Showing posts with label Ganus Homer Paul. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ganus Homer Paul. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Generosity of Strangers -- -# 18 Becomming Acquainted with John

Colorado, Manassa, genealogy, Southern, Ganus, San Luis Valley, Mormon, Georgia, ancestry
We had been driving for hours but finally, we began to recognize familiar landmarks and the nervous anticipation began. We loved visiting our relatives in the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. While we lived in California, our trips had been limited to the summer months, but after our family moved to West Texas, we decided to make the trip for Thanksgiving one year.  

I looked out across the wide valley framed by majestic mountain ranges and was taken by how different everything looked in November. Fields that were filled with the green of alfalfa during the summer months now lay bare and covered by a thin layer of snow. Void of the tractors and baling wagons that dotted the fields during the summer, the empty fields had a certain peaceful silence about them, as if quietly resting for the season. 

Finally, we pulled up to Grandma's house and as we climbed out of the car, the brisk cold bit at our skin, indicating that our light jackets were woefully inadequate for the stinging cold of November in the San Luis Valley. 

As I recently realized that my ancestors moved to Colorado that same time of year, I couldn't help but reflect on my own experience and how unprepared we were for the cold there. Sadly most of the Southerners, including my ancestors, who arrived in the San Luis Valley in November of 1887 lacked clothing suitable for the cold they would experience.

As John and Olivia, along with their sons and their families, descended from the train in Colorado in November 1887, they truly began a new and very different chapter in their lives. Over fourteen hundred miles from their home in Georgia, they left behind those who opposed their beliefs and threatened their safety, but they also left behind beloved siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as life-long friends. They left behind their culture, the land they had tended and farmed and of course their homes. They sacrificed it all for their religious beliefs.


Arriving in Colorado in November and on the brink of winter was a challenge on several levels. At an altitude of over 7,000 feet above sea level, San Luis Valley winters can be bitter cold and a very different winter from what the Southerners were accustomed to. In addition, the valley has a very short growing season and the Ganuses arrived well after the freeze and much too late to plant a garden or any crops for food. Although some who emigrated may have had funds to purchase food and supplies, many of the Southerners, including the Ganus family, had arrived in a state of poverty. The Ganus family had not even had enough money to purchase all of the train tickets needed for their entire family but had relied on the generosity of a friend, George Driver, who lent them $10.00 to buy the final ticket. It would be the generosity of strangers who would get them through the coming winter.
According to Emily Wells, a Manassa resident during that time, Manassa struggled as a community because of the number of Southerners who arrived in a state of poverty and ill-prepared for the cold climate. Nevertheless, the little farming community worked to help all those who were in need.(1) Undoubtedly the Ganuses were among those needing assistance. 

In a dissertation entitled "Mormon Colonization of the San Luis Valley, Colorado, 1878-1900, Judson Harold Flower, Jr. wrote:  
"Whatever the future prospects for Manassa, the prevailing poverty among the southern Saints arriving in the valley was a constant obstacle to the progress of the settlement, and one which could not be overcome solely by the injection of Mormon families from Utah into the community. Much credit for assisting the new arrivals through the first difficult months was due the Mexicans of the valley who rented homes, farms, seed and other materials and equipment to the newcomers arriving in their midst. (2)
Although I was unable to find a record of the weather for 1887, newspaper accounts for the following few winters often reported heavy snowfall and bitter cold. Train travel was frequently halted for days due to deep snow drifts, sometimes as deep as fourteen feet. 

There were other difficulties that cropped up as well. Judson H. Flower, who did considerable research on the early settlement of the San Luis Valley, indicated that as the residents of the small neighboring towns interacted, there were sometimes issues between those from Utah and those from the South due to the differences in their culture. Many of those from Utah were from Scandinavian countries and consequently, English was not their primary language, making it easier to socialize with those who shared their native language and culture. The Southerners likewise had more in common with the other Southerners who had settled there. In addition, many of the American born Southerners found it irritating to receive constant instruction on everything from church matters to farming issues from those of foreign birth.(3) 

As they worked through the various challenges, each new family in the community needed to find a way to work and contribute in order to make a living. Although the Ganus family had farmed in Georgia, John's oldest son, Frank, was recorded as one of the early carpenters in Manassa and John's other sons worked a lot for John Morgan, the Mission President they had previously known in Georgia.(4)

Despite the many adjustments and challenges for John's family, there were many good things that occurred in that small community. Manassa was primarily a Mormon community, so they shared religious beliefs with most who lived there and no longer feared persecution. In addition, because there were so many Southerners in Manassa they found themselves among many who understood their traditions and shared their mannerisms and way of thinking.  

In the Deseret News, November 5, 1887, referring to the San Luis Valley,
"There is in these towns a warm, delightful cordiality, a nearness of brother to brother, and a Gospel spirit of love and co-operation pervading the whole community, that is not met with in older towns. Every grasp of the hand sends a thrill to the heart, and is accompanied by a warm God bless you that speaks volumes of brotherly love. Two facts, we think, will explain this nearer approach to the Gospel ideal of society, the naturally warm-hearted, generous feeling of the southern people and all absence of caste caused by the mutual interdependence of all the settlers in their united battles against the difficulties of pioneer life."
As is often the case, some folks felt the challenges were too great or they were simply enticed by the hope of finding something better and moved. A few families returned to Georgia and a few others chose to move elsewhere, although many remained in Manassa and the surrounding communities.

How was the Ganus family affected by the issues? The many challenges surely took a toll on them just as it did with others, but to what extent, we don't know. What we do know is that they made Colorado their home for quite a few years, but by 1895, when William Franklin Ganus' son, Homer Paul Ganus was born, the family was living in Oklahoma.This would be their final move and the final chapter for John and Olivia. 


1. A Mormon "Widow" in Colorado: The Exile of Emily Wells Grant, page 180. Found online in PDF form.
2.  "Mormon Colonization of the San Luis Valley, Colorado, 1878-1900," a thesis presented by Judson Harold Flower, Jr.,  to Department of History at Brigham Young University, May 1966, p.  57
3. Ibid
4. A record included with information on the families living in Manassa in April of 1888. Digitized by J. Willard Marriot Library, University of Utah.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Write Soon Please

Martha Olivia Ganus Howell
Martha Olivia Ganus Howell


Mr. Earnest Ganus 
Dear brother, I wright you a few lines to let you know we are well . hope it will find you the same . . . .  Say why did you never wright to me.  I waited to here from you. but you did not wright.  So wright soon.  Please wright to me.  I have still got feelings for you.  From Ollie Howell to Earnest. 
Ollie Howell letter

Ernest and Heber Ganus
Earnest W. Ganus (L)
Heber M. Ganus (R)

The sweet pleading of a sister longing to hear from her brother are both tender and sad.  I found this postcard among a few papers in a small fabric suitcase that I received from my Grandma Ganus and that I mentioned in an earlier post. Perplexed and intrigued by the postcard,  I found myself reading the message over and over, hoping to see some sort of clue, all the while wondering who in the world was Ollie Howell?  Ollie had referred to Earnest as Dear Brother!   If Ollie was a sister to Earnest, then she certainly was a sister to Earnest's brother, my Grandpa Heber Ganus as well!!  I was not aware that my grandfather had had a sister by the name of Ollie.  So who was she?   As I looked over the list of my Grandpa Ganus’ siblings, I  saw only one sister, and that was Blanche who had died  in 1891 when she was about seven months old. So I called my father but he echoed my confusion—he had no idea who Ollie was either!

Apparently there were a few details missing from what we knew about my grandfather and his family, and so I launched into a search to find out who the mystery sister was. It amazed me that my grandfather had never mentioned a sister.

As is always the case, it took time and effort to search through a variety of records and piece together Ollie's story, but eventually I was able to find her place in my family tree.

I learned that my Great Grandfather, William Franklin Ganus (Frank)  had been married twice and I descend from his second wife.  My family really knew nothing about the first marriage and so nothing about that family had been shared.  Frank had first married Mary Matilda Roberts (Tilda)  in about 1879 in Georgia.  To this union were born two girls,  Martha Oliva Ganus (Ollie) who was born September 23, 1880  and Mary E. Ganus who was born  December 5, 1881, both in Polk County, Georgia.  While I found mention of Mary E. Ganus on church blessing records, I could find nothing further about her, leading me to believe that she must have died as a child.  It is so inconvenient when people are born and die between census records!  Neither Tilda nor Mary E. were included on the list of those that migrated along with the Ganus family  in 1886 to Southern Colorado. ( I shared the story of their migration in an earlier post. )  I was able to find Frank and daughter, Ollie,  in Manassa, Colorado church records confirming that they had both made the trip along with other members of the Ganus family. Wanting to find out more about Tilda, I returned to the church membership records for Polk County, Georgia and examined them carefully once again .  It was then that I discovered very faint writing in the far right hand edge of the margin beside Tilda’s name indicating that she had died, although no year was included.
Old Manassa Colorado cemetery
Old Manassa Colorado cemetery


So at the tender young age of 6, and without her mother, Ollie had traveled to Colorado with her father, Frank, and her grandparents and uncles. I wonder what she felt as she boarded the train bound for Colorado.  A year later in 1887, Ollie gained a stepmother when her father, Frank married Sarah E.Faucett (Sallie), who was my great grandmother .  Soon Frank and Sallie began to have children and Ollie was no longer an only child.  Ollie's  life continued to have many challenges.  Sally and Frank's first child, Parley, died when he was a year old, the second child, Blanche, died at seven months and Homer died when he was around five.  Last August, I was able to visit the cemetery in Manassa Colorado where two of their three children were buried and I wrote about that experience here.  Of Sally and Frank’s first four children, only Earnest survived to adulthood and while he and half sibling, Ollie, were 13 years apart in age and had different mothers, they apparently felt a closeness that would continue into adulthood. Surely they needed each other as their little family dealt with the heartbreak of death.  I can envision Ollie and Earnest in that small country cemetery, standing beside their parents and mourning the loss of each sibling. 


Edgar Howell and Ollie's children
Edgar and Ollie Ganus
Howell's children
About 1895,  Frank, Sally, Ollie and brother Earnest along with Frank’s parents John M. Ganus and Olivia, as well as Frank’s brothers,  all moved to Oklahoma.  Family lore says it was just too darn cold in the high San Luis Valley for the Ganus family and so they moved to a warmer climate. The following year on March 16, 1896, at the age of 16, Ollie Ganus married Henry Edgar Howell in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Four years later in 1900, my grandfather Heber Monroe and his twin, Orson Merrit  were born and so Ollie gained two more half brothers, however they never lived in the same household because she was married by then. That, along with the fact that there was twenty years difference in their ages may explain why my grandpa had never mentioned Ollie.

In 1902, Ollie’s grandmother, Olivia Rainwater Ganus passed away in Okmulgee, Oklahoma at the age of 71.  Ollie’s grandfather, John Monroe Ganus lived another four years and died in April of 1906 at the age of 80.  Ollie’s father, Frank followed, dying in November of that same year at the age of 53.  Then, less than three years later, in 1909, Ollie’s stepmother, Sally died, leaving her three young sons, Earnest, Orson and Heber, orphaned.  After a short period of time, all three boys were sent from Muskogee, Oklahoma  to Sanford, Colorado to live with Sally’s brother. Ollie was then separated from her half brothers by 760 miles, no small distance in 1909.  Having been married for nearly 13 years by that time, Ollie had six children of her own to care for and undoubtedly her hands were full.  Ollie would have one more child before she passed away in 1916.

Martha Olivia Ganus Howell, or Ollie as she was called,  died at 36 years of age.  She experienced more grief in her relatively short life than some ever experience. She had lost her mother, her father, her stepmother, a sister, a half sister, two half brothers, and both sets of grandparents. Is it any wonder that she reached out across the miles to a remaining brother, wanting him to know that she still thought of him and that she still had feelings for him?  Is it any wonder that she longed to hear from him and to feel the reassurance that she was still remembered and loved by him as well?

As I looked at the date stamped on the postcard, I realized that Ollie penned her message to her brother in 1914, just two years before she too passed away. I sincerely hope that his heart felt the same need to in turn reach out to her and that he responded to her plea to "write soon please."  

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013