Early Berrien Settlers Traded at Centerville, Georgia

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.

Early settlers of  Ray City, Berrien County and the surrounding area traveled about 95 miles to trade at Centerville, also known as Center Village or Centreville, in present day Charlton County, GA.

1864 map detail showing locations of General Levi J. Knight's residence (Ray City), Nashville, Troupville and Center Village (Centerville), with route from Berrien County to Centerville highlighted.

1864 map detail showing locations of General Levi J. Knight’s residence (Ray City), Nashville, Troupville and Center Village (Centerville), with route from Berrien County to Centerville highlighted.

Berrien county cattleman Harmon Gaskins, who from about 1835 to 1875 resided at Five Mile Creek near present day Ray City, GA, was among the local residents who conducted business with the merchants at Centerville.  In his 1932 History of Charlton County, Alexander McQueen observed of Centerville, “…Those merchants bought the produce brought in by the farmers and sold in exchange flour, sugar, shot, powder, coffee, nutmeg, etc. and every store sold whiskey. One could buy New England rum for $1.00 per gallon or foreign whiskey for $1.25 per gallon. In those days no store was complete without several barrels of whiskey.”

Centerville truly was at the center of an important crossroads of commerce for Wiregrass Georgia.  Located on the St. Mary’s River about two miles east of Folkston, GA, Centerville was situated with convenient river access to the harbor at St. Mary’s and the Atlantic trade,  the Kings Road, and also  the Alachua Trail, an ancient and important commerce route from the Altamaha River, in Georgia, down into East Florida.

Thursday, July 31, 1980 Pg 2

THE WAY IT WAS – Gene Barber

“The Alachua Trail was until the latter years of the nineteenth century one of east Florida’s most heavily traveled routes. It brought pioneers and mail down from the Centre Village-Camp Pinckney – Traders Hill-Fort Alert area (all in the neighborhood of the present Folkston) into central Florida and took Territorial Florida planters’ products and Indian traders back to the busy Saint Mary’s River for shipping and trading. In the 1840’s into the ’70’s, stage coaches coursed its ruts with mail and visitors…”

According to the Georgia Genealogy Trails: Charlton County History website:

Center Village, a town downriver from Trader’s Hill and established in 1800, was a border town devoted to defense and trade. Camp Pinckney housed border soldiers, and a ferry provided service across the St. Marys between Georgia and Florida and merchants. Tradesmen and other Crackers bartered, bought, and sold their wares on the town streets, settled disputes in public “fist and skull” fights, and wagered on horse racing. Waresboro, a hub for passenger, mail, and freight service on the Okefenokee’s north side, was established in 1824. It was fairly isolated initially, depending on mail service from the distribution station at Camp Pinckney, but gained population and prominence as Ware County’s seat during the antebellum period. All four of these towns faded away as the larger cities of Folkston (Charlton County) and Waycross (Ware County) became rail-road junctions in the postbellum era. But in the years before 1860, they were thriving trading centers and sites of sociability for the area’s white residents.

A historic marker on US1 in Folkston, GA  commemorates the old trading village:

Two miles Northeast of here is the site of old Center Village, or Centerville, settled about 1800 and for many years an important trading center. To this village came the inhabitants of Ware, Pierce, Clinch, Coffee and Appling Counties, bring staple cotton, beeswax, honey, jerked venison, hides, furs, etc., to exchange for flour, sugar, coffee, shot, powder and other commodities they did not produce. Here, too, disputes were settled and sports enjoyed. A regular stop for stage coaches traveling the King`s Road, old Center Village went out of existence after the coming of the railroad.

Historic Marker for Centerville, GA

Historic Marker for Centerville, GA. Image source: http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=12993

  A 1976 article, CENTER VILLAGE, GHOST OF THE PAST, by Carolyn DeLoach, Charlton County Herald, provides further reading.


One hundred and three years ago today, on this date, December 27, 1908, Mrs. Mary Ann Knight Bullard died at the home of her son, Henry Needham Bullard, in Valdosta, Georgia.  Mrs. Bullard was a lifelong resident of the Ray City area.

Mary Ann Knight was born July 1, 1838 in the Knight settlement at the location now known as Ray City,  Berrien County, Georgia.  Her father was John Knight and her mother was Sarah “Sallie” Moore. She was a niece of General Levi J. Knight.

On November 5, 1856 Mary Ann Knight married William A Jones in Berrien County, Georgia. The bride’s grandfather, Elder William A. Knight, performed the marriage.  The Berrien County Marriage Records of 1856 include the following hand written entry:

 Go any ordained minister of the gospel Judge of the Superior Justice of the Inferior Court Justice of the peace or any person by the Laws of this State authorised to Celibrate  these are to authorise and permit you to join in the Venerable State of matrimony this William A. Jones of the one part and this Mary Ann Knight of the other part according to the constitution and laws of this state and according to the rites of your church provided there be no lawful cause to obstruct the same and this shall be your authority for so doing given under my hand and seal this the 1st day of November 1856.

John Lindsey Ordy

 Thereby Certify that William A. Jones and Miss Mary Ann Knight were duly joined in matrimony by me this fifth day of Nov 1856

William A Knight, O.M.

After William Jones was killed in the Civil War, the young widow married Green Bullard.  Green Bullard was a Civil War veteran who served with Company I,  50th Georgia Regiment, the Berrien Light Infantry. They were married March 25, 1866 in a ceremony performed by William Patten, Justice of the Peace.   For forty years the Bullards lived near Ray City, GA in what is now Lanier County.  Green Bullard died November 15, 1907, and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Ann Elizabeth Knight Bullard, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Ann Elizabeth Knight Bullard, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Mary Ann Knight Bullard died in the morning on the last Sunday of the year, December 28, 1908.  She was buried next to her husband, Green Bullard, at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Valdosta Times
January 2, 1909 pg 3


An aged and good Woman Passed Away Early Sunday Morning.

Mrs. Mary Ann Bullard, one of the oldest and best known women in this section, died at the home of her son, Mr. H. N. Bullard, in this city about one o’clock Sunday morning.  Her remains were carried to Berrien county and interred at Beaver Dam church, near her old home, on Monday.
    Mrs. Bullard was the widow of Green Bullard, one of Berrien county’s pioneer citizens, and resided in that county for probably fifty years.  She was a daughter of John Knight, and a sister of Capt. L. J. Knight, of Quitman; of the late H. H. Knight and of Jack Knight, of Berrien county, and has two sisters living, Mrs. Louis Clyatt, of Lake City, and Mrs. Linny Griffin of Berrien county.  She leaves a large family connection throughout this section.
    Mrs. Bullard was married twice, her first husband being a Mr. Jones, who died during the civil war, leaving his young widow with two small children.  She was united to Mr. Bullard about the close of the war and lived happily with him until his death in November, 1907.  Her children are Mallie and Adam Jones, of Berrien county; Mrs. Sallie Surrency, of Florida; Mrs. Susie Shaw, of Berrien county; Mrs. Fannie Shaw, of Bainbridge, Ga.; H. N. Bullard of this city, and Lewis Bullard of Ray’s Mill.
    For three or four years Mrs. Bullard had been in feeble health, having suffered from two or more strokes of paralysis, complicated with heart trouble.  She was about 70 years old, and despite the loving care of her family her end could not be prolonged.
    Her death is mourned not only by her children and relatives, but by a large number of friends, who had grown to love her after a long and intimate acquaintanceship.

Related Posts:

Henry Washington Woodard – Ray City Blacksmith

Woodard Blacksmith Shop

Henry Woodard and Kiziah “Kizzie” Corbitt Woodard lived in Ray City, GA in the 1930’s.  Henry Woodard operated a blacksmith shop  located  on the Ray City Nashville Highway between Main Street and Jones Street.

Henry and Kizzie Woodard photographed in Pearson County, GA.

Henry and Kizzie Woodard photographed in Pearson County, GA.

Henry Woodard, born Nov. 11, 1867, was the eldest son of Wiley H. Woodard and Delilah Ann Brantley.  He was born in Militia District 1144 (the Rays Mill District), Berrien, Georgia and grew up in the Ray’s Mill vicinity. In the Census of 1880 Henry Woodard  is enumerated with his parents, living in the household of his grandfather, Wiley Woodard, in the 1300 Georgia Militia District (now in Lanier County).

Henry Woodard married Kiziah Corbitt on January 5th, 1890 in Clinch County, GA.  She was born September 28, 1866,  a daughter of Rowena Guthrie and Martin Lafayette Corbitt.

It may be that Henry Woodard purchased the Ray City blacksmith shop from Emma Warr, widow of the town’s previous blacksmith. Her husband, Rollie Warr had died some time in the 1920s.

Henry Woodard owned a home in Ray City valued at $600.  His next door neighbors were Edwin D. Griner, who worked as a miller at a Gristmill, and his wife Sarah, who was a trucker on a  truck farm.

Woodard lived and raised his family in Clinch, Coffee, and then Atkinson county before moving back to the area of his birth in Berrien county.  He was occupied most of his life as a farmer but by the time he moved back to Ray City in the 1920s, he had taken up working as a blacksmith.

Children of  Kiziah “Kizzie” Corbett and Henry Woodard:

  1. PEARL WOODARD, b. March 20, 1891 Clinch Co. GA; d. March 05, 1941,Coffee County GA.
  2. HENRY LAFAYETTE WOODARD, b. March 1894; m. Loucreasy O’steen; d. Feb. 9, 1959, Ray City, GA.
  3. LOU ANNIE “Lizzie” WOODARD, b. May 2, 1895, Georgia; m. John Riley Osteen; d. March 7, 1983.
  4. DENNIS WOODARD, b. December 1899, Georgia; d. Abt. 1970.
  5. DELILAH WOODARD, b. 1911; m. JACK CRIBB; d. April 14, 1990

Kiziah Corbitt and Henry Washington Woodard are buried at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Georgia.

Grave of Henry Washington Woodard and Kiziah Corbitt, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Henry Washington Woodard and Kiziah Corbitt, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

A Christmas Pickle for Berrien County

In December of 1945, a new business venture came to Berrien County, The Manhattan Pickle Company. Doing business locally as the Nashville Packing Company, the  Manhattan Pickle Company set up a processing plant in an industrial building constructed by Berrien Investment, Inc.

The Manhattan Pickle Company was founded about 1915 by Louis Weinberg in Manhattan, Illinois, just south of Chicago.  By the 1940s,  Louis’ son, Jack Weinberg, was at the helm of the company.  One patented product of the company was the wine cured pickle.  “Wine Cured Made with fresh cucumbers, garden dill , sweetened wine and blended with aged vinegar salt onions and rare spices”.

Industrial plant, 1117 East Marion Avenue, Nashville, GA. This facility, constructed in 1945, was originally home to the Nashville Packing Company, a subsidiary of the Manhattan Pickle Company of Chicago.

Industrial plant, 1117 East Marion Avenue, Nashville, GA. This facility, constructed in 1945, was originally home to the Nashville Packing Company, a subsidiary of the Manhattan Pickle Company of Chicago.

The Manhattan Pickle company filled the Nashville, GA plant with processing equipment to handle and package produce. For making pickles, there were huge vats with floating oaken lids.

Sol Weinberg, CEO of the Manhattan Pickle Company, moved to Nashville to manage the operation of the local pickle plant. Weinberg moved into a newly constructed home on Parrish Street.

Weinberg House, constructed circa 1945. This house on Parrish Street, Nashville, GA was orginally the home of J. A. Weinberg, President of the Manhattan Pickle Company.

Weinberg House, constructed circa 1945. This house on Parrish Street, Nashville, GA was originally the home of  Sol Weinberg, CEO of the Manhattan Pickle Company.

An old newspaper clipping from 1945 reported on the opening of the pickle factory in Nashville, GA.

December 22, 1945
Nashville (Georgia) Booms, Wants No Bottlenecking

      NASHVILLE, Ga., Dec 22. – If the people up in Tennessee aren’t going anywhere, won’t they please get out of Nashville, Georgia’s way?
The trouble with Nashville, Tenn., thinks Mayor W. K. Gaskins of Nashville, Ga., is that it hasn’t budged an inch since Andrew Jackson’s day.
“All they’re doing today is sitting up there reading our mail,” he says, “and bottlenecking our railway express shipments.”
      Mayor Gaskins wants the whole world to know – and particularly the postal and railway shipping clerks – that there’s a NASHVILLE, GA.
He doesn’t believe there’s room in the South for two big cities with the same name, but says the people here are planning to be in business at the same old stand and under the same old name for quite some years to come.
      Now Nashville, Ga., has a lot of ground to cover before she’ll be as large as Nashville, Tenn., but she’s on her way. She’s alive and growing while her Tennessee cousins are dead and standing still, according to the best trend of thinking here.
      She’s doubled her population in the last four years and in the past year has quadrupled her industrial productive power. And she’s the fastest-growing city in Georgia and the U. S. A. Anybody in Nashville will tell you that.
      But you don’t have to have someone tell you of Nashville’s growth. You run smack into it anywhere you turn.
      Stretching itself alongside a Georgia & Florida railroad siding is a whaling-big structure of concrete blocks – spanking new. It’ll house the Nashville. Ga., Packing Co., a subsidiary of the Manhattan Pickle Co., of Chicago.

      The Nashville, Ga., Packing Co. will process and package the cucumbers, beans, okra, cabbages and other varieties of vegetables grown on truck-farming lands of Berrien county.
      J. A. Weinberg, president of the parent company, thinks so much of the possibilities of such a good processing plant here, and of the productiveness of Berrien’s soil, that he’s planning to leave the Chicago business to his brothers and pitch permanent camp here.
      “This land will grow more things to eat,” he says, “than any other land in the world.”
      The Nashville (Ga.) Packing Company is a big project and one that will provide employment for some 200 to 300 persons and distribute thousands of dollars in farm purchases from the residents of Berrien county, but backed up right to it is another whopping big building getting finishing touches before its machinery starts humming.
      This plant will house the fertilizer and chemical concern of J. D. Tygart. It will mix fertilizers and agricultural chemicals for the farmers who grow food for the next-door packing company and for other outlets.
      You don’t have to leave the spot where you’re standing to see still another tremendous sign of Nashville’s industrial growth. They’re breaking ground and laying the foundation for one of the largest tobacco warehouses ever to go up in south Georgia. Already one of the state’s leading tobacco markets, this warehouse, to be owned by J. H. Harvey, will add vastly to the city’s stature as a tobacco center.


      Take a look at that abattoir over there, lying squat and industrially pretty. It’ll slaughter and process meat for some of the home of the section. J. Henry Gaskins is building it.
      And you’d have to look far and wide to find a more handsome automobile-distributing and servicing plant than the one E. Jenkins has erected at a cost of $75,000.
      Still another building in the process of construction is the elaborately equipped freezer-locker, ice and meat-curing plant which Henry Hornbuckle, of Tifton, is putting up.
      Nashville is on its way, and it is being given a tremendous boost by its organization of progressive business leaders operating under the name of Berrien Investment, Inc. Some 125 citizens of Berrien county are stock-holding members of this organization born solely for the purpose of stimulating industrial growth in the county.
      A nonprofit organization, headed by J. H. Harvey and a board of live-wire directors, Berrien Investment, Inc., is backed by a working capital of $150,000. This money is used to help establish new industries. Its first project was the Nashville (Ga.) Packing Company. The company advanced the money to build the $75,000 packing plant. The Manhattan Pickle Company has contracted to rent the building for five years with the privilege of purchasing it at the end of that time and having what money they’ve paid in rentals apply on the purchase price. The money which the investment company receives in rentals or purchase will be put to work again – toward the construction of another industrial plant.


      The investment company works in close cooperation with the Nashville Lions Club and the Georgia & Florida Railroad in its campaign for a greater industrialized Nashville. Besides pitching in on the price of building a plant, the investment company uses its influence in other ways to make things easier on an incoming industry. Free taxes for a period of years, for example.
      President Weinberg, of the Manhattan Pickle Company, parent of the Nashville (Ga.) Packing Company, says that industry isn’t seeking a handout from any town it enters, or doesn’t mind risking investment capital in putting up a building, but the Nashville plan is attractive because it shows that the community really means business and has the welcome mat out front. He says his company will buy the building it will occupy at the end of the five years and would buy it now, but in the formative years it’s a nice working arrangement to have the people of the town interested in the industry.
      Housing is another project of Berrien Investment, Inc., and today new houses are mushrooming all over Nashville. The organization is using its collective influence to get building materials, and soon a vast home-building project will swing into operation designed to provide 50 homes for workers of the Nashville (Ga.) Packing Company. Under the plan, the investment company and the packing firm will jointly stand the initial cost of erecting the homes with the worker-occupants getting the chance of buying them at terms convenient to them.

Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata

In 1939 the Ray City School Glee Club gave a Christmas Cantata with many students and teachers participating.

Ray City School, circa 1949. The school building was originally constructed in 1922.

Ray City School, circa 1949. The school building was originally constructed in 1922.

The Nashville Herald, December 14, 1939

Ray City School Glee Club to Give Christmas Cantata

      Ray City High School Glee Club will present a Christmas Cantata, “Memories of Bethlehem,” (Holton), on Wednesday evening, December 20, at 8 o’clock in the high school auditorium.  The glee club will be assisted by Miss Josephine Collier, pianist; contralto, Mrs. Rudolph Zeigler (Martha Ernestine Cantrell Ziegler); soprano, Mrs. Garth Webb, and Miss Hazel Tabor.

      Members of the club appearing on the program will be:

      Sopranos and altos:

      Peggy Carter, Annie Ruth Clements, Juanelle Clements, Marjorie Garner, Frencholyn Guthrie, Myrtle Hendry, Alma Luke, Evelyn Moore, Victoria Sirmans, Pauline Skinner, Juanelle Starling, Carolyn Swindle, Allen Yaun.

      Baritones and basses:

      Roy Carter, Hugh Clements, Hubert Comer, Billy Guthrie, Morris Johnson, Bruce Knight, Harold Moore, Ronald Parrish, Hubert Starling, Jack Vickers, Lamar Weaver.

      The Symphonet Band, which has been organized since October, will play for the processional.  They are: 

      Lamar Hardy, Fain Guthrie, Ferrell Herring, Barbara Swindle, Annie Martha Grisset, Lois Burkhalter, Kenneth Cameron, Billy Creech, Casswell Yaun, Bob Starling, Sadie Griner, Wylda Starling.

      Ushers for the occasion will be Helen Scarboro and Betty Garner.  Candle lighters will be Robert Martin, Rudolph Scarboro, Bill Gray, Harvey Wood.

      Wise men will be Hilda Sirmans and Doris Mobley.

1939 Class Seniors, Ray City School. Miss Tabor, Teacher. Pictured are Annie Ruth Clements, Elizabeth Weaver, Mona Faye Swindle, D'Ree Yawn, Hazel Sirmans, Doris Forehand, and J.D. Carter.

1939 Class Seniors, Ray City School. Miss Tabor, Teacher. Pictured are Annie Ruth Clements, Elizabeth Weaver, Mona Faye Swindle, D’Ree Yawn, Hazel Sirmans, Doris Forehand, and J.D. Carter.

Related Posts

Lamar Fountain Preferred Swamp to Prison

Ray City native Lamar Fountain achieved national notoriety as an escape artist, and stories of his escapades appeared in the news from coast to coast. Previous posts have addressed the  six times he found his way out of incarceration.  Add to that a jailhouse interview after his capture in 1974, which told something of Fountain’s life on the lam:

Perhaps Ray City's original reality survivorman, escape artist Lamar Fountain preferred homeless life the swamp to prison.

Perhaps Ray City’s original reality survivorman, escape artist Lamar Fountain preferred homeless life in the swamp to prison.

The Charleston News and Courier
November 13, 1974

Elusive Prisoner Prefers Swamp, Snakes, Potatoes

      RAY CITY, Ga. – Lamar Fountain, back in jail after his sixth escape, says he eluded police for seven weeks in a Georgia swamp, ignoring snakes, stealing potatoes and fishing.
      Frustrated police officers gave up chasing him and instead hid in the canebrake at night. They caught him on the banks of a fishing hole near Ray City, his hometown.
      The slow-talking, 48 year-old escapee said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the Berrien County jail that he hacked trails deep into the southeast Georgia swamp and built four shelters so he could keep on the move.
      “I had some help. You’ve got to have a little bit of help.” Fountain said, but he refused to elaborate.
      “I got sweet potatoes from people’s fields. Sweet potatoes go a long way with a man,” he said. “I got sugar cane and pecans, and I have eat some palmetto roots.
      “Also, I was fishing and I had an old frying pan I found and some lard. I had a little bit of meal and made some hushpuppies.
      Asked about the poisonous snakes that inhabit the Georgia swamps, Fountain said, “I just walked by them. I never killed a snake or a coon or nothing. I walked past rattlesnakes asleep and past six or eight moccasins laying up by a cyprus root.”
      Since 1969, Fountain has been in-and-out of several Georgia prisons serving a 30-year term for robbery, larceny, forgery and the escape attempt he made prior to his first conviction.
      He escaped from a Lowndes County work camp in 1969 and stayed in California for a year, he said, before heading back toward Georgia and getting arrested for fighting in a bar south of New Orleans, La.
      Fountain said he had been an alcoholic since he got out of the Air Force at the age of 20.
      “I railroaded awhile for the Charleston and Western Carolina out of Augusta,” he said. “Then I worked for a paper mill awhile, but I guess I drove a truck more than anything else.”
      Now, he said, he would like a chance to settle down on land near Ray City which his father left him and raise cattle and hogs.
     “I want out. I’ve never done anything wrong except when I was drunk, and I don’t drink anymore.”
     Fountain claims the original charges against him involved a mixup with a friend’s billfold and the fact that he cashed his girlfriend’s $37 check at a Valdosta, Ga., bar.
     Berrien County Sheriff Walter J. Gaskins, who has had to capture him three times, said Fountain likely will be sent to the maximum security prison at Reidsville, Ga.
     The sheriff is not convinced that is necessary.
    “This boy don’t ever give me no trouble,” he said. “I went and got him (from prison) and brought him to his father’s funeral and to his mother’s funeral and once when his mother had her leg took off.”


Related Posts:

Escape Artist Lamar Fountain Caught Again

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain

From 1968 to 1975 Lamar Fountain escaped from area jails six times to return to his friends and family at Ray City, GA. Berrien county sheriff Walter J. Gaskins composed the Ballad of Lamar Fountain to tell the story of this extraordinary escape artist. Fountain once told his jailor, “When I’m in jail, I feel like there’s a 200-pound weight on me. When I get out I feel free.”

A 1975 Newsweek article described Fountain thus, “The son of a poor but respectable Ray City family, Fountain dropped out of school early on and began running with a rowdy crowd in nearby Valdosta; later he did odd jobs driving pickups and got into a series of minor scrapes in Georgia and Florida, including a couple of rape charges that were later dropped. ‘It wasn’t rape at all,’ he maintained. ‘I got caught in bed with another man’s wife.’ Mostly his problems were just drunken brawls, and no serious charges ever stuck.”

That was until 1968 when a woman accused him of a $20 theft. When Fountain was stopped by police, he had a wallet that belonged to another man. With Fountain in jail, the authorities found he was also wanted for forging checks. Unable to provide bail, and after languishing for months behind bars waiting for arraignment before a grand jury, Lamar Fountain escaped from the Valdosta jail.

When he was apprehended, the charge of escape was added to the pending charges for theft of the wallet, the $20, and the check forgery. Lamar plead guilty and was was sentenced to more than 20 years. But all too often, Fountain was able to break away from his jailors and make his way back to “the ramshackle Kent’s Grocery in Ray City and boast to loyal neighbors about his exploits.”

The Florence Times
November 13, 1974

Escape Artist Caught Again.

      RAY CITY, Ga. – Two officers hid among the thickets, watching the marsh below. After 40 minutes, they saw a flicker of light.
They waited until a car passed on the rural highway, then advanced several feet and stopped, afraid to scare off their elusive prey. Each time a car went by, they moved a little closer.
      Finally they were only 15 feet away. Chief Deputy Robert Swanson stood up, shone his flashlight and identified himself as a Berrien County Police Officer.
“Y’all got me, just don’t shoot,” said the heavily bearded man, putting down his fishing pole and flash light, taped over to dim the light.
      And so Sunday night ended the latest escape in the remarkable career of Lamar Fountain.
     Seventy-eight days before, Fountain
, 54, had escaped from Thomas County jail. It was his third escape of the summer and sixth since 1968 when he first was arrested on three minor theft charges – a $37 bad check charge an two alleged thefts of $5 and $20.
    During previous escapes, Fountain had traveled to California and New Jersey. But he had been homesick and had trouble getting jobs without revealing his telltale Social Security number, so he returned each time to south Georgia where relatives could help him, and where, each time, he was caught.

      This time Fountain never left the swamplands around his native Ray City and Swanson said, “lots of folks said we wold never catch him.”
In fact, authorities said, many local residents aided the escapee.
      But Swanson knew the area well from his own duck hunting trips and some residents helped by calling the sheriff’s office each time they spotted Fountain, allowing officers to keep trak of his approximate location.
      Swanson said Fountain had been living in a small shelter in the woods, made of cyprus poles and insulated with linoleum and moss. Inside were a makeshift bunk, jugs of fresh water and cooking utensils.
      Fountain was sentenced in 1969 to 20 years for the three thefts and his first escape. He faces additional time for each of his five subsequent escapes.
      Wearing a two-inch beard and suffering from a cold, Fountain said yesterday that he just wants to go home to his native Ray City to raise cattle and hogs.
      “I want out. I’ve never done anything wrong except when I was drunk. But I don’t drink anymore. My body just can’t stand it.
      “I hope some people will get involved in my case and give me another chance. I’ve served six years already. That’s long enough for a $5 theft.”
       Fountain declined to reveal the tricks he used to elude search parties and bloodhounds. “I may need to use them again,” he said.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.


J. H. Gaskins and the Draft Board Scandal

James Henry Gaskins

James Henry Gaskins

On this date 96 years ago today, December 16, 1917, a World War I draft board scandal blazed across the front page headlines of  The Atlanta Constitution.  Draft Board members in Fulton county and one in Berrien County, J. H. Gaskins, were summarily dismissed.

James Henry Gaskins, a former resident of the Ray City, GA area, was a clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA (see Clerk).  He  had been appointed as clerk of the Berrien County Exemption Board with the implementation of the WWI Selective Service Act in 1917.  The local exemption boards, composed of leading civilians in each community, were responsible for the administration of the selective draft. These boards issued draft calls in order of numbers drawn in a national lottery and determined exemptions based on the draftees’ dependents, essential occupations, or conscientious objection.

Gaskins was dismissed from the Exemption Board in December, 1917 after he became embroiled in a scandal over reward money for capture of a man who had failed to report for the draft. He continued, however, to hold his position in the clerk’s office of the Superior Court.

The following material, excerpted from the headline article, describes Gaskins case:

The Atlanta Constitution
December 16, 1917 
PRESIDENT FIRES FULTON EXEMPTION BOARD: Fulton Board Members Discharged by President.


44 Per Cent of Whites Examined Were Excused on Physical Grounds, While Very Few Negroes Were Exempted From Service According to Statistics.

President Wilson has summarily discharged the entire exemption board of Fulton county, on the ground that the board has granted a large number of unwarranted exemptions and discharges.
    Statistics compiled from an investigation in the action of the Fulton county exemption board shows that out of 618 white men called in Fulton county, 526 were exempted, and that the number of men exempted on physical grounds amounted to 44 per cent of the total white men called.  On the other hand, the statistics show that 202 negroes were called in Fulton county, and only six negroes were exempted on any ground whatsoever.
    Major Joel B. Mallet, in charge of the administration of the selective service law in Georgia, on Saturday transmitted to the Fulton exemption board the order of the provost marshal general, from the president, discharging the board…

    Major Mallet has also received, through Provost Marshal General Crowder, an order discharging J. H. Gaskins, clerk of the Berrien county exemption board, for an alleged attempt to graft a part of a reward for the capture of a deserter.  T. J. Griffin, Sr., of Nashville, Ga., has been appointed to succeed Mr. Gaskins.
    The cases of both Mr. Gaskins and the Fulton county exemption board are still in the hands of the department of justice for whatever disposition the department may see fit to make of the cases.
    Gaskins is alleged to have written a letter to the chief of police of Detroit, stating that he held the name and Detroit address of a Berrien county negro who was classed as a deserter for failure to report, and that he would furnish the chief with information for the arrest of the negro on condition the chief would send him $25 of the $50 reward which the chief would receive upon presenting his prisoner at the nearest training camp.  The chief forwarded the letter to the provost marshal general.

Case of Mr. Gaskins.

    The discharge of Mr. Gaskins from the Berrien county board came when the provost marshal general, upon receipt of Gaskins’ letter to the Detroit chief of police, asked Major Mallet to make an investigation.   Major Mallet wrote to Mr. Gaskins and asked him for the name, serial and order number of the deserter he had written to the Detroit chief about.  Mr. Gaskins came forward with the information. A copy of his letter was sent to Washington, and his removal followed.
    Mr. Gaskins letter to the Detroit chief of police was as follows:
“Chief of Police, Detroit, Mich.
    “Dear Sir:  I have a negro who is in your city and he is a deserter, and if you will give me $25 out of the  $50 reward I will give you his name and street number, together with copies of his registration and medical examination blanks that are required under the rules.  You understand, under the rules, you only have to deliver him to the nearest training camp.  Kindly wire or write me by return mail that you will do this.  I will forward the necessary papers above mentioned.
     “Yours truly,
(signed)           “J. H. GASKINS”

    This letter was forwarded by the Detroit chief to Provost Marshall General Crowder.  General Crowder kept the original and sent a copy to Major Mallet, asking an investigation, commenting that “such action is entirely improper on the part of any member of any board.
    “The seriousness of the character of the offense,” continued General Crowder, “prompts me to request an immediate investigation and report to this office by you.”
    Major Mallet wrote to Mr. Gaskins:
    “Will you kindly forward to this office your letter to the chief of police of Detroit, Mich., along with the name of the deserter referred to.”

    Mr. Gaskins replied to Major Mallet:
    “I have your letter and beg to advise that the negro, LeRoy Whittaker, order No. 126, serial No. 1456, was delivered to proper authorities at Camp Wheeler, November 6.”
     This letter was forwarded to the provost marshal general, together with a copy of the letter which Major Mallet wrote to Mr. Gaskins.

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James Henry Gaskins – Clerk of the Superior Court

Ray City, GA Veterans of World War 

James Henry Gaskins – Clerk of the Superior Court

James Henry “Jim” Gaskins (1872 – 1928), mason, elected official, and son of a prominent Wiregrass family,  served for about 3o years as a clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA.

When James Henry Gaskins was serving as Deputy Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, he lived in the Connell's Mill District, near Ray City, GA.

While serving as Deputy Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, James Henry Gaskins lived in the Connell’s Mill District, near Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Born October 24, 1872, James Henry “Jim” Gaskins  came from a long line of Gaskins who were pioneer settlers of the Berrien County, GA area. Born and raised in Berrien County, he was a son of the Reverend Fisher H. Gaskins and Pollie Gaskins.

Construction of the Berrien County, GA Courthouse, 1898. For three decades James Henry "Jim" Gaskins worked in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County.  Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Construction of the Berrien County, GA Courthouse, 1898. For three decades James Henry “Jim” Gaskins worked in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

In 1900, Jim Gaskins was enumerated in the Connell’s Mill District, Georgia Militia District 1329, near Ray City, GA. At age 29, he was living in his parents household and was employed as the deputy clerk of the Berrien Superior Court.

Jim Gaskins’  father died in 1905. Sometime before the census of  1910, Jim and his widowed mother moved to Nashville, GA where they lived in a home on Dennis Street.  Gaskins continued to serve as deputy clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County.

On Thursday, September 2, 1915 James Henry Gaskins married Charity Maybelle “Belle” Strickland in Berrien County, GA.  The ceremony was performed by the Justice of the Peace, J. H. Hull.

Family of James Henry "Jim" Gaskins and Charity Maybelle "Belle" (Strickland), circa 1920. Children are Homer Lee Gaskins(L) and Daniel Bates Gaskins (R). In the 1920s James Henry Gaskins was Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Family of James Henry “Jim” Gaskins and Charity Maybelle “Belle” (Strickland), circa 1920. Children are Homer Lee Gaskins(L) and Daniel Bates Gaskins (R). In the 1920s James Henry Gaskins was Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

With the onset of World War I in 1917,  James Henry Gaskins was appointed as clerk of the Berrien County Exemption Board.  Administration of the selective draft  was entrusted to local boards, composed of leading civilians in each community. These boards, known as Exemption Boards, issued draft calls in order of numbers drawn in a national lottery and determined exemptions for dependency, essential occupations, or conscientious objection.  Gaskins was dismissed from the Exemption Board in December, 1917 after he became embroiled in a scandal over reward money for capture of a draft dodger.  He continued, however to hold his position in the clerk’s office of the Superior Court.

In 1919,  a sizable transaction over the timber rights of the Gaskins family land was noted in state newspapers.

The Atlanta Constitution
December 16, 1919


    Valdosta, Ga., December 15.– (Special.) The sale of saw mill and turpentine privileges on the Fisher H. Gaskins lands in Berrien county, which has just been consummated, establishes a record price for timber and disposes of one of the finest of the few bodies of round timber now left in the state.  The lands in question are located a few miles northwest of Nashville, 8,000 acres covered with magnificent long-leaf yellow pine which has never been worked by turpentine or saw mill men.
    Willis & Norman, turpentine operators who have been located for some time at Mineola in this county, bought the Gaskins lands, paying $200,000 for the saw mill and turpentine rights on the 8,000 acres.  It is understood that Willis and Norman will begin operation on the tract as soon as possible, working the timber for naval stores first.  It will require about three years’ time to complete the turpentine operations, after which a large saw mill will be built, probably at Nashville, to cut the merchantable timber on the tract.

By 1920 Jim Gaskins was elected Clerk of Berrien County.  He and Belle, and their young family were in the house on Dennis Street in Nashville, GA. Boarding next door were former Ray City residents, Dr. Guy Selman, and his wife Bessie.

Jim Gaskins died in the summer of 1928 while still serving as Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA.    Lilla Gaskins Whiddon was appointed to serve as Clerk until an election could be called.

The Atlanta Constitution
July 11, 1928

To Elect Clerk.

    Valdosta, Ga., July 10. — Voter of Berrien county will select a successor to J. H. Gaskins, clerk of the superior court, on September 12, the same date as the state primary.
    The death of Mr. Gaskins last week was followed by the appointment of Mrs. Lilla Gaskins Whiddon as acting clerk until an election could be called. 
The executive committee, after considering the matter , decided upon September 12 as the date and fixed July 20 as the date for closing the entries and a fee of $25 is charged for each candidate.


Grave of James Henry Gaskins and Charity Maybelle Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of James Henry Gaskins and Charity Maybelle Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

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Family of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford

Luther and Amanda Langford made their lives in Berrien County, Georgia.  The Langford family farm place was on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga, about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Langford Family. (L to R) Lillian Alene Langford, Leland Langford, Luther Etheldred Langford, Merice Langford, Amanda Asbell Langford, Vasco Langford, Rudolph Langford.

Langford Family. (L to R) Lillian Alene Langford, Leland Langford, Luther Etheldred Langford, Merice Langford, Amanda Asbell Langford, Vasco Langford, Rudolph Langford.

Children of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford:

  1. Edwin Vasco Langford 1917 – 2005
  2. Leland Etheldred Langford 1919 – 1949
  3. Merle Elizabeth Langford 1922 – 1925
  4. Merice Lancing Langford 1926 – 1993
  5. Lillian Allene Langford 1930 –
  6. Clyde Rudolph Langford 1931 – 2006

Family of Luther and Amanda Langford

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