Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tragedy in the Roaring Twenties - Part 4

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 - Part 2

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 - Part 1

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