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February 11, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: King Daniel Ganaway

Buckingham_KD GanawayKing Daniel Ganaway, Courtesy Brenda Fredericks

King Daniel Ganaway, a successful African-American photographer of the early 20th century, was not born in Buckingham County; however, his family roots were there, going back to at least the 18th century.

King Daniel Ganaway’s great grandparents, Sigh and Patsy, were born in Virginia, Sigh in 1797 and Patsy in 1801. They were owned by the Gannaway family, who had property in New Kent County, Nelson County, and owned Gravel Hill in Buckingham County.  The Gannaways hired out some of their slaves and records housed at the Library of Virginia and Small Special Collections at the University of Virginia indicate some of them worked at the old mill near Curdsville and some for the Gannaway & Parrish Company.  The Gannaways were cousins to the Curds, hence the connection to Curdsville.

In about 1800, John & Martha “Patsy” (Woodson) Gannaway’s son, Burrell, left Gravel Hill to settle in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, taking slaves with him. In 1853, when Burrell died in Murfreesboro, Patsy and her son, Daniel, were among thirty slaves mentioned in Burrell’s estate inventory. Daniel would become the father of King Daniel Ganaway – spelled with one “n.”

Back in Buckingham, Burrell’s brother, Theodorick Gannaway, was instrumental in the founding of the Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute. Interestingly, while the Female Collegiate Institute was ultimately bankrupt, Burrell successfully established two schools in Murfreesboro.

After emancipation, the Tennessee branch of the freed Gannaway slaves remained in Murfreesboro. In 1872, King Daniel Ganaway’s father established a store on the town’s public square. He and his family were the only African Americans to own land and a home in close proximity to the square.  The Ganaway family was also among the founding members of Murfreesboro’s First Baptist Church.


“The Spirit of Transportation” by King Daniel Ganaway, Courtesy Brenda Fredericks

According to Brenda Fredericks:

In 1903, King Daniel Ganaway left Tennessee, making his way to Zion, Illinois to live in a religious colony founded by famous evangelist and faith healer, John Alexander Dowie. He lived and worked as a waiter in Zion for 9 months but decided he was ready to take on the big city life in Chicago. He was spotted by socialite Mrs. E. F. Lawrence when standing on a train platform. She interviewed him and hired him on the spot to train as her butler.

Although he had enjoyed drawing as a child, his hands were too tired from working all day to keep up with the hobby so he taught himself photography, mastering the art.  In 1921 he became famous when his photograph, “The Spirit of Transportation,” won the first place prize [in a contest sponsored by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department Store Owner John Wanamaker].  It was chosen over approximately 900 entries, besting famous and experienced artists of the day. He sold photographs to Chicago newspapers, National Geographic Magazine, and The America-Today combined with Fort Dearborn Magazine. His photographs were also seen in African American publications The Chicago Defender, The Crisis and The Messenger. In 1926, he became the staff photographer for the Chicago Bee. Ganaway won the praise of art critics for his creative interpretation of simple, everyday images that most artists would not use as subjects.

In Chicago, Illinois, he married Pauline Boren, a Swedish immigrant. They had one child, and were separated by 1922. Pauline raised their daughter and subsequent generations lost their connection to K. D. Ganaway, his ancestry, and his accomplishments as a photographer. In recent years, members of the family have been reunited and now celebrate their ancestor’s talent and achievements.

Want to learn more about King Daniel Ganaway and his descendants? Click here to read “King Daniel Ganaway – More discovery as his racial history comes into focus,” by Brenda Fredericks.

Also, put Curdsville Mill in the search box and learn more about the Gannaway family in Buckingham County.

This post concerning King Daniel Ganaway was made possible with the generous help of Brenda Fredericks.  Many thanks Brenda!


Leave a Comment
  1. ahuntca / Feb 11 2016 2:56 pm

    JoAnne, thank you! this just took me off on a 90 minute excursion into research when I should be doing work preparing my taxes. I of course have been trying to research the trusties of BFCI Theodorick among them. But in my Humboldt County, CA reserach I am also interested in persons living in Humboldt in it’s early days 1850-1870. Among them is a John Ganoway who in the 1860 census is listed as age 35, born in TN and a laborer. The info here on Burrell has led me to do some research on him and then to a message board on rootsweb where a (Ken, no last name) claims to have a database on the Gannoways. So I have written him. I am always curious about the Humboldt surnames that I also find in other places where Huestis lived and worked, sometimes proving that even then it was a small world. And while I would rather go back to my google searching, I need to clock some hours on the taxes, before a medical appt this afternoon. Blessings! and thanks again for your work.

    • Joanne Yeck / Feb 11 2016 4:32 pm


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