Johnson Girls of Ray City

Bessie Johnson and Lillie Johnson were daughters of Richard Seward Johnson. The girls grew up on their father’s farm south of Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City).  They attended school, Bessie completing 7th grade and Lillie going on to two years of high school.

Left to right: Bessie Johnson, Joe Patten, Lillie Johnson Courtesy of Audrey P. Folsom and http://berriencountyga.com/

Left to right: Bessie Johnson, Joe Patten, Lillie Johnson
Courtesy of Audrey P. Folsom and http://berriencountyga.com/

Bessie Johnson (1885 – 1980) married Joseph B. Patten (1887 – 1971) on February 12, 1910. He was a son of Matthew Elihu Patten and Martha Williams, and a grandson of James M. Patten and Elizabeth Lee. He was raised on his father’s farm near Milltown.   His mother died when he was about ten years old; two years later his father remarried, Minnie Archibald becoming his step-mother.

Lillie Johnson (1886 – 1963) married Charlie Register (1888-1963) who served as minister of Cat Creek Church. In the 1940s they lived on Stubbs Road, Hahira, GA

 

Lawton Walker Johnson, WWII Sailor

Lawton Walker Johnson, son of JHP Johnson and Chloe Gardner Johnson,  was born June 14, 1908 in Ray City, GA.  During WWII, he joined in the US Navy , enlisting November 2, 1943. His younger brother, Max Maurice Johnson, was serving in the Army Air Force as pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber.

Lawton Walker Johnson, WWII Sailor

Lawton Walker Johnson, WWII Sailor, grew up in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Navy Cruise Books for World War II show Lawton Walker Johnson served on the escort carrier USS Hollandia as a Seaman 1c, USNR.

“Hollandia sailed on her maiden voyage July 10, 1944 from San Diego for a shakedown cruise to Espiritu Santo. She also transported replacement aircraft on this cruise, and on the return voyage stopped at Manus Island and Guadalcanal, arriving Port Hueneme, California on  August 27, 1944. During the next few months the escort carrier made similar cruises between the United States and the Navy’s bases in the far Pacific, Manus, Ulithi, and Guam, transporting vitally-needed supplies and passengers.”

USS Hollandia off the coast of California in 1944.

USS Hollandia off the coast of California in 1944.

“Hollandia was anchored at Ulithi on April 1, 1945 when the Navy’s massive amphibious assault of Okinawa began. She got underway next day and operated off the Okinawan coast, sending fighters to support the advancing troops. The ship then returned to San Diego, arriving on May 1, 1945.”

Navy records show Lawton Walker Johnson died June 3, 1945 while on active duty, his death “resulting directly from enemy action or from operational activities against the enemy in war zones.”  About that time, Hollandia was on a cargo and passenger run to Pearl Harbor.

Just two months after Johnson’s death, Hollandia would be pressed into service transporting survivors of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis to a Navy hospital.   Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk after completing the secret mission to deliver parts and the enriched uranium (about half of the world’s supply of Uranium-235 at the time) for the atomic bomb Little Boy, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima.

USS Indianapolis survivors on the USS Hollandia.

Lawton Walker Johnson was laid to final rest at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.  In 1947 his father, JHP Johnson, applied for and received a government provided marker for his grave.

 

Lawton Walker Johnson, as    a casualty of WWII, received a government-provided grave marker.

Lawton Walker Johnson, as a casualty of WWII, received a government-provided grave marker.

 

 

Grave of Lawton Walker Johnson, Ray City, GA

Grave of Lawton Walker Johnson, Ray City, GA

 

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Elijah Cook

Elijah Cook

Graves Elijah Cook and Arrinda Chandler Cook, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Graves Elijah Cook and Arrinda Chandler Cook, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

ELIJAH COOK (1816-1889)
According to Folks Huxford, Elijah Cook was born in Wilkinson County, November 22, 1816.  His father was James Cook, who was said to have come to Wilkinson from Effingham County. His grandson, Aaron Cook, served in the Spanish American War.

Elijah Cook was married twice. His first wife was Sarah “Sallie” Webb. She was daughter of Dawson Webb and Frances Phoebe Beall, and a sister of John Webb. Elijah and Sallie were married in Wilkinson County, May 14, 1837.  In their second year of marriage a child came to them; Maxie Jane Cook was born June 13, 1839. But with the delivery of her daughter, Sallie Webb Cook expired. Sallie’s parents moved with their remaining children to Lowndes County, GA some time before 1850.

Elijah Cook married Miss Arrinda M. Chandler on Sept. 26, 1841 in Wilkinson County, GA. She was born November 25, 1824, a daughter  of Pheriby and Aaron Chandler of Wilkinson County.

Some time before 1850 Elijah and Arrinda moved from Wilkinson to Irwin County, GA.

1850 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Irwin County, GA

1850 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Irwin County, GA: Elijah Cook, Arrinda Chandler Cook, Maxie Cook, John J.Cook, Fairiby Cook, Juda Cook, Sufrony Cook. https://archive.org/stream/7thcensus0059unit#page/n717/mode/1up

About 1852, Elijah’s daughter Maxie Jane Cook, at just 13 or 14 years old, married Aden Boyd, Jr of Lowndes County (later Berrien). Aden Boyd, Jr was a son of Nancy Sykes and Aden Boyd, who gave land in 1854 to establish Empire Church,  located on Empire Road near Five Mile Creek,  about six miles northeast of Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway.

Around 1856, about the time Berrien County was being created from land cut out of Lowndes County,  Elijah and Arrinda Cook came to the area. They settled in the 10th district within sight of Empire Church, and became neighbors of their in-laws, the Boyds.

The Cooks were one of a dozen or so families originating from Wilkinson county who made the move to the newly established Berrien County around that time, including  the families of Elijah’s sisters, Tabitha Cook and Piety Cook. Tabitha married Daniel Avera and Piety married Nicholas Lewis, both of these couples moving to Berrien.  Dawson Webb, father of Elijah’s first wife, also moved to Berrien.  Louisa Eliza Webb, sister of  Sallie Webb, had married Moses G. Sutton and came to Lowndes County (now Berrien) a few years earlier.

In 1859, Elijah’s daughter Fairiby Cook married Thomas Lang Taylor.  T. L. Taylor was a son of William Jackson Taylor and Samantha Jane Rogers, and a Justice of the Peace. Fairiby and Thomas established their homestead near her father’s farm on lot 218.

https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n397/mode/1up

1860 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Berrien County, GA: Elijah Cook, Arrinda M. Cook, Jasper J. Cook, Feriby E. Cook, Judah R. Cook, Emily “Amanda” Cook, Sarah Cook, Henry N. Cook, Francis M. Cook. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n397/mode/1up

The 1860 population census shows Elijah and Arrinda Cook established their homestead near the farm of Elijah’s daughter, Maxie Jane, and her husband Aden Boyd, Jr. On the neighboring farms were William H. Boyd, Moses G. Sutton,  and Stephen W. Avera, father of William Greene Avera.

“Elijah Cook was a progressive and industrious farmer, an honest and neighborly citizen and his practices as a farmer were very much in advance of the average Berrien County, citizen of his day.  He was one of the first in the county to erect gins for serving the public in preparing cotton for market, his gins being operated by horse power.”  

The 1860 Agricultural Census shows Elijah Cook’s farm consisted of 980 acres, 50 acres of which were improved. The farm was valued at $1200, and he owned $50 worth of farm equipment. His livestock, valued at $500, included two horses, a mule, two working oxen, six milk cows, 16 other cattle, 20 sheep, and 40 hogs. He had 150 bushels of Indian corn, and 30 bushels of oats, 1 bale of cotton, and 100 pounds of wool. He had $100 in stored meat, 50 pounds of honey and 5 pounds of beeswax.

“The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate shore batteries under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay.”  Elijah Cook was 44 years old when the Civil War commenced, and did not himself enlist for service with the Confederate States Army.  His eldest son, John Jasper Cook, served with Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment, but returned to his parent’s Berrien county farm and on October 9, 1864 married a neighbor girl, Lucretia Sirmans, a daughter of James Sirmans.

After the War, Elijah Cook continued to work his Berrien County farm. The 1867 Berrien County tax records show Elijah Cook’s lands  were on 730 acres of Land Lots 217 and 218, which straddled Five Mile Creek.

1870 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Berrien County, GA.

1870 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Berrien County, GA: Elijah Cook, Arrinda Cook, Judy Cook, [Emily] Mandaville Cook, Sarah Cook, Arkansas Cook, Henry Cook, Francis Cook, [Rachel] Arena Cook, Jackson Cook, Arinda Cook. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n437/mode/1up

 The 1870 population census placed the  value of Elijah Cook’s real estate at $500, and his personal estate at $1439.  The 1870 census also shows that three of the Cook children were mentally disabled. These children apparently suffered from a rare, debilitating form of the genetic skin condition ichthyosis, and were known locally as the “alligator children.”  According to period newspaper accounts, the Cooks were very protective of their children and refused offers from promoters, including P. T. Barnun, to put them on exhibition.  “These children were carried on the Pauper Roll of Berrien Co, where they placed by the Grand Jury at the March Term, Berrien Superior Court, 1885, under which they drew a pension from the county as long as they lived.”

Elijah’s daughter, Arkansas Cook, married William Hansford Hughes in 1872.  W.H. Hughes grew up on a farm in the same district; He was a son of Irene Shaw Hughes, widow of Henry Hansford Hughes.  Arkansas and William established their home on a farm near their parents.

In 1872 Elijah Cook’s 740 acres of property on Lots 217 and 218  was valued at $1 an acre. His personal property was valued at only $568 dollars. His son-in-law, Aden Boyd, husband of Maxie Jane Cook, also owned 50 acres on Lot 217. Son-in-law Thomas L. Taylor, husband of Fairiby Cook, owned 147 acres of Lot 218.  Aden Boyd’s sister, Sarah Boyd, and her husband Robert  Lewis Taylor (brother of T. L. Taylor), were also on 50 acres on Lot 217. To the north Fisher W. Gaskins owned all 490 acres of lot 199.  To the east, Mark R. Watson owned 1715 acres of adjacent land, situated on Five Mile Creek on Lots 197, 195, 172, and 173. To the southwest, Stephen W. Avera had 100 acres on Lot 243, and James Sirmans had 300 acres on the same lot.

Around 1874 Elijah Cook let go of his land on Lot 217, and acquired lot 198 which was just to the north.  Around that time Benjamin Thomas Cook acquired 65 acres on Lot 219.  Benjamin T. Cook was undoubtedly a cousin of Elijah Cook, although the exact relationship is not known. Like Elijah, B. T. Cook was a native of Wilkinson County, GA; he came to Berrien County after the Civil War, a former prisoner of war at Point Lookout, MD.

Elijah’s daughter Rachel Arena Cook married William Marshall Lewis in 1875. In 1879, his son Francis M. Cook married Anna J. Ford, and son Henry N. Cook married Mary Ann Boyd.  Francis and Henry settled with their wives near their father’s place. By 1879, Elijah Cook had disposed of some 200 acres of his land, keeping 680 acres on Lots 217 and 198. This move gave him  contiguous land all situated on the same side of Five Mile Creek.  Benjamin T. Cook also had 40 acres on lot 217.

1880 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Berrien County, GA.

1880 Census enumeration of the family of Elijah Cook in Berrien County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n391/mode/1up

The 1880 population census shows Elijah and Arinda continued to provide care for their three disabled children, Juda, Amanda, and Sarah. Their youngest children, Jackson and Arinda continued to reside with them, as well as John Ford, who was a brother of Anna Ford Cook.  Jackson and John provided the farm labor. By 1880, the old man had given up most of his land, retaining just 80 acres for himself on Lot 198.  His son, Francis M. Cook had acquired 390 acres of the land on Lot 217, and 100 acres on Lot 198, and son Henry N. Cook had 100 acres of Lot 198. Benjamin T. Cook now had 390 acres on Lot 215.

In 1882, Elijah’s youngest son Jackson J. Cook married Mary Melissa Lewis. She was a sister of William Marshall Lewis, husband of Rachel Arrinda Cook.

Meanwhile, the Cook family land deals continued. Elijah had re-acquired 290 acres of Lot 217 in 1881. In 1882, in yet another family transaction, Elijah took back another 100 acres of the land on Lot 217, while son Francis M. Cook moved to 100 acres on Lot 198. The following year, Francis left Lot 198 for 125 acres on Lot 190. Elijah continued to hold 300 acres of Lots 198 and 217. Henry Cook stayed with his 100 acres of Lot 198, and Benjamin T. Cook remained on his 300 acres of Lot 215.

By 1884, Francis Cook returned to 100 acres on Lot 198. Benjamin gave up 160 acres on Lot 215, retaining 130 acres there. Elijah’s eldest son, J. J. Cook, acquired 100 acres of the land on Lot 217, and Elijah retained 250 acres spread across Lots 198 and 217.  Elijah had $75 in household belongings, $432 in livestock, and $20 worth of tools and books.

Children of Elijah Cook and Arrinda Chandler:

  1. John Jasper Cook, born June 13, 1839;  married October 9, 1865 to Lucretia Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; died May 30, 1924; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery
  2. Juda Cook, born March 12, 1845*; suffered from a crippling congenital disability, never married; died October 29, 1895; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery
  3. Fairiby G. Cook, born 1846; married Thomas L. Taylor, 1859; died December 26, 1920; buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA).
  4. Emily Amanda Cook, born June 10, 1849*, suffered from a crippling congenital disability, never married; died May 15, 1915; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery
  5. Sarah J. Cook, born 1851, suffered from a crippling congenital disability, never married.
  6. Arkansas Cook, born November 13, 1853; married 1) 1872 to William Hansford Hughes, 2) July 20, 1909 to George Washington Nix; died December 24, 1911; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery next to her first husband.
  7. Henry N. Cook, born 1855; married Mary Ann Boyd, May 25, 1879; died May 14, 1940; buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA).
  8. Francis M. “Frank” Cook, born October 3, 1859; married Anna J Ford, February 27, 1879; died February 13, 1936; buried Old City Cemetery, Nashville, GA
  9. Rachel Arrinda Cook, born July 6, 1862*, married William L Lewis; died March 26, 1937;  buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery (about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA).
  10. Jackson “Jack” Cook, born about 1862; married October 5, 1882 to Mary Melissa Lewis;
  11. Arinda Cook, born about 1867

* census records inconsistent with birth year on grave marker

The Valdosta Daily Times edition of Saturday, February 16, 1889 reported “Old man Elijah Cook, about 80 years old, one of the oldest settlers in Berrien County, was at the point of death yesterday, and is likely dead by to-day. He was a Primitive Baptist, and a man highly respected by his neighbors.”

But Elijah held on for another nine months.  He died on his farm at Five Mile Creek on November 15, 1889. Arrinda Chandler Cook died October 18, 1893. They were buried in the cemetery at Empire Church of which they were members.

 

Jim Griner ~ Lawman

Deputy Jim Griner,  Berrien County Lawman

James Benjamin “Jim” Griner , who was Ray City, GA Police Chief in the 1940s, also served as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County from 1905 to 1915.  (In 1915,  Griner was elected Police Chief of Nashville, GA.)  Below are a few clippings from newspapers around the region  about his time as Deputy Sheriff .

Deputy Sheriff James B. "Jim" Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Deputy Sheriff James B. “Jim” Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Griner’s ten years of deputy work were filled with escorting prisoners, working the bloodhounds, trailing chain gang escapees,  tracking arsonists, raiding gambling dens and blind tigers, gunfights with desperadoes, and more. He began his law enforcement career as a deputy for Sheriff Marion J. Kinard.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Tifton Gazette
March 24, 1905

Mr. I. C. Avera, for a long time deputy sheriff, is now city marshal of Nashville, and makes a model officer.  Messrs. J. A. Lindsey and J. B. Griner are Sheriff Kinard’s deputies, and are making good officers.

 

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

 

Tifton Gazette
April 26, 1907

Deputy Sheriff Griner went to Homerville Sunday and brought Charlie Israel back to jail. He is the young white man who dug a hole in the brick wall of the county jail and made his escape a few weeks ago. Sheriff Screven Sweat of Clinch captured him. – Nashville Herald. Israel is the young man that burglarized the store of J. B. Gunn, at Enigma, several weeks ago.

1908-jim-griner-and-ed-sutton

Tifton Gazette
September 18, 1908

 

Ed Sutton, who was tried and adjudged insane here last week, got away from Deputy Sheriff Griner at Cordele, while enroute to the asylum. The county authorities offer a reward of $25 for him. – Nashville Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

 

Waycross Journal
July 2, 1909

Nashville, Ga., July 2. – John A. Gaskins, living in the upper Tents [Tenth] district, six or eight miles east of Nashville, came here and got Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and his blood hounds to go to his place for the purpose of tracking incendiaries who set fire to his gin house Monday night. The dogs failed to track the offender, however, and Mr. Griner returned to Nashville without a prisoner. Mr. Gaskins thinks he has a clue, as threats have been made against him because he refused to let certain parties fish in his mill pond. The ginnery, which had just been completed was a total loss.

 

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Tifton Gazette
December 17, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and John Bradford went down in Clinch county Monday night and captured Dick Studstill, a desperate negro who is wanted in this county for assault with intent to murder. He resisted arrest several months ago, near Sparks, and shot at Sheriff Avera and posse who were raiding a gambling and tiger den. – Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Vienna News
April 14, 1911

Sets Bullets Flying Wildly in Nashville

Adel, Ga., April 11. – News has reached this city of an affray at Nashville Saturday evening in which Beaty Gaskins, a well known and prominent young man, undertook to shoot up the town. He began by shooting at a young man named Knight, and continued to shoot until he had fired nine times. He came near hitting a clerk in Wein’s store and sent a bullet into the county school commissioner’s office in which were a number of teachers, it being the time of the monthly meeting of the teacher’s institute. He also sent a bullet into the office of J. P. Knight, ex-senator from this district. After shooting half a dozen times Gaskin directed his shots into the office of Judge W. D. Buie of the city court, hitting that official and Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, who was there.
Mr. Griner returned the fire and slightly wounded Gaskins, was then arrested. Later he was released under bond of $10,500. He is a son of John A. Gaskins, one of the wealthiest men in Berrien county.

1913-jim-griner-and-oscar-jones

Tifton Gazette
November 7, 1913

Nashville Herald: Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner left Friday for Belleville, Illinois, in response to a telegrram from the Prison Commission advising him to go after Oscar Jones, who escaped from the Berrien county chaingang two years ago.  He is a lifetime man sent here from Fulton county in 1911.

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Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Tifton Gazette
June 12, 1914

Bob Luke, who shot and killed Calvin Lingo about three weeks go, was placed under arrest last week by Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, of Berrien.  Luke says he killed Lingo in self defense while Lingo was under the influence of whiskey.  He offered to surrender but the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of Justifiable homicide and he was turned loose.  Lingo’s brother had the warrant sworn out for Luke.  George Henderson, the only eye-witness to the tragedy, has also been placed under arrest.

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Atlanta Constitution
December 31, 1914

Two Prisoners Escape Berrien County Jail

Nashville, Ga., December 30. – (Special.) – J. C. Carter, a white man held in the Berrien county jail here for stealing hogs, and Capers Beach, colored, held for securing goods under false pretense, escaped late last night by sawing a bar in two and climbing to the ground on tied blankets. Love Vickers, colored, reported it to Deputy Sheriff J. B. Griner, but they had already successfully effected their escape. When last seen they were headed for Sparks on the Georgia and Florida track.

1914 Nashville Nine

At age 16 Dewey Knight was a coach and player for the Nashville High School baseball team of 1914. A son of Jonathan Perry Knight and Ada Parrish, he  was born at Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) on May 1, 1898, but grew up in Nashville, Georgia.   Team mascot Lucius Eugene Griner was a son of James B. “Jim” Griner, who would later serve as Police Chief of Ray City.

 

1914 Nashville Nine

Nashville High School Nine.  The players in the photo are, left to right: Standing, Dewey Knight, Sub and coach; Noble Hull, pitcher and manager; Emory Gary, first base; Robert Hendricks,second base; June Norwood, short-stop; Willie Peeples, catcher and captain.  Sitting: Homer Connell, centerfield; Lucius Griner, mascot; Basom Webb, left field; Hobart Alexander, third base; Alvah Webb, right field.

Nashville High School Nine. The players in the photo are, left to right: Standing, Dewey Knight, Sub and coach; Noble Hull, pitcher and manager; Emory Gary, first base; Robert Hendricks,second base; June Norwood, short-stop; Willie Peeples, catcher and captain. Sitting: Homer Connell, center field; Lucius Griner, mascot; Basom Webb, left field; Hobart Alexander, third base; Alvah Webb, right field.

The Atlanta Constitution
March 8, 1914

Nashville High School Nine 1914

Nashville, Ga., March 7. – (Special.) The Nashville High school ball team was organized Friday, February 12. The boys elected Noble Hull manager unanimously. Willie Peeples was made captain of the squad, while June Norwood will be treasurer.

The school heretofore has not had an organized ball team, and there it is very evident that it will make a “hit” with the school as well as the surrounding community.

The teachers have all pledged themselves to do all they can for the maintenance of the organization financially and otherwise.

The team is preparing a play from which the proceeds will go for the support of said team. Other measures of obtaining funds have and will be resorted to.

The boys work together “better than any bunch that have ever worn Nashville uniforms.” They are all about the same size and are capable of understanding each other magnificently.

The boys of said team claim that they are “unbeatable” by any high school team of south Georgia. Beginning with March 14 the boys challenge any high school for one or three games.

Address all challenges to N. A. Hull, Manager

 

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Keith Clements and the Beauty Queens

Keith Clements was born in Ray City, GA, a son of James I. Clements and Annie Mae Carter and brother of J.I. Clements, Jr. and Mason Clements. His parents owned a home on the southeast corner of Ward Street and Jones Street. The Clements were among the most prominent families of Ray City.  The Clements sawmill was the largest industry and largest employer in Ray City.  After the Clements sold the lumber business about 1923, Keith’s father went into the retail grocery business.

Keith Clements, 1950,  Georgia Teachers College

Keith Clements, 1950, Georgia Teachers College

Keith attended  Ray City High School and graduated with the class of 1942.  All three Clements brothers served in World War II.

After the war, the three brothers attended Georgia Teachers College, now Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, GA. When a beauty review was organized  at the school to select a “Miss Teachers College,”  Keith Clements was always ready to step up as an escort for one of the young ladies in the competition.

Betty Fuller from McRae, "Miss T. C. of 1949" with her escort Keith Clements.

Betty Fuller from McRae, “Miss T. C. of 1949″ with her escort Keith Clements.

 

1950-Keith-Clements-and-beauty-queen

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1950-beauty-review-georgia-teachers-college

 

1950 Reflector – Yearbook of Georgia Teachers College

4th Annual Beauty Review

Lonadine Morgan from Egypt, Georgia, was crowned “Miss T. C. of 1950″ at the fourth annual Beauty Review held in and overflowing auditorium. Sponsored by East Hall and escorted by Keith Clements, Lonadine reached the finals with a natural beauty and winning smile, her poise that of a champion. 

Lonadine Morgan, "Miss Teachers College" of 1950, Statesboro, GA.  Her escort was classmate Keith Clements, of Ray City, GA.

Lonadine Morgan, “Miss Teachers College” of 1950, Statesboro, GA. Her escort was classmate Keith Clements, of Ray City, GA.

Betty Fuller from McRae, "Miss T. C. of 1949" with the four other finalists: second-place winner Joyce Bowen of Rhine, third place winner Mary Ida Carpenter of Guyton, fourth place winner Mary West of Greymont, and Fay Joyner of Augusta.

Betty Fuller from McRae, “Miss T. C. of 1949″ with the four other finalists: second-place winner Joyce Bowen of Rhine, third place winner Mary Ida Carpenter of Guyton, fourth place winner Mary West of Greymont, and Fay Joyner of Augusta.

 

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John A. Gaskins Thrown by a Mule

John A. Gaskins (1854-1926)

John A. Gaskins, a son of Harmon Gaskins and Melissa Jones and grandson of Fisher Gaskins, was born September 8, 1854 in Old Lowndes, now Berrien County, GA.

John A. Gaskins, son of Harmon Gaskins, born 8 September 1854, died 22 June 1926. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

John A. Gaskins, son of Harmon Gaskins, born 8 September 1854, died 22 June 1926. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

In 1905, when John A. Gaskins was a gentleman of 50 years, the Tifton Gazette noted as a human interest item that he had been thrown by his mule. He was treated by Dr. Pleasant H. Askew of Nashville, GA.

John A. Gaskins thrown by a mule.

John A. Gaskins thrown by a mule.

Tifton Gazette
April 28, 1905

A mule threw John A. Gaskins Tuesday afternoon and broke his collar bone on the right side. He was out feeding hogs in the woods when his mule became frightened and threw him to the ground. Dr. Askew dressed his wounds and he is getting on as well as could be expected. -Herald.

The item was newsworthy in part because the Gaskins  were prominent Wiregrass land owners and cattlemen.  They were one of the early pioneer families of Berrien County.  The patriarch, Fisher Gaskins,  and  his sons  Harmon, William and John, had originally settled on the west side of the Alapaha River,  near present day Bannockburn, GA.,  about 16 miles distance from today’s Ray City, GA location.  Harmon Gaskins, and his brothers William and John, were among Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company of men who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.

Just a year before John A. Gaskins’ mule bolted, in 1904, the papers noted that he had closed a big timber deal. The transaction was for 3,400 acres of timber to be cut at a sawmill on the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta railroad.

John A. Gaskins sells timber, 1904

John A. Gaskins sells timber, 1904

 

Tifton Gazette
February 19, 1904

Gaskin Sells Timber.

Nashville, GA. Feb. 12. – Messrs. Barfield and Brewer, of Unadilla, Ga. have closed a deal with John A. Gaskin, by which they come in posession of 3,400 acres of timbered lands, buying the timber only. The price paid was $34,000.
The purchasers will erect a splendid mill two miles out on the O.P. & V. railroad at an early date.

 About John A. Gaskins

John A.  Gaskins grew up at his father’s homestead near Five Mile Creek, about six or seven miles northeast of present day Ray City, GA..  John’s mother died when he was about 10 years old,  and his father remarried to  Mary McCutchen Jones, widow of Matthew Jones.

In 1877, John A. Gaskins married Mary Elizabeth Bostick. She was born 1859, a daughter of Sarah Ann Knight and Jesse S. Bostick . When Mary was about three years old  in 1862 her father  enlisted in the Clinch Volunteers, which mustered in as Company G, Georgia 50th Infantry Regiment.  His Regiment was involved in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War at the Battle of  South Mountain and at the Battle of Cedar Creek.  He was taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in the POW camp at Point Lookout, along with fellow POWs John T. Ray, Benjamin Harmon Crum, Benjamin T. Cook and Aaron Mattox.  Just a year after Mary’s father marched off to the Civil War, her mother died of measles.  When the War ended and  her father returned home, he married Mrs. Nancy Corbitt Lastinger. She was the widow of James G. Lastinger, who served in the 29th Georgia Regiment (with the Berrien County Minute Men) and died in a Union hospital in 1864. Thus, Mary Elizabeth Bostick was raised by her step-mother Nancy Corbitt Bostick.

Children of John A. Gaskin and Mary Elizabeth Bostick are:

  1. William M Gaskins  – born April 3, 1878; died August 26, 1905
  2. Lucious Butler Gaskins  – born January 17, 1880 in  Berrien, GA; married Lessie L. Parrish, February 21, 1904; died April 13, 1934
  3. Reason Batie Gaskins – born May 23, 1882 in Berrien County, Georgia; married Blanche P. Giddens; died December 24, 1912
  4. Jesse Swinson Gaskins  – born 1884 in Georgia; married Florence Courson
  5. Laura M Gaskins – born June 15, 1887; died November 15, 1898
  6. James Henry Gaskins, – born February 18, 1890;  married Hattie M. Roberson; died December 25, 1979
  7. John Bullock Gaskins  – born July 9, 1892 at Weber, Berrien County, GA;  served in WWI with US 1st Division; died December 3, 1954 at Miami, FL

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Preacher Shaw and Susie Ray

Preacher Shaw and Susie Ray

Preacher Shaw, circa 1926. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw, circa 1926. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw was a son of Ray City, Georgia. He was a popular baseball player, sometimes politician, and salesman of Berrien County. His given name was Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw, but at a young age he acquired the nickname “Preacher,” a moniker that stuck for life. As a boy, Preacher Shaw attended Pine Grove School and the Kings Chapel School, located just across the county line, in Lowndes County. His parents, Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard, had attended the same school in their youth.

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

 It was at the Kings Chapel school that Preacher Shaw met his life-long companion, Susie Ray, daughter of Charles M. Ray and Maggie Hutto Ray. She had finished her educational training by attending Georgia State Womans College [now Valdosta State University], and had been teaching at Pleasant Vale and Indian Camp  schools. She had just started teaching at Kings Chapel when she met young Preacher Shaw.  It is not clear if he was finishing his formal education of if he was attending a function there and made her acquaintance.

The only automobile that the couple had to court in was the rumble-seat coupe that belonged to Susie. But it was adequate and they were mar- ried on November 13, 1927 in the home of Susie’s parents by Elder Aaron Knight. The couple set up house for a brief time with Susie’s parents, where their first child, Latrelle was born July 14,1928. They shortly thereafter moved into the Martha Carter place just off of the Old Valdosta Highway near Barker Road. Here their second child Lawanna was born March 26, 1930. During this time, Preacher was farming the property of Susie’s parents. The family then moved into a small home on Indian Camp Road about a mile west of the Ray homeplace. It had been the old White Pond Church, which had been moved to the Ray property by Preacher and Susie’s brothers, Henry and Buck. By November the following year 1931, Preacher and Susie had moved over to the “Dock” Shaw place, helping on that farm. They lived in the log house that Preacher had been born in 25 years earlier. Their third child, a son Otis was born on November 16, 1931. Early the following year in 1932, Preacher suddenly suffered an attack of appendicitis, and was rushed to the Little Griffin Hospital in Valdosta. His recovery was slow, and Susie stayed at the home of Preacher’s sister, Cora Shaw Griffin. Susie visited Preacher daily while walking to the hospital and back carrying baby Otis.

Preacher worked the Ray property until about 1937, when he went down to Jacksonville, Florida to work for his brother-in-law, Lewis Ennis, Mary Idell’s husband. Lewis owned and  operated a service station and oil company in Avondale, Florida. Preacher would drive back and forth from Jacksonville to Ray City about once a month, while Susie worked the family farm. The children were attending the New Lois School about this time, walking the four mile distance each way, daily. One of their fondest childhood moments was when Preacher brought home a used girl’s bicycle from Jacksonville. With the birth of their fourth and last child, Gerald on April 5, 1938, Preacher found employment a little closer to home, working on a construction crew, building roads near Thomasville. However this opportunity turned into tragedy, when one of the construction tractors turned over on top of him. He was hospitalized in critical condition for sometime before finally recovering. He carried scars from that accident the rest of his life. All during the months and years that Preacher was working out of town, Susie was home, raising the children and working the farm. She was also an accomplished seamstress, sewing all of the children’s clothes. She was often sought after for seamstress work by many of her neighbors and her work was well known throughout the county. When Preacher recovered from the accident, he returned to work the farm, and the family moved in and lived with Susie’s widowed mother. About 1940 Mrs. Ray deeded the Ray homeplace and 100 acres of the farm in the 134th land lot to Susie.  Maggie Ray died August 2, 1942.

About 1945, Preacher went to work in Nashville for Jake Rutherford in the fertilizer business. This began a long venture in the feed, seed, and fertilizer business that lasted over two decades. He worked at the Leah Stallings Feed and Seed, Perkins Warehouse, and John David Luke at the Nashville Mills. He was a “drummer”, a natural-born salesman, selling seed and fertilizer, then traveling through out Berrien and the surrounding counties, buying back the farmers’ crops. Then he would sell them seed for the next crop year.

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Rossie O. Knight and Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Rossie O. Knight. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation www.berriencountyga.com

Rossie O. Knight. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation http://www.berriencountyga.com

Rossie O. Knight

Rossie O. Knight was a son of Sovin J. Knight and Ann Eliza Allen of Ray City, GA.

In the years from 1913 to 1917, Rossie was engaged in America’s preparation for the coming conflict, in military service with the Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Hancock, NJ, and working to produce war matériel at the Nixon Nitration Works.

On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies. By  August 7, 1917 he was serving overseas with the U.S. First Division . He received the Victory Medal with five battle clasps for his service with the 1st Division Ammunition Train in France during WWI.

After the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918  Knight served in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. On August 6, 1919 he was transferred from the 1st Division Ammunition Train to Company B, 7th Machine Gun Battalion, and on September 17, 1919 he finally got his sergeant’s stripes back.   For the next 18 months, Sergeant Knight was stationed with his company at Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, Koblenz, Germany.

ehrenbreitstein-wwi

First American flag to fly over a German Fort across the Rhine, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

 

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (German: Festung Ehrenbreitstein) is a fortress on the mountain of the same name on the east bank of the Rhine opposite the town of Koblenz in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Ehrenbreitstein was built as part of a strong ring of fortifications around Koblenz, the largest military fortress in Europe after Gibraltar. When the Koblenz fortifications west of the Rhine were dismantled in 1890-1903, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress remained as the main defense of the Rhine crossing.  After WWI it was occupied by the US Army as their headquarters during the Occupation of the Rhineland.

American Flag over Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, Koblenz, Germany, circa 1919

American Flag over Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, Koblenz, Germany, circa 1919

 

In the 1920 census, Rossie O. Knight was enumerated at Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, Koblenz, Germany with Company B, 7th Machine Gun Battalion.

1920 census enumeration of Rossie O. Knight while stationed in Germany

1920 census enumeration of Rossie O. Knight while stationed in Germany at Fortress Ehrenbreitstein, Koblenz, Germany

https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu2040unit#page/n463/mode/1up

 

Review of the American Forces in Germany
On February 14, 1921, the 7th Machine Gun Battalion ceased to exist pursuant to War Department orders.

According to family historian, Bryan Shaw,  “Rossie Knight returned home after the war and was plagued with the effects of multiple gas exposures.  Rossie remained single the rest of his life. He died November 16, 1963 at the age of 71. He is buried at the Pleasant Cemetery in the Lois community.”

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Remember the Maine, Aaron Cook and the Spanish American War

Aaron Cook, of the Watson Grade community near Ray City, GA, was 30 years old when the  USS Maine sank in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898.

Grave of Aaron Cook, veteran of the Spanish-American War, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Aaron Cook, veteran of the Spanish-American War, Empire Church Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Born June 23, 1867 in Berrien County, GA , Aaron A. Cook  was the youngest son of Lucretia Sirmans and John Jasper Cook. His parents’ farm was in the Watson Grade community just northeast of Rays Mill, GA.  His sister Charlotte married William Jackson Boyette, and sister Mary Ellen Cook (1876-1939) was the wife of Reverend Orville A. Knight.

Just weeks after his birth, local South Georgia papers observed that a rebellion was underway in Cuba, wryly noting that the U. S. government seemed to be more supportive of rebels in other countries.  The Cuban rebels founded the “Revolutionary Committee of Bayamo” in July 1867 and the period of Aaron Cook’s childhood and young adulthood coincided with Cuba’s long struggle for independence from Spain.   The people of Wiregrass Georgia were largely indifferent to the Cuban rebellion, although there was some U. S. desire for  the annexation of this “Queen of the Antilles” where American commercial interests were heavily invested.    In Cuba, the rebels quickly initiated an all-out military uprising against Spanish rule,  starting the  Ten Years’ War and unleashing contention with Spain which spanned a period of thirty years.

The smoldering Cuban insurrection re-erupted in the  Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). In Wiregrass Georgia, the Cuban conflict was mostly marked by rising costs of coffee and sugar caused by the war, and a mild interest the Cuban rebels’ plans for emancipation of the slaves that worked the Cuban plantations.  A curious side note was circus promoter W. H. Harris’  offer of the man-killing elephant, Gypsy, to the Cuban insurgents.  In 1896, Gypsy had performed  before Wiregrass crowds in Thomasville, GA as a part of Harris’ Nickel Plate Show. Harris reckoned, “If Hannibal found elephants useful in battle, why should not [the Cubans] conquer with Gypsy.”  The elephant would be killed five years later after a murderous rampage in Valdosta, GA.

For the U. S., the war exploded with the sinking of USS Maine:

In January 1898, USS Maine, a second-class battleship built between 1888 and 1895, was sent to Havana  to protect American interests during the long-standing revolt of the Cubans against the Spanish government. In the evening of 15 February 1898, Maine sank when her forward gunpowder magazines exploded. Nearly three-quarters of the battleship’s crew died as a result of the explosion. While the cause of this great tragedy is still unsettled, contemporary American popular opinion blamed Spain, and war followed within a few months. http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/spanam/events/maineskg.htm

USS Maine as she entered Havana harbor, Cuba, on 25 January 1898. She was destroyed by explosion there some three weeks later, on 15 February. Image source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/spanam/events/maineskg.htm

USS Maine as she entered Havana harbor, Cuba, on 25 January 1898. She was destroyed by explosion there some three weeks later, on 15 February. Image source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/spanam/events/maineskg.htm

Following the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, the United States entered the conflict, allying with the rebels and declaring war on Spain on April 25, 1898.

No where was there greater war fervor than in Georgia.  “Georgia furnished according to population more volunteers than any other State of the Union,” and Wiregrass babies were  named in honor of the war’s heroes.

Aaron Cook was among some 3,000 Georgians  to serve in the Spanish-American War. He was enlisted on July 2, 1898, and mustered in at Macon, GA as a private in Company E, Third Regiment, U.S. Volunteer Infantry. Other Berrien countians s erving in the Third Regiment were Luther Lawrence Hallman and William F. Patten, both in Company B.     Company E was mustered in with  63 enlisted men and 23 recruits under the command of Captain Yancey Cade Carter, 1st Lieutentant John A. Sibley,  of Tifton, GA, and 2nd Lieutenant Edward Stevens. Of the Georgia units activated for the Spanish American war, only the Third Volunteer Infantry would see overseas duty, serving as an occupation force in Cuba during the first three months of 1899.

Aaron Cook, Spanish-American War

Aaron Cook, Spanish-American War

The U.S. War Department was fully aware that Yellow Fever would pose a major threat to U.S. military operations in Cuba.

Yellow fever begins after an incubation period of three to six days. Most cases only cause a mild infection with fever, headache, chills, back pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. In these cases the infection lasts only three to four days.

In fifteen percent of cases, however, sufferers enter a second, toxic phase of the disease with recurring fever, this time accompanied by jaundice due to liver damage, as well as abdominal pain. Bleeding in the mouth, the eyes, and the gastrointestinal tract will cause vomit containing blood, hence the Spanish name for yellow fever, vomito negro (“black vomit”). The toxic phase is fatal in approximately 20% of cases, making the overall fatality rate for the disease 3% (15% * 20%). In severe epidemics, the mortality may exceed 50%.

Surviving the infection provides lifelong immunity.

The Third Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of ten that had been created by Congress as  “Immune Regiments” –  intended as special forces that could remain effective combat units even in tropical zones where Yellow fever was endemic.

 THE IMMUNE REGIMENTS
New York Times  May 21, 1898;

 The Immune Regiments:

The first step toward the raising of 10,000 yellow fever immunes for the army of Cuban invasion was taken today, when the President sent to the Senate the nominations of Colonels for six of the ten regiments into which the special corps will be divided…No definite scheme for the enlistment of these special regiments has been settled upon.  It is not considered that it will be possible to get together 10,000 men who have actually had yellow fever, and that will not be attempted.  The recruiting will be done chiefly in the Southern Coast States, however, and the effort will be to take in men who, if they have not passed through a yellow fever epidemic, have been thoroughly acclimated to a hot climate and are accustomed to outdoor life. When so made up it is considered that these regiments will be far superior for rough and ready campaigning in Cuba to the ordinary volunteers, many of whom are young clerks or salesmen absolutely unaccustomed to outdoor life in a sultry clime.

Colonel Patrick Henry Ray

Colonel Patrick Henry Ray

 

President McKinley named Colonel Patrick Henry Ray as commander of the Third Regiment, and the unit became known as Ray’s Immunes.

The Third Regiment trained at Camp Price, Macon, GA.  Camp Price was located in Central City Park in the south part of the city, south of 7th street along the river. The  Macon Telegraph reported “Camp Price has been proven to be a healthy and an ideal place for a camp. There is an abundance of pure, clear water for all purposes and the forest oaks keep the grounds well shaded and cool.  The cottages and other buildings furnish splendid quarters for the regimental officers, and there is nothing lacking to make the place a complete success.”

Macon Telegraph
July 12, 1898

At Camp Price

The Soldiers Have Received Their Guns and Dog Tents

The soldiers at Camp Price drilled with their guns for the first time yesterday afternoon, and the sight was an imposing one, as they drilled in battalion in the race track enclosure.
The soldiers have also secured their dog tents, which they take as good evidence that they are soon to move to the front. The regiment is now complete and the boys drill almost like regulars. It is a fine body of men and can be counted on in any emergency.
The officers yesterday formed a mess, so that all of them will be together. This, it is thought, will be to their mutual advantage.

After this training the Regiment moved to Savannah, GA to embark for Cuba.  The Regiment left Savannah on Saturday evening, August 13, 1898, and arrived at Santiago de Cuba about 10:00am on Wednesday, August 17, 1898.  By the time they reached Cuba, an armistice  had been signed between the U.S. and Spain.  With the fighting ended, the Third Regiment assumed the role of occupation forces. After a few days at Santiago, the Regiment was transported by boat to Cameira de Cuba, then by train to Guantanamo, leaving garrison troops at each of these locations. Around August 22, the regiment arrived at Jamaica de Cuba, about 12 miles northwest of Guantanamo.

Aaron Cook’s unit, Company E, was assigned to maintain the garrison at Jamaica de Cuba and to man outposts at Los Canos, Santa Cecilla, San Carlos, Romila, and La Luisa.

The regiment served in Cuba until March 30, 1899 when it steamed for the U.S. The transport ship departed from Sagua de Tanamo and arrived at Fort Pulaski, Savannah, GA on April 2, 1899. The ship was sent to Sapelo Island for five days quarantine. Upon the return to Savannah, the troops were put aboard a train and sent to Macon, GA to be mustered out.

Aaron Cook received an honorable discharge on May 2, 1899.  Afterwards Aaron and his wife, Nancy Baldree Cook, spent the rest of their lives farming near Ray City, GA.

Aaron Cook died December 2, 1946 and was buried at Empire Church near Ray City, GA.  His widow applied for and received a headstone provided by the government to mark the graves of honorably discharged veterans. The upright marble headstone is inscribed in raised lettering inside a recessed shield.   The inscription encompasses the arched name and abbreviated military organization. No emblems of belief or additional inscriptions were inscribed.  While the dates of birth and death were allowed below the shield, these were not inscribed on Aaron Cook’s marker.

 

aaron-cook-headstone-app

 

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