Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Reason to Celebrate--17 Becoming Acquainted With John

I considered myself one of the lucky ones when my Grandma Ganus moved to a small house on Main street in Sanford, Colorado. What was so good about living on Main street? There were several good things, one being that we could sit out front and watch people come and go. In a small town like Sanford where life was slow and simple, knowing who was going where and with whom could be big news. Lucky for us, Grandma's crab apple trees provided the perfect perch for us and provided a little cover because we could watch without others realizing that we were watching. It could have also provided a snack at the same time, but every year,  I tried, I really tried, to like the sour crab apples in those trees, but even with a good salting, I just could not eat them. Even now, it makes my mouth pucker just to think about biting into one. 

But the truly best part of living on Main street was that it meant a prime seat to the big event of the year, the 24th of July parade!!!

I loved being in Colorado for the 24th of July. The 24th of July, 1847 was the day the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and so it is a day of celebration for members of the LDS church, everywhere. Most of the early inhabitants of the cluster of small Southern Colorado towns were either descendants of pioneers who had first settled in Utah and then were sent on to the San Luis Valley or descendants of a Southerner who fled there after joining the LDS church.

My parents, brothers and myself outside an old pioneer
house in Sanford Colorado 2012
In Colorado, the 24th celebration actually lasts an entire week. The activities are spread among the small neighboring towns of LaJara, Sanford and Manassa due to the high density of Mormons in those small little farm towns.The celebration includes parades, a pageant, rodeos, activities such as three-legged races, pie eating contests, dances, ballgames, etc. A carnival always comes to Manassa and an afternoon spent there includes a mouth-watering hamburger. It is quite the celebration. You can read about the history of the celebration and see details about the most recent celebration HERE. We loved going as kids and it continues to be a wonderful tradition today. 

Southern Colorado was selected as a place for the Mormons to emigrate to in part because land was reasonable and there was access to water. (1) When the first group of Southerners arrived in 1879, there were only about 160 living there. (2)  That group of Southerners, like those who would follow them, arrived poor and fairly ill-prepared for the harsh winters and short growing seasons they would experience. Other Mormons were sent from Utah to settle there to help the Southerners with the transition. Latinos who were living there first helped both groups through the difficult adjustment.


Colorado, San Luis Valley, Mormons, LDS, emigration, Southerners, 24th of July, Celebration, Pioneer Days
Map showing the location of Conejos County Colorado
The following description of Manassa appeared in the Salt Lake Herald in 1879:
"The city of Manassa, so named, is situated in Conejos County, seven miles north by east of the county seat on ranges 9 and 10, township 34, north of New Mexico, principal meridian. A more beautiful location would be difficult to find, the site being selected with judicious foresight for agricultural and pastoral enterprises, and the settlers cannot fail ultimately to realize fully the most sanguine hopes of those now building the city. 
........The streets of the city are six rods wide, with streams running on either side, the immediate intention being to plant shade trees, according to the system established in Salt Lake City. Many of these streets are already occupied by the Mormon families, who at the present writing number 156 souls who are living in tents and temporary buildings. (3)
John and his family were among the sixth group to emigrate to Manassa from the South and by the time they arrived, 8 years after the first group, the town had grown considerably due to the large number of Mormon converts who had fled from the South.

By 1889, a  few years after John and his family arrived, almost a thousand people were living in Manassa, most of whom were Southerners. There was half a dozen stores, a log church and although initially most all of the homes were log, the log homes were slowly being replaced by small frame homes.(4)

Eventually, the Ganus families would have their own homes. As this early Manassa Map shows, "Frank"  (my Great-Grandfather William Franklin Ganus) had a home on Peterson Street (Lot 10) and "Father Ganus" and John Ganus were a couple of streets away on Smith Street (Lot 40).  (5)




Adjusting to a different climate can be physically hard. At 7,690 feet, Manassa is approximately 6,447 feet higher than John's home in Georgia. John's family likely experienced some of the effects of that altitude change which for some includes fatigue and headache at first. In addition, the humid climate of their Georgia home was replaced by a much drier climate. The Ganus family had to learn to grow and eat different crops from what they were accustomed to due in part to the high altitude and short growing season. All of these issues presented challenges for John, as well as the other Southerners.

Whenever groups of people converge from different areas of the country and world, they bring with them the illnesses of that region and such was true for Manassa. Measles, smallpox, diphtheria, and mumps were just a few of the illnesses that plagued the valley. The Ganus family knew the heartbreak of losing family members to illness in the years that they were there and it seems to have especially taken a toll on the little children of the Ganus family. John and Olivia experienced the heartbreak of burying four grandchildren during the time in Manassa.

The first Ganus child taken was John Thackason Ganus and Mary's son, Morgan L. Ganus who was born 20 Oct 1887 and died 1888. The following year John T. and Mary lost another child, John William, who was born in 1882 and died in 1889.  Then in 1890, William Franklin Ganus (Frank) and Sarah Faucett (Sally) buried their son, Parley L. Ganus who was born on 18 February 1889 and died 2 February 1890. One year later, Frank and Sally buried their only daughter, Blanche E. who was born 16 Feb. 1891 and died that same year.

Old Manassa Cemetery, Manassa, Colorado 
As I visited the Old Manassa Cemetery several years ago, I stood in that little abandoned cemetery and imagined the grief the Ganus family felt each time another child passed away. Four times they brought one of their little ones to be buried, four times they dug a small grave and four times they said goodbye.

The Ganus family had come to Colorado for safety, and although they were safer from physical and emotional harm, illness found them. 

When I stood in front of my Grandma Ganus' house as a child, all those many years ago, and waited for the floats and horses to pass by, I wish I had known more about my ancestry and the price they paid. I wish I would have understood the sacrifices that were made, the hardships they endured and all that was given so that I could have the life that I have. I am sure I still would have appreciated the front row seat at the parade and the juicy hamburger at the carnival, but just maybe I would have felt all the more reason to celebrate. 




(1) Mormon Colonization of the San Luis Valley, Colorado, 1878-1900.  page 50
(2) sic p. 49
(3) "Mormon Manassa, " Salt Lake Herald, May 22, 1879, page 3, accessed on Utah Digital Newspapers,  https://digitalnewspapers.org/
(4) "Manassa Matters," Salt Lake Herald, Dec. 8, 1889, page 14, accessed on Utah Digital Newspapers, https://digitalnewspapers.org/.
(5). Portion of map from the back pocket of "The Life and Ministry of John Morgan," Arthur Richardson, Historical Research Nicholas G. Morgan Sr.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

Thursday, October 5, 2017

For The Sake of The Gospel--- 16 Becoming Acquainted with John M. Ganus


We've moved. After twenty years in the same home, we sold our home and moved to something smaller. We feel good about the decision and know this is the right step to take at this point in our life, but nonetheless, it is hard. We raised our family in that house and we have many fond memories there. 

As I said goodbye to our wonderful home, I kept thinking about John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus who moved across country when they were about our age. Their move in 1886, however, was a much more difficult and drastic move. Without the benefits of modern technology and modern travel, and with limited funds, they left never to return to Georgia or see their friends and extended family again. Unlike many others of their time, John and Olivia's move wasn't motivated by the desire for more land, or in order to join other family members who had moved ahead, but their move was more about finding a place to live where they could feel safe. 

The Ganus family joined the LDS church in the midst of immense opposition towards the LDS missionaries and the church members. In the years that followed their conversion, the persecution against the Mormons intensified and so many of the southern Mormon families began to emigrate west. John and Olivia remained in Georgia longer than many, but eventually, they decided that it would be best for their family if they too left Georgia. On Monday, October 11, 1886, Elder Murphy recorded that he helped John make arrangements to emigrate.  

On Thursday, Oct 21, 1886 on the road coming from town, LDS missionary, Elder Murphy ran into one of John and Olivia's younger sons, Newton L. Ganus. Newton assured Elder Pledger Murphy that they were going to Colorado for the "sake of the Gospel" and not to get rich. Although it had become increasingly difficult for Mormons to make a living in Georgia, there was no promise that they would prosper financially in Colorado either although Colorado was chosen in part because of the availability of land and the lower cost of living there. However, the members of the LDS church had been counseled not to expect to get rich there and clearly, Newton had gotten the message. 

The next day, on Oct 22nd, Olivia visited her sister Frances for the last time. It must have been a tearful occasion as sisters who had lived near each other for their entire lives said goodbye. Earlier, John and Elder Murphy had visited Olivia's sister and Brother-in-law, Robert and Frances Bailey in an effort to share their gospel message, but according to Elder Murphy, "they were not very much inclined to the gospel." Olivia must have been disappointed. 


On Friday, November 12th, Elder Murphy helped Franklin (John and Olivia's oldest son) pack up for Colorado. In his journal, Elder Murphy recorded that the Ganuses were short the cost of one train ticket, so G. W. Driver loaned them $10.00 so they could all go. Elder Murphy said, "Their hearts were made glad and they rejoiced in having the privilege of all going to Zion."  

A few days later, on November 16, 1886, Elder Murphy wrote that he went to G. W. Driver's house with John Ganus and together they did the hardest days' work that he had ever done in his life packing things up so they could get it all to the depot. 

The following morning, Elder Murphy saw the Drivers, the Ganuses and others to the train station. John and Olivia, their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren all boarded the train bound for Colorado. 

Hopefully, John and Olivia's had extended family members and friends at the train station to see them off. LDS Missionary, Elder Murphy recorded that he watched from the platform, waving as the train carrying the small group of converts passed out of sight. I can imagine the Ganus family waving back to a missionary who they had grown to love and who had done so much for them. Were there tears? There must have been mixed emotions for Elder Murphy; relieved that they were able to leave and yet knowing that with this group went much of the support for the remaining LDS church members and missionaries.

Although we don't have a written record of what they felt, truly it can be said that for John and Olivia, their actions spoke louder than their words. As difficult as it was on so many levels, rather than deny or turn away from what they believed, with courage and commitment, they packed up their belongings and left their home and extended family to move hundreds of miles away to start a new life where they could worship as they chose.

John was 60 years old and starting over wouldn't be easy. Was he worried about his ability to make a living? Was he emotional about leaving behind people that he loved? Was he relieved to be escaping the persecution aimed at members of the Mormon faith? Was he excited for the new life that lay ahead? 

In Kansas City, John and family changed trains and headed toward Pueblo, Colorado. In Pueblo, they boarded a narrow gauge line that would take them over the mountains and into the high mountain valley of San Luis.

Ancestry, genealogy, Colorado, Mormons, emigration,
The Pinnacles above the Conejos River
Photo was taken on family trip

The mountains of Colorado are very different from the hills of North Georgia. Steep and ruggedly beautiful, the tall mountains of the Rockies were very different from anything that the Ganus family had ever seen before.


Manassa Colorado, Ganus, Georgia, ancestry, ancestor, genealogy, family history, emigration, train
Looking across the San Luis Valley
Photo taken outside Sanford during a family trip
As they disembarked the train, did they pause to look out over the wide open fields of the San Luis Valley? The valley was so different from their densely treed Georgia home. What did they think? Did they feel butterflies of excited anticipation? Did their hearts sink just a little as they realized how different life would be there? Were they dressed appropriately for the weather or did they shiver with the chill in the air? The average temperature for Manassa in November is 30 to 40 degrees and sometimes there is 4 to 5 inches of snow. 

At the train station, they were greeted by members of the local LDS church who took them by wagon to their temporary accommodations in the homes of other members of the Mormon church. Many other Southerners who had preceded them in migration were already settled there and helped the newcomers with the transition. Although the Ganus family had moved before, this move was dramatically different from any other move they had ever made. 

Moves mean new beginnings and so often they can be good, but at the same time, they can be trying, both emotionally and physically. We just moved across town and yet as I look ahead to life in our new place, I anxiously wonder how well we will adjust. Without any question, for John and his family, the move was much more drastic and the adjustment would be much more extensive. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved






Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Playing Possum ----15 - Becoming Acquainted with John M. Ganus

Pledger Murphy, dinner, possum, squirrel, Georgia, guests

My mother was always a fabulous cook, and every night we sat down to a meal fit for a king. Our dinners were absolutely fabulous and gave us little reason to eat out. My mother also loved to set a beautiful table with her collection of beautiful dishes, table cloths and accenting cloth napkins. In addition, she always put together a beautiful floral arrangement and sometimes added candles! When my friends came for dinner, they always thought that Mom had done it all just for them and I could never bring myself to tell them we ate that way every night.  

Sadly, I didn't inherit that gene. I cook fairly simple meals, use placemats, and paper napkins and although we do have people over for dinner occasionally, feeding company is very stressful to me. 

Knowing that John and Olivia frequently fed the LDS missionaries in their area, I was tickled to learn about a few of the meals they fed the missionaries and I have to admit, I've never even considered serving my guests either squirrel or possum! 

In the John J. Pledger Murphy journal, I found the following entry for Saturday, October 23, 1886. 
"John Ganus and I go a squirrel hunting we kill one squirrel after two hours hunt. Returned to Johny and have squirrell long leg colards and swete potatoes for dinner. Nute and Boby Ganus and John Bailey goes to town withe cow and calf. They return and John Ganus goe withe them to Baileys a possum hunting. Catch one fine fat possum. Frank and Rod Ganus came home."
Then the next day,
"At 9 A.M. Johney and the boys come with the old big fat possom. we scald him and scrape him and sister Ganus cooked it for diner. I et one hind leg and soem cabage at 1/2 past 2 oclock."
I guess I really had no idea what was involved in hunting possum until I ran across the following article in a newspaper describing the process.
  
Macon Telegraph, Tuesday, Oct 30, 1827 Vol 1 
"The Opossum--The hunting of the Opossum is a favorite sport with the country people, who frequently go out with their dogs at night, after the autumnal frosts have begun and persimmon fruit is in its most delicious state. The Opossum, as soon as he discovers the approach of his enemies, lies perfectly close to the branch, or places himself snugly in the angle where two limbs separate from each other. The dogs, however, soon announce the fact of his presence by their baying and the hunter ascending the tree discovers the branch upon which the animal is seated and begins to shake it with great violence to alarm and cause him to relax his hold. This is soon effected, and the Opossum, attempting to escape to another limb is pursued immediately, and the shaking is renewed with greater violence, until at length the terrified quadruped allows himself to drop to the ground, where the hunters or dogs are prepared to dispatch him."

hunting, possum, genealogy, ancestry, ancestor, dogs, opossum

The article goes on to tell that after the opossum drops to the ground, he will roll up and play dead. He then waits until he thinks his "persecutor" is gone, but if he discovers he is still there, he will again appear to be dead and thus the saying "He is playing possum." 

After reading about the process for preparing a possum to eat, I decided that what Elder Murphy shared was probably enough and I would leave the rest up to your imagination. 

What is your favorite meal to serve company? 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved