Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Olivia's New Role--Part 6 Becoming Acquainted With John M. Ganus

one room school house, Little Creek School, Haralson County, Polk County, ancestry, genealogy, teaching certificate, common school, Arakans
Not long after John and Olivia returned to Haralson County, Georgia, following their short stint in Arkansas, Olivia obtained a teaching certificate. In the movies, a school teacher of that time period was often portrayed as either a man, a very young unmarried woman or an older spinster. Olivia certainly was not any of those.

In 1871, when she obtained her certificate, Olivia was a 40-year-old woman and had a houseful of children. Their youngest at that time was one-year-old Robert Lee, Newton was 3 years old, Roderick was 7, John Thackason was 16 and Frank was 18. Certainly, Olivia had her hands full with all of the duties that fell to the wife and mother of the home. 


Some time ago I stumbled onto an article that grabbed my attention. Written in 2008, it told about the restoration of an old one-room school in Haralson County. Unfortunately, the article is no longer accessible on the internet. The article told about the restoration of an old one-room school and said the following:

"The Little Creek School House was built between 1866 and 1871 after the Georgia state legislature established the common school system. . . . It was originally located on GA 100 near the border between Haralson and Polk Counties. . . . last year it was relocated to its current position on Van Wert Street next to the County Commission office."

John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater
John Monroe Ganus
and Olivia Rainwater
The original location of this school was very close to where John and Olivia lived in Haralson County, Georgia. Is it possible that Olivia either attended or taught at that school? In my files is a treasured copy of Olivia's Teacher's Certificate.  This certificate was shared with me by Carlos Ganus, a dear cousin of mine and descendant of John and Olivia's son, Roderick. The certificate is a treasure but creates many questions. 

 Olivia was born on the 20th of February 1831 in Hall County, Georgia to Joshua Rainwater and Mary Peterson.  She was the 4th of six children, four of which were girls.  Her life seemed to follow the normal pattern for girls of that time period. She lived with her parents until the age of 21, she married and she and John began their family. Everything seems to point to a normal everyday life for a Georgia family during the mid 19th century until you factor in her Teacher's Certificate.


When I think of schools of that era, my mind immediately goes to old TV westerns and shows such as "Little House on the Prairie."  They always portray children of varying ages all attending school together in a small one-room school. I was excited to discover a Youtube video showing the inside of the recently restored Little Creek School.  You can visit it yourself here:  Visit to Little Creek School  Everything down to the pot-bellied stove fits with what I envisioned. 

Olivia Ganus Teacher's certificate, Haralson County, Georgia
Olivia's Teacher's Certificate 

I wrote to individuals in Haralson County and they attempted to help me locate records of those who taught during that time, but little could be found. We do not have any records indicating that Olivia actually taught school, but it seems unlikely that she obtained the certificate just for the sense of accomplishment. Her brother Abner Rainwater was a school teacher and family lore says that he helped her become a teacher. But why did she go through the testing to become a teacher at that time? How did she have the time to prepare and to test when she had two children under the age of 5? I wonder if her husband, John, had an injury or ailment that prevented him from providing for the family for a time. I wonder if their move to Arkansas and back created a financial crisis which made it necessary for Olivia to help provide?  If Olivia did, in fact, teach, who cared for her children? Olivia's sister, Frances Bailey and her family lived close by. Did perhaps Frances help care for Olivia's little ones?  

For whatever reason, Olivia went through the process of testing and obtained the certificate on the 5th of September 1871 in Haralson County, Georgia. Her Teacher's Certificate indicates that her general average was a 90, which is impressive by any standards. Whether she taught or not, she accomplished something not common for wife and mother of that day. Not only could she read and write at a time and place when many could not, but she qualified to teach others those skills. Whether she taught as a profession or not, she certainly taught her own children and 
I am quite certain this independent, strong nature helped her with the hard decisions she would soon face.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

4 comments:

  1. All good questions and possible explanations. Will there be a correct answer? Was she the teacher because no one else stepped up?

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    1. Nope....no answer as of right now. I've done all I can to try and find the answer including contacting members of the Genealogical Society in the Polk and Haralson Counties who did what they could to help me. For now, this is all that I know.

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  2. Very interesting. I have a few female schoolteachers in my tree but they fit the traditional mold, only teaching until they were married and teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. I'm sure you've looked at/for newspapers. I found a few tid-bits about my great grand-aunt as schoolteacher in their local paper.

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    1. Yes, I've tried to find her in newspapers and sadly I haven't been successful. I really had hopes that the historical society in that area could help and one of their volunteers really went to a lot of trouble to try and find some type of history or records for the school, but was not able to find anything. So many questions!

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