Showing posts with label Ganus Orson Merritt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ganus Orson Merritt. Show all posts

Friday, August 5, 2016

Foto Friday--Laverne Ganus

We "met" on the internet, cousins, descended from twin brothers. Her father was Orson Merritt Ganus and my grandfather was his twin, Heber Monroe Ganus. 

She and I emailed, we talked on the phone, we talked about what we knew about our ancestry. We shared a few pictures and talked about our families. We made plans to meet each other, but one year turned into two and as the years passed, we always hoped the next year would be a little better and we vowed we would get together. I loved her for her witty sense of humor and her warm kindness. Sadly Laverne became ill and passed away before we ever met. 


Ganus, Orson, Laverne Ganus Walker, Okmulgee Oklahoma, cousins, genealogy, ancestry, family history

Gertrude Laverne Ganus Walker
b. 11 July 1934 Okmulgee, Oklahoma
d. 14 August 2008 Nipomo, California 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Old Mag"

I remember loving to watch the cartoon "Heckle and Jeckle."  The two talking magpies were constantly creating trouble and their antics always made me laugh.

If you've forgotten the rascally duo or have never seen the cartoon, I found a compilation of some of their cartoon antics here.

I am not sure if there weren't any magpies where I grew up or if I was just oblivious to them, but I never remember having them around. But I do remember after a move to a new state that I was surprised to learn that the annoying birds who made a daily ritual of stealing our dog's food and then taunting him with it were the very birds who had made me laugh as a child.

Apparently magpies can be found in Colorado because in her autobiography, Olive E. Faucett Christensen shared an experience she and her cousins, Orson and Heber Ganus, had with a magpie. At the time the orphaned twins were living with their cousins.




According to Olive, the twins Orson and Heber robbed magpie nests and broke the eggs. I am not sure why they thought that was fun, but I've long since given up trying to figure out little boys. Apparently one day when the two boys were out looking for eggs to break, they found a baby magpie and decided to bring it back to the house. Orson, Heber and Olive put the little bird in a box and kept him in the house as a pet. The three kids would spend time gathering worms and feeding the little bird. As it grew, Olive said it began to make weird noises, but it was gentle and stayed in the house and the kids decided it was a great pet to have around. They called the bird "Old Mag."

Olive's mother must have been a very patient woman to have allowed a magpie to live in their home. Knowing what I do about magpies, I can imagine not only the mess the bird must have made, but the mischief it must have caused as they seem prone to take things and to torment. But apparently those weren't the only issues to be concerned about. Olive recorded that with time their little pet became a lot less gentle. In Olive's words:
"As it grew older, it sorta got mean, its tail never did grow out and when it started to talk it would ruffle up its feathers and if it could get to your bare hand it would sneak up when you weren't looking, sock its bill down in your flesh as hard as it could, then step back and laugh and just shake all over like it was tickled to death. It loved a bare foot or elbow."
I would think that might be a good time to send the bird on its way, but apparently even its meanness didn't persuade the kids to get rid of her. It would appear that Old Mag was just as attached to the kids as Olive indicated that the grouchy pet was in and out of doors, free to do as she chose and she chose to stay.

Olive shared that one day Old Mag messed with the wrong guy when she bit Orson really hard and he hit her with a stick. She said that they kept her for a long time after that, but one day she disappeared and they never knew what became of her. Maybe Old Mag had had enough or just maybe.....someone else had.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Day the Hair Ran Out

I remember all too well an experience I had my freshmen year of college when a group of boys from the nearby dorms asked me and my roommate if we could cut hair. We told them sure we could and to come on over. Why either of us said such a thing, I am not sure because neither of us had the faintest idea how to cut men's hair. At the time I do remember thinking it couldn't be that hard.

genealogy, family history, story, family, Sanford Colorado, Orson Ganus
My roommate had at least watched her brothers get their hair cut a few times, so it was decided that she would be the authority and we would sit the guys in chairs side by side and I would watch what she was doing and mimic it.

The appointed time arrived and not one or two, but a handful of young men from the boys' dorm showed up. We set two chairs side by side and a guy plopped down in each chair.

I cringe, knowing that neither of us had hair cutting scissors. It only got worse because she got a guy with regular hair and I got a guy with extremely thick curly hair. The same method did not work on both heads of hair.

I don't remember the specifics of what happened when I was done or what was said, but maybe that's a blessing. What I do remember is that  I avoided that guy for a very long time afterwards. I can only imagine the conversation that went on in the boys' dorm that night. Not surprisingly, no one ever asked us to cut their hair again.

Apparently I am not the only one who was naive enough as a young girl to think that just anyone could cut hair. One of the funniest stories I came across in Olive E. Faucett Christensen's autobiography is a similar story involving my grandfather's twin, Orson Ganus. Olive shared the following experience:
"Now I want to tell one on Orson and I.  He had a heavy head of hair almost black and wavy. He was really getting shaggy.  I had watched people cut hair so I suggested I cut his hair. He said okay. We never said anything to Mamma, but got out by the house, kinda out of sight. I got my sissors and went to work on him. I cut for quite a while but it didn't seem to be shaping up like I thought it would so I'd size him up, cut some more here, then it needed something on the other side or in the back. I still whacked a little, by now I was getting a little worried. I began to wonder what I was going to do when the hair ran out. I was still clipping a little but feeling smaller and smaller until I didn't feel larger than a midget. I began to wonder what the haymen would say and what Papa would say. I quit cutting his hair and began to talk good to Orson and asking him to stay away from the dinner table and I'd bring his dinner to him. So he hid out at noon but we had to tell Mamma, she couldn't help but laugh because he looked a fright. That was one time I was glad hair could grow out."
Orson Merritt Ganus, Family History, Genealogy, family story, Sanford Colorado
Orson Ganus with unknown child,
Orson maintained a thick head of hair most of his life
Generously shared by great grand-daughter, Amy Moss

We've all had our bad hair days, but I can only imagine how Orson felt the following day when he faced the other men and boys in the hay fields. Although hair thankfully does grow back, Orson likely remembered that hair cut for a long time and the day the hair ran out.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Boxing and Crying

Those who have been following my blog are probably well aware that my grandpa, Heber Monroe Ganus, was orphaned at a young age.  Being a pivotal point not only for my grandpa but for his descendants as well, it is a point of reference for so many of my stories here.  If you haven't been following, you may want to read a little about the brothers and what happened here and here.

Because grandpa was orphaned and lived in several homes, we know little about his early life, so finding a few recollections of his childhood, no matter how brief, is a blessing. I found some stories about my grandpa and his brother Orson in a most unexpected place.

family history, genealogy, Sanford Colorado, Alamosa Colorado, Faucett, Ganus, orphan
Ernest and Heber 
On a recent visit to Brigham Young University (Go Cougars!) I visited their library and decided to take a look at an autobiography of Olive Elmina Faucett Christensen who lived in Alamosa, Colorado. I didn't know anything about Olive because I haven't worked much on my Faucett line, but knowing that my great grandmother was a Faucett and that she had lived in the Alamosa area for a time and knowing that her mother's name was Elmina, I was sure there was a link between her and Olive. I hoped that maybe there would be some mention of their ancestry, but was delighted to find instead a few stories that no governmental record can provide. This find underscores the value of learning all that you can about extended family. You never know what other treasures you might find in the process.

When Grandpa Heber's parents died, he and twin Orson and their older brother Ernest remained in Oklahoma for a time with their father's family but a year later went to Colorado to live with their mother's family. Orson went to their mother's brother, Thomas, Heber went to her brother Alfonzo, and Ernest went to Sally's oldest sister, Mary Haggard.  Both Thomas, Alonzo and Mary lived in Sanford so, although the brothers were split up, they lived relatively close to each other. Olive was Thomas' daughter and Orson became like a brother to her.

Olive's autobiography [1]  is a wonderful rambling of memories from her childhood as she recalls everything from how they made their beds, to milking cows and raising chickens as well as local events such as dances and ball games. While her book is difficult to find, if you would like a peek into life in rural Conejos County Colorado in the early part of the 20th century, locating a copy to read is worth the effort. I will be sharing several of her recollections of Orson and Heber over the next few blog posts.


In one account, Olive provided a brief look into what became a regular evening activity for Orson and Heber. Olive shared:
"One time Papa got Orson some boxing gloves for Christmas, things really got going then. Heber would come down from Uncle Fon's and everybody would get them to boxing.  Heber was a little tougher than Orson, but they would really box. Orson would hit and cry and hit and cry.  Then as the kids grew up they got a larger set of boxing gloves and boxing went right on down the line.  After supper men and boys would get out in the yard and box."

Other than the crying part, the story warms my heart.  It's good to know the boys got together in the evenings and "played," which in this case meant boxing each other's ears. Hopefully between the tears, there was also laughter and bonding. Because it became a repeated event and they later got larger gloves in order to continue the activity, I tend to think it was something they enjoyed doing together.


Orson Ganus, Heber Ganus, twins, orphans, Southern Colorado, boxing
The twins
Orson and Heber Ganus 

[1] Autobiography of Olive E. Faucett Christensen, written January through December 1957, Artcraft Printers, Alamosa, Colorado


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seeing Double

One of my favorite movies while growing up was "Parent Trap" starring Hayley Mills.  I loved the antics and mischief the twins drummed up as they manipulated their divorced parents into first seeing each other once again and then eventually remarrying.
Orson and Heber as babies.
Oklahoma 

Off the movie screen, twins always seem to draw attention....whether it be in the grocery store or the mall, people frequently do a double take and then whisper to the person next to them----"Are they twins?"

Identical or fraternal, there is a discernable connection between twins. Although frequently very different in personality, they often act almost in tandem with one another when they are younger.  

Orson and Heber, likely in Colorado
following their parents death















As  I look through my family tree, I see several sets of twins, although most of the twins are fraternal, which supposedly is not a genetic occurrence.

 My own Grandpa Heber Ganus was a twin.  I've heard that  Heber and Orson were so tiny when they were born they could fit in a shoe box.  They were fraternal twins.

There are other twins in my tree as well.  Heber's father, Frank had a brother Newton who was a twin, although once again, they were not identical twins.  Newton and his sister Frances were born in 1867.

Some believe that Heber's grandmother,  Olivia Rainwater may have been a twin with her brother Abner as some census records show their year of birth as the same.  There are a good number of twins throughout the Rainwater line.

While it is said that fraternal twins are not genetic,  I do find it interesting that there seems to be a fair number of them in our family tree and, while I do feel a sense of relief that my children came one at a time, I can't help but hope that just maybe there might be a set of twins among our grandchildren.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, 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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Heaven

My brothers and I 
I loved summers as a child.  Growing up in the country, my brothers and I often set out on foot or on mini bikes to explore the hills where we lived. We climbed trees, shot BB guns, played in the sprinklers and swam at the local pool.  Life was sweet and innocent and our biggest worry was getting back in time for dinner.

Somehow summer has changed.  As I frantically run around, planning, picking up and dropping off this and that,  I try to finish my never ending "to do" list and I can't help but reflect on how summers used to be. They used to be a time to catch my breath before school started up again in the fall.  Summers used to be a time to relax and recharge.  What happened?

As a child, our vacation every year included a trip to the San Luis Valley in Colorado to visit our relatives.  While there, our time was spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins galore and it seemed as if we were related to everyone who lived there because, for the most part, we were.  In the valley there was a sense of belonging and of being loved and I always felt that we experienced a little bit of heaven there.

A particularly fun memory is of riding around with Uncle Clyde as he checked on his hay fields. Riding beside him as we bounced along the dirt roads and across the hay fields was a treat I never passed up.  His fun sense of humor, his gentle way of teasing, the treats in his glove box and stops for an ice cold bottle of pop always seemed to be a standard part of his day.  He loved me and I knew it and he spoiled me rotten.

On our visits there,  I helped gather eggs, learned to outrun ornery sheep, watched cousins milk cows (I never quite mastered that one), drove a tractor and enjoyed farm fresh eggs and "fresh side" for breakfast. Oh how my Grandmas and Aunties could cook!  It not only felt like heaven there, but the food tasted like heaven as well.

Evenings and weekends were filled with family gatherings. The adults chatted about everything imaginable while the cousins ran and played night games in the fields and outbuildings. It never occurred to me that those wonderful carefree days would eventually come to an end and that some day I would look back and ache to relive those cherished childhood memories.

Heber and Orson Ganus in Sanford, Colorado
Heber and Orson
While on a trip to the valley a few years ago, we visited the Sanford Museum located in Sanford, Colorado.  They have a great collection of photos and memorabilia and were very helpful. There in an album full of old photos, I found a picture of my Grandpa Heber Ganus and his twin, Orson.  Thankfully,  although the picture was dark and a poor quality, it was clearly marked and my father assured me that it was indeed a picture of my grandfather and his brother.

From the stories I've heard, I know that childhood was rough for my orphaned grandfather, but this simple picture gives me hope that just maybe he too had some fun carefree days.  Seeing the twins, sticks in hand, dressed in their bib overalls and hats while carefully balanced on a small wooden raft in the middle of a pond, I am reminded of the stories and antics of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Where did Heber and Orson's imagination take them that day?

I wonder if that day was like the days I spent in the valley as a child?  In that high mountain valley the warmth of the sun seems to permeate your whole being, the sky seems a little bluer and although I know I am biased, even the white cotton-candy clouds seem more fluffy.

I envision the two brothers talking and laughing and if I know anything at all about boys, I suspect there was a healthy amount of mischievous splashing.  Did horseplay send either one or both of the boys into the pond?

I hope that in their fun, they were able to forget their troubles and their loneliness for the family life they no longer had.  I hope that in the companionship of his brother, Grandpa Ganus felt that contented sense of belonging and of being loved.  Summers can be good that way and I would like to think that just maybe... on that day... Grandpa too felt a little bit of heaven.


San Luis Valley, Colorado


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014,  All rights reserved



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.

image

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Giggling With The Pig


image
I’ll always remember the day we drove into a small little West Texas town on our move  from California and spotted a Piggly Wiggly sign.  Our family had never seen a Piggly Wiggly, much less heard of that particular grocery store chain and so my brothers and I did what came most natural to us kids, we laughed ourselves silly. 

After years of living in the Texas, we grew accustomed to the name and joined the locals in shopping there.  Years passed and eventually my family moved away and I’ve never seen a Piggly Wiggly since.

Recently as I was going through some family pictures, I came across this picture of my Grandpa’s twin brother, Orson Merritt Ganus, driving a Piggly Wiggly truck.  I couldn’t help but smile at the site of the Piggly Wiggly logo on the side.

Orson Merritt Ganus
Orson Merritt Ganus
I wish I knew the full story behind this picture.  Was it possibly taken on Orson’s first day of work at Piggly Wiggly? Dressed in a suit and tie, this job was in stark contrast to the farm life he had experienced in Colorado as a young man and I wonder if he felt an anxiety over that difference.  Was he excited and hopeful for a future in a new career?

While I am unsure exactly when this picture was taken, based on pictures of grocery trucks found on the internet, my best guess would be that this picture was taken in approximately the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.  I turned to the census to see if I could find any clues about when Orson worked with Piggly Wiggly.

In 1920, Orson was living in Sanford, Colorado where he worked as a farm laborer according to the census.1    But by 1930, Orson had moved and was living in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.  Orson married Frieda Hembree in May of 1924 and by 1930 they had one son, and were expecting their second child.  On the 1930 census, Orson is listed as a salesman for a grocery store and Frieda indicated that she was working as a sales girl at a dry goods store2. This seems to support the possibility that the picture of Orson was taken around 1930, give or take a few years.

image

imageHad Orson taken a job as a salesman with the hope of being able to better provide for his growing family? With a second child on the way, was he looking for a job with a higher earning potential?

Being a  salesman did not become a lifetime pursuit for Orson, however, as evidenced by the 1940 census, where he is no longer listed as a salesman, but is listed as a filling station attendant.3

Did the job of salesman not suit him?  Were the hours too long?  Was there too much pressure or was wearing a suit too foreign? While I may never know any more about Orson’s time as a grocery salesman or why he didn’t continue in that job, I am grateful to have a copy of the picture of him driving a Piggly Wiggly truck.  This image adds dimension to Orson’s life and makes me think that he was willing to try different things in an effort to support his family. In addition, the picture reminds me of time with my brothers and when something as simple as a sign seemed hysterically funny.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


1.  1920 U.S. Census,  Sanford, Conejos,Colorado, population schedule, Sanford Town, Enumeration District (ED) 35, sheet 6-B, p. 6B; 35; p. 120 (stamped)  dwelling 114, family 118, Orson Hanus, (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing National Archives microfilm publication T625_157.

2.  1930 U.S. Census, Okmulgee, Okmulgee, Oklahoma; population schedule, Okmulgee City, Enumeration District (ED) 56-28, sheet 8-B, p. 88 (stamped) dwelling 185, family 190, Orson Ganus (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing National Archives microfilm publication T626

3.  1940 U.S. Census, Okmulgee, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, population schedule, Okmulgee City, Enumeration District (ED) 56-30, sheet 7-B, p. 408 (stamped), line 72, Visited No. 149, Orson Ganus (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing Nation Archives microfilm publication T627_3319 .
Piggly Wiggly sign and Piggly Wiggly store front pictures from Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Write Soon Please

Martha Olivia Ganus Howell
Martha Olivia Ganus Howell


Mr. Earnest Ganus 
Dear brother, I wright you a few lines to let you know we are well . hope it will find you the same . . . .  Say why did you never wright to me.  I waited to here from you. but you did not wright.  So wright soon.  Please wright to me.  I have still got feelings for you.  From Ollie Howell to Earnest. 
Ollie Howell letter

Ernest and Heber Ganus
Earnest W. Ganus (L)
Heber M. Ganus (R)

The sweet pleading of a sister longing to hear from her brother are both tender and sad.  I found this postcard among a few papers in a small fabric suitcase that I received from my Grandma Ganus and that I mentioned in an earlier post. Perplexed and intrigued by the postcard,  I found myself reading the message over and over, hoping to see some sort of clue, all the while wondering who in the world was Ollie Howell?  Ollie had referred to Earnest as Dear Brother!   If Ollie was a sister to Earnest, then she certainly was a sister to Earnest's brother, my Grandpa Heber Ganus as well!!  I was not aware that my grandfather had had a sister by the name of Ollie.  So who was she?   As I looked over the list of my Grandpa Ganus’ siblings, I  saw only one sister, and that was Blanche who had died  in 1891 when she was about seven months old. So I called my father but he echoed my confusion—he had no idea who Ollie was either!

Apparently there were a few details missing from what we knew about my grandfather and his family, and so I launched into a search to find out who the mystery sister was. It amazed me that my grandfather had never mentioned a sister.

As is always the case, it took time and effort to search through a variety of records and piece together Ollie's story, but eventually I was able to find her place in my family tree.

I learned that my Great Grandfather, William Franklin Ganus (Frank)  had been married twice and I descend from his second wife.  My family really knew nothing about the first marriage and so nothing about that family had been shared.  Frank had first married Mary Matilda Roberts (Tilda)  in about 1879 in Georgia.  To this union were born two girls,  Martha Oliva Ganus (Ollie) who was born September 23, 1880  and Mary E. Ganus who was born  December 5, 1881, both in Polk County, Georgia.  While I found mention of Mary E. Ganus on church blessing records, I could find nothing further about her, leading me to believe that she must have died as a child.  It is so inconvenient when people are born and die between census records!  Neither Tilda nor Mary E. were included on the list of those that migrated along with the Ganus family  in 1886 to Southern Colorado. ( I shared the story of their migration in an earlier post. )  I was able to find Frank and daughter, Ollie,  in Manassa, Colorado church records confirming that they had both made the trip along with other members of the Ganus family. Wanting to find out more about Tilda, I returned to the church membership records for Polk County, Georgia and examined them carefully once again .  It was then that I discovered very faint writing in the far right hand edge of the margin beside Tilda’s name indicating that she had died, although no year was included.
Old Manassa Colorado cemetery
Old Manassa Colorado cemetery


So at the tender young age of 6, and without her mother, Ollie had traveled to Colorado with her father, Frank, and her grandparents and uncles. I wonder what she felt as she boarded the train bound for Colorado.  A year later in 1887, Ollie gained a stepmother when her father, Frank married Sarah E.Faucett (Sallie), who was my great grandmother .  Soon Frank and Sallie began to have children and Ollie was no longer an only child.  Ollie's  life continued to have many challenges.  Sally and Frank's first child, Parley, died when he was a year old, the second child, Blanche, died at seven months and Homer died when he was around five.  Last August, I was able to visit the cemetery in Manassa Colorado where two of their three children were buried and I wrote about that experience here.  Of Sally and Frank’s first four children, only Earnest survived to adulthood and while he and half sibling, Ollie, were 13 years apart in age and had different mothers, they apparently felt a closeness that would continue into adulthood. Surely they needed each other as their little family dealt with the heartbreak of death.  I can envision Ollie and Earnest in that small country cemetery, standing beside their parents and mourning the loss of each sibling. 


Edgar Howell and Ollie's children
Edgar and Ollie Ganus
Howell's children
About 1895,  Frank, Sally, Ollie and brother Earnest along with Frank’s parents John M. Ganus and Olivia, as well as Frank’s brothers,  all moved to Oklahoma.  Family lore says it was just too darn cold in the high San Luis Valley for the Ganus family and so they moved to a warmer climate. The following year on March 16, 1896, at the age of 16, Ollie Ganus married Henry Edgar Howell in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Four years later in 1900, my grandfather Heber Monroe and his twin, Orson Merrit  were born and so Ollie gained two more half brothers, however they never lived in the same household because she was married by then. That, along with the fact that there was twenty years difference in their ages may explain why my grandpa had never mentioned Ollie.

In 1902, Ollie’s grandmother, Olivia Rainwater Ganus passed away in Okmulgee, Oklahoma at the age of 71.  Ollie’s grandfather, John Monroe Ganus lived another four years and died in April of 1906 at the age of 80.  Ollie’s father, Frank followed, dying in November of that same year at the age of 53.  Then, less than three years later, in 1909, Ollie’s stepmother, Sally died, leaving her three young sons, Earnest, Orson and Heber, orphaned.  After a short period of time, all three boys were sent from Muskogee, Oklahoma  to Sanford, Colorado to live with Sally’s brother. Ollie was then separated from her half brothers by 760 miles, no small distance in 1909.  Having been married for nearly 13 years by that time, Ollie had six children of her own to care for and undoubtedly her hands were full.  Ollie would have one more child before she passed away in 1916.

Martha Olivia Ganus Howell, or Ollie as she was called,  died at 36 years of age.  She experienced more grief in her relatively short life than some ever experience. She had lost her mother, her father, her stepmother, a sister, a half sister, two half brothers, and both sets of grandparents. Is it any wonder that she reached out across the miles to a remaining brother, wanting him to know that she still thought of him and that she still had feelings for him?  Is it any wonder that she longed to hear from him and to feel the reassurance that she was still remembered and loved by him as well?

As I looked at the date stamped on the postcard, I realized that Ollie penned her message to her brother in 1914, just two years before she too passed away. I sincerely hope that his heart felt the same need to in turn reach out to her and that he responded to her plea to "write soon please."  

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lemon Pie and Carrie

I've been thinking a lot lately about the subtle ways in which our ancestors' lives influence our own. There are many small things that trickle down through the generations, influencing our traditions, family activities and foods, often without us even realizing it. Our lifestyle, religion, and career choices, as well as our foods and recreational activities can all be influenced by those that lived generations before and similarly our choices will influence the generations that follow. Sometimes by evaluating our traditions, we can find clues about our heritage.

When I met and married my husband, it was interesting to see the differences in our food preferences. While he and I liked a lot of the same foods, there were foods that I liked and considered practically a staple that he had not eaten much, if at all.  Although I grew up in the west, some of my family's favorites are actually more commonly found in other areas of the U.S.  My family liked nothing better than a meal of fried chicken, cole slaw, and biscuits.  While my mother-in-law was and is a good cook,  I don't know that she has ever fried a chicken or fixed biscuits. My family loved soft, flakey biscuits and had them frequently with meals.  Mom always fried up the chicken crisp and golden in a black cast iron skillet.  Consequently, when my husband and I married, a cast iron skillet seemed like an essential item for our gift registry.  My husband didn't quite see the need but went along with the idea anyway.  I had always loved a wonderful corn pone pie (casserole) that my mom made. My sweet husband wanted to know exactly what was a corn pone anyway?  How could he not know?  We really did not have a meeting of the minds when it came to what constituted a "special breakfast" either.  He had always been a waffles and syrup kind of guy.  I had always loved ham, biscuits and gravy for breakfast more than any other breakfast.  He could not imagine having biscuits and gravy for breakfast and I could not imagine why it seemed so strange to him. It was not until I began to do family history research that things began to fall into place and I began to understand.  You see, both of my parents have family lines with southern roots.  Between my parents, I have ancestors that lived in Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.   Looking back, it is evident that without even realizing it,  our ancestry influenced the foods my family ate and loved.


Roderick Monroe Ganus 
Some things are handed down so subtly that no one seems to know their origins, while other things have been passed down with a story . My Grandma's lemon pie came with a bit of a story although I didn't know it as a kid.  But oh how I loved my Grandma Ganus's lemon pie. Her pie was the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  I've been told that Grandma's lemon pie recipe actually came from my Grandpa's Aunt Carrie and I just happen to know that his Aunt Carrie held a special place in his heart so it makes that pie recipe extra special. Carrie Melinda Davis married Roderick Monroe Ganus on 27 January 1905 in Oklmulgee, Oklahoma. They lived in Oklahoma for their entire married life and raised their family there.  I have very tender feelings for Roderick and Carrie because they were the ones that took in my Grandpa Heber Ganus when he was orphaned at the sweet young age of 8.  Grandpa Heber's father William "Frank" Ganus died in 1906 and  just three years later in 1909, his mother Sally Faucett Ganus died, leaving her three sons, Earnest, Orson and Heber all alone.  Court records indicate that the oldest brother, Ernest, who was only 16 at the time,  requested that his father's brother Uncle Roderick Ganus be appointed as Administrator of their mother's meager estate. In the court proceedings, Earnest appeared with his two younger brothers Orson and Heber.  In my mind, I can see the three young boys in court feeling so lost and alone, mourning the loss of their parents and wondering who would care for them. The thought breaks my heart.  In his life history, my Grandpa Heber indicated that Roderick took him in and that his Uncle Robert took in his twin brother, Orson . Grandpa didn't say where the oldest brother, Earnest went to live. The young twins, Orson and Heber lived in Oklahoma with their father's brothers  for a year before going to Colorado to live with their mother's brothers to fulfil their mother's (Sally Faucett Ganus)  death bed request.  In his history, Grandpa said of Roderick and Carrie, "These people didn't have much money, but they were good providers and made a good living for their families."  The reality was, times were hard for those Oklahoma Ganus families and so I know it was a huge sacrifice for them to have another mouth to feed.  I feel such gratitude for Roderick and Carrie because they took in my grandpa when he so needed their loving care. It's always amazing to me that I can feel such love for people I've never met.

Carrie Melinda Davis Ganus
and Emmett
I can't help but think of the goodness of Roderick and Carrie when I fix Grandma's lemon pie. What foods do you eat that might have been influenced by your ancestry?  How will your choices influence future generations?


         Carrie's Lemon Pie Filling 

2 Tbsp Corn Starch
1 1/4 c. warm water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp butter
small amount of shredded rind. 
3 eggs (save white for meringue)

Cook in double boiler until thick.  Pour into baked pie shell.  Top with meringue.