Dressed to the nines has long been a phrase used to describe individuals dressed up and stylish. Today, in our affluent society it is not difficult to find those that can be described in that way. The phrase came to mind today as I considered a particular family in my line, although knowing their circumstances, it most certainly could not have applied. Rather the family I was considering had nine children and and I found myself wondering how in the world they managed to feed and dress their nine, although families of that size were fairly common up until the mid 20th century. In fact as I look through my family tree, it is full of individuals that reared large families during the most difficult of times.
|Martha Elizabeth (Ganus) Brock|
Born 12 April 1846, Mattie Ganus, grew up in the small rural community of Fayetteville, Fayette, Georgia. Formally named Martha Elizabeth Ganus, she was the ninth of ten children born to James and Elizabeth (McCloskey) Ganus*. Reared on a farm, she would have learned the basics of cooking, sewing and helping to care for some of the small farm animals from the time she was little. Undoubtedly these skills helped her later in rearing her own large family.
As one of the youngest children in a large family, the family structure was ever changing as older siblings married and moved away. She was four years old when her oldest sister was married and only six years of age when her oldest brother, John Monroe Ganus, my 2nd great grandfather, married and moved away.
By the time Mattie married and left home at the age of 20, only she and her younger brother Addison were still at home. She and William Cohen Brock tied the knot on 24 of December in 1866 in Coweta, Georgia, on the heels of the Civil War and during the period of Georgia’s painful reconstruction. Bill was a farmer and undoubtedly dealt with crippling poverty, the difficulty of obtaining seed for crops, and the struggle of paying taxes as typically experienced by families of that time and location.
Bill and Mattie’s first known child was Joseph B. Brock born in 1871, a full five years after their marriage. Typically couples of that era began families within a few years of marriage, so I suspect that there was possibly some heartache and disappointment as they anticipated their first child.
Mattie’s mother, Elizabeth, died sometime between 1860 and 1870, so Mattie would have faced childbirth and raising children without the benefits of her mother there to support and help her. Perhaps she leaned on her oldest sister, Mary, who was 22 years older and who had married and left home when Martha was only a 4 year old child. According to the 1880 census, Mary and Mattie lived only about six doors from each other. Mattie’s brother, Addison, and his wife, in addition to her sister, Rebecca, and her husband also lived nearby.
|Martha E. Brock
Died 25 May 1909
Buried: Tallapoosa Primitive
Baptist Church Cemetery
Carroll County, Georgia
Between the years of 1871 and 1888, Bill and Mattie had a total of nine children, seven boys and two girls. This meant nine children to dress, feed and educate. They had nine children to house and nine children to care for emotionally as well as physically. But for a farmer, it also meant nine sets of hands to help with the daily chores of running a farm. In the process of being needed, the children learned to work, to help and the value of teamwork.
Additionally, Mattie and Bill managed to instill in their children the desire for an education. In fact, of their nine children, two pursued Dental school. One son, Leon Cliff Brock, purportedly died while attending Dental School, but another son, Lloyd Jefferson Brock, finished and became a dental surgeon and additionally became a member of the House of Representatives. Their son Edgar Caloway Brock became a school teacher. With a love of the outdoors, several of their other sons followed in their father’s footsteps and farmed. While living in trying circumstances during hard times, truly Bill and Mattie (Ganus) Brock took their charge seriously and managed to teach, care for and dress their nine.
*Mattie’s father James Ganus shortened his name in approximately 1840 from Gurganus to Ganus.
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013