Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 1

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 1: Arrival on Sapelo

Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island

1863 Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island. near Sapelo Lighthouse,Doboy Sound, Georgia. Fron a reconnaissance made, under direction of C. O. Boutelle, Assistant U.S.C.S., by Eugene Willenbucher, Draughtman C. S. January 1863

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men. The first company, organized by Captain Levi J. Knight served temporarily with the 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, GA, before going on to join in a new regiment being formed at Savannah,  GA.  The second company of Berrien Minute Men rendezvoused with Captain Knight’s company at Savannah and was also enjoined  in the formation of the new  regiment. The two companies were mustered in as Companies C and D of the as yet unnamed Regiment.  After brief training in the Camp of Instruction at Savannah and in coastal batteries defending the city, the companies were detailed for duty.

From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River. Darien was about 55 miles south of Savannah and 20 miles north of Brunswick, GA.  The environment of Darien, the sea islands and the Altamaha River basin were ideal for the cultivation of rice and long staple Sea Island cotton, and the agricultural economy of the southern tidewater was strategically important to the fledgling Confederate States.

According to historian Buddy Sullivan, “The soils of the Altamaha delta were extremely fertile, both for the production of cotton and sugar cane, but most especially for that of rice.” In the peak decade of the 1850s, the Altamaha delta produced over 12 million pounds of cleaned, hulled rice; “Darien was the center of some of the most extensive rice cultivation on the southeastern tidewater.”  The tidewater agriculture was particularly labor intensive and “paralleled by the prevalence of malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases  and their connectivity with  tidal marshes, mud and water attendant to  the breeding of mosquitoes…Slaves toiled in the wet, marshy rice fields under harsh, demanding conditions.”

“Captain Basil Hall, an English travel writer who visited the Altamaha district in 1828, observed that the growing of rice was ‘the most unhealthy work in which the slaves were employed, and that in spite of every care, they sank in great numbers.  The causes of this dreadful mortality are the constant moisture and heat of the atmosphere, together with the alternating flooding and drying of fields on which the Negroes are perpetually at work, often ankle deep in mud, with their bare heads exposed to the fierce rays of the sun.'”

Slaves working in the rice fields.

Slaves working in the rice fields.

When mosquito swarms peaked in the summer and early fall, the white plantation families of the Altamaha district left the care of the crops to their slaves and migrated to the drier Georgia uplands; they returned to their low country plantations with the first frosts.  Although the proliferation of mosquitoes in the summer months coincided with the incidence of malaria and yellow fever, no connection was made between the events. Instead the common belief was that the tropical diseases were “caused by the “miasma,” a noxious effluvium that supposedly emanated from the putrescent matter in the swamps and tidal marshes, and thought to float in the night air, especially in the night mists as a fog.”

It is perhaps no accident that the deployment of the Berrien Minute Men to Sapelo Island coincided with the waning of the fever season. It appears Captain Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men (Company C, later reorganized as Company G) embarked from Savannah in September  and had arrived on Sapelo and taken up station on Blackbeard Island by the first of October, 1861.  Sapelo and Blackbeard islands are adjacent, being separated only by Blackbeard creek and a narrow band of marsh.

The Confederate soldiers on the islands had access, albeit limited and inconvenient, to the post office at Darien, GA on the mainland about  10 miles up the Altamaha River. A handful of surviving letters written by the men on Sapelo paint a picture of Confederate camp life on Georgia’s sea islands, including correspondence from William Washington Knight and John W. Hagan of the Berrien Minute Men, Robert Hamilton Harris and Peter Dekle of the Thomasville Guards, and Robert Goodwin Mitchell of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry.

After a number of the men on Blackbeard Island were reported sick, rumors circulated back at home that the regiment was stricken with Yellow Fever. The families of the Berrien Minute Men had reason to fear.  In 1854, a yellow fever outbreak had killed thousands of people on the southeastern coast, including as many as 400 victims at Darien, GA.  But in his letters home, Private John W. Hagan of Berrien county wrote, “as to the reports which was going the roundes in Lowndes in regard to yellow feavor that is all faulce. Some of the men of Blackbeard did not take care of themselves & by exposure and exerting too mutch they became bilious.” The Berrien County men may have just been unacclimatized to the muggy heat of the coast, or the men may have contracted malaria  in the coastal marshes.  Levi J. Knight, Jr. later wrote that one of the Berrien Minute Men, Private Enos J. Connell, became “unfit for duty, rendered so by a protracted illness contracted on Blackbeard Island… the disease when first contracted was said by his physician to have been Billious fever.” Enos J. Connell never entirely recovered and was eventually discharged in June 1862. Private Thomas N. Connell, died at Blackbeard Island on October 2, 1861, the cause of death being given in his service record as “bilious fever.” Bilious fever,  a now obsolete medical diagnosis, was often used for any fever that exhibited the symptom of nausea or vomiting in addition to an increase in internal body temperature and strong diarrhea. Bilious fever (Latin bilis, “bile”) refers to fever associated with excessive bile or bilirubin in the blood stream and tissues, causing jaundice (a yellow color in the skin or sclera of the eye). The most common cause was malaria.  What treatment the sick men may have received on Sapelo Island is not described, but one known remedy for intermittent fever was quinine derived from the Georgia Fever Bark tree, which grew in the Altamaha River Valley.

Company D of the Berrien Minute Men  (later reorganized as Company K) arrived on Sapelo Island in early October. Company D steamed from Savannah late Tuesday evening, October 8, 1861. Among the men of Company D were privates John W. Hagan, William A. Jones, and William Washington Knight, a son of Captain Levi J. Knight.  There was a wharf on the north end of Sapelo at the Chocolate Plantation, then owned by the Spalding family. But the steamboat landed Company D on the south end of Sapelo perhaps at the Spalding’s South End mansion. Company D disembarked at daybreak on Wednesday, October 9, 1861 and then proceeded to encamp at Camp Spalding.

Visiting the camp hospital, Private William W. Knight found of the Berrien men, “only three that were sick much. Several had been sick but were able to wait on themselves.”   William A. Jones was crippled with a severe infection on his knee.   Captain Levi J. Knight had been among the sickest, but was somewhat recovered. Assistant Surgeon William H. Way, of Thomas County, GA, was the only medical officer with the Regiment at the time.  William P. Clower would later serve as Surgeon of the Regiment.

Within an hour of landing at South End on Sapelo , Private Knight started the eight to ten mile trek to the camp of his father’s company on Blackbeard Island. He was accompanied by Sergeant John Isom, who was returning to Company C.

At the bivouac on Blackbeard island, Private Knight found his father still convalescing.  “Father looks very bad, but he is gaining strength very quickly,” he wrote.  No sooner had Pvt. Knight and Sgt. Isom arrived at the camp on Blackbeard, than Captain Knight’s company packed up and  marched back to Camp Spalding on the south end of Sapelo.  Pvt. Knight described the round trip as “seventeen miles, part of it the roughest country on this globe.”

The soldiers would spend the coming weeks establishing their camp and the routine of regimental life on their sea island outpost.

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Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick ~ July, 1861

Berrien County in the Civil War
Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick, July, 1861

Civil War letter of Robert Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Civil War letter of Robert Hamilton Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Even before the secession of Georgia, Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, had gathered a company of men, styled the Berrien Minute Men, to serve as volunteer infantry.   Knight, an old Indian fighter, politicianrailroad investor, developer and social leader of south Georgia, anticipated of the formation of the Confederate States Army.  In the winter of 1860, he convened a meeting at Nashville, GA, seat of Berrien County which then included present day Lanier, Atkinson, Cook and Tift counties, as well as present day Berrien, where the company endorsed the Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men.  In the spring of 1861, the Berrien Minute Men encamped and drilled at Nashville, GA.  On May 17, a Grand Military Rally was held at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA on behalf of the Berrien Minute Men.

The following month, Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men was ordered to  report for muster into the Thirteenth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers.

 

<em>Savannah Daily Morning News</em>, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

Savannah Daily Morning News, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

 

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 24, 1861
        The following named companies will compose the Thirteenth Regiment Georgia Volunteers, which will take the place of Colonel Semmes’ regiment, now under orders for Virginia, viz:
        Wiregrass Minute Men, Capt. C. W. Styles,
        Brunswick Riflemen, Captain B. F. Harris, Brunswick.
        Lowndes Volunteers, Capt. G. T. Hammond, Valdosta.
        Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Captain W. J. Young, Thomasville.
        St. Mary’s Volunteers, Capt. A. B. Dufour, Darien.
        Seaboard Guards, Captain John C. Nichols, Waynesville.
        Berrien Minute Men, Captain Levi J. Knight, Nashville.
        Piscola Volunteers, Captain William A. Lane, Quitman. –Atlanta Intelligencer, July 21st.

Per orders,  Captain L. J. Knight took his company of Berrien Minute Men to the Georgia coast where  they and other volunteer companies from south Georgia counties were garrisoned at Camp Semmes for the defense of the port at Brunswick, GA.  Camp Semmes, south of the city, had been established by Colonel Paul J. Semmes, commanding officer of  the 2nd Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The defense of Brunswick had been the responsibility of the 2nd Regiment until that unit was ordered to Virginia.

Colonel Semmes and the 2nd Regiment had established security checkpoints for all vessels entering the port of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

Savannah Republican
July 8, 1861
CAMP SEMMES.
Brunswick, GA., 4th July, 1861.
Public attention is respectfully directed to the annexed circular, and notice given that all boats are expected to conform to its requirements.  Passengers are ordered not to take passage in any boat until assured by its master of his intention not to disregard the same; and in order to avoid accidents or detention to themselves, to compel, if need be, his compliance therewith.
PAUL J. SEMMES,
Col. 2d Reg’t G.V., comd’g Camp Semmes
and the adjacent coast.
Circular.
HEAD-QUARTERS 2D REG’T G.V.,
CAMP SEMMES, BRUNSWICK, GA., June 25, 1861.
         I. On and after this day, all boats or vessels of any description, passing up or down the river, will be required to set their colors, or, if they have none, to heave to and report themselves to the officer of the day, at Camp Semmes, during the day.
        After sun-down every vessel will heave to and reply to the questions of the sentinel or officer of the day.  One shot will be fired across the bow of any vessel attempting to pass without heaving to, when ordered, and if, after one shot, she attempts to proceed, she will be fired into.
         II. The sentinels on the posts facing the river will be instructed to hail all vessels passing up or down the river which do not set their colors, during the day, and to hail all vessels or boats after sun-down as follows: Steamer, or schooner, or boat, ahoy! (as the case may be,) heave to! The sentinel will then call for the corporal of the guard, who will in turn call for the officer of the day or officer of the guard. The officer of the day will inquire, “What boat (or other craft) is that? – where are you from? – Where are you bound? -have you anything to communicate?” &c.  If the replies be satisfactory, the officer of the day will permit the vessel to pass on.  If any vessel, after a fair challenge attempt to pass, the sentinel will fire across her bow, and call – “The Guard:”
By order of
Col. Paul J. Semmes
W. G. Clemons, 2d Lieut. Co. G.,
Acting Adjutant.

Among the companies replacing the 2nd Regiment at Brunswick   were the Berrien Minute Men with the Thomasville Guards,  Piscola Volunteers, Seaboard Guards, Brunswick Rifles,  Glynn Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men.

It is a noble thing to fight for our country, and glorious to die in her cause…O, who wants not be a soldier! ~ Robert Hamilton Harris, Thomasville Guards, July, 1861

While encamped there, Robert Hamilton Harris, of the  Thomasville Guards, described the camp and his experiences in a letter to Martha (Mattie) Love, his girl back home in Thomas County, GA. She was a daughter of Peter Early Love,  U. S. Congressman and  former Solicitor General serving old Lowndes County, GA.

A portion of this correspondence has been preserved and scanned in the collection of Civil War letters of Robert Hamilton Harris, housed in the Digital Library of Georgia. Unfortunately, the extant portion of  this letter is not dated. However, we can surmise from contemporaneous events described by Harris that it was written about mid-July 1861.

The partial letter begins in mid-sentence with the description of a ship:

the prize (a boat) before she reaches Savannah. Our men will probably blow her up should any U. S. vessel attack them. She is laden with near $40000 worth of sugar, and was captured by the Jeff Davis on the coast of Newfoundland.

This “prize” was the Yankee brig John Welsh which was captured by the Confederate privateer C.S.S. Jeff Davis  at about 6:00 A. M. on Saturday, July 6, 1861.  This event was widely reported in Confederate and Union newspapers. According the Civil War Naval Encyclopedia, privateers were privately owned vessels sailing under special commissions from their governments in time of war that authorized them to capture ships of an enemy power, be they warships or merchant vessels.  The privateer Jeff Davis was reconnoitering off Delaware when she discovered the  merchantman John Welsh. The John Welsh had departed Trinidad, Cuba, on the 22nd of June for Falmouth, England, having on board a cargo of 300 hogsheads  and 475 boxes of sugar.  She was owned by John Welsh, esq., of Philadelphia. The value of the ship and cargo was estimated at $75,000.  The officers and crew of the John Welsh were taken aboard the Jeff Davis as prisoners and a prize crew was installed. They sailed the John Welsh to Savannah where she was to be condemned as a prize and sold at auction.  Although Robert Harris’s letter made no mention of it, the following day, July 7,  the privateer Jeff Davis captured the schooner S. J. Waring and detailed a prize master and crew  to take her to Beaufort, SC. Three of the original crew, two seamen and the African-American cook, William Tillman, were left on board. Tillman, however, managed to retake command of the ship, killing the Confederate prize master, first mate and second mate.  For his successful action in retaking the ship and sailing her back to New York, William Tillman became the first African-American hero of the Civil War, and received a reward of $6000.00

Harris’ letter goes on to describe  the volunteer infantry companies at the Brunswick rendezvous, and the camp life of the men. This gathering of the companies was prior to their official mustering in to the Confederate States Army:

There are seven companies now encamped in Brunswick, viz. the Thomasville companies, the Berrien Minute Men, Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Riflemen, Seaboard Guards, and the Wiregrass Minute Men, all of them very fine companies. We will soon be ready for double our number of Federals, and then we will feel easier.
    Our boys seem to enjoy themselves, and I know I do.  We have very hard fare, and have to endure a great many hardships, but we are healthy and have fine bathing facilities. Some of us are in the water nearly all the time. I plunge in regularly every morning at daylight, and spend half an hour or so in the delightful exercise of swimming, after which I don’t go in again during the day. I think this is the best plan.  A very large shark showed himself in our bathing place this morning, but we all went in as soon as he left, for we can’t forego this healthful pleasure because we happen to see a shark in the neighborhood.

Four of these companies, the Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Rifles, Seaboard Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men, would later be reorganized into the 26th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, along with companies from Lowndes, Ware, Clinch, McIntosh, Pierce and Twiggs  counties

Harris’ letter mentions that one man of his company, John Bernard, had attempted suicide by cutting his throat. But Dr. [Edwin A.] Jelks of the Piscola Volunteers [Brooks County, GA] was able to suture the wound and keep the man alive, at least temporarily. Jelks, who was a relative of  Harris’ intended, went on to become Surgeon of the 26th GA Regiment.  The 26th Georgia was also the regiment Albert Douglass would join after deserting the Berrien Minute Men in 1862.

Harris also included with his letter a sketch of Brunswick, showing the position of the regimental camp south of the city.

1861 map of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight's company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

Robert Hamilton Harris’ 1861 sketch of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight’s company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

The camp was situated south of the city on the bank of the Turtle River, with  the river front on the west, cedar groves to the north and south, and woods to the east. The Berrien Minute Men (marked B.M.M.) were positioned on the northeast corner of the regimental grounds with the rest of the companies on the north side and on the riverfront. The regiment kept a picket guard on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The marsh on the east side of the peninsula Harris incorrectly labeled “Bloody Marsh” -the actual Bloody Marsh is on the east side of St. Simons Island. Brunswick’s wharves on the Turtle River are shown, as well as Oak Grove Cemetery, the Darien Road, the Waynesville Road.

Harris’ map also depicts a “prize” ship anchored off the Brunswick wharf.  This may have been a U.S. vessel captured by the privateer schooner Triton, of Brunswick, GA.  The Triton was the very first privateer to be commissioned by the Confederate government.  Confederate president Jefferson Davis had authorized privateers on April 17, 1861 and the Triton was commissioned on May 10, 1861, the  day the orders were published. The Triton was a small, 30-ton schooner, armed with a single six-pounder gun.

The railroad shown on Harris’ map would have been the shortline Brunswick & Florida Railroad, which connected at Glenmore, GA with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The Atlantic & Gulf was intended to serve as a “Main Trunk” for the two coastal railroads, and it was planned to stretch across south Georgia to steamboat docks on the Flint River at Bainbridge , creating a passenger and freight connection to the Gulf of Mexico.  By 1860, the Atlantic and Gulf had reached the site of Valdosta, GA, bypassing the Lowndes County seat at Troupville, GA.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running from Yankee Town (now Waycross), GA to Brunswick, GA - Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running to Brunswick, GA – Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

The captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Levi J. Knight,  was an investor in both the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The state of Georgia had also invested half a million dollars in Brunswick & Florida stock because of the railroad’s perceived strategic value.  An advantage of  these connections, it was said, was that the railroad could move men and materials from ports on the Gulf of Mexico to the Brunswick port on the Atlantic in 24 hours “in case of war between this country and a foreign nation.”   The B&F connection to the Savannah, Albany & Gulf also provided convenient transportation between Brunswick and Savannah, GA.

The Savannah newspapers noted that the Berrien Minute Men and the rest of the 13th Regiment arrived in Savannah on July 30, 1861 via railroad. At that time, they received equipment issued by the Confederate army.

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 31, 1861

Arrival of Troops
The Berrien Minute Men and Piscola Volunteers (Brooks county) arrived yesterday afternoon by the Albany and Gulf Railroad, and are encamped, together with the other companies belonging to the 13th Georgia regiment, on the parade ground. The following is a list of the officers of the former:
Captain – Levy J. Knight
1st Lieutenant – Thomas S. Wylly
2nd Lieutenant – Wm. Giddens
3rd Lieutenant – John C. Lamb
Ensign – Wm. Y. Hill
They number some eighty-five men, rank and file.
Those of the latter are:
Captain – Wm. A. Lane
1st Lieutenant – J. D. Morton
2nd Lieutenant – M. J. Culpepper
3rd Lieutenant – J. M. Rushin
This corps numbers some seventy men.

In August, the seven companies Harris noted at Camp Semmes were joined by the Camden Rifles and the Glynn Guards. On Saturday, August 19, 1861 these nine companies were formally mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment, under the command of Colonel Cary W. Styles, of Ware county.   (It appears that the Lowndes Volunteers and St. Mary’s Volunteers were late for reporting at Camp Semmes, and were not mustered into the 13th GA Regiment. The Lowndes Volunteers later mustered into the 26th GA Regiment.)

Unfortunately, through a lack of coordination there was some duplication in the numbering of the Georgia regiments, and as it happened, there was already a 13th GA Regiment in service in Virginia.  In a short time Col. Styles regiment was reorganized, with the majority of the companies remaining at Brunswick to form the nucleus of the 26th GA Regiment while the Berrien Minute Men, Thomasville Guards, and Ocklocknee Light Infantry were ordered on to Savannah, GA to be mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.

About Robert Hamilton Harris:

Robert Hamilton Harris (April 19, 1842-April 29, 1929) of Thomasville, Georgia, was the stepson of Rev. Robert Fleming. During the United States Civil War Harris served in Company A, 29th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, reaching the rank of captain. For nearly twelve years after the Civil War, he studied and practiced law. During this period he served as Solicitor of the County Court in Thomas county, railroad attorney, and Mayor of Thomasville. Harris became an ordained minister in 1878. He served as a circuit preacher in rural southern Georgia and as a pastor of Baptist churches in Columbus and Cairo, Georgia, as well as Troy, Alabama. In 1900, he accepted a professorship at Cox Seminary in College Park, Georgia, where he remained until his retirement in the 1920s. On October 13, 1863, Robert Harris married Martha (Mattie) Love (March 5, 1845-December 28, 1900). Martha Love was the daughter of Peter Early Love (1818-1866) of Thomasville (Love served in the U.S. Congress, 1859-1861) [In the 1840s, Love was Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit of Georgia, and served at the Lowndes Superior Court of 1845 which convened in Troupville, GA.]

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Ray City Band Celebrates 4th of July

In 1917, the Nashville Herald noted that Ray City observed Independence Day with a musical celebration.

The Nashville Herald

Neighborhood News Items
July 6, 1917

Ray City celebrated the Fourth of July this year with a basket picnic. There were amusements of various kinds during the day. The Ray City Band furnished music for the occasion.

 

band at unknown site

Unknown band probably at Mayhaw Lake, Lucy Lake, or Dixie Lake resort area. Identification and verifications needed. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga. com

Residents of the Wiregrass section which is home to Ray City, GA have been celebrating Independence Day since at least the 1830s.

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Mary Ann Knight and William A. Jones

Mary Ann Knight was born  July 1, 1838 near Beaverdam Creek,  the present day site of  Ray City, GA  Her parents, John Knight and Sarah Sally Moore were pioneer settlers of the area, then situated in Lowndes County, Georgia but cut into Berrien County in 1856.

Mary Ann Knight Jones married William A.  Jones On November 5, 1856 in Berrien County, Georgia in a ceremony performed by the bride’s grandfather, Elder William A. Knight. The Berrien County Marriage Records of 1956 include the following hand written entry:

 Go any ordained minister of the gospel Judge of the Superior Justice of the Inferior Court Justice of the peace or any person by the Laws of this State authorised to Celibrate  these are to authorise and permit you to join in the Venerable State of matrimony this William, A. Jones of the one part and this Mary Ann Knight of the other part according to the constitution and laws of this state and according to the rites of your church provided there be no lawful cause to obstruct the same and this shall be your authority for so doing given under my hand and seal this the 1st day of November 1856.

John Lindsey Ordy

Thereby Certify that William A. Jones and Miss Mary Ann Knight were duly joined in matrimony by me this fifth day of Nov 1856

William A Knight, O.M.

Mary Ann and W.A. Jones settled on a farm next to her brother, William Washington Knight in the new county of Berrien, in the vicinity of present day Ray City, GA. Other nearby neighbors included James A. Knight, Reverend Nathan Talley, William R. Brandon, and James M. Baskin. The farm of Allen Jones and Kiziah Knight Giddens Jones was in the same area.

In 1861 Mary Ann and William had a son, William Malachi Jones.

When the Civil War got underway,  William A Jones joined the Berrien Minute Men, along with Mary Ann’s brothers and other men of Berrien County. This was a company of volunteer infantry organized by Mary Ann’s father, Levi J Knight.  The Berrien Minute Men were mustered in as Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry, and William A. Jones was enlisted as a private on August 1, 1861 at Savannah, GA. Four months later the company muster rolls note that he was “absent with leave.” Later service records show that he died of measles in Berrien County on January 18, 1862. The location of his grave is unknown.

Mary had two children by William A. Jones, the youngest, Adam, apparently born after his father’s death.  Adam Jones was deaf and dumb, birth defects with a high probability for a baby whose mother is infected with measles in the early weeks of pregnancy.

For five years, the widow Jones raised her children as a single parent. On March 25, 1866 she married Green Bullard  in Berrien County, GA.

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Green Bullard

 

Obituary of Algerine D. “Al” Garner

Al Garner was a son of Asa Duggan Garner and Bessie Yopp Garner. In 1940 the Garners lived on Old Valdosta Road west of Ray City, but later moved closer to town on what is now known as Garner Road. Al’s father was a contractor who worked in heavy construction. His younger sister, Marjorie Garner, attended the Ray City School where she performed with the Glee Club. His brothers, Wendell and Carlton, attended high school in Nashville.

A.D. “Al” Garner attended Berry College in Rome, GA. After college he entered Officer Training and served in the Navy as a Lieutenant JG in the South Pacific during WWII.

 

Algerine "Al" Garner, of the Lois community near Ray City, GA, attended Berry College, 1940

Algerine “Al” Garner, of the Lois community near Ray City, GA, attended Berry College, 1940

A.D. “Al” Garner
Wednesday, July 11. 2012

A.D. “Al” Garner, 92, passed away Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at Appling Healthcare System. Garner was born in Laurens County, and resided in Berrien County before entering school at Berry College in Rome, where he graduated in January, 1944. He completed officer’s training school at Columbia University in New York City and entered the U.S. Navy, serving in the South Pacific in World War II. He was employed as the Farm Superintendent at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home Baxley Campus for thirty years, retiring in 1985. Garner was active in civic organizations over the years and was recognized and awarded for his agricultural and farming achievements, including being named Appling County Farmer of the Year. He was a member of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church where he served as a deacon and taught Sunday School for sixty years, having retired from teaching the Joy Group Class. He sang in the choir, led singing, rendered many solos, served as church treasurer, chairman of the deacons and in numerous other church positions.
Garner was preceded in death by a son, Stephen Thomas Garner; a daughter, Barbara Carol Garner; five sisters, Louise Snipes, Frances Griffin, Jeanette Myers, Belle Calhoun and Marjorie Gaskins, one brother, William A. Garner; and long-time friend H.G. “Pap” Dennis.

He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Georgia Camilla Garner of Baxley; one son, Roger Garner and wife, Yolonda “Tootsie” Hires Garner, of Baxley; two daughters, Jane Coleman and husband, David Coleman, of Baxley, and Bonnie Coleman and husband, Steve Coleman, of Baxley; ten grandchildren: Heather (Stephen) Hale, Sam (Cindy) Coleman, Luke (Sail) Coleman, Jim (Faith) Coleman; Matt (Jennifer) Coleman, Anna Garner, Sarah (Travis) Crosby, Rebecca (Daniel) Carter, Asa (Tonya) Garner, and John (Kristy) Garner; 20 great-grandchildren; one sister, Betty Shaw of Rockledge, Florida; one brother, Wendell Garner of Orlando, Florida; and numerous nieces, nephews and other family.

Funeral services were held at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 29, at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, with visitation held from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. prior to the service. Officiating at the services were the Rev. Darrell Quinn, Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, and Dr. Paul Dennis, Pastor of Royal Baptist Church, Newnan.

Active pallbearers were grandsons: Sam Coleman, Luke Coleman, Jim Coleman, Matt Coleman, Asa Garner and John Garner.

Honorary pallbearers were the Mt. Vernon Joy Group and Encouragers Sunday School Classes.

Musical selections were presented by Jonathan and Anslee Hickox, Rick and Ann Herndon, Tammy Anderson, pianist, and granddaughter Heather Hale.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Georgia Special Olympics at specialolympicsga.org or Gracewood State Hospital, Augusta, Georgia.

Al Garner’s family wishes to thank everyone for your prayers, love and support, and to quote from a note received from niece and journalist Suzanne Comer Bell upon hearing of his death, words which express our thoughts and feelings so well…. “My world tilts a little today, as we lost a giant in our family last night (June 26, 2012), my beloved Uncle Al Garner. He was my oldest living uncle on my father’s side, one of six boys (counting blood and married uncles) who went to war in the forties from the Comer family. Such a gentle man, a champion farmer, cowboy, devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He joins many who live in our memories, and leaves many to hold each other in our tears today.”

Arrangements were under the direction of David E. Miles Funeral Home.

Virdie Futch and the National Elastic Shortage

A World War II Story
During the war,  there was a critical need for rubber as a war materiél. On the home front in Ray City and everywhere in the country, the national shortage of rubber meant people had to make do.  One consequence of the shortage was consumer goods incorporating elastic became unobtainable.

In 1942, the War Production Board circulated posters urging citizens to conserve and recycle critical war materials. A poster entitled America needs your scrap rubber was produced by in 1942. The poster dramatically illustrated the need for rubber in producing military equipment: A Gas Mask requires 1.11 pounds of rubber; A Life Raft requires 17 to 100 pounds of rubber; A Scout Car requires 306 pounds of rubber; A Heavy Bomber requires 1,825 pounds of rubber.

In 1942, the War Production Board circulated posters urging citizens to conserve and recycle critical war materials. A poster entitled America needs your scrap rubber was produced in 1942. The poster dramatically illustrated the need for rubber in producing military equipment: A Gas Mask requires 1.11 pounds of rubber; A Life Raft requires 17 to 100 pounds of rubber; A Scout Car requires 306 pounds of rubber; A Heavy Bomber requires 1,825 pounds of rubber.

 

According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education, “Most of the world’s supply of natural rubber came from rubber tree plantations in Southeast Asia, which were quickly occupied by the Japanese in the first months of 1942. Factories converting to military production needed every scrap of rubber they could find, and citizens were asked to turn in old tires, raincoats, gloves, garden hoses, and rubber shoes for recycling. New tires became almost impossible to buy…”

No rubber meant no elastic for the waistbands of women’s underwear.  Instead, for many women, underwear was to be fastened around the waist with a button, or with a draw string for the duration of the war.  But these fasteners provided a less than reliable suspension for female undergarments, and it was not uncommon for young girls to suddenly lose their underwear while walking.

It may have been less patriotic than collecting rubber for the war effort, but Granny Virdie Futch, of Ray City, GA recycled old inner tubes  by cutting them into thin strips and sewing them into underwear.  She also made the waistbands of the children’s pants and pull up pants for the toddlers.

Virdie was born May 26, 1874 in Lowndes County, GA, a daughter of John W. Cowart and Sarah A. “Sallie” Bradford. Her father was a laborer in the 1157 District of Berrien County. In 1899 he moved his family to the former residence of B. P. Peeples in Nashville, GA where he worked as a house carpenter.  Her parents later moved to Ray City, GA, some time before 1920, where they rented a farm on the Valdosta Road near the farms of Mallie Shaw, Jack Terry, and Lewis W. Register.

On January 15, 1896 Virdie married Arren D. Futch in Lowndes County, GA. The ceremony was performed by C. W. Stallings. Later that same year, her sister, Sallie Cowart, died at age 14.

 

Marriage license of Francis "Verdie" Cowart and A. D. Futch. January 15, 1896, Lowndes County, GA

Marriage license of Francis “Vurdie” Cowart and A. D. Futch. January 15, 1896, Lowndes County, GA

The young Futch couple first made their home at Cecil, GA where Arren bought some property and took up farming. The 1910 census shows they owned a farm on the Adel and Valdosta road.

Children of Verdie Cowart and Arren D. Futch:

  • Johnnie Marcus Futch (1897-1965)
  • Caulie Elie Futch(1898-1977)
  • Rossie Dasher Futch (1899-1967)
  • Homer P. Futch (1900-1902)

By 1920 Virdie and Arren Futch had acquired a place on the Valdosta and Ray City Road just southwest of Ray City. Their sons, Caulie and Rossie, worked adjacent farms. The 1940 Census shows Virdie and Arren had moved to a place on Cat Creek Road next to their son, Rossie Futch.

By 1950,  Virdie and Arren moved into town, residing in a small house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA.

In 1950, Arren and Verdie Futch were living in this home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA, with their son, Rossie Futch, his wife, Lessie Guthrie Futch, and step-son, David Miley.

In 1950, Arren and Verdie Futch were living in this home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA, with their son, Rossie Futch, his wife, Lessie Guthrie Futch, and step-son, David Miley.

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William C. Zeigler

William Charles Zeigler, a resident of Berrien County, GA, was among the victims of the Otranto tragedy in the closing days of World War I.

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William C. Zeigler grew up in Lowndes and Berrien county Georgia. It appears that he had a difficult boyhood. He was a son of Jesse William “Jake” Zeigler and Lula Tyson, born October 25, 1889 at Blanton, Lowndes County, GA.   His mother suffered from mental illness and allegedly mentally and physically abused his father before abandoning the family.

For the 1900 Census, the family was enumerated in Berrien County, GA in the 1487 Georgia Militia District, the Sparks district.  William was then ten years old .

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler.  https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu180unit#page/n190/mode/1up

Although court testimony later assert that Lula Tyson Zeigler was institutionalized about 1898,  it appears from the census records that she was still with her family in 1900 and was sent to the Georgia State Sanitarium at Milledgeville, GA shortly thereafter. 

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

After the institutionalization of his mother, William C. Zeigler continued to live with his father and siblings near Lenox in Berrien County. They were enumerated at Lenox, GA in the Census of 1910. Lenox is situated about 7 miles north of Sparks, GA on the route of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father's household at Lenox, GA.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father’s household at Lenox, GA. https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n774/mode/1up

At the time of the draft for World War I, William Charlie Zeigler  was 27 years old. He gave his home address as Sparks, GA,. He was still unmarried and listed his occupation as farming in the employment of his father. He registered for the draft for WWI on June 5, 1917.  His physical description was medium height, slender build, with grey eyes and light hair.

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

On  July 16, 1918 William Charlie Zeigler was inducted into the Army, along with other Berrien county men at Nashville, GA.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

The men boarded a train at Nashville, GA.  William C. Zeigler along with Early Stewart, Benjamin F. McCranie, Jim Melvin Boyett, John Guy Coppage, Shelley L. Webb, Hiram Marcus Bennett, Lafayett Gaskins, Ralph Knight, James Grady Wright, James M. Deloach and other men of Berrien County were bound for training camp at Fort Screven, GA.

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

Colonel Archibald Campbell confirmed the arrival of the men at Ft. Screven, GA on July 19, 1918.  Fort Screven, on Tybee Island, GA was a part of the U.S. Atlantic coastal defense system and served as a training camp. The fort’s six batteries of coastal artillery defended the port of Savannah, GA.

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven in 1917

Fort Screven in 1917

After training, the men were sent to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, N.J.  The Embarkation Service reported the steamship Otranto sailed for England from New York, N.Y. on September 25, 1918 at 12:40 P.M. with 699 military passengers, including the men and officers from Fort Screven, GA.

But the troop ship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918  off the coast of Islay, Scotland after a collision with the SS Kashmir. The Army could not immediately produce a list of the soldiers who were on board. It was not until October 18, that a passenger list for the Otranto was finally cabled to General Harbord in Europe.  The name of Zeigler, William C. 2595855 Pvt. was on the list.

Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll in the disaster. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead were dozens of soldiers from Berrien.  For weeks news of the disaster trickled into American newspapers. Facts were sketchy at best –  In some cases, soldiers who perished in the sinking were incorrectly reported as survivors. It would nearly two months before the names of the lost were known to the folks at home…

A number of soldiers, including James Deloach were rescued by the heroic efforts of the HMS Mounsey, first to arrive on the scene.  Many others went into the sea and were lost forever. Only a slim few who went into the water survived the swim to the Isle of Islay, Scotland. The bodies of 489 soldiers washed up on the coast  where the ship went down.

William C. Zeigler, of Berrien County, GA was among the dead recovered at Islay. He and the other American dead from the Otranto were buried in the little churchyard at Kilchoman in wide graves accommodating twenty bodies each.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims,Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occured October 6, 1918. Among the dead were two soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims, Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occurred October 6, 1918. Among the dead were soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight, and William C. Zeigler of Sparks, GA.

William C. Zeigler and the other Otranto victims lay in the Bivouac of the Dead at Islay for nearly two years.  In June 1920, the Graves Registration Service made the decision to bring the bodies home, and exhumation began on July 1, 1920.

William’s body was transported on the U.S.A.T. Antigone arriving at Hoboken, August 7, 1920, from Southhampton, Brest and Liverpool.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

According to the New York Times, Antigone carried the largest number of coffins brought home on one ship, 1,575 dead soldiers. “The dead were landed at Pier 4, Hoboken, where preparations were completed to forward the bodies to their last resting places in home cemeteries, as has been the custom with all returned dead soldiers.”  There was no ceremony or funeral observance at the pier, as that detail of honor was rendered when the bodies were consigned to their temporary graves in foreign lands.

William’s father elected to have his son’s final interment at Arlington National Cemetery.  The body was accompanied by a guard of honor on the final journey.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

The re-internment of William C. Zeigler occurred August 20, 1920 at Arlington National Cemetery.  In 1934, a headstone of marble from Tate, GA was ordered for his grave.

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as “O”) Image source: Paul Hays.

†††

After William C. Zeigler died, his father finally filed for divorce from his mentally ill mother. By this time she had been institutionalized for nearly 20 years.  It was an unusual case; as a mental patient, Lula Zeigler was  deemed not responsible for her actions.  Therefore, any cause brought for divorce  could only be valid if it occurred prior to the time her mental capacity was diminished.

The divorce case was reported in the Valdosta Times:

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

Tifton Gazette
April 4, 1919

Unusual Divorce In Berrien.

Husband Asks Separation From Wife Who is Inmate of the State Sanitarium

        Most unusual grounds are given as a reason for securing a divorce in a suit which has been filed in Berrien county.  It is believed that no similar case has ever been filed in the state says the Valdosta Times.
        Mr. Jake Zeigler has filed papers asking for a total divorce from his wife,  Mrs. Lula Zeigler, charging that she treated him in a cruel manner some years ago.  The unusual part of it is that Mrs. Zeigler is now an inmate of the state sanitarium at Milledgeville and has been there for several years, with the prospect that she is a permanent inmate.  It is charged in the petition for divorce  that the cruel treatment occurred before she became an inmate of the sanitarium.
         When the case came before Judge Thomas last week, it being so unusual he passed it until this week.  Judge Thomas designated Solicitor C E Hay to act as attorney for the defendant in the case and also named Rev. L L Barr, pastor of the Nashville Methodist church, and Rev. Jackson H Harris, pastor of the Nashville Baptist church, to act as representatives of Mrs. Zeigler, who could not appear for herself in the hearing.  The designation of these representatives by the court is for the purpose of seeing that the defendant, unable to help herself, may have a fair and impartial consideration of the case from every standpoint.
        Later:  The demurrer prepared by Solicitor Hay in the divorce case of Zeigler vs. Zeigler was sustained, and the case will go to the Supreme Court, says the Nashville Herald.

The case of Zeigler v. Zeigler et al was referred to the Georgia Supreme Court:

Zeigler v. Zeigler et al. (No. 1384.)
(Supreme Court of Georgia. Nov. 14, 1919.)

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Divorce  27(18), 37(5) – Pleading; Cruel Treatment; Desertion.

In the petition for divorce it is alleged: Petitioner and defendant were married in 1889.  Defendant was adjudged to be insane, and was committed to the Georgia State Sanitarium for insane persons in 1898, where she has since been confined as an insane person. In September 1899, defendant struck petitioner, thereby inflicting a serious wound upon his person.  “From October 1, 1897, until May 1, 1898 defendant continued in a constant state of quarreling and cruelly treating petitioner until such conduct became unbearable; and defendant, without cause on the part of the petitioner, left him and remained away until she became insane.”  Petitioner was without fault during the time he and his wife lived together. “Petitioner did not directly or indirectly condone the treatment of his wife, nor did the relation of husband and wife ever exist after she became in the rage and left him without cause.”  Held, that no cause for a divorce was set forth in the petition, either on the grounds of cruel treatment (Ring v. Ring, 18 Ga. 183, 44 S. E. 861, 62 L.R.A. 878; Stoner v. Stoner, 134 Ga. 368, 67 S. E. 1030; Black v. Black, 101 S. E. 182, this day decided), or on the ground of desertion (Civil Code 1910, 2945), as it appears from the petition that defendant was adjudged to be insane within less time after the desertion than three years, and has since remained insane, and therefore not responsible for her acts during that time.  Accordingly, the court did not err in dismissing the petition on general demurrer.

Error from Superior Court, Berrien County; W. E. Thomas, Judge.

Suit for divorce by J. W. Zeigler against L. M. Zeigler. Petition dismissed on general demurrer, and plaintiff brings error. Affirmed.

J. D. Lovett and Story & Story, all of Nashville, of plaintiff in error.
Clifford E. Hay, Sol. Gen, of Thomasville, for defendant in error.

FISH, C.J. Judgement Affirmed, All the Justices concur, except ATKINSON, J., absent.

Jesse William Zeigler, father of William C. Zeigler, died June 6, 1924. He was buried at Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Lula Tyson Zeigler, mother of William C. Zeigler, died August 22, 1958 at Central State Hospital (Formerly Georgia State Sanitarium) at Milledgeville, GA.   During her time at Central State Hospital, the institution became known as the “world’s largest insane asylum,” housing some 13,000 patients with mental illness. According to an article in Atlanta Magazine, “Doctors wielded the psychiatric tools of the times—lobotomies, insulin shock, and early electroshock therapy—along with far less sophisticated techniques: Children were confined to metal cages; adults were forced to take steam baths and cold showers, confined in straitjackets, and treated with douches or ‘nauseants.‘ …The thousands of patients were served by only 48 doctors, none a psychiatrist. Indeed, some of the “doctors” had been hired off the mental wards.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the hospital grounds, including patient Lula Tyson Zeigler. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the Central State Hospital grounds, patient Lula Tyson Zeigler among them. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

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Grand Rally at Milltown

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, May 1861

Special thanks to Jim Griffin for sharing contributions and illustration for this post.

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

About the Illustration

The illustration above, commissioned and contributed by reader Jim Griffin, depicts the scene of the Grand Military Rally held in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA in mid-May, 1861 to honor the Berrien Minute Men.  The illustration is based on reports published in Savannah, GA newspapers, transcribed below. Illustration by Alan H. Archambault.

Setting and Attendees Described in Newspaper Accounts

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA, received the ceremonial flag presented at the Grand Rally. He was a “large, raw-boned man,” and a social, political and military leader of Berrien County, which then included Milltown (now Lakeland),  GA and all of present day Lanier County, GA. A veteran of the Indian Wars, he organized the Berrien Minute Men in 1860, and  served as their first Captain. He took his company to Brunswick, GA where they first served with the 13th Georgia Regiment. After reorganization they were mustered into the 29th GA Regiment of Volunteer Infantry; L.J. Knight served as Major of this  Regiment before retiring on account of age and health.

The Baptist Church at Milltown, depicted in the background, was where the association of the ladies of Milltown convened prior to the Grand Military Rally of May, 1861. The Baptist Church was constructed about 1857.  Its organization was instigated by the families of James and Jesse Carroll, brothers who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County, GA.

“In 1857 Daniel B. Carroll (James’ son) and James S. Harris (James Carroll’s son-in-law) deeded land for a Missionary Baptist Church. Trustees to whom the deed was made were James Carroll, James Dobson, James’ sons John T. and James H., and James S. Harris.  Rev. Caswell Howell, who had recently settled here, is said to have been its first pastor. [Rev. Howell was a brother of Barney Howell, who was a mail carrier on the Troupville route.] The church, directly north of today’s courthouse [present day site of Mathis Law office, 64 W. Church Street Lakeland, GA], was built of hand-split lumber with hand-hewn sills, and put together with wooden pegs. The ten-inch-wide ceiling boards were planed by hand.” – Nell Roquemore, in Roots, Rocks and Recollections

The Methodist Episcopal Church, shown on the right,  was organized by the Talley family and built in 1856 on the present day site of the Lakeland City Cemetery, on  E. Church Street.  The pastor of this church, Reverend Nathan Talley,  led the invocation and hymns for the convening of the ladies association at the Baptist Church.

Not depicted is a school that sat in between the Baptist and Methodist churches.  The school supposedly sat back off Church Street.

Mrs. Jas. S. Harris, who made the motion for a chair to be called, was Elizabeth Ann Carroll Harris, wife of Milltown merchant and postmaster James Simpson Harris. As a civil servant, the 48 year-old Mr. Harris was exempt from Confederate military service.   The Harrises were neighbors of Milltown merchant Abraham Leffler and of Dr. James W. Talley, son of Reverend Nathan Talley.

Mrs. Susan A. Dawson served as Chair of the Ladies Association.

Miss E. Brannon,  appointed secretary of the Ladies Association, was Emily Elizabeth Brandon. She was a daughter of William R. Brandon.  She would marry Jonathan D. Knight, of the Berrien Minute Men, on August 10, 1862 in South Carolina.

Mrs. E .J. G. Crawford, who was selected to present the flag to the Berrien Minute Men, was Ellen Jeane Grey Lee, wife of Cornelius Whitfield Crawford. The Crawfords were residents of Magnolia, GA and later moved to Texas.

Mr. Wiley E. Baxter was  a school teacher for John T. Carroll, a neighbor of Captain Levi J. Knight.  Baxter was one of Captain L. J. Knight’s company of men; He appeared on the 1860 roster of Berrien Minute Men.  He would go with Captain Knight’s Company to Savannah, GA to enlist in the Georgia volunteer infantry. He eventually served in the 29th Georgia Regiment with both Company A (C & G) and Company B (D & K) of the Berrien Minute Men, and would achieve the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before being killed at the Battle of Atlanta, 1864.

Daniel B. McDonald, who also took up the collection from the men, was the twin brother of Dougal P. McDonald of the Berrien Minute Men.  The twins married sisters Elizabeth and Ann Lamb, who were siblings of William J. Lamb and John Carroll Lamb.  Dougal P. McDonald was excused from military duty to serve in the Confederate Georgia legislature.  Daniel McDonald later served as a Captain with the Georgia reserve Coast Guard at Jonesville near Riceboro, GA.

Elizabeth Lastinger was a daughter of William Lastinger, who owned Lastinger Mill. Her brother, Pvt. Seaborn L. Lastinger of the Berrien Minute Men, was killed September 15, 1863 in a magazine explosion at James Island, SC.

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 17, 1861

A Grand Military Rally in Mill Town, Berrien County.

A mass meeting of the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity convened in the Baptist Church in the above mentioned village.
   The Rev. Mr. Talley, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the meeting with singing and prayer, after which on motion of Mrs. JAS. S. HARRIS, Mrs. SUSAN A DAWSON was called to the Chair, and Miss E. BRANNON requested to act as Secretary.
     The object of the meeting was then explained from the Chair, which was —
     1st. The presentation of a beautiful flag representing the flag of the Confederate States.
     2d. The forming of themselves into an association of ladies for the purpose of preparing necessary articles of clothing, bandages, lints, &c., for the volunteer company, the Berrien Minute Men, while in camp or battle field.
     3d. For the purpose of taking up contributions for the benefit of the company, and for other purposes.
     The association being formed, on motion of Mrs. C. W. CRAWFORD, the Chair was requested to appoint two ladies and two gentlemen to take up a collection.  Miss E. LASTINGER and Mrs. HARRIS were appointed to take up a collection among the ladies; Mr WILEY E. BAXTER and Mr. DANIEL B. McDONALD to take collection from the gentlemen.
      It was, on motion, suggested that the Chair appoint some lady to present the flag to the company in behalf of the ladies of Berrien.
      The Chair suggested the name of Mrs. E. J. G. CRAWFORD, who accepted the appointment.
      Upon motion, the meeting adjourned; and a messenger despatched to the company (who were on parade in the streets) to inform the Captain that the ladies were ready to present the flag.  The Captain marched his company up in front of the Church. Capt. KNIGHT and his officers formed six paces in front, and announced themselves ready; when Mrs. CRAWFORD advanced with flag-staff in hand, at the top of which floated to the breeze the beautiful flag of the Confederate States, and addressed the Captain as follows:
        Captain Levi J. Knight and Gentlemen of the Berrien Minute Men: We, the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity, present you this flag, wishing you to present it to your ensign in our behalf. Brave volunteers! may you march forth under its stars to defend your country’s cause. The tocsin of war is resounding through our land.  From James’ and Sullivan’s Islands its first peals were heard, saying “We no longer submit to Northern aggression.”  Numbers of our brave countrymen are already in the field, firmly and proudly bearing arms defensive of our rights and our soil against the hostile invaders. Others are rushing on to the rescue.  For freedom they fight – for freedom will die.  Brothers! go join them. Rally for truth, for liberty, and our own happy South.
        This bright sunny land of our birth, and our homes inherited from our fathers, the brave old patriots of ’76, let their spirits inspire your souls to preserve that freedom for which they fought and bled.  Spread this fair flag to the breeze of Heaven; long and proudly may it float to the gaze.
       In every conflict with the foe, remember this flag waves over you. Those bars and seven stars represent our Southern Confederate flag, recently formed for our protection. Guard them with distinguished care, and never, oh! never let them fall to the dust in dishonor.
       Your trial, your toils, your hardships in this warfare may be many, very many; but be firm and unyielding, courageous and brave, true be each man to his post, dealing out death to foe, fighting for freedom, our rights, our homes, and the South.  Each heart will grow bolder, each arm will grow stronger, each eye will be brightened in view of success. Think not of those you leave behind you, but press onward to the glory in battle.  Our hearts, though riven with anguish, will ever be with you, and our prayers continually ascending to Him who defendeth our cause.  Then, brave soldiers, with God on your side and our prayers in your behalf, be sure you will conquer at last. Let your watch-word be triumph, or die in the ranks of the foe.
        Many were the tears that trickled down thousands of fair cheeks that composed the vast assembly that surrounded the fair and eloquent speaker. She advanced silently and presented the flag to Capt. Knight.  Upon receiving it he advanced two paces and replied as follows:
Fair lady accept our thanks for yourself and those you represent, for this beautiful and highly appreciated banner. When the aggressions of the North became so oppressive, we no longer could bear them without degradation; we withdrew from the old Confederacy, and assumed the right which the God of Nature has bestowed on every free and patriotic people – the formation of a government that will best accure to them the blessings and protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; but we are now threatened with subjugation; yea, the fiat has gone forth from the Black Republic President, that we must be subjugated, and is now arming his minions to force us to submit.  That the fair of our land should feel indignant, is but natural; but for you, fair Lady, and your associates, have been prompted by a nobler and loftier patriotism, felt only by the virtuous and intelligent.

        This beautiful flag, to which you have so happily allude and so delicately presented, will, I trust, stimulate every member of this Company to do his whole duty to his country and to you. May your generosity, confidence, labors, and anticipations be not in vain. May we ever merit that confidence; and should we meet the enemy, which there is now every possibility we will, I trust this beautiful flag will be the beacon that will guide this Company to noble deeds. – Though its beauty may be tarnished and soiled with the hardships of the camp; through its beautiful folds may be purforated with the enemy’s bullets, I trust it will never trail in disgrace. – While you fair lady, and the fair of this community, manifest such a noble spirit of patriotism, you can never want stout hearts and strong arms to defend and protect you.
        In behalf of the members of this Company, I tender to you our grateful acknowledgements.
        Notice was then given to the Captain, that a sumptuous dinner had been prepared at the Hotel by the ladies. The Company was then marched up in the front of the Hotel; orders were given to stack arms, which was done in beautiful order, and orders given to repair to the table – about 100 feet in length, and weighted down with many, very many, of the goodly things of our sunny South.
        Permit me, further, to state, Mr. Editor, that the Company numbers 80 as brave, patriotic and fine looking men as the Southern Confederacy can produce – well uniformed, with the first quality of muskets and sword bayonets. There is another volunteer company being bade up in our county, which I think will be complete in a few days – all brave as Sparters.

Soon Captain Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men would be bound for Brunswick, GA.  There, they would join the Thomasville Guards, Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Seaboard Guards, Piscola Volunteers, Wiregrass Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles in the defense of the port of Brunswick. In August, 1861, these companies and others would be mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment. (In a later reorganization, the Berrien Minute Men would be transferred to Savannah and mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.)

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Fred Manning Cersey

Fred Manning Cersey

Fred Manning Cersey. Image source: Parkjoann1

Fred Manning Cersey. Image source: Parkjoann1

Fred Manning Cersey  was a son of Manning Andrew Cersey and  Lula M. Goodin, of Ray City, GA. He was born November 27, 1923, just three weeks after the death of his older brother Jewel Cersey (1916- November 7, 1923).  Fred M. Cersey was a grandson of Henry Thomas Cersey and Missouri “Louannie” Whitely.  His grandfather was a primitive Baptist and a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City, GA.

Fred’s father did not have a farm of his own.  As a young man, his father rented and worked as a farm laborer. In 1917, he was working as a farm laborer for Thomas Futch.   In the 1920s, Fred’s father was one of the sawmill fireman at the big Clements Sawmill at Ray City, GA on the line of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  The Cersey family lived in the company settlement in a rented home.  Another fireman at the sawmill plant was J. D.  Melvin.

In the 1930 Census, Fred lived in Militia District 1157, Berrien County, GA with his father Manning Cersey (42), mother Lula Goodin Cersey (35), and siblings Clinton (17), Pauline (10), and Clifford (2 1/2).  His father was then self-employed as a farmer.

Fred Cersey was educated through the 4th grade, and afterwards went to work as a cook.  By 1835, the Cerseys were living in the lower 10th district of Berrien County, GA on the Lakeland and Willacoochee Road.  Fred was enumerated in his parents’ household there in 1940.

By 1941, Fred had moved to Jacksonville, FL where he was working for Swift & Co. as a “refiner.”  Swift and Co. was a long-running American meat processing company.  The company was a national brand emerging out of the Chicago meat packing industry.

Fred M. Cersey married Ruby E. Williams on March 7, 1942.

Ruby Estelle Williams and Fred Manning Cersery. Image Source: parkjoann1

Ruby Estelle Williams and Fred Manning Cersery. Image Source: parkjoann1

On May 19, 1943, Fred M. Cersey enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, FL.  Camp Blanding was the largest training base in Florida. Housing some 60,000, it was the fourth largest city in Florida; During World War II, approximately one million men received basic training here.

Soldiers at attention on Company Street at Camp Blanding - Starke, Florida. 1942. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31681>.

Soldiers at attention on Company Street at Camp Blanding – Starke, Florida. 1942. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31681&gt;.

After the war, the couple made their home in Jacksonville, FL.  The 1946 Polk’s City Directory for Jacksonville, FL shows they were living at 2371 McQuade street.  Fred and his brother, Clifford, worked for National Container Corp.

Later, Cersey worked for the Jefferson Smurfit Paper Company.

Fred Manning Cersey died April 7, 2002.  Burial: New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, Union County, Florida, USA

CERSEY – Fred Manning Cersey, a long time resident of Clay County passed away April 7, 2002 following a lengthy illness. He was born November 27, 1923 in Ray City, GA, the son of Manning Andrew Cersey and Lula Goodin Cersey. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army having served in WWII. He retired from Jefferson Smurfit Paper Company following 40 years of dedicated service. Fred was a happy and loving family man who enjoyed sports, music, singing, fishing and the outdoors. He was a High Priest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where he Served in many leadership roles. Surviving are his devoted and loving wife of 60 years, Ruby Williams Cersey; his daughters Patricia Ann Best (Michael), and Sheron Elaine Merrill (Roger); his son Fred DeWayne Cersey (Lana); 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren; his brothers Clinton and Clifford Cersey; half brother Thomas and half sisters Dorothy and Latrelle. He was predeceased by his first daughter Ruby Marlin Cersey. Funeral services in celebration of his life will be held 11:00 AM Wednesday April 10, 2002 at Middleburg Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 4342 Highway 218, Middleburg, FL with Elder James F. Wheeler officiating. Mr. Cersey will be laid to rest with his daughter in New Zion Cemetery following services. Family members and friends will gather on Tuesday evening (TONIGHT) from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM at JACKSONVILLE MEMORY GARDENS FUNERAL HOME, 111 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park.

Grave of Fred Manning Cersey and Ruby L. Williams. New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, FL

Grave of Fred Manning Cersey and Ruby L. Williams. New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, FL

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Geunie Griner’s Tap & Dance Show

Geunie Griner, circa 1960, musician, comedian, newspaper publisher of Berrien County, GA.

Geunie Griner, circa 1960, musician, comedian, newspaper publisher of Berrien County, GA.  Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Geunie Griner

A former Ray City School student tells us that in the 1940s, Geunie Griner  taught music and tap dancing classes in the schools at Nashville and Ray City, GA and possibly at other county schools.  “He would teach the kids perhaps 1st through 3rd grade and some that were even younger. He would go to the schools and offer the dancing classes as an extra curricular activity. Students paid extra for the lessons. At the end of the lessons, he would put on a big show with all the students performing. They wore fancy little costumes.”

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