Kiss of the Red Scorpion

Medical Men of Ray’s Mill
Dr. Gordon DeVane

"The striped scorpion (Centruroides hentzi) is a sandhill / coastal plain species.  They are occassionally found in homes and cabins but their favored habitat is under bark of either alive or dead long-leaf pines and slash pine.  They can hide under bark that is quite flat to the tree and thus are not frequently seen..."   -

“The striped scorpion (Centruroides hentzi) is a sandhill / coastal plain species. They are occasionally found in homes and cabins but their favored habitat is under bark of either alive or dead long-leaf pines and slash pine. They can hide under bark that is quite flat to the tree and thus are not frequently seen…” –

Although a fairly common species of the Wiregrass piney woods,  scorpions are rarely seen by most Georgians. But as a young man living a hundred years ago in the Connells Mill district of Berrien County, GA, Gordon DeVane came face to face with one of the critters.

Tifton Gazette
September 27, 1907 Pg 7

While at Pleasant church Sunday, Mr. Gordon DeVane was bitten on the lip by a red scorpion.  His lip swelled considerable and he had to seek medical attention.  Mr. DeVane was tying his horse to a tree when attacked by the scorpion. – Adel News.

James Gordon DeVane stung by red scorpion, 1907.

James Gordon DeVane stung by red scorpion, 1907.

Naturalist Greg Greer has photographed and written about the scorpions of Georgia at  He identifies the scorpion common to the area of Ray City and Pleasant Church as the striped scorpion, Centruroides hentzi.  Not a deadly scorpion, but still, who wants to get stung on the lip?

Born May 10, 1886, James Gordon DeVane was a son of  Mary Elmina Morris (1866 – 1918)   and James Patrick DeVane (1863 – 1945).  The DeVanes made their home in the Connells Mill District GMD 1329, at a farm on the Cecil-Milltown road.  The father, “Patrick” DeVane was a farmer, and owned his place free and clear of mortgage. The census of 1900 shows that “Gordon” DeVane was “at school.”  Later records attest that he attended the Sparks Collegiate Institute at Adel, GA.

Sparks Collegiate Institute, Adel, GA, circa 1904.

Sparks Collegiate Institute, Adel, GA, circa 1904.

According to the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929  James Gordon Devane was educated in Adel at the Sparks Institute before attending the Atlanta School of Medicine. Was it that scorpion’s kiss that inspired him to study medicine?

The Atlanta School of Medicine was  formally opened in October 1905, merged with the  Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1913, and became a part of Emory University in 1915.  At the Atlanta School of Medicine, Gordon DeVane may have been a classmate of Ray City doctor George H. Folsom  who attended the medical college sometime between 1906 and 1910.

Gordon DeVane graduated from the medical school in 1911 and was subsequently licensed to practice medicine in Georgia and Florida. But at the time of the Census of 1910 Gordon DeVane had returned to the Connell’s Mill District GMD 1329 where he was enumerated in the household of his parents, Patrick and Elmina DeVane. Perhaps in anticipation of his graduation, he gave his profession as “physician” and his occupation as “general practice.”

In 1911 Gordon DeVane married Lottie Bell Patilla or Patills, of Atlanta, and for a while the couple made their home in Winter Garden, FL where Dr. Devane engaged in general practice. But about 1914, Dr. DeVane moved back to Berrien County  to practice medicine in Nashville and Adel, GA.

When James Gordon DeVane registered for the draft for World War I in 1918, he  gave his permanent home address as Adel, Berrien County, GA.  He was 32 years old, medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair.

Like other Berrien County physicians, Dr. DeVane was called to serve. Dr. F.M. Burkhalter was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, then to France with the American Expeditionary Force.  Dr. Lawson Rentz went to Camp Wheeler, then to the Embarkation Service in New Jersey. Dr. Guy Selman was sent to Camp Jackson, SC.  On Dr. DeVane’s  registration card there was a note: “Has been commissioned and accepted as First Lieutenant, Medical Reserve Corps.”

Gordon DeVane, WWI Draft Registration

Gordon DeVane, WWI Draft Registration

Although the war ended before Dr. DeVane was deployed to Europe, he would fight his final battle  on the home front. The Spanish Flu epidemic that killed so many soldiers was not sparing their families.

The most deadly epidemic to ever strike the United States occurred in 1918. As America prepared for war, a soldier at an Army fort in Kansas reported to the base hospital with flu-like symptoms. There, he was diagnosed as having a strain of flu that was called Spanish Influenza (since it was erroneously believed the strain had originated in Spain). Before the year was out, 675,000 Americans would die from the flu — more than the total of all Americans to die in all wars in the 20th century. The 1918 strain of flu created not just an epidemic — but a global pandemic causing 25,000,000 deaths. In the U.S., the epidemic’s worst month October, when almost 200,000 Americans died from the virus. October 1918 was also the month the flu epidemic hit Georgia…  –

The same papers that carried news of the October 1918 sinking of the HMS Otranto also reported the flu epidemic at home…

Thomasville Times Enterprise, October 12, 1918 reports spread of Spanish Flu epidemic.

Thomasville Times Enterprise, October 12, 1918 reports spread of Spanish Flu epidemic.

As the epidemic reached its peak entire families in Berrien County were stricken.  Along with other medical authorities Dr. DeVane did his best to respond to the crisis.

Adel, Georgia

April 22, 1973

Dr. James Gordon DeVane

     Dr. James Gordon DeVane was a general practitioner in the years 1917-1918.  The son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick DeVane of Berrien County, he was born in 1886.
     He was a graduate of Southern College of Medicine and Surgery in Atlanta.  He married Miss Lottie Bell Patills of Atlanta in 1911.  They had 2 children, Mrs. Margaret (Jack) Parrish, and James G. Devane.
     Before coming to Adel, Dr. DeVane practiced in Winter Garden, Florida, and in Nashville, Georgia. Preparations had been made for his entering World War I when the Armistice was signed.
     When Adel was hit by the “flu” epidemic in November, 1918, he administered and cared for his stricken patients – entire families in some cases.  Nearing collapse, he brought prescriptions in to the drug store for his patients and went home for his first night’s rest in several days.  Within 24 hours the young doctor died — a victim of the terrible epidemic.

Grave of Dr. James Gordon DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Dr. James Gordon DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Watson Grade News, January 22, 1904

In 1904, a series of articles on the residents of “Watson Grade” began to appear monthly in the Tifton Gazette. Watson Grade, near Empire Church just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA , was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others.  The first issue of Watson Grade News, as reported by “Trixie,” included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten.

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of

Tifton Gazette
January 22, 1904

Killed by a Lumber Cart.   

Mr. W. C. Patten has been very sick for the past few days, but is improving.   

The school at Round Pond was to have opened up last Monday, but was suspended for two weeks, owing to the disagreeable weather.   

Mr. Mann Rouse is all smiles; he’s a girl.   

Mr. William Patten, aged 83 years, is very ill. He was stricken about a year ago with paralysis and it is supposed that he has the second attack.   

Mr. W. H. Watson has killed forty-nine porkers, of  very good average, this season. Mr. Watson is one of our hustling farmers.   

Mr. and  Mrs. J. I. Patten had a thrilling experience last Monday in a runaway scrape.  They were going to see Mr. Patten’s father, who is very sick, when their horse became frightened and ran away.  Mrs. Patten was thrown from the buggy at once while Mr. Patten remained until the shafts came loose, which left him in the buggy unhurt.  Mrs. Patten was bruised but not seriously injured.   

The young folks of this section enjoyed a nice pound party at Mr. D. P. Kent’s one night last week.   

One of our young men went to Valdosta a few days ago and came back with a new buggy and a lot of furnitures.   

Quite a crowd of our young folks enjoyed  nice dance at the beautiful home of Mr. Z. Spell last Saturday night.   

Miss Belle Patten is visiting relatives in Tampa, Fla.   

The many friends and schoolmates in this county of Miss Creasie Cook, of Coffee county, were shocked last Wednesday to hear of her death, which occurred near Willacoochee Tuesday.  Miss Cook was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Cook, who for years had lived near this place, but Mr. Cook had moved his family only a few days ago to superintend the logging of a saw mill near Willacoochee.  Miss Cook’s death was caused by falling from a timber cart and the log breaking her skull and severely bruising her body eight days before her death.  The remains were interred in Empire cemetery late Wednesday afternoon. Her bereaved parents and relatives have the sympathy of many friends in this, their time of sorrow.


Watson Grade, Jan. 18.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904. The article included personal mentions of the Watson and Patten families with Rays Mill, GA (Ray City) connections.

Some additional notes on the personal mentions in this article.

W. C. Patten  referenced in the article was William C. “Babe” Patten (1849-1944), a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register.  William C. Patten was  a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace, He was married to Sarah Lee, who was the daughter of Moses Corby Lee and Jincy Register. When his wife’s niece, Jennie Lee, married Samuel I Watson in 1900, it was W. C.  Patten who performed the ceremony.  W.C. Patten, after the death of his first wife, married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.

Round Pond was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Round Pond School was consolidated with Possum Trot and Guthrie School.

Mr. William Patten, age 83, born Nov. 3, 1820, was the oldest son of James and Elizabeth (Lee) Patten.  He was the husband of Elizabeth Register, and father of William C. Patten and James Irwin Patten, also mentioned in the article.

William Henry Watson was a son of Mark R. Watson and Rachel Slaughter, and the husband of Dicey Guthrie.  Dicey and William Watson made their home on the Ray City and Mud Creek road northeast of Rays Mill in the Empire Church community, in that part of Berrien county that was later cut into Lanier County.

Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Patten were James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.  James Irwin Patten was the eldest son of  William and “Betsey” Patten. Leanna Patten was a daughter of Jethro Patten.

Daniel P. Kent, host of the “pound party” was a farmer raising a family in the 1300 Georgia Militia District.  The 1899 Young Folk’s Cyclopedia of Games and Sports provides the following definition:

POUND PARTY, an entertainment to which each guest is required to bring something weighing exactly a pound. These may be eatables, toys, useful articles, or whatever the giver pleases. Each package is numbered and laid aside as it is received. When the guests are ready for the distribution of the parcels, numbered cards, or slips of paper, are passed around and each draws one. Some one then takes the packages one by one, calling its number aloud; the holder of the corresponding number becomes its owner, and must open it in the presence of the company.

Belle Patten was  a daughter of James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.

Creasy  or Creasie Cook, 13-year-old daughter of William Jackson Cook and Annie Laura Mathis,  died as a result of a tragic accident that occurred on January 7, 1904 during logging operations supervised by her father at a Willacoochee sawmill.  He father, W. J. Cook, was a registered voter in at Rays Mill, GA in the 1890s, and others of the Cook family connection lived in the town and surrounding area.   Creasy Cook was buried at Empire Cemetery.

Related Posts:

The Elixir of Life

According to an interesting  old newspaper article,  there was in 1876 a mineral spring at Milltown (now Lakeland) in Berrien County, GA, not far from Rays Mill (Ray City), with amazing restorative powers. One wonders if the spring was promoted strictly for the tourist trade, or was it visited by the locals of Milltown, Rays Mill, and Berrien County?

In 1876, Dr. Charles S. Herron, of Washington, D.C.,  brought his brother, James B. Herron, to Berrien County seeking treatment for tuberculosis at the Milltown mineral spring .  James B. Herron, a disabled veteran of the Civil War, worked as janitor for the Smithsonian Institute, a position he obtained upon the recommendation of General (later President) James A. Garfield.

Atlanta Constitution
December 17, 1876


Consumption and Scrofula Cured.

Berrien County Comes to the Front as a Health-Center for Consumptives.

    The resources of Georgia are almost illimitable.  Her people are scarcely cognizant of her grandeur, her undeveloped wealth and natural advantages. Hundreds yearly flock to northern watering places when we have as good in our midst.  Scores visit Hot Springs, Arkansas, when, as the subjoined letter will show, we have a more wonderful spring in our state.
    Quite a number of the citizens of Atlanta have tried the virtues of its waters for scrofulous complaints and were speedily cured.
    The following letter details a wonderful cure by this:


    At Bank’s mills, near Milltown, Berrien county, Georgia, is a spring, the water of which possesses very decided medicinal properties.  The value of the water for the relief and cure of disease is, I believe, of quite recent discovery.  I first heard of the spring in 1874, from friends living in the state of Georgia, and such were the reports I received that I became interested and was anxious to have a test of its virtue under my own observation, but had no opportunity of doing so until January of the present year.
    In 1875 the health of my brother, J. B. Herron, of the Smithsonian Institute, began to fail and he passed into a rapid decline.  His disease was phthisis pulmonasis (pulmonary consumption), the exciting cause of which was doubtless a wound through the lungs, received a few years since.  I need not give a minute description of his symptoms or a history of the case.  There was a general impairment of life, and the functions of nutrition were so prostrated that the tissues wasted by disease could not be repaired.  He expectorated a great deal.  His breathing became very labored, and he could not speak above a whisper without bringing on a paroxism of coughing.
    I had the counsel of the best medical talent in this city in his case, but the treatment proved only palliative.  His case was considered hopeless, and I was told he could never recover.
    As a last resort I was anxious that he should go to Milltown and test the value of the spring in his case, and after a great deal of persuasion I induced him to go, and I accompanied him.  When we left this city it was not expected that he would return alive, and on the way persons who saw him predicted that he was beyond all earthly remedies.
    We arrived at the spring on the 20th day of January, and he immediately commenced to use the water.  For a few days I could discover no change in his condition, but in about a week the change for the better was very marked. His circulation improved rapidly, night sweats were arrested.  His cough gradually subsided, and there was a better performance of the principal functions of the body generally.  He regained his appetite and strength.  His vitality was raised, and there was a rapid renewal of life.   He returned home in March, and has not been absent from the institution on account of sickness a day since his return.
    I used the water freely myself, and its effects were soon very perceptible. I became rapidly invigorated.  There was a renewal of mental and physical activity, and I could perform more labor with less fatigue than I had been able to do for years.
    I have no personal knowledge of other cures affected by the waters, but I have been informed of quite a number of well authenticated cases, principally of pulmonary and scrofulous diseases, and also a number of very aggravated cases of deranged menstrual function in females and diseases resulting therefrom, and in every case of this nature, in which the water has been tested, it has proved specific.  Some of these cases were very remarkable, and were it not that a detailed account of them would make this article too long, I would relate them.
    For healthfulness, the locality of the spring is unsurpassed by any section of the United States, and is less subject to sudden changes of temperature than many places I have visited further south. 
    Invalids and others who have a taste for hunting and fishing, will find there unlimited opportunities for its gratification, as game is abundant, and fishing is unsurpassed anywhere I have visited north or south.
    So confident am I as to the great value of this spring in connection with the genial climate and other pleasant surroundings that, when consulted, I shall invariably recommend invalids who contemplate going south to visit it.
    The spring is the property of Henry Banks, Sr., of Atlanta, Georgia.  The accommodation for cure can be had in the neighborhood at very reasonable rates.  Valdosta, on the Atlantic and Gulf railroad, is the nearest station from which conveyance can be readily obtained.     What I have written is entirely in the interest of invalids, as I have no pecuniary interest whatever in the spring.  But I have an interest in it far above any pecuniary consideration, for under my own eyes I witnessed its curative effects in case of one who is very dear to me, who, from a condition considered hopeless one year ago, has been restored, and is now enjoying a reasonable degree of health and strength.

Washington D. C., Dec. 4th, 1876.
C. S. Herron, M.D.


In the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1882, Spencer F. Baird, Secretary Smithsonian Institution, wrote:

The melancholy duty devolves upon me of announcing the death of two employes of the Smithsonian Institution during the past year. The two whose loss I have to record are Dr. George W. Hawes, curator of the department of mineralogy and economic geology in the National Museum, who died on the 22d of June, 1882; and Mr. Joseph B. Herron, janitor of the National Museum, who died on the 9th of April, 1882….

Joseph B. Hereon, a native of the State of Ohio, was born August 7, 1839, at New Cumberland, Tuscarawas County. He was engaged in the military service of his country at the period of the late civil war, having enlisted in 1862, in the 98th Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, at the age of 23 years.

It was but a few months after his enrollment in the national defense that he took part in the battle of Perry ville, Ky., on which occasion he received a bullet wound through his body, the ball entering the chest on the left side, passing through his lung obliquely, narrowly escaping the heart, and out at his back on the right side of the spinal column, near the right shoulder blade. He unfortunately lay on the battle-field from Wednesday until Saturday before receiving any medical attendance. From the effects of this severe and dangerous wound he never fully recovered. He was, however, restored to a moderate degree of health and strength, and was able to attend to light duties.

In 1866, on the recommendation of General J. A. Garfield and General E. E. Eckley, he was appointed by Professor Henry janitor of the Museum at the Smithsonian Institution, which position he held until his death. He was always gentle and courteous in his deportment; and though the injury to his lungs incapacitated him for exerting any special activity, or any great physical effort, he was always punctual and attentive to his duties. He was a member of the Society of the “Army of the Cumberland,” and of the “Grand Army of the Republic.” He was one of the Guards of Honor to the remains of President Garfield while they lay at the Capitol in Washington, and accompanied the funeral of the deceased President from this city to Cleveland. In these exertions he probably overtasked his strength; for on returning to this city from the state funeral, he went into a somewhat rapid decline, and though able to walk about his house to the last day of his life, he died rather suddenly of pulmonary consumption at his residence in Washington, on Sunday morning, April 9th at 7 o’clock, at the age of 43 years, after a service in this Institution of sixteen years.

R. S. Thigpen ~ Turpentine Man of Ray’s Mill

Robert Silas Thigpen (1849-1898)

Robert S. Thigpen was a wealthy Naval Stores manufacturer and a resident of Berrien County, Ga.  In the 1890s he lived near Ray’s Mill where he owned and operated a turpentine still.

Born Robert Silas Thigpen, August 13, 1849 he was a son of Dennis Thigpen, of South Carolina. It appears that R.S. Thigpen came to Georgia with his family from South Carolina when he was a young man, probably in the 1860s.

In 1880, R. S. Thigpen and his younger brother John Thigpen were living in the 1125 Georgia Militia District in Worth County.  By that time, Robert was already a successful manufacturer of  Naval Stores, in the comparatively new turpentine industry. The 1880 census non-population schedules show R.S. Thigpen owned a Tar & Turpentine Naval Stores operation valued at $6000. This turpentine still was situated on the Ty Ty Creek near Isabella, GA. The enumeration sheet shows Thigpen generally employed about 60 hands, who worked 10 hour days, year-round. Skilled workers received $1.50 a day, and ordinary laborers 65 cents. Thigpen’s total annual payroll for the operation ran $5000 a year.

Georgia Property Tax Digests of  1890 show Robert S. Thigpen owned 843 acres in the Mud Creek district of Clinch county, Georgia Militia District 586, including all of lot 349 and parts of lots 486, 487, and 484. He was employing 70 workers in his operations there. He had $700 of merchandise on hand, $465 in household furnishings, $210 jewelry, $3200 in livestock, $225 in plantation and mechanical tools, $2810 in other property, all total valued at $13,800.

Early 1900s Turpentine Still in South Georgia. Image Source: Georgia Virtual Vault.

Early 1900s Turpentine Still in South Georgia. Image Source: Georgia Virtual Vault.

By 1894, Thigpen was manufacturing naval stores in Berrien County and had a turpentine still at Ray’s Mill.  One of the residents at the Thigpen property was Horace Cox.   As a young man Cox had worked in a carriage shop, and was the son of a Berrien County mechanic, Samuel D. Cox.

In the summer of 1894,  fire struck at Rays Mill.

Tifton Gazette
June 8, 1894 pg 1

The Thigpen mill near Rays Mill post office, Berrien county, was destroyed by fire one day last week.

On June 19, 1894 allegations of arson were made against Horace Cox by a committee of 110 citizens, who signed  and published a petition against Cox  in a paid advertisement in the Valdosta Times. Cox had been suspected of numerous arson cases in Berrien and Clinch counties.  The accusers asked R.S. Thigpen to turn Cox out, although Thigpen had not signed the petition.

That Fall, Thigpen suffered another setback when he was thrown from a horse.

Tifton Gazette
November 2, 1894  Pg 1

Mr. R. S. Thigpen was thrown from a horse near Ray’s mill last Sunday and two of his ribs were broken.  The girt to his saddle broke and the saddle turning threw him off.  He came to the city [Valdosta] in a carriage sent from here and is getting along well at present. – Valdosta Telescope.  Mr. Thigpen is a citizen of Berrien County and lives near Ray’s Mill.

Despite these hindrances, R.S. Thigpen continued with his operations at Ray’s Mill.

Tifton Gazette
Aug 16, 1895 Pg 3

Milltown Mention

L. D. Liles has sold his mercantile interests to R. S. Thigpen. The stock will be moved to the latter’s still near Ray’s Mill.

In February of 1896 incendiaries again struck in Berrien County, this time burning the landmark  Banks Mill at Milltown (now Lakeland).  This time, Horace Cox was formally charged with the arson. (see Horace Cox and the Burning of Bank’s Mill)  But he was acquitted  in the case, and afterwards he pursued a libel case against the Valdosta Times and the committee which had petitioned against him in 1894.  Cox’s lawsuit omitted any complaints against R.S. Thigpen.

Although the libel case Cox brought would continue to wind through the courts for another decade, Horace Cox’s connection with R.S. Thigpen was severed later that year by yet another fire.

Tifton Gazette
November 6, 1896 Pg 1

The residence of Mr. Horace Cox, near Thigpen’s still, was destroyed by fire, supposed to be of incendiary origin, last week.  But little of the furniture was saved. There was no insurance.

Thigpen continued his turpentine still at Rays Mill and worked for public improvements to support his operation.  The Tifton Gazette, Friday Sept 4, 1896 edition noted under “Green Bay Items:”

Mr. R.S. Thigpen is pushing to completion a bridge across Thigpen Bay, on the new public road running by way of Thigpen Still and H.H. Knight’s. He has contracted to build the bridge for $200. Those who oppose the opening of the new road said it would cost $500 to build that bridge.

Over his life, R. S. Thigpen amassed sizable holdings in naval stores, including his properties at Ray’s Mill, GA.  He  died on February 23,1898, and was buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.  The regional newspapers reported on the settlement of his estate:

Macon Telegraph,
April 17, 1898  Pg 1


Valdosta, Ga., April 16.

Judge W.H. Griffin, counsel for the administrator of the estate of the late R.S. Thigpen, has closed a trade for $35,000 of property in the estate. The turpentine plant at Rays mill was sold to W.F. Powell & Co. of North Carolina for $13,000 and naval stores stock to other parties for about $13,500. The still in this county near Naylor was sold for about $6,500. These large sales comprise only a minor part of the estate, but the good prices that were gotten for the property assures not only the solvency of the estate, but that the heirs will get a good deal from it.


Tifton Gazette
May 6, 1898 pg 4

 Mr. W. F. Powell, of North Carolina, with his father has purchased the Thigpen turpentine plant at Ray’s Mill from the estate of the late R. S. Thigpen.   The deal was made last week and engineered by Judge W. H. Griffin, the attorney for the estate.  Besides the valuable Ray’s Mill property, the still at the Bamberg place was also sold.  Henson, Bros. & Co., are the buyers, and it is understood that the price paid was about $6,500. {text illegible} 13,500 in naval stores stock {text illegible} ld, making about $35,000 {text illegible} n’s property to change hands in the past few days. -Valdosta.

 After the death of R.S. Thigpen, his wife and children made their home in Valdosta in a large house on Patterson Street.

Children of Sarah and Robert S. Thigpen:

  1. Annie Thigpen, b. December 1882
  2. Percy Thigpen, b. July 1886
  3. Fred Thigpen, b. August 1888
  4. Robert Silas Thigpen, Jr., b. May 1892
Gravemarker of Robert Silas Thigpen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.

Gravemarker of Robert Silas Thigpen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.

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Georgia Normal College and Business Institute

The Ray City History Blog has previously noted the Ray City Alumni of Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Abbeville, GA.

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute Abbeville GA

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute Abbeville GA

A number of the Clements family attended the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute including Lucius Jordan Clements, William Grover Clements, James Irwin Clements, Joe Clements, Chester Lee (son of Moses C. Lee and Amanda Clements),   Bessie Clements, and Hod P. Clements. D. C. Clements of Nashville, graduated from the business program in 1906.

Another alumnus from Ray City was Charlie Parham, who taught  in Ray City and Berrien County schools over a twenty year period, and served twelve years on the Berrien County School Board.

Samuel I. Watson attended the Institute in the year of its opening, and later served on the State Board of Education. When S. I. Watson arrived at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in the winter of 1899 he wrote back to the Editor of the Tifton Gazette:

Samuel Irvin Watson attended the inaugural session of the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in 1899.

Tifton Gazette
March 3, 1899

A Berrien Boy in Wilcox.

Abbeville, GA, Feb. 27. – As I have reached my destination, I take great pleasure in writing an article to your paper from this place, as I have found everything pleasant, both my traveling and place of stopping.
    While there is whiskey of almost every description sold here I have not seen an intoxicated person since I came to Wilcox county.
    I find the people of Abbeville and surrounding country to be intelligent, sober, whole-hearted, enthusiastic, sociable and enterprising, and who give a hearty welcome to those coming to their city.
   The enrollment of the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute is about 300, and it has been in session only about five months; the school ranks among the best in Georgia.  The principal is a plain, unassuming gentleman, whom we all, as students, love;  this however, applies to the entire faculty.
    There are students here from Georgia and Florida, and scarcely a vacant room for boarding students.  This town will surely have to make more arrangements for the accommodation of the latter, if they continue to increase as they have in the very short time the school has been in session.
    There is a great problem that should be carefully and accurately solved by each and every one of us that contemplates attending some high institution of learning.  A great meany of our boys and girls leave their state to obtain a higher education than can be accomplished in our common schools, but we ought to remember that it is an honor to us to recognize our own state, and that we have fully as good schools and colleges as any adjoining state.
    I hope to have some of my Berrien county friends come with me next time.

S. I. Watson.

P. S. Why not the teachers of Berrien have two days in the examination for license this year?

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Albany, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Foundation

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Albany, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Foundation

Here added is the 1902 commencement announcement:

The Atlanta Constitution
30 May 1902

Georgia Normal and Business School Ends Successful Year.

Abbeville, Ga., May 29. -(Special.)-The fourth annual commencement of the Georgia Normal College and Business institute closed here tonight. This was the most successful term in the history of the college and the number of graduates were greater than ever before.

The halls of the college were crowded to its utmost capacity at every exercise to hear the speeches of the graduates. Those graduating in the commercial class are Addie Laura Collins, Webster, Fla,; R. F. Dowdy, Vance, Ga; Florence E. Huss, Franklin, Ohio; D. F. Burnett, Jr., Madison, Fla.; Ashley C. Snow, Abbeville, Ga.; Gertrude Blow, Ashburn, Ga.; James C. Story, Abbeville, Ga; A. M. Sykes, Wright, Ga.; Elijah R. Simmons, T. J. Townsend, Lake Butler, Fla.; R. D. Howard, Patterson, Ga.; Lucius J. Clements, Millstown, Ga.; Alvin V. Sellers, Graham, Ga.; Ralph F. Collins, Bushnell, Fla.

Those graduating in the teachers’ class are Mollie Lee Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; S.S. Knight, Lake Butler, Fla.; Eunice McCullough, Melrose, Fla.; E. A. Rice, Dupont, Ga.; Myrtle Baker, Abbeville, Ga.; Ida Irene Vause, Edgar, Fla.; W. O. Young, Leland, Fla.; Henry P. Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Lillie May Maynard, Abbeville, Ga.; J. A. J. Pinholster, Brooks, Fla.; Bessie Clements, Milltown, Ga.; R. S. Johns, New River, Fla.; Theola Ruff, Fort White, Fla.; Lola Smith, Abbeville, Ga.; Murrel Futch, High Springs, Fla.; C. L. Cowart, Collins, Ga.; Joseph Coffin, Lake Butler, Fla.; H. D. Warnock, Leland, Fla.

Those graduating in the scientific classes are Carlotta L. Townsend, Lake Butler, Fla.; Sampie Smith, Shepperd, Ga.; M. L. Purcell, Glenville, Ga.; Maude Avant, Patterson, Ga.; E. F. Fender, Griggs, Ga; H. J. Dame, Homerville, Ga.; I. S. Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Louis Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Mary Lizzie Paxson, Abbeville, Ga.; W. E. Carter, Louis, Ga.; N. M. Patten, Milltown, Ga.; W. B. Cornelius, Homerville, Ga.; Mark L. Morrill, Atlanta, Ga.

The commercial graduates are Elijah R. Simmons, Citra, Fla.; John D. Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; Mark L. Morrill, Atlanta, Ga.; Helen S. Bomberg, Jasper, Fla.; S. F. Rogers, Abbeville, Ga.; L. M. Carter, Louis, Ga.; B. H. Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; B. B. Maynard, Newton, Ga.; J. Louis McLeod, Abbeville, Ga.

When William Grover “Bill” Clements attended Georgia Normal College and Business Institute,

“He stayed at the dormitory which was run by the President of the Commerce Department. The charge for living at the school, including meals, was $9.80 a month which his parents paid for in syrup and bacon from the farm. It was a co-educational school.

Bill said, ‘The ladies lived downstairs and the gents up. I had a Yankee sweetheart. She was the sister of the Principal’s wife. There wasn’t much time for social activities then but I did play on the baseball team. I played first base and sometimes I was the catcher.’  He modestly didn’t want to admit it, but was one of the star hitters on the team.

  …the total enrollment was about 200 students at that time. Bill was graduated with honors, the leader of his class, and he was offered a job on the faculty. He turned it down though, preferring to go back to the farm and help his parents send the twins through school.” – Madison County Carrier, April 16, 1981 

Transcription courtesy of Ron Yates,

The twins were Joe and Irwin Clements of Rays Mill, GA, students at the business institute in 1904:

A personal mention in the September 9, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette. Irwin and Joe Clements, and Chester L. Lee headed to college.

Commencement speaker Reverend John W. Domingos, of Tifton, reported this description after his visit to the college in 1905 :

I never had the pleasure of a visit to the delightful little town of Abbeville ’till last Saturday.  When I arrived on the grounds, and went into their school buildings, met the teachers, and examined a little into their fixtures and outfit, I was suprised to find a school of such proportions in the little city of Abbeville.
    There are on the grounds three spacious buildings, standing side by side all of them two-story buildings; two of these are built of wood, and the latest, a new building is of brick.  In the first of these, on the left as you approach them, phonograpy, or short hand, and type writing and telegraphy are taught on the first floor. On the second floor the intermediate classes are taught; and the museaum is also located on this floor.  In the middle and main building, on the first floor, are four class rooms; on the second floor are the auditorium, the music room and the laboratory. In the third, the new building, on the first floor, the work of the business department includes book keeping, banking, etc.  On the second floor is the principal’s recitation room.  This is a fine room, and can accommodate 100 pupils.  The library is also located on this floor.  It now contains between tow and three thousand volumes ans some of these are choice and costly works.  The books are very appropriately arranged, and are kept in splendid book cases.  There are twenty-two of these, four feet in length, with four shelves to the case.  In seventeen of these the books range in sections: Educational, fiction, literature, encyclopedias, language and mathematics, poetry, science, etc.  The other five are devoted to periodical literature, magazines, etc.
    Prof. W. A. Little is the principal of this school.  He is a man of rare gifts, push and energy, and is assisted by an able corps of teachers.  This is the listed course of study: Scientific course, teachers’ course, complete commercial course, accountants’ course, music course, shorthand, telegraphy, penmanship, post-graduate business course.
    They have had in the school this year, I was told, some 200 boarding pupils; but they have no dormitories; the pupils board in families in the town.  The principal told me that they have matriculated this year, in all, nearly 300 pupils…
    I give you these facts, Mr. Editor, for — people to think about a little.  The phenomenal success of this school is simply due to a few things.  First of all, of course, to the efficiency of the teachers, but very largely to two other things; first, they have good work-shops, or good buildings in which to do their work, and good material and implements with which to work; in the second place, they have the hearty co-operation of the people.  The school is the pride of the town.  Give a teacher or preacher your sympathy and co-operation and you can expect something of him;  withhold it, and you cannot get the best result.  Don’t put a man in an ice box, and then curse him for not sweating.
     We have a fine town; why may we not have one of the largest and best schools in all this country?

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In 1934 Ray City was ‘Noted Section’ of Berrien County

Ray City began 1934 on an optimistic note.  A “booster” story from the Nashville Herald praised the farming, education, churches, municipal government, roads and businesses of Ray City.

The Nashville Herald, 
January 25, 1934, Pg 1


Excellent Community of Berrien County and South Georgia – Fine Farming Section

In writing about different communities of Berrien County it is next to impossible to neglect the city of Ray City and the large farming territory surrounding it.  The Ray City section constitutes the southern portion of Berrien County, where extensive farm operations are carried on during every month of the year in all lines of endeavor.

The trading point is the city of Ray City, just ten miles south of Nashville, the county seat.  It has a population of around 500 people, all of whom are industrious and hospitable, with fine schools, churches and live wire merchants.  There is no better place in south Georgia to live than Ray City.

The farming population surrounding Ray City constitute an industrious and progressive people.  To a certain measure they are prosperous, because everything to be raised on a farm can be grown on their fertile lands, and each year their products find ready markets, returning to them cash in abundance.  The section is noted for its fine tobacco and cotton lands and is a hog and cattle raising territory of excellent possibilities.

The city of Ray City affords every convenience and comfort for the citizens of the community.  There is a fine school system, which is under the capable and efficient supervision of Prof. P. M. Shultz.  Prof. Ulmer Crosby is principal, and the other teachers are:  Mrs. P. M. Shultz, Miss Jessie Aycock, Mrs. A.B. Baskins, Miss Lillian Ford and Mrs. Eulalie Dickson.

The school has nine grades, with an enrollment of a few over the two hundred mark.  A number of fine students complete the school each year, advancing to higher institutions of learning.  The school system in Ray City is really a big asset, (illegible) a higher type of citizenry.

The school board is composed of the following gentlemen who handle their duties in a most admirable manner and of benefit to patrons and students combined.  H.A. Swindle, chairman, M.A. Studstill, sec.-treasl., C.H. Vickers, J.M. Studstill and W.M. Creech, members.

Ray City is not short either along the spiritual line, having four active churches as follows:  Baptist, Rev. Walter Branch, pastor; Methodist, Rev. F.A. Ratcliffe, pastor; Primitive Baptist, Elder C.H. Vickers, pastor; Christian, supply pastor.  The Baptist and Methodist churches conduct Sunday Schools, and young people’s organizations.

The affairs of the city of Ray City are in the hands of men who apparently have the united support of the people, as the entire body was recently re-elected to office.  J. H. Swindle is mayor, and the councilmen are:  G.V. Hardie, Y.F. Carter, H.P. Clements and W.M. Creech.

The standing committees for the year 1934 are:  Water and lights, G.V. Hardie and Y.F. Carter; Street, W.M. Creech and H.P. Clements; Sanitary, entire city council.

In questioning the mayor, Mr. J. H. Swindle, he stated that the city enjoyed a very good administration the past year, and that 1934 was begun with the city in much better financial condition than a year ago.

Ray City is soon to enjoy one of the best highway outlets of any small city in south Georgia.  It is located on Route No. 11, the short route into Florida from Atlanta.  This highway has been recently graded for paving and at some future date this work will be a reality.  Other good roads lead out in all directions as well.  It is located on the Georgia and Florida railroad, and is one of the railroad’s most important shipping points.  Mr. T.W. Thompson is the G. & F. Agent, having served in that capacity for a long number of years.

The postmistress is Mrs. J. F. Fountain, and the rural mail carriers are James Grissett and L.A. McDonald.

There are also several industries which add to the progressiveness of the town and community.

The Ray City Ice & Storage Company, of which Mr. D.T. Sharpe is manager, serves a wide territory.  At present this concern has on storage over 100,000 pounds of meat being cured for farmers.

The Y.F. Carter Naval Stores concern is the largest firm in the community, where approximately fifty men are given employment.  This firm operates over ten crops of boxes, the leases affording additional revenue for landowners.  It has been in operation for about eighteen years.

The J.H. Swindle Gins and Warehouse is another concern of benefit to the entire section.  Plants are located at Ray City and Barrett, being among the most up to date in south Georgia.  Mr. Swindle buys cotton and cotton seed, corn, peanuts, hay and other country produce.  Besides gin and warehouse activities he operates a twelve horse farm.

The Peoples Banking Company, a private institution, is owned by Mr. J. H. Swindle, with Mr. E. J. Patten as cashier.  This bank was organized several years ago by Mr. Swindle when Ray City lost its regular bank, so as to carry on the business operations locally and without interruptions.

Mrs. R.N. Warr is owner of old Ray Pond, famous for its fishing for the past hundred years.  Mrs. Warr acquired the pond about two years ago, and since has created a good income out of the sale of minnows, pond plants, frogs, and tadpoles.  The pond covers an area of approximately 4,000 acres.

Among Ray City’s most enterprising merchants are:  Swindle & Clements, B. Ridgell Jones Drug Store, Purvis Grocery Store, Weeks Grocery Store, Hardie Filling Station, South Georgia Oil Company, Bradford Barber Shop, Putnell Barber Shop, Swain Garage, Woodward Blacksmith Shop, Griner Corn Mill and others.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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James Henry Swindle ~ Businessman and Public Servant