Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Can Do Hard Things

Each and every individual in my family tree holds a special place in my heart.  The tragic, the strong, the loving, the determined and the stubborn--each person belongs and as I learn about their lives and what they encountered and endured, I feel greater determination to similarly face my trials with courage and the same spirit of perseverance.

 Burton W. Cook has always been a favorite of mine.  Although I am actually related to his wife and children and not Burton himself,  I nonetheless feel a strong draw to Burton and it's in researching him that I have learned something about his wife and children.  Unlike some of the characters in stories previously shared in this blog, Burton didn't dip in and out of the newspapers and court rooms, but he just seemed to be in the right place at the right time, places where ancestors are supposed to be, but mine so seldom are. I find him in deeds, tax records, Agricultural Censuses, Federal Censuses, Civil War records including enlistment and Southern Claims Commission  and he even had a will AND there is record of his burial! Who knew such a person existed?  So many of my ancestors are so elusive.

Burton W. Cook was born about 1831, and while the records show conflicting data, I believe he was likely born in North Carolina.  I would love to know who his parents were, but my research, in addition to the information that I've received from some of his descendants has failed to produce any parents.  Interestingly enough, the first document that I have for him is his marriage license to Mary Ganus on 7 April 1850 in DeKalb County, Georgia.  Mary was my second great-grandaunt and the oldest child of James (Gur)Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey, my second great grandparents. I am unsure exactly where Burton was and what he did prior to his marriage.

On the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, just a short six months after their marriage, Burton and wife, Mary, are shown residing in the household of Shadrack Ellis, 89 years old, and Mary Ellis who was 35 years old,  living  in the Stones District of DeKalb County, Georgia . I have wondered why they were living with Shadrack and what the connection was?  While I can think of a variety of possibilities for the relationship and have explored options, I have not yet been able to prove any of them.

The first twelve years of Burton and Mary's life together appeared to be fairly typical of the time.  Burton farmed and Mary cared for the house and children. I did note that their first known child was born five years after their marriage, which is a little unusual for their time period..

Soon came the event that brought drastic change to life in the United States: the Civil War. Joining the ranks with neighbors and friends, Burton volunteered in Fayetteville, Georgia on May 1, 1862 and was mustered into Captain Samuel W. Marshborn's Company, Co C 53rd Regiment, the Georgia Fayette Planters.  Burton indicated that his place of residence was Atlanta. I was thrilled to find that Burton's record included a physical description.  Burton had a florid complexion, dark hair, grey eyes and was six foot tall.

At the time of his enlistment, Burton and Mary had three children. Isaiah M. was 7 years old, Elizabeth was  4 years old and Burton Calloway, their youngest at the time, was about three months old.   I can only imagine Mary's mixed feelings as Burton went off to fight. While she likely felt a loyalty and commitment to "the cause," I am sure the uncertainty that always accompanies war made it difficult for her to see her husband leave, not knowing if he would ever return and knowing that she alone would have to care for their family for a time.

I wonder if Mary was notified two years later, in June of 1864, when Burton was captured at Gaines Mill, which was sometimes called the Battle of Cold Harbor and took place in Hanover County, Virginia .
 PD-Art  Battle of Gaines's Mill
Elmira Prison Camp
Courtesy of Library of Congress
A month later, Burton was transferred by rail as a prisoner of war from Point Lookout, Maryland  to the camp at Elmira, New York.  Elmira had the highest death rate per capita of northern prisons with 24 percent mortality. The first group of prisoners entered Elmira on July 6th, and Burton arrived soon after on July 12th.  The camp quickly became overcrowded, and nearby Foster's Pond  filled with sewage creating a very unhealthy environment as the stench filled the air, bacteria spread and rats were drawn to the location in droves.  Disease was rampant throughout the camp.  The winter of 1864/65 proved to be one of the harshest that Elmira had seen with temperatures dipping well below zero and an extremely heavy snowfall. Blankets and clothing were very inadequate and many died from disease, malnutrition and exposure. In the spring, the thaw brought flooding to the nearby Chemung River which flooded the camp.  Conditions were so bad, prisoners referred to it as "Helmira."  .

I wonder if Mary was aware at the time of the deplorable conditions that her husband endured there.  Or, with the Civil War in its final months and Mary living just outside of Atlanta, was she totally consumed with  the challenge of trying to keep herself and her three small children safe and alive?  I wish I knew what she did, where she went and how she managed to care for her small family.  She could  not have known how history would eventually play out, nor how soon the war would grind to a stop.  Living in a time when "breaking news" is the norm, when a text or an email can be sent across the United States or across the world, it's hard for me to imagine a time when people were relatively unaware of the condition of love ones only a few states away.

The scene as citizens of Atlanta scramble to leave in
accordance to the mandatory evacuation order in 1864.
Wikipedia
 Both Burton and Mary endured incredible deprivation and hardship.  Burton survived his experience in a prison camp known for it's inhumane conditions while Mary, living just outside of Atlanta,  faced fear and uncertainty as she worked hard to keep her young family alive.  I can only imagine the joyful reunion as Mary and Burton, along with their three children, were reunited upon Burton's released from Elmira on June 19, 1865.  



In the years that followed,  Burton was able to return to farming and he and Mary added one more child to their family.  Mary C. Cook was born in 1868.

Burton died 3 January 1894 at the age of 63.  He was buried in the Abilene Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Carroll County, Georgia.  The final record that I have for Mary is that of  the June 1900 U.S. Federal Census which shows Mary, 76 years old and living alone in Carroll County, Georgia.  Living just one door away is her son Burton and his family. Mary's final resting place is unknown at this time.

I wonder about Mary.  Did she too possess that Ganus "spunk"?  Perhaps it was that spunk that in part kept her going on those incredibly difficult days when she had to wonder if she and Burton would ever see each other again and if they would ever have a "normal" life again.  In any case, I feel an awe and gratitude for those such as Burton and Mary, that lived before, accepted life's challenges and kept going. I have learned about being strong and the capacity of the human spirit.  They faced adversity and kept going and showed me that I can too. It's a good reminder that I also "can do hard things."

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Are You Crying Fer?

It was a blessed time back in the day when extended families lived in close proximity to each other.  Families were able to be part of each other's daily lives--- casually dropping in and out during the day, supporting and helping as needed.   Not only were children able to learn some of life's most valuable lessons from their parents, but also from those that loved them most, specifically aunts, uncles and grandparents. Over time people have become more mobile and so for many, gone are the days when grandparents lived just down the road.

Carrie Melinda Davis Ganus, Emmett Ganus
Carrie Melinda Davis Ganus and
son Emmett Ganus
Sometimes the "older folks" provided a very direct lesson in the form of  "a talking to"---but other times, children learned a great deal from observing their nonsensical approach to life.  Either way, those lessons often influenced many aspects of their lives by teaching morals, shaping attitudes and teaching skills to help them cope and deal with the day to day events.  If shared with others, those lessons can continue to bless and shape future generations today .


Phoebe Johnson was among those blessed to have lived near some of her extended Ganus family.  While she never knew her grandfather, Roderick Monroe Ganus who had passed away in 1932, she did know his wife, her Grandma Carrie Melinda Davis.  Carrie was born 19 August 1886 in Hanceville, Alabama and was the daughter of Rolen Lee Davis and Mary Ann Watson.  Roderick's brother, Bobby had married Stella May Montgomery, who was born 21 Jul 1879 in Missouri and  was the daughter of Joshua Montgomery and Nancy Jane Woods. After the deaths of their husbands, Grandma Carrie and  "Aunt" Stella  lived in a duplex next door to each other.

I am grateful for the following story that Phoebe recently shared with me. Not only has it greatly impacted her life and her children's lives, but I believe that sharing it will impact all who read it.  Thank you Phoebe!


Hazel Mickelsen Ganus, Stella May Montgomery Ganus, Heber Monroe Ganus
Hazel Mickelsen Ganus, Stella May Montgomery Ganus
and Heber Monroe Ganus 
"I remember the first lesson that I learned about death I learned from the death of Bobby's wife, Stella (whom I LOVED).  Aunt Stella lived in a duplex along side Carrie. Aunt Stella was everything I wanted my Grandmother to be... patient, caring, touching and hugging.  She was very loving. Then she died. 


Robert Lee Ganus, Stella May Montgomery
Robert L. Ganus &
Stella M. Montgomery
I was visiting my Grandma, Carrie and I asked to go next door to say hello to Aunt Stella and she told me that she had died.  It was probably the first time that I had realized loss through death and I was devastated. So I went out on the common back porch that they had shared and peeked in the windows of Stella's old house. Then I sat down on the porch and cried. Grandmother Carrie came outside and sat down by me and said in an exasperated manner "what are you crying fer?" I told her I missed Aunt Stella. She sat there for a moment and then replied "Well. Is that gonna bring her back?" I answered no and she said "then get up and find something to do". As a youngster, the logic of that appealed to me and has stood me in good stead for a good amount of time. The "Get up and find something to do and stop feeling sorry for yourself" theme is one I carry on today and my family knows that particular phrase well. Carrie was a no-nonsense gal and a little girl that had drama queen tendencies was no match for her. I am sure that being practical had its place in the days and times when my Grandparents were growing up and I cannot imagine the hardships they endured just to survive."

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Bane of My Existence

I have often called my hair the "bane of my existence."  If ever there was wildly stubborn hair, that's mine.  I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated I was growing up in southern California in the 60's and 70's when stick straight hair was in. Mine chose instead to flip and curl and in some places, stand straight out.
robert Ganus, Roderick Ganus, Newton Ganus, John Monroe Ganus, John T. Ganus, William Franklin Ganus
John Monroe Ganus and sons
L-R  Top row  Robert, Roderick M., Newton L.
bottom row  John Monroe, John T., William F. 
Nephi Glen Hostetter
Nephi Glen Hostetter
While I will never appreciate the unorganized wildness that I fight with every day, I did have an ah ha moment one day as I was looking through my genealogy pictures. 

One look at my both my maternal and paternal grandfathers' and great grandfathers' wavy hair left little doubt that I had come by my hair naturally and that instead of making me stand out, like I had always felt, it actually helped me to fit in---fit in with the family.

So that began my quest to find other things about me that actually help me to fit in with my ancestors.

 I had to laugh once when I received an email from a newly found distant cousin and he asked if I had ever noticed rather pronounced ears in my family.  Yes, I told him---and with that we began an exchange of ancestor pictures back and forth, proof positive that our families shared more than surnames.  I was delighted to know that while I had always thought they were Ganus features because my Grandpa Ganus had those ears, this cousin was actually a Rainwater cousin and so it made me feel connected instead to my Rainwater family.

What other things?   What about personality traits?  I hate someone beating me off the line at a stop light---I know, I know, I'm way too old for that one, but it was fun to learn from my mom that her father had been the same way.  While I am not sure that there is a gene for such a thing, I delight in knowing that I share this with a grandfather that I never knew .

I giggle each time I find a new Ganus connection and learn that their ancestor was known for their spunk.  I shared some stories showing Addison's spunk in a previous post, but I've also been told that John's sister Martha was very spunky and that at times, so was my great great grandfather John Monroe Ganus.  Do I see that in myself?  Well let's just say that as much as I struggle with my hair, my spunk can be an even bigger problem.

I will never love my hair, but I must confess that some days it does make me smile as I realize that it connects me to them and somehow that helps.   What physical and personality traits have you inherited?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Those Calloways-What's in a Name?

Do you remember the  1965 Disney movie called  "Those Calloways," starring Brian Keith?  I remember it and I think of it often because the name Calloway was favored in my Ganus family.
Burton Calloway Cook
Burton Calloway Cook
Son of Burton Cook and Mary Ganus
b. Feb 1863 d. 28 March 1938

Often there was significance in the names that our ancestors gave their children and I talked about that in an earlier post.  People often named their children after those that they were close to or relatives, but sometimes, even though we can see that a name had value for our ancestors, their reasoning has been lost over time.  Such is the case with the name Calloway in our family.  I can see that it was used with some frequency, but I have not been able to determine why that name was significant to James and Betsy as well as to several of their children.

Is Calloway possibly Elizabeth Ganus' maternal grandparent's name or the married name of a sister or possibly just a close friend for James and Elizabeth?  I hope to someday know the answer to that question, but in the meantime I continue to look at Georgia Calloway families and wonder.


Below are some of the Calloways found in our family:

Calloway Ganus b. 1842 (Son of James and Elizabeth (Gur)Ganus)


Three of James and Betsy's children named their children Calloway:

Edgar Calaway Brock (son of Martha Ganus and William Cohen Brock)

Burton Calloway Cook b. 1863 (son of Mary Ganus and Burton Cook)

James Calloway Ganus (son of James W. Ganus and Frances Foster)


There was also a grandson and a great grandson of James and Betsy's with the Calloway name:

Calaway Brock b. 1911 (Grandson of Martha Ganus  and William Cohen )

Joe Caloway Cook (son of Isaiah M. Cook and Sarah Adams---Grandson to Burton Cook and Mary Ganus)


In addition, there is a long list of  James and Elizabeth's descendants with the letter "C" for their middle initial and while I realize that it could stand for any number of names beginning with C,  it does make me wonder if a certain percentage are Calloways.

What's in a name?  When it comes to genealogy, I think there is plenty.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012




Friday, November 2, 2012

Murder in Macon--Final Chapter-- The Trial


The murder created incredible excitement in the community. Ellen had been murdered in her front yard with her father, David Gurganus and her step-mother, Rebecca, as eye witnesses. David was MY fourth great grandfather and so this was MY family and I was stunned as I uncovered the story. While I may not know all of the whys of the events, given the nature of the crime, the court records and newspapers provided rich detail about both the crime and the trial.

Tuesday May 29, 1849 Baldwin County, Georgia "Union Recorder" carried the following:
             COMMITTED FOR TRIAL
Elisha Reese, charged with the murder of Mrs. Pratt, in this county, on Wednesday last, was arrested the same evening by Messrs. Cumming Stephens, Ellis and others, some three miles from the scene of his crime, and lodged in prison.  On Thursday he was brought up before the Magistrates, Messrs. Grannis, Reid and Artope, and formally committed for trial.. . . . During the examination the accused showed but little concern.
The trial date was set to be held during the July Term 1849.  Minutes for the Bibb Superior Court provide many details, many of which I have already provided in the previous post.  A variety of individuals gave testimony, including Ellen's step-mother, Rebecca and neighbor James W. Armstrong. I couldn't help but notice the absence of  Ellen's father, David, who also was an eye witness.  I can only assume that the injuries he sustained, combined with the emotional trauma, prevented him from attending.

The defense's witnesses were primary individuals that testified to Reese's character.  Their testimonies helped me to anchor Reese to particular communities where he had previously lived, such as Habersham and Cass Counties.  The most interesting witness for the defense was his son, Frederick Reese.  Did his son provide true insight to his father's character or was he simply being a dutiful son?  Frederick indicated that his father was a man of "good character, a peaceable law abiding citizen."   He also said that he had "never known him to violate the laws of his country."  It is through Frederick's testimony that we learn that Reese was 50 years old. Frederick also indicated that he last saw his father January last in Cass County, but had not "known him since"  and that Reese had a family in Floyd County.

The evidence was overwhelmingly in favor of the prosecution, with the defense only able to present individuals who knew him in his previous communities to testify of Reese's character.  Ultimately, Judge Floyd issued the verdict of guilty, and indicated that Reese was to be returned to the Common Jail of the County of Bibb.   The judge then said,
. . . . where you are to be kept in safe and close custody until Friday the Seventh day of September, Eighteen hundred and forty nine, when you are to be conducted to a gallows to be executed for that purpose in the County of Bibb outside of the corporate limits of the city of Macon, and within one mile of said Corporate limits, upon which said Gallows between the time of ten o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon of said day, you are by the sheriff of said county of Bibb, or his lawful deputy to be publicly hung by the neck until you are dead! dead ! dead! And may God Almightly have mercy upon your soul.  

In "Reports of Cases of Law & Equity Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia", is found the case of  Reese vs. The State of Georgia, in which the defendant moved for a continuance on several grounds.  The first was because two witnesses to Reese's character had not shown up, and secondly, because
"he could not safely go to trial, on account of the public excitement against him, from the transaction being recent, and of an unusual character, giving rise to exaggerated reports, tending to inflame the public mind, and insufficient time not having elapsed to allay such excitement, and to correct the strong prejudices produced by it."  

The court refused continuance.  The hanging was scheduled for the 7th of September, 1849.

The final newspaper article for this tragic story appeared in the Macon, Georgia newspaper, The Messenger on Wednesday, September 12, 1849.

EXECUTION OF REESE
Elisha Reese, convicted of the murder of Mrs. Ellen Pratt, was executed near this city on Friday, in the presence of some five thousand persons.  Before leaving the prison, he gave an imperfect sketch of his life and of the circumstances connected with the murder.  It is sufficient to say that his confession in every particular, corroborated the statement of the affair made through the columns of this paper at the time of the killing, and which was subsequently sustained by the testimony before the jury.
Reese deported himself with the most stoical firmness and composure.  He shed no tear, and heaved no sigh during the solemn ceremonies under the gallows.  He ascended the platform with a firm and steady step, and declined when requested by the Sheriff, to address any words to the assembled multitude.  The result of this exhibition,  has been to excite no little feeling among our people in favor of private executions, and the matter will, no doubt, be brought up before the next Legislature.  

What I would give to have a copy of Reese's life sketch along with his confession, however imperfect it was. I feel some disappointment in knowing not only that it was not recorded, but also in knowing that Reese showed no remorse and no regret for the crime.  While justice ultimately was served,  for both the Gurganus family and the Reese family, there were deep wounds that would never completely heal.  Newspapers reported that it was doubtful that David would ever fully recover physically from his injuries given his age.  While it is difficult to know to what extent David's injuries contributed to his death just ten months later, I feel sure that the emotional wounds were even deeper and  that the remainder of his days were filled with painful memories of that fateful day.

I never dreamed the day that I tediously searched the Bibb County Court records for anything about my family, that I would uncover a story of this nature.  I suppose none of us ever envisions a tragedy of this scope occurring in our own families. As we research and uncover the details of our ancestor's lives, we inevitably will find both the good and the bad, the joyous along with the tragic, with each piece of information ultimately helping us to gain compassion and understanding for those that went before.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012