George Washington Knight and the Populist Party

George Washington Knight was born September 8, 1845 in Lowndes County, GA.  His parents were Ann Sloan and Aaron Knight (1813-1887), brother of Levi J. Knight.

At age 16, on  July 3, 1862, George W. Knight enlisted as a Private  in Company E, 54th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  His  unit fought all over Georgia; at Dug Gap, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, and other battle locales.  Matthew Hodge Albritton, James Baskin, William Gaskins, Samuel Guthrie, William J. Lamb, Jeremiah May, Rufus Ray, and Samuel Sanders, among other Berrien countians, also served in this Company.  On April 20-21, 1865, two weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the 54th Georgia Volunteers, under the command of General Howell Cobb, joined in the last defense of Macon.

George Washington Knight surrendered as a corporal with Company E, 54th Infantry Regiment Georgia on May 10,  1865 at Tallahassee, FL.

On Sept 20, 1865 George W. Knight married Rhoda Futch, a daughter of John M. Futch. She was born October 31, 1846; died January 4, 1909.  At first, the newlyweds made their home on a farm owned by George’s father.  But within a few months George bought a farm on Ten Mile Bay near Empire Church, about five miles northeast of the site of Ray’s Mill. George and Rhoda resided on this farm the rest of their lives.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

“In 1892 Georgia politics was shaken by the arrival of the Populist Party. Led by the brilliant orator Thomas E. Watson this  new party mainly appealed to white farmers, many of whom had been impoverished by debt and low cotton prices in the 1880s and 1890s.”   Georgia farmers were being driven into ruin by the combination of falling cotton prices and rising railroad freight taxes .  Populism attracted followers in all of the southern states, but it was especially strong in Georgia.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons.  Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons. Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

The Populist Party ran a candidate for president, as well as candidates for Congress, Governor of Georgia, and the Georgia Assembly.

George Washington Knight was the Populist party’s candidate for Georgia state senator of the Sixth District in 1894, but was defeated.

The platform of the Populist movement called for financial policies to drive up the price of cotton, banking reform, government ownership of the railroads, direct election of senators, and an agricultural loan program, known as the Sub-Treasury Plan,  which would help farmers get the best prices for their crops.

“Realizing that the white vote would probably split between the Populist and Democratic parties, the Populists—and Tom Watson in particular—tried to gain the support of African Americans. Although never calling for social equality, they invited two black delegates to their state convention in 1892 and appointed a black man to the state campaign committee in 1894. They also demanded an end to the convict lease system, a program by which the state leased its prisoners to private mining companies. Work in the mines was dangerous, conditions were brutal, and most of the prisoners were black. Democrats quickly accused the Populists of allying with former slaves. Such racist claims drove many whites from the People’s Party movement, and the contest was marked by fistfights, shootings, and several murders.”

On election day, the Democratic party triumphed over the Populists in the races for the top offices. But the Georgia elections of 1892 and 1894 that kept the Populists out of state offices were marked by blatant corruption.  In 1894 ballot boxes in many Georgia counties were stuffed with more votes than there were voters.

When the Populist ran a presidential candidate in the election of 1896, it split the democratic vote giving the national election to the William McKinley and the Republicans. At the state level, the Populists lost the gubernatorial race to the Democrats. After the defeat of 1896, white Populists slowly drifted back to the Democratic Party, although many of the Populist issues continued in Georgia politics. The Populist Party had never convincingly embraced African-American voters,  who quickly returned to the Republican party.  The Populist party was not always acceptable to the Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass, either.  In November, 1892, for instance, in Empire Church near Rays Mill (Now Ray City), GA charges were preferred against Hardeman Sirmans “for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election.” 

In later years, George Washington Knight returned to the Democratic party.

He died 8 Feb 1913 in Lakeland, Berrien, Georgia. Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight are buried at Empire Church, Lanier county, GA.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

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The Long Trip Home

Shellie Loyd Webb was among the Berrien County men who were drafted in the summer of 1918 as replacement troops for the war in France.

Private Webb entered service in July 16, 1918. Was attached to First Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Over-seas Replacement Draft, Ft. Screven, Ga. Embarked for over-seas service in September, 1918, sailing on the ill-fated transport "Otranto," which was sunk off the Scottish Coast in a collision October 6, 1918. Private Webb was one of the soldiers drowned.

Private Webb entered service in July 16, 1918. Was attached to First Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Over-seas Replacement Draft, Ft. Screven, Ga. Embarked for over-seas service in September, 1918, sailing on the ill-fated transport “Otranto,” which was sunk off the Scottish Coast in a collision October 6, 1918. Private Webb was one of the soldiers drowned.

He was born near Ray City,GA (fka Ray’s Mill) on  August 25, 1894, one of eleven sons born to John Thomas Webb and Mary Webb.  He grew up on his father’s farm in the 1329 Georgia Militia District, where he worked as a farm laborer.

Shellie Webb registered for the draft in Berrien County on June 5, 1917.  He was a tall, dark and handsome young man, nearly six and a half feet, with medium build, blue eyes and dark hair.  Still single at age 23, he worked on his own account and for his father as a farmer.

Inducted into the army at Nashville, GA on July 15 as a part of the Over-seas Replacement Draft, he was immediately sent along with other men of Berrien county to Ft. Screven, GA. There,   Private Webb  entered service in July 16, 1918.  He was attached to First Company, Coast Artillery Corps, Ft. Screven, Ga.  Many of the Berrien men were placed into other companies of the Coast Artillery Corps including Bennie Griner, Ralph Knight, John F. Moore, Thomas J. Sirmons, George Hutto, James M. Deloach, and Benjamin F. McCranie among others.

WWI soldiers drilling on the beach, Ft. Screven, GA.

WWI soldiers drilling on the beach, Ft. Screven, GA.

Shellie Webb trained on artillery through the late summer. On September 25, 1918 he and other Berrien men embarked for over-seas service, sailing on the armed  transport  HMS Otranto.  The Otranto joined Convoy HX50, a convoy of troop ships and escorts crossing the North Atlantic, and about 10 days into the voyage was off the coast of Scotland.

On October 10, 1918 the British Admiralty issued a statement that another transport, the Kashmir, had collided with the Otranto.  The collision occurred on Sunday, October 6, 1918.

ADMIRALTY STATEMENT

     “At 11 o’clock on Sunday the armed merchantile cruiser Otranto,  Acting Captain Ernest Davidson in command, was in collision with the steamship Kashmir. Both vessels were carrying United States troops. The weather was very bad and the ships drifted apart and soon lost sight of each other.  The torpedo boat destroyer Mounsey, was called by wireless and by skillful handling succeeded in taking off 24 officers and 239 men of the crew and 300 United States soldiers and 30 French sailors. They were landed at a North Irish port.
     The Otranto drifted ashore on the island of Islay.  She became a total wreck.  Sixteen survivors have been picked up. There are missing and it is feared drowned, 335 United States soldiers, 11 officers, 85 men of the crew, including men with merchantile ratings.
     The Kashmir reached a Scottish port and landed its troops without casualties.

For days, newspapers around the world carried accounts of the the disaster; the heroics of the survivors and tragedy of the dead.  Hundreds of bodies washed up on the shores of Islay, among them the body of Shellie Loyd Webb.  The people of Islay labored to inter the dead soldiers with dignity and respect.

BURIAL AT KILCHOMAN

     ISLAND OF ISLAY (Scotland) Thursday October 10.  – American dead from the transport ship Otranto will be buried in the little churchyard at Kilchoman in wide graves accommodating twenty bodies each. The church was too small to hold more than a hundred bodies, and scores were placed under improvised shelters in the churchyard.
    As rapidly as the bodies can be assembled from now on they will be buried in groups of twenty in an open field on the edge of a cliff commanding a wide view of the sea and directly overlooking the scene of the wreck.
    A memorial service will be held tomorrow at the church. It will be conducted by the Rev. Donald Grant, who, with Mrs. Grant, were leaders in rescue work.  American and British officers, the Islay authorities and islanders will attend. After the simple service has been read a military salute will be fired over the graves.

1918 Funeral Service for Victims of the Otranto Disaster, Island of Islay, Scotland

1918 Funeral Service for Victims of the Otranto Disaster, Island of Islay, Scotland

The Atlanta Constitution
Nov 17, 1918 Pg B10

American Anthem Sung at Funeral of Otranto Victims

Britons Broke Time-Hallowed Custom That Called for “God Save the King” and Sang “Star Spangled Banner.”

     Bridgend, Island of Islay, Scotland, October 12. — The time-hallowed custom of singing “God Save the King” at the conclusion of every formal British ceremony was broken at the funeral services last Friday for the American soldiers who lost their lives with the sinking of the transport Otranto in collision off the Scotch coast with the Kashmir.
     As a tribute to the American soldiers buried side by side with the naval officers and men from the wrecked British transport, the British national anthem was followed by the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which included several high naval and military officers and virtually the entire population of the island joined.  Few new the words, but the islanders carried the tune with their soft Gaelic voices, standing with their heads bared to the sharp wind from the sea.
     It was a delicate courtesy that was deeply appreciated by the United States army officers and American Red Cross officials present.
     To attend the funeral the islanders came from the remotest parts of Islay, some driving 30 miles in the springless, jolting “box carts,” familiar to Americans who have toured Ireland and Scotland.
     Up to that time the bodies of 100 victims had been recovered and given temporary burial in an open field near the little church at Kilchoman, which looks out over the cliff to the scene of the wreck.  The procession, which formed in the churchyard, followed the bodies of the Otranto’s captain, G.W. Davidson, and the ship’s chief engineer to the burial ground.  The Laird of Islay’s pipers headed the cortege, playing Scotch dirges as they marched.  Then came a firing party, with arms reversed; next, the three clergymen of the island, the Rev. Donald Grant, of the Scottish Presbyterian church; an Episcopal minister and a Roman Catholic priest.  Then  came the bearers of the British and American flags. the latter being Sergeant C. A. McDonald of Galesburg, Ill., one of the survivors.  United States army and American Red Cross officers marched, as the chief mourners, behind the flags, followed by British naval and military officers, the laird, Hugh Morrison, and other prominent men of Islay.
     A guard of the Argyllshire constabulary, brought from the mainland, had been posted around the graves.
     Simple services, consisting chiefly of the reading of prayers, were conducted by Mr. Grant, assisted by the priest and the Episcopal minister.  A salute of six volleys was then fired, after which the British and American national anthems were sung.
     The graves were wide shallow pits, the bodies being  covered only with sod, while American soldiers were making coffins for the regular internment which was soon to follow.

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

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

Graves of Otranto Men, Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland.

Graves of Otranto Men, Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland.

It is not definitively known that Shellie L. Webb was included in the processional and burial described above, as bodies continued to wash up on the shores of Islay for weeks after the Otranto was destroyed.  When military authorities were able to make a full accounting of the surviving and the  dead, his father, John Thomas Webb ,  of RFD #1 Ray City, was notified of his death.

After the war a decision was reached to bring home the remains of the soldiers who died in the Otranto disaster.

The Atlanta Constitution
June 26, 1920

DEAD OF THE OTRANTO TO BE BROUGHT HOME.

Paris, June 25.  — The exhumation of the bodies of 489 American soldiers which were washed upon the rocky shores of the Island of Islay, off the Scottish coast, after the sinking of the transports Tuscania and Otranto in 1918 will be started July 1, it was announced here today.
     The Scottish clan which inhabits the lonely spot has taken the most tender care of the graves and the Chief had given a pledge that the clan would look after the graves as if they were its own until the end of time.  The Chief pleaded that the bodies be left on the island, but the relatives in many cases wished them to be returned and it was decided by the Graves Registration Service to remove them all.
     The coast of Islay is so steep and rocky that the coffins will have to be carried down trails cut in the rocks or lowered by ropes and tackles to a waiting barge, which will convey them to a transport off shore.

But with the exhumation of the Scottish graves the authorities were unable to account for the  remains of Shellie Loyd Webb.  While the bodies of other soldiers were returned and re-interred on American soil, the whereabouts of Shellie Webb was an unsolved mystery.  Despite earlier reports, the Webb family did not know if he had been lost at sea, or if his body had been recovered and buried in Scotland.

Finally, ten years after the fact,  Shellie Webb’s mother received word that the grave of her son had been located in Scotland.

The Adel News
Friday October 12, 1928, pg 1

Shellie L. Webb Otranto Victim
Sleeps in his native soil
Funeral Services Held at Morris Cemetery Sunday Morning

     The remains of Mr. Shellie Lloyd Webb, one of the twenty-seven Berrien county young men who perished on the ill-fated Otranto which had a collision with another vessel and went down off the coast of Ireland during the world war, to be exact on the 6th day of October, 1918, was buried at the Morris cemetery in Berrien county Sunday morning at eleven o’clock.  Mr. Webb was a son of Mrs. J.T. Webb of Ray City. He was about twenty-two years of age when he paid the supreme sacrifice for his country, being on his way to France when the ship went down.  His body was recovered and during these years was buried temporarily in Ireland.  He was unaccounted for and during all these years his mother and brothers have waited anxiously to know if he had been buried or had been lost in the ocean.  The authorities had been unable to tell them definitely.  All the while they had the request of the mother on file in Washington for information on her boy.  A short while ago when the Government had determined to move the bodies of the heroes from their temporary resting place in the National cemetery and when they had been exhumed it was found that the young man’s identification card was on his coffin and upon notification Mrs. Webb  requested that his body be sent home, which was done.  Of the thirty young men from Berrien county, which then included Cook and most of Lanier on the Otranto, only three escaped death.  They are all living today and are:  Mr. Earlie Stewart, of Nashville, Mr. Grady Wright, of Jacksonville, and Mr. Ange Wetherington of Colquitt county.  Mr. Wright and Mr. Wetherington jumped to another boat which had come to the rescue and Mr. Wright had his foot and leg badly injured. Mr. Stewart got to land.  The accident occurred in sight of land, it is said.

    The funeral services for Mr. Webb were largely attended and were deeply impressive.  They were conducted by Elder Davis of Alapaha, assisted by Elder Carver.  The pall bearers were Dr. M.L. Webb, Mr. U.T. Webb, Dr. F. W. Austin, Mr. C.R. Tillman, Mr. G.H. Flowers, and Col. H.W. Nelson.  Mr. Webb was a perfect specimen of manhood being nearly six and a half feet high and weighing close to two hundred pounds.  He was a gallant young man and had many friends who were grieved when he died. Indeed, Berrien county and this section felt the pang of anguish in every home almost when so many of her brave young men met death at once time while on their way across the mighty deep to meet a foreign foe.  Mr. Webb is survived by his devoted mother and ten brothers.  Dr. M.L., L.H., T.J., L.O., M.B., U.T., H.P., H.W., W.C., and Homer Webb.

      Funeral arrangements were in charge of Undertaker A.D. Wiseman of Adel.

After a journey of ten years and 4000 miles   Shellie Loyd Webb was laid to rest  for the final time at Pleasant Cemetery (formerly Morris Cemetery) about 10 miles west of Ray City, GA.

Grave Marker of Shellie Loyd Webb, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave Marker of Shellie Loyd Webb,  Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

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Liveoak Methodist Church

Liveoak Methodist Church, final resting place of Nancy Corbitt and Jesse Bostick, and others of the Corbitt family connection, lies about 20 miles northeast of Ray City, GA just across the Alapaha River in Atkinson county.

Liveoak Methodist Church, Atkinson County, GA

Liveoak Methodist Church, Atkinson County, GA

Liveoak Methodist Church, Atkinson County, GA

Liveoak Methodist Church, Atkinson County, GA

 

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Jesse Bostick and the Battle of Cedar Creek

In the 1850s Jesse and Sarah Bostick made their home in Berrien County in the vicinity of present day Ray City, GA.  Jesse Bostick, born 1836 in Duplin County, NC  was the  eldest son of Treasy Boyette and John Bostick.  His wife, Sarah Ann Knight, was a daughter of Nancy Sloan and Aaron Knight of Berrien County, GA.

On March 22, 1862, Jesse S. Bostick enlisted in the Clinch Volunteers, which mustered in as Company G, Georgia 50th Infantry Regiment.  This unit was quickly dispatched to Virginia where they engaged in battle. Through 1862 and 1863 they fought battles all over Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  The 50th GA Regiment’s bloodiest day was September 14, 1862 at the Battle of South Mountain, where the 50th GA Regiment suffered a casualty rate of 86% – 194 killed or wounded out of an effective force of about 225 men (see William Guthrie and the Bloody Battle of South Mountain).

While Jesse was away fighting in the war, tragedy struck at home.  In 1863, his wife and youngest daughter died.

Jesse continued to fight with his unit in engagements at Gettysburg, PA and Knoxville, TN among others. About 15 Feb 1864, shortly after the battle at Cumberland Gap, TN, he was promoted to Full 3rd Sergeant.

In the late summer and early fall of 1864, the 50th Georgia Regiment was fighting all up and down the Shenandoah Valley.  The 50th Georgia Regiment was a part of General Kershaw’s Division, in General Early’s Army of the Valley.  The Union forces under the command of General Philip Sheridan were engaged in destroying the economic base of the Valley, including crops in the field and stored goods, attempting to deprive General Robert E. Lee’s army of needed supplies.

In mid-October Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah was encamped at Cedar Creek, Virginia while the 50th Georgia Regiment and the rest of General Early’s Confederate forces had withdrawn to defensive positions at Fisher’s Hill, about three miles distant.  Believing the Confederate units in Shenandoah Valley too weak to attack his numerically superior force, on October 15 Sheridan returned to Washington D.C. to meet with General Grant and Secretary of War Staunton to begin planning the next phase of the war.  By October 18, Sheridan was returning to the scene and while in route spent the evening of the 18th at nearby Winchester, VA.

Seizing on the over confidence of the Union forces, Confederate General Early decided to launch a surprise attack across Cedar Creek in the early morning hours of October 19, 1864.  The men of the 50th Georgia regiment spent the day before the attack in preparations, cooking provisions and stocking their ammunition.

Early deployed his men in three columns in a night march, lit only by the moon.  The men moved out at midnight, with all gear secured against chance noise they  marched in silence.  By 5:00 am Kershaw’s Division crossed Cedar Creek at  Bowmans Mill Ford, with the 50th Georgia Regiment in the lead.

Just before sunrise, operating under a cover of dense fog, the confederate forces struck. The surprise was complete, and the Union position was quickly overrun. The Confederates took hundreds of Union prisoners, many still in their bedclothes, and captured eighteen guns.

Sheridan was away at Winchester, Virginia, at the time the battle started. Hearing the distant sounds of artillery, he rode aggressively to his command. (Thomas Buchanan Read wrote a famous poem, Sheridan’s Ride, to commemorate this event.) He reached the battlefield about 10:30 a.m. and began to rally his men. Fortunately for Sheridan, Early’s men were too occupied to take notice; they were hungry and exhausted and fell out of their ranks to pillage the Union camps.

Sheridan's Ride, October 19, 1864.

Sheridan’s Ride, October 19, 1864.

By 4 p.m., Sheridan had rallied and reorganized his troops to mount a counterattack.  The Union divisions were now reinforced by Brig. Gen. George A. Custer‘s cavalry division, which broke the Confederate lines. Custer’s cavalry chased the disorganized Confederates all the way back to Fisher’s Hill. The destruction a bridge in the Confederate rear cut off their escape route, “blocking up all the artillery, ordnance and medical wagons, and ambulances which had not passed that point.”  At Fisher’s Hill, the Confederates managed to regain some composure, organizing a defense and an orderly retreat.  Despite the reversal, the Confederates took with them some 1500 Union prisoners that had been captured in the morning’s attack.

Casualties  on the Confederate side were estimated as being “about 1,860 killed and wounded, and something over 1,000 prisoners” captured by Union forces. The Union took 43 guns (18 of which were their own guns from the morning), and supplies that the Confederacy could not replace.  The battle was a crushing defeat for the Confederacy. They were never again able to threaten Washington, D.C., through the Shenandoah Valley, nor protect the economic base in the Valley. The reelection of Abraham Lincoln was materially aided by this victory and General Phil Sheridan earned lasting fame.

It is estimated that the Georgia 50th Regiment suffered more than 50% casualties in the Battle of Cedar Creek.  In Jesse Bostick’s unit, Company G, two men were mortally wounded, two others received wounds and nine were taken prisoner. Quarterman Staten, Captain of Company G, was severely wounded, but was transported to a hospital and eventually furloughed home to Echols County, GA.

Jessie Bostick was among those captured.

As a prisoner of war he was sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, one of the largest Union POW camps.  During the war, a number of captured soldiers from the Ray City area and Berrien County went through the POW depot at Point Lookout, among them John T. Ray, Benjamin Harmon Crum, Benjamin Thomas Cook and Aaron Mattox.

The conditions at Point Lookout were horrific – more than 20,000 men crammed into tents in a prison built to hold 10,000.  Nearly 4000 Confederate prisoners died at Point Lookout, about 8 percent of the 50,000 men who passed through the prison camp during the war.

Point Lookout, MD.  Hammond General Hospital and U.S. General Depot for Prisoners of War.

Point Lookout, MD. Hammond General Hospital and U.S. General Depot for Prisoners of War.

Jesse Bostick survived at Point Lookout for four cold months before finally being exchanged on March 21, 1865.

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

With the end of the war, Jesse Bostick returned to his home in Berrien County, Ga.  Within six months of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Jesse Bostick married Mrs. Nancy Corbitt Lastinger.  She was the widow of James G. Lastinger, another confederate soldier who served with the 29th Georgia Regiment (the Berrien County Minutemen) and died in a Union hospital in 1864.

Jesse and Nancy Bostick lived out their days in Berrien County, GA.   They were buried across the Alapaha River in present day Atkinson County at Live Oak Cemetery, where others of the Corbitt family connection are buried.

Jesse Bostick

Jesse Bostick, born 1836 in Duplin County, NC was the eldest son of Treasy Boyette and John Bostick. In the mid 1800s he came with his parents to South Georgia and they settled near present day Lakeland, GA) about 10 miles east of the Ray City, Georgia area.

Wiregrass historian Folks Huxford wrote, “John Bostick and family moved to what was then Lowndes County not long after several other families had moved here from their home community in Duplin County, N. C.  Among these families were those of William J. Lamb, James Carroll, Jesse Carroll, William Godfrey, Andrew J. Liles, William Best, James W. Dixon and others.  These all settled in or around the village then called Alapaha but now named Lakeland, Lanier County.”

On July 3, 1856 Jesse Bostick married Sarah Ann Knight in Berrien County, GA. She was a daughter of Nancy Sloan and Aaron Knight. The bride’s grandfather, William Anderson Knight, performed the ceremony. The Knights were among the earliest pioneer families to settle in the Ray City area.

Marriage of Jesse Bostick and Sarah Ann Knight, July 3, 1856.

Marriage of Jesse Bostick and Sarah Ann Knight, July 3, 1856.

Jesse and Sarah Bostick made their home in Berrien County in the vicinity of present day Ray City, GA, next to the home of Sarah’s brother, John W. Knight. Jesse worked as a farm laborer, as he had no real estate or personal estate of his own. Perhaps he worked for his brother-in-law, who had a substantial plantation.

Children of Sarah Ann Knight and Jesse S. Bostick:

  1. Mary E. Bostick, born 1859, married John A. Gaskins
  2. Sarah E. Bostick, born 1860, died young.

During the Civil War, Jesse S. Bostick enlisted in Company G, Georgia 50th Infantry Regiment. While Jesse was away fighting in the war, tragedy struck at home. In 1863, his wife and youngest daughter died.

A memorial to Sarah Ann Knight  (1841-1863), wife of Jesse Bostick, appears on the grave marker of Mary Bostick Gaskins at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

A memorial to Sarah Ann Knight (1841-1863), wife of Jesse Bostick, appears on the gravemarker of her daughter, Mary Bostick Gaskins, at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Jessie Bostick was captured at the Battle of Cedar Creek, and imprisoned at Point Lookout, MD. With the end of the war, Jesse Bostick returned to his home in Berrien County, Ga. Within six months of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Jesse Bostick married Mrs. Nancy Corbitt Lastinger. She was the widow of James G. Lastinger, who served with the 29th Georgia Regiment (the Berrien County Minute Men) and died in a Union hospital in 1864.  Nancy Corbitt had come from Tennessee to Clinch County, GA sometime prior to 1860 with her widowed mother and siblings.

Marriage of Jesse Bostick and Nancy Lastinger, October 1, 1865, Berrien County, GA

Marriage of Jesse Bostick and Nancy Lastinger, October 1, 1865, Berrien County, GA

The census of 1870 shows Jesse, Nancy, and Jesse’s daughter, Mary, living in the household of Nancy’s younger brother, Monroe Corbitt.  Monroe was also a Confederate veteran  having served as a sergeant in Company H, 29th Georgia Regiment, and he had managed to retain a farm even through the war years. The Corbitt farm was in the 1148 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County.  Jesse worked as a farm laborer, while Nancy and Mary assisted with housekeeping and domestic chores.

Later the Bosticks lived in the Willacoochee area in Berrien County.

Nancy Bostick died September 18, 1918 and Jesse Bostick died August 21, 1925 in Berrien County, GA. They are both buried at Live Oak Methodist Church, in present day Atkinson County.

Gravemarker of Jesse Bostick and Nancy Corbitt Lastinger Bostick, Live Oak Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA.

Gravemarker of Jesse Bostick and Nancy Corbitt Lastinger Bostick, Live Oak Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA.

Elsie Quarterman, Noted Ecologist, Once Resident of Ray City

As a young woman, noted ecologist and centenarian Elsie Quarterman resided at Ray City, GA.   Canopy Roads of South Georgia notes, on June 9, 2014, “Aunt Elsie stepped over the final fence, dying peacefully at her home in Nashville, Tennessee, attended by her nephew Patrick and his wife Ann, as she had wanted.”

 

Elsie Quarterman, 1931.

Elsie Quarterman, 1931 Pine Cone, Georgia State Womans College. Elsie Quarterman was a resident of Ray City, GA during the time she attended the college.

Elsie Quarterman, a daughter of Alla Irene Peek  and David Sinclair Quarterman, was born 1910 in Lowndes County, Georgia.  Her father worked as a Superintendent of City Works for the City of Valdosta, GA and her early childhood was spent in the city, where her family resided at 115 Varnedoe Street. Her grandparents, Susan Evalyn “Susie” Sinclair and Thomas Quarterman, lived in a house on Hill Avenue.

Elsie Quarterman, high school student at Hahira, GA.

Elsie Quarterman, high school student at Hahira, GA.

Sometime around 1918-19 the Quarterman family removed from Valdosta to a  farm owned by Elsie’s father, located on Ousley road in Militia District 663 of Lowndes County.  Living at the farm house along with her parents and siblings were her Scottish grandmother, and grandfather who was disabled. In 1921, the Quarterman family moved again to a farm located on the Hahira road in Georgia Militia District 1307, the Cat Creek District of Lowndes County. Elsie attended high school at Hahira.  In the census of 1930, 19-year-old Elsie Quarterman is enumerated in her parents household on the family farm.

After high school, Elsie Quarterman attended Georgia State Womans College in Valdosta, GA (now known as Valdosta State University.) The 1931 Pine Cone, the college annual, gives her home town as Ray City, GA.  Elsie graduated from G.S.W.C. in 1932 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Elsie Quarterman, Georgia State Womans College diploma, 1932.

Elsie Quarterman, Georgia State Womans College diploma, 1932.

Elsie Quarterman later attended Duke University where she earned a Master of Arts in Botany, and a Ph.D. in Plant Ecology. After  achieving her doctorate, she joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University, and became the first woman to  chair a department of that institution. She became a noted pioneer in the field of ecology with important publications on southern hardwood and pine forests.

Amazon.com lists four books authored by Dr. Elsie Quarterman:

  • A summer check list of the vascular plants of the highland region (Publication – the Highlands Museum and Biological Laboratory) – Unknown Binding (1947) by Elsie Quarterman
  • Southern mixed hardwood forest: Climax in the southeastern coastal plain : U.S.A – Unknown Binding (1962) by Elsie Quarterman
  • ALLELOCHEMIC EFFECTS OF PETALOSTEMON GATINGERI ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF ARENARIA PATULA IN CEDAR GLADES – Unknown Binding (1975) by Barbara H & Quarterman, Elsie Turner
  • Potential ecological/geological natural landmarks on the interior low plateaus – Unknown Binding (1978) by Elsie Quarterman

For more on the life of Elsie Quarterman and Quarterman family history, see Elsie Quarterman (1910-), Centenarian Ecologist

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A Brief History of New Ramah Baptist Church at Ray City, GA

New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, at Ray City, GA, was built on land donated by   Elias M “Hun” Knight, John T. “Coot” Knight, Alexander “Bub” Knight, and  Levi Jackson Knight, the four sons of  Sarah “Sallie” Moore and Henry Harrison Knight,  and grandsons of pioneer settler John Knight.

New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, GA

New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, GA

In 1976, B.L. Johnson wrote a brief history of the church:

NEW RAMAH PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH

The land for the church and cemetery was donated by A.S. Knight, E.M. Knight, L.J. Knight, and John Knight, all sons of Henry H. Knight.

On August 30, 1913 the following brethren met and established the new church:  Elder I.A. Wetherington, Unity Church; Elder H.W. Parrish, Salem Church; Elder A.A. Knight, Pleasant Church; Elder E.R. Rhoden, Pleasant Hill; and Elder Ed Lindsey, Ty Ty Church.

Public donations from twenty-five cents on upwards to thirty-five dollars were given to build the church.  Elder A.A. Knight was the first pastor and served for twelve years from August 1913 until July 1925.  He was the father of June Knight,  Mrs. Martha Burkhalter, and Mrs. J.L. Lee, all former residents of the community.

Elder C.H. Vickers succeeded Elder Knight and he served as pastor until December 1970, having served continuously for almost 45 years. Serving shorter terms as pastor were Elder J.R. Stallings from January 1971 to January 1972; and Elder Elisha Roberts from January 1972 until August 1973.  The present pastor, Marcus Peavy, began his pastorate in August 1973.

Brethren who have served the church as clerks are George Mikell, Terrell Richardson, Lloyd Cribb and the present clerk, Austin Register.

There are presently eighteen members of the church.

Obituary of Mrs. E.B. Washington

The  Nashville Herald reported the untimely death of Mrs. E. B. Washington in 1911.

Nashville Herald
Friday July 28, 1911

Mrs. E.B. Washington Dead

The remains of Mrs. E.B. Washington, formerly of this city, but lately of Rays Mill, were brought up to Valdosta from Pinetta, Fla., Tuesday and was carried to Hahira on the 11 o’clock train for internment in the family square at that place.
Mrs. Washington’s death was a peculiarly sad one and came after an illness of only two days.  She left home several days ago to go to Cherry Lake, Fla., to spend some time, accompanied by her little children, one of them three years old and the other one about six months.  She was in apparently the best of health until she reached Pinetta, Fla., when she was taken ill and it was found that her illness was of a very serious nature.
Her husband, who is the marshal of Rays Mill and was formerly a deputy sheriff here, was notified of her illness Sunday and summoned to her bedside. He reached Pinetta Monday morning and her death occurred about 9 o’clock.
The deceased was formerly a Miss Dickerson, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D. J. Dickerson, of Cecil.  She was well known throughout the northern part of this county and was very popular among all who knew her.  Her death, coming so suddenly, will be a great shock to her many friends.  -Valdosta Times.

Bullet Intended for her Father Kills McGee Girl

 Three 1919 news clippings  from the Atlanta Constitution tell a Ray City tragedy.

Atlanta Constitution; Feb 11, 1919

Bullet Intended for her Father Kills Mary McGee

 Valdosta, Ga. February 10. –(Special.)–  A row between Lee McGee and Will Collins, neighbors living at Ray City, 14 miles north of Valdosta, on Saturday night resulted in the almost instant death of Mary McGee, when she was struck by a bullet from Collins’ pistol, which was intended for her father. 

Both men had drawn their pistols when the little girl ran in front of her father just as Collins fired, the ball passing through the upper part of the child’s body. 

The trouble between the two men resumed during the night, with its fatal ending. Both men are said to have been drinking. The killing of the little girl created much excitement at Ray City and officers who arrested Collins rushed him to the county jail at Nashville, fearing that friends of McGee would overpower them and lynch Collins. 

Later it was thought best to carry Collins to Fitzgerald, where he is now in jail. Reports from Ray City today state that wild rumors of violence against Collins were unfounded and that no attempt to take the law into their own hands would have been made by the people there.

Young Girl’s Slayer Is Saved From Mob And Rushed to Jail

Feb 12, 1919

The Atlanta Constitution

    Fitzgerald, Ga., February 11. – (Special.) – Accused of killing the 10-year-old daughter of Mat McGee, Will Collins of Ray City, has been brought here by officials to escape mob violence.

   The trouble occurred at the home of McGee at Ray City Saturday night as a result of a quarrel between McGee and Collins, which occurred during the day at the mill where both work. That night when Collins entered the McGee home the 10-year-old girl ran between the two men, it is stated, and received the shot intended for her father.

     Excitement ran high in the little village following the shooting and it is said that only the absence of a leader prevented a lynching. Fearing for Collins’ life, Deputies D. W. Griner, Studstill, and Shaw, of Berrien county, placed him in a fast automobile and brought him safely through the country.

WILL COLLINS HELD FOR CHILD’S MURDER

Feb 17, 1919

The Atlanta Constitution

    Nashville, Ga., February 16. –(Special.) –Will Collins, who it is alleged shot and and killed little Robbie McGee, the 9-year-old daughter of Lacy McGee, of Ray City, last Saturday night, was bound over to await the action of the Berrien County grand jury, on the charge of straight murder, without bail.

    The defendant was brought here yesterday from Fitzgerald, where he had been carried by the officers last sunday to avoid violence, and placed on trial before Hon. J.W. Moore, pustice [sic] of the peace, to determine, whether or not the state should hold him, and if so for what degree of crime. The trial consumed the entire day, many witnesses being examined both for the defense and for the state. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime except the father and mother of the dead child.

    Collins was removed to the Berrien county jail to await the convening of the grand jury. Only an ordinary crowd witnessed the trial. The state was represented by J. H. Gary and J. D. Lovett, while John H. Hull was counsel for the defendant.

While the names of those involved varies as the story unfolds, the essential facts remain.

The 1920 Census records show Lacy McGee in the Milltown District of Berrien County, living on the Milltown and Willacoochee Road with his wife and children.

1920 United States Federal Census enumeration of Lacy McGee

Name: Lacy McGee
Home in 1920: Milltown, Berrien, Georgia
Age: 38
Spouse’s Name: Fannie McGee
 Birthplace:  Alabama
Father’s Birth Place: Alabama
Mother’s Birth Place: Georgia
Marital Status: Married
Race: White
Sex: Male
Home owned: Rent
Able to read: Yes
Able to Write: Yes
Household Members:
Name Age
Lacy McGee 38
Fannie McGee 27
Delila McGee 4
Alton McGee 2 3/12

Eyewitness Accounts of the Berrien Tiger

The legendary Berrien Tiger was a large panther that mauled two Wiregrass victims in 1849 (before Berrien county was actually created). The first victim was Jim Hightower (aka James Stewart), step-son of  Thomas B. Stewart.  One of the eyewitnesses who saw the carcass of the Berrien Tiger was Martha Newbern Guthrie,  who was mother to generations of Berrien County residents, and who spent time in her final years living with her son Arrin’s family at Ray City, GA.  Her husband and brother-in-law were among the men who hunted down and killed the beast, after it attacked a young boy. Other stories of the Berrien Tiger (Early Account of the Berrien Tiger, 1849,  1849 Adventures With A Panther in Berrien County, GA) were posted over the past week. The account below, originally published in 1923 nearly 75 years after the event, provides additional details (or embellishments?) not included in early versions of the tale.

[When the Wiregrass Pioneers] were begining to realize a sense of relief from Indian depredations but not from the depredations of wild beasts, there occurred a thrilling encounter between a magnificent specimen of that species of felines known as a tiger and a party of men which encount- —– does when trying to decide whe- ——— only encounter of its kind in all this section originally known as Irwin County.

Setting in Mud Creek

It was back somewhere about the year 1848 and the scene of the episode was in what is now Clinch County but at that time Lowndes near the Alapaha River at what is known locally as the Mud Creek bridge, or “Indian Ford” as it was then known.

In that neighborhood lived Samuel and Hamp Guthrie, Alfred Herring, Jesse Vickery and a man by the name of Stewart (Editor’s note This man was Thomas B. Stewart, born 1798 in Virginia and a blacksmith by trade, and he  lived neighbor to Hamp Guthrie) and also Green Akins and others of the hardy pioneers who were in — swamp, immediately striking wind  —try from the wild man and the wild animals and making it a fit dwelling place to live. Stewart had a step-son named Jim Hightower. This boy was about 14 years old. He had had the misfortune to get his right hand mangled while feeding an old-fashioned wooden roller cane-mill by feeding his hand into the mill along with the cane when a very small boy, and when it healed up so far as I can learn, was the — of distorted and crumpled up stub of bones, consequently he had very little use of that member in any of the tasks he had to perform. The accident occurred at the home of Green Akins and Mrs. Akins who were the parents of Mrs. Jerry May who is now living about five miles east of Nashville. Mrs. Akins released the little fellow from his awful position by first stopping the horse, loosing him from the lever, backing the mill off the boy’s hand and releasing it.  It was impossible to obtain the service of a physician in that section and with the very best skill which Mrs. Akins could master she dressed the boy’s hand in her own way.

Hunts Hog, Flushes Tiger

This boy, Jim Hightower, in company with a little half brother was sent out one morning early to look for some hogs down by the river swamp. Their faithful dog accompanied them. Hunting along beside the swamp they were startled by the strange acts of the dog which had been running about, sometimes in the bushes, sometimes outside when suddenly like something half-dead with fright the dog came tearing out of the bushes and cowered down at the feet of his young masters and no persuasion of any sort could avail to get that dog to return to the swamp. The boys knew not what to think except that they surmised the dog was overcome with cowardice and only needed to have his masters near to encourage him in the face of supposed danger; and with this thought in mind no doubt, the boys proceeded on down nearer the swamp at the place where the dog emerged, at the same time setting the dog on and encouraging him in every way they could to go on in. But nothing they could do could avail to get that dog into the swamp ahead of them.

 While they were thus engaged and while they were pushing their way a little further on into the low bushes, the elder boy being somewhat ahead, they were struck with terror to see a great tawny red body rise out of the bushes with a sudden bound, alighting on Jim’s shoulders and bearing him to the ground. The small boy immediately took to his heels accompanied by his dog, leaving Jim to the fate to which the tiger would subject him.

 Alarm Given

Going by a neighboring house which was nearer than his home the small boy gave the alarm, the family being seated at breakfast. Quickly the man of the house ran to Stewart’s and told the family that a tiger had killed Jim. The news was spread from house to house as fast as possible and the dogs were on their way down to the swamp to make a search, expecting to find the boy Jim torn to pieces or probably eaten. Their guns consisted of the old-fashioned muzzle-loading shot gun, some of which had flint-locks, but in addition each man was armed with Bowie knives with which to fight if it should come to a hand-to-hand struggle.

When they arrived at the place where the small boy said the attack was made, there was the blood, the signs of the struggle, the leaves and straw where the victim had evidently been covered up but no trace of the boy or his clothing, except his little cap, could be found and except the blood.

Dogs Encounter Tiger

The dogs were set off into the swamp, immediately striking wind of the game and began raising a mighty din of yelps and the party knew that they were right on the animal. Immediately, however, the anticipatory sounds of the baying changed to death howls, and the party knew that their faithful dogs were being killed.

Three of the men, Hamp Guthrie, Alf Herring, and Jess Vickery, agreed to stand by each other until death and go into the swamp to the relief of their dogs. Armed with their guns and Bowie Knives they pushed their way as fast as they could through the swamp to where the battle between beast and dogs was raging, and were horrified to see that one or two of the dogs had already been killed and others were being mangled as fast as they came in reach of the in position in the center of the pack of dogs and in such close proximity that a shot could not be made without danger of wounding or killing a dog. Hamp Guthrie, being of a daring and intrepid character, somewhat braver than the other men, decided to get into the fight and tackle the beast with his knife but he made the others promise to stand by him and help him out of the danger to the last. The animal didn’t wait however for Guthrie to reach it. Releasing its hold on the dogs it leaped with a mighty bound upon the shoulders of Guthrie and bore him to the ground. There, in a perfect pandemonium of shrieks, growls, and yelps it held him while it proceeded to tear his flesh with teeth and claws until Jess Vickery ran up an holding the muzzle of his gun to its side, caught a moment when he could discharge his gun without danger to Guthrie, and drove the whole load from his gun through its body. The shot however, failed to make the animal release its hold. He then clubbed his gun and broke it over the animal’s body, still the beast did not let go. He then grabbed up Guthrie’s gun which had been dropped when he was attacked, and broke it over the animal. By this time , Alf Herring had run up with his Bowie knife and together with Vickery they succeeded in stabbing and cutting the beast until it fell over dead.

Guthrie had been terribly lacerated and bitten on the neck, shoulders and head, and his clothing were torn to shreds. He was weak from loss of blood and from the terrible encounter but was able to walk home.

Hightower Turns Up.

By this time, others of the neighborhood had arrived on the scene and brought to the hunters the news that Jim was not dead but horribly wounded and mangled by the tiger, his back, neck, and face and head being terribly torn, two of his jaw teeth broken out by the biting of the animal and clothing literally torn off of him.

The story of the attack as related by Jim, was to the effect when the tiger bore him down he fell on his face and having presence of mind, he would not cry out from the pain but would remain perfectly still like as if dead and worthy of his foe,  hold his breath when the animal would cease his biting and apparently listen, precisely as a cat does when trying to decide whether she has succeeded in extinguishing the life in the rat she has caught.  This was continued no doubt to what seemed an age to the suffering and bleeding boy, until finally the animal decided that it was safe to leave him and pursue the other and smaller boy.  Jim said he watched from one side as he lay on his face , the maneuvers of the tiger as he would lift his head and look in the direction in which the small boy left.  Finally, he said, the great cat began hastily to rake up leaves and straw over Jim’s body and when he had covered him he bounded off Jim knew not where.  When all was quiet and Jim could hear nothing more, he cautiously raised his bleeding head and looked around and listened again to see if he could hear anything of his foe.  Not hearing anything, and thinking it would be safe to try and reach home, he arose ans as fast as he could in his terrible condition, struck out towards home.  He had proceeded only a few hundred yards before coming to a little branch over which he had to pass in order to reach  home by the nearest route and by which route his little brother had gone. When he came in sight of that little branch, imagine his fright if you can, to see that tiger standing there in the path and lapping water.  Fortunately the animal didn’t see him and Jim turned and made his way home by a different route and so escaped a second attack.

Carcass Displayed

The men tied the tiger together, swung it upon a pole and carried it out to the home of Green (W.G.) Akins, placing it in the yard where it lay for a day, a sight to the numbers of people having heard of the great tiger fight, had come for miles to see.

It was a male tiger, a magnificent specimen, and from the description given by those who saw it, must have weighed as much as 250 pounds and as much as four feet in length. It was a solid tawny red in color and about 30 to 36 inches in height.

Jim Hightower, by reason of the many adventures he experienced, may be said to have possessed a charmed life.  He not only had a hand ruined in a cane mill and miraculously escaped death from a tiger, but was struck by lightning and stunned and was weeks in recovering; and he was bitten by a small rattlesnake and suffered greatly from that. Then later on in life he got into difficulty with a man named Wheeler, killing him and for which crime he served a penitentiary sentence of thirty years.

Story Said True

The above story is true and is given substantially as related to me by two persons who were living in the vicinity at that time.  One of them, Mrs Martha Guthrie, widow of Samuel Guthrie, the latter was in the hunt and was a brother of Hamp Guthrie. She and her husband were living at the Joe Stevens place on the Berrien County side of the river at the time, and she had been married two or three years.  She is still living at the home of her son S. F. Guthrie, in the Upper Tenth District of Berrien within four miles of where the hunt took place.  She is 87 years old, totally blind, but otherwise in possession of her faculties. Her mind is bright for one of her age and she talks intelligently about many things that happened in pioneer days.

Witnesses Named

The other living witness who can talk intelligently about frontier life is Mrs. Annie May, wife of Mr. Jerry May, who lives five miles east of Nashville, out on the Milltown Road.  She will be 87 years old on the 26th day of May, 1923, and is well-preserved for a woman of her age. She has spent a lifetime of hard work and still keeps house with her husband who will be 89 years old on next Sept 2nd.  She does her own cooking and housework feeding the chickens and pigs. She is the mother of seven children, all grown and married; and the youngest son Sirmans G. May lives near his aged parents and has grandchildren of his own. Mrs. May was a daughter of Green Akins, in whose front yard the slain animal was viewed by her as a little girl and by the hundreds who came to see it.

By all accounts, the Berrien Tiger  was certainly a large panther specimen. If it was as large as indicated in the account above – 250 pounds – then it was larger than the current record specimen, killed in Colorado in 2001.

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