Monday, November 12, 2012

The Bane of My Existence

I have often called my hair the "bane of my existence."  If ever there was wildly stubborn hair, that's mine.  I can't even begin to tell you how frustrated I was growing up in southern California in the 60's and 70's when stick straight hair was in. Mine chose instead to flip and curl and in some places, stand straight out.
robert Ganus, Roderick Ganus, Newton Ganus, John Monroe Ganus, John T. Ganus, William Franklin Ganus
John Monroe Ganus and sons
L-R  Top row  Robert, Roderick M., Newton L.
bottom row  John Monroe, John T., William F. 
Nephi Glen Hostetter
Nephi Glen Hostetter
While I will never appreciate the unorganized wildness that I fight with every day, I did have an ah ha moment one day as I was looking through my genealogy pictures. 

One look at my both my maternal and paternal grandfathers' and great grandfathers' wavy hair left little doubt that I had come by my hair naturally and that instead of making me stand out, like I had always felt, it actually helped me to fit in---fit in with the family.

So that began my quest to find other things about me that actually help me to fit in with my ancestors.

 I had to laugh once when I received an email from a newly found distant cousin and he asked if I had ever noticed rather pronounced ears in my family.  Yes, I told him---and with that we began an exchange of ancestor pictures back and forth, proof positive that our families shared more than surnames.  I was delighted to know that while I had always thought they were Ganus features because my Grandpa Ganus had those ears, this cousin was actually a Rainwater cousin and so it made me feel connected instead to my Rainwater family.

What other things?   What about personality traits?  I hate someone beating me off the line at a stop light---I know, I know, I'm way too old for that one, but it was fun to learn from my mom that her father had been the same way.  While I am not sure that there is a gene for such a thing, I delight in knowing that I share this with a grandfather that I never knew .

I giggle each time I find a new Ganus connection and learn that their ancestor was known for their spunk.  I shared some stories showing Addison's spunk in a previous post, but I've also been told that John's sister Martha was very spunky and that at times, so was my great great grandfather John Monroe Ganus.  Do I see that in myself?  Well let's just say that as much as I struggle with my hair, my spunk can be an even bigger problem.

I will never love my hair, but I must confess that some days it does make me smile as I realize that it connects me to them and somehow that helps.   What physical and personality traits have you inherited?

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Those Calloways-What's in a Name?

Do you remember the  1965 Disney movie called  "Those Calloways," starring Brian Keith?  I remember it and I think of it often because the name Calloway was favored in my Ganus family.
Burton Calloway Cook
Burton Calloway Cook
Son of Burton Cook and Mary Ganus
b. Feb 1863 d. 28 March 1938

Often there was significance in the names that our ancestors gave their children and I talked about that in an earlier post.  People often named their children after those that they were close to or relatives, but sometimes, even though we can see that a name had value for our ancestors, their reasoning has been lost over time.  Such is the case with the name Calloway in our family.  I can see that it was used with some frequency, but I have not been able to determine why that name was significant to James and Betsy as well as to several of their children.

Is Calloway possibly Elizabeth Ganus' maternal grandparent's name or the married name of a sister or possibly just a close friend for James and Elizabeth?  I hope to someday know the answer to that question, but in the meantime I continue to look at Georgia Calloway families and wonder.


Below are some of the Calloways found in our family:

Calloway Ganus b. 1842 (Son of James and Elizabeth (Gur)Ganus)


Three of James and Betsy's children named their children Calloway:

Edgar Calaway Brock (son of Martha Ganus and William Cohen Brock)

Burton Calloway Cook b. 1863 (son of Mary Ganus and Burton Cook)

James Calloway Ganus (son of James W. Ganus and Frances Foster)


There was also a grandson and a great grandson of James and Betsy's with the Calloway name:

Calaway Brock b. 1911 (Grandson of Martha Ganus  and William Cohen )

Joe Caloway Cook (son of Isaiah M. Cook and Sarah Adams---Grandson to Burton Cook and Mary Ganus)


In addition, there is a long list of  James and Elizabeth's descendants with the letter "C" for their middle initial and while I realize that it could stand for any number of names beginning with C,  it does make me wonder if a certain percentage are Calloways.

What's in a name?  When it comes to genealogy, I think there is plenty.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012




Friday, November 2, 2012

Murder in Macon--Final Chapter-- The Trial


The murder created incredible excitement in the community. Ellen had been murdered in her front yard with her father, David Gurganus and her step-mother, Rebecca, as eye witnesses. David was MY fourth great grandfather and so this was MY family and I was stunned as I uncovered the story. While I may not know all of the whys of the events, given the nature of the crime, the court records and newspapers provided rich detail about both the crime and the trial.

Tuesday May 29, 1849 Baldwin County, Georgia "Union Recorder" carried the following:
             COMMITTED FOR TRIAL
Elisha Reese, charged with the murder of Mrs. Pratt, in this county, on Wednesday last, was arrested the same evening by Messrs. Cumming Stephens, Ellis and others, some three miles from the scene of his crime, and lodged in prison.  On Thursday he was brought up before the Magistrates, Messrs. Grannis, Reid and Artope, and formally committed for trial.. . . . During the examination the accused showed but little concern.
The trial date was set to be held during the July Term 1849.  Minutes for the Bibb Superior Court provide many details, many of which I have already provided in the previous post.  A variety of individuals gave testimony, including Ellen's step-mother, Rebecca and neighbor James W. Armstrong. I couldn't help but notice the absence of  Ellen's father, David, who also was an eye witness.  I can only assume that the injuries he sustained, combined with the emotional trauma, prevented him from attending.

The defense's witnesses were primary individuals that testified to Reese's character.  Their testimonies helped me to anchor Reese to particular communities where he had previously lived, such as Habersham and Cass Counties.  The most interesting witness for the defense was his son, Frederick Reese.  Did his son provide true insight to his father's character or was he simply being a dutiful son?  Frederick indicated that his father was a man of "good character, a peaceable law abiding citizen."   He also said that he had "never known him to violate the laws of his country."  It is through Frederick's testimony that we learn that Reese was 50 years old. Frederick also indicated that he last saw his father January last in Cass County, but had not "known him since"  and that Reese had a family in Floyd County.

The evidence was overwhelmingly in favor of the prosecution, with the defense only able to present individuals who knew him in his previous communities to testify of Reese's character.  Ultimately, Judge Floyd issued the verdict of guilty, and indicated that Reese was to be returned to the Common Jail of the County of Bibb.   The judge then said,
. . . . where you are to be kept in safe and close custody until Friday the Seventh day of September, Eighteen hundred and forty nine, when you are to be conducted to a gallows to be executed for that purpose in the County of Bibb outside of the corporate limits of the city of Macon, and within one mile of said Corporate limits, upon which said Gallows between the time of ten o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon of said day, you are by the sheriff of said county of Bibb, or his lawful deputy to be publicly hung by the neck until you are dead! dead ! dead! And may God Almightly have mercy upon your soul.  

In "Reports of Cases of Law & Equity Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia", is found the case of  Reese vs. The State of Georgia, in which the defendant moved for a continuance on several grounds.  The first was because two witnesses to Reese's character had not shown up, and secondly, because
"he could not safely go to trial, on account of the public excitement against him, from the transaction being recent, and of an unusual character, giving rise to exaggerated reports, tending to inflame the public mind, and insufficient time not having elapsed to allay such excitement, and to correct the strong prejudices produced by it."  

The court refused continuance.  The hanging was scheduled for the 7th of September, 1849.

The final newspaper article for this tragic story appeared in the Macon, Georgia newspaper, The Messenger on Wednesday, September 12, 1849.

EXECUTION OF REESE
Elisha Reese, convicted of the murder of Mrs. Ellen Pratt, was executed near this city on Friday, in the presence of some five thousand persons.  Before leaving the prison, he gave an imperfect sketch of his life and of the circumstances connected with the murder.  It is sufficient to say that his confession in every particular, corroborated the statement of the affair made through the columns of this paper at the time of the killing, and which was subsequently sustained by the testimony before the jury.
Reese deported himself with the most stoical firmness and composure.  He shed no tear, and heaved no sigh during the solemn ceremonies under the gallows.  He ascended the platform with a firm and steady step, and declined when requested by the Sheriff, to address any words to the assembled multitude.  The result of this exhibition,  has been to excite no little feeling among our people in favor of private executions, and the matter will, no doubt, be brought up before the next Legislature.  

What I would give to have a copy of Reese's life sketch along with his confession, however imperfect it was. I feel some disappointment in knowing not only that it was not recorded, but also in knowing that Reese showed no remorse and no regret for the crime.  While justice ultimately was served,  for both the Gurganus family and the Reese family, there were deep wounds that would never completely heal.  Newspapers reported that it was doubtful that David would ever fully recover physically from his injuries given his age.  While it is difficult to know to what extent David's injuries contributed to his death just ten months later, I feel sure that the emotional wounds were even deeper and  that the remainder of his days were filled with painful memories of that fateful day.

I never dreamed the day that I tediously searched the Bibb County Court records for anything about my family, that I would uncover a story of this nature.  I suppose none of us ever envisions a tragedy of this scope occurring in our own families. As we research and uncover the details of our ancestor's lives, we inevitably will find both the good and the bad, the joyous along with the tragic, with each piece of information ultimately helping us to gain compassion and understanding for those that went before.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2012