Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Okie from Muskogee


I clearly remember singing with great enthusiasm  "I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee," to a new girl in school who had just moved to our little California town from Oklahoma.  Although I didn't know much about Oklahoma at the time, we had all heard the Merle Haggard song played on the radio and it seemed somehow appropriate to serenade our new classmate with the popular tune. Little did I know then that they might as well have sung it to me, as I have my own Muskogee, Oklahoma roots.

Sarah E. Faucett, Orson Ganus, Heber Ganus
Sally with twins Orson (L) and Heber (R)
It was there that  forty-five year old widowed Sally Faucett Ganus passed from this life on March 17, 1909, leaving behind  three young sons. Sally and husband, Frank, had moved to Oklahoma approximately ten years earlier from Manassa, Colorado.  Seven hundred and thirty miles from her nearest blood relative, Sally was, in many ways, quite alone.  Because Frank had preceded her in death three years earlier, their children, sixteen year old Ernest and eight year old twins, Orson and Heber, were now left orphaned.  I’ve always wondered who was at Sally’s side in her final moments?  Were her children there?  Were there others?  Was there someone there to embrace her children and dry their tears?

Although she was my great Grandmother,  I really know very little about Sally Faucett Ganus.  I don’t know any of the little details about her that could help me to envision her as a person.  I don’t know what she liked to eat,  what she liked to do with her time and I have never heard a single story about her.

I was glad to find a microfilmed record pertaining to her death at the Family History Library.  I learned that G. H. Bloom’s funeral home records from Muskogee, Oklahoma are among the few to survive from that time period, so I did feel fortunate that they were microfilmed and that there was an entry for her.  However, as is too often the case, the find left me with as many questions as answers.

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It was disappointing to note that Sally’s record was the only record on that page that did not indicate the cause of death.  Was her death sudden and the cause unknown?  Her son, Heber, recorded in his life history that she had requested before her death that her sons be sent back to live with her brother in Colorado.  That suggests to me that she had some idea that her death was imminent.

I also noted from the record  that her body was shipped to Okmulgee for burial.  It troubles me that I have no idea where in Okmulgee she was buried, and no one else seems to know either. While there are a few early Ganus family members buried at Little Cussetah Cemetery in Okmulgee,  she is not listed among the dead there.

Sarah Faucett
Sally Faucett Ganus
“Cemetery Records of Okmulgee Oklahoma,” published by The Genealogical Society of Okmulgee, Oklahoma in 1974, included a survey of a small family cemetery located northwest of Okmulgee, called Berryhill Cemetery.  Among the six people buried there is “W. F. Ganus.”  His date of birth and death match the known dates for Sally’s husband “Frank” or William Franklin Ganus, my great grandfather.  Jessie Ganus, daughter of Robert Lee Ganus (Frank’s brother)  is also buried there along with four Berryhills, with whom we have no known connection.  Attempts by family members to visit that cemetery have been in vain.  The little burying ground lies on private land a short distance from the road and signs stating “No Trespassing” are clearly posted at the fence.  Efforts to contact the current land owner for permission to access the cemetery have failed.  So, many questions remain, including why was Frank buried there and just where is Sally? 

As genealogists, we all seem to feel driven to find our ancestor’s final resting place.  Standing at their headstone and reflecting on whatever small bit of information we may know about them somehow helps satisfy that inner need to be close to them, to connect to them, to honor them and to acknowledge that they lived and that they mattered.  And so, I continue to look for Sally, my Okie from Muskogee.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

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