Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dressing the Nine


Dressed to the nines has long been a phrase used to describe individuals dressed up and stylish.  Today, in our affluent society it is not difficult to find those that can be described in that way. The phrase came to mind today as I considered a particular family in my line, although knowing their circumstances, it most certainly could not have applied.  Rather the family I was considering had nine children and and I found myself wondering how in the world they managed to feed and dress their nine, although families of that size were fairly common up until the mid 20th century.  In fact as I look through my family tree, it is full of individuals that reared large families during the most difficult of times.  
Martha Elizabeth (Ganus) Brock
Martha Elizabeth (Ganus) Brock

Born 12 April 1846, Mattie Ganus, grew up in the small rural community of Fayetteville, Fayette, Georgia.   Formally named Martha Elizabeth Ganus, she was the ninth of ten children born to James and Elizabeth (McCloskey) Ganus*.  Reared on a farm, she would have learned the basics of cooking, sewing and helping to care for some of the small farm animals from the time she was little. Undoubtedly these skills helped her later in rearing her own large family.

As one of the youngest children in a large family, the family structure was ever changing as older siblings married and moved away.  She was four years old when her oldest sister was married and only six years of age when her oldest brother, John Monroe Ganus, my 2nd great grandfather, married and moved away.

By the time Mattie married and left home at the age of 20, only she and her younger brother Addison were still at home.  She and William Cohen Brock tied the knot on 24 of December in 1866 in Coweta, Georgia, on the heels of the Civil War and during the period of Georgia’s painful reconstruction.  Bill was a farmer and undoubtedly dealt with crippling poverty, the difficulty of obtaining seed for crops, and the struggle of paying taxes as typically experienced by families of that time and location.

Bill and Mattie’s first known child was Joseph B. Brock born in 1871, a full five years after their marriage. Typically couples of that era began families within a few years of marriage, so I suspect that there was possibly some heartache and disappointment as they anticipated their first child. 

Mattie’s mother, Elizabeth, died sometime between 1860 and 1870, so Mattie would have faced childbirth and raising children without the benefits of her mother there to support and help her.  Perhaps she leaned on her oldest sister, Mary, who was 22 years older and who had married and left home when Martha was only a 4 year old child.  According to the 1880 census, Mary and Mattie lived only about six doors from each other.  Mattie’s brother, Addison, and his wife, in addition to her sister, Rebecca, and her husband also lived nearby. 

Martha Elizabeth Ganus Brock's Headstone
Martha E. Brock
Died 25 May 1909
Buried: Tallapoosa Primitive
Baptist Church Cemetery
Carroll County, Georgia 
Between the years of 1871 and 1888,  Bill and Mattie had a total of nine children, seven boys and two girls.  This meant nine children to dress, feed and educate.  They had nine children to house and nine children to care for emotionally as well as physically.  But for a farmer, it also meant nine sets of hands to help with the daily chores of running a farm.  In the process of being needed, the children learned to work, to help and the value of teamwork. 

Additionally, Mattie and Bill managed to instill in their children the desire for an education.  In fact, of their nine children, two pursued Dental school.  One son, Leon Cliff Brock, purportedly died while attending Dental School, but another son, Lloyd Jefferson Brock, finished and became a dental surgeon and additionally became a member of the House of Representatives. Their son Edgar Caloway Brock became a school teacher. With a love of the outdoors, several of their other sons followed in their father’s footsteps and farmed.  While living in trying circumstances during hard times, truly Bill and Mattie (Ganus) Brock took their charge seriously and managed to teach, care for and dress their nine.



*Mattie’s father James Ganus shortened his name in approximately 1840 from Gurganus to Ganus. 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

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.