Saturday, September 29, 2012

The crime of "escape"

Blacksmith, David Gurganus
A Blacksmith's Shop by Richard Earlom
Wikimedia Commons
It was him.  I just knew it.  After all, how many Blacksmiths named David Gurganus could there be?
"#695; David Gurganis; Crime: Escape; Term of years: 1 1/2 years; When received:  9 Sept. 1838:  Sentence expires:  9 Mar 1840; County where convicted: Cass County; Occupation:  Blacksmith; Birthplace:  North Carolina; No of sentences:  1; Age: 36 yrs; 5 ft. 9 1/4 in; Dark complexion, black eyes; black hair;  served out sentence and discharged."   
David was born about 1804, was the son of David Gurganus and Mary Swain and was brother to James Gurganus, my third great grandfather.  One thing that I noticed about him early on was that as a blacksmith, he stood out on the census among the sea of farmers. Being a blacksmith made him a little different and that along with some of his escapades, made him one of James's  "easier-to-find"  siblings and you will soon see why.

 This time, David's name was on a list of men in the penitentiary in Milledgeville.  According to the entry found on page 99 in "The Georgia Black Book," by Robert Scott Davis,  David had been arrested for "escape" in Cass County, Georgia (now Bartow County)  and served out his 1 1/2 years.  I wondered exactly what "escape" meant in that time period and so I turned to "Bouvier's Law Dictionary and Concise Encyclopedia," (see HERE)  which is particularly helpful for legal terms used in the mid 1800's.  Actually there was no surprise in the definition, "escape" is "The deliverance of a person who is lawfully imprisoned, out of prison, before such a person is entitled to such deliverance by law."  So the question becomes, just why was David arrested in the first place?  Where did he escape from?  Despite efforts to search court records, I have not been able to find any more related to David's initial imprisonment. I have taken note that 1838 was a very tumultuous time for North Georgia and it was during that spring and summer that the final events of the Trail of Tears occurred , much of which occurred in the Cass County area.   I wonder, in what way may that have impacted David?
Milledgeville Penitentiary Georgia
Milledgeville Penitentiary burning in 1864
More about Penitentiary Here

Prior to this time, David and his wife and children were living in Edgefield, South Carolina where David had lived most of his life until then.  On 6 May 1829, David had married a  Elizabeth (MNU),  the wealthy widow of Simon Hancock.   She had three children from her previous marriage and by the time of David's arrest, they had three children of their own.  I knew that the family had been in South Carolina in 1834 because some of David's business dealings had created legal troubles and I had found those documents among court records, but that's a story for another day.

I wanted to be sure that the David Gurganus in Cass County, Georgia was the same David that had lived in Edgefield, South Carolina. I was able to establish that fact when I turned to Edgefield, South Carolina court records and discovered annual returns for Elizabeth Gurganus during that same time period.  The first reads  "Mrs. Gurganus for part board for heirs while in GA by D. Gurganus per order as receipt,  29 Oct 1838."  Then on the 19 of February, 1838 Benjamin R. Tillman was made guardian for their children.  Also among her annual returns I found, "14 May 1838 R. Harden (half expense) of moving minors of Mrs. Gurganus back to Edgefield out from Cass County, GA. Total expense:  131.50 = 65.75."  Although Elizabeth's first husband, Simon Hancock had left her very comfortable, I can imagine how hard and difficult this time must have been for her, especially in an unfamiliar area, so it's not surprising that she and her six children returned to Edgefield, where she had lived for years and where she could receive help and support.  She remained there while she waited for David's release which came 9 March 1840.

It all fit.  David Gurganus, the blacksmith who was imprisoned in Milledgeville was my third great grandfather's brother, David, son of David and Mary (Swain) Gurganus.  Hopefully over time I will find more details for this chapter of David's life, but even without them, his story is far from over and in my next post, I will tell you more.






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.