Jim Crow Cars on the Georgia & Florida Railroad

The opening of the Georgia and Florida Railroad on October 1, 1908 was a big day for Ray City, GA. For African-Americans, the passenger cars which ran on the Georgia & Florida railroad during the first half of the 20th century reflected the pervasiveness of segregation under  Jim Crow laws.    “Jim Crow legislation extended throughout the South to schools, hotels, restaurants, streetcars, buses, theaters, hospitals, parks, courthouses, and even cemeteries.” Jim Crow laws had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the  Plessy v. Ferguson ruling against a black man who had been arrested for riding a whites-only streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653 provided segregated riding space for white and black passengers.

First Jim Crow Railroad Cars

Segregated “Jim Crow” railroad cars predated the Civil War.

“The term “Jim Crow” originated in 1832 as the name of a character in a song and dance written by Thomas D. Rice, a well-known minstrel of the time. Minstrel shows were popular before the Civil War and featured white performers in black face portraying “musical, lazy, childlike blacks.”  In the 1830s, “Jim Crow Cars” referred to segregated cars on some northern railroad lines. “

When the Boston and Providence Railroad opened its route to New York, the company’s president  stated that “an appreciable number of the despised race demanded transportation. Scenes of riot and violence took place, and in the then existing state of opinion, it seemed to me that the difficulty could best be met by assigning a special car to our colored citizens.”  Massachusetts newspapers in 1838 reported frequent incidents of Negroes refusing to sit in Jim Crow sections and being forcibly removed from the train. Negroes also sought relief through the legislature and white abolitionists encouraged boycotts. As a result, a joint legislative committee recommended a bill to halt discrimination. Negative reaction followed. Fearing increased integration, one state senator declared that “such legislation would not stop at forcing the mixture of Negroes and whites in railroad cars, but would subsequently be applied to hotels, religious societies, and through all ramifications of society.” The act failed to pass. By 1841, intense efforts to end Jim Crow cars began. Black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass refused to move to the Jim Crow car and did so only after being physically removed from their seats.15 In 1842, the black abolitionist Charles Lenox Redmond went before a committee in the Massachusetts legislature to protest his segregation in a “special railway car for negroes.” Touching upon the right to equality and inherent inferiority without it, Redmond stated that “the wrongs inflicted and injuries received on railroads by person of color . . . do not end with the termination of the route, but in effect, tend to discourage, disparage, and depress this class of citizens.” Protests, changing public opinion, and threats of legislative action caused rail companies in Massachusetts to abandon segregation practices in 1843. 

First Jim Crow Laws

The first Jim Crow laws are those of Florida and Mississippi in 1865 and Texas in 1866. The laws of Florida provided: “That if any negro, mulatto or other person of color shall intrude himself into…any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of white people, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be sentence to stand in pillory for one hour, or be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, or both at the discretion of the jury, nor shall it be lawful for any white person to intrude himself into any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of persons of color, under the same penalties” [Laws of Florida, 1865, p. 25].

The law of Mississippi was: “That it shall be unlawful for any officer, station agent, conductor, or employee on any railroad in this State, to allow any freedman, negro or mulatto, to ride in any first-class passenger cars, set apart, or used by, and for white persons; and any person offending against the provisions of this section, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…shall be fined not less than fifty dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars; and shall be imprisoned in the county jail until such fine, and costs of prosecution are paid; Provided that this section, of this act, shall not apply, in the case of negroes or mulattoes, traveling with their mistresses, in the capacity of nurses” [Laws of Mississippi, 1865, pp. 231-232]

Texas simply provided that “every railroad company shall be required to attach to each passenger train run by said company one car for the special accommodation of Freedmen” [Laws of Texas, 1866, p. 97].
-The Separation of the Races in Public Conveyances

In Georgia, however,  following the 1868 rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the expulsion of elected African-American assemblymen from the Georgia legislature, the Camilla Massacre, and rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment, the state remained under military rule imposed by the U.S. Congress.

The African-American legislators were re-seated by the federal government, and briefly led an agenda concentrated on political and civil rights.  “In 1870, the Georgia legislature enacted a statute requiring the railroads in the state to furnish equal accommodations to all, without regard to race, color or previous condition, provided the same fare was charged.” (Georgia railroads had previously only charged half-fare for transportation of slaves.) Subsequently, similar civil rights legislation emerged in the Reconstruction legislatures in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and in some northern states.   But in Georgia, this early civil rights movement  was crushed by the end of 1870 as conservatives used terror, intimidation, and the Ku Klux Klan to “redeem” the state. One quarter of the black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Despite prevailing conditions in Georgia, Jim Crow railroad laws seemed to be at an early end  when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 stating, “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”  Many northern states enacted their own civil rights legislation, adopting or adapting the language of the federal act. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Civil Rights Cases (1883) that the public accommodation sections of the act were unconstitutional.

With little or no effective legislation regulating civil rights in public transportation, the railroads made their own rules for providing white-only transportation, and segregating African-Americans in “Negro cars” or Jim Crow cars.

By the 1890s,  many southern states enacted legislation called Separate Coach Laws specifically mandating the segregation of railroad cars, although the legislation “did scarcely more than legalize an existing and widespread custom.”  An 1888 photograph of the wreck of the Savannah, Florida & Western Fast Mail Train appears to depict a Jim Crow Combine Car among the wreckage. Although the newspaper accounts of the wreck only mention the engine, tender, baggage car and smoker, one coach, the Pullman sleeper, and the private car of railroad president E. P. Wilbur, it seems unlikely that a Georgia train of this era would not include a “negro car” or Jim Crow car, especially since eight unidentified African-American men were among the victims of the wreck.

The SF&W route ran from Savannah through Valdosta, GA to Bainbridge, with connections to all points. The September 10, 1892 Albany Weekly Herald complimented the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad for its segregated arrangement of cars:

The S.F.& W.  passenger is one of the best arranged trains in the State. First comes the mail and express car, then the Negroes’ car, then the baggage car and smoker, and last of all the first class coach. All trains would do well to adopt this arrangement with a car between the Negro and white coaches.

White passengers usually rode in the sections furthest from the smoke and coal ash of the steam engine.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the legality of  the railroad “Jim Crow” laws and entrenched the discriminatory principle of “ separate but equal” accommodations for whites and blacks.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
The case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which supplied the occasion for the court’s landmark decision, had its origins in Louisiana. In 1890, Louisiana passed a law calling for “equal but separate” accommodations on railroads for “whites” and “coloreds.” Protesting this law was a group of Creoles and blacks who formed the Citizens Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law. This group arranged a test case along with the railroad that opposed the law  due to the expense of supplying another car.  An “exceedingly light-skinned Negro” named Homer Plessy agreed to test the law. Plessy was subsequently arrested for sitting in the white car.  In his defense, Plessy contended that the Louisiana statute requiring segregation was unconstitutional. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that if the segregation law was upheld, states could “require separate cars for people with different colors of hair, aliens, or Catholics or Protestants or to require colored people to walk on one side of the street and white people on the other side, or to demand that white men’s homes be painted white and black men’s homes black.”

In 1896, the Supreme Court decided against Plessy. Justice Henry Billings Brown writing for the majority concluded that legislative bodies were “powerless to eradicate racial instincts,” and that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane.” Equal rights did not necessitate the “enforced commingling of the two races.”  In his lone and now famous dissent, Justice John Harlan offered that “Our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”  Thus the notion of “separate but equal” had been judicially sanctioned by the nation’s highest court and Jim Crow had been given a new birth–a new license to “jump up and down.”  State laws mandating racial segregation quickly followed the Plessy ruling ensuring a Jim Crow system in the South. The  most blacks could aspire for was equal accommodations.  – NPS National Historic Landmarks Program

The New Georgia Encyclopedia observes, “These facilities were usually ‘equal’ in name only—in all the states with Jim Crow laws, the facilities that served blacks were almost always inferior to the facilities that served whites.”

Plessy v. Ferguson is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history.[3] – Wikipedia

During the Segregation Era, southern railroads operated segregated trains and depots.

Segregated Train Stations <br /> Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read "Colored Men" and "Colored Waiting Room." Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Segregated Train Stations
Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read “Colored Men” and “Colored Waiting Room.” Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Railroads built “combine” cars with segregated sections. The Georgia & Florida combine car pictured at the top of the post had a central baggage section separating the car into two passenger sections, one for black passengers and one for whites. In typical combine cars, each passenger section had a cast iron stove and a bathroom. Waste from the bathrooms was deposited directly on the rails. On some rail lines white drunks would be placed in the black car instead of one of those reserved for whites.

In a typical segregated railroad car, there were no luggage racks in the “colored” section, requiring travelers to cram their suitcases around their feet, and the “colored” bathroom was smaller and lacked the amenities of the “whites” bathroom.  “There are all these subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that ‘you are not as good as the people in the other section,’” says Spencer Crew, curator for the National Museum for African American Culture and History.

The story of travel segregation was not limited to trains and if you traveled by bus or boat or even airlines, such divisions were strictly enforced.

Pullman porters and coach attendants were key figures in the African-American community. “These were very well-traveled individuals, so they had a lot of experience and perspective to share with people they talked to as they were traveling across the country,” says Crew. “Their prominence and importance is an important part of the story.”

The following letter submitted to a House committee holding hearings in 1954 on legislation to end segregated travel attested to the substandard condition of railroad cars for African-Americans. It describes conditions in a combine car  travelling from Savannah, GA in which half of the car was used for baggage and the other half for African-American passengers.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE,
BRANCH OF THE ORANGES AND MAPLEWOOD, N. J.,
East Orange, N. J., May 10, 1954.

Hon. CHARLES A. WOLVERTON,
House of Congress, Washington, DC

The following matters were referred to the director of the Washington Bureau NAACP, Mr. Clarence Mitchell, who advised me that hearing would begin in the House very soon and that you are chairman of the committee covering such matters.

On or about April 22, 1954, Mrs. A. Cherry who lives at 251 Halsted Street, East Orange, N. J., and Mrs. Gertrude Williams who lives at 17 Winthrop Terrace, East Orange, N. J., traveled to Savannah, Ga., on train named Champion of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. Not knowing their return date no reservations were made for returning.

At the railroad station in Savannah, reservation were made for returning on April 28, 1954, on train named Champion of the Coast Line, car No. 39, seats Nos. 13 and 14.

After getting in this car they found it to be completely segregated, no heat, no water, dirty, being half baggage and a large sign reading “Colored,” which sign was still on the car when they left the train in Newark, N. J.

This we believe to be in violation of Federal laws and we are sure are in violation of the laws of the sovereign State of New Jersey.

Names and addresses of witnesses gladly furnished on request.

Sincerely,

DAVID T. DEGRAFFENREID.

P. S. This letter may be used in evidence if desired. D.T.D

A restored Jim Crow car is now on exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The car belonged to the Southern Railway, parent company of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad which ran from Macon through Valdosta, GA to Palatka, FL.

Despite the institutionalized racism of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling,

the decision itself was never explicitly overruled.[4] However, a series of subsequent decisions, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, severely weakened it to the point that it is usually considered to have been de facto overruled.[1] In Brown, the Supreme Court ruled that Plessys “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional in the context of schools and educational facilities.

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. - New Georgia Encyclopedia

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

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Thomas Babington McCauley, Locomotive Engineer on the G&F

Thomas Babington McCauley, Locomotive Engineer on the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

The Georgia & Florida Railroad was Ray City, Georgia’s connection to the world.  In the 1920s, G&F trains stopped at Ray City several times a day, with freight and passenger service.  Ray City had its own train depot, and section houses for railroad employees and their families.   A big wooden water tower stood just south of Main Street on the east side of the tracks to provide water for the trains.

The G&F railroad chose Douglas, GA,  about 60 miles northward up the track from Ray City, as the location for its offices and railroad shops. The railroad employed many workers at Douglas, including the porters, conductors, brakemen, firemen, and engineers that ran the trains. Thomas Babington McCauley was one of those locomotive engineers.

Thomas Babington McCauley, Engineer on the Georgia & Florida Railroad

Thomas Babington McCauley (1878-1948), Engineer on the Georgia & Florida Railroad.

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Thomas Babington McCauley, Sr., engineer for the Georgia & Florida Railroad

Thomas Babington McCauley, Sr., engineer for the Georgia & Florida Railroad

Thomas Babington McCauley was born on the 4th of July, 1878 in Wilkes County, GA and raised on his father’s farms in Wilkes and Taliferro counties. He was a son of Elijah H. McCauley and Elizabeth S. Beck. His father was a farmer and served as U.S. Postmaster at Robinson, GA.

Thomas B. McCauley’s father died in 1906.  In 1907 he married Carrie Mae Fouts.  McCauley and his brother-in-law, Furman Fouts, went to work as railroad engineers on the newly opened Georgia & Florida Railroad.  By 1910, they both moved to Douglas, GA where the G&F rail yard was located. Both the McCauleys and the Fouts rented houses  on Madison Avenue in Douglas, in a neighborhood full of railroad workers.

Georgia & Florida Engine No. 208 at Douglas. GA in 1948

Georgia & Florida Engine No. 208 photographed at Douglas, GA in 1948

Other locomotive engineers in Douglas, GA in 1910 were John Stewart, Pat Sellers, William C. McKinley, Hiram Handcock, Henry Handcock, John M. Chatman, Theodore Steinecke, John Rolison, Mitchell Drew, James P. Meade, Arthur Sikes, Thomas R. Sykes, Spencer H. Strickland Remer Brown, John C. Tucker, —- Fullerton, Riley B. Sweat, Thomas B. Folsom, William H. Edenfeld, Albert W. Johnson, Calvin Yawn, John E. Yawn.

Working at locomotive fireman were  Thomas Ford, Julius Burton, Ben Jackson, Will Mahorn, Jim Reeves, John Wesley, Thomas McLeod, William H. Dies, Dave Wilcox, Augustus Allen, Joe Button, Milton Thorn, Alvin Lee, Henry Jones and George Kings.

Watt Dishman, John English, George Williams, Jeff Caloway, Tom Thomas, Willie Johnson and Thomas Burel worked at brakeman.

The railroad conductors were John Coleman, Sam Barber, John Rowland, Charlie H. Vaugh, and John H. Renfroe, Jesse Kennedy, Lewis Odum, Earnest E Graybill, Hardee Slaughter, John F. Touchton, Roscoe G. Lufter, Willie B. Lee, Albert M. Barrett and Floyd Mainor.

Thomas Dumes and Fred Brown were railroad porters.

By 1920, Tom McCauley had moved his family some 40 miles up the track of the G&F to Vidalia, GA where he continued as a locomotive engineer for the railroad. The McCauleys rented a house in Vidalia on Church Street about two blocks from the train station.    “Vidalia was an important railroad hub…. With the addition of the Georgia and Florida Line in 1917, the city had five railroads running through it (tracks ran in seven different directions). In 1917, direct lines were available “in busy season” to Savannah, Macon, Augusta, and Florida’s cities, with 10 to 14 passenger trains scheduled daily. In addition, some 500 cars of freight were handled each day. Railroad structures included Union Station passenger depot, two freight depots, coal chute and water tank that supplied fuel and steam power for the many locomotives and a train car service turntable.

 

Vidalia's Union Station, built in 1912-13 at the junction of the tracks of the Georgia &amp; Florida Railroad (right) and Seaboard Air Line Railway (left). Located at the far western edge of Railroad Avenue, facing the bisected block of Leader and Main streets, the brick passenger depot (Union Station) was a fish hook-shaped building dominated by its two-story corner tower with bellcast conical roof. It also featured a Ludowici tile roof, dormer windows, and wide overhanging eaves with brackets. The water tower, which was the tallest structure in the area for nearly forty years, stood almost directly in front of Union Station. The tank's swivelling hoses pivoted almost 360 degrees, enabling trains to be serviced from either side of the structure. East of Union Station along Railroad Avenue was the first freight depot. Image source: https://railga.com/Depots/vidalia.html

Vidalia Union Station, built in 1912-13 at the junction of the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad (right) and Seaboard Air Line Railway (left). Located at the far western edge of Railroad Avenue, facing the bisected block of Leader and Main streets, the brick passenger depot (Union Station) was a fish hook-shaped building dominated by its two-story corner tower with bellcast conical roof. It also featured a Ludowici tile roof, dormer windows, and wide overhanging eaves with brackets. The water tower, which was the tallest structure in the area for nearly forty years, stood almost directly in front of Union Station. The tank’s swivelling hoses pivoted almost 360 degrees, enabling trains to be serviced from either side of the structure. East of Union Station along Railroad Avenue was the first freight depot. Image source: https://railga.com/Depots/vidalia.html

 

Railroad Engineer Thomas Babington McCauley and children, Harvey McCauley, Jeanette McCauley, Marion McCauley, and Thomas Jr., on a Georgia & Florida Railroad locomotive, probably photographed 1919 or early  1920.

Railroad Engineer Thomas Babington McCauley and children, Harvey McCauley, Jeanette McCauley, Marion McCauley, and Thomas Jr., on a Georgia & Florida Railroad locomotive, probably photographed 1919 or early  1920.

Sadly, Harvey McCauley died shortly after the above photograph was taken.

By 1922 Tom McCauley transferred again on the Georgia & Florida route, to Augusta, GA where he would remain the rest of his life.

On the afternoon of October 28, 1922, Tom McCauley and his fireman, Augustus Harvey Green, survived the derailment of their G&F locomotive.   The Atlanta Constitution briefly noted the wreck in the Sunday edition, October 29, 1922, with some minor errors in the reporting.

Atlanta Constitution reports engineer Tom McCauley is injured in train derailment on the Georgia &amp; Florida Railroad.

Atlanta Constitution reports engineer Tom McCauley is injured in train derailment on the Georgia & Florida Railroad.

Atlanta Constitution
October 29, 1922

Engineer Hurt As Locomotive And Car Derail

Augusta, Ga., Oct 28. – (Special.) – Engineer T. B. McCauley, of Sandersville, was seriously injured when his engine and baggage car of Georgia and Florida passenger train No. 2, bound for Augusta, derailed two miles out of Mitchel this afternoon. Both of his feet were severely mashed and he received internal injuries. He was taken to the Sandersville hospital. The negro fireman, Harvey Green, of Augusta, was internally injured.

The G&F wreck was reported in more detail in the Constitution’s follow-up story on Monday, October 30, 1922

Atlanta Constitution reports 1922 train wreck on Georgia & Florida Railroad

Atlanta Constitution reports 1922 train wreck on Georgia & Florida Railroad

Atlanta Constitution
October 29, 1922

Hurt in Wreck, Engineer Better

McCauley Loses Five Toes When Passenger Locomotive Turns Over Near Mitchell, GA.

        Sandersville, Ga., October 29.- (Special.)- Engineer Tom McCauley, of Augusta, who was injured on the Georgia & Florida near Mitchell Saturday afternoon when his engine turned over, was reported out of danger at the sanitarium here Sunday night.
        McCauley was at the throttle of passenger train No. 2 from Tennille to Keysville, running half an hour late, one-half mile north of Mitchell, while running about 20 miles an hour going around a curve on a crossing, the pony truck jumped the track on an accumulation of sand. The driving wheels followed and the locomotive turned over almost squarely across the track.
        McCauley’s right foot was crushed, making it necessary for local surgeons to amputate five toes. He was also slightly scalded but not internally injured, as first reported. No passengers were injured. The negro fireman, Harvey Green, of Tennille, on of the oldest in service of this road, received a dislocated shoulder and severe bruises.
         The engine was literally demolished, the boiler being stripped clean with exception of wheels. The baggage car was derailed but did not turn over, and the first class coach remained on the rails. Several hundred people gathered at the scene of the wreck today to see the wrecker clean up the debris.
       Trains were able to pass at noon and normal traffic restored. The Georgia and Florida secured the C. & W. C. wrecker and its crew from Augusta, rather than delay waiting on their equipment at Douglas.

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Thomas Babington McCauley and family. Tom Babington was a locomotive engineer for the Georgia & Florida Railroad. His right foot was maimed in a train derailment.

Thomas Babington McCauley and family. Tom Babington was a locomotive engineer for the Georgia & Florida Railroad. His right foot was maimed in a train derailment.

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Georgia &amp; Florida Railroad Card belonging to wife of retired railroad engineer Thomas Babington McCauley

Georgia & Florida Railroad Card belonging to wife of retired railroad engineer Thomas Babington McCauley

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Carrie McCauley, wife of railroad engineer Tom McCauley

Carrie McCauley, wife of railroad engineer Tom McCauley

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Berrien Minute Men and the Shoupades

During the summer of 1864, the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia volunteer Regiment participated in the last defense of Atlanta following the retreat from Kennesaw Mountain. On July 4, 1864 they were in the line of battle at Marietta, GA. After withdrawing in the middle of the night ,  the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men were made on July 5 at a new defensive line on the the Chattahoochee River.

The actions of the Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate infantry raised in Berrien County, GA by Ray City settler, General Levi J. Knight, are documented in part in the Civil War letters of John William Hagan.  In a lettter to his wife, Hagan wrote about the Confederate retreat to the Chattahoochee and his confidence in the defensive works of General Joseph E. Johnston’s River Line.   These earthwork fortifications along the north bank of the Chattahoochee, some of the most elaborate field fortifications of the Civil War, were constructed under the direction of Artillery Commander, Brig. General Francis A. Shoup.

 

Battle Field near Chattahoochee River Ga
July 7th 1864

My Dear Amanda
I this morning write you a short letter in answer to yours jest receved dated July 2nd. This leaves E. W. and myself in fair health. I have nothing of enterest to write you. We are now in line of battle near the river I recon we are about 13 miles from Atlanta. I wrote to James on the morning of the 4th & at 1 or 2 Oclock on the night of the 4th we retreated to this place. Here we have got splendid works & can make a splended fight, if the yanks will only attack us in our works I do not know wheather Gen Johnston intends to make this a perminint stand. Our lines runs to the river on the left & across the river on the right. I do not know how long the line is but it is tolerabley lenghtty. I am told that we will have some reinforcements in a few days & according to the yankee accounts we can handle them much better than we could have handled them at Dalton. The yankees acknowledge a loss of 45 thousand in kiled wounded missing & sickened & sent away since the left Dalton & by puting our loss at high figurs our loss in evry way will not exceed ten thousand, so you see they are weaker 45,000 & we are weaker only 10,000, & since we reached this place we have got the malistia of Ga which is 10,000 effective men & Ala is ordered to send her malitia forward at once which will add to our strength 8 or 10 thousand more. So I think we will be able to handle them very well &c. We are glad to know you are going to send us something to eat not that we are suffering but we want something besides cornbread & bacon. You must send us a bottle or two of syrup & be careful to pack the box well & stop the bottles well also. You must not send us any cloths. Jest send us a box of something to eat by D. P. McDowell if you get this in time to do so. You must make us some rich cakes & if you have any honey we would like to have a little bottle of it. Cousin D. P. McDowell to bring the box through as soon as posable so that the tricks will not spoil. You must have the box well bound & nailed up well. You must excuse this short letter & write us a long one. Nothing more E.W. sends his love to all. I am as ever yours affectsionately

J. W. H.

Remnants of the Confederate earthworks at the Chattahoochee River Line  still exist today and can be viewed at Shoupade Park.  “Shoupade” was a term coined by Gustavus Woodson Smith,  Major General of the Georgia state militia, who remarked that the design would make Shoup famous.

 

Shoupade

Shoupade

According to the Civil War Trust,

On the night of July 4-5, the Confederates marched back to a line that once again had already been prepared. Two weeks earlier, when the army was at Kennesaw, work had begun under the direction of Joseph E. Johnston’s chief of artillery, Brig. Gen. Francis A. Shoup. According to Shoup, Johnston had told him “it was but a question of time, and that a short time” before the army would retreat across the Chattahoochee River. Chagrined, Shoup asked whether he might supervise construction of fortifications on the north bank of the river at the railroad bridge. Johnston, eager for anything that would delay his inevitable retreat across the Chattahoochee, agreed. Thereupon Shoup directed the army’s engineers and hundreds of slaves in tree-cutting, digging, building log-and-earth infantry forts. There were some three dozen of these “Shoupades” (Gen. G.W. Smith’s term), which were connected by log palisades for more infantry and studded with artillery redans, all arced in an almost six-mile line around where the Western & Atlantic Railroad bridge crossed the river near Peachtree Creek. During the night of July 4-5, Johnston’s troops marched into these defenses.

Each shoupade was a log-and-earth fort shaped like an arrowhead pointed at the enemy. The outside walls were almost vertical, built with logs laid horizontally up to a height of sixteen feet. Dirt ten to twelve feet thick was packed in between the outer and inner log walls. Inside was a banquette, or firing platform, for infantry. Each fort was intended to be manned by 80 riflemen. The 36 shoupades were built 60 to 175 yards apart. Between them was constructed earthen redans for artillery, two guns in each. Log stockades eight feet high connected shoupades and redans. The key defensive element, to Shoup, was that shoupades and redans were placed so that troops in each position could pour enfilading fire toward the next, all the way down the line.

 

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The “Valdosta Special” opened Georgia & Florida Railroad, October 1, 1908

Georgia & Florida Railroad

The Section Foreman in Ray City was Cauley May.

EXCURSION TO OPEN RAILROAD - The "Valdosta Special" came through Ray City October 1, 1908 to open the main line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The picture was made in Nashville, GA, showing passengers to first ride the new line.

EXCURSION TO OPEN RAILROAD – The “Valdosta Special” came through Ray City October 1, 1908 to open the main line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The picture was made in Nashville, GA, showing passengers to first ride the new line.

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Georgia & Florida Railroad No. 100 passenger car

Georgia & Florida Railroad No. 100 passenger car

Georgia and Florida Railroad, January, 1955. Wendell and Necie Rogers with Engine 507 at the Nashville, GA depot. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Georgia and Florida Railroad, January, 1955. Wendell and Necie Rogers with Engine 507 at the Nashville, GA depot. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

 

T.J. Sutton and Ed Benton with Georgia and Florida Railroad Engine No. 507 at the depot in Nashville, GA, March 24, 1955. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

T.J. Sutton and Ed Benton with Georgia and Florida Railroad Engine No. 507 at the depot in Nashville, GA, March 24, 1955. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Nashville Herald
Thursday, February 16, 1956

Main Line of Ga. & Fla. Railroad Opened in 1908.

          The Georgia & Florida Railroad (now Railway) is a part of the rich history of this section of Georgia, and in a large measure has contributed to the growth and expansion of Berrien County, and the counties adjacent.
      This railroad furnished a more stable means of transportation than was available in the early days, despite the multiplicity of small log lines.

Organized in 1906
         The Georgia & Florida was organized by Mr. John Skelton Williams in 1906 and at that time consisted of the following roads:
         The Augusta and Florida Railroad, 49 miles in length from Keysville to Swainsboro.
         The Millen & Southwestern Railroad of 42 miles between Millen and Vidalia.
         The Douglas, Augusta & Gulf Railroad, 76 miles between Hazlehurst and Nashville, via Broxton.
         The Nashville & Sparks Railroad twelve miles from Nashville to Sparks, GA.
         The Sparks Western twenty miles of log road between Sparks and Kingwood.

No Shops

         None of the roads had any shops except the Millen & Southwestern, other than a pair of heavy jacks and such hand tools as were needed in doing the general repair work in the operation of trains.
         The rolling stock was an odd assortment of all sorts of engines, a few log cars, a few box cars and two to four passengers cars.
         Out of this hodge podge assortment of rail lines and equipment the work of creating a going railroad business was started.
         Financial conditions of the railway became critical in 1913 and on March 27, 1915, receivers were appointed, which receivership continued until January 1, 1927 when the Georgia & Florida Railway was sold and deeded to The Georgia & Florida Railroad. Due to disastrous floods and heavy costs the Railroad again was ordered into receivership by the District Court of the United States.
         Despite it’s financial troubles the receivers have done a good job of increasing the rolling stock, installing Diesel engines, etc. and the road now ships the largest percentage of tobacco, turpentine and watermelons than any other road of it’s size.

Nashville Proud of G. & F.

         The Georgia & Florida Railroad continues to be well thought of in Berrien county and Nashville. For Nashville it is the only surviving rail link to the outside world, though passenger and mail service have long since been discontinued.
        The road serves as the principal freight hauler of merchandise and manufactured goods. Since the coming of the Tobacco Market it has to be especially valuable, and goes all out to give service to it’s patrons.
        It’s contributions to the growth of the section through which it traverses have been great, and though at times the railroad itself was in financial jam, there has been no movement that would develop this part of Georgia but the Georgia & Florida railroad could be depended upon to do it’s part.
         The first tobacco market in Georgia was on the Georgia & Florida railroad in 1917, when the farmers as well as railroads were asking for a market. A meeting of business men was held at Douglas and in just one hour the capital was subscribed. When the season opened in the late summer, the Red Warehouse with a floor space of 90×140 was doing business on the Georgia & Florida. The first tobacco was sold for 20 cents per pound, but today tobacco is gold in Georgia.

Georgia and Florida Railroad

Georgia and Florida Railroad

Aubrey Sizemore

During WWII, Aubrey Sizemore served in the US Navy. Before the War he worked for Harveys Supermarket in Nashville, GA driving a “rolling store” on a route that served rural customers of Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Aubrey Sizemore, Mount Paron Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Alapaha, GA

Grave marker of Aubrey Sizemore, Mount Paron Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Alapaha, GA

Aubrey Sizemore and Maude Griner

Aubrey Sizemore and Maude Griner

Aubrey Sizemore in Navy Uniform

Aubrey Sizemore in Navy Uniform

Aubrey Sizemore - USNR

Aubrey Sizemore – USNR

John Guthrie Tells Story of Berrien Tiger

John Guthrie, folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA relates the story of the Berrien Tiger.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985) , folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985) , folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

The legendary Berrien Tiger was a large panther that attacked two Wiregrass victims in 1849, before the creation of Berrien county, GA.  Guthrie was a nephew of Hamp Guthrie, who was mauled by the big cat, and grandson of Martha Newbern Guthrie, who was an eyewitness.

John Elwood Guthrie was a son of Arren H. Guthrie and Elizabeth Lucinda “Lucy” Newbern Guthrie.  He moved with his family to Ray City in 1922 and attended the Ray City School. He and his parents and siblings resided on the the farm of his sister, Effie Guthrie Knight on Park Street.  As a boy he attended the Primitive Baptist Church but later attended the Ray City Methodist Church.  He married Madge Sellers and they made their home on North Street in Ray City.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985)
Ray City, Georgia,
August 20, 1977

I was borned out on the Alapaha River.

You want me to tell you a little story about the Alapaha River?

OK. Now, believe it or not, now…if you want do a little research you can go back and find this story.

Now my grandmother…she was about ninety year old when she first began to come to our house. She’d sit in a rockin’ chair and all of us kids would gather up around her, and she would begin to tell us stories about the Civil War and things that happened back during that time.

Here’s a story…now you can believe it or not. Now, it did appear in the Valdosta paper, the Valdosta Times, and also in the Berrien Press. If you want to do a little research you can look it up. But, it happened.

A young boy back in those days, he went down on the Alapaha River a lookin’ for some hogs down there at was lost. And whiles he was down there they was some animal. Now, they said it was a tiger – now you can believe it or not – they said it was a tiger. But it appeared, now, in both these papers. They said it was a tiger.

He jumped on this boy’s back, and he clawed him up, and bit ‘im, and he thought he had killed ‘im. And he tried to drag ‘im back in the river swamps down there. But he’s too heavy. He couldn’t carry ‘im. Instead, he covered ‘im up with leaves. Covered ‘im up with leaves.

So this boy, when he came concious again, he was almost dead, but he got back ta house an he told his brothers and sisters and his parents an’ everything about it. Well, they formed a search party and they went down there lookin’ for this animal. They had their dogs, and their guns, and everything. That’s on Alapaha River, now, right over here.

When they got down to the swamp, the dogs, the first thing, they began to bark, you know, and run all down the river swamps. Well, it wasn’t very long before all them dogs came back, and their hair was standin’ right straight up on their backs, up there, and they just whimperin’, the dogs.

So, the men decided they’d go down there an’ see what had happened. Well, they went down there, and an ol’ uncle o’ mine, his name was Hamp -now, this is history, now if you don’t believe it you can go back and search. His name was Hamp.  And, he was a little bit behind all the rest. Well, this animal, whatever it was, jumped on his back. Jumped on his back and he began to claw ‘im an’ bite ‘im, an’ almost killed ‘im.

Some of the rest of the fellas in the search party looked around back there, and they saw what was happenin’ and they had a gun and they just shot whatever it was, if it was a tiger or whatever it was. They shot ‘im and killed ‘im. And when they killed ‘im, they had to pull his claws out of Uncle Hamp’s back, back there.

Now, this is history, now if you won’t believe it, all right. If you don’t, you can go back an’ search the records, and that’s part of the history.

Adler, T. A. & Guthrie, J. (1977) John Guthrie tells stories and plays guitar, Ray City, Georgia. Ray City, Georgia. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/afc1982010_afs20900/ .

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Lucious Norman Gillham

Lucious Norman Gillham was a veteran of World War II and came to Ray City, GA with his wife after the war. He was born in Jackson County, GA on January 5, 1908, a son of George Washington Gillham and Estelle Mae Gillham.

Lucious N. Gillham enlisted April 24, 1943 at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA.  At the time of enlistment he was living in Fulton County, GA, and was employed as a textile mill worker.  His father and older siblings had all been mill workers at the Porterdale Mill at Newton County, GA since before 1920s.  Lucious was only educated through the 5th grade, after which he left school to take up work. After the death of his father in 1925, Lucious went to work at a textile mill in Varennes, SC but by 1935 he was back at the Porterdale Mill working as a doffer.

Porterdale Mill belonged to the Bibb Manufacturing Company,  one of the largest employers in the state.  “The City of Porterdale is located 35 miles east of Atlanta on the Yellow River in Newton County, Georgia.  In 1899 the Bibb Manufacturing Company built a twine mill on the river and named it Porterdale Mill after a founder of the community, Oliver Porter.  The community of mill homes attracted workers looking for jobs and a better life.”

Porterdale Mill, Georgia

Porterdale Mill, Georgia

People came from all over the state to work in the Porterdale mill.  Among the many workers enumerated at Porterdale in the 1940 census  were Pasco Olandro Hall, of Ray City, GA; Tom Sirmans Jones, of Nashville, GA;  Grady Bloodworth, from the upper 10th District of Berrien County; Jesse Franklin Bennett of Adel, GA; Lois, Jessie Mae, James and Elmer Black, four teenage siblings from Lowndes County, GA.  One wonders if Lucious Gillham and the mill workers from South Georgia knew each other, and if their association later influenced Lucious to come to Ray City. At any rate, Lucious  and Jeanette Gillham moved about 1947 to Ray City,  where for 18 years they worked a farm on Route 1.

Lucious Gillham died on May 28, 1965 and was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.  His obituary appeared in the Nashville Herald.

 

Obituary of Lucious Norman Gillham, of Ray City, GA

Obituary of Lucious Norman Gillham, of Ray City, GA

Nashville Herald
June 3, 1965

Lucious Gillham Dies On Friday Morning

        Lucious N. Gillham, who made his home on Route One, Ray City, and was for the past eighteen years a resident of that area, succumbed to a lengthy illness early Friday morning, May 28. Mr. Gillham was confined to Berrien County Hospital at the time of his passing.
        Born on January 5, 1908, the deceased was 57 years of age.  A native Georgian, he was the son of the late George W. and Stella Mae Lowrey Gillham. He was married on December 31, 1935 to the former Miss Jeanette Dorsey, by whom he is survived. Mr. Gillham saw service in the United States Army during World War II, and before declining health curtailed his activity he was a farmer.
        Funeral services were conducted from the Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church at 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, May 30, with Elder Howard Weaver officiating. In accordance with Primitive Baptist doctrine, an unaccompanied choir sang three time-honored hymns of consolation, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, and In the Sweet Bye and Bye. Laid to rest in the churchyard cemetery, Mr. Gillham was accompanied to his place of last repose by a cortege of military men from nearby Moody Air Force Base.
        Besides his widow, Mr. Gillham leaves three sisters, Mrs. Doris Dix, of Griffin, and Mrs. Mildred West and Mrs. Beatrice Goode, both of Douglasville. There are also a number of nices and nephews.
       All details were completed under the direction of Lovein Funeral Home.

 

 

Grave of Lucious N. Gillham and Jeanette Dorsey Gillham, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA

Grave of Lucious N. Gillham and Jeanette Dorsey Gillham, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA

Harveys Supermarket Served Rural Residents with Rolling Stores

In the 1940s Aubrey Sizemore, of Nashville, GA, worked as a truck driver and salesman on a “rolling store” for Harveys Supermarket.

Aubrey Sizemore

Aubrey Sizemore (1910-1974)

Census records show that Aubrey Sizemore worked as a grocery salesman during that time period.  At the time of enumeration he was living with his wife, Maude Griner, and sons, Joe Sizemore and Bobby Sizemore in Nashville, GA. Also residing in the Sizemore household was his mother-in-law, Sarah Griner.

The 1940 census enumeration of Aubrey Sizemore confirms he worked as a grocery salesman.

The 1940 census enumeration of Aubrey Sizemore shows he worked as a grocery salesman.

Family members recall that Aubrey Sizemore drove a rolling store for Harveys Supermarket.

Harveys Supermarket, Nashville, GA. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.org

Harveys Supermarket, Nashville, GA. In addition to the location in Nashville, Harveys served rural residents with “rolling stores.” Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.org

The Harveys Supermarket chain was founded by J. M. and Iris Harvey in Nashville, GA in 1924. Their son, Joe H. Harvey, took over the chain in 1950.  The rolling stores served rural residents all over the area, including the families residing in the Ray City area.

Harveys Supermarket once operated a fleet of "rolling stores" - trucks that brought groceries and dry goods to shoppers in rural areas.

The Harveys Fleet
Harveys Supermarket once operated a fleet of “rolling stores” – trucks that brought groceries and dry goods to shoppers in rural areas.

The Rolling Store, once a celebrated fixture in town and country alike, has also been a victim of these dramatically changing times.

A rolling store is exactly what its name suggests.  Although mobile vendors have existed since well before the nation’s founding, these vendors were limited by the distance their horses or feet could carry them. That changed with the spread of the diesel engine in the early 20th century. Rural families who lacked access to these mechanized forms of rapid transportation could still only make it into town maybe three or four times in an entire year to do their essential shopping, but now the store could come to them, often in the form of a brightly painted truck or retrofitted bus that would stop at the same places at the same time each week.

Everything was available from a rolling store’s efficiently stocked shelves: fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, canned goods, wheat flour, lard, kerosene and tools, pre-made underwear, overalls, shirts. Come early Spring, the trucks would be stocked with Easter dresses for little girls, and come autumn, that same shelf space would be filled with school supplies for the new academic year. Even with their hodge-podge of goods, these moving stores could easily sell out of everything each time they hit the country roads, which could amount to some 9,000 to 10,000 pounds of goods in a single day.  — Time Magazine

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In Berrien County, GA Aubrey Sizemore drove a daily route of 50 miles or more, stopping at houses all along the way. Many of these people didn’t have any way of getting to town unless they walked. He would slow and blow the horn and people came running out.  He would stop and let up the sides of the truck where you could see in to see the merchandise. 

The children came running for the penny candy the rolling store carried. They sold little syrup candies wrapped in wax paper.  The chewy candy was made from sugar cane and had a distinct taste. 

Some of the women would ask for goods and if the driver didn’t have them on the rolling truck he would bring them on the next round.

If you had something you wanted to barter, if you had a chicken, or eggs, or butter you could trade out for goods or for a “due bill” – a promissory note you could use for store credit at Harveys store in Nashville or from the rolling store. 

The Harveys rolling store had groceries and some dry goods.  You could buy needle and thread and other sewing supplies. You could buy yard goods – cloth – in three yard bundles.  A woman could make a dress from three yards.  Anything Harveys had in their store in Nashville you could find on the rolling store.   – Sizemore Recollections

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Many a rolling store’s motto was also “We Buy Anything, We sell Everything,” meaning rural families could also barter with the store, trading “eggs, chickens and pecans” for items like flour, shoes, or chewing tobacco. As a result, in addition to the children’s joyful cries of “Here it comes! Here it comes!” and the honking of the store’s horn, a municipality could often tell if a rolling store was on its way by the cacophony of squawking emanating from the overloaded chicken coops on the top or back of the truck. (This bartering policy also meant that many a child raided their family’s chicken house the morning of the rolling store’s scheduled arrival for an egg or two to exchange for a stick of gum or a piece of candy.)  While those who grew up running to greet the drivers of rolling stores remember these enterprises with great fondness, these endeavors could not withstand the rise of the personal automobile. – Time Magazine

 

During WWII, Aubrey Sizemore entered the US Navy.

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Ray City Christmas 1959

Rossie Futch celebrates Christmas 1959 with his grand daughter Lee, and her new baby doll.

Rossie Futch and his granddaughter on Christmas Day, 1959 at Tallahassee, FL

Rossie Futch and his granddaughter on Christmas Day, 1959.

Rossie Futch (1899-1968) was a native of Berrien County and a resident of Ray City, GA for 50 years.  His second wife was Lessie Guthrie Miley.  After 1950, the Futch Residence was at 406 J0nes Street (now 507 Jones Street).

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Ray City, GA ~ Town is Smaller Now

A sign on the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad indicates the town of Ray City, GA to passing trains. The trains no longer stop at Ray City, although the town once had a bustling depot.

ray-city-ga_old-news-clipping

Times Union
1978

Ray City
The town is smaller now, but folks are coming back home

RAY CITY, Ga. – Before the turn of the century there were more than 27 businesses, five doctors, a pharmacy, corn mill, sawmill and several thousand people.

Ray City has changed.

The town now has a population of 725. What remains are a few stores and churches, the remnants of the corn mill – now a restaurant and fish camp – and Victory Soda Shop and General Store, where people meet to exchange news and gossip.

Billy Clements, owner of The Victory and long-time Ray City resident, said the closing of the sawmill and the Depression drove most of the people away, but old residents are “gradually creeping back.”

People come from all over to listen to John Guthrie play his guitar or just talk.
“I could talk all day about music, Guthrie said.

Guthrie teaches music to anyone who wants to learn, and musicians from all over the country meet in Ray City for jam sessions.

Lamar Booth, who runs the fish camp, points out that the Old Mill Pond draws a number of out-of-town fishermen during the summer. The lake is more than a mile wide but only 5 to 7 feet deep.

Booth’s mother, Mrs. Ann Campbell, owns a cafe, which is the main attraction at the pond. People say she serves the best fish dinners in the area.

The original post office and general store were at the lake during the late 1800s, and the corn mill (it opened in 1863) was once the heart of Ray City’s economy.

The town limits form a one-mile circle, located on Highway 37, 15 miles east of Adel between Nashville and Valdosta.

Farming is the main occupation in Ray City now, though many of the town’s people travel to Valdosta, Adel, Lakeland and Nashville for work, according to Mrs. Don Wilson, the town clerk said. Many residents also own or work in local businesses, she said.

Clements said there is not much for people to do after work except hunt or fish and many young people go to other places for entertainment.

He said he likes it there, because “people care for each other and pitch in and help each other when they need it, like a big family.”

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