Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Teaching and being taught, Olivia's lesson

Recently, I  stumbled on an article that grabbed my attention .  The article was written back in 2008 and can be found here:  HC Historical Society dedicates Little Creek School House.  The article told about the restoration of an old one-room school and said the following:

The Little Creek School House was built between 1866 and 1871 after the Georgia state legislature established the common school system. . . . It was originally located on GA 100 near the border between Haralson and Polk Counties. . . . last year it was relocated to its current position on Van Wert Street next to the County Commission office.


John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater
John Monroe Ganus
and Olivia Rainwater
The original location of this school was very close to where my second great grandparents, John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater, lived in Haralson County, Georgia. Is it possible that Olivia either attended or taught at that school?  In my files is a treasured copy of Olivia's Teacher's Certificate.   This certificate was shared with me by Carlos Ganus, a dear cousin of mine and descendant of John and Olivia's son, Roderick.  The certificate is a treasure but creates many questions. 

 Olivia was born on the 20th of February 1831 in Hall County, Georgia to Joshua Rainwater and Mary Peterson.  She was the 4th of six children, four of which were girls.  Her life seemed to follow the normal  pattern for girls of that time period.  She lived with her parents until the age of 21, at which time she married John Monroe Ganus on the 7th of October 1862 in Cedartown, Polk County, Georgia.  As was common then, John farmed and they soon began their family, with their first son being born a little over a year later.  John and Olivia would have a total of 8 children, with five sons surviving through adulthood.  Everything seems to point to a normal every day life for a Georgia family during the mid 19th century,  until you factor in her Teacher's Certificate.  

When I think of schools of that era, my mind immediately goes to old TV westerns and shows such as "Little House on the Prairie."  They always portray children of varying ages all attending school together in a small one-room school .  I was excited to discover a Youtube video showing the inside of the recently restored Little Creek School.  You can visit it yourself here Youtube visit to Little Creek School   Everything down to the pot bellied stove fits with what I envisioned . 
Olivia Ganus Teacher's certificate, Haralson County, Georgia
Olivia's Teacher's Certificate 

In the movies, the teacher is always portrayed as either a man or as a very young unmarried woman or an older spinster.  If there is any authenticity at all to that portrayal, Olivia certainly did not fit the mold.  In 1871, when she obtained her certificate, she was a 40 year old woman and she had a houseful of children.  Their youngest at that time was one year old Robert Lee, Newton was 3 years old,  Roderick was 7,  John Thackason was 16 and Frank was 18.  Certainly Olivia had her hands full with all of the duties that fell to the wife and mother of the home. 

I've written to individuals in Haralson County and they attempted  to help me locate records of those that taught during that time, but little could be found.  We do not have any records that indicate that Olivia actually taught school, but it seems unlikely that she obtained the certificate just for the sense of accomplishment.  Her brother Abner Rainwater was a school teacher and family lore says that he helped her become a teacher.  But why did she go through the testing to become a teacher at that time?  How did she have the time to prepare and to test when she had two children under the age of 5? I wonder if her husband, John, had an injury or ailment that prevented him from providing for the family for a time.  If Olivia did in fact teach, who cared for her children?  In a previous post entitled "Treasured Find" I indicated that a sister, Frances, and her family lived close by.  Did perhaps Frances help care for Olivia's little ones?  

For whatever reason, Olivia went through the process of testing and obtained the certificate on the 5th of September 1871 in Haralson County, Georgia.  Her Teacher's Certificate indicates that her general average was a 90, which is impressive by any standards.  Whether she taught or not, she accomplished something not common for women of that day.   Not only could she read and write at a time and place when few could,  but she qualified to teach others those skills.  Whether she taught as a profession or not, she certainly taught her own children and  through her example she continues to teach her descendants today that we too can do hard things.   





2 comments:

  1. What a treasure you have with that teaching certificate--but what a mystery it has initiated. Could it be that the county lines have changed since that point in 1871? Could there have been other schools in the county at that time? It does seem odd that she didn't fit the stereotypical image of teaching candidate for that time period.

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  2. Jacqi, thanks for the comment. Checking surrounding counties definitely is essential in the early days and it's pretty second nature for me anymore,but it's always good to be reminded. There were several small schools in that general area and truthfully she could have attended or taught at any of them. Unfortunately,the surviving school records are really sparse. I am hoping that with the restoration of this school that maybe new records will surface and I will be able to learn more. There seems to always be more questions with every step we take in genealogy, but sometimes the answers are of such personal nature it seems unlikely that we will ever really know unless of course we find a personal account of some sort.

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