Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Boxing and Crying

Those who have been following my blog are probably well aware that my grandpa, Heber Monroe Ganus, was orphaned at a young age.  Being a pivotal point not only for my grandpa but for his descendants as well, it is a point of reference for so many of my stories here.  If you haven't been following, you may want to read a little about the brothers and what happened here and here.

Because grandpa was orphaned and lived in several homes, we know little about his early life, so finding a few recollections of his childhood, no matter how brief, is a blessing. I found some stories about my grandpa and his brother Orson in a most unexpected place.

family history, genealogy, Sanford Colorado, Alamosa Colorado, Faucett, Ganus, orphan
Ernest and Heber 
On a recent visit to Brigham Young University (Go Cougars!) I visited their library and decided to take a look at an autobiography of Olive Elmina Faucett Christensen who lived in Alamosa, Colorado. I didn't know anything about Olive because I haven't worked much on my Faucett line, but knowing that my great grandmother was a Faucett and that she had lived in the Alamosa area for a time and knowing that her mother's name was Elmina, I was sure there was a link between her and Olive. I hoped that maybe there would be some mention of their ancestry, but was delighted to find instead a few stories that no governmental record can provide. This find underscores the value of learning all that you can about extended family. You never know what other treasures you might find in the process.

When Grandpa Heber's parents died, he and twin Orson and their older brother Ernest remained in Oklahoma for a time with their father's family but a year later went to Colorado to live with their mother's family. Orson went to their mother's brother, Thomas, Heber went to her brother Alfonzo, and Ernest went to Sally's oldest sister, Mary Haggard.  Both Thomas, Alonzo and Mary lived in Sanford so, although the brothers were split up, they lived relatively close to each other. Olive was Thomas' daughter and Orson became like a brother to her.

Olive's autobiography [1]  is a wonderful rambling of memories from her childhood as she recalls everything from how they made their beds, to milking cows and raising chickens as well as local events such as dances and ball games. While her book is difficult to find, if you would like a peek into life in rural Conejos County Colorado in the early part of the 20th century, locating a copy to read is worth the effort. I will be sharing several of her recollections of Orson and Heber over the next few blog posts.


In one account, Olive provided a brief look into what became a regular evening activity for Orson and Heber. Olive shared:
"One time Papa got Orson some boxing gloves for Christmas, things really got going then. Heber would come down from Uncle Fon's and everybody would get them to boxing.  Heber was a little tougher than Orson, but they would really box. Orson would hit and cry and hit and cry.  Then as the kids grew up they got a larger set of boxing gloves and boxing went right on down the line.  After supper men and boys would get out in the yard and box."

Other than the crying part, the story warms my heart.  It's good to know the boys got together in the evenings and "played," which in this case meant boxing each other's ears. Hopefully between the tears, there was also laughter and bonding. Because it became a repeated event and they later got larger gloves in order to continue the activity, I tend to think it was something they enjoyed doing together.


Orson Ganus, Heber Ganus, twins, orphans, Southern Colorado, boxing
The twins
Orson and Heber Ganus 

[1] Autobiography of Olive E. Faucett Christensen, written January through December 1957, Artcraft Printers, Alamosa, Colorado


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Monday, August 24, 2015

Life Altered in an Instant

How often have you wished you could do something over again, vowing that this time you would do it better?  Sometimes the consequences of snap decisions are just annoying, but other times they are tragic.

As I shared in last weeks post, (found here) running across a McCleskey among Utah Death certificates came as a surprise, especially since it was a McCleskey with a connection to my family in Oklahoma. It would take some digging to find the story, but things eventually fell into place.

muskogge oklahoma, okmulgee oklahoma, genealogy,  family history

Lillian Howell was born in 1883 in Collin County, Texas to Henry Harrison Howell and Amelia Louisa Turner.  Lillian grew up in a household of 11 children, two were half siblings from her father's prior marriage. By 1900 the family moved to Creek Nation, Indian Territory.

Two years later, on 28 December 1902, nineteen year old Lillian Howell married thirty-one year old Benjamin Green McCleskey in Muskogee County, Oklahoma.

A year later their first child Floyd Elmer was born in 1903, followed by Williard Roscoe in 1904. Raymond was born in 1906 and Green Russell McCleskey was born on the 31 of March in 1909, likely in Okmulgee where his family was living in 1910. The brothers were close in age with all four born within six years. I can only imagine the challenges their mother faced as she raised four boys so close in age. 

Russell and his brothers all learned to read and write and helped their father on the farm. Life was hard and there was a lot to do for those families struggling to farm in the early days in Oklahoma. 

I wonder how many times over the years Russell's father, Benjamin, shared the story of losing his father, George Walter McCleskey, in a shootout with Native Americans in Weatherford, Texas, a story I shared here.

At the age of 20, Russell proposed to Virginia Canes and they tied the knot on March 2, 1929 in Okfuskee, Oklahoma.  While most couples feel a certain sense of optimism and hope for the future, few anticipate the challenges and difficulties that come with life. Sadly Russell and Virginia's life would include a very tragic event within their first year of marriage. 

When Russell and Virginia married, Oklahoma was already struggling economically, but the big stock market crash would occur later that year making life even more difficult. Jobs were hard to come by and people were willing to look beyond their immediate communities. I am not sure how Russell learned of the job, but he was hired to work for a loan company in Utah, so he and Virginia packed up and made the nearly 1,300 mile move to Utah.

In Salt Lake City, Russell worked as a manager for The Commercial Discount Company while Virginia worked as a telephone operator. They lived in a small three-year old brick house located at 1453 Westminster Avenue in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were some of the lucky ones. 



rumble seat, accident, salt lake city utah, genealogy, family history


Over Labor Day weekend in 1930, Russell and Virginia went on a little trip to Ogden with friends, Alma U. Daniels and wife Bernice. Bernice also worked for the phone company and it is likely the wives met there. In addition, the couples were close in age and lived within five minutes of each other. 


fall colors, Utah, Ogden, family history, genealogy
9/28/2012 Ogden, Utah 
The 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Contest 
photo by Garry Tucker, USFWS
On Monday evening, September 1, 1930, the couples returned from Ogden, driving along the Ogden-Salt Lake highway, a distance of about 40 miles. Riding along the base of the Wasatch Mountain range, they would have had a clear view of mountains, ablaze with the colors of fall. 

With an altitude of a little over 4,000 feet, evenings in Salt Lake City tend to cool down considerably as the sun drops and such was the case that day. Although the high on September 1, 1930 was 81, the low was 55. [1] While Alma, Bernice and Virginia rode in the front seat of the car, Russell rode in the rumble seat in the back, which soon became too cool. Several articles reported simply that G. Russell tried to move from the rumble seat to inside the car while it was still moving. Thankfully the following article gave a more complete picture of the events that occurred.[2]




Green Russell McCleskey, Alma U. Daniels, Salt Lake City, Utah. Benjamin Green McCleskey, William McCleskey, Raymond McCleskey, Floyd McCleskey, Oklmulgee, Genealogy,  Family History,

The newspaper reported that Russell died of a skull fracture, but the death certificate indicated that he probably died from a broken neck. [3]



Green Russell McCleskey, Virginia McCleskey, Salt Lake City, Utah, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, genealogy, family history, research, death certificate

I can't comprehend the shock folks must have felt as the news reached Russell's friends and family in Oklahoma. Russell was a young man in the prime of life with so much ahead of him. He was working, renting a nice home and was newly married. As friends and family gathered to comfort his devastated parents, Benjamin Green McCleskey and Lillian Howell, I imagine his aunt and uncle, Henry Edgar Howell and Ollie (Ganus), were among them. There would be many hard days to follow.

Life can be altered forever in an instant. A seemingly simple action can lead to a tragic end. How often I have replayed an incident over and over in my mind, wishing I could go back and do it again but different. If only.....

Married just over a year, Virginia had her husband's body shipped back to Oklmulgee and buried in the Okmulgee Cemetery. 


[1] "The Weather" column Salt Lake Telegram, September 1, 1930, image 7, Utah Digital Newspapers;  http://digitalnewspapers.org/, accessed 14 August, 2015. 

[2] Salt Lake Man Killed In Fall off Auto, Salt Lake Telegram, September 2, 1930; Utah Digital Newspapers, http://digitalnewspapers.org/; accessed 11 August, 2015. 

[3]  Utah Death Certificate Index, Utah Department of Administrative Services,http://www.archives.utah.gov/research/indexes/20842.htm, Green Russell McCleskey Death Certificate, accessed 14 August 2015. 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Monday, August 17, 2015

Lost and Found

Sometimes you find people where you least expect to find them! 


Martha Olivia Ganus wife of  Henry Edgar Howell, daughter of William Franklin Ganus
Martha Olivia (Ganus) Howell
(Original photo in my possession) 
While helping a friend do some research, I spent some time searching the Utah Death Certificates. While I was at it, I couldn't resist putting in a few of my own family names into the search box just for fun. I really didn't expect to find anyone because the majority of my ancestors lived in the southern states. 

Imagine my surprise when I typed in McCleskey and up popped Green Russell McCleskey. Although not a direct ancestor, Green Russell McCleskey's family lived near my family in both Georgia and Oklahoma and with the name of McCleskey (my brick wall) I've kept my eye on this family for some time. 

Russell's mother, Lillian Howell, was a sister to Henry Edgar Howell, who married Martha Olivia Ganus, my grandpa's half sister. Martha Olivia, or "Ollie" was William Franklin Ganus's daughter with his first wife, Mary Matilda Roberts.

Just to make sure that this was the same Green Russell McCleskey, I double checked my database and confirmed that, yes, parents and his birth date were the same.  

Since my grandfather's half sister, Ollie (Ganus) Howell was Green Russell McCleskey's aunt and they lived in the same area of Oklahoma, I felt sure that the families interacted. Below are the Howell, McCleskey and Ganus families and the red helps to clarify the link. 

Henry Harrison Howell b. 1840 IL d. 1928 Ok
married Amelia Louisa Turner b. 1852 IL d. 1928 OK

Children of Henry and Louisa


   1. Katherine Anne Howell b. 1873
   2. Henry Edgar Howell b. 1875 Il d. 1951 Ok marr. Martha Olivia Ganus b. 1880 GA d. 1916 OK
   3. Elroy Howell b. 1878
   4. Lily Howell b. 1883 TX d. 1899 OK
   5. Lillian Howell b. 1883 TX d. 1974 Ok married Benjamin Green McCleskey b. 1871 Tx d. 1932 OK

       Children of Benjamin and Lillian
    
            * Floyd Elmer McCleskey b. 1903
            * Raymond C. McCleskey b. 1906
            * Green Russell McCleskey b. 1909
            * Willard McCleskey b. 1913

   6. Lela Howell b. 1886 Tx d 1905 Ok
   7. Pearl Howell b. 1889 Tx d. 1905 Ok
   8. Willis Jay Howell b. 1895 OK
   9. Minnie Mae Howell b. 1895 OK          
         

So what was Green Russell McCleskey, an Oklahoma boy, doing in Salt Lake City, Utah and what was his story?  Have your kleenex ready for next week's post when I share the story I uncovered. 


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved