Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The beginning - Part 2 Becoming Acquainted with John M. Ganus

As I looked over the single sheet of paper that represented John Monroe Ganus's life, I felt disappointed. The form had been dutifully filled out by someone, years before I was even born, and although it gave me a few names, dates, and places, it left me with many questions. I wanted to know more than the bare facts; I wanted to know who John really was. What was life like for him?  What had he accomplished? This desire propelled me into years of research and although some questions still remain, I finally feel that I have become acquainted with John.

John was born 16 October 1826 in Monroe County, Georgia. In reality, he was born a Gurganus, but for unknown reasons, his father, James, shortened the name to simply Ganus by about 1840. That month was part of a particularly warm fall (1) and so there was fear that the long warm season would bring with it the dreaded "fall fevers, (2) which often proved fatal.

At the time of John's birth, his family consisted of his parents and a two-year-old sister, Mary. Over the next eight years, John would gain two more sisters, Margaret and Rebecca. It wasn't until ten years later that a brother, David, joined the family.  So, for ten years, John was an only son with three sisters. I can only imagine how much he was mothered by them all. Over the years, the family would grow to include Jackson, James, Calloway, Martha and Addison.

John was fortunate to live near his grandfather, David Gurganus, who was known as a Revolutionary War Soldier. John's paternal Aunt Ellen also lived close by and although his Uncle David Gurganus lived in South Carolina, records indicate that David Jr.'s family visited. During John's early years, he was part of a typical Southern extended family living in close proximity to each other.

Although initially the family lived in Monroe County, the county lines were adjusted and the family eventually found themselves in Bibb County. Thanks to many streams, ponds, lakes and rivers, including the large Ocmulgee River the area was green and fertile and it was a great place to farm.

As a son of a farmer and the oldest son of ten children, it is likely John learned to work hard from the time he was young. Although a large family meant more help on the farm, it also meant more work was needed to provide for the family's needs and so most southern families learned to work hard together. When John was 14, his father reported that they had one horse, one cow, 15 pigs and that year his father sold about 300 bushels of Indian corn and 450 bales of cotton, along with 40 bushels of sweet potatoes. Tax digests seem to imply that for the most part, his father James did not own land and, despite a great deal of research, no land deeds have ever been located for James. Unfortunately, no will or probate has been located either. By all appearances, John's parents never really prospered and basically the family just "got by."

If John was typical of the boys of that era and place, when he wasn't helping on the farm, he was out hunting in the forested area surrounding Macon or fishing or swimming in one of the many creeks or rivers.

Living on the Georgia frontier had many challenges, which included conflicts with Native Americans. As treaties were signed and land was taken to create new counties, there were many conflicts between Native Americans and the "new" land owners. Court documents and newspapers are full of accounts detailing the steps taken to forcefully remove the Native Americans from their land and the violent acts of retaliation experienced by many of the families, particularly those living on newly acquired lands.

By 1840, when John was in his early teens, his family moved 73 miles northwest of Macon in Bibb County, to the Fayetteville area of Fayette County. At that time, the town of Fayetteville had two churches, two schools, three stores, five barrooms, and a printing office, along with a Division of the Sons of Temperance. The population was about 7,500. (3)  I can't help but notice the ratio of bars to churches.

John remained with his family until the day he moved out on his own. Naturally, it was at that point that I began to find records for John and then, much like a photo coming into focus, a picture of who he was began to emerge and I finally began the process of becoming acquainted with John. Follow me next week as I share the next phase of his life.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

1. Macon Telegraph, Nov 7, 1826 page 3 accessed on
2.  According to the Georgia Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Volume 2, page 169, accessed on Google books, "fall fevers" was malaria.
3. The History of Fayette County, 1821-1971, published by the Fayette County Historical Society, page 20.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane -Part 1 Becoming Acquainted with John Monroe Ganus

John Monroe Ganus, move, Shell Oil Company, West Texas, Ancestry, Genealogy, Ancestors
The plane we took from LA Ex to Lubbock, Texas
June 19, 1974
As I stepped out of the airport I was hit by a blast of hot air. I did a quick 360 and immediately realized that things looked about the same at ground level as they had from the air. We had landed in Lubbock, Texas and although I hadn't been sure what to expect as we left California, I had not envisioned miles of flat sandy terrain, dotted with oil wells. With a rock in my gut, I climbed into the back seat of the rental car and my family, consisting my parents, two brothers and me, began the 109 mile trip to our motel. As I looked out the car window my stomach sank as I viewed what would soon become our home. 

genealogy, ancestry, family history, John Monroe Ganus, Olivia Rainwater, Denver City, Texas, Shell Oil Company
Outside of Denver City, Texas 

When our plane left LAX a few hours earlier, I knew my life was about to change dramatically, but at the time I really had no idea how different the climate and culture of West Texas was to my native California. I would soon learn they really had little in common.

Gone were lazy days at the beach, frequent visits to Disneyland and of course I would no longer see my large group of friends. Although I knew I would form new friendships and find new things to do, my life would be very different from the life I had known. 

I have reflected on that life-changing move many times over the years. The pull for my family was a great opportunity for my father to advance with the Shell Oil Company. As a 15-year-old teenager, I had begrudgingly accepted that fact, knowing it would severely cut into my fun. Little did I realize just how many life lessons I would learn in that little West Texas town or how much I would draw on those lessons throughout my life.

Many of my ancestors also made major moves during their lifetime. In some cases, I have been able to discover the "push" or "pull" that motivated them to move, but for others, those reasons are still to be discovered.

In November of 1886, John Monroe Ganus, his wife, Olivia (Rainwater) and their five sons, along with their spouses and grandchildren boarded a train and left their native state of Georgia and made the long 1,479 mile trip to Manassa, Colorado. John and Olivia were my second great grandparents and that move forever affected not only their lives but also the lives of all of the generations that followed, including mine. Unlike so many of the moves during that time, that move was not motivated by the quest for better land, for work or enticement by other family members. Please join me over the next little while as I focus on John Monroe Ganus, his life and the events that led up to this life-altering move.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Playing Favorites: Burton W. Cook

I never felt that I had a favorite child among our four children. Each contributed to our family in their own unique way, had his/her own talents, abilities, and challenges and so each has a special place in my heart. 

Our four "kids" on a recent visit
I tend to say I don't have favorite ancestors, although I have to confess, there are some I feel a little more drawn to. Not surprisingly, they are often the ones I know the most about. Do I dare say, maybe I do actually have a few favorites? 

Burton W. Cook, b. 1831 in Georgia is one of those. However, he is not truly my ancestor but married Mary Ganus, sister to my 2nd great grandfather. I've written about him quite a bit, including the following: 

Having his marriage record, a multitude of deeds, tax digests, Civil War records and even his will, which is a rare find for my family, I really have done a lot of research on Burton and felt satisfied that I knew a lot about him. But recently while using the site, "Georgia Historic Newspapers," a free website found HERE, I was excited to find yet a few more things about Burton. 

Although I was actually researching someone else at the time, I can never resist the temptation to enter in a few other names into the search box while I am there. You never know what has been recently added.  First of all, I found in the Carroll Free Press, Feb. 2, 1894, page 2, the following: 

 "Mr. Burton Cook was struck with paralysis last Friday and hasn't been able to set up to (sic) since. He is not expected to live." 

Interestingly enough, in the same edition, just one page later, on page 3, was the following:

"Mr. Burton Cook of Kansas district, died Tuesday evening from a stroke of paralysis. He was stricken on Friday. 

"Mr. Cook was in the 70th year of his age at the time of his death.

He was highly esteemed by all who knew him, and in his death the county has lost a good citizen." 
So now I knew the circumstances of his death, although none of my research supported the statement that he was in his 70th year. A final find was constant with what I had for his age and birth year but added additional rich details about his life. Published in the Carroll Free Press, February 9, 1894, page 3, this was written about Burton:  

"The subject of this notice was born in Coweta county in April 1829 and departed this life at his home in Carroll county on the 30th day of January 1894, aged 64 years, 9 months and 14 days.  
"He was married to Mary Ganus in 1850, united with the Baptist church while in the army in 1862, and cast his lot with the church at Shadner afterwards, moved his membership to Sardus church Coweta county, moved to Carroll county and united with the church at Abilene on the 5th day of June 1880, where he remained a consistent member until called away. 
 "Bro. Cook was a good man and was loved by all who knew him. Always ready to give counsel to those who he thought needed it, always ready to assist those who were in distress, always tried to visit the sick and administer to their wants and do all that he could to console them. His seat was seldom vacant at church when he was able to go. He has said for many years that he was ready to quit the walks of men when it was the will of the Lord to call him away.
"Therefore be it resolved; That in the death of Bro Cook the county has lost one of her best citizens, the church one of its brightest jewels, his companion and children a loving and affectionate husband and father."
So with the aid of one of my favorite resources, newspapers, I was able to learn more about one of my favorite men, someone I thought I already knew so much about. I learned that at the age of 64, Burton died as a result of a stroke. I learned that he was a religious man, a man eager to serve others, and who was respected in the community. I have never been able to determine exactly who his parents were in the large sea of southern Cooks but hopefully the clue, "he was born in Coweta," was shared by someone who actually knew and I'm excited to pursue that possibility. This new information just further fueled my love for Burton and yes, I think his place as one of my favorites is pretty secure. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2017, All rights reserved