Virgil Griner receives teaching license from W. G. Avera, 1915

James Virgil Griner (1896-1951)

Virgil Griner, circa 1912-1915.  Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Virgil Griner, circa 1912-1915. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

In October, 1915 William Green Avera wrote James Virgil Griner, of Nashville, GA to inform him of his license to teach third grade.  Avera, the Berrien County School Superintendent, lived about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA.  The notification was on the official letterhead of the office of the County School Superintendent and listed the members of the school board.

1915 Berrien County Board of Education

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

William Green Avera, Superintendent – pioneer educator of South Georgia taught in Berrien, Lanier, Cook and Lowndes counties;  born August 1, 1855; son of Steven Willis Avera and Martha Elizabeth Akins; largely self-educated; married first Eliza Jane Sirmans, second Margaret McMillan; elected 1907 as Berrien County School Commissioner an re-elected to three subsequent terms; died January 10, 1944; buried Avera Cemetery.

 

 

 

Alexander W. Patterson, Berrien County, GA

Alexander W. Patterson, Berrien County, GA

Alexander W. Patterson, President, Nashville, GA –  born February 22, 1857 in Lowndes County, GA; son of James Duncan Patterson and Elizabeth McCranie; married Ella T. Lindsey February 10, 1884;  teacher; merchant; Berrien County Ordinary, Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County.

 

 

 

 

Malcolm L. McMillan, Berrien County, GA

Malcolm L. McMillan, Berrien County, GA

Malcolm L. McMillan, Brookfield, GA   – born October 24, 1853, son of Archibald McMillan and Margaret Young; married Narcissa Henderson; planter and merchant; scribe Masonic Lodge No. 47, Tifton, 1904; Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County, 1904; commissioner Berrien County Board of Education, 1901, 1905, 1906, 1915; vice president Farmers Club of Berrien County, 1905; delegate Southern Cotton Growers’ Association convention, 1906; president Berrien County division of the Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Georgia, 1906; board of directors, Merchants’ and Farmers’ Bank of Tifton, GA, 1906; board of directors , National Bank of Tifton, 1907-10; died May 1, 1933; buried Turner Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery 

 

 

 

Sankey Booth, Berrien County, GA

Sankey Booth, Berrien County, GA

Sankey Booth, Adel, GA – born May 5, 1877; son of the Reverend Irwin R. Booth and Margaret Rives Knowles; married Mamie Shaw 18 Nov 1906;  pioneer school teacher and administrator of south Georgia; Berrien County School Board, 1914-15; Atkinson County School Superintendent, 1918-1920; Ray City School superintendent, 1924-25; Principal, Morven School, 1917, 1925-26;  Principal, Cecil School; died October 29, 1965;  buried Adel cemetery, Cook County, GA.

 

William Manning Pafford, Berrien County, GA

William Manning Pafford, Berrien County, GA

William Manning Pafford, Milltown, GA – born December 12, 1869; son of Rowan Pafford and Frances Corbett; married Della Holland on February 08, 1900; merchant; constructed Lee-Banks Hotel, Milltown, GA, 1905; Mayor, Milltown, GA, 1915; Georgia House of Representatives, 1923-24;  Commissioner, Milltown Airline Railway, 1927; died February 8, 1930; buried Lakeland City Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

 

 

 

John Henry Rowan, Berrien County, GA

John Henry Rowan, Berrien County, GA

John Henry Rowan, Nashville, GA     -born May 15, 1862, Coffee County, GA; son of William Berry Rowan and Roseanna Porter; married Phoebe America Knight June 17, 1886;  built Reedy Branch School, Berrien County, GA; Postmaster, Hill, GA; Judge, Berrien County, 1904; Notary Public, 1904-1905; Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County, 1904; candidate for Berrien County Commissioner, 1910 and 1912; died August 31, 1921, Berrien County, GA; buried Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

1915 letter from Berrien County School Superintendent William Green Avera to James Virgil Griner

1915 letter from Berrien County School Superintendent William Green Avera to James Virgil Griner

 

Nashville, GA   10/12 1915

Mr. J. V. Griner
Nashville, Ga.
Dear Virgil
Please write Mr. J. E. Rowe Alapaha for the New Home School. It is a good school.

You made license – 3d grade General Elementary. Please let me know.

Sincerely,
W. G. Avera

The letter was received by Virgil’s father, Joe H. Griner, who forwarded the information on to Virgil at Tifton, GA.

Envelop of letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, postmarked October 15, 1915, Alapaha, GA

Envelop of letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, postmarked October 15, 1915, Alapaha, GAa

~

Letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, dated October 15, 1915

Letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, dated October 15, 1915

 

Nashville, Ga
Oct 15th, 1915

Dear Virgil I will sende your letter to you. I got it yesterday. Virgil it isent any use to say any thing about the letter. You can reade it and come on. Virgil you come to Roetown Sunday.  It is there big meeting time out there and I will meet you out there if I can. You come to Allapaha Sunday and go on down to meeting.

Very truly

Joe H. Griner

http://berriencountyga.com/

Joseph Henry Griner, (1856-1934) Berrien County, GA

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In Memory of Joe Donald “Don” Clements

Joe Donald Clements
February 26, 1931 – September 26, 2014

Joe Donald Clements, 1931-2014

Joe Donald Clements, 1931-2014

Mr. Joe Donald (Don) Clements, age 83, of Rome, GA, passed away on September 26, 2014, at his home following an extended illness.

Mr. Clements was born in Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia, on February 26, 1931. He was a son of the late Joseph Samuel Clements and Effie Oquinn , and a grandson of  Levi J. Clements and Elizabeth Roena Patten.  Mr. Clements attended college at North Georgia College where he served in the Corps of Cadets.  He excelled in athletics playing on the varsity baseball team, and was known as the Ray City Flash. Following graduation, he served in the United States Army, leaving the service as a First Lieutenant in 1956.

Mr. Clements was an insurance manager with Crawford & Company for 37 years. After his retirement from Crawford & Company, he worked another 15 years for the Mundy & Gammage Law Firm as a consultant on insurance matters. He was a long time member of the First Baptist Church of Rome and served his church in many capacities. He was a faithful volunteer at the Rome Food Pantry, the William S. Davies Homeless Shelter, and the Community Kitchen.

Survivors include: his wife of more than sixty years, Helen Gudger Clements; three sons, Joe Donald Clements, Jr. (Cecilia) of Springfield, VA; John Terry Clements (Rebecca) of Atlanta, GA; James Frank Clements (Alice) of Rome, GA; and one daughter, Susan Clements Thornhill (Simon) of Santa Cruz, CA. Survivors also include seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service was held on Sunday afternoon September 28, 2014 at 2:00 p. m. in the sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Rome with Dr. Joel Snider officiating. Visitation immediately followed the service.

Memorial contributions may be made to Action Ministries Rome, 207 East 19th St., Rome, GA 30161, William S. Davies Homeless Shelter, PMB 198, 3 Central Plaza, Rome, GA 30161 or the Community Kitchen, 3 Central Plaza, Suite 384, Rome, GA 30161.”

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Monument to Culpepper Mullis

Culpepper Mullis was a young man of Berrien County before the Civil War.   He was apparently somewhat of a rowdy and prone to riding while intoxicated.

A son of Catherine and Thomas Mullis, he was born about 1834 in North Carolina but came with his parents and siblings to Georgia about 1841.  Shortly thereafter his father died, when Culpepper was about nine years of age. In the census of 1850, Culpepper was enumerated in his  widowed mother’s household, which at that time was  in Lowndes County, GA..  In 1855 his mother married Blank Lee.  Their place was apparently in the neighborhood of Milltown (now Lakeland) in that part of Berrien County which was later cut into Lanier County.   

Old monument to Culpepper Mullis. Tifton Gazette, Dec 7, 1864.

Old monument to Culpepper Mullis. Tifton Gazette, Dec 7, 1864.

Tifton Gazette
Dec 7, 1864.

There is a monument on the side of Mud Creek road, about one mile north of Milltown, which tells the passer-by of a very sad tragedy which occurred there before the war. A young white man, Culpepper Mullis, had been to town where he had imbibed very freely of mean whiskey; he was riding his horse very recklessly, enroute home, when the horse threw him against a pine and broke his neck. The pine tree was cut down leaving a stump about seven or eight feet high, this stump was trimmed to a square and an inscription of the facts engraved thereon. The inscription however, is almost obliterated with age.

A Byrd, a Starling, and an Airship at Carnival Week

1909 carnival at Valdosta, GA

1909 carnival at Valdosta, GA

In early November 1909, people from all around the state began to pile into Valdosta, Georgia.  They came from Naylor, Council, Nashville, Adel, Sparks, Milltown (Lakeland), Hahira, Statenville, Quitman, Cairo, Bainbridge,  Mineola, Tarver, Alexanderville, Howell, Dupont, Broxton, Hawkinsville, Thomasville and Camilla. They came from Atlanta and Macon and Savannah. Up from Florida, they came from Hampton, Lake City, Jasper, Jennings, White Springs, Madison and Jacksonville. They came from Kentucky, New York, and Washington, D.C.

They had come to see the great carnival held in Valdosta November 9th to 13th.  The carnival promised exhibits of trained animals, a dog and pony show, “the Human Butterfly”, free exhibition by “the Clown Elephant” on the streets of Valdosta, an automobile Calliope, and two brass bands.  Most especially, they had come to see the Strobel Airship –  the first flying craft  ever to visit this part of the country – billed as “the greatest attraction ever seen here”. All the railroads offered excursion rates with daily round trips.

From Ray’s Mill, Georgia came B.L. Starling and F. M. Byrd.   The 1910 Census shows Benjamin L. Starling was a farmer renting a farm in the 1157 Georgia Militia District, near the farms of Harmon L. Floyd, Lucius G. Outlaw, and William Outlaw. Frank Byrd was a ‘machinist’ living in the Ray’s Mill District.

Starling and Byrd  arrived on Saturday, November 6, 1909  and, like many of the visitors, stayed at Valdosta’s Florence Hotel.  The hotel was located on South Patterson Street, Valdosta GA just across the street from the railway depot. The location was ideal because the train station was the location where the Strobel Airship would be launched.

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Florence Hotel, Valdosta GA

Florence Hotel, Valdosta GA

The Strobel Airship was an early derigible balloon large enough to take one man aloft, who rode in open rigging below the balloon.  “The envelope of this mechanical marvel is 53 feet long and 14 1-2 feet in diameter. It is made of he finest Japanese silk and is inflated with 8,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas which is the lightest substance known to science.”

Strobel Airship appeared in Valdosta in 1909 (photographed in Michigan)

Strobel Airship appeared in Valdosta in 1909 (photographed in Michigan)

Just one year earlier 25,000 spectators watched a pilot of one of the Strobel Airships plunge 500 feet to his death, after the hydrogen filled aircraft burst into flames during a flight at a county fair in Waterville, Maine.  But after several delays, the crowd in Valdosta witnessed  what was an impressive and successful flight.

Strobel Airship flew in Valdosta, GA in 1909

Strobel Airship flew in Valdosta, GA in 1909

Valdosta Times

Strobel airship made a beautiful Flight To-day

There was more rubber-necking in Valdosta today than all the people in the old town ever did before in all of their lives.  The reason:  The airship went up.      Although the weather four of five hundred feet above the surface of the earth was rather stiff for a successful flight, Prof. Owens sailed over a considerable portion of the town, remaining in the air about fifteen minutes.  The ascension was made at 12:15. Promptly at twelve o’clock the aerial bomb which is exploded just before flights, was set off and fifteen minutes later the ship was in the air  The bomb will notify the people each day when to look for the ship.  When you hear the bomb the flight follows within 15 minutes and the entire town will be circled each day.    The airship is made of a specially wove Japanese silk, covered with eight coats of linseed varnish, four outside and four inside, which renders it perfectly impervious to gas or water,  the dimensions of the vessel are 54 feet long and fifteen feet in diameter. it is inflated with hydrogen gas, the lightest substance known, which is made right on the ground.  It takes about 7,500 cubic feet to inflate the vessel, which has a lifting capacity of 465 pounds.

Before each ascension the airship is balanced perfectly with the aid of sand ballast.  Contrary to the opinion of many people the gas in the envelope of the airship does not lift it up, the bllast being so used as to keep it just barely suspended above the earth. The propellers pull the vessel up or down as the operator wishes.  Of itself the vessel would not rise at all. When everything is ready for an ascension Prof. Owens starts his motor and moves to the rear of the frame work suspended to the ship.  This causes the rear of the ship to move and the propellers then pull the vessel up into the air.  Likewise, when the operator is ready to descend he moves to the front, depressing that end, and the vessel is pulled down by the propellers.

The airship is propelled by a seven-horse power air cooled gasoline engine, and the buzzing of the engine can be heard a considerable distance.

Prof. Owens went up four or five hundred feet this morning, and the graceful vessel presented a pretty picture, as it sailed over the city.  The few doubters were silenced very effectually, and the people witnessed one of the most interesting feats of these modern and strenuous times.

Two flights will be made each day during the balance of the week, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Listen for the bomb, which will tell you when to look for the ship.

Mary Jane Smith and the Poison Pork

In the fall of 1916 Mrs. Mary Jane Smith, of Nashville, GA came to visit her daughter, Rachel Smith Sirmans, at Ray City, GA.  It was late October and with the first frosts of the season, people’s thoughts naturally turned toward the harvest of fresh meat from hogs fattened over the summer. Hog slaughter was generally reserved for the coldest days of the year. But after a diet of cured meats over the long heat of the Wiregrass summer and perhaps with the  smokehouse stock nearly depleted, for many farms the first cool day would do for a hog killing.  This was perhaps the occasion of Mrs. Smith’s visit.

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Hog-Killing

In the  Ray City of 100 years ago, winter was the season for hog killing as mechanical refrigeration was not available and there were no real facilities for cold storage.

In the 1920s, the Clements Lumber Company operated a cold storage facility and Ray City built a municipal electric plant in 1922, but dependable home electric service and electric refrigerators would not be available in the town until the 1930s.    Before that, most kitchens were equipped with  an “icebox” – a wood or metal cabinet insulated with straw or sawdust. A compartment near the top could be loaded with a block of ice to cool perishable food stored on lower shelves. Water from the melting ice was collected in a pan below the cabinet.  The ice kept the interior of the box far cooler than room temperature, but certainly no where near freezing.  As the ice block melted, it had to be continually replaced. Even small towns like Ray City had ice delivery men, such as Wilbur and Walter Aultman, or Ferris Moore, who regularly supplied ice to local homes and businesses (see Ferris Moore ~ Ray City Iceman).

In The Art of Managing Longleaf, Leon Neel describes  the practical and social significance of hog killing time in Wiregrass Georgia:

Hogs were a staple and we always had hog killings.  The families would get together to kill a hog or two when the weather was right, and then we would smoke our own meat.  Hog killing was a great time. Hogs were killed in cool weather, because pork spoils so easily.  The colder it was, the better it was for hog killing. But lots of times, the stored food would run out early, and we would have to kill hogs before it got to be the dead of winter.  Hog killing was a full-day’s process, and everybody had a job – the men folk, the women folk, everybody.  The process got started early in the morning.  Daddy had a little .22 rifle, and he usually shot the hog between the eyes.  Then we processed it right then and there. We had a big syrup kettle, and for hog killing time we would fill it with water and build a fire under it to get it boiling.  Then we put the hog in the kettle, which scalded it and made it possible to get the hair off with any trouble. Then we butchered the hog.  It is true what they say: Every part of the hog was utilized, everything but the squeal.  Hog killing was hard work, but it was also a great social occasion. 

For Mary Jane Smith  the visit with her daughter in Ray City was a homecoming of sorts.  She and her husband, John Woods Smith, had formerly been residents of Ray City.

Mrs. Mary Jane Smith was born Mary Jane Whitehurst, a daughter of James Whitehurst (1818-1914) and Sarah Ann Findley (1822-1914). She was born on July 7, 1848 in that part of Lowndes County which in 1850 was cut into Clinch County, GA . Her father’s place was on Land Lot 516 in the 11th Land District,  just east of the Alapaha River near Cow Creek.  Her father later moved to Berrien County and settled on the east side of the Little River where he established a grist mill and operated a ferry across the river.  For several years he had the contract to carry mail on the Star Route from Nashville, GA to Alapaha.

About 1866, Mary Jane married John Woods Smith  in Clinch County, GA.  He was a veteran of the Confederate army, having enlisted March 4, 1862 in Company G, 50th Georgia Regiment.   His time in active duty had been marked with sickness. Within months of his enlistment he had become so sick he was sent to the hospital at Macon,  GA. In June of 1862 he was given leave to “escort the dead body of a comrade home. ”   He returned to his unit but by the end of the year he was again on sick furlough.  He was sick yet again in June of 1863,  with typhoid fever.  This time he was sent to Chimborazo Hospital No. 2 at Richmond, VA then transferred to Jackson Hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.  By the fall he had recovered sufficiently  to return to his unit, but on November 29, 1863 he was captured near Knoxville,  TN.  He was sent to the military prison at Louisville, KY as a prisoner of war,  then on to the notorious Camp Chase, Ohio where he was imprisoned for two years.   In March of 1865, he was transferred to Rock Island Barracks, IL  and from there he was released in a prisoner exchange.  He was  admitted to the Confederate General Hospital No. 9 at Richmond, VA where he recuperated before returning home to Berrien County, GA.

For a short while Mary Jane and John Woods Smith made their home in Clinch County, but by 1880 the couple had moved to Berrien County, GA.  In 1890, their home was in the Rays Mill district, GMD 1144, where they were neighbors of Isabelle Sirmans and Andrew W. Turner and others of the Sirmans family connection.

Children of Mary Jane and John Woods Smith were:

  1. Osborn Levi Smith  (1867 – 1896), buried at Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA
  2. Rachel Allifair Smith (1869 – 1940),  married Jay Mitchell Sirmans, son of Hardeman Sirmans
  3. Susan Earlie Smith (1871 – 1960)
  4. Cassie Jane Smith (1874 – 1948),  married Lucius John Knight, son of Rhoda Futch  and George Washington Knight, buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  5. William David Smith (1876 – 1887)
  6. Barzilla Newton Smith (1878 – )
  7. Sarah Levinia Smith (1880 – 1964), buried at Pinecrest Cemetery, Vidalia, GA
  8. Mary Ann Smith (1882 – 1965), married Henry J. Parrish
  9. John Dixon Smith (1884 – 1943)
  10. Martha Missouri Belle Smith (1887 – )
  11. Kissiah Amanda Smith (1889 – )

Mary Jane’s eldest daughter, Rachel Allifar Smith,  was married  to Jay Sirmans on March 22, 1893. He was son of Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight. Rachel and Jay made their home and farm near Rays Mill (now known as Ray City), GA next door to Jay’s father. By 1910, Mary Jane and John Woods Smith had moved from Ray City to Nashville, GA where they owned a home on Washington Street where they operated a boarding house.

Mary Jane’s husband, John Woods Smith,  died April 24, 1915 and was buried at the Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA. Mary Jane Smith died a year and a half later while visiting with her daughter, Rachel, at Ray City, GA.  The cause of death was “pork poisoning.”

Without refrigeration the home preservation of meats, especially pork,  presented challenges.  In The prevention of disease; a popular treatise (1916), Kenelm Winslow reported:

Pork causes poisoning because it is imperfectly preserved by salt or smoking, and is often eaten insufficiently cooked in sausage and other forms.  Four-fifths of all cases of meat poisoning are due to eating the flesh of animals suffering from one of the germ diseases…unfortunately the meat is not altered in appearance in such cases, nor is cooking by any means a sure preventative against poisoning. Even poisoning by meat which has decomposed from too long keeping is much more frequent in the case of animals diseased before slaughter.  Expert veterinary inspection of the various organs of slaughtered animals will detect disease and prevent the killing of sick animals for food, which is most apt to occur in small towns where meat for local use is not properly inspected. Poisoning from meat which has putrefied from long keeping is more common in warm months and in the case of chopped meat or sausage. Putrid meat is usually recognizable, if not chopped, by softness and bad odor, especially about the bones and fat.  Boiling, roasting, or frying lessens the danger from putrefying meat, but does not absolutely prevent it.  Proper refrigeration in the household, both before and after cooking meat, is essential in order to preserve it, otherwise it should be eaten fresh. It is also advisable to clean refrigerators frequently with a hot solution of washing soda.  The poisoning is due to toxins in poisons produced by germs which originate in diseased animals, or contaminate the meat after slaughter and grow luxuriantly when refrigeration is imperfect.

 

1916-mary-jane-smith

Tifton Gazette

Friday, October 27, 1916

MRS. MARY JANE SMITH

Mrs. Mary Jane Smith died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. Sirmans, near Ray City, Saturday night after an illness of only a few days, says the Adel News. Mrs. Smith died of poison, some pork which she and Mrs. Sirmans had eaten, violently affecting them. Mrs. Sirmans was very ill for a time.

Mrs. Smith was the mother of eleven children, nine of whom survive her. Among her children are Mrs. Sirmans, Mrs. H. J. Parrish and Rev. John D. Smith, of Morven. The deceased was reared in this county and was sixty-nine years of age. She was a devoted member of the Methodist church. The funeral services and burial took place at Nashville Monday, the services being conducted by Rev. J. Harwell House, of Ocilla.

 

Grave of Mary Jane Whitehurst Smith, Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA

Grave of Mary Jane Whitehurst Smith, Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA

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Lon Fender Loses Milltown Stills

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  Born William Alonzo Fender, he was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920), who became residents of Ray City in their senior years.  Lon Fender himself owned farmland near Ray City in the 1920s.

Lon Fender and his brothers were big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  In 1906, November  the Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, noted that Lon Fender had purchased “the turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.”

Two years later, the Tifton Gazette reported that Fender’s still at Milltown burned on October 21, 1908:

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 -- page 6

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 — page 6

Another account published in the Waycross Journal described the losses as “the turpentine still of W. L. Fender, with 35 barrels of spirits, and 100 barrels of rosin…destroyed by fire.” The Journal further  indicated that the robbery referred to occurred west of Milltown on the Georgia & Florida Railroad, making it likely that the actual scene of the robbery was Jim Swindle’s store at Ray’s Mill, GA.

Another fire struck the Milltown still in 1909:

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 -- page 9

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 — page 9

W.L. “Lon” Fender later purchased a large tract of timber near Ray City, GA,  known as the “Sirmans Timber.”

Civil War Letters of James Parrish

Confederate Letters of James W. Parrish (1847 – 1916)

June 5, 1864 letter from James W. Parrish to his wife Christiana DeVane Parrish.  Full image available at www.berriencountyga.com

June 5, 1864 letter from James W. Parrish to his wife Christiana DeVane Parrish. Full image available at http://www.berriencountyga.com

Provided below is the transcription of a Civil War letter written  June 5, 1864 by James W. Parrish.   The letter is one of a collection of five Civil War letters written by James W. Parrish during the summer of 1864, while he was serving with the Confederate  Army near Atlanta.  These letters have been published along with other Civil War letters at the Berrien County Historical Society website courtesy of John C. Futch.  The letters are addressed to his wife Christian DeVane Parrish, and mention or refer to Captain Godfrey, Thomas Ray, Eli Futch, Ansel Parrish,  Absalom Parrish, Thomas DeVane,  P. W. Sineath, Thomas Futch, and others.

James W. Parrish.  Image detail courtesy of www. berriencountyga.com

James W. Parrish. Image detail courtesy of www. berriencountyga.com

James W. Parrish was a son of Elder Ansel Parrish and Molcy Knight Parrish,   After the war he owned 295 acres  on land Lots #371  an 366 just west of Ray’s Mill (Now Ray City, GA), along with others of the Parrish family connection.  He was a neighbor of Noah Griffin who was residing on 245 acres of  Lot #371 with his family.

According to the 1921 Confederate Widow’s Pension Application filed by Christiana Parrish, James W. Parrish enlisted in April 1864 in Company K, 1st Georgia Reserves, at Nashville, GA.  His letters home show James W. Parrish was with his unit at Camp Georgia near Atlanta in May, 1864.

The following letter was written June 5, 1864:

Camp Georgia Neare Atlanta Ga.

June the 5, 1864

Deare wife I once more imbrace the opportunity of dashing you a few lines which will informe you that I am in tolerable health. I truley hope this will come to hand in due time and find you all enjoying the best of health and as well satisfyde as the case will admit.  I will now say to you that I have but little newes that is reliable to write you more than what you see in the papers. we have a grate variety of newes here but we do not confidence were all of them.  we are still at the same place. we have all organised I think in companyes and Regments. Godfry is co. Captain, Thomas Ray, first Liutinant. we have a grate many woonded soldiers coming in here but there has not come any of the Berrien boys yet as I have herd of yet. Some of our men go to the hospital all most every day. There was a good rain here yesterday and after the rain slacked there was hevey fireing of the -nnon in the direction of our armey. we here the morning that Shurmans armey have fell back 10 miles. whether this is so or not I cannot tell. I will now say to you that I have made all the enquery I can about Eli. I have herd he had give out and was gone to the hospittle but wher I can not tell. It is thought by some that we will not stay here many days.  Gov. Brown have bin to see cos. twice. He says he will not keep us here eny longer than he can help. our county men I believe is all tolerable well. Let Mother and Ansel read this letter. I will close. You must write me all the newes. direct your letters to Camp Georgia near Atlanta, Ga  fifth ? Ga Militia care Cap Godfrey

Your loving husban

James Parrish

On July 2, 1864 the company was at a “camp in the woods” about ten miles west of Atlanta on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. On July 26 James W. Parrish wrote that was detailed as a company cook.  At the War’s end, his command surrendered at Goldsboro, NC, but James wasn’t with the unit at that time. According to the affidavit filed by his younger brother, Henry William Parrish, he was furloughed sick in Savannah in September, 1864. When he recovered, instead of returning to his unit he was detailed to a unit “hunting deserters” and was on that assignment when the war ended.

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Let Us Unveil

Following the WWI sinking of HMS Otranto , October 6, 1918, Berrien County sought to establish a permanent memorial to the soldiers who perished in the disaster. Of the 25 Berrien men killed in the Otranto disaster, two from Ray City, GA were  Ralph Knight and Shellie Loyed Webb.

 berrien-doughboy

While the country celebrated victory over Germany and the Central Powers, Berrien County struggled for funds to pay for a monument to its dead.  It stands today as an enduring reminder of those young men from Berrien who gave their lives in WWI. Located at the Courthouse Square, West Marrion Avenue at North Davis Street, Nashville, GA.

The Art Inventories Catalog of the Smithsonian Institution describes the monument titled “The Spirit of the American Doughboy,”  Viquesney, E. M., 1876-1946, sculptor:

“Figure of a World War I infantryman advancing through the stumps and barbed wire of No Man’s Land. He holds a Springfield rifle in his proper left hand, with peep site in rear, and a grenade in his upraised proper right hand. His uniform consists of an ammo packet, canteen, backpack, bayonet scabbard, gas mask and helmet. The sculpture sits atop granite base with shield shapes on each side and stars and stripes decorations. The granite pedestal sits atop a paved brick footing.”

“Funds for the sculpture were raised by a memorial committee headed by Rev. Perry T. Knight (Ray City, GA). The sculpture was erected between 1920 and 1923 and was dedicated ca. 1921 or 1922. It was left veiled until late 1923, pending completion of fund raising efforts. The sculpture was originally installed in the middle of Marrion Avenue, facing north approximately 50 feet west of where it now stands. It was moved in the early 1950s and rededicated when Marrion Avenue, Georgia Highway 129 was paved. A member of the Parrish family who had a monument carving company in Nashville possibly may have assisted in carving the base.”

 The following paragraphs are extracted from:

1918 Sinking of the Otranto Leads to Purchase of The Doughboy Monument for Berrien

By Skeeter Parker

Fund Drive Begins

As if the flu pandemic in 1918 were not enough, the pall of death hung even heavier over Berrien County at a time when the rest of the country was celebrating the end of hostilities in WWI. However,the local citizenry was determined that the soldiers’ names would never be forgotten, as it says on the Doughboy monument “LEST WE FORGET.” A monument fund was announced on the front page of Nashville Herald on November 29, 1918, and readers were told “Every public spirited man, woman and child in Berrien county should contribute liberally to this glorious cause.”

Because most of the Nashville newspapers from the 1920s were destroyed or missing when microfilming was done, details surrounding the Doughboy statue’s coming to Nashville mostly come from various internet sources. According to one of those sources the statue was ordered in the spring of 1921 and erected in the middle of Marion Avenue in late July or August 1921. Different sources also say that while the monument was installed in 1921 it remained under covers until 1923 when “payment for the sculpture and impressive base was completed.”

This is borne out by a January 18, 1923 article in The Nashville Herald in which the writer said:

“It is an everlasting shame and a matter to cause the people of these three counties to feel badly over that this handsome memorial now stands veiled, because it is not paid for.”

The reader should keep in mind that in October 1918 Cook and Lanier Counties had not been formed yet and were still part of Berrien.

In January of 1923, Reverend Perry Thomas Knight  made a personal appeal to the people of Berrien County to pay off the final balance owed on the statue:

Letter to the Editor
Nashville Herald
January, 1923

Let Us Unveil

    There stands erected at Nashville, Ga., a suitable Memorial to the memory of the World War Veterans, but the veil must be lifted, “Lest We Forget.”

    J. W. E. Powell of Nashville has a complete record of every person who has donated to the Memorial Fund and the amount donated by each.

    If you have subscribed to the Memorial Fund and have not paid your subscription, please do so at once. Our boys did not fail us when they were called to service.

    We are writing the builders of the monument, asking that they give us until Wednesday, Jan. 31, 1923 to finish paying a balance of Two Thousand Dollars.

    Will you contribute $10.00 and by that be one of the Two Hundred to lift this obligation? Just as soon as the amount is sure to be in hand we will announce the day of the unveilling.

    Send your contribution to J. W. E. Powell, Nashville, and tell him what it’s for.  Do that today. We expect to have printed in the Nashville Herald, beginning next week, a list of the donors and amount given, until we reach the $2,000.

    Talk to your neighbor, to the stranger, to the Veteran, to the Everybody until we raise the money. It must be done.

    Send The Nashville Herald a card now saying: “I am one of the Two Hundred and will pay $10.00.”

    P.T. Knight 

Thomas Jefferson Sirmons Rests at Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery

Thomas Jefferson Sirmons was a son of Nancy Elizabeth Knight (1866-1938) and Moses Greyson Sirmons (1857-1928).  He was a grandson of Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, and a nephew of Perry Thomas Knight.

PRIVATE THOMAS JEFFERSON SIRMONS

PRIVATE THOMAS JEFFERSON SIRMONS
Nashville, Ga.

PRIVATE THOMAS JEFFERSON SIRMONS Nashville, Ga. Private Sirmons entered service July 16, 1918.  Was attached to Second Unit, Coast Artillery Corps, September Automatic Replacement Draft,  Ft. Screven, Ga. Embarked for over-seas the latter part of September,  sailing on the ill-fated transport “Otranto,” which was sunk off the Scottish Coast in a collision October 6, 1918. Private Sirmons was one of the soldiers drowned.

In 1940, Perry Thomas Knight wrote the following notes about Thomas Jefferson Sirmons:

“Thomas J. Sirmons b. May 26, 1892 enlisted as a soldier in the World War and on his trip over seas on October 6, 1918 went down with the ship Otranto.  His body was buried on the coast of Scotland on the Isle of Isly and two years later his body was exhumed and brought back to his home at the expense of the United States of America and he was buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Berrien County, Georgia.  The compiler of these records attended his funeral. He was buried with military honors.”  – Perry Thomas Knight

Graves of Otranto men at Kilchoman, Islay

Graves of Otranto men at Kilchoman, Islay

Two years after his death in the sinking of HMS Otranto the body of Thomas Jefferson Sirmons was returned to the United States and re-interred at Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery, about 9 miles northeast of Ray City, GA.  Another victim of the Otranto disaster, Shelley Loyd Webb, waited in a grave on Islay Isle for ten years before being brought home to rest.

Grave of Thomas Jefferson Knight, Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Thomas Jefferson Knight, Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler (see http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=90451556 )

Related Post:

October 1, 1908 First Train Rolls into Rays Mill, GA

On Thursday, October 1, 1908  the very first train rolled into Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. It was an exciting day in the Wiregrass and when the train stopped at the Ray’s Mill depot. Nearly one hundred people boarded for the excursion to Valdosta.

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad.  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

The Valdosta Times reported on the great celebration upon the arrival of the train in that city.  Among the  G & F passengers on the very first northbound train rolling out of Valdosta was Louis Malone Bullard, son of Green Bullard and husband of Dollie Howard Knight.

Valdosta Times
October 3, 1908

A BIG CROWD ON EXCURSION

Valdosta’s Neighbors Celebrate Opening of New Railroad.

Nearly Six Hundred People Came to the City Today on Excursion Over the Georgia and Florida Road From Points North of Here – The Visitors are Given a Cordial Welcome.

(From Thursday’s Daily. [October 1, 1908])

The excursion over the Georgia and Florida railroad today, marking the opening of the new line, brought big crowds to Valdosta.  Our neighbors paid us a visit, and Valdostans extended them a cordial greeting.
 The train from Hazlehurst reached the city about 12:30 on schedule time. It was  met at the turnout on the new road by a committee of twenty-five citizens, carrying badges with which to tag the excursionists. Mayor Roberts boarded the engine at the crossing and brought the train into the city, with the whistle blowing and bell ringing every foot of the way.  At the depot the excursionists, numbering nearly six hundred people were formed in line and marched up Patterson street and to the Odd Fellows Hall on Central avenue, where a splendid lunch had been prepared.  The ladies in the party, numbering about one hundred and fifty, were met by a committee at Pinkston’s store and carried up stairs where refreshments had been prepared for them.
 No pains were spared by the committee in charge of the entertainment for the visitors, to make the occasion a pleasant one.  The lunches at both places were simply splendid, and enough had been provided to feed even a larger crowd.
 After dinner there were a number of speeches at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, Judge W. H. Griffin welcoming the visitors to the city in a ten minute talk which was applauded to the echo.  Prof. McDonald, of Douglas, made a splendid speech expressing the appreciation of the people along the new line for the cordial welcome given them by the citizens of Valdosta.  He was followed by Col. Smith, of Nashville, who added his praise to that of the hundreds who had given the occasion their unqualified endorsement.
 Every town on the new line was represented in the excursionists. Hazlehurst, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville, Ray’s Mill and all of the other towns sent representative crowds.  One hundred and seventy-two came from Nashville and nearly a hundred boarded the train at Ray’s Mill.
Between seventy-five and one hundred came up on the early train from Madison and the towns between here and there.
The visitors have a half day to spend  in the city, as the train on the return trip does not leave until six o’clock this afternoon.

First Train.

    The first passenger train of the Georgia and Florida going north left out of Valdosta this morning at about 8:30 o’clock.  It was the accommodation train No. 20, and carried several freight cars and a passenger coach.
    No 20 met the excursion train coming from Hazlehurst, at Nashville.
    Several passengers got aboard.  Some for Mathis, some for Ray’s Mill and others for Nashville.  Among the passengers were J. R. Fitzgerald, Garland Wilkinson and L. M. Bullard.
    Those who watched this first train going north from Valdosta over the new route of the Georgia and Florida, realized the dream of leading Valdostans for years.
   This might well be called the birthday of the new era for the city’s prosperity, as the Georgia and Florida opens up a vast territory that was hard for Valdosta to reach heretofore.
    When completed the road from Madison to Augusta will touch many good towns but among them all it will have no better friend than Valdosta.

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