Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Day Grandpa Hijacked the Car

I have never known anyone who hijacked anything, so when Mary said she remembered the day her grandpa hijacked the car, she had my full attention.

A few months ago I decided to round up descendants of John Monroe Ganus in a Facebook group. I am a member of several Facebook family groups and have enjoyed the association. The results of such groups seems to vary, but I was hopeful that this one would prove successful.  

Over the years I have been in touch with a few distant Ganus cousins, but I didn't expect that there would be very many on Facebook. As I've shared many times on this blog, my grandfather was orphaned at 8 and sent from Oklahoma where the Ganus family was living to Colorado to live with his mother's family, so I didn't grow up near any of my Ganus cousins and have never met any of them in person. 


While initially the group was composed of just a small handful of cousins, and I do mean a small handful, word soon spread, and the cousins I contacted began to tell other Ganus cousins and soon our group began to grow and so did the online chatter. 


Mary Jo Shaw Tedder, the granddaughter of Robert Lee Ganus is one of my newly discovered cousins. 
Robert Lee Ganus was born 29 May 1870 in Polk County, Georgia to John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater. He married Stella May Montgomery 8 July 1900 in Indian Territory, Creek Nation, Oklahoma.  He was the youngest of John and Olivia's children and 17 years younger than their eldest child, my great grandfather William Franklin Ganus. 

Mary has a delightful talent for writing and sharing her memories. When she shares a story, I feel that I am right there with her. With permission I want to share a memory that she recently shared with our group.  


Stella May Montomery, Andrew Monroe Ganus, Robert Lee Ganus
Shared by Floyd Ganus 


The Day Grandpa Ganus (Robert Lee) Hijacked the Car
I will have to start by confessing that the title was a bit of a tease. He didn't really hijack the car. It was his car but the other adults in the family much preferred he didn't drive it. We're talking early 30's and no particular skills were required it seems - and no driver's licenses. I was about 5 years old which meant there weren't more than 5 other grandkids in the area - all of us outside of course. My Aunt Olivia was a pretty "together" person so I was rather startled when she came running out the back door yelling - yes she was yelling - "gather up the kids and get them in the house. Papa's gonna drive the car." Kids were quickly gathered up and moved to a safe place. Grandpa came marching (I always think of him as marching rather than walking or strolling) out of the house and headed for the car. He got it started, ground the gears and lurched toward the road. It's true all the kids were safely in the house or the fenced in yard but the chickens were on their own. There was much squawking and running and I swear some of them tried to fly to get out of the way of that car. Grandpa didn't seem to notice. He got to the road, turned left and lurched away. The end of the story is anti-climatic I guess. He did come back and I never knew where he went or why. I sometimes wonder if those chickens were traumatized and unable to lay eggs at least for a few days.
I have laughed and laughed at this story. Thank you Mary for sharing your fun recollection! From the description of Robert marching out to the car, to the kids scattering and the chickens squawking, I can envision it all.

Robert Lee Ganus and
Stella May Montgomery
It's only been a couple of months since the group was first formed, but what a joy it has been already! We have laughed together and felt touched by the many photos and memories that have been shared. I am amazed at how quickly things have come together and how much it has already blessed my life by helping me become acquainted with my Ganus cousins, both past and present. 

As each person in our group has shared what they have or know about our family, each has given us something that can not be found in any document. Say what you want about Facebook.....but it's been the setting for a wonderful reunion. Stay tuned for more stories in the coming months!


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sticky Fingers




As they pulled away, the little hands waved wildly out the car windows while their sweet voices called out "Goodbye Nana, goodbye Papa!"

I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat.  Their visit was officially over and they were on their way to their home hundreds of miles away. The much anticipated visit was over and all that was left were the memories, sticky fingerprints and the many pieces of art work decorating the front of my fridge. Family. There's nothing better than time with those you love.

As I began the task of restoring order to my house, my tendency to relate everything to genealogy surfaced.  I began to think of my ancestors and contemplate their relationships with their children and grandchildren.

I thought of the ever important FAN club as taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills and the the vital role Families, Associates and Neighbors played in each others' lives.  Beside the natural tendency for people to want to live in close proximity to each other, family was a source of safety and protection in addition to a source of help and support in every aspect of life.  Aunts, uncles and grandparents played a significant role in their grandchildren's lives.  On my childhood visits to Colorado I learned all too quickly that aunts, uncles and grandparents all helped in correcting and instructing the children and that reports of public misbehavior made its way back to mom very quickly in those small familial communities.  Families worked together in raising their children.

Although, in many instances, I can see evidence of this tendency to live near each other in my ancestor's migrations,  I confess, there are those times when I scratch my head and wonder if some were just gypsies and moved willy nilly. But then I am reminded that even gypsies traveled together in a caravan. Sometimes no obvious clues are present but I know that likely within that "missing information" lies clues to yet unknown extended family.

One such situation is the move of my 2nd great grandparents John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus to Arkansas. The only evidence of that move which occurred between the 1860 and 1870 census is the indication on both later census records and church records that John and Olivia's son Newton was born in Pine Bluff Arkansas in 1867. The family lived in Alabama in 1860 near Olivia's sister's family, the Baileys, and by 1870 they had returned to Georgia, and were again living near family. So why the move in 1867 and did they go with family and if so, who and why?

Times have certainly changed and so have the roles that families fill.  Families no longer rely on each other for physical protection. Women go to the hospital to have babies and fewer people live on family farms. More and more people are turning to the convenience of HOAs, condos and apartment living. If people want the answer to a question, no need to ask parents or grandparents, Google knows it all, and Youtube has a video demonstrating it. As much as I enjoy modern conveniences, when the house is quiet and void of the voices of my children and grandchildren, I often wish we could go back to the days when grandparents and parents made a community.

William C. Brock and Martha Ganus and family
William Cohen Brock and Martha (Ganus) with their family
Martha was the sister of my 2nd great grandfather John Monroe Ganus



Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Justified Fear

Without a doubt, the fear was justified.

What initially began like the flu soon became much more. Within days of the beginning symptoms of fatigue, fever, headache and general discomfort, spots began to appear.  The red spots were followed by the formation of deep, painful blisters which often covered much of the body. Although not all who contracted smallpox died, all suffered greatly and the resulting deep pitted scars left their unmistakable mark on its victims for a lifetime.

The John Monroe Ganus family moved about considerably over the years. In the early years they lived in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Colorado. In about 1897 the family moved to Indian Territory, which would later become Oklahoma.

Smallpox comes up with some frequency in the history of the early days of Indian Territory. Although smallpox certainly was not unique to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), the risk appears to have been greater than it had been in Colorado where the Ganus family previously lived.  For example, according to the "Annual Report" by the United States Public Health for the year 1909, Oklahoma had 1,328 cases of smallpox with 6 deaths as compared to Colorado's 345 cases and no deaths. (see page 188)

A microfilm at the Family History Library entitled "Creek Nation: Outbreaks" for the years 1882-1909 * covers the period my ancestors lived in Okmulgee, in Creek Nation. It was while living in Indian Territory that my Great Grandfather William Franklin Ganus died in 1906 at the age of 53, and my Great Grandmother, Sally died in 1909 at the age of 45. In addition, my Gr Gr Grandmother Olivia Ganus died there in 1902, followed by my Gr Gr Grandfather John Monroe Ganus  in 1906, Although it's obvious that my great great grandparents were considerably older,  I've always thought it was curious that the four died in a relatively short span of time and particularly that my great grandparents died fairly young while many of the older Ganus generations lived until quite old. Because no death records exist for Indian Territory for that period of time, the cause of death is not known. I wondered if there was a chance that any of my Ganus ancestors died of smallpox.


As I scrolled through the microfilm, it became very apparent that smallpox was a major concern during those years.  There were a variety of records related to the efforts taken to control and reduce the spread of smallpox, such as setting aside funds to deal with outbreaks, plans for immunization and determining where to treat the victims. From the film I learned that on February 18,1899, Okmulgee, where my Ganus family was living at the time, was quarantined for smallpox. How had this impacted the Ganus family?  What changes did they make to the way they conducted their day to day life? Were neighbors and friends ill?

In January of the following year, houses and furniture of some of the ill in the area were burned, leaving the owners of the dwellings homeless. The act was justified as being for the "benefit of all people, white, black and indian residing in Indian Territory and adjoining states and territories."  In addition, a detention camp was prescribed by the board of health. Nurses and doctors were employed to assist in treating the smallpox victims in the camps and hospitals.

As I turned to Oklahoma newspapers, I found a variety of articles pertaining to smallpox.

From the Muskogee Times-Democrat 31 Mar 1909, I learned that the detention hospitals were more than just a place to receive medical attention, but as the name implies, they were literally a place of detention, with serious consequences for those who chose not to be confined. On page 1 I found the following:
 "Sheriff Ramsey today offered a reward of $25 for the apprehension of C. O. Zinn, who escaped from the smallpox detention hospital south of the city night before last."
Some Oklahoma community newspapers carried a monthly bulletin stating which illnesses were most prevalent along with the number of resulting deaths. Some communities listed the individuals suffering from smallpox as well as the specific towns under quarantine. Such was the case in 1909 of Fort Towson, Oklahoma which is located down near the Texas border. According to page 1 of the Dailey Armoreite on May 13th of that year,  the entire town was quarantined due to smallpox and no one was allowed to get on or off the train there without a physician's certificate.

Additionally sometimes courts were cancelled due to outbreaks of smallpox.  On page 2 of The Indian Chieftain (Vinita, Oklahoma) a headline read "DANGER OF SMALLPOX" No Court Should be Held in Vinita at This time." Schools and other pubic gatherings were often cancelled as well.

As a sideline, The Muskogee Cimeter 25 January1907  included the following humorous story.
An Illinois farmer, ...one day received a note from a Chicago friend which read as follows: "My dear John, the small pox is epidemic in this part of the city and for safety, I have taken advantage of one of your many kind invitations and sent my two sons down to you. In two weeks the farmer sent a note to the city friens (sic) which read:  "I herewith return your boys: please send me the small pox."  Oklahoma State Capital, Jan 19, 1907.  (page 1) 
Did any of the early Ganus family members contract smallpox?  I still don't know for sure, but I feel fairly confident that they likely had friends and neighbors who did. While I did not find any of the Ganus family on a list of smallpox victims, I can see that smallpox touched every member of a community in some way and that the fear it generated was justified.



*Creek Nation: Outbreaks, documents 22 July 1882 - 7 Apr. 1909- FHL US/CAN Film 1666283, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved