Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bridging the Gap

Newspapers can help bridge the gap in records and can give us a glimpse into our ancestor's lives. In the case of Sanford Rainwater, several newspaper articles helped me to learn things I otherwise might never have known about his life, including that he went by the name of Sam. Finding trivial quotes and details about his life was fun. Finding his daughter Jessie was wonderful, but I found even more.

While I am always grateful when my ancestors actually make it into the census and are in plain site, and not hiding behind a woefully miss-spelled, miss-transcribed name, I nevertheless always ache to fill in the gaps between the census enumerator's visits. The last two newspaper articles for Sanford help to do just that.

In the Aransas Pass Progress, dated February 1, 1940 I found the following:
Sam Rainwater Has a Stroke Wednesday 
Sam Rainwater, one of the earlier residents of Aransas Pass and familiar figure here was rushed to a Mathis hospital Wednesday after in a Cage ambulance following a stroke of paralysis. 
The old settler suffered a slight stroke Tuesday and a more severe one on Wednesday. His condition was thought to be critical according to late reports.  
This article provided what his death certificate did not. He had had a minor stroke followed by a more serious stroke and he was recognized as a long time citizen of Aransas Pass.

 And then a week later, this followed:

Aransas Pass Progress
Feb. 8, 1940
Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon for Sam Rainwater, 74, long-time resident of this coast section and familiar to most people in Aransas Pass for many years, who died in a Mathis hospital Friday afternoon, following a stroke. 
Services were held in the Cage Funeral Home chapel. Burial followed in Prairie View Cemetery. 
He is survived by his wife and two daughters, none of whom could be reached, the funeral home officials said. Rainwater formerly worked for the Terminal Railway as a pile driver, but ill health in recent years forced his retirement. 

Aransas Pass, Sanford Rainwater, Sam Rainwater, Texas, genealogy, ancestry, Jessie Rainwater, obituary
Pile driver at work
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain 
So although Sam had tried his hand at farming, I now knew that he had also worked as a pile driver for the railway, which was an interesting occupation and not one I had seen among my ancestors before. But the words, "He is survived by his wife and two daughters, none of whom could be reached," hit me hard. Although he had gone to Aransas Pass a single, divorced man, the townspeople were aware that he had been married, and that he had two daughters. Whether or not he saw his daughters often, he had at the very least talked about them enough that people were aware of them, but they could not be reached, and so he had been alone at the end.

Although the newspaper articles shared in my last few posts suggest that Sam had a place in the community, that his daughter Jessie had at least visited him once and stayed for an entire month, it was a newspaper article that once again put him in that very lonely spot at the end of his life. His family could not be reached, they were not there to provide information for his death certificate and they were not at his funeral to say their final goodbyes.

I was grateful to know that there was a funeral, however small or simple. To me, that suggests that there were those who did care and gives me hope that possibly the friends and neighbors whom he had lived amongst for over 40 years had in a way become his family and that perhaps as his family, they came to say farewell to their ole friend Sam.

For further reading about Sanford Rainwater, see previous posts;  Alone, but not Forgotten ,  But Wait! There's More, and Where The Common Feel Famous

 Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

But Wait! There's More!

Thinking that I had found all that was available about Sanford Rainwater, I put his file away and moved on, but he remained in the back of my mind. There was so much I still didn't know about Sanford and it bothered me. It was almost as if he was nagging me to keep trying.

The slot for an informant on Sanford Rainwater's death certificate had been left blank and that discovery had troubled me. By all appearances, he had spent his last days/weeks/months and years... alone. I first shared his story HERE.

After his divorce following about six years of marriage, Sanford Rainwater and his ex-wife Alice Atkinson Rainwater took up residence in completely different parts of the state. Alice initially returned to Mills County, Texas where some of her family still lived and Sanford moved for a time to Sherman, Texas but ultimately moved 750 miles to settle in Aransas Pass along the coast north of Corpus Christi. Sanford's daughter Minnie married and lived with her husband and
children in Parker County, Texas which was 400 miles from Sanford, a sizable distance in those days.

Denotes some of the counties where Sanford, Alice and their daughter Minnie lived

Sanford's only known sibling, Mary seemingly disappeared following the 1880 census, and Sanford's father, John Rainwater, died in 1890. Sanford's mother, Bargilla, lived with Sanford from the time of his divorce until her death on the 24th of October 1919.  So it appeared that for the remaining 21 years of his life, Sanford had been alone, far from any extended family.  My heart ached for him.

Aransas Pass, Texas, Ancestry,Family History, Sanford Rainwater
Aransas Pass, E.P. Chambers, April 10, 1911, No. 2,  Wikimedia Commons, Original LOC
Sanford Rainwater lived in Aransas Pass from 1920 until his death in 1940 

And then a discovery in a newspaper changed a great deal of what I thought I knew about him. Quite by accident, I stumbled onto first one and then several more newspaper write ups in the Aransas Pass Progress which referred to a Sam Rainwater.

I had taken note that Sanford was listed as Sam on his death certificate, but I had originally dismissed it without much thought, regarding it as information likely provided by someone who didn't know him and therefore didn't know what name he went by. After all, there wasn't even an informant listed on his death certificate, and other basic information such as his address was left blank. Additionally, he was listed as Sanford on every census entry during his entire lifetime. Census entries revealed that while there were other Rainwaters living in the area at the time, none were his close family and none had names even remotely similar to either Sanford or Sam. Everything seem to indicate that Sam Rainwater's death certificate was for "my" Sanford Rainwater. Eventually further research would confirm that.

As I searched the newspaper collection to see if there were other entries for Sam Rainwater living in Aransas Pass, I was pleasantly surprised to find more entries and it became apparent that Sam and Sanford were one and the same. I was excited to find entries that helped me to learn a few more details to round out the last years of his life.

Among other things, I discovered that Sanford was not as "invisible" as I had initially assumed. I learned that light hearted things he said sometimes found their way into the local newspaper. People have always liked to have fun with the Rainwater name and such was the case back then as well. The first mention I found was in the March 31, 1935 Aransas Pass Progress newspaper and simply stated:
Sam Rainwater, rejoicing over the shower. Well why shouldn't a Rainwater?
Then on August 25, 1938 he was quoted again. This time it said:
SAM RAINWATER: I never heard a storm going as fast as the one that's suppose to be near Haiti right now. Well, I don't care where it hits, just so it don't hit here!
One final trivial entry was found in the July 20, 1939 edition of the Aransas Pass Progress and was located under the "Have You Heard?" column.
.......Sam Rainwater has a pair of scissors which have been in use for over a 100 years........ 
Apparently news could be  s l o w  some days in Aransas Pass. That last entry made me scratch my head and wonder if there were really reporters who looked for that type of news or exactly how they came by that type of information? It reminded me of an Andy Griffith episode where Opie and his buddy Howie skulked around town, eavesdropping and listening around corners for any little thing townspeople said and then included it in their school newspaper.

While seemingly trivial in content, these simple entries nevertheless make me smile as they confirm that Sanford or Sam as he was apparently known, held a place in his community. People knew who he was and his simple quips and details about his life sometimes found their way into the local newspaper. Maybe Sanford was different from the man I had initially envisioned.

While fun to find, these entries essentially served to confirm that he was there and that others knew him.  I discovered several other entries which provided more significant information, information which made all of the difference in what I now know about Sanford,  information which I will share in upcoming posts.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved