Sarah Jane “Sally” Cunningham Brazell

1848 – 1936

Stories Collected by Billy Bob Bert Brazell,

Great-Grandson of Sarah Jane Cunningham Brazell


That was quite a long handle for a little girl, but Southern Belles had several names.  They called her “Sallie” for short.

Sarah Jane was the daughter of Robert and Martha Cunningham.  She and her parents survived the War of the Northern Aggression and in 1868 married William Monroe “Bill” Brazell in Aurora, Marshall County, Alabama.  See notes about William Monroe Brazell.

Robert Cunningham owned slaves prior to the War.  There was one slave that Sarah Jane just loved, a 16-year old Negro girl named Hepsibah.  Hepsibah milked the cows and helped with the other household chores.  Hepsibah would give Sarah Jane a cup of warm milk to drink at milking time.  When a cow would kick, Hepsibah would shove her head into the cow’s flank and throw her over.  Sarah Jane would laugh when telling her grandchildren this story.

Sarah Jane must have been quite a character.  She was a small woman, but very wiry.  Sarah Jane had a mind of her own, was stubborn, and must have had quite a temper.  Maybe she had to be very determined to raise a family of nine children by herself after Bill died at the age of 42 in 1888.  She was 40 years old at the time his death.

Sometime after Bill’s death, Sarah Jane decided to get married again.  The man she was going to marry was a man named Mr. Collins.  He lived about a mile down the road from her.  He was Travis Brazell’s mother’s father.  Everyone said that Sarah Jane was a stubborn woman.  Evidently, Mr. Collins was as stubborn as Sarah Jane.  They went to Tolar, Texas and got married.  When they got back to her house she said, “Stop the horse!” because he was driving on past her house to his house.  He said, “We are going to live at my house.”  After a big argument, she hopped out of the wagon and went into her house.  They never lived together a single day.

The marriage record at Granbury, Hood County, Texas shows that she married William Thomas Collins on June 1, 1896.

Sarah Jane had four children left at home after her son, John Brintley Brazell married on May 22, 1896.  Sometime before November 1897, Sarah Jane’s family all pulled up stakes and moved to Roger Mills County, Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Henry Floyd Brazell, Bill’s twin brother, and his family, Frank & Samantha “Fannie” Brazell Cunningham, moved to Roger Mills County, Oklahoma and settled on the Washita River.  Jonathan, Bill’s brother, and his family remained in Hood County, Texas.

The probable reason that the Brazell & Cunningham clans migrated to Oklahoma was the opening of land for homesteading.  They were farmers and needed land. Central Texas had been enduring a long lasting drought in the mid 1880’s.

The Homestead Act allowed any person 21 years old or older and who was an American citizen to claim 160 acres of land by living on it for five years and improving it.  Roger Mills County was open for homesteading.

The 1900 Roger Mills County Census shows that Henry Floyd Brazell and family was still living there.  Living with them were Sarah Jane, Jettie, and Bob; also a Otto Hasskerman, single.  This was the same person the Brazell kids called Uncle Hass.

Sarah Jane later moved in with her son John Brintley Brazell.  James Henry Hershell Brazell told this story:  “We were living in Roger Mills County. Grandma had a room over our dug-out.  Dad had built two rooms over the dug-out, one for her and one to store wheat.  She had a milk cow and I had to milk her.  Grandma would give me a pan of wheat to feed the cow.  Dad saw me with the wheat and wanted to know what I was going to do with it.  I told him that Grandma said for me to give to her cow.  Dad said, “Wheat won’t do the cow any good, just feed it to the chickens.”  I did this for a while, not knowing that Grandma was watching me.  The cow’s milk production began to fall off.  When I brought the milk in, Grandma said, “If you had fed the wheat to the cow instead of the chickens, you would have gotten more milk.”

“She had quite a temper.  Grandma got mad at Mama.  It was raining, just pouring down.  She got her hoe and went out to the garden and started hoeing.  Mama tried to get her to come in, but she wouldn’t.  Dad came in and Mama told him what she was doing.  He went out and practically had to carry her into the house.”

Sarah Jane lived most of her later years with her daughter Jettie and her husband, Charlie Hensley.  She never knew exactly how old she was.  She never learned to read or write.

Sarah Jane raised a large family and suffered a lot of hardships.  She was a very hardy lady.  She died January 31, 1936.  It was a very cold day.  She was buried in Strong City, Oklahoma.  The cemetery is located one mile south of Strong City in Section 25-14-23.