Friday, July 29, 2016

Photo Friday---Blanche Ganus

This is another photo of my great grandmother, Sarah (Sally) Faucett and her only daughter Blanche Elmina who only lived about 7 months. I love this picture of Gr Grandma Sally. Blanche is buried in the Manassa Cemetery, outside of Manassa, Colorado. I shared another picture of her and the cemetery where she is buried HERE.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

-Forgive Us-

"Forgive us." Two simple words so easily said, but often so hard to give. As I pondered Tucker's final request, I wondered how quickly those who loved Tucker were able to forgive and move on? Could Nena's parents ever forgive them for the pain they had brought them and could Nena's children ever forgive Tucker for the mother that he took from them?

Although I began with the ending as I shared this story (see part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE), my initial discovery of Tucker and Nena Frances' tragic deaths actually started with the discovery of their death certificates. I knew that some of my Gurganus folks had gone to Texas, so one day I went through the Texas Death Certificates, looking for members of my Gurganus family. I was excited to see that there were several Gurganus folks listed.

First, I came across Nena Frances Gurganus' death certificate.

Nena Frances Mitchell, Tucker Royal Gurganus, Weatherford Texas, genealogy, family history, ancestry, death

When I read "Gun shot wounds," I literally felt my stomach drop.  I also noticed that the informant was her sister from Oklahoma, although her parents were both living close by. Initially confused, I wondered if maybe there had been some sort of a hunting accident? But then I came to the next death certificate, which just happened to be her husband's.

Husband and wife had died on the exact same day, one of a gunshot wound and the other by suicide. Although I had no additional details at this point, I certainly had my suspicions. Hoping that I could learn more, I turned to newspapers.

The details of the story were consistently reported in various papers. As I shared in the previous post, the camp operator found the couple lying on the bed and both had been shot to death.

San Antonio Light,  4 Oct 1937
Although most articles reported essentially the same details, several  newspapers offered a few additional facts, helping me understand some of the preceding events.
Fort Worth, Oct 4, (AP) --The bodies of a man and woman, found shot to death in Weatherford, Texas, tourist cabin, today had been identified as Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Gurganus, missing since the husband was released here on $2,500 bond September 18. 
Gurganus was released by Justice of the Peace Marvin Beaty after making bond after filing of a fugitive warrant. He was wanted in Lake Charles, La. on forgery charges."  

An article in The Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas, published on 5 October 1937 provided the following information:

Weatherford, Tex.--Coroner W. R. Hawkins Monday returned a verdict of murder and suicide in the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Gurganus found shot Sunday in a tourist camp here. 
Gurganus was under a charge of forgery at Lake Charles, La., and faced trial under the habitual criminal act. The couple, which had been at the camp since last Thursday had been previously residing in Fort Worth. The bodies were buried at Athens, Tex., Monday where relatives of Gurganus live. 

While some descendants indicate that family lore says Tucker went to the tourist camp alone and that Nena went to visit him, most newspapers imply that the couple had gone there together.

What happened between Thursday when they arrived at the camp and Sunday when Tucker shot Nena and then took his own life? Had ending their lives been part of the original plan when they checked into the camp or did something happen between Thursday and Sunday that fueled the desperation?

There was one additional haunting detail reported in many of the newspaper accounts. A note written in pencil was left in on the table beside the couple. It said simply:
"Forgive us. Bury us together." 
Were these really the final words expressed by both Tucker and Nena? Do they reflect remorse for their final act or remorse for their previous choices that led them to that point? Or are they the words of a desperate husband, unable to face his future as a  "habitual criminal," or even possibly the words of a husband unwilling to allow his wife to leave him?

We will never know what was in their minds and hearts in those final minutes, but we do know their request was delivered to heavy hearts. Whether they were forgiven by those who loved them or not, the request was honored and they were both buried in Bethel Cemetery in Parker County, Texas.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, July 22, 2016

Foto Friday--Gene Barr

Although this picture is not a mystery, I still wanted to share it because it is a picture of one of my favorite people in the whole world. Gene Barr. He had a special ability to make others feel good and loved.

One of the first things I did every summer after we arrived at Grandma Ganus' house in Sanford, Colorado was to run down the road to Barr's grocery store to let Gene Barr know that we had arrived. In my mind, he was just as eager for us to get there as we were and I just had to let him know that we had arrived. Oh how I loved him!

He never disappointed and always acted like he was just thrilled to see me and had been eagerly waiting for me to get there. Then he would always tell me to grab myself a bottle of pop. It was a small ole timey country store and it had a small cooler by the counter that held bottles of pop. I would open up the top of the cooler, reach down inside and pick out my favorite......Nehi Grape. I would pop off the lid on the side of the cooler and drink in the cold grape deliciousness. I was in Colorado and among those I loved so dearly. Life was good.

Gene Barr, Sanford, Colorado, summer vacation, genealogy, ancestry, familly

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Serving Time

Huntsville State Prison
By Nick DiFonzo from Houston, Texas (Texas death house)
 [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Those who knew Nena and Tucker knew there had been trouble brewing for some time. But even in such cases, murder and suicide is seldom the expected outcome.(See part one of this story here.)  As I began to research the couple, I realized that both had had difficult lives long before meeting each other.

Interestingly enough, Tucker Royal Gurganus was not the first ex-con who had caught Nena's eye. Her first husband, Emmett Pettiette had also been in and out of prison. The Texas Convict and Conduct Registers for the years 1875-1945 show that Emmett spent time in the Texas prisons Huntsville, Ramsey and Imperial in 1925 for forgery, but the records also indicate that he received a full pardon from the Governor by telegram the following year. But soon he was back at it and on January 27, 1933, The Tyler Journal newspaper identified Emmett Pettiette the "ex-con" as an accomplice in the robbery of the First State Bank of Eustace.

Life had been a bumpy road for Tucker from the time he was little. When he was three years old, his father, James Taylor Gurganus died. His mother Malinda (Thacker) Gurganus, then had her hands full caring for the children still at home. She also did what she could to keep their small farm running in order to feed and clothe the family. But twelve years later, when Tucker was 15, his mother died and he and his brother Lloyd were left to find their own way. Sometime after Nena and Emmett divorced, Tucker married Nena. Unfortunately, life didn't get any easier for either of them.

By the time Tucker was 25, he had spent time in the Texas criminal system. Like Emmett Pettiette, Tucker too served in Ramsey in 1926 and I wondered if the two men knew each other. However, Tucker's record on the Texas Convict and Conduct register is considerably more extensive and reveals a man who refused to conform and who fought against authority.

In 1926 he escaped from Ramsey and was recaptured the same day. A few days later Tucker once again escaped.The records are somewhat confusing at this point but mention that in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary he had also escaped and was gone for over a year before he was caught and taken to the Huntsville Prison.

In April of 1929, he escaped from solitary confinement in Ferguson State Farm but was recaptured a day later. He then spent 238 hours in solitary confinement for fighting. A month later he was once again sent to solitary. His time was split between Ramsey, Huntsville, and Ferguson before he was finally discharged in 1931.

The prison records offer a physical description of Tucker. He had brown eyes and brown hair and stood at five foot eight 1/2 inches. According to the record, despite being orphaned, he somehow managed to complete high school. As I scrolled through the record, his education made him stand out among many of the other prison inmates, many of whom were considerably less educated. The record indicated that he had been able to work as a bookkeeper for a time. (1)

Truly this paints the picture of a man who was not afraid to take chances and who was willing to risk it all in an attempt to regain his freedom. What happens when such a man feels trapped and without options? Newspaper reports following his suicide provided more details of the events in the days leading up to his and Nena's deaths and I will share those in the upcoming post.

(1); Texas, Convict and Conduct Registers, 1875-1945 for T. R. Gurgonus, Convict Ledgers, Huntsville, B-52021-057100.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, July 15, 2016

Foto Friday-John Rainwater's headstone

This photo was taken by a cousin on my Rainwater side. Thank you Trudy! John Rainwater was my second great-granduncle. I descend through his sister, Olivia Rainwater.

John was born in Cedartown, Polk County, Georgia on the 19th June 1832 but he and his wife Bargilla Moore moved to Texas. John died 14 June 1890 in Hamilton, Upshur, Texas and is buried in the Rock House Cemetery.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Perfectly Still

The camp operator slowly opened the door and peered inside the small room at the tourist camp. No one had been seen coming or going from the room all day. Was anyone there? Had the man who rented the room taken off without paying the bill? As the operator looked around the room for evidence of its status, he realized that there lying on the bed perfectly still was a man and a woman. Each had a gunshot to the head. Beside the man lay a pistol. 

Typical tourist camp
By Unknown or not provided 
- U.S. National Archives and Records Administration,
 Public Domain,

It was a typical warm humid fall Sunday on the third of October 1937 in the tourist camp located in Weatherford, Texas. Typical of other such camps, some people stayed a night and others stayed longer but generally the camp operator had some idea of their status and plans. Finding the occupants dead was certainly not typical. Had no one heard the gun shot? What had happened? 

A few days earlier, on the 30th of September, thirty-six-year-old Tucker Royal Gurganus checked into the camp. Some say he came alone and that later his wife Nena Frances Mitchell came for a visit, but I have no evidence to this effect. The couple had been married for several years but there had been some difficult times in their marriage and some say there had been talk of a divorce. While they had not had children together, Nena had three children from her previous marriage.

Tucker Royal Gurganus was born 3 November 1901 in Anderson County, Texas to parents, James Taylor Gurganus and Malinda Thacker. Both James and Malinda were Alabamans by birth, but had become part of the great migration to Texas and it was there in Texas that they brought their seven children into the world. 

Nena Frances was born January 17, in 1905 to Charlie C. Mitchell and Emma Trammell, who were both native-born Texans. Charlie and Emma also had 7 children, five of whom were girls. Frances was their second child and their second daughter.

Nena was only seventeen when she married her first husband, Emmit O. Pettiette in 1922. Over the next five years, they had three children, two girls, and a boy. Nena and Emmitt eventually divorced and she took their 3 children and moved in with her parents. 

At some point, Nena and Tucker met and married, but he too had a nose for trouble and thankfully there are records that at least help tell a portion of their story, which I will share in upcoming posts. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, July 8, 2016

Photo Friday--Blanche Elmina Faucett

William F. Ganus
Sarah E. Faucett
Elmina Ganus
This photo is of my great grandparents, William Franklin Ganus b. 1853 Georgia and Sarah E. Faucett b. 1864 Georgia and their daughter Blanche Elmina Ganus. I assume she was named after her grandmother who was Elmina (Bowers )Faucett.  

Blanche was born 18 February 1891 in Manassa, Conejos, Colorado and died September of that same year. She was buried in the Old Manassa Cemetery outside of Manassa, Colorado. She was their only daughter. 
Old Manassa Cemetery
Outside of Manassa Colorado 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Adventures of "Little P"

We learned a little about Benjamin Powell "Dock" Gurganus and his wife Trannie, in an earlier blog post that I shared HERE. Recently, cousin Betty shared an additional story about Dock that her mother told her. Knowing his determination to have peach pie, I was delighted to learn about his tender side. This is the story Betty shared:
pigs, Dock Gurganus, Alabama, Genealogy, Ancestry, Family History

"Doc's sow had a litter of pigs including one little runt that the sow pushed aside and refused to feed. Since he knew it would die, Dock took it and bottle-fed it. 

As it grew, it followed him around wherever he went on the farm. He named it Little P. One super hot summer day, friends and some family members came by for a visit and were sitting on the porch, talking and enjoying each other's company, trying to stay cool.

Dock walked to the edge of the porch where the well was located and lowered the well bucket down into the well. 

He  waited for the telltale gurgle as water filled the bucket, then drew it back up. He held it over the drinking bucket and pulled the lever, so that the fresh, cool water filled the bucket.  He rehung the well bucket and placed the dipper into the drinking bucket. He took a few swallows and then threw the rest of the water in the dipper on Little P, who was lying on the end of the porch. 

Dock thought the water would cool off Little P. Instead, the pig let out a high-pitched squeal, rolled onto his back, kicked a couple of times, pitched over and died. The cold water had caused it to have a heart attack! 

Dock stood there a few seconds, then turned to his wife and said, slowly and deliberately, "My-- goodness, --Trannie,-- I--have--killed--Little P." People on the porch did not know whether to laugh or cry. so they did a little of both."

Oh if only I had more stories like this about my ancestors! Learning about our ancestor's life experiences and how they handled them helps me feel as if I know them, endears them to me and makes me glad we're kin. Thanks once again Betty for sharing with us!

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Born on the Fourth of July

I will never forget when our little daughter asked with a big pouty lip why there wasn't a parade or fireworks on her birthday. With her birthday falling just a few weeks after mine, I am sure it was hard for her to understand that the parades and fireworks were for our nation and not for me personally, although my birthday fell on the fourth.

Although we always celebrated my birthday with the traditional gifts and cake, I always felt just a little slighted, as many kids do who share their birthday with a holiday. I didn't necessarily want everything on my birthday decorated in red, white and blue every year. While my siblings got to eat their favorite foods on their birthday, somehow it always seemed most fitting to have a cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs for my birthday, not Chinese food, which was my favorite. The day was always pretty well planned with traditional activities not of my choosing.

And yet, the nature of the holiday itself made for a fun and exciting day, and it always began with a parade. I remember standing with my hand over my heart as the American flag was followed by veterans of past wars. The bands played patriotic music as they marched past while children waved small American flags and marched in place. I was taught at home and at school that our great nation was founded on principles of freedom and sealed with the blood of many great patriots throughout history.

I remember crowds gathering in the evening for the fireworks display. We would throw our blankets out on the grass and sit as families and friends. The program always began with the song "America the Beautiful" and the crowd sang along. As the fireworks lit up the sky, I always thought about the words,
"And the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there."
Truly the Fourth of July is a great time to remember and celebrate all that we have as Americans, and for some of us, a nice day for a big slice of birthday cake.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Friday, July 1, 2016

Photo Friday-Olin E. Lee

Alice Cathleen Suttles, James Marshall Lee, Olin Eli Lee, Carroll County Georgia, Ganus, Ancestry, Family

Olin Eli Lee, born 31 May 1888 and was the son of James Marshall Lee and Alice Cathleen Suttles. Olin married Maggie (Luna) Chambers on May 27, 1906.  They reared their family in Carrollton, Carroll County, Georgia where Olin farmed and Maggie cared for their children.

The picture above is of the descendants of Olin and Luna. There was no source indicated for the photo.

For more information about this family, or to share information that you may have, please contact me at the "Email Me" button on the right.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved