The Second Death of Reverend Robert Payne Fain

In the summer of 1911 The Valdosta Times reported that  Reverend Robert Payne Fain was seeking souls in Ray’s Mill, now Ray City, GA. Along with Reverend Fain was Miss McCord, who had just come from the Kansas City National Training School for Deaconesses and Missionaries.

The  Valdosta Times
June 10, 1911
Around Ray’s Mill

Rev. R. P. Fain is holding a tent meeting here [Ray City] now.  He began Saturday, holding his first service Saturday Evening.   Miss McCord, who is just from the Kansas City training school, lectured Sunday afternoon.  They had three services today, but only two in the week, at four o’clock in the afternoon and 7:30 in the evening.

Born Jefferson Payne Walker (1860-1921) in Texas, it is said he changed his name to Robert Payne Fain about 1883 after being falsely accused of theft.  His father was James Carr Walker, a Methodist minister who was one of the original settlers of the community of New York, TX.  His mother was Mary Ann Fain.

Robert Payne Fain left Texas to attend Emory College in Oxford, GA., and became a Methodist Minister in the South Georgia Conference. On October 27, 1889 he married Remmie Carolyn Howell in Lowndes County, Georgia.  The Fains made their home in the 1300 Georgia Militia District, in present Lanier County.


Tifton Gazette, September 9, 1908

Children of Robert Payne Fain and Remmie Carolyn Howell:

  1. Laura Fain 1892 –
  2.  Robert L Fain 1894 –
  3.  James Edward FAIN 1896 – 1960
  4.  William Howell Fain 1898 –
  5.  Mary Fane 1900 –
  6.  Ona Fain 1902 –
  7.  Elethia Fain 1906 –
  8. Jewell Fain 1909 –

Robert Payne Fain, aka Jefferson Fain Walker, died January 6, 1921 while attending a meeting at  Hahira, Georgia.

Death of R. P. Fain

Strange death of Reverend R. P. Fain

Strange death of Reverend R. P. Fain. This account appeared in the El Paso Herald, El Paso Texas

El Paso Herald

Minister Left For Dead Resucitated  By Another Pastor

Valdosta, Ga., Jan. 7. – Stricken with acute indigestion, the Rev. R. P. Fain was given up for dead while attending a ministers’ meeting at Hahira, Ga., and laid out in the church while his son went to inform the family.  Meantime, Rev. John Stanford arrived and, pressing on the “body” with his knees, resuscited the minister.

Death of  Reverend R. P. Fain reported in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise.

Death of Reverend R. P. Fain reported in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise.

Thomasville Times-Enterprise


Peculiar Experience in Valdosta When Minister Died, Was Revived and Apparently Well and Then Died a Short Time Later.

Valdosta, Ga., Jan. 7. – Rev. R. P. Fain, of Hahira, a well known minister of South Georgia, was the victim of suspended animation in a church there during a meeting of ministers Wednesday, and died last night after going to the station to bid departing preachers farewell.  He was stricken on the street and died before he could be removed to his home.

Second death was fatal to Reverend R. P. Fain, Americus Times-Recorder, Jan 13, 1921

Second death was fatal to Reverend R. P. Fain, Americus Times-Recorder, Jan 13, 1921


Hahira Minister Succumbs After Being Revived From Spell

   Valdosta, Jan. 7. – Rev. R. P. Fain, of Hahira, well known minister of South Georgia, who was a victim of suspended animation in church there during a meeting of ministers Wednesday, died last night after going to the station to bid the departing preachers farewell.  He was stricken on the street and died before he could be removed to his home.
    Mr. Fain was the pastor of the Methodist church at Hahira, and had been very actively engaged in helping to entertain the visiting ministers, comprising all of the preachers of the Valdosta district.
    About 11 o’clock Wednesday while the ministerial conference was in session, he was stricken.  Some of the ministers present saw him tottering and about to fall and rushed to his rescue.  They held him up until he was, apparently, dead, then laid him out.  In a few minutes his body was cold, his face black, and rigor mortis had apparently set in.  His son, Rev Ed Fain, as well as other ministers present, gave him up for dead, and the younger Mr. Fain went to the house to inform his mother of his father’s death.
    After fifteen or twenty minutes Rev. John Stanford, of Adel, decided that an effort should be made to revive him; so he jumped on the prostrate form with his knees and began to work his arms violently, to see if his respiratory organs would not begin to function.  After a few minutes the stricken preacher gave one breath and later on he revived so that he could be carried to his home.
    Later on in the day he was able to disrobe himself and go to bed. Yesterday morning he was able to return to the church and resume his work among the preachers. It seems that he had a very violent attack of acute indigestion.


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An interesting term from the previous post on cane grinding was twistification.  “By the light of a lightwood-knot fire near by the young ones play “Twistification,” “London Bridge” and many kindred games...”

A 1904 article, Among the Georgia crackers, published in Outing magazine, sheds some light on the matter.  Games like Twistification were more like what we would call square dancing.

“Of co’se, these games ain’t regular dancing. That wouldn’t be allowed at most houses. They’re Christian dancing.”

…most of the young women join the church at fifteen or sixteen and after that will not indulge in so doubtful an amusement [as dancing]. Yet they have no hesitation in taking part in “Stealing Partners,” “Twistification,” and “Fancy Four” – games which do not differ much from dancing except in name.

“The way we play’em is this” – said a young fellow who enlightened me on the subject; “there’s music to all of ’em and while the fiddle’s a goin’ we skip aroun’ and try to knock with the music. In Stealing Partners we all have partners but one boy, and he picks out any girl he want and swings. That leave another boy without a partner, and he have to pick out a girl and swing her, and so on.

“For Twistification, we all gest in line, boys on one side, girls on the other, with room for a couple to march up the between us in dancing step. At the end of the line they swing, and we all promenade. Then we form the line and start again.

“Fancy Four is a good deal like Twistification, only two couples instead of one do the dancing and promenading.

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Cane Grinding Time Meant Syrup, Candy and Cane Beer


Cane Grinding Time Meant Syrup, Candy and Cane Beer

On October 31, 1882, the Quitman Free Press opined, “Syrup making will soon commence. Drinking cane juice is better than talking politics.”

In the fall, from October through the end of the year was “cane-grinding time” – the time that the cane was cut and cane syrup was produced. Every farmer had a small cane mill on his farm for pressing the cane to extract the juice, which was cooked down in kettles to make syrup.  Production of quality cane syrup could be quite profitable for local farmers. (See Cane Syrup Comes to Berrien County)

Cane grinding in Berrien County, GA circa 1913 on the farm of Simmie King.  Image courtesy of

Cane grinding in Berrien County, GA circa 1913 on the farm of Simmie King. Image courtesy of

Syrup, sugar, candy, and cane “beer” could all be produced right on the farm.  J. L. Herring’s Saturday night sketches: stories of old wiregrass Georgia, published in 1918, illustrates how central this harvest “chore” was to the farming community.


It is cane-grinding time in South Georgia, by some miscalled sugar-boiling time — although little sugar is made, and by others called syrup-boiling time, but it is not the syrup that draws the crowds. The cotton has been picked, the corn is in the crib, the potatoes have been banked and with the heavy work of the harvest over, the manufacture of the sugar cane into the year’s supply of syrup is made the occasion of a merry making among the young folks.

This is down where the wiregrass covers the sloping hillsides and the pines still murmur and sigh in the passing breeze. The first frost has touched the waving blades of the tall sugar cane and given warning to the watchful husbandman.

First the cane mill, which has lain idle for a year is overhauled. It is a crude affair, two big iron rollers set vertically on a pine log frame.

The forest has been searched for a stooping sapling with just the right crook and this is cut and fitted in place for a lever, the lower end almost touching the ground, the upper swinging in the air as a balance. The iron kettle — like the mill rollers a product of a Georgia foundry — is set in a furnace of clay.

Another day is spent in preparation. With wooden paddles, sharpened on one edge, the leaves are stripped from the standing cane. A stroke with a butcher or drawing-knife takes off the top and with an adz or hoe the stalks are cut. Then they are loaded on the handy ox-cart and dumped at the mill.

The first shafts of coming dawn are aslant the horizon and the air is keen and cold when the faithful mule is led out and by means of the plow gear hitched to the lever’s end. Then for the animal begins the weary tread-mill round, which lasts far into the night. A lad of the family, too young for heavy work, Is selected to feed, and with home-made mits to temper the cold stalks, grasps a cane as the mule Is started. Between the slowly turning rollers he thrusts the smaller end; there are creaks and groans from the long unused mill, a snap of splitting stalk and the juice gushes forth. Along a small trough In the mill frame It runs Into a barrel, covered with layers of coarse sacking to catch the Impurities.

On the other side of the mill the cane pulp (pummy) falls and this is carried off by the feeder’s assistant, who also keeps the pile of cane replenished. When there is a kettle full of juice a fire of lightwood Is started in the furnace and soon the flames, like a beckoning banner, surmount the short chimney’s mouth. As the juice boils the foreign matter arises in scum, and this is carefully skimmed off. Untiring vigilance in the boiling is the price of good syrup. Gradually the color changes from a dirty green to a rich amber and then to a golden red. The aroma arising suggests the confectioner’s workshop and soon tiny, bursting bubbles attest that the work is done.

Then help is called and the fire drawn; hastily two men dip the boiling liquid into pails which are emptied into a trough (hewn from a cypress log) . As soon as the syrup is out, fresh juice which is ready at hand is poured into the kettle and the work goes on.

As the shades of night fall, the neighbors, young and old, gather, for no man grinds cane alone.

True, about as much is sometimes chewed, drunk in juice or eaten as syrup “foam” as the owner retains for his own use, but who would live for himself alone and what matter, so long as there is plenty for all?

The first visit of the young people is to the juice-barrel. There, with a clean fresh gourd, deep draughts are taken of the liquid, ambrosial in its peculiar delicious sweetness. Then to the syrup trough, with tiny paddles made from cane peels is scooped up the foam which has gathered in nooks in candied form.

Then, until the late hours of the night, the older folks sit around the front of the blazing furnace and swap yarns or crack jokes. By the light of a lightwood-knot fire near by the young ones play “Twistification,” “London Bridge” and many kindred games, while on the pile of soft “pummies” there is many a wrestle and feat of strength among the young athletes. The bearded men grouped around the furnace, the steaming kettle and its attendant, from whose beard and eyebrows the condensed moisture hangs; the shouts of laughter from the young merry-makers; the plodding mule making his weary rounds, the groaning mill and gushing juice form a scene not soon forgotten.

In a few days when the “skimmings” ferment — there is cane beer, delicious with its sweet-sour taste, and still later “buck” from the same stuff, now at a stage when only the initiated can appreciate it, ready for the hard drinker or the wild-cat still.

1908 Valdosta Times advertisement.

1908 Valdosta Times advertisement.

Although the prominence of the cane-grinding social event waned over time, on-the-farm production of cane syrup was a common practice well into the 1900s. One local Berrien producer was David Jackson Skinner (1898-1962).  Skinner was a resident of the Ray City, GA area for most of his adult life, a Deacon of New Ramah Church,  and spent his life farming in Berrien and Lanier counties.

David Jackson Skinner with his sugar cane mill and bucket of Georgia cane syrup produced for market. In the 1920s David Skinner lived in the household of his father, Payton Shelton Skinner, located on the Upper Ray City – Milltown Road.

For more about the southern tradition of cane syrup production, you really should see the entertaining and educational essays of Bill Outlaw at   Bill writes that his ” great grandfather W.H. Outlaw was a small farmer/landowner just on the outskirts of Ray City (Lot 419). He was born in Dale Co. Alabama and after his mother died, he was ‘given’ to his maternal grandparents, the Dawson Webbs (general area of Pleasant, where he is buried).”

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Trial and Incarceration of James Thomas Beagles

Jame Thomas Beagles (1861-1911)

James Thomas Beagles (1861-1911)

In October of 1899, James Thomas Beagles, aka J. T. Biggles, of Rays Mill, GA sat in the Berrien County jail in Nashville.  At that time the jailhouse was a log building that had been constructed some 25 years earlier.  Beagles was being held for trial for  the 1887 killing of his brother-in-law on the steps of Henry H. Knight’s store at Rays Mill.

At that 1899 term of the Superior Court of Berrien County,   the jail where Beagles  and 11 other prisoners awaited trial was found by the Grand Jury to be in deplorable condition.

Berrien County Grand Jury, October 1899.

Berrien County Grand Jury, October 1899.

Tifton Gazette
Oct. 13, 1899 — page 1


Returned by the Grand Jury, October Term, Berrien Superior Court.

     We, the Grand Jury, chosen and sworn to serve at this term of the court beg leave to submit the following General Presentments:
     We have examined the jail of our county and find it in bad sanitary condition, owing to the size and arrangement of said building, the same being entirely too small and badly arranged, prisoners having to be crowded together, male and female. We attach no fault whatever to the sheriff and jailer in charge, believing that he is doing all in his power to keep the same in order under existing circumstances. And we recommend that our Board of County Commissioners, at as early date as is expedient, build a new jail house and procure sufficient jail cells and arrange said building and cells so as to keep sexes separate and apart, as well as white and colored persons incarcerated therein, considering as we do the present jail a disgrace to the county…

Despite the findings of the Grand Jury, it would be another four years before the now historic building now known as the “old jail” was constructed.

The Berrien Superior Court convened that fall on Monday, October 9, 1899 with Judge Augustin H. Hansell presiding, and Jonathan Perry Knight acting as Clerk of the Superior Court. The docket was full that session and the judge postponed the civil cases, dismissing the witnesses, in order to get on with the trial of the criminal cases. Among the Grand Jury members were Warren L. Kennon, Henry Griffin, and Jonathan L Herring, editor of the Tifton Gazette. Silas Tygart served as clerk, and the jury members selected for their foreman, Malcolm J. McMillian.

 Ex-Senator M. J. McMillian, of Alapaha, is not an office-seeker, but the people know him to be an honorable and upright man, and insist on having his services.  He is foreman of the grand jury this week, though he hid, in an effort to escape the honor when the jury was about to make the selection.
– Ocilla Dispatch.

In addition to the charge of murder against James Thomas Beagles, the criminal docket included: Emma Reese charged with assault and attempted murder; Jim Oscar Stearns charge with the murder of Amos White; Warren G. Moss on the charge of burglary at Lenox; Allen Cooper charged with the killing of Philip Johnson at Kissemmee, FL; Rachel Thomas on counts of assault and battery; John Davis for burglary of the store of Mr. I.D. Ford; Robert Bell for simple larceny from Mr. W.M. Thurman; North Cochran for highway robbery.

The session of the superior court drew a significant crowd, and so was also prone to interruptions of every sort.

The woman “with the hoe” turned up at the last session of Berrien superior court.  She was colored, lived near Cecil, and laid open the cheek of another woman during a rucus, with that useful plantation instrument.

The attorneys arguing before the court were colorful and well-known characters of the Wiregrass judicial circuits.  Colonel Hammond, for example, was one of the prosecuting attorneys but was himself facing prosecution for shooting and wounding Colonel A. L. Hawes at Thomasville the week before.

But it was the Beagles case that generated the most interest.  The case had dragged over a decade because of the flight and subsequent return of Beagles. Beagles was defended  by Col. William Hamilton Griffin,  who was judge of the Valdosta City Court and a former mayor of Valdosta. Col. Griffin was a native of Berrien County and had served previously as clerk of the Berrien County court and as Ordinary of Berrien County.


Berrien’s Mills of Justice at their Semi Annual Grind.

Berrien’s superior court convened Monday morning at ten o’clock, that grey-haired veteran of the bench, Judge Aug. H. Hansell, presiding.  Besides the county bar, those of Worth, Lowndes, Thomas, Colquitt and Albany were well represented.
   The grand jury organized by electing Hon M. J. McMillan foreman and Silas Tygart clerk, and after an able and comprehensive charge from his honor, settled down to work, with a volume of business before it.


Nashville, Oct. 10. – The entire day (Tuesday) in superior court has been consumed in the trial of Thos. J. Beagles for the killing of Madison G. Pearson, at the justice court grounds at Ray’s Mill, Nov. 4th, 1891.  [Note: actual date was 1887]
   Beagles had married Pearson’s sister, and to this marriage Pearson was violently opposed.  Growing out of this opposition, there was bad blood between the two for a year or more, and Pearson had threatened Beagles’ life, and gone to his home and cursed him in the presence of his wife.
    Beagles then swore out a peace warrant against his brother-in-law, on which he was arrested and gave bond for his appearance at justice court the next day.
    In the court house the row was again raised, and Pearson invited Beagles out to fight him, starting out at the door and pulling off his coat as he did so.   As Pearson was on the steps, going down, Beagles, who was standing near, drew a pistol and shot him in the side of his head, killing him instantly.
    Beagles then went to Florida, where he staid [sic] several years, and on his return was arrested and finally admitted to bail.
    Sometime ago, Beagles’ bondsmen gave him up, and he has been in jail for two months.
At the trial to-day, the state was represented by Solicitor-Gen. Thomas and Col. W. M. Hammond, while Cols. Jos. A. Alexander and W. H. Griffin represented the defendant.
    The battle has been a hard-fought one throughout the day, and every point of the evidence thoroughly sifted.  At adjournment to-night, the fight is not concluded, Cols. Thomas and Alexander having addressed the jury, while Cols. Griffin and Hammond will address them tomorrow.


Oct. 11.  –  The morning session of superior court was occupied with the speeches of Cols. Griffin and Hammond on the Beagles case.  That of Col. Griffin, for the defendant, was a masterly arrangement of law and evidence in behalf of his client, and delivered in the clear, concise manner for which Col. Griffin is so well known.
    The argument of Col. Hammond was eloquent and strong, well supported by law, and his arrangement of the prisoner was scathing and masterly.  The arguments were concluded before one o’clock, and Judge Hansell delivered his charge to the jury before adjourning for dinner.

Oct. 13 … Judge Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words.
   Sentences were then pronounced as follows…

J. A. Beagles, white, convicted of manslaughter, with recommendation, two years in penitentiary.

But James Thomas Beagles did not spend his two year sentence in the penitentiary.  The very same issue of the Tifton Gazette that carried the outcome of the October 1899 term of the  Superior Court of Berrien County also carried an interesting note on the convict lease system:

October 13, 1899 Tifton Gazette on the Convict Lease System

October 13, 1899 Tifton Gazette on the Convict Lease System

“There is a big boom in the value of state convicts.  Recently there has been a strong demand for the convicts, and lessees under the new system are anxious to get all the men that they can even at advanced prices”

Under the convict lease system, J. T. Beagles was sent to the convict camp at Fargo, GA.   G.S. Baxter & Company operated the convict camp at Fargo to provide labor for the firm’s large sawmill operation. The sawmill at Fargo was the largest in Clinch County, and by 1903 the State Prison System of Georgia was leasing more than 1,000 convicts to the firm. (see Connie Moore and the Fargo Convict Camp)

After serving his sentence, J. T. Beagles returned to Ray City to make his home and work.

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Fletch and Mac’s Garage Opens at Ray City

Although cars had been on the roads in Berrien County, GA shortly after the turn of the century, it was not until about 1925 that Gordon V. Hardie opened the first gasoline station in Ray City, the Hardie Filling Station.  Hardie’s  garage was situated on the south side of Main Street just east of the tracks of the Georgia & Florida railroad and  southeast of the corner of  Main and Paralleled Streets.  Within a few years Moses L. Giddens opened a competing garage and filling station and other Ray City automotive entrepreneurs hit the road running.

In 1945, Mac McSwain went into partnership with D.L. Fletcher to open Fletch and Mac’s Garage in Ray City, GA.  Among the products featured at the new service station were Woco Pep gasoline and Tiolene Motor Oil.

Joshua Brooks “Mac” McSwain, born April 15, 1902,  was a son of Mary Frances Gray and William Angus McSwain. He was born and raised near Cedar Crossing, GA in Militia District 43, Toombs County, GA. In 1910, his father was a sawyer and also an employer, but by 1920 he was back at farming.

By 1940, Mac McSwain had relocated to Ray City, GA. He was married to Lelia Vaugh. The McSwains lived with Lelia’s widowed mother, in a house on Pauline Street. Mac was employed as an automobile mechanic.

In 1945, the Nashville Herald announced the new Ray City business venture:

The Nashville Herald
October 25, 1945,  front page

New Garage to Open at Ray City

During the approaching week-end a new garage will be opened in Ray City according to an announcement appearing elsewhere in this issue, under the name of Fletch and Mac’s Garage.  The owners and operators are D.L. Fletcher and J.B. (Mac) Swain, both well known garage men.

The managers stated that they had erected a new building to house the garage and had bought new equipment to carry on auto repair work, electric and acetylene welding.  They will also handle auto accessories and Woco Pep gas and Tiolene oils.

It is understood that this is a muchly needed service in the Ray City area and no doubt the concern will do a flourishing business and serve the area well.

transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Fletch and Mac's ad from the 1952 Beaver, the Ray City School yearbook.

Fletch and Mac’s ad from the 1952 Beaver, the Ray City School yearbook.

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Portrait of Hardeman Giddens and Martha Gaskins

Several previous posts have related events in the life of Hardeman Giddens (Hardeman Giddens and the Big Fishing Frolic,   Georgia Gossip about Hardeman Giddens, Civil War Bullet Dodger Hardeman Giddens Finally Catches One in 1887) Here is a portrait of Hardeman Giddens and Martha Jane Gaskins.

Portrait of Martha Jane Gaskins and Hardeman Giddens.

Portrait of Martha Jane Gaskins and Hardeman Giddens.

Hardeman Giddens was born in 1844 in that part of Lowndes County which was later cut in Berrien County, GA. He was a son of Jacob Giddens and Sarah Ann “Annie” Sirmans. Giddens served with the Berrien Minutemen during the Civil War. After the war Hardeman Giddens married the twice-widowed Martha J. Gaskins. She was a daughter of Harmon Gaskins and Malissa Rowland Rouse, born February 16,  1838 in Lowdnes Co, GA.  Martha, married first to Thomas Connell who was killed in the civil war; second to William Parker who died three months later; third husband, Hardeman Giddens, was a first cousin on her mother’s side.

In the 1900s the Giddens lived and farmed near Ray City, GA

Children of Martha Jane Gaskins and Hardeman Giddens:

  1. James Monroe Giddens, (1871-1951)
  2. Infant Son Giddens, (1874)
  3. Lyman Franklin Giddens, (1877-1963)
  4. Infant Son Giddens (1878)
  5. William Silas Giddens (1881-1943)

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J.M. DeLoach Jumped from the HMS OTRANTO

While many soldiers were taken by the sea in the sinking of HMS Otranto, at least three Berrien county men survived the disaster. Among the survivors, James Marvin DeLoach.

James Marvin Deloach. Image source: Francine Coppage

James Marvin Deloach. Image source: Francine Coppage


DeLoach was never quite a resident of Ray City, GA but had connections with the town. In 1910, J. M. DeLoach purchased a lot on Jones Street in the newly platted city, but owned the property only a few weeks before selling out to Levi J. Clements.

James Marvin DeLoach, born May 29, 1890, came from a large family of Lowndes pioneers. Among his elder brothers was Edmund Thomas DeLoach, thirty years his senior, who watched many younger relatives march off to war and, thankfully, come marching home again. A Tifton Gazette article from August 22, 1919 tells of the WWI service of the DeLoach family:


William Lindsey DeLoach, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. T. DeLoach, who live near Cycloneta, returned home Saturday from overseas service. He was with the Second Division, in the infantry, and took part in the big parade in New York. He received his honorable discharge at Camp Gordon Saturday. He went across in the summer of 1918.
 Mr. DeLoach had two sons, two nephews and a brother [J.M. DeLoach] in foreign service, all escaping without a scratch except his brother who was injured when he jumped from the sinking Otranto.
 Mr. DeLoach will give a homecoming picnic to the boys and their friends at his home Saturday.

Tifton Gazette, Aug. 22, 1919 — page 8

WWI Registration for Selective Service

James M. DeLoach, at age 27, registered for the draft in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill District, on June 15, 1917. Following President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war on Germany, the Selective Service Act had been passed authorizing the registration and drafting of men into the U.S. armed forces. The first registration began on June 5, 1917, and included all men between the ages of 21 and 31.

Thomasville Times Enterprise announces declaration of war, April 6, 1917.

Thomasville Times Enterprise headlines declaration of war, April 6, 1917.

Military records show that Deloach was fair-haired with blue eyes, tall at six feet – one inches, with a medium build, and single. His draft card was processed by Charles Oscar Terry, who served as Registrar in addition to his regular pursuits as druggist and merchant of Ray City, GA.

At the time of registration, Deloach was working a farm at Milltown, GA (now Lakeland) under the employment of Ray City businessman Hod. P. Clements. James M. DeLoach continued to work for another year as the war dragged on, but the following summer he volunteered for service and enlisted as a private about July 16, 1918 at Nashville, GA. He was assigned to the Coast Artillery and trained at Fort Screven, GA.

After training DeLoach and hundreds of other Georgia men were sent to New York, where they boarded the troopship H.M.S. Otranto. The ship departed New York on September 24, 1918 on what was to be her final, tragic voyage. Among the contingent of Berrien County men sailing along with DeLoach on Otranto were Ralph Knight and Shellie Webb, of Ray City, GA; James Grady Wright of Adel, GA; and Early Steward of Nashville, GA.

Final Voyage of the Otranto

On the 6.10.1918, the Auxiliary Cruiser Otranto, bound from New York to Glasgow, with a crew of 360 men and some 660 American Troops, collided with the P. & O. Liner Kashmir off the North Coast of Islay. Both ships had acted as Column Leaders in Convoy HX50 and arrived in the North Channel in the midst of a violent gale and poor visibility. When land was sighted, the Officer of the Watch aboard the Kashmir correctly identified it as Islay, but his counterpart in the Otranto mistook the ground for that of Inishtrahull. As a consequence, both ships were turned in toward each other and at 8.45 a.m. the Kashmir struck the Otranto with a fatal blow amidships on her port side. As the damaged vessels drifted apart, water poured into the huge hole in Otranto’s side and she drifted towards the rocky coast of Islay. First to answer the stricken vessel’s S.O.S. calls was the Torpedo Boat Destroyer H.M.S. Mounsey, commanded by Lieutenant F.W. Craven and crewed by such men as Stoker Petty Officer Shillabeer, shortly to be a D.S.M. The Mounsey reached the stricken Liner at around 10 a.m. and, dwarfed by her rearing and plunging 12,000 ton frame, very gallantly closed her to take off survivors. On no less than four occasions the plucky little Destroyer crashed against the Liner’s side, each time hundreds of American servicemen jumping from the latter’s decks in an effort to reach those of the Destroyer. In what must have been horrific circumstances, many of them met their death between the pitching sides of the two vessels, while many others sustained serious injuries on hitting the Mounsey’s deck. At length, however, with her decks perilously overladen, the Mounsey set sail for Belfast with an astonishing 596 survivors. Tragically at least another 400 souls remained trapped aboard the Otranto, and when she hit the bottom less than half a mile from shore, near Machir Bay, Captain Davidson gave the order to abandon ship – only 16 of these men ever reached land (Argyll Shipwrecks, P. Moir and I. Crawford refers).

– Christie’s Auction House synopsis of the Otranto Disaster written for the auction of a Distinguished Service Medal and other service items that had been awarded to crewman Sidney William Shillabeer of the rescue ship HMS Mounsey. The medal lot sold for £897 ($1,492).

Shellie Webb and Ralph Knight, along with some two dozen other Berrien men were among those who perished that stormy Sunday morning off the island of Islay. Captain Ernest George William Davidson, master of Otranto, also went down with his ship. Early Steward, of Nashville, GA was one of the very few who went into the sea and made it to the shore of Islay still alive.

Lieutenant Francis Worthington Craven, commander of HMS Mounsey, made it to Belfast with his rescue-laden ship, and was later presented with the Distinguished Service Medal by President Woodrow Wilson and the Distinguished Service Order by the United Kingdom. Craven was killed in an Irish Republican Army ambush in 1921.

Deloach and Wright were two of the fortunate American soldiers who were able to jump from the heaving deck of the doomed Otranto to the deck of the destroyer HMS Mounsey. In 1919, DeLoach recounted his experience:

Tifton Gazette
June 20, 1919


Private Deloach, From Berrien, Had a Close Call When Troop Ship Sank

Private J. M. DeLoach, who went into service from Berrien County, but whose home is now in Lowndes, was up a few days ago to visit his brother, Mr. E. T. DeLoach near Tifton.
 Private DeLoach was on the Otranto when that ill-fated ship was rammed by the Kashmir and sank early on Sunday morning in October, 1918. He escaped, as did Sergeant? [James G.] Wright, by jumping to the deck of a destroyer below.
 He was knocked partially unconscious by the landing but he had enough presence of mind to catch another man’s leg to avoid being washed overboard. His –[text obscured]—- and he was unconscious –[text obscured]– before reaching port. –[text obscured]– he was sick and his temperature was 104 before he took the –[text obscured]–debated awhile because he was so ill.
 DeLoach said the toughest part of the rescue was when the destroyer –[text obscured]– for the last time and the men –[text obscured]– were lined up at the –[text obscured]–it was not until then that they —danger. It was heartbreaking to see the men in the water begging to be taken on board, when nothing could be done for them. One man was washed off the destroyer by a big wave and then washed back on again.

DeLoach was discharged from Army service on May 6, 1919 at Camp Gordon, GA. Afterwards, he made his way back to Hahira, GA , the place of his birth, where he returned to farming.

James Marvin Deloach died May 10, 1976. He was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.

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HMS Otranto Sank Ninety-four Years Ago

A day to remember Berrien County men and all those who were lost in the sinking of HMS Otranto.

On October 6, 1918, on a stormy North Atlantic Sunday morning, the WWI troopship HMS Otranto went down with the loss of 351 American troops and 80 British crew members. Among the dead were 25 soldiers from Berrien County, GA.

The Otranto was lost after a collision with HMS Kashmir, another liner turned troopship. In poor visibility in the rough seas between the Northeast coast of Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland, Otranto was rammed by the Kashmir after a steering malfunction. She was holed on the port side forward and, in the heavy swell, began to list. Many men were rescued by the heroic effort of the destroyer Mounsey before the stricken ship hit rocks and became grounded. With the heavy seas pounding her continually against the rocks the ship eventually broke up and sank off the coast of the island of Isley.

News of the disaster was slow in coming to the states. The following story appeared in the New York Sun one week after the sinking. (transcript provided below)


Otranto Splits in Half on Rocks and Soldiers Die in Wreckage.


Terrific Storm Prevents Any Attempt at Rescue on Steep Coast.

An Irish Port, Oct. 12. – American soldiers to the number of 364 or 366 perished when the British armed mercantile cruiser Otranto and the transport Kashmir crashed in the North Channel, between Scotland and Ireland, last Sunday.
Three hundred American soldiers and thirty French sailors and 266 members of the crew of the Otranto have been landed at a port in Northern Ireland. Sixteen other survivors have been picked up at Islay. More than 300 bodies had been recovered this morning and many of them have been buried.
The Otranto is a total wreck on the island of Islay. The Kashmir landed its troops at a Scottish port without loss of life.
The troopships came in collision while a heavy storm was raging and the Otranto with a gaping hole in her side drifted helplessly toward the rocky coast.

“Swim for it” shouted Captain.

A number of the troops on board were from the interior of the United States and were without experience at sea. They had preferred to remain on the bigger ship rather than risk jumping to the small destroyer Mounsey and they seemed to be cheered by the sight of land.
The hopes of the men that they would able to make a safe landing-, however, were dispelled by the Otranto’s captain when he shouted from the bridge:
“Well, boys, we will have to swim for It!”
About that time the troopship slid with hardly a jar on to a shelving; rock, which, as a wave receded, bit its teeth into the chip’s timber and held her in a viselike grip. After that the tragedy moved quickly to its climax.
The fury of the storm seemed vented on the pinioned and helpless vessel and in league with the vicious sea which began to rend and tear the ship to pieces. The steel deck house was wrenched bodily from its fastenings by the enormous waves and was hurled into the breakers, sweeping many men away with it.

On Rocks Mile From Shore.

The ship had struck about a mile from shore and on the cliffs, stood groups of Islanders eager to send aid, but which it was impossible even to attempt. Owing to the terrible wind there was no chance of getting a line to the ship, which was now fast breaking up.
Scores of men began to Jump and many immediately were seized by the waves and hurled against the sides of the ship. About noon the Otranto was lifted, on the crest of a high comber and dashed back to the rock so violently that the vessel broke squarely in two. The mast flipped short, killing men as it fell.
One section of the hulk turned side wise, emptying all hands still clinging to the deck into the boiling surf. The other section proved a plaything of the waves and speedily was ground to pieces on the rocks.
The ship’s remaining company were now struggling In the water. The slim chance they might have had of getting ashore, was virtually dissipated by the wreckage from the whip, through which the best swimmers were unable to win their way.
The experience related by William Richards typifies that of the others but perhaps is a bit more sensational. He said:
“The fellows were fine. We knew that when the ship went fast on the rocks so far out we would not have much chance to save our skins. But we all seemed determined to make a good try.

Captain Hurled Into Sea.

‘A wave washed me off and I managed to get clear of the ship. The first man I recognized In the water was the captain, who was thrown overboard when the mast broke away. He was standing straight up, treading water and looking about for something to grasp
“There were three men on a mattress riding in to shore as though they were enjoying life, but while I watched them and wishing I were on it too a big roller swept them all off and banged them against the rocks.
“I saw five or six others hanging on a bench. Some managed to climb on the tin rafts lowered from the ship, but every raft I saw was smashed to pieces against the vessel or on the rocks.
The noise of the wreckage grinding on the rocks was fierce, and any fellow who got into the wreckage was as good as gone. There were dozens of the boys floating around me, all dead, with nothing but their blue faces out of the water.
“A big roller carried me into a kind of a cleft in the rocks and I was thrown upon the side. I must have passed out. When I came to I saw two British soldiers on the other side of the ravine. They threw me a rope, which I made fast and crossed hand over hand.”
Joseph Pollock said he believed many more of the soldiers would have been saved but for the steep banks of the cliffs.” In one little cove twenty-eight bodies were counted.

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Hosea Peeples “Hod” Clements

Hosea P. “Hod” Clements,  son of Ann Eliza Swindle and John Miles Clements, was a life long resident of Berrien County. He was a cousin of the Clements brothers who ran the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City, GA. Hod was educated at the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute, and served in France during WWI, but always returned to Ray City.

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

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

On September 15, 1917 Hod P. Clements married Alma Florence May in a ceremony performed by A. J. Futch, Minister of God.  Alma was a daughter of Mary Florence “Molly” Simmons and Sirmon Green May. Her father was a farmer at Nashville, GA .

Hosea Peeples "Hod" Clements and Alma Florence May were married in Berrien County, GA on September 15, 1917.

Hosea Peeples “Hod” Clements and Alma Florence May were married in Berrien County, GA on September 15, 1917.

The following year Alma gave birth to their first child, James Herman Clements, born May 8, 1918.

As told in the previous post (Hod P. Clements and the Dixie Division ), Hod joined the army and shipped overseas late in the summer of 1918  where he served from September 17, 1918 to July 5, 1919.

James Herman Clements, son of Alma Florence May and Hod P. Clements, circa 1921. Image courtesy of

James Herman Clements, son of Alma Florence May and Hod P. Clements, circa 1921. Image courtesy of

For a while Hod and Alma made their home on his father’s farm, situated on

They moved to Ray City in the 1920s and lived in a house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA. Armed with a degree from the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute, Hod Clements went into business in Ray City: “From 1923 until 1945 Clements operated a general store named Swindle and Clements.”

James Herman Clements and Mildred Lorene Clements, children of Alma and Hod P. Clements, with Marie and Pete Studstill. Image courtesy of

James Herman Clements and Mildred Lorene Clements, children of Alma and Hod P. Clements, with Marie and Pete Studstill. Image courtesy of

The Clements were involved in the community. Hod Clements was a Master Mason, raised up January 8, 1935, and a member of Duncan Lodge. Alma Clements was a supporter of local education and in 1941 she was working in the lunchroom at the Ray City School.

In the 1940s the Clements home on Jones Street was valued at $1000.  Hod and Alma lived there with their children, James Herman Clements, Mildred Lorene Clements, and Helen Frances Clements. Also boarding in the Clements home was James Gaskins Grady.  Grady was a school teacher who had come to Ray City from Montevallo, AL some time after 1935.

The Clements’ neighbors on Jones Street were James M. Studstill, who was the uncle of Vera R. Yawn, and great uncle of D’ree, Allene, and Caswell S. Yawn. Another neighbor was Thomas J. Studstill, and a few doors down were Chester Nobles, Billy Creech, and J. H. P. Johnson.

Hod worked 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, employed as the manager of a meat market.  For this he earned $30 a week, $1500 a year.

In 1948, buying the old Ray City Bank and its equipment for $3,500 he opened The Bank of Ray City , a private bank and the only financial institution in the town at that time.  Obtaining a state charter in 1949, H.P. Clements began banking with a capital of $10,000. In 1956, Mr. Clements’ son-in-law, Lawson Fountain, returned to Ray City, from Jacksonville, FL and afterwards the two ran the bank together. In later years Mr. Clements was forced to retire due to ill health. Then in 1973 the bank was sold to the Citizens Bank of Nashville. Georgia, and is now the Ray City office of that bank.

Hosea P. Clements died June 8, 1978 and now rests in Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA


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