Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Living the Life of a Gypsy- Part 5 Becoming Acquainted with John Monroe Ganus

moving, genealogy, ancestry, Arkansas, Haralson County, Georgia, Alabama
Sometimes I wonder if it is time to downsize to a smaller home. We raised our family here but now they all have married and have homes of their own. But as I look around our house, the task seems insurmountable. Moving is never easy. It requires a lot of hard work and always seems to involve a fair amount of expense. That is not only true now but applied to our ancestors as well. 

Some of our ancestors had land to sell and there were always possessions that either had to be sold, given away or taken with them. They had to find a place to live once they arrived and there were hungry mouths to feed, both as they traveled and when they arrived. Without the luxuries of freeways, the convenience of hotels and a McDonalds on every corner, travel was not only costly and a lot of work, but often included a variety of dangers along the way. A move was not something to be taken lightly.

I've often half wondered if John was part gypsy. For a man who never seemed to have very much in terms of material goods, he and Olivia moved an awful lot. The record of their children's births helped me trace the family's move over various counties and across various states.

Georgia State Flag
Their first child, William Franklin, was born in August of 1853 in Georgia followed by John Thackason a few years later. Still in Georgia, they lost the next two of their children in infancy. They were living in Alabama when Roderick Monroe was born in 1863. But 1867 would find John and his family in Pine Bluff, Arkansas when Newton Lafayette and his twin Frances Olivia were born.


Alabama State Flag

A land deed selling John's land in Haralson County in March of 1867 coupled with both church records and census records indicating that their son, Newton, was born in Arkansas in June of 1867 help to narrow down the time frame in which John and Olivia made the move to Arkansas. 

But the question remains, why did John and Olivia load up their family and travel to Arkansas during the rough reconstruction period? The railroad did not reach Pine Bluff until 1873 (1) and so they did not travel the roughly 500-mile trip by rail. The remaining two possibilities are either they traveled by wagon or possibly by water. Pine Bluff is just south of Little Rock and sits on a bluff above the Arkansas River, which was sometimes used for boat travel. Whatever the mode of transportation, keep in mind, Olivia was at most, three months away from delivering Newton.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Marshall Law
Arkansas State Flag
When I think about the push and pull associated with a move, I can not imagine what either was for John and Olivia's move to Arkansas. Not only were most Georgians struggling just to survive in 1867, but most of John and Olivia's  siblings were in the Haralson and Carroll County area of Georgia, so what was the push? 

And just what was the pull to Pine Bluff? Pine Bluff had been a crowded gathering place for fleeing freed slaves following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, and was under Marshall Law for three years during the reconstruction period following the Civil War. I can't see it as being a place of hope and promise at the time John moved there. 

Whatever the reason, their stay in Arkansas was short lived because by 1870, when Robert Lee was born, they were back in Georgia and the family appears on the 1870 census in Haralson County, Georgia. My first post in this series contained a spoiler and so you know the family did not remain in Georgia, but what you don't know is what occurred over the next few years that lead up to their next major move.


1. History of Pine Bluff,  http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h2224.html

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

John's Curious Adventures During the Civil War---Part 4 Becoming Acquainted with John M. Ganus

Road Commission, Haralson County, farmingAfter marriage, John and Olivia settled in Haralson County, Georgia and John began farming. They
didn't live too far from Olivia's family but they did live some distance from John's parents, although John had siblings that eventually settled nearby. John and Olivia's first child, William Franklin, joined their family in August of the following year, followed by John Thackason in 1855. As a male member of the community, John shared the responsibility to help maintain the road on which he lived. In 1855 John took his turn and worked alongside Thomason Moore and Eli Howell as Road Commissioners for the Second District in Haralson County.

In 1857 John and Olivia welcomed James Roderick into their family and Mary Elizabeth in 1860 but sadly neither of those children survived. About that same time, John and Olivia decided to pull up stakes and move just over the state line to the rolling hills of Calhoun County, Alabama. Did they go to be near Olivia's sister, Frances, who was living there with her husband Reuben Ayers and daughter Mary Ann? Although Frances was six years younger than Olivia, the sisters lived in close proximity to each other much of their adult lives, so I suspect this played a significant part in the move. Calhoun Alabama was chiefly an agricultural area and the farmers grew cotton, corn, and wheat and so John was able to do what he knew best, he farmed.

Civil War, Calhoun Alabama, Haralson Georgia, Ancestry, genealogy, research
The next few years were rough for the south and men anxiously enlisted in the Confederate Army to protect their southern soil. Although many men fought from Calhoun, Alabama and from Haralson County, Georgia where John had previously lived, John did not enlist. John had brothers and brother-in-laws who fought and I've always thought it was curious that John did not enlist with them. Although I know there were quotas and that often men with families did not serve,  John had brothers and brothers-in-laws who left homes, wives, and children in order to fight. Some descendants today have questioned John's loyalty to the Southern cause and to them I point out that John named his youngest son, Robert Lee Ganus.

It was on 7 January 1865 that John did something even more curious. That is IF the clerk copied the deed into the deed book correctly. It reads:


land deed, Alabama, Georgia, J. J. Miller, John M. Ganus

"This indenture made and entered into this the seventh of January eighteen hundred and sixty five between J. J. Miller and John M. Ganes of the one part of the state of Alabama witnesseth that the said J. J. Miller and aforesaid for and in consideration of the sum of three thousand dollars to him in hand paid at and before the sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof hath granted bargained sold and conveyed unto the said John M. Ganes his heirs and assigns on tract of land situated lying being in eighth district of original Carroll now Haralson County known and distinguished in the plan of the said district by being the west part of lot number one hundred and fifty six all of said lot lying west of the Tallapoosa River containing one hundred and fifty acres ore or less ............ (emphasis added)" 

THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS? Did John really pay $3,000 for land at the close of the Civil War? The amount was clearly written out longhand and yet, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the clerk read the original deed wrong. Using an inflation calculator, $3,000 dollars in 1865 would be equivalent to approximately $47,762.28 today. Even if an additional zero was inadvertently added when the clerk recorded the deed in the deed book and the amount should have been $300.00, that would equal $4,776.23 today. Either way, where did John get that much money at a time when most Southerners were just trying to survive? The land was lying directly next to his father-in-law's land on the Tallapoosa River and his father-in-law, Joshua Rainwater had a ford on his property, which was generally profitable, but what value did John's land have? By tracing the deeds for this property, nothing indicates that that land held any unique value.

I tend to think that the clerk recorded the deed incorrectly as just two years later,  on 12 March 1867, John sold the same piece of land for a mere $200.00. Even if the clerk had incorrectly recorded the deed by adding an extra zero, it still appears that John likely lost money on the land but I still wonder where at the very least, he got $300.00 to purchase it at the close of the war.

Soon after John sold the land, he made yet another move and so it is likely that he sold the land in preparation for that move. His next move was even further away and would be even harder to understand.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Leaving Home - Part 3 Becoming Acquainted with John Monroe Ganus

I remember the day I left home. I had graduated from high school and had worked all summer. We loaded up the family car with everything I thought I needed to survive at college and my parents drove the nearly 1000 miles to Utah to take me and all my loot to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  As we passed through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and into Utah,  I had a lot of time to think and a lot of time to worry. How would I do living so far from home?

Each person reaches that pinnacle point in their life when they leave behind home and family and strike out on their own. For John Monroe Ganus, it came when he was a young man in his mid-twenties. I've wondered about the circumstances surrounding his departure from home. Did he have extended family who enticed him to join them several counties away, was it the lure of affordable land or did he just feel the tug of knowing it was his time?

In 1850, John was still living at home with his family in Dekalb County, Georgia and Olivia Rainwater,  John's soon-to-be bride was in Carroll County with her parents, Joshua and Polly (Peterson) Rainwater. It is unknown what circumstances brought them together, but somehow John and Olivia met, courted and then married on the 7th of October 1852 in Polk County, Georgia. John was twenty-six and Olivia was twenty-one.

Carroll County Georgia, DeKalb County Georgia, Polk County Georgia, John Monroe Ganus, Olivia Rainwater
Dekalb and Carroll Counties 1864
John recorded their marriage date and place in family records, as well as reported the date and location in the records of the various church congregations of which he was a member. He consistently gave the same date and location in church records located in Georgia, Colorado, and Oklahoma, however, no official marriage record has ever been located in Polk County or neighboring communities. Interestingly enough, most of John's siblings married local families in Fayette or Dekalb Counties. John seemed to be an independent thinker from early on and we are able to see that even more over time.

John began the next phase of his life with his wife, Olivia, by his side. In 1850, he was helping on his father's farm but not everyone in his extended family had chosen to be a farmer. His Uncle David Gurganus was a blacksmith and his Grandpa David Gurganus Sr. was a turner. What path would John take?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The beginning - Part 2 Becoming Acquainted with John M. Ganus

As I looked over the single sheet of paper that represented John Monroe Ganus's life, I felt disappointed. The form had been dutifully filled out by someone, years before I was even born, and although it gave me a few names, dates, and places, it left me with many questions. I wanted to know more than the bare facts; I wanted to know who John really was. What was life like for him?  What had he accomplished? This desire propelled me into years of research and although some questions still remain, I finally feel that I have become acquainted with John.





John was born 16 October 1826 in Monroe County, Georgia. In reality, he was born a Gurganus, but for unknown reasons, his father, James, shortened the name to simply Ganus by about 1840. That month was part of a particularly warm fall (1) and so there was fear that the long warm season would bring with it the dreaded "fall fevers, (2) which often proved fatal.

At the time of John's birth, his family consisted of his parents and a two-year-old sister, Mary. Over the next eight years, John would gain two more sisters, Margaret and Rebecca. It wasn't until ten years later that a brother, David, joined the family.  So, for ten years, John was an only son with three sisters. I can only imagine how much he was mothered by them all. Over the years, the family would grow to include Jackson, James, Calloway, Martha and Addison.

John was fortunate to live near his grandfather, David Gurganus, who was known as a Revolutionary War Soldier. John's paternal Aunt Ellen also lived close by and although his Uncle David Gurganus lived in South Carolina, records indicate that David Jr.'s family visited. During John's early years, he was part of a typical Southern extended family living in close proximity to each other.

Although initially the family lived in Monroe County, the county lines were adjusted and the family eventually found themselves in Bibb County. Thanks to many streams, ponds, lakes and rivers, including the large Ocmulgee River the area was green and fertile and it was a great place to farm.

As a son of a farmer and the oldest son of ten children, it is likely John learned to work hard from the time he was young. Although a large family meant more help on the farm, it also meant more work was needed to provide for the family's needs and so most southern families learned to work hard together. When John was 14, his father reported that they had one horse, one cow, 15 pigs and that year his father sold about 300 bushels of Indian corn and 450 bales of cotton, along with 40 bushels of sweet potatoes. Tax digests seem to imply that for the most part, his father James did not own land and, despite a great deal of research, no land deeds have ever been located for James. Unfortunately, no will or probate has been located either. By all appearances, John's parents never really prospered and basically the family just "got by."

If John was typical of the boys of that era and place, when he wasn't helping on the farm, he was out hunting in the forested area surrounding Macon or fishing or swimming in one of the many creeks or rivers.

Living on the Georgia frontier had many challenges, which included conflicts with Native Americans. As treaties were signed and land was taken to create new counties, there were many conflicts between Native Americans and the "new" land owners. Court documents and newspapers are full of accounts detailing the steps taken to forcefully remove the Native Americans from their land and the violent acts of retaliation experienced by many of the families, particularly those living on newly acquired lands.

By 1840, when John was in his early teens, his family moved 73 miles northwest of Macon in Bibb County, to the Fayetteville area of Fayette County. At that time, the town of Fayetteville had two churches, two schools, three stores, five barrooms, and a printing office, along with a Division of the Sons of Temperance. The population was about 7,500. (3)  I can't help but notice the ratio of bars to churches.

John remained with his family until the day he moved out on his own. Naturally, it was at that point that I began to find records for John and then, much like a photo coming into focus, a picture of who he was began to emerge and I finally began the process of becoming acquainted with John. Follow me next week as I share the next phase of his life.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

1. Macon Telegraph, Nov 7, 1826 page 3 accessed on Galileo.usg.edu
2.  According to the Georgia Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Volume 2, page 169, accessed on Google books, "fall fevers" was malaria.
3. The History of Fayette County, 1821-1971, published by the Fayette County Historical Society, page 20.