Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Gift of Time

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Time.  From the time we are born until the time we die, our life is broken up into increments of time.  While we are all given 24 hours a day, the total time that we spend on this earth and how we spend it, varies tremendously.  For each of us, the time to which we are born and live creates the stage for our life and determines much of what we experience. The way we spend our time creates who we are.

Recently, one of Roderick Monroe Ganus’ descendants shared with me pictures of Roderick's pocket watch that he had inherited.  As I looked at the pictures of the beautiful old timepiece, I wondered what filled the minutes of Roderick's life?  How did he spend his time?

Born on 23 June 1863 in Calhoun, Alabama to John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater, Roderick, was the fifth child of eight born to the union, although only five sons actually survived to adulthood.

For the first few years of his life, Roderick’s family lived in Calhoun County, Alabama before moving to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where they lived for about three years.  By 1870, John and Olivia returned to their home state of Georgia, with their four sons, William Franklin, John Thackason, Roderick Monroe and Newton Lafayette.  Soon after their move back to Georgia, their last son, Robert Lee, was born. There in Haralson County, Georgia,  Roderick grew up with a house full of brothers, worked on the farm, learned to hunt and enjoyed the close proximity to aunts, uncles and cousins.  While they did the best they could with what they had, life following the Civil War was a difficult  time of  "Reconstruction"  for those in Georgia and  the Ganus family was no exception.

In November of 1886, at the age of 23, Roderick, along with his parents, siblings and their families, boarded a steam locomotive bound for Colorado where they would remain for the next ten years. Then in about 1896, Roderick accompanied his parents and siblings in a move to Oklahoma where they would all live for the remainder of the lives.

I wish that I knew the story behind Roderick's watch.  Did Roderick buy the watch for himself or was it a gift?  imageAs I studied the pictures and thought about what the watch might have meant to Roderick, I was glad that this precious possession had been preserved and had made its way into the hands of a beloved great grandson.  I am equally grateful that he generously shared pictures of the watch with me and others.

Curious about how old the watch might be,  I checked a database for pocket watches to see what information might be available. Based on the make and serial number, the estimated production year for the watch was 1909.  I knew that in 1909, Roderick was 46 years old and had been married to Carrie Melinda Davis for 4 years. (Carrie was the subject of posts here and here.)  By 1909, Roderick and Carrie were living in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and had  two children, John William and Bertha Mae. 

Wanting to know more about Roderick during that time period,  I looked for him on the 1910 census.  As I pulled up the image on Ancestry and saw  Roderick’s household, tears immediately filled my eyes and began to slide down my cheeks.  Along with Roderick and Carrie were their children John W. and Bertha, but in addition,  listed in their household was my grandpa, then nine year old Heber, his twin Orson and Roderick’s thirty-eight year old brother, Newton.  (I shared Newton’s sad story in this post.) 

The finding confirmed what my grandfather had written in his life history.  After the death of his mother in 1909, which followed just three short years after his father's death, it was Roderick that had taken him into his home. Years ago, when I shared that story with one of Roderick’s descendants,  he indicated that Roderick had never had very much in material goods and had always struggled to make ends meet.  He didn’t know how Roderick could have fed another mouth, so I was shocked to learn that Roderick didn’t feed just one extra mouth, but he had fed three!  He had taken in two energetic young boys, who likely had bottomless pits for stomachs, and Roderick's adult brother.  The census was taken in April of 1910,  which was a little over a year after the death of Heber and Orson’s mother, meaning this had not been a short visit for them.

As I pondered Roderick’s life in terms of time, finding that he had taken in his two nephews, Orson and Heber, and his thirty eight year old, mentally ill brother, Newton, spoke volumes about Roderick's use of his time.  Fast forward to 1930 and from that census I learned that at the age of sixty-six, in addition to providing for his wife and four children, Roderick had taken in his daughter-in-law, Thelma, and grandson, Carl.  Truly Roderick made time and space in his life, in his heart and in his home for those in need at many stages of his life. 

I’ve always felt drawn to Roderick.  When I look at the only known picture of him, I see a tenderness and a kindness in his face.  Roderick’s life and experiences spanned from the raging brutality of the Civil War in the the South to the harshness shown by Mother Nature in the days of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.  Yet from all indications,  rather than allowing the struggles of life to harden him, Roderick seemed to instead be more sensitive to the vulnerability and delicateness of the human condition, ever willing to give of  his time to alleviate the sufferings of others.

As shared in his obituary:
[Roderick] was an upright and worthy citizen and loved and respected by those who knew him.  His being translated into the new life will leave a vacant place not only in the hearts of loved ones but in his wide circle of friends and neighbors . . . “
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While I do not know the story behind Roderick's pocket watch, I am grateful that his great grandson shared pictures of it with me.  Doing so caused me to take the time to look at Roderick's life a little closer and in the process I was able to see evidence of his generosity and kindness and the way in which Roderick used his time to lift and bless others in their need.  It seems only fitting that a pocket watch has been passed down through generations as truly his use of his time ultimately defined him.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013



Pictures of Roderick's watch and headstone generously shared by Great Grandson, Lloyd Ganus.

Obituary shared with me by descendants, but source not recorded.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Giggling With The Pig


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I’ll always remember the day we drove into a small little West Texas town on our move  from California and spotted a Piggly Wiggly sign.  Our family had never seen a Piggly Wiggly, much less heard of that particular grocery store chain and so my brothers and I did what came most natural to us kids, we laughed ourselves silly. 

After years of living in the Texas, we grew accustomed to the name and joined the locals in shopping there.  Years passed and eventually my family moved away and I’ve never seen a Piggly Wiggly since.

Recently as I was going through some family pictures, I came across this picture of my Grandpa’s twin brother, Orson Merritt Ganus, driving a Piggly Wiggly truck.  I couldn’t help but smile at the site of the Piggly Wiggly logo on the side.

Orson Merritt Ganus
Orson Merritt Ganus
I wish I knew the full story behind this picture.  Was it possibly taken on Orson’s first day of work at Piggly Wiggly? Dressed in a suit and tie, this job was in stark contrast to the farm life he had experienced in Colorado as a young man and I wonder if he felt an anxiety over that difference.  Was he excited and hopeful for a future in a new career?

While I am unsure exactly when this picture was taken, based on pictures of grocery trucks found on the internet, my best guess would be that this picture was taken in approximately the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.  I turned to the census to see if I could find any clues about when Orson worked with Piggly Wiggly.

In 1920, Orson was living in Sanford, Colorado where he worked as a farm laborer according to the census.1    But by 1930, Orson had moved and was living in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.  Orson married Frieda Hembree in May of 1924 and by 1930 they had one son, and were expecting their second child.  On the 1930 census, Orson is listed as a salesman for a grocery store and Frieda indicated that she was working as a sales girl at a dry goods store2. This seems to support the possibility that the picture of Orson was taken around 1930, give or take a few years.

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imageHad Orson taken a job as a salesman with the hope of being able to better provide for his growing family? With a second child on the way, was he looking for a job with a higher earning potential?

Being a  salesman did not become a lifetime pursuit for Orson, however, as evidenced by the 1940 census, where he is no longer listed as a salesman, but is listed as a filling station attendant.3

Did the job of salesman not suit him?  Were the hours too long?  Was there too much pressure or was wearing a suit too foreign? While I may never know any more about Orson’s time as a grocery salesman or why he didn’t continue in that job, I am grateful to have a copy of the picture of him driving a Piggly Wiggly truck.  This image adds dimension to Orson’s life and makes me think that he was willing to try different things in an effort to support his family. In addition, the picture reminds me of time with my brothers and when something as simple as a sign seemed hysterically funny.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


1.  1920 U.S. Census,  Sanford, Conejos,Colorado, population schedule, Sanford Town, Enumeration District (ED) 35, sheet 6-B, p. 6B; 35; p. 120 (stamped)  dwelling 114, family 118, Orson Hanus, (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing National Archives microfilm publication T625_157.

2.  1930 U.S. Census, Okmulgee, Okmulgee, Oklahoma; population schedule, Okmulgee City, Enumeration District (ED) 56-28, sheet 8-B, p. 88 (stamped) dwelling 185, family 190, Orson Ganus (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing National Archives microfilm publication T626

3.  1940 U.S. Census, Okmulgee, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, population schedule, Okmulgee City, Enumeration District (ED) 56-30, sheet 7-B, p. 408 (stamped), line 72, Visited No. 149, Orson Ganus (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 28 May 2013) citing Nation Archives microfilm publication T627_3319 .
Piggly Wiggly sign and Piggly Wiggly store front pictures from Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spring With Forty Acres and a Plow

imageI am always thrilled when I see the first crocus poke its head through the soil …..it brings with it anticipation and excitement for spring and warmer weather.  As I recently drove  to the nursery to select plants and seeds for my garden, I wondered what spring meant to my ancestors. Many of my ancestors were Georgia farmers and so I suspect that for them spring meant work, hope and anticipation for a bountiful harvest.

Here we plant most of our garden after Mother’s Day, so I was surprised to learn that in many areas of Georgia they plant some crops as early FEBRUARY!  So while I am still watching the snow drifts pile up, they are preparing soil and sowing seeds . When I am looking through the starts at our local nursery, in many parts of Georgia, they are beginning to harvest crops such as sweet corn, peaches and squash.

According to the 1880 Agricultural Census 1 John Monroe Ganus was the owner of his farm, which included 18 acres of Indian corn,  2 acres of oats, 2 acres of wheat, and 18 acres of cotton.  He also had 5 barnyard poultry, 8 swine and one milch cow in addition to one other cow.
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While this was not a big farm, by any standards, as I recently surveyed my cluster of simple raised garden boxes and thought of the time required to care for them,  I could not help but wonder what farming was like for John and how he managed to care for all that he had.  Farming is demanding for the farmers of today, but I can not imagine how grueling it must have been for the farmers of the late 19th century, void of the benefits of modern day equipment.

In 1880, John and Olivia had sons living at home who may have been a source of help.  At that time, their two oldest sons, William Franklin and John Thackason, were both married, had families and were farming nearby. The three sons still at home, were Roderick Monroe who was 17, Newton Lafayette who was 13 and Robert Lee who was 10.  I also know that for a period of time in 1882, John had help from an Mormon missionary serving in the area at that time.  I am so thankful for the insight that the John Metcalf’s journal2  provides into John’s life as a farmer.

According to his journal, when Elder Metcalf visited John ‘s home on May 19, 1882, he learned that a frost had killed some of John’s cotton and corn.  Farmers have always been vulnerable to the unpredictability of the weather, but that wouldn't have softened the disappointment of such loss.  From what I know about John, he was never particularly well off, but had to work hard for most of his life in order to provide for his family, so I am sure that losing crop came as a blow.  The next next morning, John got up and did the only thing that he could do and that was to get to work.  Elder Metcalf recorded that the next day he helped John to plow, indicating that they plowed half a day and were so busy, he ended up staying the night with John and Olivia.  A few days later, John had wheat to bind and Elder Metcalf returned to help.  On July 28, Elder Metcalf helped John “plow cotton”  and the men once again worked long and late into the evening.
 
As  crops were harvested, the farmer was not yet “done," as the fields then had to be cleared and cleaned.  Elder Metcalf found John in the field doing exactly that on September 9, and once again, stepped in to help him.  The following day, September 10,  it rained all day and  Elder Metcalf recorded that consequently they just “waited it out”.  I can almost picture the men, anxious to complete the task, periodically peering out the window for any indication of a break in the storm.  The following day, the rain stopped and they were able to return to the field to continue their work.  In my mind, I can see the steam rising from the field as the  hot Georgia sun warmed the drenched soil.  I also can imagine John and Elder Metcalf returning to John’s house at the end of the day, sunburned, tired and muddy from a full day’s work.  For three back breaking days, John and Elder Metcalf worked to clear the field. 

September 14, Elder Metcalf helped John pull fodder. After harvesting corn, farmers use to “pull fodder”, which involves pulling the blades off of the cornstalks and gathering them into bunches to dry in the sun. The fodder was then stored to be fed to the cows later. It was difficult work and the sharp edges of the corn blades often sliced their hands in the process.
 
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Sugar Cane
According to the  journal, John raised sugar cane that year and Elder Metcalf was there to help John cut the cane on September 28th, 29th and 30th  and again on October 2nd, and 3rd.  Cutting sugar cane was also difficult work, in which each stalk was cut individually from the ground and then at the top, after stripping off the foliage along the sides.3    

As they came to the end of the growing season, John Metcalf returned to John’s farm one final time on October 31 and helped John "pull and haul corn."

While Elder Metcalf continued to visit John’s home, no further mention was made that year of helping him on the farm and so for a few months at least, John continued to feed and care for his handful of livestock until the following spring, when he would once again begin the process of plowing, planting and harvesting.


1. Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880 database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 May 2013, entry for John M. Ganus, District 1143 Haralson, Georgia; Archive Collection Number:  T1137; Page: 08; Line 10

2 Journal of John Edward Metcalf, Mission to the Southern States.  No longer available on the internet. (bulk of material for this post was taken from entries in this journal).

3   Cultivation of Sugar Cane;  William Carter Stubbs; Daniel Gugel Purse, Savannah, Morning News Print, 1900, page 144, found on www.books.google.com

Pictures from Wikipedia Commons, all in Public Domain.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013
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