Maxie Snead Patten, Youth Leader

Sixty-two years ago on this date, August 31, Ray City Baptist Church heard from guest speaker Maxie Snead Patten, a well known youth leader, author, teacher and coach.

Maxie Snead Patten 1937-38. Image detail courtesy of

Maxie Snead Patten 1937-38. Image detail courtesy of

The Nashville Herald
August 31, 1950, Page 1

Mrs. Patten to Speak at Ray City Church Sunday P.M.

Mrs. Maxie Snead Patten will speak Sunday evening at 8 p.m. at Ray City Baptist Church, it was announced today.

The well known South Georgia young people’s leader will speak primarily to the youth of the community, filling the pulpit of the Rev. John W. Harrell.

A large attendance is being urged.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

Maxie Snead Patten was a daughter of Laura Youmans and William McIntyre “Bill” Snead, of Nashville, GA. Her father was a large land owner.

Maxie Snead attended Nashville High School where she played on the girls basketball team.

Christmas Eve Wedding

In 1933, Maxie Snead married Grover Patten in a Christmas Eve ceremony performed by Reverend John W. Harrell.

Later she taught in area schools and coached girls basketball. In 1937-38 she coached the New Lois girls team to the Berrien County championship.

In the 1940s Maxie Snead Patten authored a book, Youth, the Miracle Age, and was known as a youth leader.

Children of Maxie Patten

Children of Maxie Patten.
L-R, are Reba Patten, Patti Patten, and Kaye Patten. The photo was taken in late 1940s, at the Grover Patten home in Nashville, GA, next door to Bill and Laura Youmans Snead, grandparents of the Patten children. (Identifications courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows).


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Ray City Connections of Young Dr. Folsom

Although Dr. George Hill Folsom did not make a home in Ray City, GA until the late 1920s, he had strong ties to the community for some thirty years prior.  His wife’s family lived in the area and two of his children were born at Ray City during the time he was studying medicine in Atlanta. After completing medical school he became one of the medical men of Ray’s Mill.

A previous post on Dr. Folsom ~ Warrior Doctor has been updated with additional information on Dr. Folsom’s children, his wife’s family, and data from the 1940 census.

George Hill Folsom as a young man.

George Hill Folsom as a young man.

George Hill Folsom could trace his ancestry back to Lawrence Armstrong Folsom (1772-1834), one of the first pioneers to settle in Lowndes County, GA, and further, to William Folsom (ca 1745-1785), “who assisted in establishing independence while acting in the capacity of Lieutenant in the Georgia Line.” Lieutenant William Folsom is thought to be a native of Virgina who later moved to Georgia where he lived  and died in Burke County.

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Elijah Fawcett of Possum Creek

As a young man, Elijah Fawcett spent many years in Ray City, GA. He was a half-brother of Connie Moore, subject of the previous post.

Elijah Fawcett was a Ray City resident from about 1902 through the 1930s.

Elijah Fawcett was a Ray City resident from about 1902 through the 1930s.

Elijah Fawcett was born in Manchester, NC on June 6, 1891, a son of  and Charles Solomon Fawcett. Some time before the turn of the century, young Elijah moved with his family to Mud Creek in Clinch County, GA where they were enumerated in 1900. Elijah’s father, and older half-brother Connie Moore, worked a rented farm.But within a couple of years, the family moved to Ray City, GA.

As a young boy, Elijah attended school, eventually finishing seven grades. When he was about 12 years old, his half-brother Connie Moore disappeared, and was presumed killed, while working as a guard at a large convict camp in Fargo, GA.

About 1913 Elijah Faucett was married and began raising a family with his wife, Cora. Some time before 1917 his mother died, after which it appears that his father came to live in Elijah’s household.

In June of 1917, along with other men of the Ray City area, Elijah Fawcett registered for the draft for World War I. At 36 years old he was a tall man, with a medium build, black eyes and black hair. He was employed in farming by John L. Allen, who at that time owned a 260 acre farm located just southwest of Ray City, near Possum Creek.

(One wonders if there was a Moore family connection here. John Levi Allen was a son of Rachel Moore Allen. Elijah’s mother had married a Moore man in her first marriage; Elijah’s older half brother was Connie J. Moore.)

By the census of 1920, Elijah Fawcett had moved his family and widowed father to Red Bluff, South Carolina where he rented a farm. Some time before 1930, he moved everyone back to Ray City, including his now 81 year-old father. With the help of his teenage sons, Arthur and Marvin, Elijah was working a rented farm. It appears that prior to 1935, through unknown circumstances or death, his marriage to Cora ended.

Elijah Fawcett relocated from Ray City to the New River district.  In a second marriage he was wedded to an Alabama woman, Mattie Louise Harrison.

Mattie Louise Harrison, second wife of Elijah Fawcett

Mattie Louise Harrison, second wife of Elijah Fawcett

The couple owned a farm on the Lenox-Enigma Road. Later, Mattie and Elijah Fawcett moved to Alabama.


Connie Moore and the Fargo Convict Camp

Convict labor and guards in South Georgia

Convict labor and guards in South Georgia

Connie J. Moore was born about 1881 in North Carolina. It appears that his father died while he was a young child, and his mother was remarried in 1885 to Charlie Fawcett, also of North Carolina.

Some time before 1900, perhaps as early as 1885,  Charlie Fawcett moved his family to Georgia. In the census of 1900 Connie and his mother, his step-father, and half-brother, Elijah Fawcett, were enumerated in Mud Creek, Clinch County, GA. Charlie Fawcett rented a farm there, and Connie assisted his step-father with the farm labor. Shortly after that, Connie J. Moore relocated with his family from Clinch County to Rays Mill, GA.

By 1903, Moore had given up farm labor and was working as a convict guard for the the Baxter & Company’s convict camp at Fargo, GA. The G. S. Baxter & Company sawmill at Fargo was the largest in Clinch County, and the State Prison System of Georgia had leased more than 1,000 convicts to the firm under the convict lease system.  It was at the Fargo Convict Camp where James Thomas Biggles, of Rays Mill, served his sentence for the murder of Madison Pearson.

The G. S. Baxter & Company sawmill was located at Fargo on the route of the Georgia, Southern, and Florida Railroad. The GS&F opened about 1900 and ran from Macon via Valdosta to Jacksonville, FL.

According to Folks Huxford’s History of Clinch County, GA:

The building of this road opened up a new section of the county hitherto undeveloped. Almost simultaneously with the completion of the road to Jacksonville, a big saw-mill was built by Eastern capitalists on the new road where it crosses the Suwannee River. The town which grew up here was named “Fargo.” The partners in this enterprise were George S. Baxter, E. P. Long and Walton Ferguson.

The town of Fargo was laid out on the banks of the Suwannee River, and is to-day one of the most flourishing towns in the county. It has several stores, a large hotel and other establishments. The mills which are owned by G. S. Baxter & Company, are about the largest in the county.

Around Christmas of 1903, Connie Moore planned to return to his home at Rays Mill but failed to arrive in Valdosta as expected. No trace of his wherabouts could be found. In early January 1904, Francis Marion Shaw and his step-son John Levi Allen, both of Rays Mill, went searching for the missing man, travelling to Fargo, GA and retracing the route back to Valdosta. Connie’s half-brother, Elijah Fawcett worked for John L. Allen, according to later records.


Family and Friends of Connie Moore Fear Young Man Has Been Murdered or Accidentally Killed. He Had Money with Him.

Valdosta, Ga. January 8. -(Special.)- The family and friends of Connie J. Moore, a young man whose home is near Hay’s Mill [sic], in Berrien County are greatly distressed over his mysterious disappearance, and fear that he has either met with a fatal accident or been murdered.

The young man was employed as a convict guard at Baxter & Company’s camp at Fargo, Ga., for several months, and wrote to his parents about December 20 that he expected to return home to spend Christmas, and requesting that they have a conveyance meet him in this city. The conveyance was sent on the day appointed, but the young man failed to meet it, and a prolonged search since then has failed to find any trace of his whereabouts. Enquiry at Fargo disclosed the fact that he disappeared from there about the date on which he wrote his parents he would start for home, but no clue was obtained of the direction which he went.

Young Moore is about 22 years old and unmarried. He is a young man of exemplary habits and greatly attached to his mother, communicating with her regularly up to the date of his disappearance. He informed his employers that he would return to his duties after the holidays, and as evidence of the fact that he expected to go back to Fargo left nearly a month’s wages uncollected. It is understood that he had a considerable sum of money when he left there.

F.M. Shaw and J.L. Allen, of Berrien county, were in the city today on their return from Fargo, where they had been in an effort to secure a trace of the missing man.

What ever became of Connie J. Moore is not known.  His Fawcett family continued to live in Ray City, GA through the 1930s.

Possums Wanted

An advertisement in The Thomasville Times-Enterprise, December 23, 1919, Thomasville, GA says something interesting about life in this region in the early 1900s.

We are in the market for live possums and
PAY 15c. A POUND for them
in any number

Live Possums Wanted.  The Thomasville Times-Enterprise, December 23, 1919.

Live Possums Wanted. The Thomasville Times-Enterprise, December 23, 1919.

According to numerous South Georgia newspaper accounts, possum hunting was very popular in the early 1900s, and possum was considered excellent fare for special occasions, entertaining guests, or even Christmas dinner.

In December of 1913, a “Possum Supper” was put on by the Mashburn Drug Company of Valdosta, for local doctors and drug company representatives. One attendee of the special event was Dr. A. L. Johnston of Valdosta, who also provided services for Ray City residents.

And the Valdosta Times declared when President-elect William Howard Taft visited Atlanta in 1909, “The great feature of the banquet [was] one hundred fat South Georgia possums, garnished with South Georgia potatoes.”

South Georgia possum was a feast for presidents. Valdosta Times, January 16, 1909.

South Georgia possum was a feast for presidents. Valdosta Times, January 16, 1909.

“Possum” dinner tendered to President-elect William Howard Taft by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, January 15, 1909. Image source: Library of Congress,

From History of Worth county, Georgia: for the first eighty years, 1854-1934 comes the following information on what was perhaps the greatest possum dinner of all time.

(Worth County Local, Jan. 8th, 1909.)
The County of Worth has volunteered-nay, has asked the honor-of furnishing, free of charge, the one hundred fat ‘possums necessary for the great supper to be given President-elect Taft on the occasion of his visit to Atlanta, the aforementioned animals to be served in accordance with the expressed wish of his Honor.
The following telegrams speak for themselves:

“Sylvester, Ga., Jan. 2nd, 1909.-E. C. Caverly and Mr. Wilkerson, ‘Possum Committee, Atlanta: Worth County asks the honor of being allowed to furnish free to the ‘possum and ‘tater supper, the one hundred fat ‘possums required. Answer promptly, so we can unloose the ‘possum dogs.
“Frank Park.”

“Frank Park, Sylvester, Ga.: We accept with pleasure and gratitude your offer to furnish ‘possum and ‘taters. Unleash your discriminating ‘possum dogs.

“C. E. Caverly, chairman ‘Possum committee,” 

‘taters, ‘possums, and simmon beer.

“Atlanta. Jan 4th,-Not only has the committee been assured on the personal honor of Harry Fisher of Newnan, Judge Frank Park of Sylvester, and others, that all the ‘possums desired will be in attendance, even to the elimination of this product from the Georgia woods, but assurance came today from a lady admirer of Mr. Taft, that ‘simmon beer will not be lacking. She is now making first preparations for brewing a barrel of this exhilerating Georgia drink, for exclusive use of the Taft banquet. There’ll be no champagne or other liquid from foreign vineyard-the Georgia prohibition law forbids.”

“The deed is done! The suspense is over! The slaughter of the innocents is accomplished! The largest and most varied collection of ‘possums ever accumulated in the ‘possum state of the South, went to their fate Wednesday morning, not exactly like lambs led to the slaughter, because they were ‘possums ; and a ‘possum is not like anything else under the sun, except another ‘possum. Neither is there any other creature whose execution is along such utterly original and outlandish lines.

“No stately guillotine towers above the prospective victim-no dangling noose awaits his cringing neck-just a broom-stick and a colored gen’man.

“How the deed was done. The ‘possum, grasped firmly by his rat-like tail, is flopped with some enthusiasm, upon the ground chin down. Across the nape of his neck, is placed a broom-stick, upon either end of which the executioner places a number 11 foot (the number is important). Without delay (for the ‘possum does not take kindly to this procedure) the southern extremity of the animal is smartly elevated by means of that convenient handle, his tail, and-“snick !” It is all over. Another ‘possum has been gathered to his fathers in the great beyond, where perennial persimmon trees flourish, and there is no happy hunting ground.

“Such is the manner of his taking off by Levi Colbert, imported for the purpose from Worth County and retained at the Piedmont, as consulting cook, to assist in the post mortem preparation of a hundred ‘possums for the table of the great. With Levi came Annie Daniels and Mahala Bennett, all of them from the Worth County plantation of Judge Frank Park.

“Immediately after the execution, the ‘possums are plunged in boiling water to remove the hair, dressed and placed in a cold salt water bath for twelve hours, “to kill de animal taste, and bring out de ‘possum taste,” says Levi. Then they are parboiled ‘twel day is f’ree thirds done,” (some authority), after which they are baked with the time-honored sweet potatoes; being basted during this process, with a special sauce prepared after a formula newly invented by Signor John Blocoki, chief cook at the Piedmont Hotel.”

(Note:-“Possums and Taters” are a real resource of Worth County. They are most delicious when cooked together and are the finest in the fall and winter months, persimmon beer comes along with ‘possums and taters in the fall months. What better feast could any one ask?)

You can see more about Taft’s possum dinner at the Georgia On My Mind Blog .

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Billy Clements was a Combat Engineer

1942 recruitment poster for the Army Corps of Engineers

1942 recruitment poster for the Army Corps of Engineers

On August 2, 1942, William A. “Billy” Clements enlisted “for the duration of the War.”  He was inducted first as an Army private at Fort Mcpherson, Atlanta, GA.

A line of soldiers during induction at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA, 1942.

A line of soldiers during induction at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA, 1942.

Billy had four years of college education, and after basic training it was decided his “civilian occupation, training and background were more suited for conversion to Specialist use in the Engineer Corps than in other branches of the services…The army engineer is a builder as well as a combat soldier.”  It was in 1942 that the construction of domestic military bases reached its peak.

On October 5, 1942 The Atlanta Constitution reported William A. Clements had been transferred to the Engineer Replacement Training Center at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

William A. "Billy" Clements was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in October of 1942.

William A. “Billy” Clements was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in October of 1942.

The Atlanta Constitution
October 5, 1942

The Army and Navy

Fourteen Georgians are now stationed at the Engineer Replacement Training Center at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
    From Atlanta are Herbert C. Johnson, of 476 Lytle avenue, S. E. and James B. Owen, of 1189 McLendon avenue.
    Other Georgians are: Earl L. Nash, of 3787 Highland avenue, Hapeville: Thomas B. Jordan, of Greenville; Roy W. Smith, of Jonesboro; Philip E. Williams, of Colquitt; Glen B. Phillips, of Forest Park; James E. Terrell, of North Roswell; Charles A Lindsey, of Dalton; Arthur L. Long, of Woodbury; Robert F. Meek, of Smyrna; William A. Clements, of Ray City; John V. Benson, of Nelson, and Frank W. McCrae, of Raleigh.

New arrivals at Fort Leonard Wood were greeted with a pamphlet, Introdution to ERTC Fort Leonard Wood,  which provided an orientation to the base and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The prime reason for your being here is to be trained as a combat engineer.  You will learn the use of hand and motorized tools, to construct fixed and floating bridges, to build roads and obstacles, to execute demolitions, and to protect yourself against  enemy attacks.

WW II era yearbook, Fort Leonard Wood

After the War, Billy Clements returned to Ray City, GA. He later became the owner of the Victory Soda Shop, Ray City’s iconic landmark of World War II.

Billy Clements (left) on Main Street outside the Victory Soda Shop after the Ray City fire of March 1969. Image courtesy of

Billy Clements (left) after the Ray City fire of March 1969. Image courtesy of


The Berrien Press 
February 2006

The Berrien Press — William A. “Billy” Clements, 88, of Ray City died February 2, 2006 at Louis Smith Memorial Hospital in Lakeland. Born October 3, 1917 in Berrien County to the late William A. and Mary  Elizabeth Clements, he owned and operated Victory Soda Shop in Ray City for 33 years. He served in the U.S. Army during WWII and was a member of First  Baptist Church in Ray City. Survivors include his wife, Helen Wood Clements of Ray City; three sons, Richard Clements of Chula, David Clements of Ray City, Chris Clements of Virginia Beach, VA; two sisters, Ann Ryals of Valdosta and Grace Howell of  Houston, TX; one brother, Wendell Lee Clements of Conyers; seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held February 5 at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Ray City. Interment was in Beaver Dam Cemetery. Music Funeral Services of Lakeland was in charge of arrangements.


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Jasper Giddens Caught

Jasper Giddens, who killed Calvin Hightower at Cat Creek,GA  was finally captured at Brookfield, FL in 1887.   The story of the killing was told in previous posts Cat Creek Knife & Gun Club and Jasper Giddens ‘Settles’ Knife Fight.

He was born as Isaac Jasper Giddens in 1844 at Cat Creek, Lowndes County, a son of Duncan Giddens.  The Giddens’ place was just a little southwest of the homestead of  Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City, GA. His father, Duncan Giddens, had served with Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1838, and a brother, John Mathis Giddens,  served during the Civil War with the 50th Georgia Infantry, Company B and died about 1862 in a military hospital. (See Marrying Cousins: Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens.)

As a young man, Jasper Giddens had lived in Ware and Clinch counties,  but eventually returned to the general region of Cat Creek and present day Ray City, GA. He took a job as a farm laborer at a plantation on the Lowndes/Berrien county line owned by William Roberts, who at that time was also part owner of the land now occupied by the city of Ray City. (See Ray City Land Passed Through Many Hands

After the 1879 killing, Giddens had eluded authorities for seven years.  But The Atlanta Constitution reported his capture in 1887:

The Atlanta Constitution
March 14, 1887, Pg 2

Jasper Giddens, who killed Calvin Hightower in the fall of 1880, in the upper part of Lowndes county, was captured several days ago at Brooksfield, Florida and is now awaiting his trial.   The account of the killing was published in the Valdosta Times soon after it occurred.  Giddens and Hightower met a a country frolic.  There were several of the Hightowers, male and female, and they were all at enmity with Giddens for some cause, and they warned him not to enter the house where the dancing was progressing. He hesitated some time, but backed by some friends, finally entered when a row at once occurred in which Giddens was severely cut. At first he did not know that he was cut, and he left the house, but returned immediately when he discovered his bleeding wounds and drew a pistol and fired the fatal shot which took the life of Calvin Hightower – the bullet taking effect in the abdomen.  He dodged the sheriff for some weeks and finally arrange a $500 bond, on which were the names of about fifteen of the best men in that portion of Lowndes and the lower part of Berrien.  But before court, when he was to have been tried, he jumped his bond, and his bondsmen were forced to pay the amount. Since that time, those injured gentlemen have been busying themselves to find him, and they have at last succeeded. A detective was employed ans several days ago he landed Jasper Giddens in the Brookfield jail, and Sheriff Harrell, of Lowndes county, went after him. His trial will likely take place at the May term of Lowndes Superior court. There is also a bill against Giddens for bigamy.

John F. Studstill Was Wanted in Arkansas

John F. Studstill assisted his father, William Hustus Studstill, with Berrien County tax collections in 1909.

John F. Studstill assisted his father, William Hustus Studstill, with Berrien County tax collections in 1909. Image detail courtesy of

John Franklin Studstill was a wanted man.

John F. Studstill, subject of previous posts,  was a son of William Hustus Studstill,  Tax Collector for Berrien County in the early 1900s.

From about 1907 to 1909 John F. Studstill assisted his father in the tax collector’s office, until irregularities were discovered in the bookkeeping.  Studstill first fled to Macon, GA where he attempted to obtain an automobile on false financial documents.  He then made his way through Valdosta to Jacksonville, FL before appearing in Texas and Arkansas where he continued his financial frauds. He was finally captured at Bowling Green, FL.

While being transported back from Florida Studstill escaped from custody at Rays Mill, GA.(See Embezzler Son of Illiterate Tax Collector Escapes Detectives at Ray’s Mill, GA) Previous posts ( More on John F. Studstill ~ Ray City Fugitive) told how Studstill operated his frauds and made his escape at Rays Mill, GA.

On June 6, 1909, The Atlanta Constitution reported how Studstill was captured again at his home near Milltown (now Lakeland, GA), but managed to escape from the authorities a second time.

The Atlanta Constitution. 6 Jun 1909.

   Daring Escape by the Young Financier of Berrien County
Valdosta, Ga., June 5 –John F. Studstill, the young financier of Berrien county, Georgia, who is wanted at Macon, Ga. Ashmore, Ark, and other places on charges of forgery, today made a daring escape from Officers Shaw and Watson of Milltown.
    Two weeks ago Studstill cleverly eluded two detectives and escaped.
    Today he was discovered playing with his children. Half clad, he went through an opening in the ceiling of his house and jumped from a back window. Making use of a neighbor’s horse and buggy, he was quickly out of reach of the officers.

By mid-June word was out that John F. Studstill was also wanted in Arkansas. The Atlanta Georgian & News, June 19, 1909 reported the charges.

The Atlanta Georgian & News, June 19, 1909 reported that John F. Studstill of Berrien County was wanted in Arkansas.

The Atlanta Georgian & News, June 19, 1909 reported that John F. Studstill of Berrien County was wanted in Arkansas.

The Atlanta Georgian & News
June 19, 1909


South Georgian Said to Have Fleeced Bank.

     Valdosta, June 19. –  L. A. Byrne, a prominent attorney, of Texarkana, Ark., which was victimized recently by John F. Studstill, of Berrien county, is in this section today trying to get possession of certificates of deposit representing several thousand dollars, which it is alleged Studstill obtained through fraud, and which it is believed he still has.
     Studstill, it is charged, went to Arkansas some time since and represented that he was worth a large sum of money, and wanted to buy farm lands.  He traded for a valuable plantation, giving a check for $5,000 on a Jacksonville, Fla., bank.  Altho this check was returned unpaid in due course of time, it appeared in the meantime to give him an established credit in the little town of Ashdown, which in the interval he proceeded to use.   He gave to each of the two banks there a check on the Jacksonville bank for $1,500 each, drawing from one of them $25 in cash and from the other $40.  Both  banks gave him certificates of deposit for the balance and Studstill then disappeared.  A few days later the $5,000 check was returned marked “no good,” and then the banks knew they were stuck.

It is not yet clear how Studstill managed to resolve his financial and legal issues, but he stayed in the area until his death in 1950.

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Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad

In 1907 when things began to firm up for the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railway line that would connect Nashville, GA and Valdosta, GA, railroad engineer J. W. Webster  came through the area to lay out the route and to secure the right-of-way for the tracks.  Webster was assisted by Dr. W. B. Goodman, who was the husband of Texas Ray Goodman and son-in-law of Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray. (see Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863)

September 6, 1907 Engineers Secure Rights-of-Way for Georgia and Florida Railroad

The Atlanta Georgian and News, September 6, 1907 Engineers Secure Rights-of-Way for Georgia and Florida Railroad

The Atlanta Georgian and News
September 6, 1907


Special to The Georgian.

    Valdosta, Ga., Sept. 6. – Assistant Engineer J. W. Webster, of the Georgia and Florida railroad, and Dr. W. B. Goodman, of Nashville, Ga., were in the city yesterday arranging for the right of way for the railroad into this city. They drove through the country, following the proposed line, and closed up options for a considerable portion of the right of way.  The road will likely enter the city on the eastern border, with a sharp curve to the south, where a junction will be effected with the Valdosta Southern to Madison, Fla.
    Engineer Webster states that work on the gap from this city to Nashville will begin in a short while, but owning to the fact that nearly all the railway contractors in the country have about all the work they can handle now with their present equipment, and a disposition not to invest money in increased facilities, it is impossible to state exactly when active work will begin.

The call for proposals to build the Georgia and Florida line drew the attention of some of the largest railroad contractors in the country (see previous post Whangdoodled on Panama Canal Contract, Billy Oliver put in a Bid to Construct G & F Railroad Through Ray City).  With railroad construction underway all over the country in 1907, the original bids had  come in too high for G & F’s liking.  But by late August of 1907 it was settled that Schofield & Sons, of Philadelphia would do the grading as soon as their equipment was available to do the work.

In the final consideration, there were two possible routes for the G & F line from Nashville to Valdosta, one by way of Cat Creek and the other to run past Rays Mill.

The Valdosta Times, January 29, 1908 reported that two routes were surveyed for the Georgia and Florida line from Nashville, GA to Valdosta, GA. One route would pass through Rays Mill, the other by way of Cat Creek.

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, January 25, 1908, page 10

Two Routes Surveyed for Road

The work of making the surveys on the road from here to Nashville will probably be completed this week, or within a very few days. Two routes have been surveyed. One of them comes in by way of Cat Creek and the other by Rays Mill. The route by Cat Creek also comes within a short distance of Mr. W.T. Staten’s place on the east, he having been assisting in securing rights of way through that section.

(missing line(s) of print)

routes will be accepted, as the costs of the road is to be considered and then some consideration will probably be taken of the concessions that are given by people along the route. It has not been announced when the work on the road will be undertaken again, but it will probably be when the present warfare on railroads and corporations generally is stopped.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

William Tomlinson Staten (1866-1920), who was assisting the railroad in securing rights-of-way was well known as the  Lowndes County tax collector, president of the Lowndes County Farmers’ Club,  and committee member on the state finance committee of the Southern Cotton Association.  He owned  much property including town lots and plantations.  It was Staten who sold lots to the government for the construction of the federal courthouse and post office in Valdosta, GA.  He owned a big plantation called  “Alue” near Valdosta.   He was a big produce shipper so securing a rail route by his Cat Creek plantation  would have been  in his interest.

But despite the influence of Staten, the support of local citizens of Rays Mill were able to secure the route for the new railroad:

At that time Mr. J.S. Swindle owned much of the land around the present site of the town. It is said that he bargained with the railroad company to give them the right of way if they would give him a station. This agreement was made and thus started the town [of Ray City].

W. T. Staten would later be among those seriously injured in the 1910 wreck of the G & F  train in Valdosta, GA.

The Georgia and Florida Construction Company

If any one man can be credited for the creation of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, it  was John Skelton Williams.  From inception it was intended that the G & F would run from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL, with plans to extend the line all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. But when Williams organized the railroad in 1906 it was far from clear to the citizens of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) that they would ever get a connection.

John Skelton Williams, organizer of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, was the first president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and later became U. S. Comptroller of the Currency.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

John Skelton Williams, organizer of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, was the first president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and later became U. S. Comptroller of the Currency. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1906, John Skelton Williams was already a great power among the railroad men.  He was a leading ‘southern financier’ and the ex-president of the Seaboard Air Line railway.

He became a partner with his father in the banking and brokerage business and later engaged actively in the material development of the South. He organized and consolidated the Seaboard Air Line and was elected the first president of this company in 1900. He also served as president of other railroad companies of less mileage and was president of the Bank of Richmond and of the Southern Investment Company. He was director of several other trust companies, banks and other corporations, and was recognized as one of the leading financiers of the South. – Biography-Of-John-Skelton-Williams

One of the “other railroad companies of less mileage” Williams organized was the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  In the spring of 1906, The Valdosta Times reported with cautious optimism on Williams’ interest in Valdosta for his new line.  At the time,  Williams was occupied with consolidating a precursor to the G & F, referred to in the article as the Augusta & Gulf.

March 10, 1906 The Valdosta Times reports on the organization of the Georgia and Florida Construction Company by John Skelton Williams.

March 10, 1906 The Valdosta Times reports on the organization of the Georgia and Florida Construction Company by John Skelton Williams.


Official Statement in Regard to the Augusta & Gulf Railroad.

Messrs. Williams and Middendorf Give Out a Statement of Their Recent Deals and Also Give Some Intimation of Their Plans – Valdosta’s Name is Frequently Used in the Deal, But That is All.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.)

    The following official announcement from the Manufacturers’ Record relative to the proposed Augusta and Gulf railroad which will be one of the biggest trunk lines in the south, will prove of great interest locally as shown in the scope and certainty of this project.
    The Georgia and Florida Construction Company, incorporated has been organized at Richmond, Va., for the purpose of uniting and forming a trunk line out of the several Georgia railroads purchased by the syndicate organized by John Skelton Williams of Richmond, J. William Middendorff of Baltimore and their associates.  Information from Richmond received by the Manufacturers’ Record says that the Construction Company, with an authorized capital of 50,000 to $90,000, has the following directors Douglas H. Gordon of Baltimore, president, and representing the International Trust Company of Baltimore, which is a member of the syndicate:  E. L. Bemiss, vice president, and F. E. Nolting, treasurer, both of Richmond; A. H. Rutherford, of Baltimore, secretary; Albert H. Carroll, of Baltimore, Lewis C. Williams and L. M. Williams, both of Richmond.

Buys Six Roads.

The syndicate has thus far purchased six railroads in Georgia with a total length of 227 miles.  They are the Augusta and Florida 30 miles long, from Keysville to Midville; the Midville, Swainsboro and Red Bluff railway, 20 miles long from Midville to Swainsboro; the Millen and Southwestern railroad, 53 miles line, from Millen via Stillmore to Vidalia; the Ocilla and Valdosta railroad, 55 miles long, from Hazelhurst via Broxton and Ocilla to Irwinville; the Douglas Augusta and Gulf railway, 57 miles long, from Barrows Bluff via Broxton, Douglas and Pinebloom to Nashville, and the Nashville and Sparks railroad, 12 miles long, from Nashville to Sparks.  The Millen and Southwestern has a small branch of four miles from Durdenville to Monte. It will be necessary to use only part of some of these roads to form the proposed trunk line.

The Connecting Links.

To connect these various properties and make the proposed continuous railroad from Augusta to Valdosta it will be necessary to build links as follows:  Augusta to Keysville, about 20 miles, connection between the Midville, Swainsboro and Red Bluff railway and the Millen and Southwestern railroad, about 10 miles; Vidalia to Hazelhurst about 25 miles: total, 80 or 90 miles of new construction.
The proposed extension from Valdosta southeward is not yet definitely decided upon.  The object is to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and this may be done by building to Tallahassee to connect with the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama railway, which would take it to the port of Carabelle or a direct line south might be chosen.  From 50 to 60 miles of new line might be required.

Come summertime, Williams had his railroad chartered and  funded with a million dollars in capital. By this time it was clear that Nashville, Berrien County and the Wiregrass stood to benefit from the new railroad.

July 13, 1906, The Americus Times-Recorder reports that John Skelton Williams has received a charter for the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

July 13, 1906, The Americus Times-Recorder reports that John Skelton Williams has received a charter for the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

By September, 1906 surveying was underway to determine the route  the Georgia & Florida would follow from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL.  But it appeared that the main trunk line of the G & F might pass east of Berrien County.

The Valdosta Times, September 15, 1906 reports Georgia and Florida Railroad has surveyors in the field.

The Valdosta Times, September 15, 1906 reports Georgia and Florida Railroad has surveyors in the field.

But by the following summer, July 1907 it began to look like the trunk line of the Georgia & Florida would include construction of a connecting line from Nashville to Valdosta.  No doubt the residents of Rays Mill began to contemplate the possibilities. Next up, Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad.

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