the book of Matthew [yes, I realize that it doesn’t go that high — my grandfather was just being illustrative] you could go to the map and find the place. He said he was always afraid he would use a large chapter number that did not exist in some Bible books. I never asked him how he got away with using the dastardly forbidden numbers in his letters. Officer privilege I guess.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 2

In May of 1943 I went to the Navy recruiting station at Lubbock [TX.] and Amarillo. I couldn’t pass the physicals because of my eyesight. You had to have 20/30 or better to pass. Then, in June of ’43 I was drafted. About 17 of us were sent to Lubbock to the “reception” center. As usual, they had everyone placed in alphabetical order for the ordeal. They had “stations” that tested us. I was among the first to finish. I was surprised when they asked me if I had a preference to the service that I would serve. Naturally I said the Navy. They had this long table where an officer from the Army, Marines, Navy, & Coast Guard were seated. They gave my folder to the Navy. Well, he finally said that they would accept me into “Limited Duty.” He said that this would place me on a capital ship (Battleship, Carrier or large Cruiser) or in the Seabees. I asked him “What is a Seabee?” He replied that they were similar to the Army Corp of Engineers. Then he said that “You could always transfer if you wanted to.” Do you know that the word transfer does not exist in the Navy dictionary? From the reception center I was sent to the Navy recruiting station where I was “processed.” At the end of the day the officer in charge lined all of us up to be sworn in. Well, he told me to step aside as they had a special oath for “inductees.” I waited a while and then was handed some tickets home. You know, I was never sworn into the Navy. Does that mean I was never in the Navy?

Of the 17 men from Floyd County [Texas] inducted in June ’43 I was the only one going to the Navy. All the others went to the Army. About half ended up on Omaha Beach on D-Day and the other half in Patton’s Tank Corp. There were many casualties among them. I was indeed lucky.

Letter from Udell Cunningham, November 2005 Part 1

I received a letter from my grandfather in the mail today. It’s very long, filling nearly two 50-page notepads. I asked him to write down his memories and stories for me. Some of his letter I will share here. The remainder of this entry is his writing.

So you want me to write about things that I have done, seen or heard in my many years of experiences. I hope you know that historians claim that people as old as I usually forget things, embellish the things that they remember. I also will tell some things that happened during my lifetime. Please, please put the red correction pencil away [why must my family perpetually accuse me of grading their correspondence???]. I know that I break every grammatical rule ever made. I plan to relate tales, stories, or whatever that I know happened, but historians tell about the events in a vastly different manner… So if you’re ready, here goes the B.S….

I have personally met two famous generals. When on Attu our work crew decided to play hookey and drive over to the Army P.X. [Papa was in the Seabees in WWII]. We had a truck assigned to our crew to haul plumbing supplies and pipe. Anyway on the way to the P.X. we stopped beside the road and were lounging in the lush grass looking back along the Aleutian Island chain. This was an amazing sight as it was extremely clear. You could see back to the mainland. Anyway, this jeep stopped and a large soldier approached us. He asked who we were. We told him — Seabees. Anyway we told him the work we did. Then asked him what he did. He replied that he was the boss of the soldiers. He was Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner. General Buckner was the commander of the Army 7th Division. General Buckner was later “involved” with the invasion of Okinawa. He was killed by a sniper on Ie-Shima — the same small island where Ernie Pyle was killed. Ernie Pyle was a very famous writer that covered the war from the “grunt” level. The other general I met was Lt. General (3 star) Leon Johnson. I met him at Hensley Field, Texas in 1964. Gen. Johnson was the Colonel that led the planes on the infamous ill-fated raid on Ploesti, Romania. This was a raid designed to destroy Hitler’s oil supply. The planes got lost on the long run from bases in North Africa — broke radio silence and were met by [a] large group of the Luftwaffe. Most of the hundreds of planes were lost. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this run.

Diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham, Complete

I have finished transcribing the November 1893-September 1894 diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham. I will continue to post it in entries at this site, but if you wish to download it in its entirety as a Rich Text Format document, you may do so by selecting the version you wish here (RTF or PDF) or by clicking the link in the sidebar under “Downloads.” My posts of the diary entries will consist of my particular favorites or ones I find interesting rather than the whole diary, but you can get a flavor for the diary by checking out these three entries:

Diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham, December 1893 Part 2

View Introduction and Notes on the Text.

Transcription of the Diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham, December 16, 1893 to December 31, 1893

Sat. Dec. 16, 1893Helped clean up and wrote to J.W.T.

Went to town with Aunt Panthea [the sister of Stella’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Kennedy, Panthea Narcissa Kennedy Payne], Florence, and Mrs. Hayes.

Went to several stores. Had my voucher fixed by old Bro. Perry paid .25 cts.
Bought stamps .10 cts.
Knife .25
Borrowed off D. Campbell $10.00.

Dec. 16, 1893 concluded

Bought (at Denton) velvet .50
(at Denton) rings .10
hat 2.50
ribbon (cream) .25
lawn .10
Silk (cream) .10
silk thread .05
Album 1.50
fine-comb .10
pocket-book .05
Comb-case .10

Finished the book-mark and made one for Mary Hutton and wrote a little to her and sent it. In evening went with Aunt Panthea to see some sick people, the Mrs-es Milligan & Mrs. Bradley.

Went back to Mrs. Milligan to get a stamping pattern.

Wrote to Mama [Mary Kennedy Bowling] and fixed the cravat case to send.

Florence and I went to Mrs. Hall’s to get a cloak-pattern but failed to get it.

Sunday, Dec. 17, 1893

After the cleaning up I washed & dressed for church.

Went to Mr. E. church & heard the new preacher preach on “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

In the evening Mr. Amos came for me. At night several young folks came in and I had to play some for them [in several other places in the diary, Stella mentions playing the organ, so it may be assumed that is what she means here]. They sang some. (There was whiskey around.)

Got a letter from Flood and Vincent so fixed the book “Outlines of Economics” to send back to exchange for “Roman & Medieval Art.”

I left ten cents to pay postage.

Monday, Dec. 18, 1893

School as usual and very good too. At night made a pin cushion & gave Mrs. Cunningham [Mary Anne Penelope Anthony Cunningham, Amos’s mother] and Mattie. Made two head rests (a long one and a square one).

Fixed the hat-mark in Mr. Libass’ hat. The first thing in the eve was to start my hat-mark with A.B.C. [initials of Amos Blakey Cunningham] on it to be a Xmas present.

Tues. Dec. 19, 1893


Sent and bought hat-rack .10 bought Panthea’s knife, fork, & spoon .25.

As Mr. Cunningham was fixing to move several came to help catch chickens so I did nothing but talk, play the organ and eat pop-corn & pecans.

In evening I finished my skirt & made my handkerchiefs.

Wed. Dec. 20, 1893

Mr. Cunningham moved out & Mr. Bragg came in.

School as common. After which I made another head rest! Wrote a note to Eva.

At night read some & finished my hat-mark.

Mr. Amos sat up & talked with me till late and I granted his request [either a euphemism for a kiss or his proposal].

Began my handkerchief.

Thurs. Dec. 21st 1893

School as common & read some at night. Retired early.

Miss Mattie staid all night and went to a party.

I slept good.

Friday Dec. 22, 1893

School as usual and dismissed for Xmas.

Fixed up things to go home and went to Mr. Cunningham’s with Mr. Amos on a load of oats (in sacks).

At night the Houston boys came over and staid till bed-time.

Sat. Dec. 23, ’93

Mr. Amos took me to Coppell in a buggy.

Bought ticket for .80 cts. And started for home about ten o’clock. At Plano Mama & Homer [Stella’s brother, Homer Alfred Bowling] met me in the buggy.

I paid on Homer’s suit $2.00 and bought for Horation [Stella’s brother, Horatio Hayden Bowling] a chest of tools .35.

Got home before night. Mama, Miss Mollie, and Ida came to see me.

Sunday 12-24-1893

Did up work and went to church. Bro. Crouch preached on “The Seven Sayings of Christ on the Cross.”

In eve Home and I went to see Velma and take their presents [to] put in children’s stockings (cts.) .50.

Monday. Dec. 25th 1893 Xmas

Cleaned up and gave the presents. Papa a book-mark Mama a comb-case, Homer a knife and hat-rack Horation a little tool chest, & Panthea a knife, fork, & spoon [Note: This is probably Stella’s sister Panthea or Panthia Verena Bowling rather than her Aunt Panthea.] Mama gave me a collar and cuffs.

Velma, Herbert, and his Bro. came about eleven o’clock they gave me a work-box. We had a very good dinner. Mrs. Leach came a while & Susie also Ida a few moments. Velma & them went home. We played “Cash” and enjoyed it. Got a letter from Maggie.

Tues. Dec. 26, 1893

After cleaning up I painted Laura’s felt for paper-holder.

Went to Mr. Armstrong’s a few moments. Then to Mr. Culledges to see Stena [or possibly Steven] Watson.

Went to the S.S. concert at Campbellite church. It was very good but I sorter had headache.

Wed. 12-27-1893

After cleaning up & dressing we all went to Velma’s, had a good dinner. In the eve Mrs. Dorsey, Mrs. Worsham, Mrs. Mary Shirley, & Mrs. Graham came to see us.

After they all left Velma & I went where Bro. Herbert was working. (I staid all night at McKinney, the rest went home.)

Thurs. 12-28-1893

After getting ready Velma and I went by Mrs. Phillips’ a while then out to depot and I came home paying for ticket .25.

Washed & ironed Papa some shirts when I got home. In eve went to Mrs. Leach’s & to Lizzy Ereckson’s & saw Mr. Hugh.

Miss Mollie gave me some plants to set out.

Got a letter from Mary Hutton. (I think it was to-day.)

Fri. 12-29, 1893

After cleaning up & getting ready Papa brought me over to Lewisville in buggy. I had no mail only “Chautauquan.”

Saturday 12-30-1893

Got up late & help do work. Made a head-rest for Aunt Panthea (A large one).

Papa left after-noon. Went to Uncle John’s awhile.

My washing which had been done last week was .25 (unpaid).

Bought wax .05

Aunt Panthea gave me a beautiful handkerchief to use as neck-tie (pink chiffon).

Florence and I went to Mrs. Payne’s & I went to Mrs. Hall’s but Cora was gone.

Sun. 12-31-1893

Got breakfast or rather helped & helped clean up then dressed but was too sick to go to church. I had to lie down some & ate no dinner. Uncle Jeff brought me out to Mrs. Bragg’s (as I was about well.) I started to write some and Mr. Amos came to see me. We had a very nice time. He gave me a beautiful silk handkerchief with S on it & said “S is for sweet.” He staid till after eleven o’clock then bid me good bye ( ) [Stella’s euphemism for a kiss].

Thus ended the year 1893 with me after he left I retired but was sleepless for sometime & heard shooting to welcome the New Year I suppose.

I prayed before retiring.

Now dear 1893 I bid you adieu. You have gone with joys to some and sorrows to others and I have had some of each. Farewell, farewell.

Diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham, December 1893 Part 1

View Introduction and Notes on the Text.

Transcription of the Diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham, December 1, 1893 to December 15, 1893

Fri. Dec. 1- 1893School as usual & in eve swept the house & went to Lewisville.

Sat. Dec. 2, 1893

Went to town and bought
Canton flannel $1.35
thread .05
Brown velvet .60
canbrier [?] .100
Crinlin [?] .10

Wrote to Flood & Vincent about exchanging a book. Wrote to J.W.T. & Mary Hutton.

Sewed on dress.

Washing .20 unpaid.

Sun. Dec. 3, 1893

It was to-day I wrote instead of Sat.

In evening Uncle Jeff took me out to Mr. Cunningham & Mr. A. [Amos Cunningham] & I had a talk at night.

Mon. Dec. 4 ’93

Had school. The first day of second month [perhaps this refers to when Stella started teaching school?].

Sewed on my dress after school & at night.

Sent picture to Sallie & Minnie.

Bought stamps .10 cts.

Tues. Dec. 5, 1893

School as usual and in eve sewed some & at night went to church. Free Will preached on the Blind man healed.

One profession.

Mr. Amos went with me.

Wed. Dec. 6, 1893

Not a full school because of rain. Wrote a little to Maggie. Sewed in eve and at night. (The pedd? [possibly peddler] staid all night.) Mr. Libass teased us so much.

Thurs. Dec. 7, 1893

School as usual and sewed at night. Carrie staid all night.

Fri. Dec. 8, 1893

School as common & in eve had spelling [possibly tutoring or extra class?]. Uncle Jeff came for me. Found Mama [Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling] & Children [most likely Stella’s younger siblings] here.

Sat. Dec. 9, 1893

Wrote to Maggie & to Judge Bradley, sending three stamps for reply.

Sewed on dress finished it. Went to town and
bought Silk $.50
thread (silk) .10
ribbon .15
cord .15
ribbon & thread .35

Borrowed from P.N.C. $1.00

Went to Uncle John’s [I’m not sure who Uncle John is, as I have no record of a sibling named “John” for either parent, but could be an uncle by marriage or family friend].

Washing .20 cts. unpaid.
Rubber .10 cts.

Sunday, Dec. 10, 1893

Arose late and helped do work then went to church wore my green dress.

A Bro. Miller preached on “Stephen being stoned.”

In eve Uncle Jeff brought me out to Mr. C [presumably Cunningham] and at night we all went to church at schoolhouse. Mr. Amos went with me. A Mr. Holley preached about “Salvation being of the Lord etc.” It was late when we retired.

Wrote to Rosco.

Monday, Dec. 11, 1893

School as usual and at night made the cravat case for Velma [Stella’s sister]. Mr. A. sat up with me & we had a talk. Bought stamps .10.

Tues. Dec. 12, 1893

School and it turned cold. At night wen went to Mrs. Lusk’s and it was late when I retired. (Mr. A. asked for a ( ) but I refused.) [Note: This is one of Stella’s euphemisms for “kiss.”] Got a letter from J.W.T.

Mr. Amos brought my papers and paint too.

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 1893

At night made Mr. Libass’ hat mark. School as common.

Went to Mr. Bragg’s [possibly the Bragg family that Amos’s sister Mattie (Martha Lugena Cunningham) married into] and saw the little baby & got to board with them.

Thurs. Dec. 14, 1893

At night went to a party at Mr. W. Cunningham’s [most likely William Matthew Cunningham, Amos’s oldest brother] and came home to make Mattie’s hat mark [Mattie is most likely Martha Lugena Cunningham, Amos’s sister].

Sat up late to get it finished.

Fri. Dec. 15, 1893

School as usual and afterward swept the house.

Fixed to go to town & wrote some in this book.

It was late when Uncle Jeff came for me. Commenced Papa’s [“Papa” was William Jones Bowling, Stella’s father] book-mark. Went to Mrs. Hall.

Diary of Stella Bowling Cunningham, November 28, 1893 – November 30, 1893

Introduction and Notes on the text:

I have preserved all of Stella Bowling Cunningham’s writing, including errors, such as spelling errors, capitalization errors, etc. except where confusion might occur. I have also preserved her original paragraph breaks, although I didn’t preserve her line breaks, as the diary was written in a very thin ledger. Where writing is indecipherable or extra notation is needed in order for the reader to understand something, I have included a note in italics and brackets [ ].

Stella apparently taught school during part of the time in which she wrote this journal; this is inferred from the fact that she frequently mentions school as if she is teaching it. She apparently boarded in several houses, as it was not uncommon for local families to host teachers. One family with whom she boarded was the Cunningham family. “Mr. Cunningham” in her journal refers to Johnson Franklin Cunningham, who would become her father-in-law. Mr. A. and Mr. Amos refer to Amos Blakey Cunningham, who would become her husband. The journal might have been started during the beginning stages of their courtship and continues past their wedding, covering a total of about ten months from November 1893 to September 1894. Toward the end of the journal, she mentions how sick she feels. I think she is experiencing morning sickness, as she would have been expecting my great-grandfather, but she doesn’t mention she is pregnant in the journal.

Tuesday, Nov. 28, 1893

Had school as usual & fun [possibly fine] too but not extra good order.

I am most sick with cold and cough.

In eve Uncle Jeff [I am not sure who this is, as I have no record of a sibling named “Jeff” for either of Stella’s parents, but it could be an uncle by marriage or a family friend] came by and brought me two letters, one from Rosco & one from Sadie & my Chautauquan [The Chautauquan was a publication of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, the first organized reading circle in the country, a four-year course of assigned home reading].

Sent for stamps .10 cts. For this book .10 and bought Pain Paint .25.

After school finished my gown all but buttons & holes.

Read some in my course.

Wed. Nov. 29, ’93

Nothing unusual.

Thurs. Nov. 30,1893

Thanksgiving day but it was not observed here. Started to write to — [indecipherable, possibly Minnie].

Letter from Arthur Jennings re: John B. Jennings

There was a Dr. Shaw who was quit[e] an elderly man who moved to Tulia in late 1920’s or early 1930’s. My Dad told me that this man had known my grand[d]ad “John Jennings” when he was a young man. Dr. Shaw told me that he and grand[d]ad had been very close friends. He said that he had visited in the home of John Jennings many times before he or my grand[d]ad either were married.

I asked him about John[‘s] death and he told me that they were having a meeting where anyone who had a favorite political friend that they wanted to speak for was welcome political rally. He said that John went and made a speech for the candidate he was interested in. But it did not suit the opponent who was there.

As John was walking home this fellow waylaid him and was going to give him a whipping because of the things he had said in his speech. Dr. Shaw said instead of giving John a whipping he had to take one. Dr. Shaw said John was a Blacksmith and was a strong and active young man.

It seems as if he went on home. The next morning the man went into a hotel just across the street from John’s shop and asked if they had a gun and told them there was a mad dog out in the street. Someone got a gun for him and he walked over to the door and shot across the street killing John.

I asked how the trial turned out. Dr. Shaw said he didn’t suppose they had a trial. He said that the country was so badly torn up just after the Civil War that anyone could get by with any crime if they could get out of the country without getting caught.


Source: photocopied letter sent to Annie Jennings Cunningham by Jan Jennings, possibly September 1976

John B. Jennings
Continue reading Letter from Arthur Jennings re: John B. Jennings

Letter from Stella Bowling Cunningham

Rosebud, New Mexico
Nov. 11th 1935

Dear Alvin:—

It is with pleasure I answer your most welcome letter. I am glad you are interested in school and hope you enjoy your school days as much as I did mine. Really I think our school days are our happiest days with all their troubles and trials — yes I had my share of “trouble & trial” in school even tho I never got a whipping.

When I went to school the schools were not “Graded” as they are now. We had classes — sometimes 2 or 3 of a kind, I mean of the second reader we’ll say as some pupils would have McGuffey’s Readers while others would have another kind. I used the McGuffey’s Readers. The “Old Blue-Backed Spelling Book” (Webster Spelling Book) and Alvin I don’t believe I’d be afraid to “spell” with my Grandchildren to-day.

I was eight years old April 13, 1875 and started to school some time that year, at Lewisville, Denton Co., Texas. However my Mother had taught me at home, so I was in the second reader and could spell “way over in the book” and knew how to make the figures and count.

That first school house was up on a “rise” N.W. from town about 1/2 Mi. It was a large “two story” house; the upper room was used by the Mason Lodge the lower for school church and Sunday School.

Sometimes there were 75 or so pupils so had to have two teachers, but both taught in that one big room.

We sat on long benches and a class would go up to the teacher to recite and sit on a long bench, only the spelling classes would stand in a row and “turn down”, when one missed a word. The pupil who was head of class to day would “go foot” tomorrow.

The house was heated by a stove and they burned wood. When it was real cold the teacher would let us go sit awhile by the stove to warm our feet. They wouldn’t let us draw pictures in time of books.

When I started to school my Grandma gave me a large square framed slate and that’s what I wrote on, and “figured” & (played when the teacher wasn’t looking.)

In 1879 we moved way out to Wise Co. I was 12 by then, you see so had other books to study such as Geography — Monteith’s Third Part. Rag’s Third Part Arithmetic and Grammar — Smith’s, I believe, was the first one I used; then later Reed & Kellogg’s. So we had to parse and diagram. Yes that was hard.

That school house was a real country school about 3 or 4 Mi. S.W. of Bridgeport (the old town) Texas, in Pleasant Valley. It was built of logs (I believe) and had long home-made benches. No black-boards, so we used slates.

There was a plank “desk” on each side to write on, the boys used one, the girls used the other. Yes, we had a time to write, some had bought copy books, others used “fools cap” paper and the teacher would set a “copy”. It too had a stove and burned wood. The house was in the woods so we had lots of shade to play in.

The boys played on one side of the house, the girls on the other. The boys at both these schools played ball and other similar things. The girls would play games such as base “Learner Lou” etc — we had nothing to play with but always had fun.

Girls all wore sun bonnets — never went bare headed but in warm weather would go bare-footed, same as the boys — oh! the big girls didn’t, of course.

Sometimes school would be only for three months, and a five month school was a long time — I mean in the country. Then sometimes there would be a subscription school in Summer.

Sometimes the teacher would “stay a round” with the people — not have to pay board.

My first school I had to walk alone and go about three Mi. but at this last one we lived just little over 1/2 Mi. from the school house.

While we lived there tho there were two years I did not go to that school, because the teacher did not keep good order. I went to a lady who taught in her house 2 Mi. away. There we sat by a fireplace and used her chairs. She was such a fine teacher too — could explain things so we could understand even arithmetic. Also she had some different readers I used but I forget the names. Of course, they were the higher books 5th & 6th.

My letter is getting too long to tell about when I “went off” to school. So will close for this time and if you want the other part I’ll write again.

Lovingly your Grandmother,

Stella Cunningham

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