Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990 Page: 10
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in the corrals but still the Comanches
would steal from under their very noses
regardless of the precaution taken. In desperation,
James and his sons would, on
occasion, jump their best horses up into the
breezeway of their house holding them
overnight in this open picket-ended room.
The Cunningham men were not the
only family members with a strong, fighting
spirit. Susannah Cunningham, affectionately
known all over Comanche
County as "Aunt Susie," has been the subject
of considerable attention because of
her outspoken pioneer spirit. The local historical
and newspaper accounts of her life
portray her as a brave and scrappy woman
who exemplified the finest qualities of the
hardy Texas pioneers.
One of the Cunningham's neighbors,
pioneer Baptist preacher E.B. Featherston,
tells a story about Susie in his published
memoirs. According to him, a teenage
orphan girl, the daughter of a deceased
minister, was living in the Newburg area
with abusive foster parents. The child, Lou,
heard that if she took refuge with the
Cunninghams, Aunt Susie would protect
Lou made it to the Cunnningham
house where she was welcomed and given
a bed. In a few days the foster father came
to the Cunningham house and demanded
the girl from Captain James. The Captain
said this was Susie's business and directed
the man to the creek where Susie and Lou
were washing clothes. The man went to
Susie and demanded the child. Aunt Susie
told him that if Lou wanted to go it was all
right with her, but if she wanted to stay,
then she had a home with them.
The man took the girl by the arm and
tried to forcibly drag her away whereupon
Aunt Susie hit him twice with the stick
they were using to clean the wash. He
turned the child loose and left without her.
Lou stayed on to live with the Cunninghams
and eventually married their son
Thomas with whom she reared a fine
An account of the Hog Creek fight also
illustrates Susannah's strength. Three men
were attacked by a large force of Comanches
on Mountain Creek. The white men
rode furiously to escape, but one, a man
named Roach, was struck in the back by an
arrow from a pursuing Indian. The arrow
pierced his lung and pushed through the
skin on his breast. Roach escaped his pursuers
only to have his mount die from
exertion whereupon he stumbled afoot
10 HERITAGE * FALL 1990
toward the nearby Cunningham home. He
staggered into the cabin of an elderly man
who carried him to the Cunningham's.
None of the men there dared remove the
arrow, but Roach reported that Aunt Susie
had him laid out on the porch where she
pulled out the arrow and then nursed him
back to health.
An old pioneer recalled that originally
there were no farms in the county, "just
cattle, cattle everywhere. Meat, game, and
wild turkeys formed the chief articles of
diet. No vegetables or fruit were raised at
first. Finally, Aunt Susie Cunningham had
her a garden planted and raised the first
cabbage and beans grown here."
Although Susie was small in stature, she
possessed great physical strength, courage,
and endurance. During the Cunningham's
early East Texas days, James had cleared
ten acres of bottom land and split rails for
a fence until he was stricken with a terrible
case of malaria. Susie then carried the rails
to the clearing, built the fence, cultivated
the field, and made a crop. Food ran low
and a neighbor, needing cloth, promised
her all the corn she could carry home in
payment of several days weaving for him.
When finished, she is said to have carried
more than a hundred pounds of corn a mile
and a half to her home.
Susie had all of her twelve children
without the assistance of a doctor and never
lost a baby. One early traveler in Comanche
County told that he had obtained
overnight lodging at the Cunningham
house and noticed Susie was very pregnant.
He heard some rustling in the house during
the night and upon arising found Susie preparing
breakfast with her newborn baby
When young Jim Cunningham came to
his mother crying that his father, Captain
James, and his older brothers wouldn't let
him join them in an Indian chase claiming
he was too young to handle a gun, Susie
told her husband she wouldn't want a son
who would not defend his home. Captain
Cunningham and the older brothers gave
in and let Jim accompany them.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990, periodical, Autumn 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45429/m1/10/: accessed January 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.