Hod P. Clements and the Dixie Division

Hosea P. “Hod” Clements was born December 27, 1890 in Milltown, GA, a son of Ann Eliza Swindle and John Miles Clements. Hod grew up on his father’s farm, situated on one of the ‘settlement’ roads outside of Ray City.

Hod P. Clements of Ray City, GA, 1911.

Hod P. Clements of Ray City, GA, 1911.

On June 15, 1917 Hod Clements registered for the  WWI draft at Milltown, GA . At the time he was working as a self employed farmer. He was 26 years old, medium height and build, with gray eyes and light hair.  His draft card was processed by C. O. Terry, registrar for Berrien County and also the druggist at Ray City, GA.

Three months later on September 21, 1917, and less than a week after marrying Alma Florence May,  Hosea Peoples Clements was inducted into the US Army at Milltown. His military service records show he was first assigned to Company A, 307th Engineers and trained at Camp Wheeler in Macon, GA.

Artillery Hill, Camp Wheeler, Macon, GA.  October 2, 1917

Artillery Hill, Camp Wheeler, Macon, GA. October 2, 1917. Image courtesy of Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2007664196/

Late in the summer of 1918 Hod shipped overseas where he served from September 17, 1918 to July 5, 1919. There on Oct. 14, 1918, he joined Company F, 106th Engineers. This unit was part of the 31st (old 10) Division  which encompassed units from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.  The 31st Division was known as the Dixie Division, under the command of Major General Leroy S. Lyon.

WWI Dixie Division arm patches.

WWI Dixie Division arm patches.

Upon arrival in France the 31st was designated as a replacement division. The personnel of most of the units were withdrawn and sent to other organizations. The 31st was at Brest when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

Hosea P. Clements was honorably discharged from the Army on July 13, 1919. Records show he had 0 percent disability at discharge.

After the War, Hod Clements returned to Berrien County, GA and took up farming.

Tragedy at Possum Creek

The brief paragraphs that appeared in newspapers could hardly convey the tragedy of a murder-suicide, but there it was.  The incident occurred at the farm of Francis Marion Shaw on Possum Creek Road near Ray City, GA on a late Friday afternoon 112 years ago today, September 21.  James Merritt shot and killed his wife, then took his own life.

The following day an account of the incident appeared in the Richmond, VA Dispatch:

Richmond Dispatch
Richmond, Virginia
September 23, 1900, Page 17

Wife-Murder and Then Suicide

    RAY’S MILL, GA., September 22. – James Merritt (white), aged about 47, killed his wife this morning, with a repeating rifle, and immediately turned the weapon upon himself and sent a bullet into his chest.
     Mrs. Merritt was walking home with a woman neighbor, when her husband arose from a clump of bushes bu the side of the road, and with barely a word of warning shot her through the heart.  Death was instantaneous.
Merritt then shot himself. The theory is that the woman and Merritt were not actually man and wife, but had eloped, leaving other families, and that officers were after them.

The Atlanta Constitution published a brief account with a few additional details:

1900 Murder/suicide in Berrien County, GA

1900 Murder/suicide in Berrien County, GA

The Atlanta Constitution
September 23, 1900


Tragedy Near Ray’s Mill on Last Friday Afternoon.

Nashville, Ga., September 22. — (Special.) On Friday afternoon. near Ray’s Mill, a man named Merritt shot and killed a woman named Hutchinson and then shot himself, both dying side by side. It seems they had been living together for some time, and hearing that the sheriff had warrants for them both, he tried to get her to leave with him. She would not. He then went off for a week, then returned, ambushed and shot her. He then told Mrs. F. M. Shaw, with whom they worked that he was going to kill himself. She ran to tell Mr. Shaw, but before she reached the house the rifle fired, and when Mr. Shaw reached him he was dying.

Bryan Shaw, descendant of Rachel and F.M. Shaw, has researched this tragic episode and published an article on the subject, Witness to Murder,  in the Shaw family newsletter.

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Boys Lost in the Swamp

In 1906 two young men, William Franklin “Frank” Shaw and Ben Giddens, wandered into the South Georgia swamp. When it got late and the skies turned stormy the Shaw family, many of whom lived and worked in the Ray City vicinity, mobilized to search for the boys.  (Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien Historical Foundation, has written about his family history in the newsletter, Family of Francis Marion Shaw.)

The Valdosta Times
June 23, 1906


Cat Creek Lads Go Hunting and Failed to Return.

Frank Shaw and Ben Giddens Followed a Rabbit Into a Swamp and Were Unable to Find Their Way Out

Cat Creek, Ga., June 20 – Last Tuesday afternoon Frank Shaw, aged 15, son of Mr. B. F. Shaw, and Ben Giddens, another boy about the same age left their homes to go to the swamp nearby to gather huckleberries. The dogs that followed the boys treed a rabbit in the swamps, which is a bad place and the boys decided to go in the swamp and get the rabbit, when to their great surprise they found themselves lost.     The night was a dark and stormy one and the trees and limbs were falling in every direction.  The boy’s parents became alarmed by the boys failing to show up and they decided to go in search of them.     Messrs. B. F. Shaw and two sons, F. M. Shaw, Bobbie Taylor, John Shaw, W. B. Parrish, Frank Allen, J. S. Shaw, Brodie and Bruner Shaw, all went in search of the missing boys, some going in every direction.  The dogs that accompanied the boys did not come home, which brought great relief to the boy’s parents who realized that if the boys were either drowned or killed the dogs would have returned home.    The boys managed to find their way out of the swamps and got back to their homes about 11 o’clock, completely tired out.

Fortunately, on this day everyone returned safely to their homes.  Both Frank Shaw and Ben Giddens  would later call Ray City home. Frank Shaw, like many of the Shaw family children, attended school at King’s Chapel.

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Ag Teachers go to War

St. Elmo Lee, 1939

St. Elmo Lee, 1939, served with the 902nd Artillery at Leyte, WWII

On October 24, 1942 vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army.  He was inducted at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, GA for the duration of the war. He was single, 5′ 9″ tall and weighed 134 pounds.

St. Elmo Lee enlisted as a private, eventually serving as a sergeant in Battery C, 902nd Field Artillery Battalion 77th Division.  He fought in the Pacific Theater of Operations from March 30, 1944 to November 22, 1945 during which time he was involved in amphibious assaults and  campaigns on the Marshall Islands, Southern Philippines, and Ryukyu Islands.

U.S. howitzer fires on Catmon Hill, Leyte, Phillipines. October 20, 1944.

U.S. howitzer fires on Catmon Hill, Leyte, Philippines. October 20, 1944.
St. Elmo Lee, of Ray City, GA participated in the Battle of Leyte with the 902nd Field Artillery Battalion. In November 1944 the 902nd provided artillery support for the 77th Division operations in the Battle of Leyte.

In November 1944 the 902nd Field Artillery Battalion provided support for the 77th Division operations in the Battle of Leyte. In April 1945 the 902nd was with the 77th Division in the first attack on the Ryukyu Islands, seizing the islands west of Okinawa, and later moving to Okinawa itself.

St. Elmo Lee continued to serve until the end of the war.  He was returned to Fort McPherson, GA for his discharge on January 1, 1946.

Among the decorations he received were:

  • Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Stars and One Bronze Arrowhead
  • Philippine Liberation Medal with one Bronze star
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • World War Two Victory Medal

After the war, a pamphlet was published to honor the contributions of Georgia’s agriculture teachers, A Memorial to Georgia Teachers of Vocational Agriculture who fought, suffered, died and worked to win the war.

Among the area agriculture teachers who served were: St. Elmo Lee, of Ray City and New Lois schools,  J. V. Wynn from Nashville and Poplar Springs schools; W. C. Thigpen, Jr. of Barney; W.E. Rooks and Hal Godwin, of Homerville; K. N. Phillips from Ocilla; and J. I. Musselwhite, of Willacoochee; R. E. King, Jr., of Clyattville and Lake Park; John Hensley of Hahira;  H. C. Dorminey from Tifton; and Tom M. Cordell, of Abraham Baldwin.

1946 war memorial to Georgia teachers of vocational agriculture.

1946 war memorial to Georgia teachers of vocational agriculture.


One hundred and fifty-seven teachers of vocational agriculture left their classrooms and entered the Armed Service between 1941 and 1945. More than two-thirds of these served in the army, about one-fourth in the navy, and the rest in the Marines.  

These teachers scattered to the four corners of the earth. To the damp humid jungles, to the freezing temperature of the Aleutians, to the barren sand-swept deserts, they went to do their bit for Uncle Sam. But no matter how far away from home, their thoughts stayed in Georgia.

Seven of these men made the supreme sacrifice. Some of the men were injured; they came back maimed for life, wearers of the Purple Heart. Some were captured and suffered the horrors known only to “prisoners of war.” Many were decorated for courageous actions. All made courageous contributions to winning the war.

The accumulated stories of these teachers would probably fill a book. Some were baptized in fire with American forces that swept across France and into Germany itself. Others fought from the decks of ships or cheated death in flaming battles of the skies. Still others who may have wanted to get in the active fighting were assigned to shore stations in this country or abroad.

But all of the men have stories to tell-if they wanted to talk. It is highly probable that the experience of the men give them a more international point of view. They have seen enough to convince them that this is now in reality one world. And they have had an opportunity to see where Georgia and her agriculture fit into the scheme of things.

Today, some of the teachers are returning to the classrooms they left behind; some are teachers of vocational agriculture in new fields; others are instructors in the newly developed Veterans Farmer Training Program.

Georgia is glad to welcome back her sons. They have done a good job where they were and there is still a job for them to do here. It is good to see the official family of vocational agriculture getting back together again.

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St. Elmo Lee Was a Blessing to FFA

In the summer of 1940, St. Elmo Lee arrived in Ray City, GA.  That fall he began his teaching career as the Vocational Agriculture teacher at Ray City School.

St. Elmo Lee, 1940, Senior Photo, University of Georgia.

St. Elmo Lee, 1940, Senior Photo, University of Georgia.

The Nashville Herald
August 8, 1940,  front page

New Agriculture Teacher For New Lois and Ray City

      S.E. Lee of Cairo arrived in Berrien county this week to assume his duties as agriculture instructor in the Ray City and New Lois schools for this year.
      Mr. Lee is a graduate of the University of Georgia the past June, and comes highly recommended for the work he is to do.  He is making his home in Ray City.
      J.G. Tatum handled the Ray City agriculture classes last year, while E.R. Fowler had the New Lois classes.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

In the summer of 1940 St. Elmo Lee was a young man of 22, a fresh graduate of the University of  Georgia. He was a son of John Henry Lee and Willie Myrtice Rehberg, born in the midst of World War I on March 17, 1918. A product of Grady County, Georgia, he had attended Reno Grammar school, and graduated Cairo High School with the class of 1936. Afterward he attended South Georgia College before transfering to the University of Georgia.

At UGA he studied agricultural education, and was Secretary of Gaffau.

The name of Gaffau Club comes from the initials of Georgia Future Farmers of America, University Chapter, a national organization. Its purpose is to promote guidance as a basis of choice for vocational teaching, and to provide recreation and fraternal relationships for students preparing to teach vocational agriculture and to perform duties of advisors of high school F. F. A. chapters. Any student who is regularly enrolled in agricultural courses at the University of Georgia and who has been a member of a local Future Farmers of America chapter or is specializing in teacher training in the Division of Vocational Education is eligible to active membership.

World War II intervened in Mr. Lee’s tenure at the Ray City School.   On October 24, 1942 St. Elmo Lee gave up the classroom for enlistment.  Mr. Lee served his country for three years as a Sergeant in the United States Army, 77th Division.

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The Ray’s Mill District

Georgia Militia Districts

Many census records, land records, genealogies and histories refer to historical locations in terms of militia districts. The districts defined areas of military and civil authority. Each district provided for the leadership and organization of a militia company, and also for one Notary Public and one Justice of the Peace.  An examination of the history and function of Georgia Militia Districts is provided by the Georgia Bar Journal.

Historically, the  counties of Georgia were divided into Georgia Militia Districts (GMD) for the purpose of organizing local militia companies to defend against Indian raids or other threats. With the formation of new counties in Wiregrass Georgia, new Militia Districts were organized as required by law.  Every able-bodied man between the ages of 15 and 50 who lived within the district was required to serve in the militia, and the company of men in each district elected a captain by whose name the district and company was known, e.g. Captain Knight’s District.  Although since 1804, all militia districts in Georgia were assigned a number, the practice of referring to the districts by the captain’s name persisted for quite some time. 

Here is a detail of Georgia Militia Districts showing the Ray’s Mill District, which includes Ray City, GA, and the surrounding districts. Considering the shape of the 1144th district, it is easy to understand why nearby citizens in the 1329 (Connell’s Mill), 1307 (Cat Creek), and 1300 districts considered themselves residents of Ray City.

Georgia Militia Districts, circa 1950

Georgia Militia Districts, circa 1950

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