Showing posts sorted by relevance for query margaret. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query margaret. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Piecing Together Their Lives ---Part 3

It’s been eleven years since that first email that marked the beginning of  Karen's and my genealogical journey together.  Since that time, we have continued to share our research and so much more.  And while there still remains unanswered questions about Margaret, we have learned a lot about her and together we have pieced together the following story.

image
Margaret Ganus Blackmon
(Only known photo) Contributed by Karen
as shared with her by Darlene Emmert
Margaret Ganus was born about 1832 and married James Blackmon on the 16 December 1857 in Fayette County, Georgia.  For some time, James and Margaret remained in Fayette County where Margaret had grown up and where her parents and several siblings continued to live. There, James farmed and Margaret undoubtedly was busy caring for their house and their children .  They had been married for about five years when the events leading to the Civil War began to unfold.  Loyal to the Confederacy, James joined countless others in enlisting to fight for the southern cause.
 
On a spring day in 1862,  Margaret watched as her husband, James  Blackmon, her brother David Ganus, and her brother- in- law, Burton W. Cook, all  boarded the train bound for Richmond, VA.  Alongside their neighbors and friends, the men had enlisted on  May 1, 1862 with the Fayette Planters, Company C, 53rd Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.   I can imagine the two sisters and their sister-in-law standing with their arms around each other and their children gathered close as the train carrying their husbands, fathers and brothers chugged out of the station.   I am sure that they felt some anxiety as they said their goodbyes, but many southern families believed that it would be a short battle and that soon their loved ones would return home and life would resume.

The Civil War deeply impacted Margaret’s family in many ways, as it did most families on both sides of the conflict.  Margaret had both brothers and brothers-in-law enlist.  Her brother David, never returned home, but died of pneumonia while at Camp Fredericksburg, a story I shared in an earlier post.  Her brother, William, had many health problems incident to the war and died at the age of 33, leaving behind a widow and four young children.  Her brother James, also developed health problems as a result of his service and suffered for the remainder of his life.  In addition, James Blackmon's brother, Edmond, suffered with bilious fever and other ailments during his service, and his brother-in-law, William Speight, died of disease at Knoxville, leaving behind a young wife who delivered their baby girl a month after his death.  According to James Blackmon’s pension application, he was wounded in the left arm and shoulder in 1862 at Spotsylvania, injuries which continued to plaque him until the end of his life. Additionally, his service records indicate that he was frequently ill while enlisted.  I can't imagine the grief and worry that Margaret felt each time she received word of a loved ones' death, injury or illness, while she herself continued alone to bear the heavy weight of feeding and caring for herself and their children.  

image
James Blackmon was among those captured at “Gaines Farm,”  which was at the center of the battle of Gaines Mill, or First Battle of Cold Harbor.  He and brother-in-law, Burton Cook, were then taken as prisoners to Point Lookout, Maryland.  A month later Burton and James were transferred to Elmira, New York, which was nicknamed  “Helmira” by the prisoners, due to the deplorable conditions there.  As I shared in a previous post,  Elmira had the highest death rate per capita of northern prisons.  I know that mental attitude can make a difference for those that are imprisoned and forced to endure such horrible conditions and so I wonder whether Burton and James pulled together and helped each other to have the will and determination necessary to survive the months of deprivation.

At the same time, I wonder if  their wives, Mary and Margaret (who were sisters), were truly aware of the extent of their husbands suffering during their imprisonment.  I wonder if the sisters wept together, consoled each other, and prayed together for better days to come.  Did they help each other care for their children?  Did they work together to find ways to feed their families?   Both Margaret and Mary lived outside of Atlanta and undoubtedly endured a multitude of hardships in the years that followed.

James was released on 7 July, 1865, nearly a month after brother-in-law Burton Cook.  It was likely difficult for Margaret when Burton returned home to her sister, while her own husband remained at the prison camp.  Did Burton share what they had endured or did he spare Margaret of any additional worry?  When James Blackmon was finally released, he signed the required “Oath of Allegiance,” and thankfully from it we have an idea of what he looked like as his physical description indicates that he had a dark complexion, dark hair, grey eyes and was 5 feet 9 inches tall. 

While I know that life following the Civil War was never the same for the southern people, I am amazed at the resiliency these families showed as they picked up and moved on with life.  James and Margaret remained in Georgia for at least twenty more years, had  five known children and James somehow managed to provide for their family by farming, which was no small feat in post Civil War Georgia.

For some unknown reason, by 1888,  James and Margaret had moved to Blount County, Alabama.    They were living there on a 200 acre farm near “Joy” when James died 11 September 1903.  Karen shared his very short death notice that appeared in the September 17, 1903 edition of The Southern Democrat.  It simply stated “James Blackmon, 66, died last Friday, near Joy.” 

On 11 July 1905, Margaret’s Civil War Widow's Pension Application  indicated that she had absolutely nothing and had never remarried. Several of Margaret's children were living in the area and hopefully they were a source of help and support for her in the winding down scene of her life. While we are unsure of exactly when Margaret died, we believe that it was sometime after her filing in 1905 and before 1910. 

Margaret saw and endured a great deal of hardship during her lifetime.  She sent a husband to war, buried at least one child and managed to care for their other children while James was in a Civil War prison camp. Living in an area frequented by tornadoes and hail storms, she and James faced the elements, even though weather frequently threatened their farms, their homes and their very existence. While her life was full of many trials and hardships, I am sure that it included many joys as well.  James and Margaret remained by each other's side for 46 years and brought five children into the world.  They lived to see and enjoy grandchildren,  lived much of their life surrounded by extended family, and were able to somehow always provide for themselves.

Although families today don’t always remain in close proximity to each other as they did so many years ago, thanks to the internet the world has become a little smaller and we are able to feel a closeness to distant "kin" regardless of our distance.  Over the years, Karen and I have shared family history and so much more.  We have shared good times and hard times, prayed, laughed and cried together.  We've emailed, Facebooked, texted and talked on the phone.  Despite the odds and the distance, we found each other and have become an important part of each other's lives.

Karen wrote in a recent email:
I think Margaret, my ancestor, and her brother John, your ancestor, would be very pleased to see that their "children" love each other so much and have found each other across the years and miles. So many times since then, you and I, and our families, have leaned on each other through heartbreak and celebrated our joys together.
She went on to say:
Thank you, Michelle, for "keeping it real" for me--- because that is what genealogy is all about-- understanding that our ancestors were more than just dates on a census record, but real people who held on to each other for support and invested their hearts in each other--- just as I have with you.
I could not have said it better. Genealogy connects us to our dead whom we never knew and in the process, it can connect us to the living as well. It helps to provide us with a sense of belonging and family in a world that is increasingly disjointed. As we piece together dates and places, I know that we also piece together lives of both the living and the dead.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

PHOTO:  Wikipedia Commons.  Gaines Mill by John L. Parker, 1887

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Piecing Together Their Lives part 2

 
imageReceiving an email from Karen, indicating that we had a connection, was a great start to my day!  It reminded me of the childhood game “Old Maid” —I  was holding a hand full of ancestor cards and finally someone had given me a match!

Of course I immediately responded to Karen and that began an exchange that would not only lead me to learn about Margaret, but also about her descendants.

Karen shared her remarkable story.  She  had been researching her paternal great grandmother,  Margaret Blackmon.  One day as she searched through indexed marriage records, she came across a record for a Margaret Sams that had married James Blackmon.  Of course having a Margaret married to a James Blackmon peaked her interest and so she then researched the Sams family of the Fayette County area.  However,  try as she might, Karen could not find a Margaret Sams in any of the families . After a great deal of effort and frustration, she turned to forums in hopes of finding someone else with information about Margaret Sams, but did not have any luck. She did, however, find find me searching for a Margaret, but I was searching for a Margaret Ganus, not Sams.
Karen then shared with me:
Something just wouldn't leave me alone about it as I went to bed one night. Then, I woke up in the wee hours (as I often did when an epiphany would hit me in my sleep that I could not see during the daylight hours), and I realized that I needed to see the actual marriage record to compare the last names.
She also told me that the thought that came to her with great force in the middle of the night was that Margaret was a Ganus, not a Sams.  Genealogy is full of such stories----some call it serendipity and some call it inspiration.  They seem to come most often when we least expect it and when we begin to feel we are at the end of our rope.  When Karen got up the next morning, she returned to the forums, found my email address and shot me an email.

Knowing where I live, Karen asked that I look up the marriage record for Margaret “Sams” at the Family History Library and so I drove down to the library and pulled the film. Yep---there was no doubt in my mind, looking at the actual marriage record I could see that the record was for James Blackmon and Margaret Ganus, not Margaret Sams, but I sent a copy to Karen who also examined it and confirmed that she too believed Margaret was definitely a Ganus. The G had been incorrectly transcribed as an S and the way the n and u ran together it apparently had been read as the single letter “m”.   This experience is another testament to the fact that as wonderful as indexes can be, it is important to go to the original source and view it ourselves.

Once we knew that “our” Margaret married a Blackmon, we were able to see that she was listed RIGHT NEXT  to her parents on the1860 census. The census enumerator had used initials rather than first names, which made it difficult to make that connection without knowing Margaret’s married name, but armed with that information, it was easy to see.

Karen had been working for some time with her cousin, Leelan Blackmon.  He had been researching the family for years and had a wealth of information about the Blackmon family and had graciously shared what he knew.  Piece by piece, with each of us adding what we had, we were beginning to uncover Margaret’s life.  I will share her story in the coming post.   

Continue onto Piecing Together Their Lives, Part 3 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


Photo from Wikipedia Commons and in Public Domain

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Piecing Together Their Lives - Part 1

imageWe all have them.  Those individuals in our family tree that seemingly disappear into thin air. I have many such souls in my tree and each and every unwritten story troubles me.  Among my “missing” was Margaret. 
Margaret Ganus was born in 1832 and grew up in the Fayette County area of Georgia.  She was a younger sister to my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus, and the third child of James Gurganus and Elizabeth McCluskey in a family of ten children. 
On the 1850 census,eighteen year old Margaret was shown living with her parents and the eight siblings still living at home.  By the 1860 census, however, she was no longer shown living at home.  I realized that in all likelihood, if she had lived until 1860, she was most likely married, but I could not find a marriage record for her.  Margaret’s three sisters, Mary, Martha and Rebecca, all had recorded marriage records which of course helped me to follow them as they established their homes and had their children. But no marriage record could be found for Margaret.  Some speculated that Margaret had died young, but I could find nothing conclusive.
I imagined Margaret to be much like any little girl growing up in mid 19th century Georgia.  I could almost see her running and playing alongside her brothers and sisters in the warm Georgia sun. Growing up on a small family farm, she would have had her share of chores,  helping with everything from the household duties of preparing food and washing clothes to milking cows and feeding the chickens. The day likely began early each morning and the the work would have stretched on until the sun dropped beneath the rolling hills and dense trees that define that region.  At night Margaret likely climbed into a bed shared with several of her sisters.  
Knowing that southern families were tight knit and often lived in close proximity for much of their lives,  I looked for Margaret in Fayette County as well as in neighboring counties, but could find nothing.  For years, her unfinished story was part of my growing pile of genealogical mysteries and just one more frustration. 
I mentioned in a previous post, the value of collaborating with others along the way.  So often other individuals hold critical pieces of information not found in any publicly held document. In this case, posting a query made all the difference. 
On the 17th of October 2002, I received an email from Karen, whom I did not know.  My heart jumped as I opened her email that began with, “I am almost 100% sure that we click.”  I will share what I learned from Karen in my upcoming post.  

Note: Picture The Old Quilt by Walter Langley found on Wikipedia Commons and in Public Domain.
           Continue onto Part 2 of Piecing Together their Lives

          Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013




Friday, December 7, 2012

Blood is Thicker than Water

On Wednesday, I attended the funeral for a cousin of mine.  He was still relatively young, had children at home and his passing was unexpected, so it was a hard day.  As I walked into the church, I was greeted by other cousins, some whom I had not seen for some time and it was a bittersweet experience.  While we were glad to see each other and grateful to be able to be together and provide support to each other, it was nonetheless a very solemn occasion as we said goodbye to a cousin, brother, uncle, husband and father.
Nephi Glen Hostetter, Maud
Hostetter Gathering in Colorado mountains

As I listened to the speakers share experiences from this remarkable cousin's life, I felt cheated that we had lived so many miles apart during our adult years and so I consequently knew very little about his more recent life.  I kept flashing back to childhood family gatherings.  My family lived out of state, so our association with cousins was limited to our yearly family vacations.  During those visits, we "helped" (or so we thought) cousins during the day as they gathered eggs, milked cows, baled hay and moved the sheep and cows.  Nights and weekends were filled with kick the can, riding tote gotes, softball games and sometimes a picnic in the mountains.  Grandmas and aunts on both sides of the family would fry up chicken, whip up tasty sandwiches or some delectable main dish, make salads and side dishes galore and top it off with the best desserts imaginable. Summers were heavenly and I remember wishing they would never end.

Because I loved those summer visits,  I started to count down the days to our next trip almost as soon as we waved goodbye to Grandma each year. I can remember that the tears began almost the second we pulled out from her house and would continue off and on during the thousand mile road trip home.

Me with mother, my brothers and Grandma Ganus,
my aunt and a cousin
Blood truly is thicker than water and that has always been the case.  I see evidence of families remaining close to each other as I research my various family lines.  Families used to be an "all in one" deal, living close to each other and providing everything from safety to friendship.  I was reminded of this as I searched for my second great grandfather in the 1860 census. John Monroe Ganus was born in Georgia in 1826 and could be found in Georgia Census records prior to 1860,and then again in 1870 and 1880.  But initially I couldn't find him in 1860.  When I finally did find him, he was living in Calhoun County, Alabama, across the border from his previous home in Georgia.  At first I couldn't imagine what he was doing there and then I realized that John and Olivia were living among Olivia's family.  The census entries surrounding the Ganus family are full of Browns, Baileys and Ayers, all who tie into the Rainwaters.  Living a few doors down is Olivia's sister, Frances, and her husband Ruben Ayers.  It was this sister, Frances, that Olivia visited a few days before she and John left Georgia to move to Colorado.  It's more than a little apparent that these sisters enjoyed each other's company and consequently their children had the advantage of being able to interact with each other, which was demonstrated in the story that I shared in a previous post.  So family at least played a part in John and Olivia's move to Alabama and that realization helped to solve that mystery.

But there is one other mystery associated with that 1860 census record.  Listed as living in the Ganus household is John Ganus 32, Olivia who was 27, William F. who was 6 and was my great grandfather, John T. who was 5 years old, another brother, James R. who was 2 and then lastly, Henry who was 19.  Each name following John's has ditto marks in place of their last name, suggesting that each member had the same last name as the first entry, which was "Ganus."  Each person is familiar and seems to belong until I come to Henry, and I have to say, finding a Henry listed with this family has actually kept me awake at nights.  I do not have a Henry listed anywhere in my database under any surname!  Who in the world is Henry?  Is he really a Ganus, or are those ditto marks following his first name just evidence of a lazy census taker? I know that families stuck together and often took in other family members and so I have searched the 1850 census many times to find other Ganus families, as well as other known relatives with a "Henry,"  who would have been approximately 9 years old in that earlier census, but have not been successful.  If anyone is aware of a missing Henry, please let me know.  

While that may sound like a silly thing to ask, it actually was a previously unknown cousin who provided the solution to another similar mystery.  Early in my research, she contacted me as a result of my post on a forum and told me that she believed that she descended from James and Elizabeth's "missing" daughter, Margaret. I, as well as several other researchers, had begun to assume that Margaret had died as a child, but thanks to the email from this distant cousin, I learned that Margaret was actually living next door to her parents with her husband and two children in 1860!! While the census taker had elected to use only initials for those he enumerated, making it a little trickier to piece together, with help of  this cousin's information, along with other records, we were able to confirm that this was "our" Margaret living next to her parents.  This was my introduction to the fact that families, particularly in the South, had a tendency to live close to each other and it helped me to understand the importance of carefully analyzing neighbors for potential relationships.

1860 U.S. Federal Census
Fayetteville, Fayette, Georgia 

Knowing that families used to live in such close proximity and knowing how dearly I love my own cousins,  I can't help but feel a little envious of earlier times. In many instances, cousins were able to provide a lifetime of strength and support to each other.  It's so different from today's world where many,  if not most people, live some distance from family and where gatherings are often limited to holidays, summer vacations and the occasional reunions.  I do have to say that social media has provided an outlet for staying in touch and that some of my cousins and I  have enjoyed interacting and sharing pictures through Facebook, texts, email and other means never imagined by our 19th century cousins. While these means hardly take the place of living close to each other, I am grateful that we have found some way to stay in touch across the miles, because I believe that while times have changed,  we truly do still need each other and that even in today's world, blood is thicker than water.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The beginning - Part 2 Becoming Acquainted with John M. Ganus

As I looked over the single sheet of paper that represented John Monroe Ganus's life, I felt disappointed. The form had been dutifully filled out by someone, years before I was even born, and although it gave me a few names, dates, and places, it left me with many questions. I wanted to know more than the bare facts; I wanted to know who John really was. What was life like for him?  What had he accomplished? This desire propelled me into years of research and although some questions still remain, I finally feel that I have become acquainted with John.





John was born 16 October 1826 in Monroe County, Georgia. In reality, he was born a Gurganus, but for unknown reasons, his father, James, shortened the name to simply Ganus by about 1840. That month was part of a particularly warm fall (1) and so there was fear that the long warm season would bring with it the dreaded "fall fevers, (2) which often proved fatal.

At the time of John's birth, his family consisted of his parents and a two-year-old sister, Mary. Over the next eight years, John would gain two more sisters, Margaret and Rebecca. It wasn't until ten years later that a brother, David, joined the family.  So, for ten years, John was an only son with three sisters. I can only imagine how much he was mothered by them all. Over the years, the family would grow to include Jackson, James, Calloway, Martha and Addison.

John was fortunate to live near his grandfather, David Gurganus, who was known as a Revolutionary War Soldier. John's paternal Aunt Ellen also lived close by and although his Uncle David Gurganus lived in South Carolina, records indicate that David Jr.'s family visited. During John's early years, he was part of a typical Southern extended family living in close proximity to each other.

Although initially the family lived in Monroe County, the county lines were adjusted and the family eventually found themselves in Bibb County. Thanks to many streams, ponds, lakes and rivers, including the large Ocmulgee River the area was green and fertile and it was a great place to farm.

As a son of a farmer and the oldest son of ten children, it is likely John learned to work hard from the time he was young. Although a large family meant more help on the farm, it also meant more work was needed to provide for the family's needs and so most southern families learned to work hard together. When John was 14, his father reported that they had one horse, one cow, 15 pigs and that year his father sold about 300 bushels of Indian corn and 450 bales of cotton, along with 40 bushels of sweet potatoes. Tax digests seem to imply that for the most part, his father James did not own land and, despite a great deal of research, no land deeds have ever been located for James. Unfortunately, no will or probate has been located either. By all appearances, John's parents never really prospered and basically the family just "got by."

If John was typical of the boys of that era and place, when he wasn't helping on the farm, he was out hunting in the forested area surrounding Macon or fishing or swimming in one of the many creeks or rivers.

Living on the Georgia frontier had many challenges, which included conflicts with Native Americans. As treaties were signed and land was taken to create new counties, there were many conflicts between Native Americans and the "new" land owners. Court documents and newspapers are full of accounts detailing the steps taken to forcefully remove the Native Americans from their land and the violent acts of retaliation experienced by many of the families, particularly those living on newly acquired lands.

By 1840, when John was in his early teens, his family moved 73 miles northwest of Macon in Bibb County, to the Fayetteville area of Fayette County. At that time, the town of Fayetteville had two churches, two schools, three stores, five barrooms, and a printing office, along with a Division of the Sons of Temperance. The population was about 7,500. (3)  I can't help but notice the ratio of bars to churches.

John remained with his family until the day he moved out on his own. Naturally, it was at that point that I began to find records for John and then, much like a photo coming into focus, a picture of who he was began to emerge and I finally began the process of becoming acquainted with John. Follow me next week as I share the next phase of his life.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

1. Macon Telegraph, Nov 7, 1826 page 3 accessed on Galileo.usg.edu
2.  According to the Georgia Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Volume 2, page 169, accessed on Google books, "fall fevers" was malaria.
3. The History of Fayette County, 1821-1971, published by the Fayette County Historical Society, page 20.





Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Enemy Was Coming

The enemy was coming.  Confederate soldiers worked feverishly,  digging with whatever tools they had and throwing the heavy soil up, creating mounds along the ever deepening trenches.  Would the trenches be enough?  Would they have time to complete them before the arrival and attack by the massive Union Army?   It was the end of May in 1864 and James Blackmon and Burton Cook were at Gaines Mill,  preparing for what would be known as The Battle of Cold Harbor.  Weary from 3 years of war,  the soldiers pushed to build earthworks, gun pits and trenches.  Although they were often outnumbered in their battles, experience had taught them that the primitive barricades made a difference, often providing the edge they needed in their battle against their Yankee aggressors.




Battle of Cold Harbor, throwing up breastworks
Forbes, Edwin, 1839-189
It had been a little over two years since David Ganus had died in Winder Hospital in Richmond, Virginia (see his story here).  Brothers-in-law James Blackmon and Burton Cook had managed to survive while fighting with the Georgia 53rd Regiment, Company C, known as "The Fayette Planters."   James, however,  had been wounded in the left arm and shoulder at Spotsylvania in 1862,  and would suffer the rest of his life as a result,  so his continued participation in the war could not have been easy.  Over the course of the war, the regiments, the supplies and the rations had become increasingly smaller,  and yet the battle raged on, each side determined to win and return home.

The remains of trenches dug by CW soldiers

James and Burton had seen and experienced much in the two years since David had died, things that they would never forget. Many of their friends and neighbors had lost limbs, their sight, or their lives in that time.  Were they aware that a younger brother-in-law, James Ganus, who fought with the Georgia 44th, Company G, had been discharged in July of 1863?  James Ganus was shot at Sharpsburg and additionally had contracted an illness which left him partially blind and consequently he was found unfit for service and sent home.

Did they know of the depredations and hardships faced by their families back home? James Blackmon and Burton Cook had married Ganus sisters, Mary and Margaret.  The women lived in close proximity to one another just outside of Atlanta during the long absence of their husbands.

The stories and details of my ancestors and their families raced through my mind as we visited the various Civil War sites on our recent trip to Virginia.  Understandably,  the day we visited the Cold Harbor Battlefield Park in the area of Gaines Mill,  my thoughts focused on James Blackmon and Burton Cook who had fought there.


Road driving into
Cold Harbor Battlefield Pa

We left the interstate and turned onto a winding rural road as we made our way to the park, and I wondered where the Fayette Planters had camped.  It was hard to comprehend that well over 100,000 Union soldiers and more than 60,000 Confederate soldiers had converged on this area for the battle.  Do you ever find yourself wishing you could travel back in time and take a peek into your ancestor's life for just a moment?  While I really didn't want to see all of the horrors associated with this battle, I did find myself wishing that I knew more about what James and Burton had actually experienced here.

We turned off the paved two lane road onto a dirt road leading to the main portion of the park. The road was lined with dense trees and I was once again in awe of the beauty of Virginia.  It was hard to believe that this had been the scene of the long and brutal Battle of Cold Harbor.




After following the dirt road for a few miles, we pulled into the parking lot.  It was a beautiful area with lush green fields surrounded by dense trees.   Historical markers provided basic details about the battle and reminded us that despite it's current beauty, many men had lost their lives here.

We decided to follow one of the marked trails that led into a wooded area.  Little streams of water trickled here and there and the trees filtered the sunlight,  creating dense shade.  Having read about copperheads and rattlesnakes in Virginia, I felt a little wary and wondered if they had posed a problem for the soldiers.

Walking the trail at
Cold Harbor Battlefield 

As we continued along the path,  I was taken by how still and peaceful it was there.  I stopped and looked around and tried to imagine what it must have been like in May and June of 1864 for both Confederate and Union soldiers.  I could easily imagine the scenes portrayed in movies about this battle with men running through the trees, gunfire coming at them from every side,  the smoke from the rifles and muskets thick in the air.  Did James and Burton crouch behind the mounds with hearts pounding as they fired upon oncoming troops in one of the bloodiest fights of the Civil War?

They had been there.  Along with thousands of other soldiers, James Blackmon and Burton Cook had been there on June 1, 1864, and it was there during the Battle of Cold Harbor that both men were captured by Union Troops. They were initially taken to Point Lookout in Maryland and then in July they were transferred to the prison camp called Elmira in New York.  (You can read Burton's Story here and James' story here)

 The enemy had come and while the trenches and earthworks had provided a measure of safety for many of the men, for others, such as James and Burton, they simply hadn't been enough.   


Battle of Cold Harbor
Kurz & Allison
Library of Congress

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

358...More than a Number

The tears blurred my vision as I stood before the marker which read 357 to 360.  David Ganus was number 358.  I had known before we arrived that he was buried in a "mass grave" in Hollywood Cemetery, and yet the hard reality of it really hit me when I found the marker.  I realized that he died in Virginia in December, and that the ground was likely frozen.  I realized that it was difficult for those of the time to keep up with the large numbers of the dying men in Winder Hospital and more specifically in the Civil War, and  I realized that they couldn't possibly provide caskets for each soldier, but it was difficult to see a number and realize that that was all that remained to mark the end of David's life.

David Ganus #358
Hollywood Cemetery
I reminded myself that as the war had raged on, that those regiments in battle had had little time or resources to do more than just bury the dead and even that created a huge challenge. The numbers of dead surged beyond anything they had anticipated and the lack of man power and materials with which to dig a grave made it difficult if not nearly impossible.  Consequently, many lie within the earth, their location still unmarked and unknown, and so I felt grateful that at least there was a record of David's death and a marker to indicate where he lay.

On our recent trip to Virginia, we took a Confederate Tour that ended at Hollywood Cemetery.  While there are many others buried there, including past residents of Richmond, and several US Presidents, a substantial portion of the cemetery is a burial ground for Confederate Generals and thousands of Confederate soldiers.

Our guide told us that the men were buried like they fought, shoulder to shoulder.  As I scanned the rolling hills of the cemetery,  I was amazed at the number of visible markers.  I  knew that the number buried there represented a small fraction of those that had died during the Civil War and that while some soldiers at Hollywood Cemetery had their own headstones, many others, like David, were buried in groups.  I decided to return another time to visit David's spot.

Hollywood Cemetery
My husband and I did return a few days later and I was able to find David's marker and had time to think and to feel.  It seemed that so much of that trip had been about thinking and feeling.  Thinking about those who had sacrificed all for a cause they believed in, thinking about what they had experienced,  thinking about what I knew about their families and what had come of the generations that had followed.  Being there and seeing where they had fought and where they had died brought about feelings that were deep and went way beyond anything I had experienced as I had read about their battles within the comfort of my own home.

As I thought about David's wife, Malinda and considered that she never remarried and died very poor, I realized that more than likely she never visited the grave of her husband buried nearly 600 miles from her home in Georgia.  Had any member of his family been able to stand at that spot?   Was I the first?

Hollywood Cemetery 
Those that take that solemn walk through the soldiers section of Hollywood Cemetery see a sea of stone set with numbers, each number representing a life.  For most soldiers there, there is no individual headstone with name, date of birth and death, no mention of children, parents or hobbies.  If each life was marked as they are today, what would those markers tell us of those that lie there?

 #358,  David Ganus was born in Fayette County, Georgia on October of 1836 to James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey and died on 23 December 1862 in Winder Hospital, Richmond, Virginia at the age of 26.   He was James and Elizabeth's fourth child and a brother to Mary, John, Margaret, Rebecca, Jackson, James, Calloway, Martha and Addison.  He married Malinda Davis on 14 March 1857 and was father to Mary, Nancy and Burton. He was a farmer and a Georgian and had a whole life ahead of him when he enlisted.  He was loved and undoubtedly as the war ended and men returned home ......... he was very missed.   He was so much more than a number.


To read more of David's story from an earlier post,  click here .

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walking the Sunken Road

As we walked the "Sunken Road" beside the stone wall at Fredericksburg,  I surveyed the field below. I could envision in my mind's eye  the brutal battle scene often portrayed in Civil War documentaries and movies.  But the field, once war torn, showed few scars and instead stood peaceful and serene.  It felt surreal to actually be there and to stand on the very site where so many men had lost their lives.


Present day "sunken road" and the rock wall

My husband and I had traveled to Richmond, Virginia to attend the National Genealogy Society's 2014 Conference.  Afterwards, we visited a few of the many historical sites in the area, including the battlefield at Fredericksburg, Virginia.  While I loved knowing that at one time, my ancestors had been there, I hated knowing why.


Our visit was in May and as is typical for the season, the air was warm and humid.  A few songbirds sang in the trees surrounding the fields, but otherwise the air was still and quiet,  a sharp contrast to December of 1862.  That December, as troops converged on the battlefield, the bitter cold, snow and mud added to the misery of the war.  While cannon balls took out lines of men,  bullets riddled the smoke filled air,  killing many who courageously fought, and yet they were not the only enemy.  Lack of good food, few tents and a shortage of blankets, along with rampant disease and inadequate medical care,
took the lives of many.

Gallant Charge of Humphrey's Division
at the Battle of Fredericksburg
Library of Congress

David Ganus, Burton Cook and James Blackmon were all at Fredericksburg.  David Ganus was born in 1836 in Fayette County, Georgia to James (Gur)Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey.  David was a younger brother to my 3rd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. Burton Cook was married to David and John's oldest sister, Mary, and James Blackmon was married to their sister, Margaret.  David, Burton and James were among the thousands of Confederate soldiers present for the historic battle at Fredericksburg.

Cobb's and Kershaw's Troops
behind the stone wall
Library of Congress



As I paused to read the historical markers, I felt a flood of emotion as I imagined David, Burton and James, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other, their neighbors and friends. Given the number of soldiers there,  it is doubtful that David was even aware of the presence of other more distant relatives, such as Florida cousins, Willis and Moses Gurganus.   As regiments from multiple counties and states joined together at the various battles, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and fathers all fought, sometimes side by side and sometimes on opposing sides




Part of the original rock wall today,  built by Confederate Soldiers

I was grateful that we practically had the park to ourselves that day because I wanted to feel and to think, without the distractions of a noisy crowd.  I wanted to reflect on what I knew about the men that I have researched and grown to love and to pay honor to them as I walked along the road where they had once been. As we walked along the Sunken Road behind the rock wall and at the base of Marye's Heights,  I felt a solemn reverence for the significance of that site,  as it had offered significant protection from the oncoming Union troops.  According to "The Dorman-Marshbourne Letters" by John W. Lynch, the Georgia 53rd was posted on the road below Marye's Heights on December 14th and 15th of 1862.

Luckily David, Burton and James all survived the battle at Fredericksburg, but David developed pneumonia and a few weeks later he was sent to Winder Hospital in Richmond.  With that,  I knew where our next stop would be.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gurganus, Ganus, Ganues and Gainus--What?


imageNestled in the woods near Shadinger Lake, just a couple of miles outside of Carrollton, Georgia, is Tallapoosa Primitive Baptist Church.  The cemetery lies beside the church and is the final resting place for many who once gathered there as family and friends to worship and socialize.  It is there that Rebecca Ganus Lee is buried alongside her husband Samuel Solomon Lee and many of their children.

Rebecca Gainus was the fifth child and third daughter of James and Elizabeth (Gur)Ganus.   Born in 1836, she was ten years younger than her brother John Monroe Ganus who was my third great grandfather. Interestingly enough, her father shortened their surname from Gurganus to Ganus around 1840, and while most of his descendants spell their surname Ganus, some chose other spellings. Rebecca and her descendants spell their surname as Gainus and her brother Jackson and his descendants spell it Ganues.

image“Rebecker” grew up outside of Fayetteville, Georgia and as a child, she likely worked alongside her sisters Mary, Margaret, and Martha, as they helped their mother Betsy.  Girls generally helped their mothers with household duties such as cooking, cleaning and washing clothes, in addition to other chores such as feeding the chickens and light farm duties. Census data implies that Rebeca could read and write, so whether she attended school or was taught at home, she received some education. 

On 30 October 1853, at the age of 17, Rebecca married Samuel Solomon Lee in DeKalb County, Georgia. and it was there that they began their life together.  Samuel farmed and Rebecca managed the household and cared for their children.  Typical of the times, Samuel and Rebecca had a large family to feed and care for, but large families were a blessing in many ways as they worked together and supported each other in every aspect of life.  Samuel and Rebecca eventually settled in Carroll County, Georgia a little over 60 miles from Dekalb County where they had married.

At twenty-five years old, Rebecca had buried several babies and was caring for their five children when husband, Samuel Solomon Lee, enlisted with the 63rd Regiment Company C on 27 November 1862.  I marvel at the endurance of the women of that era.  Rearing a large family was not an easy task at any period of time, but caring for the children, the home and the farm, while a husband was away at war was a particularly difficult and demanding undertaking that required a great deal of inner fortitude and determination.  In addition many families lived in constant fear of the enemy troops who continually passed by and through their farms.

The war went longer than any of them could have imagined and the cost to lives and property was high.  Rebecca’s brother became one of the casualties of that cruel and devastating war and several other brothers never fully recovered.  She was one of the fortunate ones, however, because Samuel did return home. Together Rebecca and Samuel resumed their life through lean times, raising their children and farming.  They added three more children to their family and lived out their life in Carroll County, Georgia where some of their descendants live today. Their family consisted of Ann T., Roena J., Leonidas, John Franklin, James Marshall, William Thomas, Charles Mentor, Tobeus A., and Emma E. Lee.

On 10 October 1889, at the age of 53, Rebecca passed away and was buried in the Tallapoosa Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Carroll County, Georgia.  Samuel lived an additional eleven years and died on 16 Nov 1900.  He was laid to rest beside Rebecca.

image
Samuel Solomon Lee and Rebecca, along with their children, spouses and a grandchild.



All pictures were  generously shared by descendent, Margie Dietz. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Clouds That Forebode the Greatest Evil

image
Wikipedia Commons
Public Domain

As a child, I loved the movie The Wizard of Oz.  While the movie fueled our young, active imaginations, it also generated a whole new set of fears.

image
My brother and I 
In parts of California, springtime often brings large fields of beautiful orange poppies.   I  remember being horrified when my mom wanted to take pictures of us out in the poppy fields.  Did she remember what happened to Dorothy while in a field of poppies?

Additionally, the movie also taught me to fear tornadoes, witches, and of course the thing that all children of that era feared…..flying monkeys!!

While my Georgia kin had little to fear from poppies, witches or flying monkeys, they did, however, live with the very real fear of tornadoes, or cyclones as they were sometimes called.

The University of Oklahoma maintains a great online digital book collection that includes the book,  “Tornado” written by John Park Finley.  Finley was an American meteorologist who was among the first to study tornadoes in depth.  Finley's book, published in 1887, educated people about the dangers of tornadoes as well as how people could anticipate and protect themselves during a tornado.1


image
Illustration from Finley’s Tornadoes2

Describing the eerie cloud formations that often precede tornadoes, Finley stated that  “the dark clouds at times present a deep, greenish hue, which forebodes the greatest evil and leaves one to imagine quite freely of dire possibilities.” 3

image
Illustration from Finley’s Tornadoes5
Finley also indicated,  “Another and invariable sign of the tornado’s approach is a heavy, roaring noise, which augments in intensity as the tornado-cloud advances.  This roaring is compared to the passage of a heavily loaded freight train moving over a bridge or through a deep pass or tunnel.” 4  I enjoyed reading through this book to see what was believed and known about tornadoes at that time, as I had ancestors that lived in many of the states considered part of “tornado alley.” 

The Friday, June 10, 1887 edition of the Carroll Free Press,  which was published the same year as Finley's book, carried an article about which citizens of the Carroll County community had received the most damage during a tornado and hail storm that hit there. 6   The article also mentioned a “Citizens’ Meeting” held to discuss measures to provide aid to the victims.  A resolution was adopted to collect funds and distribute them to those who had received the most damage. Included in the list of citizens needing relief were P.H. Chandler, B.W. Cook and G. P. Chandler, all people in my family tree.

image
Picture of home following a tornado that
hit the Atlanta area
Late 1800’s or early 1900’s. 
7
B.W. Cook  was Burton W. Cook,  who married Mary Ganus, daughter of my third great grandparents, James and Elizabeth Ganus  and sister to John Monroe Ganus.   G.P. Chandler  was George P. Chandler, son of Philo H. Chandler and Nicie Jane Reid (the same P.H. Chandler named in the article).  George P. Chandler  married Mary Cook, daughter of Burton W. Cook and Mary Ganus, thereby making her a grand-daughter to James and Elizabeth Ganus.

The article also indicated who had donated money, how much they donated and who received the financial aid and how much they received.  A committee had distributed the donated funds to those that were in the most need and had not already received help from others of the community.
 
As I scanned the list of citizens who had received financial help, I found that B.W. Cook, G.P. Chandler and P. H. Chandler were not included.  Did that indicate then that they were among those who had received help from others?   Living in Carroll county at that time were Mary’s siblings, Martha Ganus Brock, Rebecca Ganus Lee and Addison Ganus and their spouses and children.  Living in neighboring Haralson County were Mary’s other siblings, John M. Ganus, as well as Margaret Ganus Blackmon  and James W. Ganus and their spouses and children. True to typical southern culture, the siblings had remained in close proximity to each other.

Did the Ganus siblings help repair damage sustained to Mary and Burton’s home?  Did they help fix barns and outbuildings, locate scattered livestock, and replant crops if needed?  Did they bring in meals and share of what they had?   I would like to think that  Burton and Mary did not need aid from the community because they received help from their family. I would like to think they were living close to one another not only for the social advantage but also so that they could provide help and support through good times and bad.  

Given the history of tornadoes in the south, I am sure that this was not the only time that the Ganus family was impacted by the wrath of a storm.  I am confident that each member of that family faced many storms during their lifetime, both physical and emotional in nature and hopefully each time they found their greatest source of support and strength in their family.    



1.  Finley, John P., Tornadoes. New York:  The Insurance Monitor, 1887. Digital Images.  History of Science Collections, The University of Oklahoma Libraries. http://ouhos.org/2010/06/19/digitized-books/

2.  Ibid. at p. 40

3. Ibid at p. 29

4.  Ibid at p. 30

5. Ibid at p. 44

6.  USGenWeb Archives,  Carroll County Georgia, Newspapers, Carroll Free Press, Issue of Friday, June 10, 1887.  File was contributed by Judy Campbell.
http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/carroll/newspapers/ju87.txt

7.  Photograph of home of Oct(via) Kite blown away by tornado, Fulton County, Georgia, ca. 1897-1903, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Vanishing Georgia. http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/vanga/query:gk%3A+%28octa+kite+tornado%29


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013







Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just a Little Piece of Paper

"John M. had a brother Jim that went to Alabama."  This simple sentence was scribbled on the corner of a small piece of  faded paper and barely legible. The paper was among a meager collection of a handful of papers and pedigree charts that had belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa Ganus. When I first received the little floral fabric suitcase,  I had had such high hopes that it would be filled with the kind of information that every genealogist dreams of receiving- a family bible, letters rich in genealogical detail and pictures.  At first glance the suitcase appeared to hold just a few pedigrees with names, dates and information which I already had and void of any documentation.  Upon closer examination, however, I found that among the pedigrees sheets were a few choice pieces of papers with handwritten notes that would provide me with some much needed clues.

Grandma had researched in a day without computers and the endless online databases, forums and mailing lists so readily available today.  She was limited by her inability to travel to a distant research facility and the long wait associated with snail mail.  I feel so fortunate to have ready access to so much online data in addition to being close to an excellent research library.  But Grandma had something I don't have---she had people around her that remembered,  people that knew the people who are now just names on a pedigree for me.  How I wish I would have been interested in family history when Grandma was alive and that I had tapped into her knowledge. But I was young and busy and my mind and interests were elsewhere. So I will just be grateful that she took the time to scribble a few notes that I would eventually find and treasure.

My father had no knowledge of Jim, who was John's brother and who had gone to Alabama.  In fact, my family knew very little about John, my own great great grandfather because my grandfather had been orphaned at 8 years of age. So we were left to piece together what we could and  to do our best to learn from what others had recorded, which brings me back to the faded paper and the scribbled note about Jim.  Just who was Jim?

Turning to the 1850 census, I could see that my third great grandparents, James and Betsy Ganus did have a son named James.  Their oldest son, my second great grandfather, John was 22 at the time, but James, a much younger brother was only 11.  In between John and James were brothers David, who was 16 and Jackson (William Jackson) who was 12, along with sisters Margaret and Rebecca, and then some additional younger siblings,  so I find it interesting that James, or "Jim" was the only sibling named on that paper.

Jim's formal name was James W. and he was born Nov 1841, likely in Fayetteville, Georgia. On the 31st of August in 1862, at the age of 21, James enlisted in the Confederate Army and served with the 44th Georgia Regiment. From James' Civil War discharge certificate we learn that he was six feet tall, had a fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. I love knowing what he looked like.

Battle of Sharpsburg fought September 17, 1862
 near Sharpsburg, Maryland
Picture by Kurz & Allison
I wonder how James' parents felt when they learned that he had been shot in the right arm at The Battle of Sharpsburg, which was known as the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War. James was treated and remained with his regiment until he was discharged on July 3, 1863.  I also wonder if James realized how fortunate he was to have survived a gunshot wound during a time when the medicine practiced was relatively primitive and when so many died of infection. His record did indicate that at his release he was partially blind due to sickness contracted while in the service. It went on to state that at that time that James was
 "so blind he cannot see to read or distinguish one person from another at ten paces.  Is unfit for duty in any depart. of government."  
My heart goes out to him, knowing that he was so blind he was considered unfit for duty and yet he would return home and would need to provide for himself and his family for the rest of his life.

Tallapoosa, Haralson County 1890
From Vanishing Georgia used with permission

In about 1865 James married Frances Foster.  They lived in Haralson County and had two children, James C. and Minnie Elizabeth.   Early in my research, descendants of James C. shared with me a story that had been passed down.  According to the story, James' wife Frances had died in childbirth and so James had taken that child, a daughter named Minnie, to her maternal grandmother to raise and then he had taken his son James C. with him and headed to Alabama. While evidence suggests that Frances did die and that Minnie was raised by her grandmother and that James C. remained with his father, James W. actually did not go to Alabama until nearly 30 years later. (I will tell Minnie's story at a later time.)   In about 1875,  James W. married Nancy E. Ayers in Haralson County, Georgia.  No children were ever born to this union.  On January 5th, 1897, Nancy died and was buried in the Fairview West Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Cullman, Alabama.  In 1897, James once again married, this time to Martha Henriettta Watterson Basinger, a widow.

February 10, 1899, James applied for relief as a confederate soldier, indicating that he was incapable of making a living by manual labor because of partial blindness and Bright's Disease.  At that time he was 58 and living at Johnson's Crossing in Cullman County, Alabama. The County board indicated that they felt satisfied to the truth of his application and his pension was approved.

On March 18, 1911, James W.  or "Jim" as John called him,  passed from this life. According to his death certificate, he was buried in Fairview West Missionary Baptist Church cemetery although no headstone has been found.

My journey in learning about James all began with the simple words, "John M. had a brother Jim that went to Alabama."  Once again I am grateful for those that took the time to record what they knew, no matter how seemingly insignificant.  It makes me ask myself, what clues am I leaving for the next generation?


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Did James really fly under the radar?

Once following a genealogy conference, I had the opportunity to talk with a visiting archivist.  I shared with him my frustration that my 3rd great grandfather, James Ganus, has been so difficult to find, while I have so much on his parents and siblings.  I had to admit that some of  James' family seemed to have a nose for trouble, so they and their escapades are found with some ease in newspapers and court records.  It took me by surprise when the archivist suggested that perhaps James was difficult to find because he was the biggest, baddest one of them all and that just maybe he had managed to fly under the radar!  My James, I thought?!!  I've tried to be open minded and accepting as I've researched, recognizing that times in the 1800's were different and it is difficult for us today to fully understand the circumstances that led to certain behavior and choices back then, but as I consider the meager findings that I have on James, I still find it hard to believe that his name was synonymous with trouble.

It was an interesting discovery to find that James had shortened his name from Gurganus to simply "Ganus" about 1840, but that's about as bad as anything I have on him and that's not bad at all.  I couldn't help but think of the many many times that people mispronounced my last name of Ganus when I was growing up.  I actually even had someone correct me on the pronunciation once when I was about 15 years old.  I remember standing there dumbfounded and wondering what they were thinking when they corrected me and if they had thought about the fact that it was MY name. Is it possible that James shortened his name of Gurganus simply for convenience?   I've also wondered if James was trying to distance himself from family troubles given that he moved about the same time that he shortened his name.  There always seems to be so many questions.
Notice close proximity of Bibb and Monroe Counties
James next moved to Fayette county.

I first found James Gurganus listed among the unclaimed letters in "The Macon Messenger," on  April 1st, 1827.  Macon was in Bibb County and that placed him very close to where I had hoped to find him since his son, John Monroe Ganus, had always claimed to have been born in neighboring Monroe County in 1826.  While James can not be found on the 1830 census for either Monroe or Bibb County,  in 1832  James drew land in the Land Lottery from Justice, Bibb County, Georgia alongside his father David Gurganus.  In 1834, both James Gurganus and David Gurganus paid taxes on their lottery land, this time in Captain Ross's District of Monroe County.  In 1840 James was listed on the Fayette County, Georgia Federal Census and in 1841 he paid taxes on that same piece of lottery property while living in Fayette County. From 1840 on, I find James going by simply James Ganus in the census records and tax digests until the end of his life.  While apparently the way that he said "Ganus" remained consistent, certainly the spelling did not and I find him in the 1841 Fayette County Tax Digest as James Gaynos and on the DeKalb Agricultural Census in 1850 as James Gainus.  It was not unusual to have such variation in name spelling back then, nor was it bad.  

I have looked for James in court records hoping to find him on a road crew or a jury, both duties typically assumed by men in that place and time, but I have not found him listed once.  While I have stacks of deeds for his siblings and  for his children, I have never found him on a single deed.  I know that individuals kept their own deeds and that it was up to them to file them, but I find it hard to believe that he did not do that even once during his lifetime. I have checked every name variation and spelling imaginable and enlarged my search to neighboring counties, all to no avail.

It's also been difficult to determine who James's friends were as I have not been able to find him on other people's deeds or as a witness in wills.  From one census to another, he is living among completely different people each time, which has also made it hard to know just who he associated with over the course of his life.

James's son, John Monroe Ganus, did indicate on several different church membership records that his parents were James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey, so I do know that James married Elizabeth although no marriage records has been found.  I do know from census records that James and Elizabeth (Betsy)  had ten children that lived, but there are some significant gaps that make me think that there were children that did not survive.  Mary, John Monroe, Margaret, David, Rebecca, William Jackson, James W., Calloway, Martha Elizabeth and Addison R. all are found on census records with their parents, James and Elizabeth Ganus.

On the 1870 census James was shown living with his daughter and oldest known child, Mary and her husband Burton W. Cook in Fayette County, but by 1880, he is nowhere to be found. The last piece of evidence that I have for James is from 1871 when he served as a witness for his son-in-law, Burton W. Cook, when Burton claimed civil war damages in an effort to gain compensation from the Federal Government. On the document, it indicates that James was living in East Point, Fulton County, Georgia.  I have not been able to find a will, probate or even a headstone for James



As I have written this, I have realized that I probably do have more than I thought on James, but truthfully it pales in comparison to what I have been able to find on his parents and siblings.  I just lack the detail that would help me know something about who James really was and what he really did in his life.  I know approximately when James was born, which was  about 1798 in North Carolina, and I know about when he died, which would have been sometime after 1871 but before 1880.  So while I know a little (and very little at that) about his beginnings and even less about his end,  I know next to nothing about what he did  in-between.  However I've found nothing that would lead me to believe that he was the biggest or the baddest of his family.  If indeed he did purposely fly under the radar, he apparently was really really good at it.




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where are their shoes?

Cheatwood, Barnwell, Rainwater
Back row: Alma, Alice, Lizzie and Lela
Front row:  Mariah Rainwater Barnwell, James, Louvina Cheatwood Barnwell, Harvey, Lola,
William R., John Thomas

I love to study old pictures.  Although I realize that people always looked solemn in old photos, I nevertheless find myself always hoping that they were happier than they appeared.  This picture is no exception. William Robert Barnwell, along with his wife Louvinia Cheatwood, his eight children and his mother, Mariah Rainwater Barnwell, all posed for the camera and there's not one smile in the bunch.  I  find it interesting that even though it looks as though they put on their "Sunday best" for the picture, putting on their best didn't always necessarily  include shoes. Notice the two little boys all dressed up and yet they are shoe-less.

While the only known picture of Mariah's sister, Olivia, is very faded, I still feel that there is a resemblance between the two.  (A picture of John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater is on the main page.)  Mariah Rainwater b. 1826 in South Carolina was the second oldest as well as the second daughter of Joshua and Polly (Peterson)  Rainwater. She was five years older than her younger sister, Olivia, my 2nd great grandmother.  On December 21st, 1843, when Mariah was a young girl of seventeen, she and William Barnwell married in Carroll County, Georgia.  They soon ventured out on their own, settling in Benton County Alabama.  In 1845, William began buying land in Alabama and it was there that their first child, John T was born, also about 1845.  According to the 1900 census, seven children  blessed William and Mariah's home although only 4 were still living at that time.  In addition to John T., they had Francis Marion born about1847, Mary Elizabeth born about 1858, William Robert born about 1862 and Margaret Helen born about 1863. Their other children are unknown to me at the present. It is also unknown exactly when William died, but it is assumed to have been before 1900 because in that year, Mariah appears on the census as a widow and living with their son William R,  his wife Louvinia Cheatwood and their eight children  in Hampton, Polk County, Georgia.  It makes sense to me that the above picture was taken while Mariah lived with them.  I find it interesting that when she died just three years later in 1903, she was buried back in Alabama.  A rather new headstone for "Maria Rainwater Barnwell" (name misspelled)  exists in Oak Hill Cemetery in Talladega, Talladega County, Alabama.  You can view the headstone on findagrave  here.

Pictures add so much to our research and I am always so grateful to have a picture to go with a name. I find myself often looking at a picture and asking myself what it tells me about them. Can I see any family traits that have been handed down?  Do they look like their parents or siblings?  Do I look like them in any way? What does the picture tell me about their lifestyle, their economic status, their family life?  If they can afford a nice outfit, why not shoes? As always, many questions remain unanswered, but I am always grateful for the additional clues a picture can provide. While I am not sure how long Mariah lived in Georgia with her son, I am so glad that she was there the day they had their picture taken.