Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Grandma I didn't know: Hazel Mickelsen Ganus

Each morning while at Grandma Ganus' house I would quickly dress, straighten the homemade quilt on the bed and then head down the narrow hall, past the kitchen to the small living room to find Grandma. Simply furnished, the small house bore the product of her handiwork. Embroidered linens dressed her dining room table and buffet, handmade quilts covered her beds and crocheted doilies and afghans adorned the arms and backs of upholstered furniture. 

I could always find Grandma peacefully sitting and gazing out the large front room window that faced main street. It was a small sleepy rural town in Southern Colorado, with very little traffic and I always wondered what held her interest. 

Years later as I looked through photos of grandma's younger years, I wondered if perhaps she wasn't looking out the window to see what was happening as much as she was remembering things that had happened. Perhaps she was reliving a time when as a young, carefree girl she had worked, worshipped and played in Sanford, Colorado, her home town. 

Looking through a photo album that contained her pictures, I realized how little I really knew about Grandma and I struggled to imagine the young girl labeled in the photos as Hazel Mickelsen. The pictures revealed a young girl who at one time had been rather tall and lively in direct contrast to the small, thin, and quiet grandma I had always known. I wished I could return to a time when she was living and ask her to tell me the stories of the life she lived.  

My grandma, Hazel Mickelsen, was born and raised in Sanford, Colorado to Ramus Mickelsen and Elsie Marie Cornum, both full Danish. Sanford was small with a post office, gas station and small little grocery store on one side of main and a large LDS church on the other side. 
Most of the homes were modest and had provided shelter for many generations. Small irrigation ditches ran alongside many of the roads as a source of water for the lawns and gardens. 

Rainbow Trout Lodge
Ruth Valentine, Eva Beck
Mrs. Cortney (the cook) and
Hazel Mickelsen Ganus

As a teen, Hazel attended Sanford High School, which was only a two-year school at that time. Following high school, Grandma attended the San Luis Academy in Manassa. 

Once she completed her schooling, Hazel cleaned people's homes during the cool months for a time, but her summer employment was a bit more fun. Along with some of her friends, Hazel waitressed at the Rainbow Trout Lodge that sat on the banks of the beautiful Conejos River. There they served wealthy tourists that came from all over. Hazel became friends with many of those tourists who stayed in touch with her long after they returned home. 

Apparently, that was a fun time for Grandma as she has numerous photo albums filled with photos of the friends she met while working there. Some of the photos were men and were sent after they had returned home. It was a side I had never suspected of the quiet woman I called Grandma. 

Of that time, Hazel said, 

"Some evenings there would be an orchestra come and the guests would have a gay time, of course we hired help weren't invited but we girls could hear their laughs from our quarters. Two other girls from home were with me at the lodge. They were Eva Beck and Ruth Valentine. We all had some good times together. Some times the wanglers would get some real tame horses and we all would go for a horse back ride. The wages were $1.00 a day with board and room. We girls each slept in small tents, called "Pup Tents."  These were all in a row on a platform. We would raise the sides up and visit with one another until we fell asleep. The guests were good at tipping so we made pretty good wages." (3)

Between her salary and tips, she was able to earn enough money to buy new clothes and pay tuition for nine months of schooling and so she was off on an adventure to Denver where she attended  Barnes' business college. It was quite a big step for a small town girl. 

The commercial schools often recruited young girls like Hazel. There, in addition to sharpening her mathematical skills, Hazel worked hard learning to operate a comptometer, an early version of a commercial calculator. (1) She was excited when she passed her final exam and was ready to move on to the next phase of her life, which she hoped would include a job at a bank. 

                                     Hazel Mickelsen Ganus 

Model E (1)

Unfortunately, Hazel learned that most banks were looking for someone with experience, experience she didn't yet have.

Discouraged but still determined to find something she enjoyed doing, she decided to go to summer school at Adams State or Normal as it was called, located in nearby Alamosa.

Once again she worked hard in her classes, completed the requirements and then took the teacher's exam from the county school superintendent. She was then able to get a teaching job at nearby Capulin where she taught third and fourth grade. While teaching there, grandma lived in what was called a teachery with other teachers. 

1921 Ford Model T Coupe (2)

Grandma decided she needed a car In order to go home on weekends. She had enough set aside to buy a second-hand Model T Ford Coupe. 

The following year she got a better job with more pay at a larger school at Los Mesitas, which was west of Antonito. The school had five teachers. 

About that time, Hazel said,

"In the fall when the weather was nice we often cooked out over a camp fire, cooking baked potatoes and corn on the cob in the husks in the hot ashes from the fire. These tasted so good."
 Hazel not only worked hard, she played hard too, and had a lot of fun with her sister and friends.

Lena (sister) and Hazel
Taken on bridge over Conejos
located close to Antonito  

Daphney Marten Koontz, Ella White, 
Don Hutchins, Hazel Mickelsen Ganus, 
Mae Daniels

Corrine Rasmussen, Hazel M. Ganus, 
Maggie B. William, Ethel Lloyd, 
Lena Cunningham 

Helmer and Wilford Gylling, Lena and Hazel 

While teaching in Los Mesitas, Hazel met Heber Monroe Ganus and on a cold January day in 1926, they married. 

This began a new chapter in Hazel's life. Their union was blessed with two children and Hazel set aside her teaching career and turned her focus to raising a family. 

Over the years, Heber's health declined and it became necessary for Hazel to become the primary breadwinner. Grandma returned to school and completed her college education in 1955, allowing her to teach in public schools.

Although Grandma didn't raise her family in the little home on main, it was in that small town that she grew up and developed friendships that continued into her later years. Whether she was daydreaming about earlier times or things to come, I will never know, but I will forever picture her sitting and gazing out the window and wish  that I had asked a few more questions. 

To learn more about Hazel's life, see the following blog posts: 

(1) Photo of 1921 Model T Coupe Don O'Brien from Piketon, Oio, United States Creative Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1921_Ford_Model_T_Coupe_(7273284910).jpg

(2) photo of comptometer from Wikimedia in public domain. Released by Ezdr 

(3) Page 10 of 18 in Hazel M. Ganus Life History

Copyright © Michelle Ganus Taggart 2022, All rights reserved. 
  No use without permission 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Icing on the Cake-Visiting Burton W. Cook

Burton  W. Cook feels like an old friend to me. Thanks to his appearance in a wide variety of records, I have learned so much about him over the years about he and his wife Mary Ganus and their life together. So I was excited to visit his grave during my visit to Georgia in October. 

Although Find-A-Grave has pictures of his headstone, seeing it in person was a completely different experience. Burton and Mary (Ganus) Cook lived just a short distance out of Carrollton and he was buried at the Church of Carrollton Cemetery. There I felt a reverence as I envisioned his family gathered there to mourn his passing. 

At the time of his death, his oldest son, Isaiah, and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth (Cook) Adams were living in Alabama. His daughter Mollie McKissack had remarried following the death of her first husband and she and husband James L. McKissack lived twenty miles away in Franklin, Heard Co., Georgia. Burton's namesake, Burton Calloway Cook was living in Carrollton at the time. 

According to the newspaper, seventy-year-old Burton suffered a "stroke of paralysis" on Friday the 26th of January 1894 and died the following Tuesday. (1.) 

Were his children notified and were they able to visit him before he passed away? Were they there as a support to their mother the day that Burton was buried? 

Burton W. Cook, Church at Carrollton Cemetery, Carroll County, Carrollton, Georgia, headstone, Georgia, Genealogy, Ancestry, family history
Burton Cook's headstone
Church at Carrollton Cemetery, Carroll County, Georgia 

Burton married Mary Ganus, my third great aunt on 7 April 1850 in Dekalb County, Georgia. Mary was the oldest child of James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey. There is no record of Mary's burial, but at The Church at Carrollton Cemetery, there is an empty space right next to Burton's and I wondered if possibly she was there in an unmarked grave?  

A Southern Sleuth, genealogy, Grady Cook, burial,Mollie McKissack, James McKissack
Grady Cook, grandson of Burton and Mary (Ganus) Cook
Church at Carrollton Cemetery, Carroll County, Georgia 

Near Burton's grave is their grandson's headstone, Grady Cook, son of Burton C. and Emma (Muse) Cook. 

I've researched and written about Burton quite a bit over the years and those posts can be found on this blog. Documents helped me to know that Burton lived a full life and his obituary helped fill in the gaps, indicating that he had been a good man and was loved by the community. The following  obituary appeared in the newspaper: 


"The subject of this notice was born in Coweta county in April 1829 and departed this life at his home in Carroll county on the 30th day of January 1894, aged 64 years, 9 months and 14 days.  
"He was married to Mary Ganus in 1850, united with the Baptist church while in the army in 1862, and cast his lot with the church at Shadner afterwards, moved his membership to Sardus church Coweta county, moved to Carroll county and united with the church at Abilene on the 5th day of June 1880, where he remained a consistent member until called away. 
 "Bro. Cook was a good man and was loved by all who knew him. Always ready to give counsel to those who he thought needed it, always ready to assist those who were in distress, always tried to visit the sick and administer to their wants and do all that he could to console them. His seat was seldom vacant at church when he was able to go. He has said for many years that he was ready to quit the walks of men when it was the will of the Lord to call him away.
"Therefore be it resolved; That in the death of Bro Cook the county has lost one of her best citizens, the church one of its brightest jewels, his companion and children a loving and affectionate husband and father." (2.)

After many years of research, the icing on the cake was visiting Burton's final resting place. 

Are you a descendant of Burton W. Cook? I would love to hear from you. If you would like to know more about my research on Burton or have information to share with me, please contact me at shelltag1 at gmail.com. 

1. Carroll Free Press, Feb 2, 1894, page 3, Accessed on Galileo West Georgia Newspapers, 9 August 2018.

2. Carroll Free Press, Feb 9, 1894, page 3, accessed on Galileo West Georgia Newspapers on 9 August 2018

Copyright © Michelle Ganus Taggart 2020, All rights reserved. 
  No use without permission 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

But wait! There's More--The murder of Mary Ellen Gurganus Pratt

murder, Rebecca Gurganus, David Gurganus, Mary Ellen Gurganus, Thomas Pratt, Bibb County, Elisha Reece
There is no question that Reece murdered Mary Ellen (Gurganus) Pratt, nor that he seriously injured Ellen's elderly Father David. The story is well documented and includes witnesses to not only the murder, but to the events leading up to the murder. In addition, Elisha Reece never denied either killing Ellen nor mortally wounding her elderly father, David Gurganus. 

The story about Ellen, sister to my fourth great grandfather James (Gur)Ganus, intrigued me. Research had led me to not only the court records about the murder trial and subsequent hanging but also to many newspaper articles that were widely published throughout the US. The details of the story created a great deal of excitement and the hanging reportedly attracted close to five thousand people who came to witness Elisha's death at the gallows.

Those who have followed my blog for a while may remember the sensational story I shared about the murder back in 2012, but for those who are new to my blog, I suggest that you read the full detailed story first, which can be found in three parts:

Despite a large amount of information I was able to originally find about the murder, I knew there was another side to the story. A line in the final newspaper article intrigued me and left me wanting to find more. Referring to Elisha, it read: 
"Before leaving the prison, he gave an imperfect sketch of his life and of the circumstances connected with the murder." 
Although I know we never fully know all the whys and wherefores of any event that occurred over 100 years ago, I wondered what Elisha had shared about his life and the circumstances of the murder and so I had attempted to find a place where his final words were recorded. 

Based on the testimony of witnesses, I wondered, was Elisha Reece really motivated to commit murder solely because Ellen rejected his proposal and swore out a peace warrant against him? Despite efforts to find more, what I shared in my blog eight years ago appeared to be all that was available about the story.....that is until recently. 

A few weeks ago, while looking for any new additions to newspaper collections that might provide added insight about my ancestors, I stumbled onto Elisha Reece's confession!!!  --a testament to the fact that things are always being added online and it's always worth the effort to check back. 

While the article is a bit lengthy, if you are as curious as I was about Elisha Reece's justification for killing Ellen and mortally wounding her father, you will find the following confession worth the read: 

Confession of Elisha Reece
The following is the confession of Elisha REECE, who was convicted at the July Term of Bibb Superior Court, 1849, of the murder of Mrs. ELLEN PRATT, in this county on the 16th of May last; made at his own request in the presence of THOMAS BAGBY, Deputy Sheriff; WILLIS H. HUGHES, County Jailor; Dr. R. McGoldrick, the County Surgeon, and taken down by W. K. DeGraffenreid, Esq., at half past 9 o’clock, on the morning of the day of his execution, Friday, September 7th, 1849— 
“I was born in York District, S. C., but left there and went to Mecklenburg County, N. C., where I married and remained some time. I finally left and came to Wilkinson county, in this State, where I remained for about twelve months, and then removed to the Cherokee country and remained there until the first of this year, when I came to Wilkinson County, in this State, where I remained for about twelve months and then removed to the Cherokee country and resided there until the first of this year, when I came to Bibb county, the place where I was living when the crime was committed, for which I am about to forfeit my life. I am the father of seven or eight children—have been twice married—my last wife is still living, and at her daughter’s in Floyd county. I came to this county on the 4th of January last and rented a house from JOHN H. DAVIS, near the residence of DAVID GURGANUS, the father of the unfortunate woman whom I murdered. This difficulty commenced by my having heard two mornings in succession, some person halloo at a camp near my house. The second morning I saw the woman, Mrs. ELLEN PRATT, leave her father’s house and walk up the road by the fence and go into the woods just above the camp and did not return until after sun-up. I went to Mr. GURGANUS’ well for water and whilst drawing the water she came out the woods to the house. I said to her, in jest, that I had seen a sight that morning.—She asked me what sight I had seen?—and I replied that it was useless to tell her, as she knew herself. Her father and her mother were present. This led to a quarrel and hard feelings between the family and myself. About a week afterwards, and on the day of the murder, I started to a blacksmith’s shop, to have some work done and to have it finished by the time I should call for it. On my return from the shop I stopped at Mr. GURGANUS’, to get some things I had left, and Mrs. PRATT saw me as I approached the gate. She told me not to come in, and abused me very much. After this I went home and commenced ploughing, and old Mrs. GURGANUS came, brought my things and threw them over the fence. I was drinking all this time, and when I quit ploughing, was quite overcome with liquor. I started to Mr. DAVIS’, to carry the plough home, and carried my flask to get it filled at the grocery, on my way to DAVIS’. I got the liquor, went to the workshop, and while there saw Mrs. PRATT pass, going towards home. It struck me that she had been to Esquire RILEY’S after a Warrant, as I had heard she had threatened to take me with one. I left the shop and went to Hop Davis, to see if she had the Warrant. DAVIS had told me that if she did take me, he would stand my security. DAVIS told me “she had got a Warrant for he went with her to get it.” I asked him what kind of a Warrant it was? –and he told me it was a Peace Warrant, I then asked DAVIS to take a dram—he refused—but I took one. I then told him that they (meaning old man GURGANUS and his family,) could but get what little I had and my life too.—After this I think I went home, got my gun, and on my way met Major ARMSTRONG. When I got near the gate, the old man came out and asked me what business I had there. I made some reply. The old man said something else—I jerked the gate open and struck him with the gun. Just at this time Mrs. PRATT ran out and I shot her. I went home—knew that I had done something wrong—thought I would escape, and started—but changed my mind, and was returning home when I was taken. If I had been sober it never would have occurred. I feel resigned to my fate, and hope it will be a warning to all who shall see me executed. Signed  ELISHA REECE.”  At bout half past 1 o’clock yesterday, REECE was executed, in the presence of several thousand persons, of all grades and both sexes. He met his fate, we learn, with the utmost fortitude. (1))

I had hoped that reading Elisha's side of the story would help establish the facts of the event, but once again, it seems to have created as many or more questions than it resolved. 

The article did provide some background, but it certainly didn't show either Elisha or Ellen in a very favorable light. For instance, I found it interesting that Elisha didn't know for sure how many children he had, stating that he had "seven or eight children." I also took note that his wife was living in Floyd County with her daughter and he had moved quite a few miles away to Bibb county and wondered about the story behind that decision. Elisha's revelations about Ellen's activities certainly weren't flattering to her and I wondered if there was truth to his claims about the fifty-year-old widow's actions that night prior to her murder or was his story an effort to get revenge for the scathing reports about him in the newspapers? Had Ellen acted out of anger because he called her character into question in front of her parents? Or was his action the result of the bitterness of a rejected suitor as she and others had claimed? Others testified that he was angry because she rejected his proposal and sought to retaliate. Was there truth to that story or was that simply the story she told? Regardless, certainly, his drinking had helped to escalate the situation, a fact he acknowledged when he said, "If I had been sober it never would have occurred."

justice, Murder in Macon, A southern Sleuth, Mary Ellen Pratt, Elisha Reece, Elisha Reese, Bibb County, hanging
Either way, in the end, Ellen was dead and justice was served when Elisha was executed. But the question remains, how much of Elisha's confession was true? We will never know. But finding the article underscores that there's always more to the story. 

1.  Confession of Elisha ReeceThe Southern Museum (Macon, GA.) 1848-1850, September 08, 1849, Image 3, Accessed on Georgia Historic Newspapers May 17, 2020. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2020, All rights reserved. 
  No use without permission