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Author: Dana Huff

Letter from Arthur Jennings re: John B. Jennings

Posted in Photographs, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

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

Primary Sources Versus Secondary Sources

Posted in Genealogy 101

If you have been researching your family history, you may have run into the classic pitfall. Primary sources can be expensive to obtain and difficult to find. Logic tells us that getting hold of eyewitness accounts when possible is best, but that might involve costly trips and sending away for copies of records and archives that can quickly put a dent in your budget. In some cases, primary sources are not saved or their whereabouts are unknown. Secondary sources are generally more available, but might not always be reliable.

It should be noted that primary sources may not always be correct. Eyewitnesses do not always describe things accurately (or without bias). Spelling errors are common. For example, on my great-great-great-grandmother’s headstone, her name is incorrectly inscribed as “Mary Anna Cunningham.” In fact, her given name was Mary Anne Penelope Anthony — she married Johnson Franklin Cunningham. Her family may not have realized this fine distinction and so misspelled her middle name. In a related error, Mary Anthony’s name was incorrectly transcribed by another genealogist (a common error, as handwriting can be difficult to read) as “May A.F. Anthony” in her marriage record. Also, my grandfather’s family Bible has the name of his grandfather, Johnson Franklin Cunningham, incorrectly transcribed as “Johns Cunningham.” While he may have gone by the nickname “Johns,” not realizing his full name was “Johnson” may have thrown roadblocks in my way.

Secondary sources are often good, but must be carefully weighed. When I first started working with genealogy online, I was amazed at the plethora of evidence available. I was transported into paroxysms of delight when I found the LDS site and began clicking through those Ancestry Pedigrees. A word of caution: sometimes genealogists do not take care to be thorough in their research. I have found countless errors on that site. For example, the site lists mythological Norse gods as the forebears of early English royalty. No doubt those were really taken from a book, but common sense would tell us a chronicler referring to his king as a descendant of the gods is not to be taken seriously. Yet, someone had that in his or her family record or it wouldn’t be in that pedigree file! Also, the site routinely has genealogist errors in name spellings, dates, places, and the like. You just can’t trust other genealogists to be thorough and accurate with their research. The best thing you can do if you run across a claim you believe to be dubious is research it yourself. Don’t include information you believe to be erroneous in files you share with others. That just perpetuates the cycle of misinformation. For example, I was told several years ago by a librarian that many people with the surname “Bolling” descend from Pocahontas. This is, indeed, true. I have ancestry in the Bowling/Bolling family through my great-great-grandmother, Stella Bowling. I have tentatively traced her lineage back to the pioneer, Benjamin Bolling. I found another genealogist’s family records tracing Benjamin Bolling to Pocahontas herself. I was, needless to say, excited by the prospect of being descended from a mythical figure such as Pocahontas. However, upon further research, I discovered that Benjamin Bolling is one of the infamous “blue Bollings,” so called because they appeared “out of the blue” in a family history by Zelma Wells Price in the 1960s. This erroneous information has been copied over many times by lazy genealogists. In fact, the dubious lineage was reproduced on his historical marker! DNA testing on descendants of Benjamin Bolling as compared with other Bollings descendants with a proven relation to Pocahontas have proven that he was not a descendant of Pocahontas. Take any information you find in secondary sources like other researchers’ files (including mine) as a lead for research and not conclusive proof. On the other hand, information reproduced in several secondary sources can be as reliable as (or even more reliable than) primary sources.

Nowadays, with the advent of sites like US GenWeb, whose aim is to provide free research help to genealogists, we can access more primary sources online. This is great news for those of us who can’t afford to break the bank on research trips and copies of vital records.

Update: Correspondence with Bowling cousins who have taken DNA tests has proven conclusively that Stella Ophelia Bowling does not descend from Benjamin Bolling, as other evidence previously led me to believe.  As I said in this article — be careful about sources!

Letter from Stella Bowling Cunningham

Posted in Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

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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