Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Without Means of Support, Part 2

It was 1849 and Rebecca was living just outside of Macon with her husband David Gurganus.  Dependent on funds from the Pauper Account from Bibb County, Georgia, they got by.  David’s oldest daughter, widowed and in her fifties, had moved in with them.   

In the spring of 1849, an event occurred that changed everything.  David’s widowed daughter, Mary Ellen, was brutally murdered in their front yard and David was clubbed in the head with the butt of a rifle. (The complete story is told here.)

Rebecca, stood helplessly by as she witnessed the horrific scene. After the attacker fled, it was Rebecca's wails that brought a nearby neighbor running to help. Finding Ellen dead from a gunshot wound to the neck and 87 year old David, kneeling on the ground, bleeding head in his hands, the neighbor carried David into the house and then went for help.

By Harry French [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Rebecca testified at the trial of Ellen’s murderer in September of 1849, but David was not well enough to even attend the trial much less testify. Newspaper accounts indicated it was unlikely that he would ever recover. As predicted, he never did fully recover and passed away the following March.  In a relatively short time, Rebecca found herself completely alone.

Rebecca had no means to pay for David’s coffin. Inferior Court minutes show that E.B. Mims was reimbursed for the cost of David's coffin from the Pauper Account. It was also the Pauper Account that continued to sustain Rebecca.


According to the newspaper,The Macon Messenger, in July of 1850 there were three unclaimed letters addressed to Rebecca Gurganus at the post office. I can't help but wonder, who wrote her?   Did she have children from a previous marriage? Did she have living siblings that knew of her plight?  Did she ever pick up and pay for her mail and did she respond? 

What did Rebecca do next?  I will share what I know in next post. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Without Means of Support

Where would she turn next?  Alone and with limited means, Rebecca had to find a way to support herself. Her life had changed drastically in a few short years. 

It was 1852 in Macon, Georgia and Rebecca Gurganus was widowed and sixty nine years old.  If she and her deceased husband, David Gurganus, had children, there is no evidence of such and so, by all appearances, she was truly very alone.  

Rebecca had been married to David for thirty-six years.  She was 33 years old when she married David, a 53 year old widower with three boys at home. His boys James, David and John Wesley were all from his first marriage to Mary Swain and by 1830 were married and had moved away.

A Long Hard Winter, Library of Congress 1893 
In 1847, David had attempted to obtain his Revolutionary War pension, but like many applicants, he was unable to provide sufficient proof.  It had been 67 years since his first tour and while he remembered the names of a few men with whom he served, it had been almost 50 years since he lived in Pitt County, North Carolina where he entered the service. He then moved to Edgefield, South Carolina and later settled in Macon, Georgia.  It’s not difficult to imagine why he no longer had proof of his service and why none of the men with whom he had served were around to testify in his behalf.  


Beginning in 1849, David, aged, impoverished and with few options, turned to Bibb County for help.  From that time until his death, he and Rebecca appeared in the Inferior Court minutes on the Pauper Account, relying on the county for assistance.

Sometime in the early 1840s, David’s widowed daughter, Mary Ellen Pratt, who was in her early 50s, moved in with David and Rebecca and together they all lived about 4 miles from Macon, on the road to Forsyth.  Life was not easy, but they were together and for a time, that was enough.  Coming events would change Rebecca's life dramatically.

To see where Rebecca fits in, click on the Gurganus tab above and then select "David Gurganus Sr." 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Tractor, Grandpa and Me


A few years ago while visiting our daughter's family in Washington state, I stood out in their back yard one beautiful spring morning and watched the field behind their house being plowed. Seeing the tractor make its way back and forth across the field took me back to my childhood summers spent with my cousins in Colorado. I have fond memories of driving the tractor as my cousins baled hay. As I stood out in the back yard that day, watching and remembering "the good ole days," our daughter's neighbor noticed my interest and invited me to ride along for a bit.


Heber Monroe Ganus, San Luis Valley Colorado


As I climbed up into the enclosed cab, I was amazed at how things have changed. With air conditioning, cushioned seats and a GPS system which ensures perfectly aligned rows, that tractor was a far cry from the open air John Deere I bounced and bumped around on so many years ago.

The funny thing is, the Deere that I drove was a vast improvement over earlier farm equipment, a fact verified by a few pictures I have of my Grandpa Ganus with plows.

I love the photo of Grandpa and his two children taken in the fields of the San Luis Valley of Colorado and I also love the photo below of him with a team and the plow behind.

I am not sure what type of fields they were plowing in either picture, but alfalfa fields are common there. 

Grandpa did not attend college and only had a seventh grade education, so he did what he could to provide for his family. He farmed, worked on a reservoir and in his later years worked as a mechanic.

Born in Oklahoma in 1900, he lived most of his life in Colorado, but due to health problems he returned to the lower elevation of Oklahoma in the final years of his life.  Grandpa passed from this life in 1964.  My how things have changed since Grandpa was alive.

Although riding in the modern tractor made me feel a little more removed from the soil, there were elements of plowing the field that felt the same as when I was a kid on that John Deere. I was out doors, the sun was shining and I felt joy from being out in nature. And while I know that plowing was a lot more work back in Grandpa's day, I can't help but wonder if he too loved the feeling of being outdoors behind the plow.

Heber Monroe Ganus, San Luis Valley Colorado



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved