Friday, April 29, 2016

Foto Friday- All Dressed Up

Photos without names trouble me. Their faces seem to haunt me, to call to me, asking me to give them a name and tell their stories. My hope is that by sharing this un-named photo that someone will recognize the children, help me identify them and hopefully I can then find and tell their story.

I have absolutely no idea who these children are but their picture was in my Grandma Ganus' little suitcase. Two little children all dressed up to have their picture taken. By their features, I am guessing that at least the oldest one is a boy and they were living in the era when boys wore dresses up to a certain age. What do you think? Are they boys or girls?

Whoever they are, I would love to be able to save their name with their picture and better yet, learn a little about their story.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lillie's Love

Walker County Alabama, Charlie Fletcher Gurganus, Fletcher, Fletch, Lillie Powell, Gurganus, ancestry, descendants, genealogy
Charlie Fletcher Gurganus
On March 22, 2016, I wrote about Lillie Powell Gurganus and her beautiful long hair. Much of what I learned about her was shared by a descendant, Betty Wedgeworth. You can find Lillie's story HERE.

Betty indicated that after Lillie's passing, her family discovered among her personal treasures handmade Valentines, cards and birthday messages from her sweetheart and husband, Charlie Fletcher Gurganus. I couldn't help but wonder what kind of man took the time to create such expressions of his love? Knowing that both Fletcher and Lillie had grown up in a small farming community in Alabama during a time when few in the area were educated much beyond 8th grade, I was intrigued by a man who would express his love for his wife through the written word.

As I've learned about Fletcher's life from descendants, I discovered a theme woven through his life and that was his loyalty and love for God, family and music.

Born the 25th of August 1893 to John Gurganus and Amanda Evans,  Fletcher or Fletch as he was often called, was the youngest in a large family and lovingly spoiled by both his parents and his older siblings.  He grew up in the Northwest part of Alabama, about 22 miles from Birmingham in the green hills of Walker County, Alabama. Rich with hills, hollows, dense trees, rivers and lakes, Walker County provided many opportunities for hunting and fishing and was in many ways, the perfect playground for little boys.

Late in the 19th century, coal and lumber provided additional opportunities for men living in Walker County to support their families, yet many continued to rely on traditional farming. Such was the case for the Gurganus family. Fletcher's father, John, farmed and his mother, Mandy, had her hands full raising Fletcher and his eight siblings.

It was there in Walker County that young Fletcher won the heart of Lillie Powell. They courted, fell in love and were married on the 13 December 1914.  Fletcher followed in his father's footsteps and farmed out of necessity, but he was only too glad to have his children take over when they were old enough. He and Lillie had five children; Ova, Iva, John, Glenn and Doston.

Like many of the Gurganuses, Charlie Fletcher was musically gifted and loved to share his gift with others. Several of his songs were published in church songbooks. A devoted Christian, he could be found leading the singing at church and spent many summers traveling around the South, teaching music at Church of Christ singing schools. He would spend a week at one church before moving onto the next.

Although he willingly shared his talent with many in the community, Fletcher seemed to be the happiest when he spent time with his family. He loved to gather his family and have them sing while he played the organ.

Family Picture taken about 1930
Children from eldest to youngest:
Ova, Iva, John, Glen and Doston

On March 10, 1975, the love of his life, Lillie, passed away leaving Fletcher alone.  He lived another seventeen years, but never remarried. During his final years, he divided his time between his daughters. In Memphis, Tennessee on the 15th of October, 1991, ninety-nine year old Fletcher passed away peacefully in his sleep.

Fletcher playing his organ. Organ is now in the possession of
his grandson. 
I was delighted to be introduced to Charlie Fletcher Gurganus, a man who not only took the time to tenderly pen love notes to his beloved Lillie, but a man devoted to God, family and music, who willingly shared his love and talents with others throughout his life.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, April 22, 2016

Foto Friday- What Is the Message?

Photos without names trouble me. Their faces seem to haunt me, to call to me, asking me to give them a name and tell their stories. My hope is that by sharing this un-named photos that someone will recognize the couple, help me identify them and hopefully I can then find and tell their story.

This picture intrigues me. Although I can't be for sure,  I suspect it is from my Grandma Ganus's family, so possibly a Mickelsen or Cornum??

It is an interesting background and I wonder what the pattern is on the right side. It almost looks like it is suppose to be a plant, yet so little of it shows in the picture, so what's the point of it?

The real question is, just what is the significance of the lady holding the album open? (And where is that album now???!!!)  Maybe I've watched too many movies, but I almost feel like she is trying to tell me something.

Whoever they are, I would love to be able to save their name with their picture and better yet, learn a little about their story. Do you know them?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Something in the House to Eat

I remember the small town grocery stores from my childhood. A fraction of the size of today's stores, they nonetheless seemed to have everything we needed. Shopping also use to take a fraction of the time it takes today and I often find myself grumbling over the complexities of the task. Shouldn't things be simpler now that society is more advanced?

Obviously the big difference is the options today. Today we have an enormous frozen foods section, and shelves lined with the options that are salt free, gluten free, non GMO or organic----and that doesn't include all the variation of herbs, spices and ethnic variations for even the simplest of products. The meat department is equally complex with varieties of meat touting grain fed, free range and cage free and we can't forget the signs for things such as "natural chicken." Such signs always make me want to ask where is the unnatural chicken?

family history, genealogy, ancestry, feeding a family, farms, milch cows

Those days when I feel tired by it all,  it's good to be reminded that as complicated as shopping is today, providing food for a family use to be even more time intensive during my grandparents' era. My Grandma Hazel Ganus shared a little about what it was like for her parents to feed their family. She said that growing up they never had much money to spend on treats, but they always had something in the house to eat. In her life history Grandma recorded:

Dad had milch cows so we had plenty of milk to drink and cook with. We also had our own butter, and sometimes we made cheese. He also had pigs, we would kill for meat and to make our lard for cooking. Also a calf or two or an old cow that couldn't have calves any longer. We always had enough meat to last through the winters or cold months. For summer meat he would cure the meat in salt brine which had to be strong enough to hold a egg on top of it, or smoke it with apple tree limbs, or by rubbing enough salt in it to keep. And sometimes in the winter he would hang it in the grainery and let it freeze. We always had our supply of flour, corn meal or graham flour for a year too. Dad would take enough meat to the mill either in Los Cerritos or Conejos. It seemed to keep very well then. Mother raised chickens, so we had our eggs and fryers and stewers. From the eggs and butter mother would buy what staple things we needed. Sometimes she and dad would drive to LaJara or Alamosa for these things. If they went to Alamosa it would take all day to go. They always took the back road then as it was well traveled. My dad and older brother liked to hunt and fish. I remember Martin coming home from a hunting trip with wild ducks and rabbits hanging from both sides of his saddle. These were always a welcome sight. We all liked baked duck and mother would sometimes keep the jack rabbits, grind the meat and mix it with other meat and make sausage. It was real good

It's a good reminder that now really is simpler, although the options are more complex. While standing and gazing into the stuffed refrigerator and claiming there is nothing to eat, in reality, most of us have to admit, there is always something in the house to eat and thankfully unless we choose to, in today's world we don't have to be the ones to raise it, hunt for it or grow it.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, April 15, 2016

Foto Friday -The Unknown

Photos without names trouble me. Their faces seem to haunt me, to call to me, asking me to give them a name and tell their stories. My hope is that by sharing this un-named photo that someone will recognize the couple, help me identify them and hopefully I can then find and tell their story.

Every so often I come across this picture that was shared with me many years ago. Sadly, it was and still is unmarked. I remember being told at the time that while they were unsure of exactly who these people were but they knew they were a Ganus couple. Unfortunately I am ashamed to admit that while I saved the photo, I neglected to save who shared it with me and what Ganus line they descend from. Yes, I have learned my lesson and it's a painful one. 

I've analyzed this photo many times. Their haunting eyes, the man's white shirt and dress pants with well worn shoes. The woman's silk dress, necklace and pin. The house is built off of the ground, so does this perhaps imply that it was somewhere where there was a chance of flooding? (Can someone enlighten me here?) And is that a dog or a giant cat on the rug? 

Whomever they are, I would love to be able to save their name with their picture and better yet, learn a little about their story. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One of the Best Boys I have Ever Known

Sadly just two years following the death of her beautiful daughter, Lucille, Ella (Jones) Rainwater said goodbye to yet one more of her children, her 32 year old son, Clarence. 

Clarence Olin Rainwater was the fourth child of Alexander Forrest and Ella (Jones) Rainwater. Born the 11th of November 1895, he was reared in the small postal community Ondee, just southeast of Olin and eight miles from Hamilton, Texas. His father farmed and his mother took care of their large family. Religion was important to his family and played a big role in Clarence's upbringing. 

He was just a young man of seventeen when his father died, leaving a big hole in their family and the community. From then until the time he registered for WWI, Clarence remained at home working and helping to support his mother and his younger sisters. (1) But when the call came to serve his county, he was among the first in Hamilton County to register. (2)

Patriotism was running high in America and men were anxious to do their part in preserving freedom for their country and their families. Much to Clarence's disappointment, he was selected to remain in the US and serve as a training officer rather than being shipped overseas.  It was while serving in that capacity that he contracted the dreaded tuberculosis.

tuberculosis, Rainwater, Clarence Olin Rainwater, Lois C. Gray, World War I, Texas law, Alamogordo
T.B. patients at hospital
In an effort to fight the disease, he first went to the well known tuberculosis sanitorium in Denver, Colorado to receive medical treatment. His treatment there included an abundance of fresh air and sunshine, however he did not improve as he had hoped and soon went to El Paso, Texas to receive treatment there.

For four years Clarence fought the awful disease. While in the hospital, tall, gray eyed, brown haired Clarence fell in love with Lois C. Gray, who was a nurse. With optimism for the future, he proposed to her and despite the grim prognosis for most tuberculosis patients, she accepted.

Clarence and Lois didn't let Texas' law prohibiting individuals with communicable diseases from marrying dissuade them, but hopped across the border into New Mexico where the laws were more lax. There in Alamogordo, Clarence and Lois became man and wife on the 27th of May 1927. A brief mention of the marriage appeared in the Alamogordo News, dated Thursday, June 2, 1927. It read simply:
Miss Lois C. Gray, Denver Colo. and Mr. Clarence O. Rainwater of Witchita Falls, Texas were united in marriage at Alamogordo, May 27th of Judge Stalcup. 
But Clarence would never recover and on the 15th of March, 1928, less than a year after he and Lois married, he succumbed to the disease. He was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso.Ted Couch, husband to Clarence's first cousin, Louisa Olive Lloyd expressed what many felt that day when he said: 

"He was one of the best boys I have ever known, and in his death his loved ones and friends in his country have suffered a great loss." (3)     

1. WWI Draft Registration, Ancestry
2.  Obituary from The Hamilton Herald-Record, April 13, 1928
3. Ibid 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Birthplace Pedigree Chart #MyColorfulAncestry

When J. Paul Hawthorne shared his colorful five generation pedigree recently on Facebook, it quickly went viral. It was a fun idea and I couldn't help but jump in and participate.

Simple in nature, it nonetheless has generated some interesting realizations as well as new questions for me.

We know that for every major move in an ancestor's life, there was generally a push and a pull. Something pushed them into moving from a location and something pulled them to the new location.
While I know the reason for some of the moves my ancestors made, I realized that for other moves, I have no idea what motivated them and so more research is needed.

I also realized that I don't know where some of the couples from different locations met, so I would like to learn more about them.

The graph also underscores why my DNA test at Ancestry estimates my ethnicity as 37% Scandinavian.

As I looked at the chart, I thought about the traditions that have been handed down in my family.  I thought of my aebleskiver pan that has been passed down through several generations, and the tradition of biscuits and gravy for breakfast, cornbread with meals and many of the other things my family eats have likely been passed down. I can see that the predominance of Danish and Southern US heritage is apparent not only on the chart but in my life. This chart helped remind me of why my family does some of the things we do.

So while this initially began as a simple, fun activity, it underscores the benefits of finding new ways to look at our family history and how doing so can lead to new questions and consequently greater understanding.

Paul shared details about his idea on his blog, GeneaSpy which you can find HERE  If you would like to make your own colorful five generation chart, he shared the template at this link.

Thank you Paul for sharing this fun idea!
J. Paul Hawthorne, GeneaSpy, genealogy, ancestry, #MyColorfulAncestry

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, April 1, 2016

Picture This!

It's been interesting to note which posts on my blog have the most visitors. Heads and tails above the rest, my three part series about the arrest and trial of Marion Gurganus, a moonshiner, which I shared in February 2013, continues to be the most popular. I too was intrigued by the details of the story and equally interested in what I learned about moonshining in the south. You can find part 1 of that series here , but be sure and read all three posts to get the complete story. 

Recently I received an email from a new found cousin, Betty Wedgeworth. She shared the picture below of the Gurganus family which includes several of the individuals mentioned in the moonshining story and graciously consented to allow me to share the photo on my blog. Thank you Betty for not only sharing the picture with me, but also for identifying each family member! 

The picture was taken about three years before the events that occurred in the story.

Gurganus family, Walker County Alabama, moonshiners, ancestry, family history, ancestry,
Back: Bertie Gurganus, W.P. Gurganus, Marion Gurganus, Isaac Wilson Gurganus, William Zachary Gurganus, John Gurganus, James Samuel Gurganus, Joseph Jasper Gurganus
Front: Melissa Johnston Gurganus, Cary, Ludie Thompson Gurganus, Belle Waller Gurganus, Sarah Gurganus Dunn, Amanda Evans Gurganus (my great grandmother), Rene Odum Gurganus, Susan Odum Gurganus (1907, Oakman, AL)

****James Gurganus b. 1798 and my third great grandfather was a brother to John Wesley Gurganus  b. 1806. John Wesley Gurganus was Marion Gurganus's (shown above) grandfather. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved