Wiregrass Babes in Sugarland

To children of Wiregrass Georgia, sugar cane was the homegrown candy of choice.  The harvest of the cane crop, and cane grinding time was anticipated by children of all ages.

Children of the Cane. Children in Berrien County, as in other Wiregrass Georgia counties, looked forward to the sugar cane cutting with great anticipation. Pictured here are children of the Liles and Edson families together on the Leggett farm, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Children of the Cane. Children in Berrien County, as in other Wiregrass Georgia counties, looked forward to the sugar cane cutting with great anticipation. Pictured here are children of the Liles and Edson families together on the Leggett farm, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Sugar cane has been an integral part of Wiregrass culture since it was introduced into South Georgia in around 1828.  John Moore began the cultivation of cane when he settled near the Grand Bay swamp in Lowndes County.  By 1876 sugar cane was one of the staple field crops of South Georgia, and an important staple in the farming and agriculture of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), and the section. “Sugar, Syrup, and Molasses are made on a considerable scale in the southern part of this State from tropical Cane.” Hundreds of gallons of cane syrup could be produced from a single acre of sugar cane. In 1879 the Columbus Daily Enquirer reported, “The Berrien County News contends that cane planting can be made as profitable in Southern Georgia as in Mississippi, Louisiana or elsewhere, and that Southern Georgia syrup cannot be excelled by that made anywhere.”

In 1885, Montgomery Folsom, poet/historian of Wiregrass Georgia, wrote about the sweet childhood experience of sugar cane:

The Atlanta Constitution
June 24, 1885 pg 2

Down the River.

Now we have reached the point where the [Little] river widens out, and winds along through interminable swamps.  Here in the autumn the mellow haws hang red on the trees, and in the sweet Indian summer great festoons of wild grapes and “bullaces” hanging in mellow lusciousness from the vines which have twined their tendrils around the topmost boughs of the tall trees.  Fields of yellow corn cover the fertile hillside, the withered stalks rustling and creaking in the whispering breeze.  These farmers have inherited a goodly legacy in these broad acres. The cotton fields are white as snow, and the merry jests and hearty laugh attest the contentment of the laborers. In striking contrast with the brilliant colors of the autumnal foliage is the deep blue green of the sugar cane.  Through long years of cultivation in alien soil it has preserved its identity as a child of the tropics, and holds its green until the great leveler, Jack Frost, chills its sugary sap. Other plants have learned to adapt themselves to the new order of things, and shorten the season of their growth accordingly, but the sugar cane never ripens.  If I have dwelled long on the peculiarities of this plant it is because I have experienced so many perils and pleasures in connection with it.  Is there a south Georgia boy, to-day, who never slipped in at the back of the cane patch, starting nervously as he chanced to snap a blade, picking his way carefully until a selection was made, then cutting down the cane by easy stages, so that it would not crack loudly when it fell; carefully stripping of the blades one, by one, then stealing noiselessly out, ensconcing himself in a fence jamb and then – oh! the delicious taste of the juice! “Trebly sweet when obtained through so much peril. Hark! Ahem!” The boy springs to his feet and trembling in every limb beholds the “old man” leaning his elbow on the fence and watching him intently. “Ahem!” “Is it gittin’ sweet yet sonny?” But the boy is too dumbfounded to answer. ” “Well, I guess I’d better give ye a row, and you musn’t cut any out’n the rest of the patch.” Oh! Joy! In less than ten minutes every child on the place is informed that “pa has give us a row of cane to chaw.” And the old man stalks about in the potato patch in search of a late watermelon, an odd smile on his lips.  He passed the same experience some twenty or thirty years ago.

If you want to learn more about the traditions, practice and science of Georgia cane syrup making, be sure to see Bill Outlaw’s essays at Southern Matters http://www.southernmatters.com/  where he shares family history and research on sugar cane and syrup production, along with other connections to the past.

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Obituary of Helen Baskin Pierce

Helen Baskin, born February 2, 1920, was a daughter of  Minnie Lee Hancock Baskin and  Armstrong B. “Bee” Baskin.   In 1943 she married  Wilmont C. Pierce.  After WWII, the couple made their home at Ray City, where Wilmont  engaged in farming with Helen’s father.   In 1968, the Pierces moved from Ray City to Valdosta, GA.

Obituary of Helen Baskin Pierce (1920-2004)

AXSON — Helen Baskin Pierce, 84, of Axson, passed away Tuesday, June 1, 2004, at South Georgia Medical Center, Valdosta, following a long illness. Mrs. Pierce was born on Feb. 2, 1920, growing up in Lanier County, the daughter of the late Armstrong B. Baskin and Minne Lee Hancock Baskin. She was preceded in death by her brothers and sister, John W. Baskin, Lakeland, Ga., Curtis L. Baskin, Groves, Texas, Louie Baskin, Alma, Ga., and Mary Frances Blalock, Atlanta.

She retired in June 1986, after serving 27 years as a civil service employee in Atlanta at Warner Robins Air Force Base and Moody Air Force Base. She served in various capacities at First Baptist Church, Ray City, Ga., her home church, before moving to Valdosta in 1968, where she was a member of First Baptist Church there. Currently, she resided in Coffee County and was a member of Stokesville Baptist Church.

Mrs. Pierce is survived by her husband of 61 years, Wilmont Candler Pierce, Axson; her sons, Michael J. Pierce, Olathe, Kan., W. Candler Pierce (Mary Ann), Richmond, R.I., Bobby L. Pierce (Kay), Axson; her grandchildren, Wade C. Pierce, Orlando, Fla., Keith H. Pierce, Tampa, Fla., M. Andrew Pierce, Bayminette, Ala., Jessica, Andrea and Justin Pierce Richmond, R.I., Lynn Eslinger (Jason), Cleveland, Tenn., Kim Hunter (Tim), Valdosta, and Krista L. Pierce, Valdosta, as well as three great-grandchildren. Her extended family included J.C. and Evelyn Pierce, Crawfordville, Ga., Howard and Dot Ray, Ray City, Jessie Hudson, Valdosta, McDonald and Betty Pierce and Dilmus and Burma Pierce, Lakeland, Vanelle Baskin, Gloria Baskin, Groves, Texas; 17 nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends at Music Funeral Services, Lakeland, Ga., from 6-9 p.m. this evening. Mrs. Pierce will lie in state at First Baptist Church, Ray City, from 10-11 a.m. June 4, 2004. Memorial services will begin at 11 a.m. with the Rev. Lee Graham and the Rev. Bob L. Pierce officiating. Burial will follow in Unity United Methodist Church Cemetery near Lakeland, Ga. Sympathy may be expressed online at http://www.musicfuneralservices.com — Music Funeral Services of Lakeland

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Feb 22, 1905 Marriage of Mollie Bell Clements

Remember Mollie Bell Clements Lee?  She and her husband, Bill Lee, ordered their home from the Sears Catalog about 1917 (see Ray City’s Mail Order House).  Mollie Bell Clements and William David “Bill” Lee were married on Wednesday, February 22, 1905.   Presented here,  the wedding announcement that appeared in The Valdosta Times.

1905 Wedding announcement of Mollie Bell Clements, of Ray City, and William David Lee, of Milltown.

1905 Wedding announcement of Mollie Bell Clements, of Ray City, and William David Lee, of Milltown. The announcement appeared in the Saturday, February 25, 1905 edition of The Valdosta Times.

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, February 25, 1905

A Wedding Near Ray’s Mill.

      The home of Mrs. Martha Clements, near Ray’s Mill, was the scene of a very pretty wedding Wednesday afternoon, the contracting parties being Miss Mollie Clements and Mr. William David Lee, of Milltown. The ceremony was performed by Rev. L. R. Christie and was witnessed by a large number of friends of the contracting parties. The bride is a very popular as well as pretty young woman, and is a daughter of the late David Clements. The groom is a prominent merchant and naval stores operator at Milltown.
      The couple received many handsome presents and are receiving many congratulations and good wishes from their host of friends.

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Posting Mail at Ray City

Post marked Ray's Mills, GA

Post marked Ray’s Mills, GA

 Levi J. Knight and the first Wiregrass Pioneers to settle on Beaverdam Creek in the area of present day Ray City, GA arrived here about 185 years ago, in the 1820s. At first  these settlers had no mail service at all, but within a year or two a post office was established at Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie’s place on the Coffee Road. That was a 50 mile round trip for the settlers at Beaverdam Creek to fetch their mail. For about 40 years, no post office was established closer than 10 or 12 miles to this locale.

KNIGHT’S MILL POST OFFICE
After the end of the Civil War, the grist mill that General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray had established on Beaverdam Creek became the site of the first post station serving the present day area of Ray City, GA. This mill was originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” and in 1867 a post office established here was simply referred to as “Knight’s Mill.” In 1870 the United States Postal Service Guide indicated that the postmaster of Knight’s Mill received an annual salary of $12.   The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

RAY’S MILL POST STATION
In 1870, after the death of General Knight, Thomas M. Ray bought out complete ownership of the mill from his father-in-law’s estate. Thereafter the mill and the surrounding community became known as Ray’s Mill. Apparently from 1871 and 1875 there was no post office in operation at Ray’s Mill, and residents were again compelled to take their mail at Nashville or Milltown. In 1876 a local post office resumed operation and according to the Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters,  Henry Harrison Knight was appointed on June 6, 1876.  The United States Official Postal Guide of July, 1879 lists the post office at “Ray’s Mills,” Berrien County, Georgia, but the postmaster’s name is not given. The Georgia State Gazetteer, Business and Planter’s Directory for 1881-82 also lists the the Ray’s Mill post office. In the 1885 Official Register of the United States, H.H. Knight was again listed as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia. His compensation for this service was $36.25. Post Office Dept records appear to indicate  that H.H. Knight was reappointed as Postmaster on May 22, 1886.  His wife, Mary Susan Ray Knight, was officially appointed Postmaster on November 1, 1892.  Joseph O. Sirmans was appointed on October 2, 1899 and served for about a year.  On September 1, 1900 the appointment was given to William C. Johnson (Johnson married H.H. Knight’s daughter in 1907).  The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters documents that David J. Rigell was appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on March 8, 1901.  Ulysses A. Knight took over on August 12, 1902 and was later confirmed as postmaster. Josiah S. Rigell took the position on April 28, 1903.  Post office records seem to indicate that the post office at Ray’s Mill was discontinued effective March 31, 1904 and for a while the mail was sent to Milltown (now Lakeland).

Some local histories say David Rigell, a  merchant of Berrien County, was the first postmaster at Ray’s Mill.  The primary sources, timing and other factors indicate that this was not the case (see David Jackson Rigell ~ First Postmaster of Ray’s Mill? Maybe Not!), but that Rigell served as postmaster in the 1901. It is speculated that the death of General Knight left the position vacant until Henry H. Knight, son-in-law of Thomas M. Ray and nephew of General Knight took an interest in civil service.

In 1909, Eugene Ray reported that “Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman, young men, are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here,” in Ray City, GA. The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Charles Anderson was officially appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on February 6, 1909, and  the Official Register of the United States shows in 1909, Chas Anderson was earning, $82 a month or $984 a year as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill.  That sum might have been comparable to an annual salary of about $35,000 a year in 2007 dollars.

On April 1, 1920, James “Joel” F. Fountain  became the Acting Postmaster. His appointment as Postmaster was confirmed in the U.S. Senate on June 5th of that year. The following year the  Ray City Post Office made the state news when it was dynamited by “Yeggmen“.

The census of 1930  shows James F. Fountain continued as the Ray City postmaster.  James Arthur Grissett and Lacy Albert McDonald were employed as rural mail carriers at Ray City.

By 1934, Mamie E. Fountain, wife of J. F. Fountain, took over as Postmaster at Ray City.

In 1939, the Nashville Herald announced a vacancy in the postmaster position at Ray City:

The Nashville Herald,
February 2, 1939    Pg 1

Postmaster’s Exam Called for Ray City

      An open competitive examination will be held shortly to fill the position of postmaster of Ray City, according to an announcement from the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.
Applications for the examination will close on February 10th.  All who desire to take the examination for this place must file their application by that date.
The place and date of examination will be announced after the date for making applications is closed.
Complete information may be obtained by applying at the post office in Ray City.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

The U. S. Postal service and census records provide the following on subsequent Postal employees at Ray City.

Name Title Date Appointed
James Arthur Grissett Mail Carrier prior to 4/04/1940
Chloe Ann Johnson Asst Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
Garth L. Webb Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
William A. Garner Acting Postmaster 04/02/1955
William A. Garner Postmaster 08/06/1957
Mrs. Florence V. Garner Officer-In-Charge 05/08/1970
Timothy R. McLeod Postmaster 11/27/1971
Jeane U. Camp Officer-In-Charge 06/04/1987
Billy R. Cromer Officer-In-Charge 07/30/1987
Muriel S. Privett Officer-In-Charge 11/05/1987
Jeane U. Camp Postmaster 01/30/1988
Nancy Deloras Courson Officer-In-Charge 01/08/2003
Nancy D. Courson Postmaster 05/17/2003
Flora Parker Officer-In-Charge 07/26/2012
Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

-30-

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Attack of the Yeggmen

In the first half of the 20th Century, stories of Yeggmen  and their explosive work abounded in the media, even in rural South Georgia.   The famous detective, William Pinkerton, was a expert on the “The Yeggman” and published professional articles on the subject.

The Yeggman, by William Pinkerton.

The Yeggman, by William Pinkerton.

On December 6, 1921 the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the attack in Ray City. Postmaster at the time was James “Joel” F. Fountain.

Ray City, GA post office wrecked by dynamite. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 6, 1921.

Ray City, GA post office wrecked by dynamite. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 6, 1921.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Dec 6, 1921

RAY CITY POST OFFICE
WRECKED BY DYNAMITE

As a result of dynamiting by yeggmen, the post office in Ray City, Ga., in Berrien County, was almost totally wrecked Sunday night, according to word received Monday morning. Immediately, inspectors were assigned to investigate the case by Louis A. Johnson, inspector in charge. No word was received as to the extent of the loot secured.

The followup on December 8th reported the safecrackers were still at large.

The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprised reported on the Ray City Post Office robbery, December 8, 1921

The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprised reported on the Ray City Post Office robbery, December 8, 1921

Thomasville Daily Times Enterprise
December 8, 1921

Live News From Towns in South Georgia

No Clue To Robbers Of Post Office At Ray City

Valdosta, Ga., Dec 8. – Although post office inspectors have been at work on the case continuously, no clue has been found in connection with the robbery of the post office at Ray City, when the safe was blown by a high explosive on Monday night.  Only a small amount of mony was secured, but several blank money order books and other records were taken.  These are only valuable to the post office and worthless to the robbers.  The building was entered by means of a crowbar and the high explosive used blew the door from the safe and broke all the windows in the building.

Attack of the Yeggmen

The Argot of the Vagabond,
by Charlie Samolar, published in American Speech, 1927, by the American Dialect Society, Duke University Press:

The bluebird sings by the lemonade springs in the rock-candy mountains …

From a Vagabond Ditty.

A few of the words used in the early days of vagabondage in this country have undoubtedly been handed down to the present, but it is difficult to segregate them, as the old-timers are surly or short-memoried and the vag leaves practically no literature. The word drill, a relic of the Civil War, is still in use; it means “to hike.” Counting ties and beating trains, now well-know phrases, probably originated in the days of young railroads.

Hobo gang-life in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century produced a great many terms, but most of them are now archaic, having passed out of use with the death of the gang-form. A few, however, should be mentioned. A yegg was a burglar who travelled by beating trains. The word is supposed to be derived from “John Yegg,” who is said to have been the first safe-cracker to use nitro-glycerine as an adjunct to the prosecution of his art. A gang of yeggs was generally known as the folks. Sometimes, they were called the Johnson Boys, from the “Johnson-bar,” the reverse lever of the locomotive of those days; yeggs used a tool somewhat similar to it. Any kind of a gang was known as a push, a word credited to Australia, but I think it is a sister of the mob of the city underworld. An obie, or O.B. was a post-office. O.B., I believe, is P.O. reversed with the P. made into a B. The yegg pushes specialized in obies for two reasons; they were easily broken into and Federal big-houses were more comfortable than state penal institutions. Handing the match was a custom practiced by pushes in their open-air hang-outs. The intruding stranger was handed a match, which signified: “Go and build your own fire.” This was always done when a job was being hatched or when one of the folks was making soup (nitro-glycerine). A uniformed officer, now termed a harness-bull, was called a finger, from his itching desire to get his fingers on one. A plainclothesman, now called a fly-dick, was an elbow, from his way of elbowing through a crowd when he saw someone he wished to keep in sight. A lighthouse was a vag who knew all the ropes in a particular territory and tipped off the visiting vag regarding rocks and shoals. A light-piece, still used, but rarely, was a piece of silver money; probably because of its color. Stamps was, at one time, a name for money, yeggs handled considerable quantities of stamps, part of the proceeds of obie jobs.

 

Memorial Day Remembrance of the Service and Sacrifice of Hubert Felton Comer

Hubert Felton Comer

Hubert Felton Comer

Memorial Day Remembrance of the Service and Sacrifice of Hubert Felton Comer

In the 2007-2008 Georgia Legislative Session, The Georgia Senate passed a resolution to dedicate the Ray City bridge over Cat Creek in memorial to Hubert F. Comer:

A RESOLUTION

Dedicating certain portions of the state highway system; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, Hubert F. Comer served in the United States Navy and was assigned to the USS Rich, a destroyer escort during the Normandy invasion in June 1944; and

WHEREAS, the USS Rich hit three German mines off the Normandy coast two days after the Normandy invasion; and

WHEREAS, Hubert F. Comer was listed among the missing, and his body was never recovered; and

WHEREAS, Hubert F. Comer was awarded the American Area Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Campaign Medal, and the Purple Heart; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting and appropriate to honor Hubert F. Comer for his service and ultimate sacrifice in that service to the United States of America, the State of Georgia, and Berrien County by the naming of the SR 37 bridge on Cat Creek in honor and memory of his service and sacrifice.

Hubert  Felton Comer, age nine, was enumerated along with his family in the 1930 census living in the Lois community near Ray City, GA. He was a son of Margaret Jane Hudson and Audley H. Comer.  His father was a farmer, and Hubert and his older brother, Harold, assisted with the farm labor.

Hubert Felton Comer, 8th Grade, New Lois School, Berrien County, GA.

Hubert Felton Comer, 8th Grade, New Lois School, Berrien County, GA.

Hubert, and siblings who were of age, attended the one room school house at Lois.  A 1936-37 class photo (detail at right) depicting Hubert at about age sixteen is available at the Berrien County Historical Photos Collection.

Later, Hubert attended the Ray City School where he graduated from high school about 1940  (see Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata).

Hubert Felton Comer enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve on April 6, 1942.

Hubert Felton Comer was born July 14, 1920 and died June 8, 1944.

The Nashville Herald
September 28, 1944

Hubert F. Comer Reported Dead

    Hubert F. Comer, 24, Carpenters Mate Second Class, U.S.N.R. , missing in action since July 9, was reported dead in a letter received last week by his wife.  The letter stated that he had been carried on the official records of the Navy Department in the status of missing since June 6, 1944.  He was servicing on board the U. S. S. Rich when that vessel was lost in the European Invasion as a result of enemy action.
     News of his death read:
     “It is with deep regret you are here advised that, although the body of your husband was not recovered, his commanding officer has reported that the circumstances surrounding his disappearance have lead to a conclusion of death.  It is hoped you may find comfort in the knowledge that he was serving his country at the time of his death.”
     He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Comer of Ray City, who received similar news of his death.
     Young Comer was graduated from the Ray City high school in 1940 after which he was employed on construction projects at Augusta.  He enlisted in the Navy in April of 1942 and was married to the former Miss Paula Skinner in June 1943. His last leave at home was in March of this year.  He was a person of good moral character and his many friends are grieved to learn of his death.
     Survivors include his wife and parents, four brothers, M. Sgt. Harold Comer of Eglin Field, Fla., Sgt. James E. Comer, somewhere overseas, Jerry and Murray Comer of Ray City, and two sisters, Ms. Algerine Garner, of San Diego, Calif., and Miss Barbara Comer, of Ray City.

Aboard the USS Rich:

Hubert Felton Comer aboard the USS Rich (DE 695), WWII.

Hubert Felton Comer aboard the USS Rich (DE 695), WWII.

The USS Rich was officially described as, “DE – 695: displacement 1,800; length 306’; beam 36’10”; draft 13’6”; speed 24 knots; complement 215; armament 3 3”, 4 40mm., 8 20mm., 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog-type), 3 21” torpedo tubes; class Buckley.”

The USS Rich (DE-695) was laid down on March 27, 1943 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, MI.; launched June 22, 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ralph McMaster Rich; and commissioned October 1, 1943, Lt. Comdr. E. A. Michel, Jr., USNR, in command.

The USS Rich (DE-695) was laid down on March 27, 1943 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, MI.; launched June 22, 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ralph McMaster Rich; and commissioned October 1, 1943, Lt. Comdr. E. A. Michel, Jr., USNR, in command.

The USS Rich was laid down on 27 March 1943 at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan, the third destroyer escort to be built at that yard. She was launched on 22 June 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Ralph McMaster Rich, widow of Lt. Rich.

After completion, the USS Rich was sailed from the builder’s yard at Bay City, IL to Chicago, Illinois, arriving September 24, 1943. From there, she passed through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and down the Chicago River. At  Joliet, IL, pontoons were attached to the ship so she could be pushed down the Des Plaines River, Illinois River, and Mississippi River as part of a barge train.

USS Rich on the Mississippi River. Image source: http://www.informediate.com/USSRichDE695/Photos/PhotoGallery.htm

USS Rich on the Mississippi River. Image source: http://www.informediate.com/USSRichDE695/Photos/PhotoGallery.htm

The ship was docked at the Todd Johnson Shipyard in Algiers, Louisiana, on the west bank of the Mississippi at New Orleans.  Hubert Comer and the rest of the crew reported aboard, and the USS Rich was commissioned on October 1, 1943, Lieutenant Commander E. A. Michel, Jr., USNR, in command.

Crew of the USS Rich DE695 at commissioning ceremony in New Orleans, LA, October 1,1943. Image source: http://www.informediate.com/USSRichDE695/Photos/PhotoGallery.htm

Crew of the USS Rich DE695 at commissioning ceremony in New Orleans, LA, October 1,1943. Image source: http://www.informediate.com/USSRichDE695/Photos/PhotoGallery.htm

Hubert Felton Comer listed on the muster roll of the USS Rich (DE 695) during WWII.

Hubert Felton Comer listed on the muster roll of the USS Rich (DE 695) during WWII.

Following a shakedown cruise off Bermuda, the USS Rich was primarily engaged in coastal escort and patrol duty with Escort Division 19 (CortDiv 19) until the end of February 1944.   Then assigned to trans-Atlantic escort work, she completed three round-trip crossings by May. On May 10, 1944, Rich departed New York City in escort of a convoy to Britain in what would be her last transit of the North Atlantic.

USS Rich (DE 695)  somewhere in the Atlantic.

USS Rich (DE 695) somewhere in the Atlantic.

On May 23, 1943 the USS Rich arrived at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and awaited a convoy to escort back to the United States. Instead, Rich was assigned to the Normandy Invasion force, and commenced preparations for “Operation Neptune”, the naval phase of the invasion of Normandy. She arrived at Plymouth, England on June 4, and was assigned as an escort to the battleship Nevada.

Delayed by weather for 24 hours, the “U” force sailed for France on 5 June, with Rich and her sister ship Bates in the screen of the bombardment group of Task Force 125 (TF 125), which consisted of the battleship Nevada and the heavy cruisers Quincy (CA-71), Tuscaloosa, and HMS Black Prince. On “D-Day”, 6 June 1944 and the two days following, she screened naval gunfire support ships off “Utah” Beach as they laid fire for the troops landed on Utah Beach to the northwest of the Carentan Estuary. On 6 June, Rich laid down a smoke screen which foiled an attack by German E-Boat.

On the morning of June, 8, 1944, soon after 08:45, she was ordered by the Commander of Task Group 125.8 (TG 125.8) aboard Tuscaloosa to proceed to Fire Support Area 3 to assist the destroyer Glennon which had struck a mine northwest of the Saint-Marcouf Islands. Rich proceeded at full speed to the area, and then followed in the wake of two minesweepers to the immediate area of the Glennon. Closing on Glennon, Rich dispatched a whaleboat, only to learn that her assistance was not needed at that point. Rich then started to round the disabled ship and take up station ahead of the minesweeper which had taken Glennon in tow. She moved at slow speed, with extra hands on the lookout for enemy planes and mines.

USS Rich with the USS Glennon

USS Rich with the USS Glennon

At approximately 0920, a mine exploded 50 yards off Rich’s starboard beam.

“Although men were shaken and power and lights lost temporarily, no serious damage occurred from the mine blast.  The ship was not so lucky when a second mine was encountered three minutes later.  A deafening explosion thundered from beneath RICH.  Men were thrown from the bridge to the deck.  A 50-foot section of the ship’s stern was torn off and set adrift.  Survivors attempted to cling to debris or swim to safety and the seriously wounded were helpless in the mangled wreckage.  A series of emergency reports reached the bridge – several torpedoes were making hot runs in their tubes; the main deck had sagged, vicinity of No. 2 engine-room; compartments forward of the engineering spaces had suffered only minor damage.  But, there was never time to assess the reports.  Only minutes later, a third mine unleashed its fury on RICH.  She stayed afloat less than thirty minutes before settling into the sea.  RICH and 89 crewmembers were gone.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward A. Michel, Jr. received the Navy Cross for heroism and devotion to duty.  USS RICH DE 695 was the last DesLant ship to go down to Nazi mines off Normandy.”

Roscoe, Theodore, “United States Destroyer Operations In World War II”, 1953, US Naval Institute.

One year after the sinking of the USS Rich, a memorial service was held in Ray City for Hubert Comer:

The Nashville Herald
June 7, 1945  Pg1

Memorial Services for Hubert Comer At Ray City Friday

      Memorial services for Hubert F. Comer, C. M. 2-C,  U.S.N.R., will be held Friday, June 8, at 4 E.W.T. at the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City.
       Seaman Comer served on the Destroyer Rich and participated in the invasion of France last June.  The U.S.S. Rich served as an escort ship and screening vessel in protection of heavier ships.
       During the invasion it stood by to render aid to another destroyer when it struck several mines and went down.   Seaman Comer went down with his ship and was never seen again.  He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Pauline S. Comer of Nashville, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.T. Comer of Ray City, four brothers, Harold Comer of Eglin Field, Fla., James and Jerry Comer, who are overseas, and Murray Comer of Ray City, two sisters, Mrs. Algerine Garner, and Miss Barbara Comer of Ray City, and his grandparents, Elder and Mrs. Joe Hudson, of Bartow, Fla.
       Primitive hymns will be sung. Elder M. S. Peavy and Elder C. H. Vickers will officiate. A marker will be placed in the cemetery.

Memorial marker, New Ramah Cemetery. In Memory of Hubert F. Comer who died at sea, Jul 14 1920 - Jun 8 1944. "Nobly he fell while fighting for liberty."

Memorial marker, New Ramah Cemetery. In Memory of Hubert F. Comer who died at sea, Jul 14 1920 – Jun 8 1944. “Nobly he fell while fighting for liberty.”

Memorial marker for Hubert Felton Comer, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Memorial marker for Hubert Felton Comer, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Mary Jane Gardner Stewart rests at Beaver Dam Cemetery

Mary Jane Gardner was a sister of Chloe Gardner.

Mary Jane Gardner moved with her parents from Hamilton County, FL to south Florida some time before 1900.   Her sister, Chloe Gardner, married JHP Johnson in 1899 and made her home first in DuPont, GA and later in Ray City.  Upon her death in 1977, Mary Jane Gardner Stewart was laid to rest at Beaver Dam Cemetery, in Ray City.

Mary Jane Gardner Stewart and son, Elton. Mary Jane was a sister of Chloe Gardner Johnson.

Mary Jane Gardner Stewart and son, Elton. Mary Jane was a sister of Chloe Gardner Johnson.

Gardner Sisters: Emma Gardner, Chloe Ann Gardner Johnson, Mary Gardner Stewart, & Martha Leone Gardner. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Gardner Sisters: Emma Gardner, Chloe Ann Gardner Johnson, Mary Gardner Stewart, & Martha Leone Gardner. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Beaver Dam Cemetery

Grave of Mary Jane Gardner Stewart (1884-1977), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Mary Jane Gardner Stewart (1884-1977), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll

Mary Elizabeth Carroll was born May 9, 1839 a daughter of Margaret Chestnut and  Jesse Carroll. Before the Civil War, Mary Carroll’s father was one of the wealthiest men in Berrien County.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of 1) William Washington Knight, 2) William Joseph Lamb.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of 1) William Washington Knight, 2) William Joseph Lamb.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll married William Washington Knight in 1855, a union of two influential families in Lowndes and Berrien county histories (The Knights and the Carrolls were cut from Lowndes into Berrien County in 1856.) The bride was a petite dark-haired beauty of 16; the  groom, at 26, was 6 feet in height, with dark hair and blue eyes.   William was born 4 Mar 1829 in that part of Lowndes, Georgia that is now known as Berrien County, Ga.  He was the eldest son of Levi Knight and Ann Clements/Herrin, and a grandson of William Anderson Knight.

In 1860, before the start of the Civil War, Mary E. Carroll and her husband William Washington Knight were living in the vicinity of Beaver Dam Creek near the present site of Ray City, GA. William owned a farm there, situated next to the farm of his uncle, John Knight.

1860 Slave Schedule, Berrien County, GA.

1860 Slave Schedule, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu142unit#page/n140/mode/1up

William W. Knight’s real estate in 1860 was valued at $1100, and he had a personal estate of $700. William and Mary were raising their young children, Mary V. Knight (4), Margaret A. Knight(2) and Walter H. Knight (6 months).

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n403/mode/1up

In January 1861, William Washington Knight was elected Justice of the Peace in the 1144th Georgia Militia District. As an elected official he could have claimed exemption from military service during the Civil War.  But on October 1, 1861 Knight enlisted in  the “Berrien Minutemen,” a Confederate army unit then being organized by his father,  Levi J. Knight.  William served in the 29th GA infantry in Company K, the Berrien Minutemen, and was elected 2nd Sergeant.

It must have been difficult for young Mary E. Knight, left home to raise her children alone while William and many other young men of the county  marched off to war with the Berrien Minutemen.  Two years into the war, on August 6, 1863, she penned the following:

It is not that my lot is low

that bids this silent tear to flow,

It is not greaf that bids me mourn;

It is that I am All Alone.

In woods and glens I love to roam

When the tierd hedges hies him home

Or by the woodland poole to rest

When pale the stars looks on its breast

Yet when the silent evening sighs

with hallowed airs and symphonies

my spirit takes another tone

and sighs that it is All Alone.

The Autumn leaf is sear and dead

It floats upon the watery bead

It would not be a leaf to dye

Without recording sorrows sigh

The woods and winds with sudden wail

Tell the same unvaried tale

I ‘ve now to smile when I am free

And when I sigh to sigh with me

Yet in my dreams a form I view

that thinks on me and loves me too

I start, and when the visions flown

I weep, alas that Am All Alone.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll suffered not just the loneliness of a soldier’s wife, but the grief of a mother. It was during the war, in 1863, that she lost her little girl, Margaret Ann Knight, just five years old.

Supply requisition records for Company K show that William Washington Knight was in service in Dalton, Georgia on December 6, 1863.  Shortly after that, Knight was furloughed home because of illness. He died of chronic diarrhea at Milltown, GA December 27, 1863.

As the war dragged on, the widowed Mary E. Carroll Knight was left to raise their three surviving children :

  1. Mary Virginia Knight 1856 – 1916, married William E. Langford
  2. Margaret Ann Knight 1858 – 1863
  3. Walter Howard Knight 1859 – 1934
  4. Lillian Melissa Knight March 22, 1862– 1947, married Noah Webster Griffin

But with the end of the war Mary re-married in 1865. Her second husband,William Joseph Lamb, was also her first cousin.  His mother, Margaret Carroll, was a sister of Jesse Carroll, Mary’s father. His father was William Lamb, who was one of the early settlers of Milltown.

William J. Lamb was a Civil War veteran who had been seriously wounded in battle (see  William J. Lamb ~ Confederate Veteran).   The census of 1870 shows  Mary Elizabeth Carroll was living with her husband, William J. Lamb, in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, later known as the Ray’s Mill District. With them were Mary’s children Mary V. Knight, Walter H. Knight, Lillian Knight.

1870 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

1870 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n439/mode/1up

Also living with the Lambs was their cousin, Henry Harrison Knight, a son of John Graham Knight.  Henry was working as a country merchant at the time. Later he would open one of the first stores in the community of Rays Mill (nka Ray City), GA.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb, circa 1875, daughter of Margaret Chestnut and Jesse Carroll. Image detail from original courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb, circa 1875, daughter of Margaret Chestnut and Jesse Carroll. Image detail from original courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

The 1880 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb with husband, William J. Lamb, in Berrien County, GA.  Neighbors were William, Virginia and Luther Langford.  Nearby were Mary’s son, Walter Howard Knight, and his wife, Jimmie Gardener Gullette.

1880 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

1880 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n380/mode/1up

In 1900 the census records show Mary and William Lamb living in the Lower Fork District, No. 658 of Lowndes County. They were boarding with Bessie Griffin and Joseph S. Bazemore. (see Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899)

1900 census enumertion of William J. Lamb

1900 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb

http://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu209unit#page/n440/mode/1up

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb died December 29, 1906.  She was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Elizabeth Lamb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave marker of Mary Elizabeth Lamb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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Related posts:

Ray’s Mill Hotel Burns, 1915

Jacob Fredrick Hinely operated the Ray’s Mill Hotel in a two story wooden building that was owned by James Henry Swindle and James S. Swindle. The hotel building stood in Ray City, GA where the Clements Fountain was later built. Hinely also had a small store located on the first floor right of the hotel.

Rays Mill Hotel, circa 1912, Rays Mill, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Rays Mill Hotel, circa 1912, Rays Mill, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

On Sunday, April 25, 1915, Ray City was ravaged by a fire that destroyed several buildings.  A city block – nearly a third of the Ray City business district – was lost. The fire consumed the hotel and all of its contents, a loss of $6,000. The total damage from the fire amounted to about $30,000.

The Atlanta Constitution
April 27, 1915


$30,000 FIRE SWEEPS SOUTH GEORGIA TOWN

Third of the Business Section of Ray Mills [sic], Near Valdosta, Burns.

Valdosta, Ga., April 26 –(Special.) — A third of the business section of Ray Mllis [sic], a flourishing town fourteen miles from Valdosta was destroyed by fire on Sunday. A number of merchants lost their stores and stocks. And the Ray Mills hotel [sic], al large two-story building, was entirely destroyed, with most of the furnishings. The losses will amount to about $30,000. Partially covered by insurance.

J.F. Hinely, proprietor of the hotel: J. C. Parrish & Co., John J. Clements, Jr., J.H. and J.S. Swindle, and W. M. Studstill are the principal losers.

The town has no water facilities and the block in which the flames started was burned before the fire could be checked. 

 

After the hotel burned, Jacob Fredrick Hinely and his wife, Laura Frances Hinely, remained in Ray City.  Hinely took up farming.  He was also listed in the 1917 Rating Book for Wholesalers and Shippers of Fresh Fish, Fresh Oysters and Shell Fish of All Kinds ….

Hinely registered for the WWI draft at Ray City on September 12, 1918, his registration form being completed by C.O. Terry.   Hinely was 43 years old, medium height, medium build, brown eyes with light hair.

By the early 1920’s  a boom period arrived in Ray City, GA and J. Fred Hinely was proprietor and operator of a beef market, one of the thriving businesses in the new town. He and his family lived in a rented house on Jones Street. While Fred ran the butcher shop his wife Laura kept house and daughter Thelma attended school. His son Theodore Hinely worked on his own account as an automobile driver, one of the automotive entrepreneurs of Ray City. The widower James T. Philips was a boarder living with the Hinelys. Their neighbors were Fred and Laura Tyler, and Katherine Swindle and her family.

Later, by 1930,   Laura and Jacob Fredrick Hinely left Ray City and moved to Jacksonville, FL were Hinely worked as a salesman for the Jax Steam Laundry.

Ferris Moore ~ Ray City Iceman

Ferris Moore (1906-1978)

Born Feb 17, 1906, Ferris Moore was the son of Hattie and J. Lacy Moore, and the grandson of Rachel J. Shaw and James Burton Moore.

About 1929  Ferris C. Moore married Bertice Vickers. The couple first made their home not far from Ray City in Lois, GA  where Ferris worked as a farmer.  Later, they moved to Ray City to live next door to Ferris’ father.  Their house was on the south side of Main Street and just east of Cat Creek.

Home of Ferris and Bertice Moore. Ray City, GA.

Home of Ferris and Bertice Moore. Ray City, GA.

In Ray City, Ferris Moore worked as an iceman. He delivered ice to local residences every other day.  He had an icehouse located on Paralleled Street, next to the tracks of Georgia & Florida Railroad.  The icehouse was a small shed, perhaps 10 by 10 feet. There was a small porch that served as a loading dock.

The  ice came from an ice plant in 300 pound blocks, and the iceman used an ice pick to cut what ever size blocks were needed. An eight pound block of ice sold for a nickel. The ice delivery man worked alone, with the ice loaded on an open truck and covered with a tarp.  Most people had an “ice box”  that served as a refrigerator of sorts,  and an eight  pound block of ice would last just about two days.

The 1940 census of Ray City shows Ferris Moore was a businessman and employer, managing a cold storage facility.  His father, James Lacy Moore was working as an ice dealer.

At times, Ferris Moore took handyman jobs in Ray City.  In 1951, when Rossie and Lessie Futch moved the home  at 507 Jones Street, Ferris Moore helped to paint the interior.

Ferris Moore died July 1, 1978 in Ray City, GA.  He was buried at New Ramah Cemetery.

Ferris G. Moore and Bertice Vickers Moore, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

Ferris G. Moore and Bertice Vickers Moore, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

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