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 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Zombies are Not My Thing


Fayetteville, Georgia, Senoia, Ganus, genealogy, ancestry, North Georgia, CarrolltonFayetteville, Georgia. Tell people you are going there and some want to talk about the popular series "The Walking Dead"  filmed in nearby Senoia. In fact, knowing that the Ganus family lived in Fayetteville for many years, someone recommended that I watch the series so I could see the area where my family had lived. So, I gave it a try, but I didn't last ten minutes. Apparently, zombies are not my thing, but being a genealogist, dead people are.

On our October trip to Georgia, one morning we drove from Carrollton where we were staying, to Fayetteville to see the area where the James (Gur)Ganus family had lived for nearly 30 years. 

Driving through North Georgia helped me better understand a few things about my ancestors and their moves in the 1800s in Georgia. 

For instance, the distance from Fayetteville to Carrollton didn't seem like much when viewed on a map, but driving the fifty miles brought new perspective as I considered the difficulty of taking that same trip in wagons through the dense trees while also navigating either through or around the numerous rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. Driving the distance helped me understand at a different level that the 76-mile move from Fayetteville to Cedartown that James' son, John made about 1850 had not been a casual event, but an intentional move.

I loved seeing the homes tucked back in among the trees and the numerous churches and cemeteries everywhere we drove. I wondered if James' son, John Ganus heart had ached for the beauty of Georgia when he and his family moved to the flat wide-open farmland of the San Luis Valley, Colorado in 1886, and then onto the plains of Oklahoma about ten years later.

Starrs Mill, Fayette County, Georgia
Starrs Mill Fayette County 

A few miles from Fayetteville, we stopped at the beautiful Starrs Mill on Whitewater Creek. It was peaceful and serene there. Although the current mill isn't the original mill that was built in 1825, I wondered if the Ganus family had reason to go to the original mill or if they knew the family who owned it.   


Starrs Mill, Fayette County 


James and Betsy (McCluskey) Gurganus moved to Fayette County in time to be included in the 1840 census. I've always wondered what the push or pull was that influenced that move. Prior to Fayetteville, James and Betsy had lived in Bibb County where James' father David Gurganus and his stepmother Rebecca were living.

Fayette County Court House, research, genealogy
Fayette County Georgia Court House
The year 1838 was a pivotal year for the Gurganus family. That year, Mary Ellen (Gurganus) Pratt, sister to my 3rd great grandfather, James, was murdered. I shared that story HERE. That same year, James's brother, David was arrested in an unrelated incident, a story I shared HERE.

Is it just a coincidence or is it possible that either or both scandals contributed to James' move at about that same time and also contributed to the shortening of his name from Gurganus to Ganus?

Fayette County was created in 1825, so it was a relatively new county when the Ganus family first moved there. At that time the population was around 7,500 people and, "....there were two churches, two schools, three stores, five barrooms, a printing office, and a Division of the Sons of Temperance (or there probably would have been more barrooms)." (1)  Over the next thirty years, while Georgia continued to enlarge its borders and grow, James and Betsy worked on their farm and raised their children, ten in all. 

The Ganus family was living in Fayette County in  1862 when smallpox broke out. Impacted families who contracted the disease were quarantined as Fayetteville struggled to control the outbreak. 

The Ganus family was also in Fayette County when the War between the States broke out and they watched four sons go off to war, and one never came home. Although no large battles took place in Fayette County, it was the scene for several skirmishes and individuals have recorded some of the frightening experiences they experienced when Union soldiers came through. 

The Ganuses would have been among those who endured the challenges experienced during the years of reconstruction when basic commodities were scarce. "In 1867, the State of Kentucky sent corn and bacon to this (Fayette) County. The  Justices wrote . . . corn and bacon will be contributed to the suffering citizens of our County who are unable to support and help themselves."(2)

By 1870, Elizabeth had passed away and James moved in with their daughter Mary and her husband Burton Cook and that is the last record for James.  Although I feel confident that both were buried somewhere in Fayette County, there is no record of where either James or Betsy was laid to rest.

So this is my tie to Fayette County and why I was excited to pay a visit to The Fayette County Historical Society while there. The volunteers were so kind and eager to help. 


Fayette County Historical Society, Fayetteville, Fayette, Georgia
Fayette County Historical Society
Marriage records, genealogy, Fayette County Marriage Records, Book C
Fayette County Marriage Records, Book C

I was thrilled to learn that among their collection were marriage record books. James and Betsy's oldest child, Mary married Burton Cook in nearby Dekalb County and their son, John, my second great grandfather married Olivia Rainwater in Cedartown, Polk County. However, their children Margaret and David both married in Fayette County. Even though I already had the dates of their marriages, I loved being able to view their entries in the actual book. 



Margaret Ganus, James Blackmon, Fayette County Marriage records
Margaret Ganus and James Blackmon's marriage entry 



David Ganus, Malinda M. Davis, Fayette County Marriage records
David Ganus and Malinda M. Davis' marriage entry 
Not only did I not see any zombies while there, but I also didn't find any new information, yet I was so glad to have visited. A lot can be said about the experience we have of seeing the area where our ancestors lived and the feelings we experience as a result as well as the increase of understanding we gain in the process.

It was hard to leave Fayetteville that day and I couldn't shake that feeling that I had unfinished business there. Hopefully, someday I will return.  


1.  The History of Fayette County 1821-1971  published by the Fayette County Historical Society, Inc., First Edition, December 1977, The Fayette County Historical Society, p. 20

2. Ibid,  p. 20


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

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Rainwater Ford-I DID go there.



Joshua Rainwater, Mary Peterson, Olivia Rainwater, Tallapoosa, Rainwater Ford
Rainwater Ford on the Tallapoosa



Back in 2012 I wrote about my desire to someday visit Rainwater Ford, a landmark located outside of Tallapoosa, Georgia.   

I became aware of the property when I bought the book by Lois Owens Newman, "Haralson County, A History."  On page 222, I read the following:


"The Rainwater property, lot 157 lies along the Tallapoosa River and it is on this lot that the well known Rainwater Ford is located." (1990) 

A little research confirmed that my third great grandfather, Joshua Rainwater, had owned the property. In 1832, for the sum of $100.00 Joshua purchased Land Lot #57 in the 8th District of Haralson from Abner Carter. At the time, it consisted of 202 1/2 acres and was located in Carroll County, but due to boundary changes, the property now lies in Haralson County. 


genealogy, research, a southern sleuth, ancestry, family, Georgia
Rainwater Ford
Published by the U. S. Geological Survey 

Joshua was born on the 13th of November 1791 in South Carolina. He was the seventh of eleven children born to Solomon Rainwater and Ruth Felton. On January 20th, 1814, at the age of 23, Joshua volunteered to serve in Captain Alexander Morehead's Company, Col. Nash's Regiment in the battle that would be known as the "War of 1812." He survived his time in the army and returned home to South Carolina. Joshua married, moved his family to Georgia and later, after the passing of his wife Mary, he moved with sons John and Abner to Texas. There he applied for a pension and thanks to that document, we are able to see his signature. 



Joshua died on the 15th of August 1878 and is buried in Rock House Cemetery in Hamilton County, Texas. 

Visiting the location of Rainwater Ford had long been on my bucket list. I was so excited when in the fall of 2019, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Georgia. I pulled out my list of "must-sees" and we planned our trip. 

By plugging the longitude and latitude for Rainwater Ford provided on GA HomeTownLocator  into Google maps, we were able to find the location of Rainwater Ford. The area was beautiful, the dense trees lining the rushing water of the Tallapoosa and we could clearly see where the water was more shallow. 

Standing there on the bridge that spanned the river, I tried to imagine a time when Joshua and Mary and their children lived there. I imagined their sons and daughters fishing in the river and playing in the trees lining the river. I imagined the children cooling off in the water during the hot summer months.  I also imagined their daughter Olivia's delight when as a married woman, her husband John Monroe Ganus bought property adjacent to Joshua's. 

I wondered how many people took advantage of the shallow crossing there to cross the Tallapoosa and if the ford ever benefitted Joshua financially. 

It was a beautiful spot and I was thrilled that not only were we able to find it, but that finally, I could really say, "Rainwater Ford--I DID go there!" 


Rainwater Ford on the Tallapoosa 

To learn more about Joshua Rainwater, see the previous blog posts:





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




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Worshipping as Family, Neighbors and Friends, Tallapoosa Primitive Church

Tallapoosa Primitive Church, Carroll County, Carrollton, Georgia, Lee, Ganus
Inside the Tallapoosa Primitive Church
Carrollton, Georgia 

I could imagine them sitting there. Grandparents, parents and children--side by side, gathered together to sing and to worship. 

Peering in the windows of the Tallapoosa Primitive Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia, I felt that all over warm feeling of knowing that the Lee, Brock and Ganus families had once been there. 


My people, the people I've worked so hard to get to know on paper had worshipped in that church, walked those grounds, wept at the graves of their departed family members. It truly was hallowed ground. 



genealogy, ancestry, research, Ganus, Lee, Brock Walking through the cemetery, reading the names on the headstones of great aunts and uncles, I felt a new kind of connection to them.  Samuel and Rebecca (Ganus) Lee, Rebecca's sister, Marta Elizabeth Brock, and many others were laid to rest there. Seeing the many graves of ancestors, all in such close proximity underscored what I have always been taught, that the southerners stayed close to their family. Unlike today, where children, parents and grandparents often live many miles apart, years ago, many families chose to stay close as a means of help and support to each other. Certainly, this tendency was evident here. 



Tallapoosa Primitive Church and Cemetery
Carrollton, Georgia


Rebecca (Ganus) Lee
daughter of James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey
wife of Samuel Solomon Lee 

Martha (Ganus) Brock
daughter of James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey
wife of William C. Brock 


And although I didn't grow up living close to them, and didn't personally know their descendants, the need to be close is still there. But that closeness has come about in a different way. It has come as I've researched my ancestors, discovered and written their stories, and finally as I have visited and paid my respects to their final resting places. 


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



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Rain, Wind and Fear of Snakes, Blooming Grove Cemetery


Blooming Grove Cemetery, Polk County, Georgia, Genealogy, Frances Rainwater, Frances Ayers, Frances Bailey, Robert A. Bailey
Blooming Grove Cemetery 

As we pulled up to the property, I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. 

I do admit to a rather overactive imagination at times, but the setting was perfect for a scary movie. The sky was dark and ominous, the rain was coming down in a steady stream and there we sat way out in the country at a very old cemetery, which appeared to be basically abandoned. We debated whether we
really wanted to get out of the car or not.....and for many reasons. 

We really weren't dressed for that kind of rain and the cemetery obviously hadn't had much attention for some time. And then there was the issue of ....snakes. If you've read my blog for a while, you know about me and snakes.   

Phobically afraid of snakes, I had done my snake research prior to our trip to Georgia to see if the things I had heard were true and I had learned from "Venomous Snakes of Georgia" written by the GA Dept. of Natural Resources that Copperheads are found in wooded areas, "both wet and dry." In addition to that, I was cautioned by those who knew I planned to visit cemeteries that it had been a bad year for copperheads. Super. 



Bailey, Georgia, genealogy, research, ancestry,
Graves into the trees in Blooming Grove Cemetery 



But my desire to find Frances Rainwater Ayers Bailey's marker was incentive enough to get me out of the car. Daughter of Joshua and Polly (Peterson) Rainwater, I knew from a journal that she and her sister, Olivia, my second great grandmother, had been close and I was so glad to be able to "visit" her in some way.

As I looked around, I was intrigued by the numerous headstones covered with overgrowth, many tucked deep in the trees. I so badly wanted to explore them all but didn't dare. The rain and the fear of snakes prevented me from going too deep into the brush and I so kept praying that I would find Frances' marker out in the open. The whole experience was a little tense.....

And then there was the knocking.

Yes....knocking. Several times while we were there, I heard a knock---three knocks in a row to be exact. Looking around, I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. It sounded fairly close and it clearly was not a woodpecker. I know what they sound like. I walked around the abandoned church a couple of times to see if possibly someone had managed to get inside the old church and was trying to scare me away. (Yes, I've seen too many movies.) But it was boarded up with no obvious way to enter. 


Blooming Grove Church
Blooming Grove Church 

But what I did finally find was Frances Rainwater Ayers Bailey's marker. 

Obviously, it was not an old marker, and there were flowers there, so apparently, someone else had visited within the week. I wished I knew who. 


Frances Rainwater Ayers Bailey


The Ayers Family fenced area 

Frances' marker was in-between the Ayers' family fenced area and the church. Her first husband, Reuben Ayers had died in the Civil War, which was many years before Frances' approximate 1913 death date. 


Several years after Reuben's death, Frances married Robert Bailey. Although they lived next to Matilda in Haralson County right after Matilda lost her husband, the Baileys later moved to the Blooming Grove area and lived there for many years. It was a beautiful community known for its abundance of mineral springs. A newspaper article described it this way:
"Blooming Grove, about eight miles south of Cedartown, it is stated, is capable of being made a valuable resort for people in summer, several nice springs affording different varieties of water, fine scenery and pleasant surroundings generally being characteristics." (1)
As always, just standing there at Frances' humble little marker, I felt a warmth at seeing some physical evidence that she was real and I was so glad that I had braved the rain, wind and yes, even the fear of snakes that day to find Frances. 


Earlier I wrote a three-part series about Frances and those posts can be found here:

1. Cedartown Advertiser, 1878-1889, July 12, 1883, Image 3. Accessed on Georgia Historic Newspapers, Digital Library of Georgia. 


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



Wednesday, May 13, 2020

In Search of Matilda Rainwater Goggans

Photo by form PxHere
Piece by piece, the things that only months earlier had been belonged to her and her husband were sold. Trunks, tables, chests, secretary, clocks, nine lots of books, and much more were removed from their home and her life. (1)

Matilda's husband Josiah Goggans had done well in his 74 years of life and so they had lived comfortably. But at the age of 54, Matilda (Rainwater) Goggans found herself a widow and facing a new chapter in her life.  

Josiah Joseph Goggans passed on the 8th of August 1875 and was laid to rest in the Goggans family cemetery not far from where they lived. Was it Matilda's idea to bury him next to his first wife or did it come at the insistence of his children? Years later when Matilda passed, she would be buried in the Bethany Baptist Cemetery some distance away. 
Josiah Goggans, Bethany Baptist Church, Matilda Rainwater, Joshua Rainwater, Haralson County, Georgia
The road leading to Bethany Baptist Church where
the Rainwaters and Goggans attended 

Only fifteen years earlier, on June 14, 1860, 38-year-old Matilda Rainwater married Josiah Goggans. Josiah was a widower 20 years her senior, so it was safe to assume that she would outlive him. However, for a woman who did not marry until later in life, and who had never had children, spending the last 29 years of her life alone was an additional sorrow for her.  

When Matilda married Josiah, she instantly became a part of a well-established family because Josiah and his first wife had nine children together. Josiah was a well-known member of the community and made his living as a farmer and owner of a local store. 

I can't help but wonder what challenges Matilda faced as all tried to adjust to her new role as Josiah's wife and as the step-mother to his children. Some of his oldest children were only a couple of years younger than Matilda and were raising their own families. However, his youngest three children were still at home when Josiah and Matilda married. When a couple of years later,  the Civil War broke out, Josiah's youngest sons, Jasper and Carey marched off to war and neither ever returned home. There was little opportunity to develop a motherly type relationship with his adult children and it appears from the probate records, they felt little obligation to help support her at Josiah's death. 

Despite the fact that Josiah "departed this life possessed of a large estate of both real and personal property," the year following his death presented many challenges for Matilda. 

According to court documents, Josiah left a will naming Matilda as the executrix, and that will was presented to the court, but unfortunately, there were problems as stated by his children. (3) 

The court documents show that Josiah's children claimed that he didn't have title to the property he willed, and prior to his death, that he had stated that he was opposed to his will and wanted to change it. In addition, they indicated that he had not signed the will in the presence of witnesses and that Josiah didn't see the witnesses sign. Finally, the documents stated:
"That said Will is illegal and unatural in- That it - prohibith the wife and widow of any dower in said estate." (2) 
And what was the outcome? 
That the will was "set aside and made void on the grounds that it is impossible to carry said will into effect on the grounds that the property had been set apart as a homestead and there being no other property only that set apart as a homestead out of which to pay the legatees  named in the will."
Matilda then petitioned the court for a suitable allowance to be set apart from the estate for a 12 months' support for her. 

At the sale of Josiah's property, the majority of the furniture and farm implements were purchased by immediate and extended family members. Matilda's only purchases, however, were 1 sow, 1 pigg (sic), and 3 shoats, which are baby pigs. 

Although it had been an estate of considerable size, there were debts to be paid, and two years later, the land on which she and Josiah had lived was sold.



Bethany Baptist Church, Haralson County, Georgia 

At this point in her life, Matilda was more alone than she had ever been before. She lived at home with her parents for most of her life until after her mother's death and then she and her aging father, Joshua, lived with her brother John and his wife up until her marriage. But her father, along with both brothers had gone to Texas years prior to Josiah's passing.


Despite the desperate appearance of her situation, records show that Matilda lived in a home that she owned free of a mortgage. In terms of emotional support, for a time George Goggans, a 61-year-old widower and relative of Josiah's lived with her as a border, her sister Frances Bailey lived next door and Matilda remained in the community where she had lived for much of her life. (4) 

For the next 29 years, Matilda managed to support herself presumably by farming as indicated in the 1900 census.  When in 1904, she passed away at the age of 83, she was laid to rest in the cemetery beside Bethany Baptist Church where she had attended church as a child with her family and with Josiah. 


Rainwater, Bethany Baptist Cemetery, Bethany Baptist Church, Haralson County, Georgia,
Matilda Rainwater Goggans tombstone
Bethany Baptist Cemetery
Haralson County, Georgia 


It was there, in the Bethany Baptist Cemetery that I found Matilda and it was there that I became intrigued by her life and the circumstances of her death. How did a woman who farmed right up to the end of her life and who didn't have children, pay for one of the largest tombstones in the cemetery? And assuming she didn't, who did? Josiah's headstone in the Goggans cemetery was small and quite primitive in comparison, so it seems unlikely that his children provided it for Matilda. 


Matilda Rainwater, Matilda Goggans, Haralson County, Genealogy, Ancestry, A Southern Sleuth,
Matilda Rainwater Goggans

Although Matilda's only living family members at the time of her death were her sister Frances who lived nearby and her brother Abner, who lived in Texas, it is unlikely, given the financial circumstances of either, that they paid for her tombstone.


The road to Bethany Baptist Cemetery

As I stood there in the cemetery, surrounded by the beauty of the area and recognizing many of the names of members of the community, it wasn't hard to imagine why she stayed, but I wish I knew more of her story. 

I do know she was a strong woman who withstood many challenges during her life. She had to be industrious and frugal. She must have developed some strong relationships over her life to people who felt some devotion after her death. 

But I do wonder, who felt it was important to memorialize her with such a significant tombstone? Who knew enough to provide the exact dates of her birth and death? 

Sadly, without descendants to tell her story, I likely will never know. 




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



1. Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742, 1992 for Josiah Goggans, Haralson County, Unbound Estate Case Files, 1850-1950, Garrett, E. F. - Goldin James L Accessed on Ancestry.com. Image 898

2. Ibid. image 876

3. Ibid. image 885

4. 1880 US Federal Census M. D. 1078, Newnan, Haralson County, Georgia, 4 June 1880, stamped page 341. Accessed on Ancestry.com.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Were They There? Addison and Sally Gainus


Deep down inside, I knew, so I shouldn't have been disappointed, yet you know how it is when a little part of you hopes against hope that something is different than you've been told. 

In this case, I hoped that when I visited the Tallapoosa Primitive Church Cemetery in Carrollton, Georgia, I would notice something that others had managed to overlook, maybe a marker back in the trees or a simple stone with a marking on it or something partially covered with the earth. I really wasn't sure, but I so wanted to know for sure where Addison Gainus' exact final resting place was, yet deep down inside, I knew it was not marked just as I had been told. 

While other family members are buried there and their resting place is well marked, records for the small Tallapoosa Primitive Church Cemetery do not include Addison and Sally (Bowen) Gainus. Other extended family members have visited that cemetery over the years and they warned me that there are no markers for Addison or Sallie, but I had to see for myself.  

Addison Gainus was the youngest brother of my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus and the youngest child of James (Gur)Ganus and Elizabeth (McCluskey). Note that he was among those who spelled the last name as Gainus, while my line and a few other of the siblings spell the name simply Ganus without the "i". 
Tallapoosa Primitive Church, Lee, Gainus, Ganus, McCluskey, Gurganus, genealogy, ancestry
Empty spot behind the Tallapoosa Primitive Church
where it is believed Addison and Sallie could be buried. 

So on my recent trip to Georgia, we visited the small Tallapoosa Primitive Church cemetery. As an added bonus,  I was able to meet up with extended cousins and together we walked through the cemetery. They shared stories and experiences they had growing up in that small family community. They told me that in talking to others, it is believed that back behind the church, surrounded by other family headstones, a conspicuously empty space is likely their final resting place. 

So why would I expect them to be there at all if there is no marker? 

To begin with, Addison's death certificate indicates that he was buried at Tallapoosa Church and so does Sallie's. 


Addison Ganus, Gainus, Sarah Bowen, Sallie Bowen, James Gurganus, Elizabeth McCluskey , Richard Bowen, Annie Carr,
Addison Gainus'  death certificate

Tallapoosa Primitive Church, Carrollton, Georgia, genealogy, ancestry, ancestors
Sallie Gainus' death certificate

In addition, an obituary located in the Carroll Free Press, dated Thursday, December 8, 1927, also indicates that Add was buried there. It reads:
The Lee's Chapel community was made sad Saturday by the death of one of its oldest and most esteemed citizens Uncle Add Gainus.
            Funeral Services were conducted by his friend and neighbor Rev. T. A. Bonner and his body was laid to rest in the cemetery at Tallapoosa church Sunday afternoon. 
Just six months later, Add's wife, Sallie, joined him. Her obituary appeared June 14, 1928, in the Carroll Free Press and is as follows:
             Mrs. Sallie Ganus, age 85, died last Friday the 8th instant, near Carrollton on R. F. D. No. 8. Her funeral was held on the 9t at Tallapoosa church, conducted by Rev. Mr. Hanks. Interment was in the church cemetery beside her husband who died since Christmas. 
Everything points to the Tallapoosa Primitive Church cemetery. 

Although there aren't any known pictures of Addison and Sally, I feel that I can almost picture them.  

Addison Ganus, son of John Monroe Gainus and Sarah Bowen, daughter of Richard Bowen and Annie Carr were married 20 September 1866 in Coweta, Georgia. They lived near Addison's family in Fayette County, but then later moved to Carrollton, Carroll County, Georgia by 1900. There they lived in a three-room shotgun style house, had a small farm and raised chickens and cows. Addison's sister Rebecca and her husband Samuel Solomon Lee and their children lived nearby, as did Addison's sister Martha and her husband William C. Brock and their children. 

The story is told that Addison and Sallie had a love/hate relationship with the cows. Sallie loved the cows and apparently, the cows felt the same about her and allowed her to milk them. However, if anyone else tried to milk them, they ran away. Perhaps the cows knew how Addison felt about them because nothing seemed to get his ire more than discovering when he went to get them in the evenings that they had gone home with someone else's cows. Known for his "high temper," anyone close by could hear Add yelling at his cows to get back home! 

A humorous story is recorded by those who knew Add. The story is about his grand-nephew and namesake, Add Lee. Add Lee had a pair of white overalls that Add Gainus just hated and he made sure Add Lee knew it. One day when Add Lee's overall were hanging out to dry on the clothesline, they disappeared. Although others tried to help Add Lee find them, they were nowhere to be found. Next spring when the stables were cleaned out and the manure taken from the barn and spread out on the fields for fertilizer, the overalls were discovered, buried deep in the manure in the barn. Although it was impossible to prove, everyone had their suspicions on how they got there. 

Add and Sallie grew tobacco and smoked it in corncob pipes. Visitors to their home were intrigued by Sallie and the long thin cane stemmed pipe which she smoked. 

Add and Sally Gainus were never able to have children, and they took two Chance boys into their home and raised them as their own. 

Carrollton was Sallie and Addison's home. It was in Carrollton that they lived, raised children, socialized with their siblings, and attended church and it makes total sense that it is there in Carrollton that they were finally laid to rest. It only seems to reason that just like their death certificates and obituaries indicate, that Sallie was buried beside Addison there at the Tallapoosa Primitive Church. 

Despite the fact others had told me there was no marker for them there, I still needed to visit the cemetery and see for myself. And, while it was disappointing to not miraculously stumble onto something no one else had seen, I loved my visit to the cemetery filled with other ancestor's graves and I left, convinced like others have been, that although there is no marker, given the other evidence, Addison and Sallie really are there. 


Tallapoosa Primitive Church and cemetery 






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