Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mothers Helping Mothers

A health crisis in our family has made it necessary for me to help with grandkids frequently over the past few years. As much as I love these sweet little gifts from heaven, I must confess that days of chasing little ones, cleaning up messes, and settling disputes between siblings has left me feeling every year of my age.

George Hardy (1822-1909)
Throughout time women have helped each other with children. I see women in my family tree who helped others with their children, and I suspect you likely have such women in your family as well. Some took the children into their home and completely assumed the role of mother while others were available here and there as the need arose.

I would like to share what I know about one such woman, although I know there are others.

Early on as I researched my Ganus family, a story was shared with me about James W. Ganus, my second great grandfather's brother and it went something like this. James W. Ganus, born 1841, married and had two children.  One was a little boy named James C. and the other was a little girl, named Minnie.  I was told the little girl was always referred to as "Minnie Diggs," although the person sharing the story wasn't exactly sure why. One person I talked to surmised that perhaps Minnie's maternal grandmother had been a Diggs.

As the story went, James' wife died and, feeling that it would be too difficult to rear the children, he took them to their grandmother's home (they didn't know her name) and off he went to fight in the Civil War. Family lore indicates that when James returned from the war, he picked up his son, James C., and went to Alabama, but left Minnie behind in Georgia with her grandmother. No one knew exactly what had become of Minnie. Every bit the genealogist, I had to see what I could find.

The records reveal a slightly different twist to the story.

Living outside of Atlanta, John and Nancy Foster, reared seven children,  Sarah, James Robert, Frances, John L., Mary, Edward W., and William J. Foster. In about 1864, when daughter Frances was about 19, she married James W. Ganus in Carroll County, Georgia. James was a farmer and the son of James Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey. He was a younger brother to my 2nd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus.

In 1870 James and Frances are shown on the census living with their 3 year old son in Carroll County, Georgia. James was a farmer and living in relatively close proximity to several of his siblings.

But as you may have figured out, this is where fact and family lore parted ways. I will share how in my next post. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Remembering Robert, Part 2

Finding ancestors' and relatives' names in records is always fun for a genealogist, but nothing compares to finding living who actually knew them. My recent experience in corresponding with living individuals who knew Robert Lee Ganus has been a testament to the value of blogging and social media. 

Born May 29, 1870 to John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater, Robert Lee Ganus was their youngest child and the youngest brother to my great grandfather, William Franklin Ganus. I was thrilled when three of Robert's grandchildren, Floyd Ganus, Mary Tedder and Dorothy Davis introduced me to Robert through their memories of him. Today I share the second part of his story. (You can find part 1 here.)


"Robert , known to some as Bobby, was a well respected civic leader in the community near Grovania Church. He was in charge of the annual road building crews there. Each summer all adult men in the community had to work 3 weeks in building local roads. This occurred in late summer after the crops were laid back waiting for harvest. He was also the election judge for the local voting precinct. This meant he ran the local election and made sure all ballots were correctly counted. He would read aloud each ballot vote to at least 2 counters who would tally the votes. If both agreed on the count then the vote was final, and he sealed the ballot box with tally sheets to the county courthouse. Also as election judge he was responsible for collecting the local poll tax. He had to keep meticulous records as the poll tax determined who could vote in the election and he had to pay this to the county commissioners.  
"I believe he would be horrified to know the toll tax is now considered to be a discriminator to keep African Americans and poorer people from voting. I was always told he was a leader in encouraging non-discrimination against Native Americans and African Americans. I was told he believed that all cemeteries should allow all races to be buried there. Whenever he hired a black man to help, he would have them sit with the family at lunch. However as was the custom of the time, at harvest time with mixed crews the African Americans were set a table outside. My father also told of race troubles on the county road crews, which Robert averted by arming the white workers with pick handles (pick handles are easily separated from the pick and are similar to a bat in size). So although he was a forward thinker, he was also a man with beliefs of this time. He was not active in church activities although he always claimed his church was Mormon. Being over 5 miles from the church in times before automobiles and married to Stella who claimed to be a Methodist may have contributed to this.

"A family story often retold is about his friendship with Chief Berryhill, chief of the Creek Nation. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Indian rolls were created to identify the Creek Indians. Chief Berryhill offered to put Robert on the rolls so that he would be eligible for future Indian benefits. He refused to put his name on the rolls, because of his honesty.

"He was an accomplished farmer for his time. He and Stella always had a big bountiful garden. He had a blacksmith shop and was capable of metal working tasks. He had an orchard, including peaches, apricots, and black walnuts. The farm was well kept with well-built buildings and shade trees. In 1931 or 1932, he suffered health problems, which prevented him from doing the arduous tasks on the farm. From that point until his death, Floyd or Monroe farmed the property.

"To all of us grandchildren, he was a very quiet person who rarely spoke. He was that person in the background who was looking out for the safety of us grandchildren. Thus rarely would any of us get away with not abiding his unsaid rules for our safety without him yelling for us to quit, get out of there, etc. Also a good example would be where he rushed to shoot the rooster which attacked his grand daughter. He sat in his chair in the corner of the living room with his radio tuned to the 6 o'clock news. He would often drink a glass of Alka Seltzer before retiring.

"In March 1952 he suffered major health problems. All three daughters came to care for him and the front room was converted into a hospital for him. The three sons checked on him daily. For the final week he was in a comma with the doctor saying that he could not do anymore to help him. He died 25 March 1952 at the age of 81. He was buried in the Okmulgee City Cemetery."  

Thank you Floyd, Mary and Dorothy for helping me to get to know Robert.




Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Remembering Robert

How well do you really know your ancestors? Were they quiet or chatty? Did they drink something special before retiring at night? Were they honest? What were their beliefs on the issues of the day? 
Robert Lee Ganus, b May 19, 1870
Robert Lee Ganus

While so much can be gleaned from governmental records, nothing quite compares to the recollections of those who actually knew them. A journal, letters, or another's remembrances can provide a unique glimpse into an individual's life that no record can provide. 

I recently connected with descendants of Robert Lee Ganus, my great grandfather's youngest brother. What a treat to find living people who knew him and were willing to share what they remember about their grandfather. Thank you Floyd Ganus, Mary Tedder and Dorothy Davis! My next few posts will be memories they have generously shared about their grandfather, Robert. 
"Robert Lee Ganus was born May 29,1870, to parents John Monroe Ganus and Olivia Rainwater in west central Georgia, Polk County. He was the youngest of six sons who lived to adult age. He lived and migrated with his parents to Colorado and then to the Creek Nation capital known as Okmulgee, a place the Creek Native Americans chose as their government resettlement since they believed no tornado would strike this town and it was adjacent to Deep Fork River.
"Robert worked for a period as a laborer, possibly as a farm hand, and saved the earnings to purchase 80 acres of farmland from Cecilia Berryhill, a relative of the Creek Native American Chief in the late 1890's. This farm was to be his livelihood and home for the remainder of his life. Initially the cash crop was cotton, but peanuts were grown later. Almost half was dedicated to a cow pasture and most of the crops were corn and head-feed for the chickens, pigs and cows. The majority of food came from a large garden. Pork was a staple since it could be saved via salt injections. A more detailed description is contained in a later description of the farm.
Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Mae Montgomery
Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Mae Montgomery
"At the age of 30 he courted Stella Mae Montgomery, age 21. She lived with her parents two miles west and one mile south from his farm. They were married July 8, 1900. They had 8 children, 2 died as infants and 6 who lived to raise their own families. Mary Olivia (Shepperd) b. July 30, 1902: Stella Jane (Mitchel) b. February 27, 1904; Ida Mae (Shaw) b. September 27, 1907; Robert Orvil b. September 12, 1910; Floyd Otto b. April 6, 1913; Andrew Monroe b. April 14, 1917. The first born, a girl Jessie, and fourth born, a girl Lola, died as infants. These six children had 22 grandchildren. All six of these children remained close even after they started their own families. Olivia Shepherd and Ida Mae Shaw continued to return each July 8th for a family reunion after their husbands work had moved them to Texas. The other four continued to live within five miles."

Robert Lee Ganus, Stella Mae Montgomery, Mary Olivia Ganus, Stella Jane Ganus, Ida Mae Ganus, Robert Orvil Ganus, Floyd Otto Ganus, Andrew Monroe Ganus
Robert, Stella and their grown children
Return next week for part 2 when Floyd, Dorothy and Mary share more memories about Robert's life.  

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved