I opened the mailbox and peered in, half holding my breath while hoping today would be the day. Every day for 3 weeks I jumped and ran to the mailbox when I heard the mail truck and every day I opened the mailbox and was greeted by nothing more than junk mail.

But today was different. There sitting among the grocery fliers was a small padded envelope from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The words “PHOTOS, DO NOT BEND” were written across the front. The much hoped for letter had come!

A few weeks earlier I had once again gone through the obituary index on the Chattanooga Public Library site found HERE. In the past, I had searched the obituaries there primarily for my Faucett and Fricks line, but I recently realized that some of the descendants of David Ganus, had ended up in Chattanooga as well. I was so happy to find an obituary for Burton Bartow Ganus’ daughter. Burton was the son of David Ganus. David was the son of James Gurganus and Elizabeth McCluskey and a brother to my second great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. I previously shared David’s story HERE,

David Gurganus, Mary Swain, James Gurganus, Elizabeth McCluskey, David Ganus, Malinda Ganus, John Monroe Ganus, Burton Bartow Ganus, Whitfield Georgia, Chattanooga, Chattanooga Public Library, Family History, Genealogy, Ancestry.

With the help of the obituary and the internet, I was able to trace his family forward and find a living descendant!! So I wrote her and was ecstatic when she wrote me back. 

Burton Bartow Ganus, was David and Malinda’s third child and their only son. Born in October of 1861 in Fayetteville, Georgia, which is about 30 miles outside of Atlanta, he and his family faced many frightening and difficult events over the first few years of his life.

Burton was only 8 months old when on May 1st,1862, his father enlisted in the 53rd Company C, The Fayette Planters. His mother Malinda who was only 23 at the time surely had her hands full with three small children; 8-month-old Burton and his two sisters, one two years old and the other five years old. I can imagine David telling his young family goodbye, fully expecting to soon return to his life with Malinda and their babies.

On June 20th, after only a few weeks of drilling and training, David, along with the other members of the 53rd, boarded the train bound for Virginia.

David soon experienced first hand the horrors of war. On September 17, 1862, the 53rd fought in their first major battle, the battle of Sharpsburg, or the Battle of Antietam, often referred to as the single bloodiest day in military history. Although many of their regiment died or were wounded, David and his brother-in-law Burton Cook would survive that battle.

As fall turned to winter, the temperatures grew cold and David caught pneumonia from exposure. In December of 1862 David died while in the Winder Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, leaving his wife Malinda and their 3 children without a father.

David Ganus, Winder Hospital, Richmond  Virginia, Fayette Planters, Georgia 53rd Regiment Company C, Fayetteville, Civil War
David Ganus is #358 in Hollywood Cemetery
Richmond, Virginia

Back at home, Malinda and the rest of the residents of Fayetteville faced many challenges. Although there were no battles fought in Fayetteville because it is located a short distance from Atlanta, troops often passed through there and the residents endured many hardships as a result. As a young boy, Burton would have seen Federal troops march through, taking what they wanted, terrorizing those who lived there and burning what they could not take with them. Life was hard for the families there. 

I am not sure how Malinda managed to care for her family, but by the time she was able to apply for and receive the meager pension allotted to the widows of confederate soldiers, it was 1891 and her children were grown.

Burton would marry three times. He first married Emma Plaer first and they had a daughter. Emma died early in their marriage and Burton then married Susan (LNU). I do not know if they divorced or if she died, but about 1922 he married Emma Jane Stowe and he spent the remainder of his life with her. 

Burton farmed a little and also worked with the railroad in Whitfield County, Georgia, which is at the southern end of the Appalachian mountains and borders Tennessee. In her last years, Malinda moved in with Burton and his family and remained with them until her death. 

After Malinda passed away on December 23rd, 1908, Burton applied for reimbursement for her burial expenses because she was a widowed pensioner. Ironically he applied for reimbursement 47 years to the day that his father had died.

Burton died 1 Jun 1959 in Whitfield, Georgia at the age of 71. A petition for the benefit of his widow indicated that at this death, he had a piece of land worth $200.00, a heifer jersey, 30 hens, some farming tools, a few household goods, a bedstead, dresser, chairs and one organ. He was a man raised in a difficult time and difficult place and yet following the example of his determined mother, he forged ahead, creating a life for himself.

I gathered this information through research and while sadly my new cousin could not add any new information to what I already knew, she could share something I did not have and something very precious to me—a picture! Finally, I was able to put a face with the facts I knew about Burton !!! I was thrilled!

Burton Bartow Ganus, Whitfield Georgia
Burton Bartow Ganus
Thank you to Grand daughter for graciously sharing this photo. 

I love to look into an ancestor’s eyes and wonder what they would tell me if they were still living. As I look at Burton, I see a man weathered by many hard experiences, beginning almost immediately after his birth and yet his features do not reflect the harshness of his life, instead, I see warmth and kindness. Like his mother, he was a survivor. 

The day I opened the mailbox and saw the envelope from my new found cousin was an exciting day for me and I will forever be grateful for the arrival of that little padded envelope with the four simple words, “Photos, Do Not Bend!”

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

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13 thoughts on “Photos! Do Not Bend!

  1. Michelle, your storytelling skills are so impressive.

    Thank you for telling us about Burton's life. And how exciting to receive his photo in the mail. It really is wonderful when we can see photos of our ancestors.

  2. What a story! You're such a good storyteller and this one was filled with emotion. I'm so happy for you. I know the excitement of finding gifts like that in the mail. Thank you!

  3. Great story Michelle, and a lovely picture of Burton. My heart races when I get a letter with copy death registers, so I can imagine your excitement at finding ancestor photographs in your letterbox!

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