Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alone, but Not Forgotten

By all appearances, he was alone.  While there are some experiences that must be faced alone, its when we face the critical crossroads of life that we generally hope that someone will be there beside us, helping us to take that next crucial step.  Such is the case with death and so it pains me to think that as Sanford Rainwater approached his final threshold,  no one was there to help ease him across.  No one wants to die alone.

While I do not know his full story or if even the story I think that I see is accurate, I will share what little I have found about Sanford Rainwater, with the hopes that maybe someone else has a puzzle piece or two that they can share to help complete the picture.

Sanford Rainwater was my first cousin 3 times removed, which in ways doesn't sound very distant and yet, the distance is significant enough that I have no personal knowledge of him at all.  

As I learned about him,  there were several things that troubled me, but it was his death certificate that bothered me the most.  With just enough detail to help me determine that it was indeed "him,"  it was the following information on the certificate, or should I say, lack of information, that really tugged at my heart. 

Sanford Rainwater

Seeing "not known" beside birthplace and even beside "name of father" and "maiden name" of mother is really not that unusual,  but seeing the word "none" for his informant was heart wrenching to me. Was there really no one living nearby that knew him well enough to provide information for the death certificate?  Was there no one that could provide some of the most basic facts of his life?  Was he really that alone?  Other records seemed to confirm that he had been alone for some time.

Sanford Rainwater was the oldest of two children born to John and Bargilla [Moore] Rainwater.  Sanford's father, John Rainwater was a younger brother to my 2nd great grandmother, Olivia Rainwater Ganus.  Born in February of 1866 in Georgia, Sanford was likely born in Haralson County.  By 1869 John and Bargilla (or Barzilla, records vary)  had moved their family to Upshur, Hamilton County, Texas, along with John's brother, Abner, and his family, as well as John's father, Joshua, who was then a widower.

Sanford's mother became a widow when in 1890 John died and was buried in Hamilton, Texas.  In about 1894, when Sanford was 28, he married Alice Atkinson.  The couple had two children together.   A daughter, Minnie Jane, was born in1896 and a son, Jessie, was born in 1898.  By 1900, Sanford, Alice and their two children had moved to Creek Nation, Indian Territory, an area that would later become Oklahoma.  It was fun to discover that Sanford and Alice were living next door to his aunt and uncle,  (my 2nd Great Grandparents) John and Olivia [Rainwater] Ganus. Both families had moved from Georgia with John and Olivia first living in Colorado before settling in Indian Territory, whereas Sanford's family had initially moved to Texas.  Apparently the families had maintained enough communication to be aware of each other's location. 

Sanford's wife, Alice,  was the daughter of Reverend Alonzo Atkinson.   Family lore indicates that Alice's parents were not too crazy about her marriage to Sanford and I wonder if that contributed to their move to Creek Nation.  Sadly the relationship did not last and by 1910, the couple had divorced. Sanford is shown on the 1910 US Federal Census divorced and living in Sherman, Texas as the head of household and his 71 year old mother Bargilla was living with him.   Alice however had remarried by then and was living in Mills, Texas.  While I eventually tracked down their daughter, Minnie, as a married adult, I have never been able to locate son Jessie beyond the 1900 census when he is shown with his parents and sister.  It troubles me that at the ages of 12 and 14, neither children were listed with either parent in 1910 and also do not appear to be with either grandparents, aunts or uncles.

Star indicates location of Parker County, Tx
Red county on the gulf is San Patricio
Wikimedia Commons

I was able to find Sanford in City Directories in 1903 and 1910 in Sherman, Texas,  and in 1912 in San Antonio.  In each location, his mother Bargilla was living with him. Bargilla died in 1919 and from that point on, Sanford is shown living alone in Aransas Pass, San Patricio, Texas.  In 1920 he was working with the railroad and in 1930 he was doing odd jobs. Every indication is that he never remarried following his divorce from Alice. 

I did locate the death certificate for Sanford's daughter, Minnie.   Her husband was the informant and while it lists her mother's name as Alice Atkinson, her father is listed simply as "Rainwater." This leads me to believe that at least as an adult, Minnie maintained some type of relationship with her mother, but likely little if any contact with her father.  Distance alone would have made it difficult to see much of her father.  On the map above, the star indicates Parker County where Minnie lived most of her adult married life and where she died.  The red county on the gulf is San Patricio where Sanford spent the last 20+ years of his life and where he died.   Why did he choose to live so far from his only daughter and grandchildren? 

And that is the end of the trail!  Other than his death certificate, I can find nothing more about Sanford.  Even online family trees fail to provide any photos, hints or further insight to his life.

On February 2, 1940, at the age of 74, Sanford Rainwater passed from this life and while all clues seem to indicate that he lived much of his life alone and even died alone,  for me, he is not forgotten and hopefully someday I will know more.  

UPDATE: More has been found about Sanford. See posts But Wait There's More! and Where the Common Feel Famous

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shoot Out at the Double Cabin

I love a good story. Sometimes I find myself chasing a story even after the trail leaves behind my own family, just because the story is interesting.  And truthfully,  I know I am not the only genealogist that does that.  Genealogist love stories, especially when there is a mystery involved.  The story I am about to share is complete with romance, action and of course some mystery, ending as many of my genealogy adventures seem to end, with more questions. This story actually begins with my half great aunt, Martha Olivia Ganus.

Martha Olivia or "Ollie" was the daughter of William Franklin Ganus, my great grandfather and his first wife Mary Matilda Roberts and I shared some of her story here.   Martha lost her mother, "Tilda," about 1886 and later that same year,  she and her father, along with her Ganus grandparents,  aunts and uncles all boarded a train bound for Colorado.   The Ganus family settled in Manassa, Colorado initially and remained there for a few years.   Sometime before 1900 the Ganus family moved to Oklahoma where Ollie met and married Henry Edgar Howell on 16 March 1896.

Henry and Ollie settled down in what was then Creek Nation, Indian Territory and began a family. According to Henry's obituary from October 1951, in about 1891, when Henry was approximately 16, his family moved from Illinois to Oklahoma.  Henry's family was then comprised of his parents, Henry Harrison Howell and Amelia Louisa [Turner], and his siblings  Katherine, Elroy, twins Lily and Lillian, Lela and Pearl.  Later Willis and Minnie would join the family.

As I learned a little about Henry's family, for some reason, it was his twin sisters that initially caught my attention.  Lillian and Lily Howell were born 13 June 1883.  Lily only lived to age 16, but Lillian lived to adulthood, married and reared a family in Oklahoma.  It was Lillian's marriage that intrigued me.

Because my 2nd great grandmother was a McCleskey (Elizabeth McCleskey) and because I have yet to determine who her parents were, I am ever on the lookout for any connection to McCleskeys.  So you can imagine that while admittedly the connection was somewhat distant, I nonetheless sat up and paid attention when I realized that Martha Olivia's sister-in-law, Lillian,  had married a McCleskey, a McCleskey with Georgia ties no less!

Lillian Howell married Benjamin Green McCleskey.  Benjamin was born 18 July 1871 in Parker County, Texas, the son of George Walter McCleskey and Eliza C. Bumgarner.  Ben's father,  George was born in Hall County, Georgia 1838 to Benjamin G. McCleskey and Martha Mahuldah Boyd. George eventually joined with others in the move to Texas and settled in Parker County, Texas where he married Eliz Bumgarner and they settled down and began their family. And herein lies a story.
From Wikimedia Commons

The story takes place in Weatherford, Texas in 1873.  George W, and Eliza[Bumgarner] McCleskey had two children at the time, six year old May and one year old Benjamin. Because there had been a great deal conflict between settlers and the local natives of the area, many preferred to live in town where there was safety in numbers.  But the McCleskeys and the Bumgarners lived out by Holland Lake.  In July of that year,  John Bumgarner and his son-in-law George planned to go out on the range and bring back some of their cattle (some versions say horses).  The men decided that in order to get an early start the next morning, George would spend the night at his father-in-law's cabin.  The following morning the men rose to drizzly rain, but opted to go anyway.  As they began saddling up their horses, some of local natives were waiting and opened up fire. A shoot out ensued and George was shot.  John drug his daughter's husband, George inside the cabin, where George died a short time later.  The cabin remains standing and it is said that you can still see the bullet holes in the walls of the cabin.  You can read more about the incident at the following links:


Thirty three year old Eliza was left a widow with two young children to raise alone on the frontier. Heat, relentless winds, tornados, copperheads and rattlesnakes were just a few of the challenges settlers of the area faced and it could not have been easy for a woman alone.  Sometime before 1880, Eliza died, leaving Benjamin and May orphaned.  Family stories say that their Uncle Hubbard Bumgarner took the children in and the 1880 Parker County Census does show 12 year old May and 9 year old "Green" (Ben's middle name) McCleskey living with their Uncle Hubbard.

As adults, both Ben and sister May ended up in Oklahoma.  On 28 December 1902 in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, Benjamin Green McCleskey and Lillian Howell married.  Four children would join that union, Floyd Elmer, Raymond C., Willard and Green Russell.   Ben and Lillian lived out their life in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and it is there in Okmulgee that both Ben and Lillian are buried.

Note location of Okmulgee
From Wikimedia Commons


So granted, it is a little removed, and yet I am intrigued by it all.  Is it just a fluke that several Ganus and McCleskey families ended up living and dying not just in Oklahoma, but a short distance from each other in Okmulgee, Oklahoma?  Is it just a simple coincidence that both the Ganus family and the McCleskey family had Hall County, Georgia roots?  Maybe.....but maybe not.  If I believe in the importance of the FAN club  as taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills, which emphasizes the importance of an individual's family, associates and neighbors, then such connections, however seemingly innocent and removed, warrant my attention.  And questions such as why and how did the Ganus and McCleskey families of Georgia both end up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma need an answer.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014