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As It Was: Strong-Willed Woman Earns “Zany” Nickname

Zany Ganung is a legendary figure of Jacksonville, Ore., best known for chopping down a Confederate flag raised near her home during the run-up to the Civil War.  The incident has been passed down from generation to generation, probably embellished along the way.

Born in Wisconsin in 1818, Zany married Dr. Lewis Ganung, crossed the plains to Oregon, and moved to Jacksonville in 1855.  History writer Carolyn Kingsnorth says it’s possible Zany also attended a Jacksonville women’s rights meeting that year that provoked some men into running a woman’s petticoat up a flagpole.

Kingsnorth cites A.J. Walling’s 1884 History of Southern Oregon that reports two women “began hacking at the flagpole” until a local doctor “hauled down ‘the hateful bit of apparel.’” 

Kingsnorth quotes Walling again as reporting men then hung male and female effigies from a pine tree, “placing the female in a subordinate position to indicate ‘man’s superiority.’ There was no woman strong enough to chop the tree down, (and) none bold enough to climb it.”

Ganung’s maiden name was Mary Ross, but she earned the nickname “Zany,” Kingsnorth says, “for her headstrong character.”

Source: Kingsnorth, Carolyn. "The Legend of “Aunty” Zany Ganung." Jacksonville Review, 1 Mar. 2019, jacksonvillereview.com/legend-aunty-zany-ganung-carolyn-kingsnorth/. Accessed 23 Oct. 2019.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.