Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tragedy in the Roaring Twenties

It was the roaring twenties and life was changing rapidly in the United States. Women had gained the right to vote, dance clubs were the vogue and "talkies" became wildly popular.  Ernest was home from the war and he and Goldie, who had only been married six monthes when he left for basic training, were together again.  If he was like many WWI veterans, it took a little time for him to adjust and settle back into life.
17 April 1920 Cartoon by American cartoonist Dick Kennedy,

The year 1921 appeared to be the beginning of better things for Ernest as he and Goldie welcomed their first baby into their home. Goldie gave birth to Charles Franklin Ganus who was likely named for Goldie's father, Charles, and Ernest's father, (William) Franklin. Things were looking up for Ernest.

Ernest, now a family man, returned to the oil fields, but this time he took a job in a refinery working as a still man's helper. In a refinery a still is a large column where oil is heated to a high temperature in order to distill the oil to different grades.

October 28, 1922 likely began like most any other day for the Ganus family, but in the oil fields, any day has the potential for danger.  That afternoon,  as Ernest worked at the Indiahoma refinery, an agitator exploded, setting fire to three oil tanks, killing one man, burning two horses to death and according to newspaper reports, it was feared that two other men, including "E. Ganus," who had been engulfed in flames, would possibly die from their burns.  (1) The article further stated that both men were hospitalized.

Gusher Okemah Ok 1922
While the accident is reported in numerous newspapers, there is no further information about the injured men.  I find myself wondering and hoping that just maybe the initial report was slightly exaggerated.  That could have been the case  . . . but if not,  I would assume that as is typical with burns, the recovery was slow and difficult.  Ernest would certainly require recovery time and he and Goldie likely felt the strain both emotionally and physically as he healed while the medical bills mounted. Sadly, this would not be the only trial this little family would face that week.

On the 29th of October 1922, the very day following the explosion,  Ernest's and Goldie's only child, Charles,  died.  I can't imagine the grief they must have felt. Was Ernest even able to help Goldie make arrangements for Charles' burial or was that a burden she carried alone? How did they afford both the cost of burial as well as Ernest's medical expenses?  How did they manage as they faced one of the most difficult tragedies any parent could face?  Surely there were many dark and difficult days in the weeks and months that followed.

The following year, while still in Okmulgee, Ernest and Goldie again welcomed a baby into their home.  This time their baby was a girl and they named her Louise.  Once again I felt hope that maybe now life would even out for Ernest, and then I remembered what the 1930's held for Oklahoma.

(1) "Explosion Kills Oil Worker and Injures Others,: (Miami),  Miama District News, 29 Oct 1922, p. 1; digital images, GenealogyBank.com, (http://www.genealogybank.com:  accessed 28 August 2014). 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014, All rights reserved

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Family Of His Own-Part 3 of Ernest's Story

Golda Buster Ganus, Okmulgee Oklahoma,
Photo inscribed:
"From Goldie Ganus
Okmulgee, Okla.
I am 18 years old"
Things were indeed heating up overseas, making the future uncertain for young and old alike.  Still living in Oklahoma, Ernest continued working in the oil fields and at some point, while in his early twenties, a young lady by the name of Goldie Buster caught his eye.

Goldie was born 12 October, 1900 in Eldon, Missouri and was the daughter of Charles Buster and Lena Shackelford.  In 1910,  she was living with her mother Lena, her step-father, Columbus Tracy and her sister Ida Buster in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

In November of 1917,  at the ripe old age of seventeen, Goldie and twenty-four year old Ernest decided to take the big leap and get married.  Ernest and Goldie began life together and finally Ernest once again had a family of his own.

As was feared, conditions in Europe continued to deteriorate and in April of 1917 the United States declared war on Germany.  Ernest was among those called to serve in what became known as the Great World War.

A mere six months after their wedding, Ernest said goodbye to his new bride and joined many others who were training at Camp Travis, near San Antonio, Texas.  According to The Office of Medical History, the men training there to become soldiers were men from Oklahoma and Texas.

In June of 1918,  Ernest's division was shipped overseas and he was assigned to Field Hospital #357, 3155 Sanitary Train, 90 Div. During WW1, men in the Sanitary Trains operated field hospitals and manned the ambulances.  Field Hospital #357 was located in France and aided in evacuation and triage of the injured.

WW 1, men in battle,
Sitting peacefully in the comfort of my own home,  it is difficult to fully comprehend all that was endured by not only the soldiers in the midst of battle, but by men such as Ernest who came to the aid of the injured.  Working in the sanitary train,  Ernest would have helped soldiers in shock, those that had been gassed and those with a variety of injuries.  Often working under extremely difficult conditions, Ernest, along with many men and women, did their part in the fight to preserve our freedom.

WW 1 Ambulance
I gained a little insight into the challenges faced by those of the 357th 90th division, while reading about them on the website The Office of Medical History.  There I read the following:
 "While dressings, splints, supplies, and service by the ambulance companies left much to be desired, only by almost superhuman effort on the part of the commanding officer of the 357th Ambulance Company, his officers and men, was it possible for them to function at all.  The roads were literally torn to pieces by shell fire and continually congested by trucks and artillery." (1)
Ernest undoubtedly witnessed things difficult for us to imagine and things his heart and mind would likely never forget. Was he among the thousands of soldiers who mentally relived those events for the remainder of his life? Did the effects of war impact his life and his relationships?

Although thousands of Americans did not return home at the close of the war, Ernest was among those who did.  On the 19th of June, 1919,  after a little more than a year overseas, Ernest was discharged and returned home to Goldie.  Although I hoped that the next chapter of his life would be more calm, the story that unfolded revealed yet more challenges.

1. U.S. Amy Medical Department, Office of Medical History, Chapter XXXII, Third Phase, pages 781-787. http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/fieldoperations/chapter32.html  Accessed 4 September, 2014.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons in Public Domain


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014, All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Uncertain Future

Although Ernest had returned "home" to Oklahoma, undoubtedly it was far from being the home he had known only a few years earlier.  With both parents now dead (see post here) and his younger twin brothers living with relatives in Colorado, he was suddenly very alone.


While he faced an uncertain future personally, the world he lived in was also rapidly changing.  Much of the world was in a state of unrest as the tensions began to mount in Europe.  At the time, few could possibly anticipate how deeply the coming events would impact their lives.

On the 5th of June 1917, approximately two weeks after Congress passed a law to enact a draft, twenty four year old Ernest Ganus joined the ranks of young American men who registered for the draft.

From his registration form, I learned that he was medium height, medium build, with grey eyes and brown hair and that he was living in Morris, Oklahoma, which is just eight miles from Okmulgee.  He worked as a tool dresser for an oil company and so his duties likely included assisting the driller on an oil rig by sharpening and dressing the drill bits.

I wasn't surprised to learn that Ernest was part of the throng of young men working in the oil fields. In the early 1900's, Oklahoma was in the midst of a huge oil boom as hundreds of gallons of thick black crude were pumped from the ground.  Along with the flow of oil came a steady flow of men, hopeful that they could make some of the big money.

Whizbang, Oklahoma oil boom town 1922
Oil Boom Town (Whizbang)
Oklahoma early 1920's
The face of Oklahoma changed dramatically as small towns began to grow and new ones sprang up to provide housing and entertainment to meet the growing demands.  This was the Oklahoma that Ernest returned to and it couldn't have differed more from the small rural farming town in Colorado where Ernest's little brothers now lived.

Meanwhile things were heating up overseas and soon even bigger changes would take place in Ernest's life.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three Brothers, Three Roads

Ernest William Ganus, Heber Monroe Ganus
Ernest and Heber
Unknown date
They weren't little boys anymore and life had taken them in very different directions.   Two brothers, tossed and shaped by tragic circumstances, took opportunity to pose for a picture.  Ernest Ganus, the oldest of the sons of William Franklin Ganus and Sarah E. Faucett was born 23 May 1893 and was seven years older than his brother Heber.  It is unknown why Ernest and Heber posed together for the picture without Heber's twin, Orson.

I find myself feeling a little pang of sadness at the thought of one of the brothers missing and while I really won't go so far as to compromise the integrity of the photo by photoshopping Orson in, I confess part of me would like to. While the picture seems incomplete,  it is nevertheless a great picture of two brothers and the only picture I have of my grandfather at that age. Today however, I turn my attention to Ernest.

Although the Ganus family arrived in Oklahoma about 1897, well after the initial land rush, they witnessed a great deal of growth and change occur as Oklahoma went from sparsely populated Indian Territory to communities that boomed with the discovery of rich crude oil and the promise of work. Oklahoma officially became the 47th state in 1907.  Ernest was a young man of 14 at the time and I wonder if he and his brothers understood the significance of that historic day when Oklahoma became part of the United States?

Ernest attended school until his father's death in 1906, when he was just 13 years old and  I have wondered if he quit school to work and help with the support of the family.  Undoubtedly it was difficult to for his mother Sarah to support three growing boys in 1906,  but her struggle to provide was short lived.  In 1909, just three short years after husband Frank's death, Sarah died, leaving the three boys orphaned.

I suspect that initially the twins leaned on sixteen year old Ernest for assurance and emotional security. Harsh experiences such as these propel children into the adult world of survival and worries that are typically shouldered by their parents.

Sadly, none of the relatives were able to take in all three boys for any length of time and so the little security that they felt in being together was soon shattered.  The boys appear on the 1910 Census in both Okmulgee with Uncle Roderick Ganus, their father's brother, and a few months later with their mother's sister, Mary Haggard, in the small farming community of Sanford, Colorado.  Mary, herself a widow at the time, could only keep the boys for a little while and then they were each sent to different homes.

Still little boys, Heber and Orson were unable to provide for themselves and would remain in the care of others for quite a few more years.  But at 17 years of age, Ernest was nearly a man in the world's eyes and soon set out on his own. Although his brothers remained in Sanford, Colorado, Ernest soon returned to Oklahoma where his life would take him on a very different path.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Heaven

My brothers and I 
I loved summers as a child.  Growing up in the country, my brothers and I often set out on foot or on mini bikes to explore the hills where we lived. We climbed trees, shot BB guns, played in the sprinklers and swam at the local pool.  Life was sweet and innocent and our biggest worry was getting back in time for dinner.

Somehow summer has changed.  As I frantically run around, planning, picking up and dropping off this and that,  I try to finish my never ending "to do" list and I can't help but reflect on how summers used to be. They used to be a time to catch my breath before school started up again in the fall.  Summers used to be a time to relax and recharge.  What happened?

As a child, our vacation every year included a trip to the San Luis Valley in Colorado to visit our relatives.  While there, our time was spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins galore and it seemed as if we were related to everyone who lived there because, for the most part, we were.  In the valley there was a sense of belonging and of being loved and I always felt that we experienced a little bit of heaven there.

A particularly fun memory is of riding around with Uncle Clyde as he checked on his hay fields. Riding beside him as we bounced along the dirt roads and across the hay fields was a treat I never passed up.  His fun sense of humor, his gentle way of teasing, the treats in his glove box and stops for an ice cold bottle of pop always seemed to be a standard part of his day.  He loved me and I knew it and he spoiled me rotten.

On our visits there,  I helped gather eggs, learned to outrun ornery sheep, watched cousins milk cows (I never quite mastered that one), drove a tractor and enjoyed farm fresh eggs and "fresh side" for breakfast. Oh how my Grandmas and Aunties could cook!  It not only felt like heaven there, but the food tasted like heaven as well.

Evenings and weekends were filled with family gatherings. The adults chatted about everything imaginable while the cousins ran and played night games in the fields and outbuildings. It never occurred to me that those wonderful carefree days would eventually come to an end and that some day I would look back and ache to relive those cherished childhood memories.

Heber and Orson Ganus in Sanford, Colorado
Heber and Orson
While on a trip to the valley a few years ago, we visited the Sanford Museum located in Sanford, Colorado.  They have a great collection of photos and memorabilia and were very helpful. There in an album full of old photos, I found a picture of my Grandpa Heber Ganus and his twin, Orson.  Thankfully,  although the picture was dark and a poor quality, it was clearly marked and my father assured me that it was indeed a picture of my grandfather and his brother.

From the stories I've heard, I know that childhood was rough for my orphaned grandfather, but this simple picture gives me hope that just maybe he too had some fun carefree days.  Seeing the twins, sticks in hand, dressed in their bib overalls and hats while carefully balanced on a small wooden raft in the middle of a pond, I am reminded of the stories and antics of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Where did Heber and Orson's imagination take them that day?

I wonder if that day was like the days I spent in the valley as a child?  In that high mountain valley the warmth of the sun seems to permeate your whole being, the sky seems a little bluer and although I know I am biased, even the white cotton-candy clouds seem more fluffy.

I envision the two brothers talking and laughing and if I know anything at all about boys, I suspect there was a healthy amount of mischievous splashing.  Did horseplay send either one or both of the boys into the pond?

I hope that in their fun, they were able to forget their troubles and their loneliness for the family life they no longer had.  I hope that in the companionship of his brother, Grandpa Ganus felt that contented sense of belonging and of being loved.  Summers can be good that way and I would like to think that just maybe... on that day... Grandpa too felt a little bit of heaven.


San Luis Valley, Colorado


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy Blogiversary to ME!

Today is my blogiversary marking two years of blogging.  Although still a "baby blogger" by most standards,  I am amazed at all that I have already gained from blogging.  My initial intention was to share my stories for the benefit of others who are researching my families or locations, but in reality I am the one who has benefitted.  I would like to share a few of the ways blogging has helped ME! (Just what's on your "benefits of blogging" list?)



Benefits of Blogging


1.  I realize that although I know a lot about my ancestors, there really is so much more to learn.

As I began to write their stories,  I was initially amazed at how often I needed to stop and do more research.  The process of writing has helped me to see the holes in my research, which in turn has led me to new discoveries.  Suddenly it made total sense that we are encouraged to stop and write when we hit a brick wall.

2.  I realize how often I assume information.

In the process of writing my ancestors' stories, I can see that it is so easy to assume things that are not actually substantiated by fact.  Sometimes those assumptions are just floating around in my head, influencing the decisions I make on where to look next when, in reality, I need to be looking elsewhere. It's a good reminder to not be too quick to jump to conclusions and to always check the facts before assuming anything.

3.  I benefit from the experience of other bloggers.

I think we all have little tunnels of reasoning that our thoughts tend to follow.  I know I sure do and I have benefitted a great deal from the comments and insights that other bloggers have shared as comments on my blog.

4.  Blogging is helping me to learn more about the topics of interest and my areas of research.

We love to visit and chat with people who like the things we like.  As anyone who has attended a genealogy conference can tell you, this certainly extends to genealogist.  Blogging about a topic or location has served as a magnet for other like-minded genealogists.  They in turn have shared new websites and sources, which of course have benefitted me immensely.

5.  Blogging is broadening my circle of friends and associates.

I love the opportunity to interact with the community of genealogy bloggers. (Thank you Thomas MacEntee for establishing Geneabloggers.) Not only am I learning more about how to be a good blogger, but I have also connected with new friends.  The world truly has become a little smaller in the process.

6.  The "cousin bait" thing really works.

We've all  heard that blogs can serve as "cousin bait."  I am still waiting for a major breakthrough from a newfound cousin, and while I haven't received a boatload of genealogical goodies from anyone yet (although I still have hope), I have received a few stories and pictures that I have absolutely loved.

7. Having a blog is forcing me to sit down and write.

For years, I said I was going to write....tomorrow......next week or maybe after the upcoming major event.  The truth of the matter is I like the thrill of the chase, which is research.  But having a blog and wanting to have something to share in my blog has forced me to quit procrastinating and make writing a priority.

8.  Writing a blog has reminded me that before I conquer writing that family history book someday, I need to remember how to write.

I am amazed at how many of the writing rules and "niceties" I have forgotten and how much I need to practice practice practice.

9.  Because I blog, I read other people's blogs more often.

Writing a blog has created a greater interest in poking around the web to see what other people write about in their blogs.  From other people's blogs I've learned about everything from how to blog to how to research and everything genealogical in-between.



10.  Blogging is just darn fun!

I don't know what I expected exactly when I started blogging, but I didn't realize that writing a blog would be so much fun, but it is!  Writing, sharing, reading other's stories and seeing the stories in my own ancestors' lives unfold as I write have all added a new dimension to my world of genealogy.


While "blogiversary" is a bit of a funny word, it is definitely something worth celebrating.



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've Got News!

I've got news!


I am excited to share that I have recently been asked to be part of the "May I Introduce to You" team at GeneaBloggers

Each Monday GeneaBloggers publishes an interview with a blogger from the genealogy community.  For five years Gini Webb has done an excellent job conducting the interviews and sharing the stories in "May I Introduce to You."   Recently she and Thomas MacEntee decided to expand the team and invite four additional individuals to be part of their team.  I am pleased and excited for this opportunity and look forward to this new adventure.  

Please take a minute to click on the link below and visit the website where you can read the announcement and meet each member of the team. 



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved