Big Blaze of 1915

The big fire at Rays Mill broke out just a few minutes after sunrise on a Sunday morning, April 25, 1915.  The flames originated in the business district in a small store operated by Johnnie Clements, Jr. and soon spread to nearby buildings including the two story Rays Mill Hotel. The J.M. Parrish & Company store owned by Joseph Math Parrish was also damaged; bookkeeper at the store was Leon Lacy Parrish.  At that time there was no water system in the town, and no way to effectively fight the blaze.

The Nashville Herald
April 30, 1915

Destructive Fire Visits Rays Mill

      One of the most disastrous fires in the history of Rays Mill visited that place Sunday morning about 6 o’clock.  Several stores and considerable amount of goods were destroyed by the flames.

      The fire started in a store owned by John Clements of Milltown, in which building his son, Johnnie Clements, Jr., was operating a small store, and the store and contents were completely destroyed.  The loss in this instance was about $1,000 on the building and about the same amount on the stock.  There was insurance covering about half the loss.

      The flames leaped over a brick building and it was completely consumed [missing] & Co. and set fire to the Rays Mill hotel.  The hotel was a two-story building and it was completely consumed by the fire.  It was owned by Messrs. J.H. and Jas. S. Swindle and was valued at $5,000 or $6,000.  The hotel was destroyed with most of its contents.  Mr. J.F. Hineley, who operated the hotel, also had a small store which was entirely destroyed.

      The flames when the hotel was burning were so hot that the brick store of J.M. Parrish & Co. caught and was entirely destroyed.  The building was valued at about $4,000 and the stock of goods was valued at about $15,000.  The stock was largely the property of Mr. G.W. Varn, of Valdosta.  There was insurance for about half of this loss.

      Two other store buildings belonging to Mr. Will Studstill of Valdosta were destroyed by the flames.  These small buildings were valued at about $1,000, while the stocks of goods in them were small.

      It was impossible to control the flames as there was no water supply sufficient to cope with the fire and about all that could be done was to stand by and watch the different buildings burns and try to prevent any spreading.  The losses are heavy ones and will injure the town materially.

      The total loss is figured at $23,000, and the total amount of insurance carried was $14,000, according to Mr. J.S. Swindle, who was in Nashville yesterday.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker


The Tifton Gazette
April 30, 1915


Flames Destroyed Hotel and Stores.  $30,000 Loss

Valdosta, April 26. – One-third of the business section of Rays Mill, a flourishing town fourteen miles from Valdosta, was destroyed by fire on Sunday.  A number of merchants lost their stores and stocks and the Rays Mill hotel, a large two-story building, was entirely destroyed with most of the furnishings.

The losses will amount to about $30,000, the property being partly covered by insurance.  J.F. Hinely, proprietor of the hotel; J.M. Parrish & Company, John J. Clements, Jr., J.H. and J.S. Swindle and W.M. Studstill are the principal losers.

The town has no water facilities and the block in which the flames started was burned before the fire could be checked.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker


The Nashville Herald
May 21, 1915

Rays Mill, The Week’s Doings In and Around

      The debris has been cleared away and work on the new buildings which will replace those destroyed by the recent disastrous fire is progressing rapidly.  With the completion of these new brick buildings, we will have what appears from the depot, almost a solid brick block, which we trust will be a reality in the near future.  The J.M. Parrish Company’s store which was only partially destroyed, will be ready for occupancy again within a few days.  This should be good news to all their many customers and friends, as they will have a new and complete line of general merchandise.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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Memorial of Judge Hansell

Judge Augustin H. Hansell spent 50 years on the bench of the of Southern Circuit of Georgia during which he tried many, many cases in Berrien County (see The Misadventures of Mr. Stewart, The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey, and Trial and Incarceration of James Thomas Beagles.)  In 1855, The Southern Enterprise reported Augustin H. Hansell was on the state ticket of the American or Know-Nothing Party as candidate for State senator; in this election, the judge advocated for the Brunswick & Florida Railroad and resented the charge that he was a prohibitionist.  He was a representative of Thomas County, GA at the Georgia Secession Convention of 1861, and signed the Georgia Ordinance of Secession along with: John Carroll Lamb, of Berrien County, who would later serve as a captain of the Berrien Minute Men and a major of the 29th Georgia Regiment; and Colonel Carey W. Styles of Ware County, who commanded Captain Levi J. Knight’s company of Berrien Minutemen while they served with the 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, GA.  He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of the of 1877, along with Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) resident Jonathan David Knight.

1907 Memorial to Judge Hansell

1907 Memorial to Judge Hansell

Tifton Gazette
Feb. 8, 1907

Memorial to Judge Hansell

Memorial services in honor of the late Judge Augustine H. Hansell were held at Thomasville Monday afternoon.  Judge Hansell presided over the Southern circuit for fifty years, and there was a large attendance of lawyers from all over the section.  The memorial committee appointed by Judge Robert G. Mitchell to have charge of the exercises consisted of W. M. Hammond, of Thomas, chairman; W. B. Bennett, of Brooks; O. M. Smith, of Lowndes; H. B. Peeples, of Berrien; John A. Wilkes, of Colquitt; J. R. Singletary, of Grady; C. W. Fulwood, of Tift, and R. G. Tison, of Echols.
    Captain Hammond, as chairman of the committee, delivered an eloquent eulogy – reciting the long public service of the honored judge.  A handsome portrait of Judge Hansell adons the court room, where the service was held.

Augustin H. Hansell

Augustin H. Hansell

The following sketch of the life of Judge Hansell is a composite of the memorial given in the Report of the Twenty-fourth Annual Session of the Georgia Bar Association, 1907  and biographical material contained in A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Volume 2, 1913.


Augustin H. Hansell was born in Milledgeville, Georgia,, on the 26th day of August, 1817. He died in Thomasville, Georgia, on Sunday morning, February 11, 1907. If he had lived until August 26, 1907, he would have reached the age of ninety years. While it is rarely the case that the allotted life of man is extended to the extreme age which Judge Hansell reached, it is still more rare, even to being remarkable, that one who lived for a period approaching a century should have spent nearly the entire time of so long a life in constant activity and service. Judge Hansell was practically “in harness” from his early manhood until the date of his death. From the time he was eighteen years of age until within a few years of his death he was actively and constantly engaged in service to his State and to his people.


The father of Augustine Harris Hansell was William Young Hansell, a native of the Greenville district of South Carolina. When William Young Hansell was a child he lost his father, and at the age of twelve came to Georgia to make his home with his uncle, William Young. Making the best of his opportunities he acquired a common school education and then studied law in Milledgeville, and after admission to the bar engaged in practice there. He was one of the eminent attorneys of his time, and his name appears in the Georgia supreme court reports. His active practice continued until 1860, and he then lived retired until his death in 1867. The maiden name of his wife was Susan Byne Harris, representing another prominent family of this state. She was born on a plantation about two miles from Milledgeville, and her father, Augustin Harris, a native of Burke county, was directly descended from one of four brothers who came to America during early colonial times and settled in Virginia. Augustin Harris was a Baldwin county planter, having numerous slaves and being one of the prosperous men of his section. Susan (Harris) Hansell survived her husband until 1874, and she reared two sons, Andrew J. and Augustin H., and five daughters.”


Augustin Harris Hansell… being reared in one of the prosperous homes of Georgia, was given excellent advantages. Prof. Carlisle Beaman was one of his tutors in general subjects, and he studied law under R. K. Hines and Iverson L. Harris. After admission to the bar he began practice at Milledgeville, and for a time served as private secretary for Governor Gilmer.


At the age of eighteen Judge Hansell served with distinction in the War of the Creek Indians of 1836. He was on the staff of General J. W. A. Sanford, of Baldwin county, and by reason of meritorious service was offered the promotion to a Major by General Sanford, but declined such appointment.


Judge Hansell’s family relations were ideal. He was married to Miss Mary Anne Baillie Paine, of Milledgeville, on May 20, 1840. For sixty-six years they lived a perfectly happy married life.  Her father was Charles J . Paine, a native of Petersburg, Virginia, and a physician. As a young man he came to Georgia and was engaged in practice at Milledgeville until his death in 1857. Her mother was Ann Baillie Davies, the daughter of William Davies, a native of Savannah, and granddaughter of Edward Davies, a native of Wales, who was one of the early settlers of Georgia. William Davies also conferred honor upon the legal profession of Georgia, and served as judge of the superior court and was mayor of the city of Savannah during the War of 1812. William Davies married Mary Ann Baillie, the maiden name of whose mother was Ann McIntosh, a daughter of John Mohr McIntosh, the immigrant ancestor of the noted McIntosh family.

The  five children of Mary Anne Baillie Paine (1826-1906) and Augustin Harris Hansell (1917-1907) were as follows:

  1. Susan V. Hansell
  2. Charles Paine Hansell
  3. Mary H. Hansell
  4. Frances B. Hansell
  5. Sally H. Hansell


Judge Hansell was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1845 and represented the County of Pulaski.


In 1847 he was elected Solicitor-General of the Southern Circuit and served for two years, at the end of which time he resigned to accept the position of Judge of the Superior Court of the Southern Circuit of Georgia, then embracing the greater part of south Georgia. Railroads had not yet penetrated to this region, and he journeyed from court to court in his private carriage.

For some years, until 1850, he was a resident of Hawkinsville, then in Scottsboro two years, and in November 1852 came to Thomasville, being one of the most prominent among the early settlers of this locality.

He resigned the position of Judge of the Southern Circuit in 1853, But went back on that bench in 1859.


Judge Hansell was a member of the Georgia Secession Convention in 1861 and took a prominent part in that historic body. He did not enter the Confederate service in the War between the States on account of the fact that he was Judge of the Superior Court of the Southern Circuit during such war. He, however, gave to the Confederate cause his earnest sympathy and support and actively rendered efficient service and help as Chairman of the Relief Committee from Thomas County. During the siege of Atlanta he went to that city and aided in the relief of the sick and wounded. He was a tower of strength to his people during the stormy days of Reconstruction.


He remained as Judge of this Circuit continuously until 1868, when he was removed from the bench by the Reconstruction Governor of Georgia, Rufus B. Bullock. He resumed private practice for four years, but in 1873 he was again elected Judge of the Southern Circuit and continued to serve in such capacity, being elected term after term without opposition, until January 1, 1903, a period of thirty continuous years in the service of his State.


He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1877 and did efficient work in that Convention in framing the State Constitution.

He took an active part in the various Conventions of Judges that compiled the rules of procedure and practice for the Superior Courts of the State. He was always present at these Conventions and was President of the last Convention held.


At January 1, 1903 he voluntarily resigned from the bench and retired to the well-earned quiet and rest of his home. During his long career on the bench he made many important decisions and such implicit confidence did litigants repose in his learning and his integrity that appeals were very rarely taken from his decisions. An examination of the cases where appeals were taken, shows that a very small percentage were reversed by the higher Courts.

No better or more accurate statement can be given of his service as a lawyer and Judge than the following, which was written by one who knew him and loved him as a life-long friend:

“Judge Hansell was one of the ablest lawyers in the State, and stood easily among the foremost of Georgia’s great judicial lights. With an unfaltering and unerring hand he held the scales of justice evenly poised, meting out justice without fear or favor to all, to rich and poor alike. With a mind richly stored with legal lore, he made the law so plain that all grasped and comprehended it as it fell from his lips. He was an upright and a just Judge. No higher encomium could be pronounced. He wore the ermine for half a century and laid it aside without blur, blot, blemish or wrinkle. The bar and people of the Southern Circuit, over which he presided so long, venerated and loved him as but few men have been venerated and loved. The highest type of the old-time Southern gentleman, he impressed juries and litigants with the purity of his motives and the fairness of his rulings and charges. To the younger members of the bar he was ever ready to lend a helping hand, ever ready to advise and guide them.

To the officers of his Courts he was courteous and kind at all times.”


During his life, Judge Hansell was chosen for office under every form of appointment and election that has existed in Georgia; gubernatorial, legislative and popular.

In the Report of the Twenty-sixth Annual Session of the Georgia Bar Association, 1909 , John D. Pope wrote, “I venture the assertion that any lawyer, who will undertake to look over the list of Judges appointed by Governors in time gone by, will agree with me that they were among the best that Georgia ever had, and these men were not changed on the Bench after their appointment except by their own will. Look at the lamented Judge A. H. Hansell on the Superior Court Bench for more than a half century! Where is the man in that circuit, or out of it, that knew him personally, or by reputation, who would have opposed him? Why? Because he was just and fearless, and every man knew, when he went before Judge Hansell he would get just what the law gave him, no more, no less: There was no politics there; it was a case of a great man administering the law!”


At the time of his death Judge Hansell was the oldest Mason in the State of Georgia. He always took a marked and active interest in the work of this great order. He was made a Master Mason in the Milledgeville Lodge in 1838. A few years later he became a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight Templar at Macon, Ga. He served as Master of the Hawkinsville Lodge, was High Priest in the Thomasville Chapter and was an officer of the State Grand Chapter. Just a short while before his death he attended the Thomas County Convention of Masons and made a speech that greatly affected his Masonic brothers.


The private life of Judge Hansell and that side of his character, which was known to his friends and his neighbors, is well expressed in the following tribute to his memory, written by the same friend referred to above:

“No citizen of Thomasville was ever held in higher regard or more universally esteemed. For half a century he lived here, going in and out among his neighbors, holding and retaining to the last hour of his earthly existence the respect, esteem and love of all, young and old. His kindness of heart, gentleness of spirit, and never-failing regard for others won for him, during his long and useful life, the sincere affection of all. His life was an inspiration to the young and his precepts and example all point to the loftiest type of good citizenship. He made the world better by having lived in it, and leaving it, left countless thousands to mourn his loss. Few men have left behind a more spotless record, or one more worthy of emulation. The golden rule was his guide through life. His memory will long be cherished by those who knew him, and cherished longest by those who knew him best. The good that he did will still live. It can not be entombed. The rising generation will be pointed to the life and character of this model citizen as an example to be followed, as an incentive for correct and upright living. Surely this is a rich legacy he has left behind him, a legacy far more valuable than sordid wealth.”

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Wild Men in the Wiregrass

A previous post Counterfeit Coins in Berrien County noted the involvement of the Dedge brothers in a rash of fake $10 gold eagle coins appearing in Berrien County, GA in 1910 :

“Dr. J.R. Dedge, a dentist at Nicholls, Coffee county, Ga. and his brother, E. E. Dedge of Milltown, Berrien county, were arrested by United States secret service men and  brought to Valdosta to-day, charged with being implicated in the disposal of counterfeiting $10 gold pieces.”

The Dedge brothers, sons of Joseph Gore Dedge and Louvenia Johnson,  were John R. Dedge, I.L. “Leb” Dedge, Estill E. Dedge,  and Calvin Warren Dedge. They were a family of dentists and doctors  who became notorious for questionable and violent dealings.  In 1896 Dr. Leb Dedge, D.D. S., was described as “a wild and desperate young white man” after he and Charles J. Medders assaulted a marshal, engaged in an armed stand-off with Dr. Julian and M. M. Knight in court, and led a riot along with Medders, L. Holzendorf, Sam Holzendorf and Charles Holzendorf at Pearson, GA.  Dr. Calvin Warren Dedge was shot to death in 1901 by Leon Roberts in an apparent justifiable homicide. Roberts was acquitted on trial, but later murdered by  James Dedge, son of C. W. Dedge, who was himself gunned down in by a marshal in Dunnellon, FL.

Dr. John R. Dedge, D.D.S.  perhaps gained the widest notoriety of the Dedge brothers. He was born March 11, 1865,  a native of Baxley, GA.   Dedge lived, worked, and swindled his way across the Wiregrass.  He was tried in Valdosta, GA and acquitted on the 1910 charges of counterfeiting.  In 1911 he campaigned for governor of Georgia. In the 1920s  J. R. Dedge and son, Floyd Dedge, would be tried for the shotgun murder of C. J. Medders at Alma, GA.  After two mistrials, Dr. J. R. Dedge was finally convicted of murder in a third trial and sentenced to life in prison, but was freed on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court after serving only three years. But long before his sensational murder trials, even before he made a 1911 bid for the Governor’s office, Dedge was making headlines. As noted by the Waycross Journal ,  “It is an off year in South Georgia when Dr. Dedge does not announce some astounding piece of freak work …”

Around 1901 Dr. John R. Dedge, along with Charles J. Medders, hatched a scheme to exhibit a “Wild Man of Central America”   Their plan capitalized on a Victorian Era fascination with the exotic that was reflected in pseudo-scientific accounts of “wild men.”  Newspapers of the late 1800s and early 1900s had sensationalized stories of  primitive humans with horns, reported from history or far away locales.  “Human horns are anomalous outgrowths from the skin and are far more frequent than ordinarily supposed,” George Milbry Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle had written  in their 1894 book Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, in which they described hundreds of cases of horned men. The popular belief in these horned men had been further reinforced by the 1897 work of  Army Medical Surgeon J.J. Lamprey, Horned Men in Africa.

Dedge  and Medders began their scam with Dedge making a trek to Central America, ostensibly to practice dentistry.  The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprise noted his departure from that city on June 5, 1901:

drdedge1 (2)

Thomasville Dailey Times-Enterprise
June 5, 1901

Dr. Dedge left here yesterday for New Orleans and thence to Hot Springs for a month’s stay, after which he will go to Central America to practice dentistry.  Dr. Dedge is one of the most skillful men in the profession.

At Hot Springs, Dedge submitted his application for a U.S.  passport to go abroad, in which he stated:

I solemnly swear that I was born at Baxley, Ga in the state of Georgia, on or about the 11 day of March 1865; that my father is a native citizen of the United States; that I am domiciled in the United States, my permanent residence being at Waycross, in the State of Georgia, where I follow the occupation of practicing Dental Surgery; that I am about to go abroad temporarily;  and that I intend to return to the United States, with the purpose of residing and performing the duties of citizenship therein.     Further, I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; So help me God.

J. R. Dedge, D.D.E.

Dedge’s description was given as 36 years of age, six feet one inches tall. He had a thin face with a light complexion, high forehead, black hair, dark eyes, regular nose, medium mouth, and round chin.


The real purpose of Dedge’s  trip to Central America may have been twofold. First, in a precursor to his later counterfeiting schemes, it appears that Dedge obtained a large number of Honduras silver pesos while in Central America.  These Honduran coins matched U.S. silver dollars in size, but were worth less than 50 cents in exchange. Dedge’s agents would later pass the foreign coins on unsuspecting Wiregrass merchants.


Second,  the excursion to the little known region gave a plausible explanation for Dedge’s introduction of the “Wild Man of Central America.”

Calvin Byrd was billed as the Horned Man of Central America

Calvin Byrd was billed as the Horned Man of Central America, 1902.

When Dr. John R. Degde returned from Central America and announced his discovery of a man with horns and tusks, the story made a sensation in newspapers all over the country.

Atlanta Constitution
March 8, 1902


Waycross, Ga., March 7. -(Special Correspondence.) – Dr. J. R. Dedge, of this city, has just received from Central America one of the greatest natural curiosities ever seen in these parts, and the presence of the freak in our town has created widespread interest.
     This freak is a man with two well-developed horns, similar in appearance to the horns of a goat, growing out of the top of his head and turning slightly back, with about the same angle and curve as goat’s horns.  He also has two prominent tusks protruding from his mouth, extending probably 2 inches from his gums. They grow out in the place of eye teeth.
    The man resembles the North American Indian in appearance very much, being probably a shade darker in color.  His father is said to be an American negro and his mother an Indian of the Black Hawk tribe.  He has  long jet black hair, a piercing eye, but seems rather stupid.  He is 6 feet high, weighs 190 pounds and is said to be 23 years old. In every respect, except the deformities mentioned, he seems to be a perfect specimen.
    This freak of nature is said to be the result of a fright his mother received, and the horns and tusk represent the goat and the elephant.  She was attending a circus one day, when in passing too near one of the goats, it jumped upon her, butted her to the ground and came near killing her.  In the scuffle with the goat she got almost into an elephant’s mouth, being right under the monster beast’s tusks.  When the child was born it had horns of a goat an in place of its eye teeth came tusks probably 3 inches in length protruding fully 2 inches from its mouth.  The horns measure about 5 inches in length.
   It is said the man speaks both English and Spanish fairly well, but can be induced to talk but very little.
    Dr. Dedge secured him from his parents. The freak was born in Mississippi, but was reared in Central America.

1902-mar-3-horned-manDespite the apparent medical skill with which this fraud was perpetrated, not everyone was convinced by Dedge’s story. Noting a proliferation of wild tales from Waycross, GA   The Dahlonega Nugget commented on the horned man ,  “Editor Greer, of the Waycross Journal, has discovered a bull frog with feathers on it. Dr. Dedge, of the same town, recently brought out a horned man, while the numerous jugs shipped into the place have created a whole museum full of boa constrictors, anacondas, and other monster reptiles.”

Even with the elaborate build up by Medders and Dedge, their “Wildman of Central America” fraud, along with the plot to pass off Honduran pesos as silver dollars was exposed in less than a week.  The story first appeared in the Atlanta Constitution, and a few days later more detailed coverage was reported in the Waycross Weekly Herald, March 22, 1902:

1902-mar-22-horned man-exposed1

Waycross Weekly Herald
March 22, 1902

Waycross Freak Exposed

The “Horned Wild Man” Comes To Grief in Valdosta.

Valdosta, March 14 – The horned wild man from South America, via Waycross, came to grief in this city this morning and one of his managers may have to face the charge of cheating and swindling, in that he has been passing silver dollars from Honduras for Uncle Sam’s coin, the Honduras money being worth less than half of the American.
    The story of grief began last night when the policemen arrested the wild man himself for discharging his pistol in the neighborhood of California hall where the negroes were having an entertainment.  The wild man, whose name was placed upon the police docket this morning as Calvin Byrd, went out on the town after his performance and was picked up by the policemen a little later for having fired his pistol on the streets.  The arrest disclosed one of the cleverest fake freaks that has appeared in this section in a long time.
    Byrd is an ordinary ginger-cake colored man and weighs about 160 pounds.  He has had an incision made in his scalp and a thin piece of metal slipped under the skin.  This piece of metal was attached to two knob screws about half an inch long and the horns were screwed to these little knobs for exhibition, give an appearance as though the horns grew from his head. His eye-teeth were gold-mounted and fixed so that the long tusk could be fastened to them so as to appear to be growing from the gum.
    Byrd professes to know nothing of how the operation was performed on his head, and says that it was done while he was sick with fever.  The incision has entirely healed up, though the place is still sore.  Byrd came here from Waycross with a couple of men from there, one of them said to be a dentist.  A week ago all the papers of the state had a sensational story of the great horned wonder.
    The man who was arrested for passing the Honduras dollars gives his name as J. C. English.  It is said that he has several hundred dollars of the money and passed them on a number of people here.  The amount of the coin which he is said to have had with him gave ground to the belief that he was engaged in a swindling game – on money as well as with the freak.

In the same edition of the Waycross Weekly Herald, frontman J.C. English told his side of the story:

1902-mar-22-horned man-exposed-jc-english-explains

Waycross Weekly Herald
March 22, 1902

J. C. English Explains.

The Man Arrested For Passing Honduras Dollars Has His Say.
Below we publish a statement from J. C. English. A notice of Mr. English’s arrest, last Friday, in Valdosta, was published in Saturday’s Herald. He was tried before a special session of the City Court of Valdosta Saturday afternoon and convicted of cheating and swindling. The fine and cost in the case amounted to $56. Mr. English paid the amount and was released and returned to Waycross Sunday morning.  Following is Mr. English’s statement:

Waycross, Ga., March 17, 1902.
I, J. C. English, the man that was arrested in Valdosta on the charges of passing Honduras dollars as Uncle Sam’s coin and cheating ans swindling, and as having hundreds of the coins in my possession, state that the charge is false.  Therefore I desire to explain the whole thing fully to the public, and will truthfully do so.
     Mr. Elias Howell is the man who had full charge of the said Calvin Bird and everything pertain to the concern, even to the Honduras dollars mentioned, and kept them in his possession in a large leather grip, and he took it with him all the time, to boarding places, etc.  I did not own any interest in either tent, negro, coins, or anything else pertaining thereto. I was only employed by Dr. J. R. Dedge to go with Mr. Howell and act as door keeper and talk on the outside to the people for him for so much per day and railroad and hotel expenses paid;  and as to my passing the coins across the counters as Uncle Sam’s money, I deny the charge.  I did not do anything of the kind, and can safely say that if any of the Honduras coins were put across the counters that Mr. Howell is the man that passed them, and not I, and his manner of acting is almost full proof of it; for he left me in the night-time without letting me know anything of his leaving, which in my belief is sufficient evidence that he was uneasy about his doings and afraid to remain in town for fear that he would be dealt with, therefore he left me there to be accused and dealt with for his misdemeanors.   J.C. ENGLISH.

[The Herald felt satisfied from the first that Mr. J. C. English had not been guilty of the charges made against him at Valdosta, and is pleased to publish the above statement from him.]

Despite this setback, it appears that Dedge and Medders were not deterred.  It is said that they amassed a fortune touring the country to exhibit their horned man, variously billed as the “Wild Man of Central America,”  “Wild Man of the Okefenokee,” “Wild Man of Africa,”  or “Wild Man of Borneo.”

Calvin Byrd’s part in the story continued when he surfaced at a Syracuse, NY hospital.

1902-aug-25-wildman-wants-horns removed

Waycross Journal
August 26, 1902

Wild Man from Borneo Again

He turns up at Syracuse N. Y. and Wants Horns Removed.

Calvin Bird, the “wild man from Borneo” who started his career from Waycross some months ago and ran amuck at Valdosta a few days later, has again come to the  front, this time at Syracuse, New York.
    Dispatches from that city say that Calvin Bird, a negro who hails from Pearson, Ga., and who has been touring the country with side shows ans circuses as the “Wild Man of Borneo,” appeared at the Hospital of the Good Shepherd today and informed the house surgeon that he had come to have his horns removed.  The physician was somewhat amazed at first, but upon noting the earnestness of the man, made an examination of his head.
    Under his scalp was found that a silver plate had been inserted, in which stood two standards.  On these standards, when he was on exhibition, Bird had screwed two goat horns, and thousands of people have paid admission to see his horns and hear him bark.
    Bird says he met a doctor in Central America who took him to the hospital in Pearson [GA] and had the plate inserted, first giving him an anaesthetic, and when he awoke he found the plates in his scalp, with two horns protruding.  The plate will be removed tomorrow morning.  The operation, the doctors say, will be a simple one.

In 1905, the Syracuse Journal of New York state reported once again on the “Wild Man from Borneo.”


The Syracuse Journal
Syracuse, NY
January 4, 1904

“Wild Man” is Better

    Although a diligent search has been made by the police for James Woods, the negro, who it is alleged stabbed Calvin Bird, the “Wild Man from Borneo,” in the Oriental hotel last Saturday morning, no trace of him has been found.
    It was stated at St. Joseph’s hospital that Bird’s condition has improved and it is expected that he will be discharged in a few days.

Dr. Julian ~ Railway Surgeon

For a brief period in the late 1890s, Dr. Bailey Fraser Julian, Jr. made his practice as one of the Medical Men of Ray’s Mill (now known as Ray City). A fire on the night of Monday, October 3, 1898 burned out his drug store and office (see Dr. B.F. Julian Burned Out at Ray’s Mill).

For some time Dr. Julian made his home in Clinch County, GA. He also practiced medicine in Tifton, GA and in Florida.

Dr. Julian was active in the Plant System Railway Surgical Association.  The Plant System included the Brunswick & Western Railroad which ran 171 miles from Brunswick, GA to Albany, GA and passed through Waynesville, Waycross, Waresboro, Pearson, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma, Vanceville, and Tifton.


Railway surgery comes to us as one of the latter-day necessities, in the growing demand for special recognition of certain conditions which have sprung up out of the general order of medicine.  While injuries upon the railway have existed ever since the birth of the iron highway, yet anything peculiar or distinct in regard to them did not impress the observer until, as time advanced and this traffic became general, the injuries multiplied so rapidly that their peculiar features made themselves apparent to those coming into contact with such cases. As all the nowaday specialties have been born in substantially the same manner, so railway surgery takes its stand upon the ground that distinct features mark the necessity for special consideration of the wounds received in railway work. The surgeon who makes a special study of these features and their appropriate treatment, by coming more frequently into contact with this class of injuries, is entitled to be recognized as a railway surgeon.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

Fig. 5. - 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the transportation room into the operating room, showing operating table and other arrangements; also shows the passageway to the opposite end of the car.

Fig. 5. – 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the transportation room into the operating room, showing operating table and other arrangements; also shows the passageway to the opposite end of the car.

Fig. 6. - 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the operating room into the transportation room, showing beds made up ready for occupancy.

Fig. 6. – 1899 Hospital Car (Plant System, Fla.), looking from the operating room into the transportation room, showing beds made up ready for occupancy.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

1899 Hospital Car. Railway Surgery: A Handbook on the Management of Injuries.

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James R. Johnson and Ruby Knight

James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight

James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight, Ray City, GA

James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight, Ray City, GA

Ruby Texas Knight (1891 – 1977)
Ruby Texas Knight entered this world on October 11, 1891, a daughter of Jimmie Gullette and Walter Howard Knight. She was married to James Randall Johnson on April 21, 1910 and the couple made their home next door to her father’s place on the Valdosta Road, Ray City, Georgia. Ruby Knight Johnson died June 17, 1977 and was interred at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

James Randall Johnson (1886-1955)
James Randall Johnson was a son of Mary Elizabeth Truett and James R. Johnson, born November 8, 1886 in Berrien County, GA and raised in Rays Mill (later Ray City). He was a younger brother of  Meritt E. Johnson, who later served in various public offices in Milltown, GA.    As a young man, James Randall Johnson worked as a farmer. The census of 1940 shows James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight renting a house on North Street in Ray City. At that time James was working as a carpenter, constructing houses. He died March 14, 1955 and was buried at Beaver Dam  Cemetery, Ray City.

John Thomas Clower, Doctor of Ray’s Mill

As mentioned in the previous post, Witchy Women and Wiregrass Medicine, John Thomas Clower was one of the early Medical Men of Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City). He practiced medicine in the Ray’s Mill community from  about 1870 until 1887.

John T. Clower was born May 13, 1830 in Gwinnett County, GA, the first born child of Daniel Pentacost Clower and Parthenia Carter Brandon. His grandfather, Daniel Clower, “was born in Germany, July 18, 1762, immigrated to America as a youth, and fought with the colonists in their struggle for independence.” Both his parents died in 1845; he and his siblings were raised by an uncle, Joseph Brandon. Some time before 1860, he came to Berrien County, GA and was enumerated in the household of another uncle William Brandon, where he worked as an overseer.  In 1861 he attended Atlanta Medical College, graduating in 1862.

In December, 1869 about the time he returned to Rays Mill, he married “Delusky Ann Brogdon, who was born in Gwinnett county, Georgia, on March 7, 1849, a daughter of Hope J. Brogdon.”  The 1870 Census of the Ray’s Mill District shows that he was a physician with $125 in real estate and $425 in personal property. His neighbors were Thomas J. Brantley and William R. Brandon.

The community of Ray’s Mill proper, such as it was at the time, was situated on Land Lot 424, 10th Land District,  a block of 490 acres. The Berrien county property tax digest for 1878 shows Dr. Clower owned 12 acres in the  Rays Mill  community on Land Lot 424, valued at $125, and $150 in household belongings, $235 in livestock, and $20 in books and tools. His “town” neighbors on Lot 424 included Jonathan D. Knight and  John G. Knight. Additional portions of Lot 424 were held in the estate of Thomas M. Ray.


John T. Clower is listed in the 1886 Medical and Surgical Directory of the United States as the physician in Rays Mill, GA.

 Harden, William. 1913. A history of Savannah and south Georgia, Volume II, Illustrated. Chicago and New York. p. 937-939

 “John Thomas Clower, M. D., the eldest child of the household, was born in Gwinnett county, in Georgia, May 13, 1830. He availed himself of every opportunity afforded him for the acquiring of an education while young, and subsequently went to Bartow county, Georgia, as an overseer on the plantation of his uncle, Thomas Brandon. Then, after working at the carpenter trade for a short time, he entered the Atlanta Medical College, from which he was graduated just as the war between the states was declared. Immediately enlisting as a soldier, he was made second lieutenant of his company, which was attached to Major Laden’s Battalion, in the Ninth Georgia Regiment, and with his command joined the Western army. Later Dr. Clower was appointed surgeon, and was with the army in its many campaigns and battles until the last of the conflict.”

 “Locating in Gwinnett county when he returned to Georgia, Dr. Clower was there engaged in the practice of medicine until 1870. The next seventeen years he practiced at Rays Mill, Berrien county, Georgia, from there coming to Brooks county in 1887. Buying a plantation in the Morven district, he carried on farming in connection with his professional work, becoming noted both as an agriculturist, and as a physician of skill and ability, and continuing thus until his death, March 12, 1893.”

“Dr. Clower was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church South, to which Mrs. Clower also belongs, and for a number of years served as a member of the county school board. Mrs. Clower has never forgotten the art of spinning and weaving which she learned as a girl, but occasionally gets out her wheel and spins the yarn which she later knits into stockings. The doctor and Mrs. Clower reared three sons, namely: John P., R. Jackson and W. L. Pierce Clower.”

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