Berrien Skirmishes, the Battle of Brushy Creek, and the Indian Maiden

Previous posts have described the Indian skirmishes at William “Short-Arm Bill” Parker’s place on Alapaha River in Berrien County (Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars, Short-arm Bill Parker).

Nineteen years after the event, in 1855 the historian Reverend George White, briefly reported it this way:

 On the 13th of July, 1836, on the Allapaha River, near the plantation of Mr. Wm. H. Mitchell, a battle was fought between the whites and Indians. Captain Levi J. Knight commanded the whites, numbering about seventy-five men. The Indians were defeated, and all killed except five. Twenty-three guns and nineteen packs fell into the hands of the whites.

The following account of the incident is quoted from Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials and Legends, published in 1914 by the Georgia state historian, Lucian Lamar Knight. (For Levi J. Knight’s own account, see Levi J. Knight Reports Indian Fight of July 13, 1836).

 Captain Levi J. Knight was a celebrated Indian fighter. The following story, in which he figures with some prominence, was found in an old scrap-book kept by the late Judge Richard H. Clarke. It was told by Bryan J. Roberts, a wealthy pioneer citizen of Lowndes, who several years before his death divided a large estate between his children. It runs as follows: “In 1836 the rumors of depredations committed by the Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for protection. Captain Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged. This company was on duty for 105 days, and was engaged in two bloody fights with the red-skins. Some time in the fall of the year mentioned, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown, in what is now Berrien. They carried his feather beds out in the yard, cut them open, emptied the feathers and appropriated the ticks. They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and money in the sum of $308. “

Captain Knight was soon on the trail of the squad and overtook them near the Alapaha River, not far from Gaskin’s mill-pond. The sun was just rising when the gallant company opened fire on the savages. A lively fight ensued, but it soon terminated in an utter rout of the Indians, who threw their guns and plunder into the river and jumped in after them. A few were killed and a number wounded. One Indian was armed with a fine shot-gun. This he throw into the river. He also tried to throw into the stream a shot-bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and suspended over the water. Strange to say, it contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which was recovered. The fine gun was fished out of the river and was afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.

Having driven the Indians from the dense swamp beyond the river, Captain Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy Creek, in the southwest part of the county [i. e., Lowndes]. In the distance they heard a volley of small arms. On arrival, they found that a battle had already been fought, and the volley was only the last tribute of respect over the grave of a comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom. Mr. Robert Parrish, who became quite prominent and lived near Adel, had his arm broken in this fight. Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield, and there were two others killed. The Indians lost 22, besides a number wounded. The battle was fought in a swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against Anglo-Saxon courage, and in five minutes after the engagement opened there was not a live red-skin to be seen. From this place Captain Knight marched his company into what is now Clinch. He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement occurred. Three were killed and five made prisoners. Mr. Brazelius- Staten was dangerously wounded, but finally recovered. This ended the Indian fighting in which Captain Knight’s company was engaged. More than three quarters of a century has since passed, and the actors in the bloody drama are now at rest.

The encounter at Brushy Creek occurred at a “fort” that had been built by the McCranies and their neighbors to defend against the escalating Indian attacks, especially after the destruction and massacre that had occurred at the small Georgia village of Roanoke on the night of May 15, 1836.  A 1930 history of Cook County, GA gave the following account of the  Battle of Brushy Creek:

Fearing for their lives and in obedience to Governor William Schley’s orders, the people, of what is now Cook County, gathered themselves into three different groups and built three forts. The Wellses and Rountrees and their neighbors built a fort at the Rachel Morrison place which is now the John Rountree old field. This was Morrison Fort and the company of soldiers formed there was known as Pike’s Company. The Futches and Parrishes and others built their fort at the Futch place on the Withlacoochee River where the ferry was located. The McCranies and their neighbors built their fort on Brushy Creek where the George Moore farm is now located. Their company of soldiers was known as the Hamilton Sharp Company.


Scarcely had the people of the present county gotten into forts and formed companies for fighting when the hostile Creeks and Cherokee Indians, coming from the North to join the neighboring Seminoles in Florida, began murdering families along the way.

The soldiers of the Hamilton Sharp Company at the McCranie Fort looked out one morning about the 10th of June 1836 and found the woods just across the Musket Branch from their camp, literally full of Indians. They saw they were so completely out-numbered that they sent Mr. Ashley Lindsey through the country to the Morrison Fort to get aid from Pike’s Company.

While he was gone for help, Hamilton Sharp, Captain of the McCranie Fort, sent out Robert N. Parrish, Richard Golden, Penuel Folsom and William McCranie as scouts to guard the Indians until help could come. The Indians out-witted the scouts and decoyed them away from their camp and attacked them.

They wounded Robert N. Parrish and Penuel Folsom. Folsom was mortally wounded and just as the Indians got to him to scalp him, Pike’s Company came up in the rear, began firing and the Indians fled across Brushy Creek.

The companies were all soon united and together they pursued the Indians, killing men, women and children. Numbers of Indians were killed that day. Pike’s Company lost three brave soldiers, James Therrell, Edwin Shanks and Edwin Henderson.

Penuel Folsom, the first soldier killed in the Battle of Brushy Creek, was buried in what is now known as the Rountree Cemetery, his being the first grave in it. After this terrible battle with the Indians, it was found that an Indian maiden had been captured and held at the fort on Brushy Creek. That night she asked permission to yell and this permission was granted. Her mother soon came out of the darkness to the child and she was released to go with her mother.

To the astonishment of all the whites, when morning came, every Indian corpse that could be found had his or her hands folded and each lifeless body had been straightened, but not buried. Their bodies were never buried. The companies drove the Indians south of Milltown, now Lakeland, Ga. There, they killed one of their biggest warriors.

The historical marker for the Battle of Brushy Creek,  near Adel, Cook County, GA reads:

Located at Rest Area #5 on northbound I-75 approximately 8 miles N of Adel
31.24343, -83.46538
BATTLE OF BRUSHY CREEKNear here, in July, 1836, a battalion of Georgia militia under command of Major Michael Young, defeated a band of Indians in the Battle of Brushy Creek. In pursuit of the Indians, who had been raiding the frontier as they fled into Florida, the soldiers came upon them in the fork of Big Warrior Creek and Little River and drove them into the swamp. A general engagement followed, fought over a distance of 3 miles, through cypress ponds and dense canebreaks. The result was victory for the militia, with 2 men killed, 9 wounded. Of the enemy, 23 were killed, many wounded and 18 prisoners taken.

In his 1916 account of the engagement, historian Folks Huxford continued this narrative with details of the concluding encounter at Cow Creek.

“From this place [Brushy Creek] Captain Knight marched his company across the Allapaha River into what is now Clinch County. The Indians after the last engagement had crossed the river and took a course southeastward to Cow Creek, about three miles below where Stockton now is. The whites traced them and found them near the creek. They surprised the savages at breakfast and the Indians, abandoning what little effects they had except guns, hurriedly crossed the “Boggy Slue”and then went over the creek. The slue which had been so easy for the Indians to cross, delayed the whites, but finally crossing it they caught up with the Indians on the other side of the creek, where a short engagement occurred. Bill Daugharty had his horse shot from under him in this engagement by a very large Indian, and just as the Indian was about to fire at him, Mr. Daugharty shot the Indian. The Indian’s body was not found until after the engagement was over, when it was found in some bushes. In this short engagement three Indians were killed and five made prisoners. No whites were killed, but Mr. Barzilla Staten was dangerously wounded from which he afterwards recovered.”

William McCranie fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek and at Cow Creek. His personal account was related in the Berrien County Pioneer in 1888.

He was engaged in two pitched battles with the Indians – at Brushy Creek, which was fought in sight of his father’s house, and on Cow Creek, in Clinch county. In both battles, his friend, Jack Lindsey, was close by his side and also in pursuit of the Indians that followed them. ‘Uncle Billy,’ as he is now familiarly called, has always been exceedingly reticent relative to the details of these battles, even to his wife and children. However, one incident of the pursuit of the Indians after the Battle of Cow Creek he sometimes tells with seemingly a pleasing smile. The Indians had been completely routed and the white men were in close pursuit. He and Jack Lindsey had crossed the creek and was emerging from the swamp when an Indian buck jumped from behind a covering of brush. They discovered each other simultaneously and three rifles flew to the shoulder in an instant, but he and Jack was too quick for their antagonist. They fired together, and the Indian with a yell fell dead – a ball in his heart. They fired together, aiming at the heart, and they never could say which killed the Indian. When they went forward to examine the dead Indian, a ‘gal’ jumped up from behind a clump of bushes, and ran to the edge of a cypress swamp where, for some unknown reason, she stopped. By this time some other white men came up, attracted by the rifle shots, and expressed surprise at the sudden disappearance of the Indians and their being unable to find one. “Come along,” said uncle Billy, “and I will show a ‘gal’.” They went to where she was but she would keep some distance between them. The men tried to coax her to come to them but she would not – said she was afraid they would kill her. Finally, Uncle Billy told her to come to him. She refused, but told him to come to her. As he started toward her, she started toward him, and they clasped each other in fond embrace, she gave him such a hug that he has never forgotten it. Whatever became of her Uncle Billy has never told.

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

In 1836, a band of Indians raided the homestead of William Parker, pioneer settler of Berrien County.  Since the spring of that year, pioneers all across Wiregrass Georgia had been facing increasing hostilities from the Native Americans who were being forced out of their ancestral lands.

A previous post recounted a story by Martha Guthrie, and the role of her family in the last Indian encounters in Berrien County (see Martha Guthrie: Babe of the Indian Wars).  Her parents, Dred Newbern and Bettsy Sirmons, were the nearest neighbors of William Parker. The Newbern’s homestead was located on the east bank of Five Mile Creek, perhaps about eight miles northeast of Ray City. This was probably somewhere in the present day vicinity of the Highway 168 bridge over Five Mile Creek. The Parker place was located a few miles further to the east, at the Alapaha River.

Coffee County historian Warren Preston Ward gave the following 1922 account of the raid on the Parker place, which was a prelude to the Battle of Brushy Creek.   According to Ward, the timing of the event was in the winter of 1836, but the letters of Levi J. Knight state the engagement occurred on July 12, 1836:

Short-Arm Bill Parker and the Last Indian Fight In Berrien County

The Atlanta Constitution
Warren Preston Ward
December 6, 1922 pg F15

About the year 1836 William Parker, (Short-Arm Bill) as he was called, and the father of C.G.W. Parker, and later a well-known doctor, was living in Berrien county on the old Patterson place. 

One winter day when Mr. Parker was away from home, several Indians appeared at the foot of the hill, at a spring, where the family got water. It is said that the Indians began to beat on logs, thereby attracting the attention of the people.  It appears that the Indians meant to rob and not to murder, but as there were no men at home the women ran through the field , a back way, a distance of five miles to the home of Dread Newborn. The Indians robbed the house, broke open a trunk and got $300 in cash, cut the feather beds open, emptied the feathers out and took the ticks with them.  A company of men soon collected together, under the command of George Peterson, Dread Newborn, William Parker, and others.  The Indians were overtaken at the Allapaha river and three were killed, others made their escape but were overtaken at the St. Illa river [Satilla River], at what is now known as Indian Lake, about two miles northeast of the town of Axson, Ga.  They were all shot and killed, except one squaw; it was reported that she was captured and shot.  Dread Newborn, the son of Dread Newborn, who followed the Indians, informs me that the Indian woman was kept in prison for a while and then by direction of the government was returned to her own people. About this time a whole family by the  name of Wilds was killed by the Indians, near Waresboro, Ga.  One little boy, Reuben Wilds, made his escape.  Of course there are a great many Indian stories, but the narratives I have given you are facts testified to by living witnesses and most worthy tradition, for the first time they are put into history of the Wiregrass country.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, 1832.

1927 Atlanta Journal account of the massacre of the Wildes family, July 22, 1838.

The Wildes Family Massacre

I will tell you one more incident, because it puts the ingenuity of white men to test against the cunningness of the Indians.  It is only through tradition that I have been able to get this story, which  runs thus: Way back in the early days people living in south Georgia had no markets near and so the people would gather their little plunder together, go in carts to Centerville on the St. Maria river, in Camden county, Ga.  The Indians robbed and killed a good many of these people going to market, at a point near the Okefenokee swamp.  A company [under Captain Elias Waldron] of brave pioneers decided to put a stop to this nefarious business, and, if possible, make it safe for people to go to market.  And so with guns and such other necessaries as they would need, they went to the point near the Okefenokee swamp and pitched their camp, they cut small logs into pieces five or six feet long, about the length of a man. They laid the logs around the camp fire and covered them over with quilts and blankets. On the ends of the logs they placed hats and fixed it up in such a manner as to make it look very much like a bunch of travelers lying around the camp fire.  The men, with their guns, went a short distance from the camp fire and concealed themselves in the woods.  Away in the midnight hour, as the fire burned low, the pioneers saw the heads of Indians beginning to peep out from behind trees and stumps and from over logs. In a minute there was a volley of shots fired and the Indians sprang to their feet and with the war-whoop charged upon the campfire. As they pulled off the hats at the end of the logs, instead of finding the heads of white men they saw the joke.  For a moment they stood still in bewilderment; at that moment every Indian was shot dead, not one of them made his escape.  Every hat had a bullet hole in it. That was the last of the robberies committed at Centerville by the Indians…
      By the year 1841 there was not an Indian in Georgia, who had a right to be here.  The people of Georgia, and especially south Georgia, were happy indeed to be rid of the Indians and to have the Wiregrass land without fear of molestation.  Some one wrote a song, about this time, which reads as follows:

“No more shall the sound of the war whoop be heard
The ambush and slaughter no longer be feared,
The tommy hawk buried shall rest in the ground.
And peace and good will to the nation round.”

More about the Wildes Family

Jamie Alden Connell, A Life of Service previous post about Jamie Connell mentioned his work as Public Relations Officer at Moody Air Force Base near Ray City, GA (see Jamie Connell worked at Moody AFB.)  Jamie Connell’s life of service had a broad foundation.

Jamie Alden Connell was a postal carrier in Nashville, GA prior to World War Two. Image courtesy of

Jamie Alden Connell was a postal carrier in Nashville, GA prior to World War Two. Image courtesy of

Jamie Connell prepared for his future career first by attending the preparatory school at Gordon Military Institute, Barnesville, GA.

Gordon Military Institute cadets on parade in 1941.

Gordon Military Institute cadets on parade in 1941.

Founded as Male and Female Seminary in 1852, this was a pioneer school of its kind in Georgia. It was reorganized in 1872 as Gordon Institute, named for General John B. Gordon, famed Confederate soldier… In 1927 this school became Gordon Military College, an Honor Military School, an accredited, non-sectarian, five year preparatory Junior College. 

Gordon Institute cadets often went on to other colleges or to military academies like the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, Georgia Military Academy or North Georgia College. World War II  saw numerous Gordon alumni serving in Europe and in the Pacific, including Jamie Connell. In 1938, Jamie Connell transferred from Gordon Institute to North Georgia College.  He was listed as a freshman in the school’s 1938 Undergraduate Bulletin, which noted:

North Georgia College was originally organized and administered on a military basis which system has prevailed from the date of its founding. The college has been classified by the United States Government as an “essentially military college,” being one of eight colleges in the United States so designated. It is the only one in Georgia, and, since “essentially military colleges” endeavor to emulate the traditions of West Point, North Georgia College has well been called “Georgia’s “West Point.” General Robert Lee Bullard, formerly Commandant of Cadets and Professor of Military Science and Tactics, referred to the college as one of the two finest military schools in the country.

Jamie Connell, Cadet, North Georgia College, 1940. At North Georgia College, Cadet Sergent Connell was a member of the Camera Club,  served on the staff of the Cyclops college annual, and was editor of the Cadet Bugler, college newspaper.

Jamie Connell, Cadet, North Georgia College, 1940. At North Georgia College, Cadet Sergent Connell was a member of the Camera Club, served on the staff of the Cyclops college annual, and was editor of the Cadet Bugler, college newspaper.

As a North Georgia College Cadet, Jamie Connel was practicing for a future career in the military and public relations.   In 1940, he shared some of his experiences as Editor of the Cadet Bugler with The Atlanta Constitution.

The Atlanta Constitution
May 30, 1940

In American Schools

    From the North Georgia College has come a letter.  It was written by Jamie Connell, editor of The Cadet Bugler, campus publication. It is about the German propaganda that has flooded into his office, at the school, ever since the beginning of the 1939-40 school year.
    Some of the material, writes Connell, is far-fetched and horrible, like the alleged atrocities told in that pamphlet, already described in The Constitution, “Polish Acts of Atrocity Against the German Minority in Poland.”  Other is more like the sugar-coated pills you swallow without leaving a bad taste in your mouth.  Pamphlets attempting to justify the Nazi policy and emphasizing the cultural, moral, and economic nature of the German people.
    A large portion of this stuff is sent out bu the German Library of Information, 17 Battery Place, New York.  With it they send booklets of German carols and christmas toys for children.  More sugar coating.
    There are other propagandists who, deliberately or otherwise, are almost as great a menace and nuisance.  There is for instance, the Committee on Militarism in Education. That organization can protest so speciously against innocent facts that they become ridiculous.
    There is the American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom, the Youth Committee Against War. And others.  They all send their stuff to newspaper offices and, most dangerous of all, to such youth media as the Cadet Bugler at Dahlonega.
    Whether or not organizations which send out such material intend well, they should be immediate objectives of searching investigation by proper authorities.  They constitute a most subtle and dangerous “fifth column” in America and they attack at the point where the greater susceptibility to false argument exists, amongst the youth of the schools and colleges.  They are attempting to do what Hitler did with the youth of Germany, mould them to their desire while yet they are young.
    Most of the stuff these groups send out goes, naturally, to the waste basket.  American editors are not gullible.  But even though the percentage of scattered seed that takes root is small, it is nonetheless dangerous and the scattering should be halted at the source before it can do still further harm.

Jamie Connell's 1943 greeting card. Image courtesy of

Jamie Connell’s 1943 greeting card. Image courtesy of

Following graduation  from North Georgia College, Jamie Connell entered active military service. Jamie Connell enlisted in the Army on March 6, 1943 .  He was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force.

In a January 14, 1944 Nashville News note, the Valdosta Times commented briefly about Jamie’s service status:

Lt. Jamie Connell, navigator-bombadier of New Mexico, is spending a while here [Nashville, GA] with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Connell while on a 14 day furlough.

A postcard produced from photos taken by Jamie Connell, circa 1950s.

A postcard produced from photos taken by Jamie Connell, circa 1950s.

Jamie Connell served in the Army Air Force until discharged January 25, 1946.  He returned to college to finish his studies at the University of Georgia’s  Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, graduating in the class of 1948.  Afterward, he went to work in journalism for the Berrien Press, of which he became part owner.  Continuing his association with the military, he became a public relations officer at Moody Air Force Base. Many photographs of people and places around Berrien County that were taken by Jamie Connell have been entered into the Berrien County Historical Foundation photo collection at  Some of his work found a commercial market.

Jamie Alden Connell. Image detail courtesy of

Jamie Alden Connell. Image detail courtesy of

Jamie Connell retired from Moody Air Force Base in 1971.  He died October 17, 1973 at the age of 53 and was buried at Westview Cemetery, Nashville, GA. In 1973, a University of Georgia scholarship for academic excellence was established in his name.

According to the Grady College website:

The Jamie Connell Memorial Award is in honor of Alden Jamie Connell who graduated from the Grady College in 1948 after serving his country in World War II. His sister, Ms. Dura Connell of Macon, Ga., established this fund in memory of her brother upon his death in 1973. Jamie Connell prided himself on being a professional. He was a photographer with the U.S. Air Force and after leaving the service, became the photographer a newspaper. His love and enjoyment of photography led his sister to establish this scholarship.

The school has also honored Jamie Connell with an annual photography competition bearing his name.

Milton Harvey Godwin, U.S.M.C.

Milton Harvey Godwin was born February 5, 1926 in Valdosta, GA.  He was a son of Harvey Killett Godwin (1891-1938) and Mae Belle Moore (1895-1960), who spent their lives in Lowndes and Berrien county.  His father was a farmer and a butcher.

Some time before 1944, Milton H. Godwin was residing in Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

It appears that as a teenager, Milton H. Godwin was a volunteer in the “Home Guard” in the war years of the 1940s. He would have been a soldier in Company D, 19th Battalion, Georgia State Guard, which was composed of companies from Nashville, Homerville, Valdosta, and Adel.

About a month before his 18th birthday, in January of 1944, Milton H. Godwin joined the U.S. Marines. He went through basic training at Parris Island, NC and during WWII achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Milton H. Godwin, of Ray City, GA joined the Marines before his 18th birthday in 1944.

Milton H. Godwin, of Ray City, GA joined the Marines before his 18th birthday in 1944.

The Valdosta Times
January 26, 1944

Guard Training Proves Valuable To Pvt. Godwin

    A letter from Pvt. Milton H. Godwin, now with the Marines at Parris Island, to Sgt. Troy Jones of Company D, Georgia State Guard, tells of the value of training received in the Guard to those who entered the armed forces.
    Pvt. Godwin writes in part: “They drill like hell here and orders are strict.  The Army and Navy are ‘sissies’ compared to the Marines. The count is snappy and the cadence fast.
    “My State Guard training is worth a million to me, so tell the other guys going into the service.  Tell Major Eager the State Guard was helpful.”


After the war, he settled in Groton, CT. On his 21st birthday, February 5, 1947 he married Kathaleen Pearl Hunter, in New London, CT.

Milton Harvey Godwin died on March 8, 1997 and was buried at Colonel Ledyard Cemetery, Groton, New London County,
Connecticut, USA

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Nazi Prisoners at Moody Field Worked Ray City Farms

During WWII roughly 372,000 German POWs were held in about 600 prisoners of war camps operated by the U.S. Army across the United States.  One such prison camp was established at  Moody Army Air Field (now Moody Air Force Base), about 7 miles south of Ray City, GA.

Walter and Herman Schroer, Elias M. “Hun” Knight and Lewis Bauknight were among those who used German POWs from Moody Field to help with farm labor. The Schroers operated a bedding plant farm just south of Ray City and employed more than 100 German prisoners  to pull and bundle the plants.  Hun Knight and Lewis Bauknight had work for about six to eight prisoners each week  during the summer cropping tobacco. In Lowndes and surrounding counties, German POWs  also worked sugar cane, peanuts, and especially timber.

WWII German Prisoners of War in Georgia.
WWII German Prisoners of War in Georgia. Source:

The German POWs first arrived at Moody Field just before Thanksgiving in 1943. News accounts heralding the arrival focused on the economic benefits and the security of the prison camp.

The Valdosta Times
November 22, 1943 


Officials of Local Post to Confer Today With City and County Authorities on Labor Activities

MOODY FIELD, Ga. – Officials from this Army Air Forces Pilot School were to confer today with Valdosta and Lowndes county officials in regard to work activities of the German prisoners of war now quartered at this post.

The conference was scheduled in an effort to aid in the labor shortage of this section, which has been highlighted by demands for farm and other labor, depleted by war industries and armed services.

The group of prisoners arrived at Moody Field last week-end and will be under the supervision of Lt. Edward T. Lillis of Arlington, Va., Prisoner of War Camp Commander, who commands the contingent of the 315th Military Police Escort Guard Company, assigned to guard the Nazis. Lt. Lillis arrived at Moody Field from Camp Blanding, Fla.

The Nazi prisoners are being quartered in buildings on the parade ground, near the motor pool of this Pilot School. The Military Police have their quarters in the same area, outside the prison stockade.

In November of 1943, newspaper articles in the Atlanta Constitution were commenting on the POW camps and  laborers  in Georgia.

The Atlanta Constitution
Nov. 23, 1943 

“There are individual [pulpwood] producers in and around Valdosta who have been making shipments weekly in excess of 200 carloads, because of available manpower from farms.  Production is expected to soar even higher after this week, it being planned to put a number of German war prisoners from Moody Field into the woods beginning Monday, and things will move smoothly unless the shipments should cause a shortage in transportation. – 

The Atlanta Constitution
November 28, 1943, pg 14A

VALDOSTA, Ga., Nov. 27. –  Lieutenant Edward T. Lillis, who commands the contingent of the Military Escort Guard Company, assigned to guarding the German prisoners of war at Moody Field, was the guest speaker Thursday at the dedication of the annex and recreation center of the Valdosta Hebrew congregation.


Judge William Daniel "Jack" Knight, son of E.M. "Hun" Knight and Gladys Daniel Knight. He served as a judge of the Superior Courts of the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, 1977-1996.

Judge William Daniel “Jack” Knight, son of E.M. “Hun” Knight and Gladys Daniel Knight. He served as a judge of the Superior Courts of the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, 1977-1996.

The late Judge W.D. “Jack” Knight, of Berrien County, was a boy of ten growing up at Ray City when the German POW camp was established at Moody Field.  He later recalled how the German prisoners worked on his father’s farm:

It was 1943 or 1944 , German WWII prisoners were kept in a stockade or prison at Moody Air Force Base.

 My Daddy, (E. M. “Hun” Knight) had a farm located three miles south of Moody Air Force Base in those years. On this farm lived Lewis and Loudell Bauknight, who were “tenant farmers”.  Corn, peanuts and tobacco were the main crops grown, but sometimes watermelons and cucumbers were grown on a “share crop basis”.

My Daddy and Lewis received permission from the military authorities to work a group of these prisoners on our farm “cropping” tobacco.  Lewis would go to Moody AFB early each morning in his old pickup truck and get the prisoners and transport them back to our farm for work. As I recall the prisoners would sit in the back of the truck and the MP (armed guard) would sit in front with Lewis.  There would usually be six or eight prisoners working each time and they would bring their lunch which had been prepared in the “mess” at Moody AFB.

Each group would have one or two who could speak English and they would receive instructions from Lewis as to how to “crop” the tobacco and translate it on to the other prisoners.  When they first began to work they wanted to “crop” all the leaves off the tobacco stalk and had to be told to only “crop” three leaves from each stalk.

They were dressed in military clothes (brown) with a large “PW” on their backs. The all had military issue shoes and were real neat with short hair cuts and most of them had blonde hair.

At this time, I was ten years old and worked on the farm each time that tobacco was gathered and was very impressed by this entire matter.  As I recall, my daddy had to pay each prisoner twenty-five  or fifty cents per day as the military didn’t want people to say we were using slave labor on the farms.

Each time they came, Lewis’ wife, Loudell, (an excellent cook) would prepare a huge farm dinner for all of us who worked at the barn.  She would always give them som of that food and they very quickly began to like it, and the same group wanted to come back to our farm for each tobacco gathering which was once each week during the summer months.
~ Judge W. D. Jack Knight

German POWs at a prison camp in Georgia. Source:

German POWs at a prison camp in Georgia.  Source:

Area residents found the German prisoners intriguing from several perspectives.  These were the enemies that the native sons of south Georgia were fighting against;  they were Hitler’s “supermen.”  And they were the economic salvation of the region, in a time when the available farm labor had all been recruited for the war effort.  Many residents would later recall seeing truckloads of German POWs being transported around the region under military guard, to serve as laborers on the farms and timber lands of the Wiregrass.  In an Op/Ed piece, the Valdosta Times commented on the myth and facts of the German prisoners of war that were interned at Moody Field.

The Valdosta Times
Monday, December 6, 1943


The appearance of German prisoners at work in various places about this section has been creating quite a stir lately. Crowds have flocked to these spots to get a view of the Germans, anxious to see what they look like…only to find that they look just about like the Americans they see on the street every day…exploding in their minds any ideas they may have had about Hitler’s race of “supermen.”

It seems there’s been a false impression made by the rumors going the rounds that the Nazi prisoners are not such good workers. Reports coming in from the pulpwood operators and others employing the prisoners indicate that the prisoners are catching on speedily to jobs which the have never done, and which they have never seen done.

One pulpwood operator, S.M. Hemingway, is quick in telling you that the German prisoners of war are the happiest bunch of fellows he ever saw, and that he ever saw, and that they are easy to guard, since the last thing they seem to have on their minds is the idea of leaving three squares daily, comfortable living quarters and the regular pay they receive … only for a chance to escape to their own bomb-ridden country where they would be again sent into battle to face death.  Their chances of getting back are nil, anyhow.  Mr. Hemingway says that while the Germans are entirely “green” when it comes to cutting pulpwood, they are good workers, and learning fast.  He also states that they are witty, and enjoy a good joke as well as the next fellow.

This writer visited a few of them at work at the Nat Smith brick warehouse one afternoon last week, where they were hard at work unloading fertilizer from boxcars.  They were in high spirits.  One of the prisoners, while waiting to load the wheelbarrows, had drawn on the side of the car, in the dust of the fertilizer, an image of President Roosevelt.  Probably they wanted someone’s picture to heil.

 South Georgians would later recall the impact of the German prisoners, and the positive cultural interchange that occurred, even under difficult war-time conditions.

The Charlotte Observer
May 5, 2002

German POWs Affected the South

  Harley Langdale had a hard time finding ablebodied workers during World War II, so he didn’t hesitate when offered hundreds of strong former soldiers who would cut timber, plant seedlings and clear land.

    The soldiers weren’t American heroes returning from the front. They were German prisoners of war, some of the hundreds of thousands taken to camps in the United States-most of them in the South.

“Some people were afraid of them,” said Langdale, 87. “They thought some would get away but we never did have any serious incidents.”

The camps are an all-but-forgotten part of history, but the prisoners did leave some remnants behind in south Georgia and throughout the country.

Langdale’s POWs came from camps at Moody Field near Valdosta and Fargo, an isolated Okefenokee Swamp town. They planted many of the azaleas at what is now Moody Air Force Base, and there still is a “Prison Camp Road” north of Fargo.

Some 700 internment camps were thrown up in the United States to detain 426,000 enemy soldiers, who arrived sometimes at a rate of 30,000 a month. Some Americans resented the relative comfort and food provided the enemy soldiers. Texans called camps the “Fritz Ritz.”

But Georgians said the Germans won people over.

“I got the impression they were glad to be over here,” said Langdale, chairman of the Langdale Co., a major south Georgia timber company. “I didn’t see any animosity toward us at all.”

Although there were a few Japanese and Italian prisoners, most were Germans.

“The young women from the area…remember they were good-looking and didn’t spit, because they didn’t chew tobacco,” said Renate Milner, a German-born historian in Valdosta who is writing a book about the POWs.

The German internees are still remembered for their skills and hard work. With most of America’s young men overseas, the POWs helped overcome a labor shortage by harvesting crops and doing other physical labor for 80 cents a day.  

About 466 of the 700 camps were in the South; Georgia had 40 with 11,800 prisoners, Milner said.

“The government classified them as unskilled laborers, but in reality they were very skilled carpenters, mechanics and goldsmiths,” Milner said. “They were pulled into the military at 16 or 17, but by then, they had already been trained” in technical schools.

Audrey Peters, 77, worked at Moody Field during the war. The Valdosta woman still has a wooden jewelry box made by one of the prisoners, who carved “Gerhard Todte, Moody Field 1.9.1945” on the bottom.

“They were nice people,” she said. “Of course we didn’t fraternize with them. I tried to locate him, but I couldn’t. I wanted to see how he was doing and thank him for the box.”

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For more on German POWs in Georgia, see:

Ray’s Mill Hotel Burns, 1915

Jacob Fredrick Hinely operated the Ray’s Mill Hotel in a two story wooden building that was owned by James Henry Swindle and James S. Swindle. The hotel building stood in Ray City, GA where the Clements Fountain was later built. Hinely also had a small store located on the first floor right of the hotel.

Rays Mill Hotel, circa 1912, Rays Mill, GA. Image courtesy of

Rays Mill Hotel, circa 1912, Rays Mill, GA. Image courtesy of

On Sunday, April 25, 1915, Ray City was ravaged by a fire that destroyed several buildings.  A city block – nearly a third of the Ray City business district – was lost. The fire consumed the hotel and all of its contents, a loss of $6,000. The total damage from the fire amounted to about $30,000.

The Atlanta Constitution
April 27, 1915


Third of the Business Section of Ray Mills [sic], Near Valdosta, Burns.

Valdosta, Ga., April 26 –(Special.) — A third of the business section of Ray Mllis [sic], a flourishing town fourteen miles from Valdosta was destroyed by fire on Sunday. A number of merchants lost their stores and stocks. And the Ray Mills hotel [sic], al large two-story building, was entirely destroyed, with most of the furnishings. The losses will amount to about $30,000. Partially covered by insurance.

J.F. Hinely, proprietor of the hotel: J. C. Parrish & Co., John J. Clements, Jr., J.H. and J.S. Swindle, and W. M. Studstill are the principal losers.

The town has no water facilities and the block in which the flames started was burned before the fire could be checked. 


After the hotel burned, Jacob Fredrick Hinely and his wife, Laura Frances Hinely, remained in Ray City.  Hinely took up farming.  He was also listed in the 1917 Rating Book for Wholesalers and Shippers of Fresh Fish, Fresh Oysters and Shell Fish of All Kinds ….

Hinely registered for the WWI draft at Ray City on September 12, 1918, his registration form being completed by C.O. Terry.   Hinely was 43 years old, medium height, medium build, brown eyes with light hair.

By the early 1920’s  a boom period arrived in Ray City, GA and J. Fred Hinely was proprietor and operator of a beef market, one of the thriving businesses in the new town. He and his family lived in a rented house on Jones Street. While Fred ran the butcher shop his wife Laura kept house and daughter Thelma attended school. His son Theodore Hinely worked on his own account as an automobile driver, one of the automotive entrepreneurs of Ray City. The widower James T. Philips was a boarder living with the Hinelys. Their neighbors were Fred and Laura Tyler, and Katherine Swindle and her family.

Later, by 1930,   Laura and Jacob Fredrick Hinely left Ray City and moved to Jacksonville, FL were Hinely worked as a salesman for the Jax Steam Laundry.

Historic Marker Placed at Site of New Ramah Church

Historical Marker - New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, GA.

Historical Marker – New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, GA.


Elder A.A. Knight                  9/1913 – 6/1925
Elder C.H. Vickers                 9/1925 – 10/1970
Elder J.R. Stallings                1/1971 – 12/1971
Elder Elisha Roberts             1/1972 – 8/1973
Elder M.S. Peavy                    9/1973 – 9/1978
Elder Robert A. Register    9/1978 – 8/1996
Elder Robert Skinner           9/1996 -12/2000

On September 16, 1913 E.M.  Knight conveyed 7 acres of land to the elders of New Ramah Primitive Baptist church for $300. The statement of faith included in deed was as follows:

“New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, their successors and assigns, holding to the doctrine of predestination, election, and the final perseverance of the Saints, observing the ordinances of Communion, Baptism (Emersion) and washing the Saints feet, and known as the Old School Primitive Baptist, holding one protracted meeting annually, and that is to be only three days, and using no musical instrument in the worship, (any departure from the above principles shall disinherit such action from any and all the rights, privileges, and title to the property).”

Historic Marker - New Ramah Church, Ray City, GA.

Historic Marker – New Ramah Church, Ray City, GA.

John Guthrie Brought Six Decades of Music to Ray City

Another clipping, circa 1983, from the Ray City scrapbook.  John Guthrie (1911-1985), subject of previous posts, taught music and entertained for six decades in Ray City, GA (see John Guthrie ~ Ray City’s Musician Extraordinaire).

John Elwood Guthrie, Ray City musician and shopkeeper.

John Elwood Guthrie, Ray City musician and shopkeeper.

Plenty of Wind

John Guthrie, 73, still has enough wind to make his saxophone sing.  The Ray City, Ga. shopkeeper and music teacher is master of a number of instruments including sax, organ, piano and several types of guitars.  Since obtaining his first guitar at age 14, he’s played country gospel and jazz styles throughout the Southeast.

Related Posts:

Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane

The hurricane that hit south Florida in September of 1926 was one of the worst storms in U.S. history.

The hurricane that hit south Florida in September of 1926 was one of the worst storms in U.S. history.

When the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 struck, Ray City and Nashville residents were among a number of Georgians caught in the devastation.  Pearlie Sutton Conner and four of her children were among the refugees, as well as Oliver Conner, all of Ray City, GA. Nashville residents stranded by the storm included: M.A. Harper and wife; Mrs. H. Giddings and three children;  Maude Harper  Griner , wife of Arnold Griner;  Rachel Hill Griner, wife of Samuel Bryant Griner; Jerome Griner, and Arnold Griner, Jr.

Miami's new drydock, results of hurricane, Sept. 18, 1926. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Miami’s new drydock, results of hurricane, Sept. 18, 1926. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Pearlie Sutton Conner was the wife of James Wilson Conner. Her father was George Washington Sutton and her mother was Julia Ann “Annie” Spell.  The 1890 Berrien County, GA Property Tax Digests show that Geo W. Sutton owned 100 acres in Land Lot 510, 10th District valued at $300.  The Sutton farm was not far from Ray City, in the Connells Mill District, the 1329 Georgia Militia District. The Suttons took their mail at the Lois community.

James Wilson Conner, born on June 22, 1877 in Pulaski County, GA was the son of Daniel Johnson Conner and Nancy Caroline Conner. It is said that his mother died in childbirth and that he was raised by Louisa Conner, who is thought to be a cousin. His father was a Confederate veteran who was wounded in the Civil War.

By the census of 1900 Pearlie’s family had moved about 200 miles west of Ray City to the small community of Ponce De Leon, FL situated on on the Florida Panhandle, where her father owned a farm free and clear of mortgage.

Pearlie Sutton and James Wilson Conner were married in 1899, and were enumerated in the 1900 census of Holmes County (Ponce de Leon District), FL living on the farm next door to her father’s property.

1900 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, Ponce de Leon, Holmes County, Florida.

1900 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, Ponce de Leon, Holmes County, Florida.

Some time before 1920 James and Pearlie had moved their family back to Berrien County, Georgia. They owned a farm on the Nashville Enigma Public Road which James worked on his own account.

1920 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1157 Georgia Militia District near Nashville, Berrien County, Georgia.

1920 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1157 Georgia Militia District near Nashville, Berrien County, Georgia.

Within a few years, the Conners moved to Ray City, GA . At least they made their home there by 1926. James Wilson Conner was a member of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City, until dismissed by letter.

In 1926 their daughter, Cora Lee Conner, was married to Leamon Andy Godwin. The wedding took place in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

So it came to pass that in the very last days of  the summer of 1926, Pearlie Sutton Conner and four of her children were in south Florida. It was then, on September 18, 1926 when the Great Miami Hurricane made landfall.

The 1926 storm was described by the U.S. Weather Bureau in Miami as “probably the most destructive hurricane ever to strike the United States.” It hit Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Hollywood, Hallandale and Miami. The death toll is estimated to be from 325 to perhaps as many as 800. No storm in previous history had done as much property damage. 1926 Miami: The blow that broke the boom

Much has been written about The Big Blow of 1926. The population growth of south Florida in the preceding decade had been explosive, fueled by the Florida land boom. The newcomers and tourists had slight experience with hurricanes.  The approach of the tropical storm raised little alarm with the public, or with authorities.  It was just hours before the storm came on shore that a hurricane warning was finally issued,   “But in 1926 there were few avenues for warning people. Only a handful of people owned radios to hear the warnings broadcast on South Florida’s only radio station.”   After the storm had passed, the damage was captured on film. A 1926 silent movie newsreel, Miami: The Magic City, documents the extent of the damage and The Sun Sentinel and PBS have informative articles.

At the time, Miami’s hurricane was considered the country’s greatest natural disaster since the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Today the Category 4 storm ranks among 20th-century U.S. hurricanes as the 12th strongest and 12th deadliest. After adjustment for 1996 construction costs, the storm is the U.S.’s 20th most costly, with an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage. – The American Experience: The Hurricane of 1926

The Atlanta Constitution headline tolled the death and decimation of the 1926 hurricane.

The Atlanta Constitution headline tolled the death and decimation of the 1926 hurricane.

In the aftermath of the storm, the Red Cross and the National Guard assisted with aid to the refugees. When transportation could be arranged, Florida travelers fled the destruction.  Many Georgians boarded northbound trains at West Palm Beach, including Pearlie Sutton Conner and her children, and other Berrien County residents.

The Atlanta Constitution
September 23, 1926


West Palm Beach, Fla., September 22. – The following Georgia refugees from Hollywood came here today and were given transportation to their former homes:
Mr. and Mrs J. R. Bowman and two babies, Winder, Ga; Mrs. R H. Armstrong and five children, Cochran, Ga.; Martha and Gladys Burgamy, Cochran, Ga; Mrs. B. W. Atkinson and baby, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Mrs. C. J. Sutton and two children, Atlanta; Mrs. H. E. Webb, Vidalia, Ga.
Mrs. J. W. Webb, Vidalia, Ga.; Mrs. J. J. Chancellor and two children, Cordele, Ga.; Mrs. J. M. Thornton and one child, Madison, Ga.; Mrs. Beulah Lester, Columbus, Ga.; Mrs. Annie Franklin and three children, Clarksville, Ga.; Mrs. R. C. Davidson and three children, Comer, Ga.; Mrs. J. B. Bivings and two children, Savannah, Ga., Catherine Bivings, Macon, Ga., Lilla, Lula, Lillian and Robert Hudson, Thomasville, Ga.; Mrs. Lincoln Frost and baby, Thomasville, Ga.; Mrs. Reuben Rushing and baby, Thomasville, Ga.; Mrs. E. M. Stokes, Cochran, Ga.
Mrs. S. A. Crews, Waycross, Ga.; Mrs. L.D. Fletcher and three children, Andalusia, Ga.; Mrs. B. H. Thomas and two children, Winder, Ga.; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hutchinson and son, Atlanta; Mrs. E. W. Cross and daughter, Cordele, Ga.; Mrs. A. L. Pittman, Athens, Ga.; Mrs. R. A. Clyatt and two children, Atlanta; Mrs. Arnold Griner, Mrs. S. B. Griner, Jerome Griner and Arnold Griner, Jr., Nashville, Ga.
Mrs. G. W. Thomas and four children, Winder, Ga.; Mrs. J. H. King and two children, Comer, Ga.; Julia and Estelle McClanden, Wadley, Ga.; Mrs. W. L. George and two children, West Green, Ga; Mrs. E. E. Olds and child, Lawrenceville, Ga.; Mrs. W. L. Revel and three children, Sargent, Ga.;

Continued from First Page.

Mrs. R. L. Thompson and two children, Winder, Ga.; Mrs. Ruby Hall and six children, Comer, Ga.; Mrs. J. W. Conner and four children, Ray City, Ga.; Oliver Conner, Ray City, Ga.; Mrs. L W. Conder and baby, Columbus, Ga.; Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Daniels and six children, Cochran, Ga; Mrs. R. H. Darnell and four children, Fairmont, Ga.; Mrs. J. W. Ingram, Jr.; and son, Dublin, Ga.; Mrs. A. Roll and two children, Atlanta, Ga; Mrs. W. R. Titshaw and son, Pitts, Ga.; Mrs. H. T. Hosskins and child, Comer, Ga.; Mrs. O. P. Gulibeau, Augusta, Ga.; Mrs. H. G. Harvey and two children, Pelham, Ga; Mrs. J. D. Duvall and daughter, Toccoa, Ga.; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Kramer, Atlanta; Mr. and Mrs. Orris Canatsy and child, Pitts, Ga.; Mrs. J. A. Warren and 10 children, Pitts, Ga.; M. A. Harper and wife, Nashville, Ga.; Mrs. Lillie Titshaw and three children, Pitts, Ga; Mrs. H. Giddings and three children, Nashville, Ga.; Mrs. P. W. Ross, Cordele, Ga.; Mrs. A. C. Wilkens, Cordele, Ga.; Buelah Wilkens, Cordele, Ga; Mrs. R. W. Dowdy and six children, Pitts, Ga.; F. F. Keener and four children, Toccoa, Ga; Mrs. G. G. Sanders and two children, Elberton, Ga.

At home in Georgia, the Conners continued to reside in the Ray City vicinity. In the Census of 1930, they were enumerated in the 1300 Georgia Militia District, to the east of the town, in Lanier County.

Enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1300 Georgia Militia District, Lanier County, Georgia.

1930 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1300 Georgia Militia District, Lanier County, Georgia.

 The Conners remained in Ray City, thereafter.   James Wilson Conner died in 1954 and Pearlie Sutton Conner died in 1959. They were buried at New Ramah Church cemetery, at Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Pearlie Sutton and James Wilson Conner, New Ramah Church Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Pearlie Sutton and James Wilson Conner, New Ramah Church Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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Eighty-eight years ago today…

Atlanta Constitution Nov 11, 1923


Milltown, Ga., November 10.-(Special.)- Two funerals were held in Ray City Thursday, Jewel, 8, son of Mr. and Mrs. Manning Surcey, died of acute Bright’s disease Wednesday night and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery Thursday afternoon. Elder Aaron Knight conducted the funeral services. Henery Purvis, 52, died Wednesday night at his home in Ray City, following a stroke of paralysis. He is survived by his wife. His body was taken to New Adeal late Thursday afternoon for burial.

Data from the 1920 Census shows that Jewel Cersey was the son of Lula Goodin and  Manning A. Cersey.  Jewel’s father, a sawmill fireman, was an employee of the Clements Lumber Company, which was situated about a mile north of Ray City, GA. The family lived in rented house at the sawmill, one of many in the sawmill neighborhood probably owned by the company.

Name Relationship Birth Place of Birth Race Occupation
Manning A Cersey Head of household abt 1889 Georgia White Sawmill Fireman
Lula Cersey Wife abt 1896 Georgia White
Vera J Cersey Daughter abt 1911 Georgia White
Clinton A Cersey Son abt 1913 Georgia White
Jewel T Cersey Son abt 1916 Georgia White
Grave of Jewel Cersey (1916-1923), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Jewel Cersey (1916-1923), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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