Mrs. Thomas Studstill ~ Obituary, 1909

See more Ray City History at

Atlanta Georgian and News, Jul. 31, 1909 — page 16
Mrs. Thomas Studstill.
Milltown, Ga., July 31. — The body of Mrs. Thomas Studstill, who died at her home at Rays Mill Thursday night, after an illness of several days, was brought to this place and interred at Alapaha cemetery. She is survived by several brothers and sisters and a husband and three children.

Levi J. Knight ~ Next Generation

Evidence of the life General Levi J. Knight, earliest settler of Ray City, GA,  is well documented in historical archives.  From the Civil War period,  CSA military documents and newspaper clippings tell of the General’s Berrien County Minute Men. Internet and print histories often relate an interesting passage of command upon the General’s resignation:

“1862-Levi J. Knight resigned a commission as major in the Confederate Army. His son, Levi J. Knight Jr., succeeded to his command.”

But who was this Levi J. Knight, Jr.? Does the historical evidence bear out that he was the son of General Levi J. Knight? The Ray City History Blog will devote the next few posts to the examination of this  question.

Related Posts:

Sarah Knight Gaskins ~ Confederate Widow

Confederate Widows PensionSarah Knight, daughter of Ann D. Clements and General Levi J. Knight,  was born 06 April 6, 1831 in Lowndes, Co., Ga.  Her husband, Gideon Gaskins, died during the Civil War. He was a son of  Polly Barrow and John Gaskins.

On September 19, 1863, Levi J. Knight applied to become guardian of the children of his deceased son-in-law, Gideon Gaskins.  The required legal advertisement ran in the newspapers at Milledgeville, GA then serving as the state capitol.

Milledgeville Confederate Union, Oct. 13, 1863.
GEORGIA Berrien County.
Whereas Levis J. Knight applies for letters of Guardianship of the person and property of the minor heirs of Gidieon Gaskins.
All persons interested will file their objections if any in my office by the first monday in November next orterwise letters will be granted.

     Witnessed my official signature.
H.T. PEEPLES, Ordinary.
Sept. 19th 1963.      Paid $3    19 5t

With the death of her husband, Sallie was left a widow with six children, one a newborn, to raise on her own.

Children of Gideon and Sarah “Sallie” Knight Gaskins:

  1. Polly Ann Gaskins –  born March 10, 1849;   married Daniel J. Jones, September 28, 1863
  2. John Brinson Gaskins – born April 8, 1852;   married Fannie Lankford January 18, 1874
  3. Elizabeth Gaskins –  born June 28, 1854;   died sometime before 1860
  4. Mary Evelyn Gaskins  –  born January 14, 1858;   married George W. Fender, December 29, 1870
  5. Levi J. Gaskins  –  born 18 Nov 1860;   married Mary Strickland,  February 24, 1878
  6. Jonathan Wade Gaskins –  born 28 July 1862;   married Mary Corbett, February 28, 1896

In 1891, Sarah “Sallie” Gaskins applied for and received a Confederate Widow’s Pension of $100.00. Her claim was based on the fact that Gideon Gaskins had died in the army of disease contracted while in the service. Henry Harrison Knight, John G. Knight, and John W. Hagan all signed the affidavit  attesting to the service and good standing of Gideon Gaskins.  She continued to receive the yearly pension payment through her death in 1903.

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John Gaskins ~ Berrien Cattleman

John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distance from today’s Ray City, GA location.

Although the Gaskins were a bit remote from those settlers who homesteaded in the area around Beverdam Creek, they became well connected with the settlement there that grew to become Ray City.

The Gaskins and Knights  came to the area about 1825,  around the time Lowndes County was created by the Georgia Legislature out of parts of Irwin County. The Clements followed about 1832.  Fisher Gaskins, William Clements and William A. Knight, the patriarchs of these families, were all sons of Revolutionary Soldiers, and all experienced in opening new counties.

One son of John Gaskins married Sarah Knight, a daughter of General Levi J. Knight.  Another married a daughter of David G. Clements. (Four of Gaskins’ sons married women of the Sirmans family.) Daughter Emily Gaskins married Joseph Newbern, son of Etheldred Dryden Newbern .

John Gaskins and his brothers, Harmon and William, served in  Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company  in the Indian Wars 1836-1838 and fought at the Battle of Brushy Creek.  At least one of his sons served in Knight’s  Berrien Minutemen  during the Civil War.

The Gaskins were very successful cattlemen of Berrien county (formerly Lowndes). Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote this about Fisher Gaskins:

“When he moved to Florida, he left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

Related articles

1884 Memoriam to the Alapaha Boys of Summer

Home town baseball was in play in Berrien County at least as early as 1884 when this farewell to the Alapaha, GA team was published. Not every small town could sustain a team.

The Berrien county News publishes the following in memoriam of the Alapaha baseball club: The Alapaha baseball club has about played out.  In its short existence of three months it never played a game without being defeated.

“None knew it but to beat it,
None named it but to laugh,
It tried the county Sumner,
And made exactly half”

as many runs as these mighty champions of the diamond.  This was the last game of the noble Alapahas. Striking their bats in the ground and pitching their balls to the winds, they exclaimed in the language of the hunted Cherokees, “Alabama -here we rest.”

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More on John F. Studstill ~ Ray City Fugitive

Following up on an earlier post on John F. Studstill’s flight from justice at Ray City, GA.

The Pensacola journal. (Pensacola, Fla.) May 30, 1909 Section 2, Page 10




     Detective Tucker reached here Thursday with John F Studstill from Bowling Green Fla where he arrested him Sunday morning while Studstill was on a visit to his uncle says a special from Milltown, Ga.
     Detective Tucker had a minute description of Studstill and was on the lookout for him.  Early Sunday morning Studstill came out of his uncle’s house with the intention of going up town when Detective Tucker stepped up and told him that he had a warrant for him from Arkansas. Studstill signified his willingness to go back with the detective as he told him that the charge that they had against him was small and he was satisfied that he could satisfy the banks there by returning their money and they would release him.
     Detective Tucker and Studstill reached the home of his father yesterday and spent the day with the  home folk before beginning their journey to Ashdown, Ark.
     Sheriff Avera learned that Studstill was in the county and drove down from Nashville to pick him up on a  warrant that he had from Sparks but found that he was in the hands of Detective Tucker. The sheriff went back without his man.

Tells of His Operations
      Sheriff Avera had quite a long talk with Studstill. He said Studstill did not appear to be worried and talked freely of how he was treated in Ashdown. Studstill said that he went out there and let it be known that he was In search of a farm. He Was taken In charge by the president of one of the banks and was driven over the country in the president’s automobile. He made the presidents home his home and finally bought the farm drawing a draft on the Bank of Milltown covering the purchase price.

     Studstill told him about going to Macon and of the deal that he tried to make there for an automobile in which be offered in payment one of the certificates secured from the Ashdown bank.  He said that the dealer wouldnt indorse the certificate but offered to send Studstill to Sparks in the machine and collect for it there.       

     Studstill told the sheriff that he went to Valdosta immediately after trying to make the change of the certificate with the automobile dealer.  He stated that he got off the blind side of the passenger train at Valdosta and walked to his father’s home here. He stayed here with his father two or three days and left for his uncle’s home in Florida where he was finally captured.

Kate Nobles ~ Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle

In 2006 during the remodeling of the house at 507 Jones street, Ray City, Georgia a small cache of sooty, crumbling documents were retrieved from where they had fallen behind the fireplace mantel.  Among these items was a 1917 form letter from Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle, addressed to Kate Fountain Nobles, wife of Jasper Nobles. 

Woodmen of the World Aug 1917 notification of non-payment of "grove assessment" addressed to Kate Nobles.


According to Dr. David Beito, Professor of History at the University of Alabama,  fraternal organizations were among the largest organizations of any type in late 19th and early 20th century America.  By some estimates nearly one out of every three American men belonged to a fraternal organization in 1910. There were fraternal organizations for every ethnic and religious group in American.  

At that time, Woodmen of the World and its sister organization Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle were fraternal insurance organizations that particularly appealed to white, native born Americans. Both organizations were national fraternal insurance organizations founded by Joseph Cullen Root.  

Beito writes: 

“A notable accomplishment of fraternal orders was to spread life insurance among the masses. Between 1890 and 1910, the number of people belonging to societies offering death benefits increased from 1.3 million to 8.5 million. By the end of this period, fraternal policies represented nearly half the value of all life insurance.” 

“A key reason for the strength of fraternal networks of trust and cooperation was a shared code of values among the members. Although the details varied, nearly all societies trumpeted the virtues of thrift, self-reliance, reciprocity, self-government, and civility. Taken together, these and related ideals constituted a kind of fraternal consensus.” 

 The distinctive headstones of Woodmen of the World members in local cemeteries are public testimonies to the historical presence of  fraternal organizations in Ray City and Berrien County, GA.   Documents like the one above attest that at least some Ray City,GA women were members of these organizations as well. 

For more on Ray City History and the Nobles Family, see 

For more on the impact of fraternal organizations in America, read:

To Advance the “Practice of Thrift and Economy”: Fraternal Societies and Social Capital, 1890-1920
David T. Beito
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 29, No. 4, Patterns of Social Capital: Stability and Change

Jasper Nobles ~ Ticket to the Past

In 2006 during the remodeling of the house at 507 Jones street, Ray City, Georgia a small cache of sooty, crumbling documents were retrieved from where they had fallen behind the fireplace mantel. 

Among these items was the booklet cover of a ticket on the Atlantic Coastline Rail Road issued October 20, 1918 for  Jasper Nobles.

See additional images and Ray City, GA history at

Theodocia "Docia" Rigell Parrish (1865-1942)

Theodocia “Docia” Rigell Parrish (1865-1942)

Grave of Docia Rigell Parrish, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave of Docia Rigell Parrish, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Theodocia “Docia” Rigell was born September 26, 1865 in Clinch Co. Georgia.

She married Aaron A. Parrish February 14, 1883 in Berrien Co. Georgia, son of Matthew Parrish and Sarah Giddens. He was born February 10, 1856 in Lowndes Co. Georgia, and died November 11, 1890.

Docia’s brother, David Rigell, opened one of the earliest stores in the Ray’s Mill, Georgia area.

Docia Parrish died January 15, 1942. She was buried in Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

See more about Docia Parrish and Ray City, GA history see

Ray City plays 4 H basketball

In 2006 during the remodeling of a house at 507 Jones street, Ray City, Georgia a small cache of sooty, crumbling documents were retrieved from where they had fallen behind the fireplace mantel. These documents included receipts, letters, postcards, playing cards and photographs, among other things.

One item was a 1931 letter from the county agricultural agent Donald L. Branyon to the boys of the 4-H Club.  The letter refers to a Nashville, GA basketball tournament featuring the team from Ray City.

1931  4-H letter.

Transcript added 12 July 2010:

Nashville, Georgia
March 17, 1931

Dear Club Boys:
Spring is here and it’s time for the acres of corn and cotton to be prepared and planted. The Club pigs should be fed and cared for religiously and the chicks hatched. In short, whatever your Club project is, get busy and do your best.

On Friday night, March 20th, there will be a 4-H basketball tournament at the Shell in Nashville.  Alapaha, Ray City, Nashville Grammar School and Enigma will play. You Club boys are cordially invited to attend these games, which are free.

Trusting that you are doing your best in Club work and asking you to call on me for any help you need, I am

Yours Sincerely,

D.L. Branyon,
County Agricultural Agent.


In the summer of 1931, A number of Ray City youth and some adults attended the 4-H summer courses at Camp Wilkins, UGA. Among the boys attending from Ray City were Bernard Johnson (RCHS 1930), Brown King (RCHS 1930),  Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, Billy McDonald,  James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936).

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