George W. Fender Buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

George W. Fender, subject of yesterday’s post,  farmed in the Ray City area for more than 50 years.   The year of his birth is most frequently given as 1854, and the census records indicate a birth date that ranges from 1854 to 1857.  But his grave marker at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia records a birth date of 1852.

George W. Fender (1852-1934) and Mary Fender (1958-1932), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

George W. Fender (1852-1934) and Mary Fender (1958-1932), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

 

Cassie Lee Hall ~ Woman of Faith

Cassie Lee, a daughter of James Lee and Levina Smith Lee, was born May 1857.  She appears in the Census of 1860 with her parents, living in Berrien County, GA where her father owned a farm near Empire Primitive Baptist Church. Her grandfather, John Levi Lee (1804-1884), owned the farm next door.

During the Civil War, Cassie’s father, James Lee, and her uncles, Jesse Lee and John Lee, all  enlisted for Confederate service.  The three brothers all served in Company  “E”, 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  James Lee served throughout the war until surrender,   was paroled at Thomasville, May 25, 1865, and returned to his Berrien County, GA farm.

About 1869, Cassie Lee joined the Primitive Baptist Church  to which she remained faithful all of her life.

In 1870,  13-year-old Cassie Lee was enumerated in her parents’  household in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district.  Her father continued to farm, and Cassie’s little brother, John H. Lee, assisted with farm labor.  Both Cassie and John H. attended school that year.

On Christmas Eve 1873,  at the age of 16 Cassie Lee married John Lewis Hall  in Berrien County, Ga. He was 15 years old,  a son of Edmund Patrick Hall and Rebecca  Hall. The newlyweds became parents some eight months after taking their vows, with the birth of their first son, Henry Hall,  in  August 1874. The couple had land given by the groom’s father, Edmond P. Hall.  John L. Hall received land in the 10th district lot 448, Lowndes County, Ga..  John worked as a farmer and a blacksmith.

That year, 1874, Cassie’s parents,  James and  Lavina Lee, relocated to the south and were among the first families to settle in Lake County, FL homesteading on what is now Monte Vista Road in Clermont, FL.

Over the next 15 years, the family of John and Cassie Hall continued to grow. In August, 1876 Cassie gave birth to a daughter, Vina Hall.  A son, Robert, was born in November 1880. In 1882, Cassie delivered another girl, Amanda. Two sons followed: Lawrence Cauley Hall on February 20, 1884 and Allen Hall in June 1885.

The following years must have been hard times for the Halls for on March 7, 1889 John L. Hall borrowed against the land he had received from his father in district 10 lot-448, taking out a mortgage on 40 acres with Strickland & Roberts. Still, John Hall’s family grew. In May 1890, Cassie gave birth to their third daughter, Molcie. The Halls also adopted a son, Pasco Olandro Hall, born June 30, 1890 in Rays Mill, Ga.

In the 1890’s, Cassie Hall’s name began appearing in the membership rolls of Old Union Baptist Church (Lanier County), although there is no record of her reception into that church.

On June 19, 1891 John L. Hall again borrowed from Strickland & Roberts against 200 acres he held in District 6 Lot 503.  At some point he also mortgaged 20 acres in District 10 lot 473.

Two daughters rounded out the family, Phoebia, born September 1895, and Georgia, born September 1896.

Children of John Lewis Hall and Cassie Lee

  1. Henry Hall born AUG 1874 in GA, Berrien Co.
  2. Vinie Ellen Hall born ABT 1876 in GA, Berrien County, married William Thomas Gaskins
  3. Robert Hall born NOV 1880 in GA, Berrien Co.
  4. Amanda H. Hall born MAY 1882 in GA, Berrien Co., near Ray City
  5. Lawrence Cauley Hall b: 20 FEB 1884 in GA, Berrien Co., Ray City
  6. Allen L. Hall born JUN 1885 in GA, Berrien Co., Ray City
  7. Molcie Hall born MAY 1890 in GA, Berrien Co., area
  8. Pasco Olandro Hall born 30 JUN 1893 in GA, Berrien Co., near Ray City
  9. Phoebe Hall born SEP 1892
  10. Georgia Hall born 16 SEP 1894 in GA, Berrien co

July 12, 1913  Cassie Hall was dismissed by letter from Old Union Primitive Baptist Church of Lanier County, Georgia. It is known that she  attended New Ramah Church at Ray City after that time.

After 45 years of marriage, Cassie’s husband John Lewis Hall died Aug 7 1918 at the age of 60 in Berrien County, GA.    The 1920 census shows Cassie Lee Hall a 69 year old widow living alone. She owned a home, mortgage free, on North Street in Ray City, Ga. While at her age and with her family all gone away Cassie Lee Hall had no occupation, the early 1920’s were a boom time in Ray City with plenty of employment provided by the Clements sawmill. Her next door neighbor, George B. Norton, was a planing mill superintendent, and most of her other neighbors on North Street were also employed by the sawmill in one capacity or another.

Cassie Lee Hall lived on to be 94 years of age, having lived all of her life in Berrien County.  She died in Ray City on Sunday December 10, 1944. Her obituary, published in the Nashville Herald read as follows:

1944 – GA, Berrien Co., Dec 14,

Mrs. Cassie Lee Hall Passes, At Ray City.

Mrs. Cassie Lee Hall, 94, died at the home of her daughter Mrs. B. R. Tomlinson of Ray City, on Sunday morning at 9: o’clock after three months illness due to old age. Mrs Hall was born and reared in this county having lived here all her life.

Sixty years ago she was married to John L. Hall who preceded her in death several years ago. For seventy five years she has been a faithful and devout member of the Primitive Baptist church. Through her long life she had endeared herself to many friends. A mixed choir sang “Old Rugged Cross,” Unclouded Day,” and other selections from the Primitive hymn book. Six grandsons served as pall-bearers. The Giddens Funeral Home of Nashville, had charge of arrangements.

Survivors include ten children, H. Hall of Valdosta, Mrs. W.D. Gaskins, Mrs. J.G. Gaskin, Mrs. B.R. Tomlinson, L.C. Hall of Ray City, Robert Hall of Perry FL. and Mrs D.M. Hutchinson of Tampa FL. 25 Gandchildren, 27 Great Grandchildren, and 1 GG Grandchild.

Cassie Lee Hall

Related Posts:

Lawrence Cauley Hall Tripped Slabs at Ray City, GA

William A. Knight Giddens marries Mary Hall

aaa

George W. Fender, Pinders and Piney Woods Rooters

George W. Fender farmed in the Ray City area for more than 50 years.   He was born in 1854 in Clinch County, GA but came to Berrien County around 1877.  On December 29, 1878 he married Mary E. Gaskins, daughter of  Sarah Knight and Gideon Gaskins

Even at 22,  Fender was an accomplished farmer.

Valdosta Times
Saturday, March 4, 1876
To Editor Times

The following will show the result of Capt. J. W. Staten and Mr. George W. Fender’s experience in fattening pork in Echols County:    Capt.  Staten killed four, fourteen months old, that weighed 217 ¾ pounds. Mr. Fender killed one of the same stock, two years old, that weighted 457 pounds.  This shows what can be done in raising our fattening hogs in Southern Georgia.  I have never seen fatter hogs in Kentucky, or in any other State in the Union. It is a stock that the captain has improved by crossing the common piney woods rooter with others and selecting the best pigs for breeders.  Ex-Governor Brown said in a lecture before an agricultural committee, in 1868, that pork could be raised cheaper in Southern Georgia than in Cherokee, by sowing rye for grazing, and pinders for fattening.  Will not our people profit by this example.  R.W.P.

Perhaps George W. Fender followed the advice of Governor Brown to fatten his hogs.  It wasn’t long before pinders, also known as peanuts, were widely recognized as prime feed for fattening hogs.

 Beyond a doubt, the peanut is the coming crop for the hog farmer. An acre of peanuts will produce as much pork as three acres of average corn. No trouble about gathering the crop. Just mow the tops for hay and let the hogs gather the nuts themselves.    ~  Modern school store. (1917). Chicago.

Cribb Family at Ray City, GA

Sinda Arella and Charlie Mitchell Cribb

Sinda Arella and Charlie Mitchell Cribb

Sinda Arella Smith and Charlie Mitchell Cribb brought their family to Ray City, GA some time before the Census of 1930.  They made the small town their home for the rest of their lives, and many of the Cribb family connection still live here.

Charlie Mitchell Cribb was born December 17, 1878 in Ware County, GA and grew up in Waresboro, Ware County. His parents were Nancy Caroline Wilson and John A. Cribb.

Charlie’s mother died Feb 22, 1891, while he was a boy.  Five months later, Aug 5, 1891 his father married a second time to a young woman named “Lona,” born Elizabeth Malone  Murray.

As an adult Charlie Mitchell Cribb lived in Coffee County.  He appears there in the census of 1900, enumerated as Charles M. Cribb.  (Descendants believe that in this instance, the census taker must have formalized his given name, as his name is otherwise consistently recorded in the family bible, on his death certificate, and elsewhere as Charlie Mitchell Cribb.)

On January 10, 1903 , Charlie Mitchell Cribb married Sinda Arella Smith.   According to family members, “She was the illegitimate daughter of Margaret Medders who was the widow of Ed Smith. Ed had died several years before Cinda was born, but children always have the legal surname of the mother.”   The couple made their home and began raising a family at Pearson, GA where Charlie worked at a sawmill.

In 1918 on September 12, Charlie Mitchell Cribb registered for selective service for WWI  with the draft board in Douglas, GA, giving his residence as Pearson, GA.  He was 40 years old, with medium height and build, with blue eyes and light hair, At that time he was working for wages, farming for Jeff Kirkland.  [2]

In 1920, Charlie Mitchell Cribb was renting a place in Pearson, GA, which had been cut into Atkinson County.  He was farming, now apparently on his own account. His younger brother, Jim Cribb, was farming the place next door.[3]

By the time of the 1930 Census, the Cribbs had relocated their family to Ray City, GA.  They were  renting a home for $8.00 a month.  The neighbors were Henry A. Swindle and Batts Goin. Charlie and his 16-year-old son, Albert Cribb, both worked as laborers, manufacturing  crossties for the construction of the railroads.[4]

Charlie Mitchell Cribb died June 4, 1939 and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, on Pauline Street, Ray City,GA.

Sinda Arella Cribb continued to make her home in Ray City, and the younger Cribb children attended the Ray City School in the 1930s.  She died Dec. 18, 1957 and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

William Dempsey 'Demp' Cribb 1927 – 1997, 3rd Grade, 1939, Ray City School, Ray City, GA.

William Dempsey ‘Demp’ Cribb 1927 – 1997, 3rd Grade, 1939, Ray City School, Ray City, GA.

Children of Sinda Arrella and Charlie Mitchell Cribb:
Daniel Jack Cribb 1904 – 1969
Henry Loyd Cribb 1906 – 1975
Lena Mae ‘Lenner’ Cribb 1909 – 1973
Rosa Lee ‘Rose’ Cribb 1911 – 1964
Joseph Albert ‘Joe’ Cribb 1913 – 1978

Clara Maud ‘Tump’ Cribb 1916 – 1989
Lonnie Mitchell ‘Joby’ Cribb 1918 – 1989
Charles Romie Cribb 1921 – 1995
John Yancey ‘Yance’ Cribb 1923 – 1984
Lucy Caroline Cribb 1925 – 2001
William Dempsey ‘Demp’ Cribb 1927 – 1997
Charlie Morris Cribb 1930 – 1987

Grave marker of Sinda Arella and Charlie Mitchell Cribb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave marker of Sinda Arella and Charlie Mitchell Cribb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

-30-

Related Posts:

The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado

This blog has commented before on Ray City ghosts and other Haints of Berrien County. One  story from Alapaha, GA concerns the ghost of Ben W. Furlong.

In February of 1887 the Atlanta Constitution reported on a ghost appearing at a Berrien County sawmill.

 A few months ago Berrien county was startled and shocked by the murder of a negro by Ben W. Furlong. The finding of the body of the negro, the suicide of Furlong, and the flight of his accomplices, Lofton and Sharon, made a remarkable story. The strangest part of the story is this; Workmen and laborers, persons living around and employed at the mill, where the tragedy occurred, assert positively that Furlong’s spirit or ghost stalks forth nearly every night, prowls around the mill building and seems sometimes to be examining the machinery. Quite a number of negroes claim to have met the ghost on the railroad track and around the mill at odd times.[6

A recently encountered article from the Valdosta Times, October 2, 1886  provides some of the back story on the guilty wanderings of Furlong’s spirit.

B. W. Furlong
Valdosta Times
Saturday, October 2, 1886

B.W. Furlong Commits Suicide

B.W. Furlong has for several years enjoyed the reputation along the B. & W. road of being a desperado. He has  had more personal difficulties, killed and wounded more people than anybody this side of Texas. The true bills against him in Berrien County alone runs up among the dozens.  Some how he has managed to dodge the officers or to evade the judgment of the law in some way, or else he would have swung, or have been put in the penitentiary long ago.  Such being the character of the man not many tears were shed when then news was made known some days ago that he had committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum. Following this information a few days come this special from Alapaha which throws light upon the deed.

“One of the most terrible crimes ever committed in this community has been brought to light to-day. It has been rumored for some days past that B.W. Furlong and others had murdered a negro man near this place and to-day a coroner’s jury was summoned and the investigation led to the discovery of the body buried in the horse lot of Furlong.  The jury will continue the investigation.

“As stated in the News a day or two ago, Furlong was murderously desperate when in his cups. The story of the encounter which resulted in the killing of the negro remains to be learned. There is little doubt but that Furlong’s suicide by taking laudanum was the result of the knowledge that he was suspected of killing the negro, and preferred death to arrest for murder.  A few weeks ago he shot an engineer named Brock, who ran on the Brunswick & Western road.  On another occasion he is said to have almost killed his wife.  No prominent man living in Southwest Georgia in years has borne so wide a reputation of desperation.”

http://wp.me/pUCDj-f

Related Posts:

James B. Griner Once Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County

James Benjamin “Jim” Griner, born June 22, 1874, was the husband of Mary Catherine Hill Griner (see A Christmas Wedding for Mary Catherine Hill).

As a young man Jim Griner tried his hand at farming, but by the early 1900’s he had turned to a career in law enforcement serving as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County and as the Chief of Police in Nashville, GA. In the 1930s the Griners moved to Ray City, GA  where Jim returned to farming. But by the 1940s Jim Griner put his badge back on to serve as Ray City Police Chief. A fellow lawman of Ray City at that time was  State Patrolman Perry Lee Pittman.

J. B. Griner, Berrien County deputy sheriff with prisoner B. A. Bryant, who killed his father near Nashville, Georgia, 1906. From a newspaper clipping. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

J. B. Griner, Berrien County deputy sheriff with prisoner B. A. Bryant, who killed his father near Nashville, Georgia, 1906. From a newspaper clipping. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

In 1915, Deputy James B Griner and Sheriff I. C. Avera were embroiled in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

It all started when T. J. Luke got a judgement against Moses and Joseph Bembry for debts they owed him. Taking his execution order to the Sheriff, Luke identified certain property owned by the Brembrys  that could be sold to satisfy the debt.  The Brembry property was duly advertised for sale by the Sheriff’s office.

Deputy Sheriff James B. Griner had in mind to obtain the property for himself and sought to borrow the money to make the purchase.  But on the day of the sale the loan fell through.

Frustrated in receiving his money, T.J. Luke demanded satisfaction from the Sheriff’s Office. Luke took the case to court in Berrien County.  On  March 23, 1914 The court directed the Sheriff and his deputy to sell the property immediately with the proceeds payable to Luke. Should the Sheriff’s Office fail to execute the sale, they were directed to appear before the next term of the court.

But a year later, Luke was still waiting for his money.  He took the case to the Supreme Court of Georgia, asserting that the lower court erred in not calling for immediate satisfaction of the debt by the Sheriff’s office.   Fortunately for J.B. Griner and Sheriff I.C.  Avera, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled there was no error.

Read the syllabus of the court, LUKE  vs AVERA, et al.

 

A Christmas Wedding for Mary Catherine Hill

Mary Catherine Hill was born about 1875, and was a lifelong resident of Berrien County.  She first appears in census records in the Census of 1880, as a child in the household of her parents, Betty Newbern and William J. Hill in the 1148th Georgia Militia District.  Her father was a farmer, as were his neighbors Mack Bullard and William Avera.

On Christmas Day 1891,  M. C. Hill married J. B. Griner  in Irwin County, GA.

Mary Catherine Hill and James B. Griner were married Christmas Day, Dec 25, 1891 in Irwin County, GA.

Mary Catherine Hill and James B. Griner were married Christmas Day, Dec 25, 1891 in Irwin County, GA.

The couple made their home in Nashville, GA where  Jimmy engaged first in farming, then took a position as  deputy for Berrien County Sheriff,  I.C. Avera.

Some time after 1930 Jimmy and Catherine  moved to Ray City, GA.  Mary Catherine Hill Griner remained a resident of Ray City, until her death in 1940.

Obituary of  Mrs. J. B.  “Jimmy”  Griner

Mrs. J. B. “Jimmy” Griner, 65, died June 24, 1940 at her home in Ray City,  GA.  She was a daughter of the late William J. and Betty Newbern Hill.  Mary Catherine Hill married Jimmy Griner in 1891. Burial was in Flat Creek Cemetery. Survivors: Her husband and the following children: Lucius E. Griner of Lake Wales, Fla.; J.R. Griner of Ocilla; Mrs. Vinnie Robertson of Illinois; Mrs. Emma Overstreet of Tifton; Mrs. Ethel Sutton of Hollywood, Fla; Miss Mimmie Griner of Ray City; Mrs. Cleo Allen of Ray City.  She is also survived by three brothers and two sisters.

Related Posts:

Annie B. Sirmans Once Owned Ray’s Mill

Image detail: Ann Sirmans Matheny, circa 1915.  Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Image detail: Ann Sirmans Matheny, circa 1915. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Annie B. Sirmans was the granddaughter of Anne Donald Clements and General Levi J. Knight, and the daughter of Elizabeth Knight and Hardeman Sirmans. About 1931, she inherited Ray’s Mill which had been founded by her grandfather and her uncle Thomas M. Ray almost 70 years earlier.

Annie B. Sirmans was born on Christmas day, 25 December 1872 in Berrien County, GA.

In 1880, seven-year-old Annie Sirmans was living with her parents and eight brothers and sisters in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district. Also boarding in the Sirmans home were two young girls, Eliza and Mary Hays. Annie’s father was a farmer, and her older brothers assisted with the farm labor.

In 1890, her brother,  Hardy Sirmans, Jr. purchased Ray’s Mill, the grist mill originally constructed on Beaver Dam Creek by his uncle Thomas M. Ray and grandfather, General Levi J. Knight.  Assisted by Mitch Fountain, Hardy Sirmans, Jr. operated the mill until his death in 1931.

As Annie grew older, she continued to live on her parent’s farm. On Sept 21, 1896 her father died, leaving her brother, Thomas Hardeman “Hardy” Sirmans, to become the head of the household. The census of 1900 shows Annie Sirmans was still at home in her brother’s household. Her mother and siblings, Bellaria and Joseph, and nephew Daniel Walker Sirmans also shared the house.

In 1905 while in Tennessee, Annie’s brother Joe Sirmans married Olive Pearl Matheny, the daughter of Judith L. Craft and James W. Matheny.  He brought her back to make their home in Willacoochee, GA. about 20 miles north of Ray’s Mill.  No doubt it was through this family connection that Annie Sirmans came to know John Chilton Matheny, brother of Olive P. Matheny.  John C. Matheny was thirty-something , with blue eyes and dark hair, average in height and build.  He was a farmer and since age 22 when his father died,  head of the Matheny family, responsible for his mother and siblings.

Four years later, On October 5, 1909 Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny were wedded  in Berrien County, GA.  She was 37, he 35.  It was the first marriage for both.  At first, the newlyweds made their home near the Ray’s Mill community (nka Ray City, GA) on the Sirmans home place, now the farm of Annie’s bachelor brother, Hardy Sirmans.  Annie’s mother was still there  at the Sirmans place, as well as her Aunt Mary Ray and nephew Daniel Walker. The census of 1910 shows Hardy Sirmans and John C. Matheny both farming on their own account.

Infant son of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, grave marker, October 7, 1912.

Infant son of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, grave marker, October 7, 1912. Empire Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Annie may have married late, but within  couple of years she was pregnant.  On October 7, 1912 she gave birth to a baby boy. Sadly, the child died the same day.   The infant was buried near his grand parents, Elizabeth and Hardeman Sirmans,  at Empire Church cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

The following year Annie was again pregnant, and on May 23, 1914 she presented  John C. Matheny with a son, Thomas Hardeman Matheny. The image detail above is from a photograph of Annie and the boy (view the full image), probably taken around 1915, and clearly portrays her great affection for  the child.  But tragedy struck the family again, when Thomas died at age two on September 15, 1916.

Thomas Hardeman Matheny, 1914-1916, Empire Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Hardeman Matheny, 1914-1916, Empire Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Perhaps  the loss was too much for John Matheny to bear;  A notation  on the bottom of his 1917 draft registration written by Perry Thomas Knight observed that John had just returned from the insane asylum.  Annie and John would remain childless for the rest of their lives.

At that time, the draft card notes, the Mathenys were making their home in Nashville, GA, 10 miles above Ray City, but by the census of  1920, Annie and John Matheny were back at Ray City, where they owned a farm on “Settlement Roads” that John worked on his own account.  Annie’s older brother, Hardy Sirmans (Thomas Hardeman Sirmans), lived with the couple and also farmed.  The farm next door was rented by  Annie’s nephew, Daniel Walker Sirmans and his young family.

In the census of 1930,  the Mathenys were still living in the Ray’s Mill Precinct, the 1144th Georgia Militia District.  They owned a home valued at $1000.00.  John continued to work the farm on his own  account: Annie assisted with the farm labor. Annie’s brother Hardy, now 70, still resided with the couple but no longer worked.  The Mathenys had also taken in a boarder, Matthew F. Fender, who worked as a farm laborer.

But the 1930s brought hard times in the life of Annie Sirmans Matheny. Annie’s brother, Hardy Sirmans, died on July 27, 1931.  In 1932, Ann lost her husband: John Chilton Matheny died December 15, 1932. Both men were buried at Empire Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

After the death of Hardy Sirmans, Annie inherited ownership of her family’s gristmill, Ray’s Mill.  Later, the widowed Ann Matheny sold Ray’s Mill to Pollard Fountain, the son of Mitch Fountain who had operated the grist mill with her deceased brother.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Annie Sirmans Matheny died in 1963 and was buried next to her husband at Empire Church Cemetery.

Grave marker of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, Empire Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, Empire Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Related Posts:

Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.

The 1888 train wreck of the Savannah, Florida and Western at Hurricane Trestle near Blackshear, GA  was one of the worst in Georgia history.  The SF&W route ran from Savannah through Valdosta to Bainbridge, with connections to all points. The victims included citizens of Valdosta, GA and John T. Ray, who grew up in Ray’s Mill (nka Ray City), GA.   John T. Ray (1845-1888)  was raised by his uncle Thomas M. Ray, who founded Ray’s Mill along with his father-in-law General Levi J. Knight.

The Railroad Disaster to the West India Mail Near Blackshear, Georgia, an engraving from a photograph published in Harper's Weekly, March 1888.

The Railroad Disaster to the West India Mail Near Blackshear, Georgia, an engraving from a photograph published in Harper’s Weekly, March 1888.

The Hurricane Trestle railroad disaster was widely reported, with accounts and follow-ups appearing in newspapers all over the country from New York to Minnesota.  Transcribed here is an account that appeared in the Valdosta Times, Valdosta, GA:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, March 24, 1888

Railroad Horror! Frightful Disaster On The Savannah, Florida And Western Railroad Near Blackshear.  Thirty-Odd Passengers Killed! Among Whom Are Some Of Our Colored Citizens. A Broken Axle Causes The Train To Plunge Through Hurricane Trestle.  Full Details Of The Disaster.

We are indebted to visitors to the wreck and to the Jacksonville Times Union for much of the information contained in the following. It was almost impossible to get specials from the scene of the catastrophe owning to the press of railroad work on the wires.

Blackshear, Ga., March 17.  The first section of the fast mail train going west was derailed before reaching Alabaha, one mile from Blackshear.  Upon reaching the trestle the entire train of five cars crashed through.  Twenty persons were killed and as many wounded.  The coaches are a total wreck. The entire community went to the rescue, caring for the dead and wounded. Superintendent Fleming with a large force is now on the spot.

Waycross, Ga.,  March 17.  Train No. 27, the first section of the fast mail came thundering along down the S.F. & W. railroad this morning at the rate of forty miles an hour, when it struck the trestle crossing at Alabaha Creek.  This trestle is fifty feet high and one hundred feet wide.  Engineer Welsh was in charge of the engine and Conductor W.L. Griffin in charge of the train. The engine and tender had nearly reached land on the Jacksonville side of the creek when the front axle of the baggage car breaking, the car left the track followed by others of the train, consisting of the private car of President Wilbur, of the Lehigh Valley road, Pullman car, first and second class coaches, and a baggage and mail car. The coupling between the tender and the baggage car broke loose and the engine reached the other side safely.

In the creek all was chaos and confusion.  The cars were piled on the top of each other,  and the cries of the frightened injured passengers arose from a caldron of death.  Nineteen dead bodies were taken from the wreck as soon as help could be organized.  There may be others yet to be found.

As soon as practical medical aid from Savannah, Jacksonville and Waycross, was secured, and several wrecking trains  soon reached the scene. The passengers were taken out and as far as possible removed to hotels in Waycross.  Hospitals were made of the hotels here,  and the good ladies of the town turned out en masse to attend upon the wounded  and dying.  Six wounded have died since reaching Waycross and it is suspected that others will die to-night. The bodies of eight colored men unidentified are at the depot awaiting identification.  Numerous surgical operations were performed, and at a late hour the patients had all been attended to and wanted for nothing.

Drs. Henry Bacon, Neal Mitchell, John Domingo Fernandez, and Charles J. Kenworthy, all of Jacksonville, FL were the first doctors to arrive at the 1888 train wreck at Hurricane Trestle,near Blackshear, GA

Drs. Henry Bacon, Neal Mitchell, John Domingo Fernandez, and Charles J. Kenworthy, all of Jacksonville, FL were among the doctors to arrive at the 1888 train wreck at Hurricane Trestle,near Blackshear, GA

The physicians who came up from Jacksonville were Drs. Neal Mitchell, J. Kenworthy, J.D. Fernandez and Henry Bacon, and they have done noble work in saving life and aleveing suffering.  They were on the ground before any of the Savannah physicians and have worked like heroes.

Your representative arrived here at 7:15 PM on the Montgomery train, and found the little city wild with excitement. Visiting the “Old School House” first I found there one dead body, that of Mrs. W.A. Shaw of Jacksonville, and eleven wounded persons.  The Grand Central Hotel was next visited and there were found four badly wounded. At the Commercial House there were seven wounded and two dead.  At the depot lay the corpses of eight colored men. At houses scattered through the town are numbers of other wounded.

The number of dead aggregates twenty-seven, about equally divided to color.  Seven of these have died at Waycross this afternoon.  Nineteen persons were killed outright at the wreck, and thirty-five were wounded. The list of those killed outright cannot be verified at this time, on account of the confusion going on at Waycross, to which place the ladies have been brought.  From passengers on the ill-fated train a partial list is made up.

Killed.

Mrs. Marion G. Shaw, of Jacksonville, wife of Captain W.A. Shaw
Miss Mamie Shaw, of Jacksonville, young daughter of the preceding. These two were instantly killed in the wreck.
M.A. Wilbur of South Bethlehem, Pa., son of the President of Lehigh Valley Railroad, who was on the train with his private car.
W.G. Geiger, of Savannah, drummer for Ware Bros. Aged 35.
W. Martin, a tourist of Cleveland Ohio.
Major J. H. Pate, Hawkinsville, Georgia. Aged 60.
John T. Ray and Daughter, of Dale’s Mills, Ga.
P.C. Smith, conductor of the Pullman Car.
Charles Fulton, Master of Transportation of the Brunswick and Western Railway.
W. M. Martin, Union News Company’s agent on the train.
Fred Meynard, of New York.
E.P. Thompson, of North Carolina.
W.H. McGriff, of Savannah, Ga.
Mrs. Kelly, residence unknown.
Cuffie Williams and Charlie Cason, both colored, of Valdosta, Ga.
Caesar Foster and Moses Gale, both colored, of Waycross, Ga.
Charlie Pierce, colored train hand.
One unknown white man, dark hair and brown moustache, supposed to be a minister.
One unknown young lady, white, with plain gold ring, inside which is engraved “P. to K., 1883.”
Also, two unknown negro men and two unknown white men.

Another Account. A Correspondent At Blackshear Describes The Awful Scene.
Special to the Times-Union. Blackshear, March 27.  The first section of fast mail train No. 27, for Jacksonville, leaving Savannah at 7 this morning, fell through the Hurricane Trestle, about a mile and a half east of Blackshear, at 9:30 this morning.  The entire train, consisting of a baggage car, smoker coach, the Pullman car Saxon and the private car Minerva, of President E.P. Wilbur, of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, went down, and all except the last named were totally wrecked. The engine broke loose from its tender and escaped, but the tender went with the cars.  The engine came on to Blackshear and gave the alarm.  All the stores closed and everybody went to the wreck and to the wants of the wounded and dying.

The trestle is about 300 feet long, where the train fell is about 25 feet high. Two thirds of the trestle fell with the cars, and of that standing there is nothing but the columns and the stringers. The cross ties are cut into splinters.

The train caught fire from the stoves, but the heroic presence of mind of Engineer Welsh, who leaped from his engine and put out the fire, prevented an awful cremation.

The accident is supposed to have been caused by a defective truck under the baggage car, and the mark of machinery dragging along the ties extends for several hundred yards beyond the train.

Doctors Smith, Moore, Whatley and Fuller, of Blackshear, were on hand shortly after the accident. Drs. Redding and Walker, of Waycross; Drs. Drawdy and Little, of Jessup, and Dr. William Duncan, of Savannah, were there soon after, and as rapidly as the wounded could be moved they together with the dead, were carried to Waycross.

President Wilbur was fearfully cut in the head and otherwise injured. He never lost consciousness, however, and when the doctors got through sewing up his wounds he dictated a telegram about the accident. His son R.H. Wilbur is badly hurt.

Among those who escaped were Mr. and Mrs. George J. Gould, New York.  Mrs. Gould was bruised some, but not badly.  They are now at the Brown House, in Blackshear.  They were going to Fernandina to meet his father, who is expected there in his yacht.

Blackshear, March 17.  Superintendent Avelihe, Train Dispatcher  Davis and other officials, have a large force of hands at work, but it will be several days before trains can pass. Arrangements have been made for trains to come arround by Brunswick over the E.T.V. & G. and the B & W. roads.

It is a singular coincidence that one year ago the same car of President Wilbur with almost the same party, was derailed near Blackshear. It is also remarkable that during the long years the the Savannah, Florida and Western Railway has been in existence, it has never until to-day killed a passenger.

The ladies of Blackshear did noble service. They were everywhere and many a poor sufferer died easier for their gentle caresses. They never tired but stayed on the ground until the last sufferer was moved. Superintendent Flemming expressed himself as especially grateful to them for their assistance and devotion.

The officials of the railroad were tireless in their efforts to relieve suffering, and all day long, and not until the last wounded one was gone did they turn their attention to the wreck.

A commendable feature of the community was that no discrimination was shown between the races in the efforts to rescue each from the debris and alleviate their suffering, but as fast as found kind hands took care of them.

Many touching scenes were witnessed and many instances of devotion strong in death transpired, as where husband refused to leave wife and wife refused to leave husband.  Newsman Martin saw others were hurt worse than himself, an refused assistance, but in a few minutes he was dead.  Major Pate said he was not hurt and fell back dead.

Mr. Ray, who was killed, was a prominent citizen of Blackshear. He was general manager and part owner of the Dale Saw Mills, near Jesup.  Fears have been entertained for Editor Ellenwood, of the Journal, and Mr. W. J. Balentine, who were expected  home on the ill-fated train.  They have not been found, however, and although unheard from the uneasiness is abated.

In addition to Mr. and Mrs. George J. Gould, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert B. King and Miss Alice Simpson, of New York, are in Blackshear. Miss Simpson is seriously hurt. All the others are in Waycross.

Undertaker Dixon, of Savannah, with about thirty coffins, has arrived and gone on to Waycross. He will take charge of the embalming.

Jno. T. Ray. Mr. Jno. T. Ray, who was killed, was a cousin of Mr. T. M. Ray of Valdosta.  He was a Berrien County boy and raised by the late T.M. Ray, of Ray’s Mill.  Just after the war he married Miss Wilkins the daughter of the late Rev. J.J. Wilkins, of Naylor, in this county, and moved down the road and engaged in railroading. He rose rapidly and then engaged in the saw milling business with J.J. Dale. At the time of his death he was a partner with Dale, Dixon & Co.

His little daughter Mattie, 8 years old, is not dead as at first reported. She has a broken thigh  and other injuries and will likely die.

Mr. T. M. Ray of Valdosta went down to his burial at Blackshear yesterday.

Our Local Dead.

Cuffy Williams and Charles Cason were both colored citizens of Valdosta. Cuffy’s remains were brought up Sunday morning and were buried this afternoon. A large concourse of sorrowing friends and relatives followed his remains to the burying ground.

There was some trouble in Charles Cason, and his relatives did not learn of his death until last night. His remains will likely come up today.

Mr. Charles Fulton, who was killed in the wreck, was recently appointed master of Transportation of the B. & W. He was well known in Valdosta. His aged parents, Mr. and Mrs Silas Fulton, lived many years in Valdosta. He was a brother to Mrs. Patterson of Valdosta.

Biographical Sketch of John T. Ray ~ Ray’s Mill Foundling

After being orphaned at age 6, John T. Ray (1845-1888)  was raised by his uncle Thomas M. Ray, first miller at Ray’s Mill (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  At 16,  he was a soldier in combat in the Civil War. At 25, he worked as an overseer for the railroad, and by age 33  he was a private contractor laying track.  A few years later he was a partner and general manager in the large sawmill concern Dale, Dixon & Co.

View complete text

John T. Ray married Sarah E. Wilkins, and by her had five children.  Sadly, their mother died at age 41.   John T. Ray remarried, but within two months was himself killed in a railroad disaster, leaving his orphaned children in the care of their new step-mother.

Grave marker of Sarah E. Wilkins and John T. Ray, Blackshear City Cemetery, Wayne County, GA

Grave marker of Sarah E. Wilkins and John T. Ray, Blackshear City Cemetery, Wayne County, GA

As the following biography portrays,  John T. Ray overcame adversity in his early life and went on to achieve success in business through hard work.  No doubt, he also benefitted from the social and political connections of his adopted family. His uncle was one of the prominent businessmen of Berrien County, and his adopted grandfather, General Levi J. Knight, was a renowned Indian fighter, military leader and state legislator.

Biographical Souvenir of the States of Georgia and Florida, Containing Biographical Sketches of the Representative Public, and many Early Settled Families in These States. F. A. Battey & Company, 1889]

John T. Ray (deceased) was born in Houston County, Ga, October 28, 1845.  His parents were James and Nancy (Lovett) Ray, both natives of Georgia. The father was a millwright and died in 1852, aged thirty-five years; the mother died in 1847, aged twenty-five.  These parents had two children — our subject and Fannie, now Mrs. Wesley Elmore, but whose first husband’s name was Leonard Dasher. This sketch was taken by the writer from the subject himself, at his home, Friday afternoon, February 24, 1888. It is, indeed, with sad heart and faltering hand that we to-day copy that sketch, and the sadness is greatly increased when we are compelled to record the death of one in the vigor of manhood, who had the surroundings of a pleasant, happy home, and the expectancy of a long and useful life. His death occurred Saturday, March 17, 1888, at the age of forty-two years, four months and nineteen days.  Mr. Ray was one of the victims in the accident on the S. F. & W. Railroad. The account as given by the Hawkinsville Dispatch is as follows: “The fast mail train No. 27, leaving Savannah at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, went through the Hurricane trestle, one and one-half miles east of Blackshear, at half past nine o’clock that morning. The train, consisting of the baggage car and smoker, one coach, the Pullman sleeper, the private car of E. P. Wilbur, is a complete wreck. The accident was caused probably by a broken truck under the front end of the baggage car, causing the cars to leave the track and knock down the trestle. The only car not actually broken into splinters is that of Pres. Wilbur. As soon as the trestle began to go down, the engineer pulled open the throttle of his engine.  The coupling broke between the tender and the baggage car, and the engine bounded over safely, saving the lives of the engineer and his fireman. A gap three hundred feet long was torn out of the trestle, and the train fell about forty feet to the ground below.  Seventeen persons were killed in the crash, and over thirty others wounded, several of whom have died since from their injuries.  The citizens of Blackshear turned out en masse and rendered every assistance possible to the wounded.  Too much praise cannot be given them for their tireless work. The scenes at the wreck, with the groans of the dying and mangled and the silent bodies of the dead, is one never to be forgotten. From the best information we can gather Mr. Ray was instantly killed, but the particulars of his death we have not been able to gather any information.”

The following paragraph is contributed by a friend of the family:

“On the morning of the terrible Hurricane trestle disaster Mr. Ray left his happy wife and little ones to attend to some business in Blackshear, where he owned considerable property. As the writer of this stood in conversation with him but a short time before he boarded the ill-fated train, little did he dream that he was conversing with him for the last time in life. It was some four or five hours after the accident before the intelligence of his death reached us; it fell like a thunder-bolt in our midst. The grief of his heart-broken wife and little ones was heart-rendering indeed, and there was a settled gloom upon the entire community, for Mr. Ray was loved by all classes. Little groups of employees could be seen here and there earnestly discussing the news, many of them hoping, against hope, the intelligence was not true. But when, about dark, it was confirmed beyond a doubt, there was a general out-burst of grief. As many as could get there went to Blackshear the next day to attend his burial in the family burial ground in Blackshear. In his death the community in which he lived sustained a great loss. Honest and upright in all of his dealings, with his fellow-men, and a true friend; he carried with him to his last resting place the love and respect of all who knew him. At the time that the train went through the trestle, Mr. Ray was in the smoking car, having left his little daughter in another coach but a short time before, and was in conversation with the conductor of the train when the crash came. The conductor was not killed. Mr. Ray’s little daughter was seriously wounded and for some time her life was despaired of. She had her thigh broken, and, as it was badly set, it had to be re-broken after it had begun to knit, but she has almost entirely recovered from her injuries. His bereaved young wife has been true to her duties and untiring in her devotion to the little ones who were so unexpectedly left to her for counsel and guidance, and the sincere prayer of the writer of these lines is that God may bless her and help her in training them up aright.           A Friend.”

When a little over sixteen years of age, Mr. Ray enlisted (spring of 1862) in the Eighteenth Georgia battalion, and served until the close of the war. As a soldier, as well as a citizen, he had an enviable record. He never missed a roll-call except for three days, when he was indisposed from jaundice. He did not receive a wound in all that time. He took part in the siege of  Battery Wagner, on Morris Island, and his last battle was at Sailor’s Creek, but three days before the war closed (April 6, 1865); he was captured and carried to Point Lookout, where he remained three months as prisoner. He was released June 27, and arrived in Savannah July 5, 1865. His first business was shoveling on the railroad, which he continued three months, when he was promoted to second boss, which continued four years. The next three years he served as blacksmith and wheelwright; the next year he served as contractor for building a railroad for a saw-mill, then “woodsing” for a saw-mill. He then went into the saw-milling business with Capt. Grace, continued two years, and next located at Dale’s Mills and became a partner with “Dale, Dixon & Co.,” and was in that firm until death closed his labors. His life is an excellent illustration of what can be accomplished where there is will and determination. He began life without capital and with scarcely anything beyond an unlimited amount of energy and pluck, and from a poor boy he rose to an enviable position among the wealthy and respected of a large circle of acquaintances. His life is an epitome of what can be accomplished when honesty, industry and integrity are the principles that give direction.

John Ray was married first in 1866, to Miss Sarah E., daughter of John Wilkins, of Terrell County, Ga. Five children came to bless that union, viz: Charles M., Beula L., Joseph D., Mattie L. and Thomas D. Mrs. (Wilkins) Ray died in 1887, aged forty-one. Mr. Ray’s second marriage was to Miss Georgia I. Mingledorf, of Effingham County, Ga., January 15, 1888. Mr. Ray was a member in good standing of the Masonic order. Mrs. Ray is a member of the Methodist Church.

« Older entries