Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Those wonderful Southern roots

I am continually amazed at the instant bonding that happens as cousins connect via electronic means across the miles.  I generally feel a real kinship and a connection despite the fact that we have never met face to face.  In my mind, I can almost see our ancestors smiling from beyond, glad to know that against all odds, distant cousins have managed to find each other across the miles and join together in a quest to know them better.

Addison R. Ganus was "my" John Monroe Ganus's youngest brother and my second great granduncle.  He was born Jun 1847, likely in Fayetteville, Georgia.  While there are no known pictures of Addison, thanks to information shared by descendants of Addison's siblings,  I feel that I can almost picture him.  One thing I know for sure, he had that ole Ganus spunk.

Typical Shotgun style house
Addison married Sarah Bowen on 20 September 1866 in nearby Coweta, Georgia where Sarah  had lived in the home of her parents,  Richard Bowen and Annie Carr.  For a few years after they were married, Addison and Sarah, or Sally as she was called, lived in the Fayette County area, but by 1900 they had moved to Carrollton, Carroll County, Georgia.  There they lived in a three room shotgun style house, had a little farm with chickens and cows and there they lived out the rest of their life. It is said that Sally loved the cows and that the cows ran away when anyone else tried to milk them.  I'm not so sure that Addison felt that same affection for the cows.  Apparently nothing riled him more than finding that his cows had gone home with someone else's cows in the evening and were now in their barn.  At that point Ad's well known "high temper" flared and everyone in the area could hear Ad yelling at his cows to get them back to his barn.

Ad and Sally were never able to have children, but according to the family stories, they adopted two Chance boys.  On the 1900 census, Robert Chance is shown living in their household, but I could find no other Chance boy ever living with them.  I did find it very interesting that when Addison died on 3 Dec 1927, that  listed on his death certificate was his informant,  I.C. Chance of Ashville, North Carolina.  Although Sally, his wife was still living at that  time, she was not the informant, as was often the case.  It would seem that I.C. had come a considerable distance to be there, leading me to believe that Addison was important to him and that possibly he was the other "Chance boy."  I will need to do further research to see if I can't determine for sure what the relationship was between I.C. Chance and Addison.   Addison is recorded as having been 83 years old at the time of his death and so he had those good ole long Ganus genes passed down from his father and grandfather.  Sally followed Addison about six months later, dying 7 June 1928 at the age of 85.  Their death certificates both indicate that they were buried at the Tallapoosa Church cemetery, yet there are no headstones in that cemetery for them.

A funny story was recorded by those that knew Addison.  The story pertains to a grandnephew of Addison's and obviously a name sake, Ad Lee who lived nearby.  Apparently he had some white overalls that Ad Ganus just hated and Ad Ganus made it known.  One day when Ad Lee's overalls were hung on the clothesline to dry, they disappeared.  Look as they might, no one could find them.  The following spring when the stables were cleaned out and the manure taken from the barn and spread out on the fields for fertilizer, there the overalls were, buried deep in the manure in the barn.  Apparently there was no question in anyone's mind how they got there.

Ad and Sally grew and cured  their own tobacco and  then smoked it in corncob pipes.  Those that visited noted that Sally liked to smoke a pipe with a long thin cane stem and some recalled that they had never seen a woman smoke a pipe before.  Friends and family liked to visit Ad and Sally in the evenings. I can just envision them sitting on their porch, smoking their pipes and visiting until bedtime at which point Ad and Sally would retire to their rope bed..

I feel so much gratitude for those that thought to record the "small" details of Addison and Sally's lives and even more grateful that they freely shared those details with me, a distant cousin, living many miles away.  Some times I feel a little cheated that I live a life so distant from my southern roots and that consequently so many details of my ancestor's lives are so foreign to me. But I will be forever grateful for my generous southern cousins that have reached out, pulled me in and included me in a way that helps me feel a connection to my southern heritage.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Butcher, baker or candlestick maker--what did your ancestor do?

A person's occupation is a big part of their life. That is true today and it was true for our ancestors. Not only did it determine how they spent their days, but also who they associated with, as well as their social standing in the community.  The vast majority of my ancestors were farmers. Generation after generation, the sons followed in their father's footsteps and worked the land.  While it was a way of providing the essentials for their family, for many it was also all that they knew.


Although most of my ancestors farmed, I have a few who chose a different occupation and those occupations helped them to stand out, making it a tad easier for me to spot them on records such as census.  Such was the case for David Gurganus  who I've written about most recently.  David Gurganus, the younger, was a blacksmith.  But David's father and my fouth great grandfather, also David Gurganus , also had an occupation that varied from the norm.  David Gurganus, the senior, died in Bibb County, Georgia in March of 1850 and so was  listed on the 1850 Mortality Census for "Persons who died during the Year ending 1st June 1850."  Under "Profession, occupation or trade," it indicated that he had been a "turner."

While there have been many types of turners over the course of history, and there have been many things that were turned,  including wood, metal, and pottery, among other things, I think it is most likely that David was a pottery turner.  Edgefield, South Carolina where David had lived for about 25 years was known for its beautiful pottery ( see here ) and in fact there was an area of Edgefield called Pottersville, which was a community of potters.  The natural resources of the region provided the needed materials to create beautiful pottery. In addition, they used an alkaline-glazed method there which produced strong and beautiful pottery which was unique at the time. While thousands of pots were created during their boom days, relatively few  pieces have survived intact and consequently those that remain are considered a prize for collectors. (see examples here)   Recently an auction offered 1858 Drake stoneware from Edgefield  and pieces were estimated at $100,000 to $175,000. (NY Times article) I guess that means that I won't be picking up a piece for the living room shelf anytime soon.

Not surprisingly, I have found various Edgefield turners and potters of that era among David's associates.  In addition, in the book, "I Made This Jar: The life and works of the enslaved African-American Potter, Dave," by Jill Beute Koverman, a reference is made on page 23 about the location of Pottersville in 1830 and the land owned by those potters.  In mentioning the location of this property, reference is made to Harvey Drake's tract of land and "a certain tract of land called the Gurganus place."

I love every little piece of information that I gather about each ancestor that helps me to know and understand them a little better. While I will never own a piece of Edgefield, South Carolina pottery, knowing that David was there and possibly participated in some small way in the creation of some of the pottery made there is a wonderful find and a fun treasure to me.  

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What was she thinking?

What was she thinking?  Was there a reason for Elizabeth Hancock, a young widow, to be concerned about the safety of her assets as she anticipated her marriage to David Gurganus?  Or was she simply following the recommendations of well meaning or possibly even slightly suspicious associates?  Was she really worried about the possibility of the  "indiscretion of her intended husband?"  As I searched to learn more about David Gurganus, son of David and Mary (Swain) Gurganus, I came across the following among Edgefield, South Carolina Equity Court records:
"That the said Simon Hancock departed this life intestate sometime during the latter part of the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty eight, leaving his wife and children in the possession of the said property.  That Eliza Hancock his widow afterward to wit on or about the sixth day of May in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine in contemplation of an intermarriage with the said David Gurganus made and executed a deed of trust to your orator John Day with a view of protecting her property against any indiscretion of her intended husband."
It's hard to put myself in the place of a young widow with three children and it is equally difficult to imagine what her concerns and fears might have been in 1829.  By all appearances,  her deceased husband had left her with considerable property and the annual returns reveal a widow that continued to live a very comfortable lifestyle, frequently traveling to Augusta, Georgia to shop.  But there would have been concerns beyond financial stability for a young widow in that time period, not the least of which was safety. In addition, neither widows nor widowers relished the idea of rearing children alone and as was frequently seen in those times,  Elisabeth remarried less than a year following her husband's death.

For reasons not expressed in court documents, David did in fact begin to sell her properties following their marriage and they prepared to leave the state.  My suspicions are that they were preparing for the move to Cass County, Georgia that was mentioned in my previous post.  In any case, it did not sit well with John Day who had been entrusted with protecting Elizabeth's property against any indiscretion.

On 10 Oct 1834 a bill filed against David Gurganus:
"Your orator John Day further shows unto your honors that he declined to accept of the trust unless the said David Gurganus should be apprised of the said tract deed and thereupon the said David Gurganus was fully apprised of said deed and was present when it was executed.  And the said David Gurganus and Eliza Hancock were shortly afterward married.  The said David Gurganus since by said intermarriage has sold, disposed of or squandered nearly all the property specified in said deeds, except the land, and Negroes and is now, as your orator John Day is informed upon good authority and very believes, preparing to remove from the state and intends to set off in a few days and carry with him the said Negroes."

From that point on, there was a flurry of documents filed and testimony given as to who knew what when and to what extent Eliza had been party to the sale.  Although there had been the required dowers release, she may not necessarily have been in full agreement of her own free will and choice as the release would otherwise imply. In addition, there was a question as to what extent Eliza had had authority regarding the children's shares and as to whether David and Eliza had received  full value on the sale of the properties. The court battle began in 1834, continued after David returned "home" following his time served in the Milledgeville Penitentiary (previous post here), and extended into the year 1845, when the kids were of age to have received their share of their father's estate.

As I read through the court documents, it was difficult to discern the truth, to wade through the accusations and testimonies from a variety of individuals to determine what really happened.  Did David become greedy or were there personal issues and biases that existed among Eliza's family and those entrusted with the watch care over her family's inheritance?  To what extent did Eliza's children resent a step-father that had influence over their mother?  But there were there indications that Eliza was in agreement regarding the transactions and that no more than her share had been sold.  As I read through the documents, I couldn't help but feel that just maybe David was not such a bad guy, but that instead he was caught in the middle of a squabble in which he was the outsider.  Perhaps even the initial filing against "indiscretions of her intended husband," were not indications of her suspicions as much as strong recommendations from the protective friends of her deceased husband.

In the end, it's not surprising that David and Eliza decided to take their children Willis, Moses, Frances, Mary and David and move from Edgefield,  leaving behind the persistent legal troubles that had plagued them for over 10 years. Initially they settled in Hamilton County, Florida and were living there in 1850. Once again,  David's  distinguishing occupation of "blacksmith" helped me to locate him and Eliza. The final document that I have for David is a census record for the 12th day of July, 1870 in Lake City, Columbia County, Florida.  I assume that Elizabeth had died by then as David was living with their yet unmarried daughter, Frances.  David was listed as 62 years old and a blacksmith. Whether Eliza had initially had reservations about David or not, she chose to remain with him through years of emotionally trying court battles, to wait for him as he served time in a prison miles away from home in another state, and then moved with him to Florida, leaving behind her extended family and friends. Whatever others may have seen that concerned them about David, it seems that Elizabeth saw enough good that she remained with him for over thirty years.