EARLY POSTAL SERVICE
In was not until after the Civil War that mail service at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available. But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back 185 years.
Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient. When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier. A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier. Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.
But, in 1825 no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.
McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road. Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road” in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them. Officially, McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”
The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3
The McCranie Family
Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information. It was at his home there that the first postoffice in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826. The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’ which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster. The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.
FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)
…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’ On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.
The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long - only about four years. At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.
The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00. The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.
William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen. The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw. After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.
There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house. It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location. The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River. It was named ’Lowndesville.” The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”
Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there. Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.
By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)
CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:
In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.…From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.
Approved July 2, 1836
This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.
TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River.
In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville left the Knight’s and their neighbors with a forty mile round trip to fetch the mail.
ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.
Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)
|Isaac D. Hutto||Postmaster||05/03/1841|
|James S. Harris||Postmaster||03/05/1842|
|Samuel H. Harris||Postmaster||09/12/1846|
|James S. Harris||Postmaster||02/09/1849|
|Andrew J. Liles||Postmaster||11/27/1849|
While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.
FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves. ”At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…” The J. H. Colton Map of Geogia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).
HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.” Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach. On March 3, 1845 Congress established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation. These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.” In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.
NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.” In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.
CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.” The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.
RAY CITY POST OFFICE
After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA. The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.