Showing posts with label Gurganus James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gurganus James. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Without Means of Support

Where would she turn next?  Alone and with limited means, Rebecca had to find a way to support herself. Her life had changed drastically in a few short years. 

It was 1852 in Macon, Georgia and Rebecca Gurganus was widowed and sixty nine years old.  If she and her deceased husband, David Gurganus, had children, there is no evidence of such and so, by all appearances, she was truly very alone.  

Rebecca had been married to David for thirty-six years.  She was 33 years old when she married David, a 53 year old widower with three boys at home. His boys James, David and John Wesley were all from his first marriage to Mary Swain and by 1830 were married and had moved away.

A Long Hard Winter, Library of Congress 1893 
In 1847, David had attempted to obtain his Revolutionary War pension, but like many applicants, he was unable to provide sufficient proof.  It had been 67 years since his first tour and while he remembered the names of a few men with whom he served, it had been almost 50 years since he lived in Pitt County, North Carolina where he entered the service. He then moved to Edgefield, South Carolina and later settled in Macon, Georgia.  It’s not difficult to imagine why he no longer had proof of his service and why none of the men with whom he had served were around to testify in his behalf.  


Beginning in 1849, David, aged, impoverished and with few options, turned to Bibb County for help.  From that time until his death, he and Rebecca appeared in the Inferior Court minutes on the Pauper Account, relying on the county for assistance.

Sometime in the early 1840s, David’s widowed daughter, Mary Ellen Pratt, who was in her early 50s, moved in with David and Rebecca and together they all lived about 4 miles from Macon, on the road to Forsyth.  Life was not easy, but they were together and for a time, that was enough.  Coming events would change Rebecca's life dramatically.

To see where Rebecca fits in, click on the Gurganus tab above and then select "David Gurganus Sr." 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just a Little Piece of Paper

"John M. had a brother Jim that went to Alabama."  This simple sentence was scribbled on the corner of a small piece of  faded paper and barely legible. The paper was among a meager collection of a handful of papers and pedigree charts that had belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa Ganus. When I first received the little floral fabric suitcase,  I had had such high hopes that it would be filled with the kind of information that every genealogist dreams of receiving- a family bible, letters rich in genealogical detail and pictures.  At first glance the suitcase appeared to hold just a few pedigrees with names, dates and information which I already had and void of any documentation.  Upon closer examination, however, I found that among the pedigrees sheets were a few choice pieces of papers with handwritten notes that would provide me with some much needed clues.

Grandma had researched in a day without computers and the endless online databases, forums and mailing lists so readily available today.  She was limited by her inability to travel to a distant research facility and the long wait associated with snail mail.  I feel so fortunate to have ready access to so much online data in addition to being close to an excellent research library.  But Grandma had something I don't have---she had people around her that remembered,  people that knew the people who are now just names on a pedigree for me.  How I wish I would have been interested in family history when Grandma was alive and that I had tapped into her knowledge. But I was young and busy and my mind and interests were elsewhere. So I will just be grateful that she took the time to scribble a few notes that I would eventually find and treasure.

My father had no knowledge of Jim, who was John's brother and who had gone to Alabama.  In fact, my family knew very little about John, my own great great grandfather because my grandfather had been orphaned at 8 years of age. So we were left to piece together what we could and  to do our best to learn from what others had recorded, which brings me back to the faded paper and the scribbled note about Jim.  Just who was Jim?

Turning to the 1850 census, I could see that my third great grandparents, James and Betsy Ganus did have a son named James.  Their oldest son, my second great grandfather, John was 22 at the time, but James, a much younger brother was only 11.  In between John and James were brothers David, who was 16 and Jackson (William Jackson) who was 12, along with sisters Margaret and Rebecca, and then some additional younger siblings,  so I find it interesting that James, or "Jim" was the only sibling named on that paper.

Jim's formal name was James W. and he was born Nov 1841, likely in Fayetteville, Georgia. On the 31st of August in 1862, at the age of 21, James enlisted in the Confederate Army and served with the 44th Georgia Regiment. From James' Civil War discharge certificate we learn that he was six feet tall, had a fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. I love knowing what he looked like.

Battle of Sharpsburg fought September 17, 1862
 near Sharpsburg, Maryland
Picture by Kurz & Allison
I wonder how James' parents felt when they learned that he had been shot in the right arm at The Battle of Sharpsburg, which was known as the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War. James was treated and remained with his regiment until he was discharged on July 3, 1863.  I also wonder if James realized how fortunate he was to have survived a gunshot wound during a time when the medicine practiced was relatively primitive and when so many died of infection. His record did indicate that at his release he was partially blind due to sickness contracted while in the service. It went on to state that at that time that James was
 "so blind he cannot see to read or distinguish one person from another at ten paces.  Is unfit for duty in any depart. of government."  
My heart goes out to him, knowing that he was so blind he was considered unfit for duty and yet he would return home and would need to provide for himself and his family for the rest of his life.

Tallapoosa, Haralson County 1890
From Vanishing Georgia used with permission

In about 1865 James married Frances Foster.  They lived in Haralson County and had two children, James C. and Minnie Elizabeth.   Early in my research, descendants of James C. shared with me a story that had been passed down.  According to the story, James' wife Frances had died in childbirth and so James had taken that child, a daughter named Minnie, to her maternal grandmother to raise and then he had taken his son James C. with him and headed to Alabama. While evidence suggests that Frances did die and that Minnie was raised by her grandmother and that James C. remained with his father, James W. actually did not go to Alabama until nearly 30 years later. (I will tell Minnie's story at a later time.)   In about 1875,  James W. married Nancy E. Ayers in Haralson County, Georgia.  No children were ever born to this union.  On January 5th, 1897, Nancy died and was buried in the Fairview West Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Cullman, Alabama.  In 1897, James once again married, this time to Martha Henriettta Watterson Basinger, a widow.

February 10, 1899, James applied for relief as a confederate soldier, indicating that he was incapable of making a living by manual labor because of partial blindness and Bright's Disease.  At that time he was 58 and living at Johnson's Crossing in Cullman County, Alabama. The County board indicated that they felt satisfied to the truth of his application and his pension was approved.

On March 18, 1911, James W.  or "Jim" as John called him,  passed from this life. According to his death certificate, he was buried in Fairview West Missionary Baptist Church cemetery although no headstone has been found.

My journey in learning about James all began with the simple words, "John M. had a brother Jim that went to Alabama."  Once again I am grateful for those that took the time to record what they knew, no matter how seemingly insignificant.  It makes me ask myself, what clues am I leaving for the next generation?


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012


Saturday, September 29, 2012

The crime of "escape"

Blacksmith, David Gurganus
A Blacksmith's Shop by Richard Earlom
Wikimedia Commons
It was him.  I just knew it.  After all, how many Blacksmiths named David Gurganus could there be?
"#695; David Gurganis; Crime: Escape; Term of years: 1 1/2 years; When received:  9 Sept. 1838:  Sentence expires:  9 Mar 1840; County where convicted: Cass County; Occupation:  Blacksmith; Birthplace:  North Carolina; No of sentences:  1; Age: 36 yrs; 5 ft. 9 1/4 in; Dark complexion, black eyes; black hair;  served out sentence and discharged."   
David was born about 1804, was the son of David Gurganus and Mary Swain and was brother to James Gurganus, my third great grandfather.  One thing that I noticed about him early on was that as a blacksmith, he stood out on the census among the sea of farmers. Being a blacksmith made him a little different and that along with some of his escapades, made him one of James's  "easier-to-find"  siblings and you will soon see why.

 This time, David's name was on a list of men in the penitentiary in Milledgeville.  According to the entry found on page 99 in "The Georgia Black Book," by Robert Scott Davis,  David had been arrested for "escape" in Cass County, Georgia (now Bartow County)  and served out his 1 1/2 years.  I wondered exactly what "escape" meant in that time period and so I turned to "Bouvier's Law Dictionary and Concise Encyclopedia," (see HERE)  which is particularly helpful for legal terms used in the mid 1800's.  Actually there was no surprise in the definition, "escape" is "The deliverance of a person who is lawfully imprisoned, out of prison, before such a person is entitled to such deliverance by law."  So the question becomes, just why was David arrested in the first place?  Where did he escape from?  Despite efforts to search court records, I have not been able to find any more related to David's initial imprisonment. I have taken note that 1838 was a very tumultuous time for North Georgia and it was during that spring and summer that the final events of the Trail of Tears occurred , much of which occurred in the Cass County area.   I wonder, in what way may that have impacted David?
Milledgeville Penitentiary Georgia
Milledgeville Penitentiary burning in 1864
More about Penitentiary Here

Prior to this time, David and his wife and children were living in Edgefield, South Carolina where David had lived most of his life until then.  On 6 May 1829, David had married a  Elizabeth (MNU),  the wealthy widow of Simon Hancock.   She had three children from her previous marriage and by the time of David's arrest, they had three children of their own.  I knew that the family had been in South Carolina in 1834 because some of David's business dealings had created legal troubles and I had found those documents among court records, but that's a story for another day.

I wanted to be sure that the David Gurganus in Cass County, Georgia was the same David that had lived in Edgefield, South Carolina. I was able to establish that fact when I turned to Edgefield, South Carolina court records and discovered annual returns for Elizabeth Gurganus during that same time period.  The first reads  "Mrs. Gurganus for part board for heirs while in GA by D. Gurganus per order as receipt,  29 Oct 1838."  Then on the 19 of February, 1838 Benjamin R. Tillman was made guardian for their children.  Also among her annual returns I found, "14 May 1838 R. Harden (half expense) of moving minors of Mrs. Gurganus back to Edgefield out from Cass County, GA. Total expense:  131.50 = 65.75."  Although Elizabeth's first husband, Simon Hancock had left her very comfortable, I can imagine how hard and difficult this time must have been for her, especially in an unfamiliar area, so it's not surprising that she and her six children returned to Edgefield, where she had lived for years and where she could receive help and support.  She remained there while she waited for David's release which came 9 March 1840.

It all fit.  David Gurganus, the blacksmith who was imprisoned in Milledgeville was my third great grandfather's brother, David, son of David and Mary (Swain) Gurganus.  Hopefully over time I will find more details for this chapter of David's life, but even without them, his story is far from over and in my next post, I will tell you more.






Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Did James really fly under the radar?

Once following a genealogy conference, I had the opportunity to talk with a visiting archivist.  I shared with him my frustration that my 3rd great grandfather, James Ganus, has been so difficult to find, while I have so much on his parents and siblings.  I had to admit that some of  James' family seemed to have a nose for trouble, so they and their escapades are found with some ease in newspapers and court records.  It took me by surprise when the archivist suggested that perhaps James was difficult to find because he was the biggest, baddest one of them all and that just maybe he had managed to fly under the radar!  My James, I thought?!!  I've tried to be open minded and accepting as I've researched, recognizing that times in the 1800's were different and it is difficult for us today to fully understand the circumstances that led to certain behavior and choices back then, but as I consider the meager findings that I have on James, I still find it hard to believe that his name was synonymous with trouble.

It was an interesting discovery to find that James had shortened his name from Gurganus to simply "Ganus" about 1840, but that's about as bad as anything I have on him and that's not bad at all.  I couldn't help but think of the many many times that people mispronounced my last name of Ganus when I was growing up.  I actually even had someone correct me on the pronunciation once when I was about 15 years old.  I remember standing there dumbfounded and wondering what they were thinking when they corrected me and if they had thought about the fact that it was MY name. Is it possible that James shortened his name of Gurganus simply for convenience?   I've also wondered if James was trying to distance himself from family troubles given that he moved about the same time that he shortened his name.  There always seems to be so many questions.
Notice close proximity of Bibb and Monroe Counties
James next moved to Fayette county.

I first found James Gurganus listed among the unclaimed letters in "The Macon Messenger," on  April 1st, 1827.  Macon was in Bibb County and that placed him very close to where I had hoped to find him since his son, John Monroe Ganus, had always claimed to have been born in neighboring Monroe County in 1826.  While James can not be found on the 1830 census for either Monroe or Bibb County,  in 1832  James drew land in the Land Lottery from Justice, Bibb County, Georgia alongside his father David Gurganus.  In 1834, both James Gurganus and David Gurganus paid taxes on their lottery land, this time in Captain Ross's District of Monroe County.  In 1840 James was listed on the Fayette County, Georgia Federal Census and in 1841 he paid taxes on that same piece of lottery property while living in Fayette County. From 1840 on, I find James going by simply James Ganus in the census records and tax digests until the end of his life.  While apparently the way that he said "Ganus" remained consistent, certainly the spelling did not and I find him in the 1841 Fayette County Tax Digest as James Gaynos and on the DeKalb Agricultural Census in 1850 as James Gainus.  It was not unusual to have such variation in name spelling back then, nor was it bad.  

I have looked for James in court records hoping to find him on a road crew or a jury, both duties typically assumed by men in that place and time, but I have not found him listed once.  While I have stacks of deeds for his siblings and  for his children, I have never found him on a single deed.  I know that individuals kept their own deeds and that it was up to them to file them, but I find it hard to believe that he did not do that even once during his lifetime. I have checked every name variation and spelling imaginable and enlarged my search to neighboring counties, all to no avail.

It's also been difficult to determine who James's friends were as I have not been able to find him on other people's deeds or as a witness in wills.  From one census to another, he is living among completely different people each time, which has also made it hard to know just who he associated with over the course of his life.

James's son, John Monroe Ganus, did indicate on several different church membership records that his parents were James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey, so I do know that James married Elizabeth although no marriage records has been found.  I do know from census records that James and Elizabeth (Betsy)  had ten children that lived, but there are some significant gaps that make me think that there were children that did not survive.  Mary, John Monroe, Margaret, David, Rebecca, William Jackson, James W., Calloway, Martha Elizabeth and Addison R. all are found on census records with their parents, James and Elizabeth Ganus.

On the 1870 census James was shown living with his daughter and oldest known child, Mary and her husband Burton W. Cook in Fayette County, but by 1880, he is nowhere to be found. The last piece of evidence that I have for James is from 1871 when he served as a witness for his son-in-law, Burton W. Cook, when Burton claimed civil war damages in an effort to gain compensation from the Federal Government. On the document, it indicates that James was living in East Point, Fulton County, Georgia.  I have not been able to find a will, probate or even a headstone for James



As I have written this, I have realized that I probably do have more than I thought on James, but truthfully it pales in comparison to what I have been able to find on his parents and siblings.  I just lack the detail that would help me know something about who James really was and what he really did in his life.  I know approximately when James was born, which was  about 1798 in North Carolina, and I know about when he died, which would have been sometime after 1871 but before 1880.  So while I know a little (and very little at that) about his beginnings and even less about his end,  I know next to nothing about what he did  in-between.  However I've found nothing that would lead me to believe that he was the biggest or the baddest of his family.  If indeed he did purposely fly under the radar, he apparently was really really good at it.