Levi J. Knight ~ Wayne County Beginnings

  1. Wayne County Beginnings 1803-1827
  2. Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836
  3. Seminole Wars 1836 – 1842
  4. Antebellum Wiregrass 1843 -1860
  5. Civil War 1861-1865
  6. Wiregrass Reconstruction 1866-1870

In November of 1827 Levi J. Knight  became the original settler at Beaverdam Creek, Lowndes County, GA (now Berrien county). At the age of 24, he was already a leader,  experienced in military matters and in civil service. He was a man of action, an Indian fighter, and he was among the earliest pioneers to settle in the Wiregrass area of southern Georgia.    To this newly opened land he brought his new bride, Ann D. Herrin Knight. The couple had married just a few days earlier, on Nov 14, 1827 in an area of Wayne County that is now Brantley County, Georgia.

Levi’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight, brothers Aaron Knight, William C. Knight, Jonathan Knight and others of the family connection had preceded them, having settled in Lowndes County two years earlier.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community first known simply as Knight,  that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

Wayne County Beginnings

Levi was born on the first of September, 1803 in Wayne County, Georgia.  His mother was Sarah Cone Knight; his father, Elder William Anderson Knight.  Levi grew up in Wayne County at the southern frontier of the young American nation. Wayne county had only been officially created by the Georgia General Assembly just three months before he was born. This land had been the ancestral home of the Creek Indians, and there was continuing conflict between the Native Americans and encroaching settlers. Despite efforts of the state of Georgia to take the Creek land by treaty,  conflicts continued as the Georgia Land Lotteries brought more settlers to the area.

Levi J. Knight’s family had been among the first to settle in Wayne county, his parents having arrived there in 1803 prior to his birth.  The Knights were well positioned in the community, and already had a long tradition of military service.  Both of Levi’s grandfathers were veterans of the Revolutionary War. His paternal grandfather, John Knight, had been a  sergeant in the 1st Georgia Battalion of Continental Troops in the American Revolution and had received several land grants in South Carolina, Georgia, and in Spanish Florida.  On his mother’s side, his grandfather was William Cone,  a Baptist pastor and Revolutionary soldier who served as a captain  in McLean’s Regiment of Georgia Troops, under General Francis Marion.  William Cone served as a major in the 1st Battalion of the Richmond County Militia  (see Levi J. Knight’s Military Heritage).

While Levi J. Knight was a young boy, his uncle Jonathan Knight was sheriff of Wayne County from 1810-1812 and became Captain of the Wayne County militia in 1813.  No doubt Captain Knight regaled his young nephew with pioneer tales- true stories all – of cattle ranching, tracking run-away slaves, and fighting privateers in Spanish Florida. At just 15 years old,  Levi J. Knight served as a private in the Wayne County militia. The militia was engaged in defending the frontier settlers from Indian attacks that continued even after the Creek War of 1814.

On May 3rd, 1824 extant legal records note that Levi J. Knight, along with Robert Stafford posted sureties in the amount of $500 for Sibbiah O’Neil [or O’Neal] for the guardianship of Martha and Mary T. O’Neil. The O’Neals were friends of the Knights.  Later, Sarah Amanda “Sallie” O’Neal,  daughter of Henry O’Neal and Jane Dowden, would marry Levi J. Knight’s nephew, Levi J. Knight, Jr. (son of John and Sarah Knight).

Before he was 21, on June 16, 1824 Levi was appointed as Sheriff of Wayne County to serve out an unexpired term. Shortly after that, his parents relocated to the soon-to-be-created Lowndes County area.  His father, William A. Knight, was elected as the first state senator from the new county, and his brother Jonathan was elected as the first representative.  Levi J. Knight served on the jury in the first Superior Court of the new county.

According to state records, in 1826 Levi J. Knight was working  as a state surveyor mapping land in north Georgia newly ceded by the Creek natives.  The Official Register of Land Lottery of Georgia, 1827 shows he was a “fortunate drawer” in the land lottery of 1827, having received Lot 223, District 23, Section 1 (Lee County, GA),  in the drawing of April 24,  1827.

It was in this situation that Levi courted and smartly married the former Mrs. Ann Donald Herrin. She was the 25 year-old daughter of  William and Elizabeth Clements, a well-to-do family of Wayne County. Levi J. Knight and Ann Herrin were wed on November 14, 1827 in Wayne County, Georgia.  Jonathan Knight, Justice of the Peace completed the marriage license.   Just days later, the newlywed pioneers headed south to settle on Beaverdam Creek in Lowndes County (now Berrien), Georgia.

From 1832 to 1840 Levi J. Knight was elected six times to the Georgia Assembly as the Senator from Lowndes County. His father had served in the same office before him.  L. J. Knight was a contemporary of John M. Berrien, for whom Berrien county was named.

Children of Levi J. Knight and Ann D. Clements Herrin:

  1. William Washington Knight – born about 1829 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Mary Elizabeth Carroll; died December 27 , 1863 Berrien County, Georgia
  2. Elizabeth Knight – born  April 14, 1830, Lowndes County, Georgia; married Hardeman Sirmans; died September 6, 1912, Berrien County, GA
  3. John Graham Knight – born June 23, 1832 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married 1) Eliza B. Carter, 2) Mary Ann Davis; died May 8, 1908 Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia
  4. Sarah “Sally” Knight – born April 6, 1831 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Gideon Gaskins; died April 13, 1903
  5.  Mary Adelaide Knight – born about 1836 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Thomas M. Ray; died November 11, 1923
  6. Levi A. Knight – born about 1838 Lowndes County, GA; died about 1856
  7. Jonathan David Knight – born April 2, 1840 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Emily E. Brandon; died March 9, 1884
  8. Keziah A. Knight –  born about 1843 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married James Aaron Knight

Sources:

  1. Huxford, F. (1922). Marriage Licenses Wayne County, Ga. in The South Georgia historical and genealogical quarterly A quarterly magazine devoted to the history and genealogy of southern Georgia and its settlers. Homerville, Ga: [s.n.]. Copied from Book “C” of transcribed records, pages 176 to 204, Covering Years 1809 to 1850. Available online at http://www.archive.org/details/southgeorgiahist00huxf
  2. Huxford, F. 1951. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Vol 1. pg 159
  3. Hill, L. 2005. The CONE FAMILY HISTORY and its Variants such as MacCone, Kohn, Coan: Scotland/Ireland immigrants to USA. pgs 1822-1823
  4. http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~soup/Campbell/ps36/ps36_337.htm
  5. Huxford, F. (1916). History of Clinch County, Georgia, , comp. and ed. by Folks Huxford. Macon, Ga: J.W. Burke. pg. 265
  6. OLD RECORDS BOOK “H” OF BONDS, WAYNE COUNTY, GEORGIA, COURT OF ORDINARY, FIRST 77 PAGES in THE SOUTH GEORGIA HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL QUARTERLY. , VOL. 1, JULY 1922, NO. 3, pp. 03-05.
  7. Houston, M. L. (1929). Reprint of Official register of land lottery of Georgia, 1827. Columbus, Ga: Printed by the Walton-Forbes.
  8. Huxford, F. (1922). Marriage Licenses Wayne County, Ga. in The South Georgia historical and genealogical quarterly A quarterly magazine devoted to the history and genealogy of southern Georgia and its settlers. Homerville, Ga: [s.n.]. Copied from Book “C” of transcribed records, pages 176 to 204, Covering Years 1809 to 1850. Available online at http://www.archive.org/details/southgeorgiahist00huxf
  9. Georgia. (1927). Georgia’s official register. Atlanta: The Dept.
  10. New Georgia Encyclopedia. John Macpherson Berrien (1781-1856). http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-3239
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Ray City Class of 1930 Didn’t Walk

It is that time of year when communities and schools everywhere celebrate the graduation of their students with the presentation diplomas in graduation exercises.   Sadly, financial exigencies 0f 1930 precluded graduation exercises for the Ray City School Class of 1930.

At that time, the operation of the Ray City school was governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees which also operated under the Berrien County School Board. The local school trustees were elected on the calendar year,  not the school year, and served a two year term.  Thus, the Ray City school trustees elected in January of 1929, Joseph Henry Pascal “Joe” Johnson, Rozzie P. Swindle and Moses Albert Studstill, along with three returning members, Dr. George Hill Folsom, Elias Moore “Hun” Knight, and William Henry Edward Terry, were responsible for the spring semester of the 1928-1929 academic year and the  fall semester of the 1929-1930 academic year.

The Nashville Herald
Jan 24, 1929

Ray City School Trustees named for the year 1929.

The Ray City School Trustee election  was held last Saturday, Jan. 12., and the following citizens will guide the destinies of the school for the year 1929: Mr. W. H. E. TerryDr. G. H. Folsom, Mr. E. M. Knight, Mr. M. A. Studstill, Mr. R. P. Swindle, and Mr. J. H. P. Johnson.

    Both Mr. Studstill and Mr. Swindle offered for re-election, with Mr. J. H. P. Johnson the only new candidate in the race, Messrs. Terry, Knight, and Folsom were held from the last term. Mr. Studstill lead the list with 40 votes, Mr. Johnson 38 and Mr. Knight 6.

    The Ray City school is reported as having had a very fine fall term of school and with the fine corps of teachers and their board of education, on of the best years in the history of Ray City Schools we be completed in June.

The 1928-29 academic year had been quite full of accomplishments for the Ray City School, despite a flu outbreak in January.  But the 1929-30 academic year was a financial challenge, and the school struggled to remain open for the entire nine month school year. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term.

The Nashville Herald
May 22, 1930, front page

Ray City School Closes May 25th

COMMENCEMENT BEGINS TONIGHT AND ENDS SATURDAY EVENING WITH THE USUAL CLASS PLAY

      The Ray City School will come to a close Saturday night when the Senior Class play, entitled “A Hen-Pecked Hero,” will be given.  The commencement will begin tonight with the grammar school program, activities being postponed from Friday night on account of the Nashville Senior Class play.  Due to the school being run on a tuition basis, the commencement sermon and the graduation exercises will not be held.

      The Senior Class has been practicing daily for the past several weeks in preparing for the class play to be held Saturday night.  It is said to be very good and should draw a large attendance on that night.

Cast of Characters

Helen Hallmark, a college senior, Mable McDonald.
Doris Dartless, another senior, Doris Swindle.
Botzky, a rushing Russian, J.T. Smith.
Lilly, Russia’s fairest lily, Edra Byrd.
Barker, a defective detective, W.H. Knight.
Ted Slocum, the football coach, Bernard Johnson.
Mrs. Holden, why son-in-law left home, Beth Terry.
Iantha Brown, the romantic bride, Margaret Carter.
Prof. William Brown, her lesser half, Brown King.
Bud Cedman, with good intentions, J.R. Knight.
Countess Kalmanoff, the cause of it all, Virginia Knight.

      The Ray City school has enjoyed a very successful year and 225 students were enrolled.  At the end of the seventh month, it was feared that the school would be compelled to close down on account of finances, but public spirited citizens and patrons made the nine months term possible by contributions and placing the school on a tuition basis, which furnished the necessary money to continue operations.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Additional notes:

Mabel V. McDonald was a daughter of Carrie Eugenia Langford and Lacy Albert McDonald. She was a sister of Billie McDonald and Lillie McDonald.  Her father was a rural mail carrier at Ray City,GA serving the Cat Creek area.  Mabel attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia in the summer of 1931.

Doris E. Swindle was a daughter of Sarah Ellen “Stell” Daniel and James Henry Swindle. Her father was a farmer and merchant of Ray City, and served in the Georgia House of Representatives in the 1930s. Doris attended Camp Wilkins at UGA in the summer of 1931, and went on to attend Georgia State Womens College (now Valdosta State University). She was killed in an automobile accident in 1941.

J. T. Smith was  John Thomas Smith, son of Leila Terry and Grandson of Zack Terry.  J. T. Smith and brother, Edwin, later operated a dairy farm near Ray City, GA.

Edra Byrd was a daughter of Mattie Swindle Byrd, and a granddaughter of Mary Etta and Redding D. Swindle. In 1930, Edra was living with her grandparents. Her grandfather, Redding Swindle, served as Ray City’s first mayor and was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Ray City School.

W. H. Knight was a son of Josie Langdale and Paul Knight.  His father was a farmer of Berrien County.  W. H. Knight was a grandson of Jimmie Gullet and Walter Howard Knight.

Bernard Lamar Johnson was a son of James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight. In 1930 his father was a farmer near Rays Mill, GA. Bernard attended Camp Wilkins at UGA in the summer of 1931

Beth Terry was a daughter of Charles Oscar Terry and Esther E Russell.  Her father was a pharmacist and prominent businessman of Ray City. In the summer of 1931, Beth attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia.

Margaret Carter was born and raised in Ray City, GA. She was the daughter of Cora and Yancy F. Carter. Her father was a Ray City Councilman, board member of the Bank of Rays Mill, and operator of the Y.F. Carter Naval Stores, which in the 1930s was the largest firm in the community.  After completing school at Ray City, Margaret attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia in the summer of 1931. She went on to attend  Georgia State Womens College (now Valdosta State University).

Franklin Brown King was a son of Ida Guthrie and Jim King.  He went on to a long career as a merchant marine.

John R. Knight was a son of Walton and Mildred Knight. He later lived in Lanier County.

Virginia Florence Knight was a daughter of  Carl Herbert Knight and Mattie Julia Hadsock.  In 1934, she married William A. “Bill” Garner. The Garners would later run the Ray City Post Office.

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Wilma Harper Shultz Began 60-year Teaching Career at Ray City

Perry Thomas Knight Attended Oaklawn Baptist Academy

Perry Thomas Knight, subject of previous posts, studied the ministry at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Perry T. Knight was the son of George Washington Knight and Rhoda (Futch) Knight, and the grandson of Aaron and Nancy (Sloan) Knight, and of John M. and Phoebe (Mathis) Futch.  Knight grew up in Ray City and became prominent in local and state government.

Perry Thomas Knight image detail. Original image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Perry Thomas Knight image detail. Original image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

While a ministerial student at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in 1909, Perry Thomas Knight was already a popular preacher.

While a ministerial student at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in 1909, Perry Thomas Knight was already a popular preacher.

Young Preachers’ Good Work

Milltown, Ga., April 28 – Rev. P. T. Knight, one of the ministerial students of the Oaklawn Baptist college, who is pastor of Good Hope Baptist church, near Naylor, is having phenominal success in his church work, Rev. Knight at almost every service gets an accession to his church.  In addition to being pastor of Good Hope Baptist church, Rev. Knight is also pastor of Brushy Creek church, near Nashville, Lois church and Waresboro church, near Waycross.  H. D. Warnock, W. O. Young, Willie Chism, other ministerial students of the same college are doing great work as missionaries for the Baptist cause.

Oaklawn Academy

Oaklawn Academy

Work began on the school in 1905 and the construction progressed rapidly.

The Valdosta Times
June 23, 1906  pg 7

Work on Milltown School   

Work has been progressing bravely upon the Milltown college, a large force of hands being already at work.  The construction is being pushed as rapidly as possible on account of the desire to be ready to open the school as soon as possible.   The original plans called for the construction of three large buildings, though it is thought now that five buildings will be erected.    The building grounds are said to be the handsomest in the state and the college campus will be one of the prettiest in the south when it is completed.  It contains fifteen acres and a pretty creek runs through the groves making it easy to convert them into a beautiful park.

The Atlanta Constitution
August 20, 1907

NEW  EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION IS BEING BUILT UP AT MILLTOWN

The new buildings of the High school of the Valdosta Baptist association, at Milltown, Ga….are rapidly nearing completion and will soon be ready for occupancy.    The larger building in the center, in which the classrooms will be located, is practically finished.  It will easily accommodate four or five hundred students.  The smaller buildings on each side are the dormitories, one for boys and one for girls, each having accommodations for practically one hundred.    The large building and one of the dormitories have been erected on small subscriptions, not a single give of more than $1,000 having been received.  The other dormitory is the gift of one man, who agreed to furnish the money for it, if enough to completely pay the cost of the other two buildings was raised.  Of this amount only $10.000 is now lacking and strenuous efforts are being made by the Valdosta Baptist association to raise this sum.     Rev. Graham Forrester, formerly one of the most prominent lawyers of the state, but now missionary of the Valdosta Baptist association, which includes portions of Lowndes, Berrien, Echols, Coffee, Ware, and Clinch counties, with headquarters in Valdosta, has been put in charge of the work of raising this money and is now in Atlanta for that purpose.    Mr. Forrester, in speaking of the school, said that it was one of the most promising institutions in South  Georgia, ideally located, and with no other school of like character in its immediate section.  Its graduates are fitted for the sophomore classes of the large colleges.  The school is situated at Milltown, in Berrien county, owns 15 acres of land, through which a beautiful stream runs, and which is heavily wooded with water oaks.    The institution had last year, when it was run in connection with the Milltown public school, an attendance of 200 and an increase is looked for this term.    Mr. Forrester declared his intention of staying in north Georgia until he got his $10,000, “for,” said he, “south Georgia has been contributing to north Georgia educational institutions for years and it is now north Georgia’s time to help us.”

By fall of 1906 construction had progressed to the point where classes could begin. The school opened September 17, 1906.  A partial list of the administrators and faculty who served at the school has been gleaned from newspaper accounts.

Board of Trustees
Dr. John E. Barnard, President
Dr. W. S. Patten
S. K. Patten
J. H. Bostic
Lucius M. Stanfill
Ewell Brown
J. W. Garbutt
Reverend A. C. Pyle, 1909

Principal
1906-1911 James Cuthbert Wilkinson, Science and English Bible
1911 J. A. Lott
1911 Sidney J. Underwood
1916-1921 J.A. Lott, Jr.

Teachers
1906
Reverend L. R. Christie
M. W. Bargeron
Miss Annie Hall, A.B. – English and History
Miss Ossie H. Burruss, A.B.  – Latin and Greek
Miss Leila Connell, A.B. Mathematics
Miss Annie May Arnold, A.B., B.M. – Piano and Coronet
Miss Belle Brinson,  A.B., B.M. – Violin and Preparatory
Miss Elizabeth Morgan – Preparatory
Miss Davis, Oratory

1908
Miss Lizzie Morgan
1909
Miss Jessie Elliot, Elocution

1910
Miss Lizzie T. Bennett, Latin and English
Miss Etna Shaw, Principal of 6th, 7th, and 8th grades
Miss Fannie Clements, Primary Grades
Miss Ethel Jones, Instrumental and Vocal Music
Miss Kitty Watson, Oratory
Miss Orrie Brown, Shorthand and Typewriting

1911
Ruth Smith, Expression
Miss Addie Stansell
Miss Wells, Music

 

Construction on the school continued for years, sometimes in the face of financial challenges.  By spring of 1909 the main building was nearing completion.

 

The Atlanta Constitution
April 24, 1909

Big Time at Milltown

    Milltown, Ga., April 23.  – (Special.) –  The local Masonic Lodge is figuring on having a big time on the completion of the main building of the Oaklawn Baptist college situated at this place.  The Masons will lay the cornerstone with the usual Masonic ceremonies.  They expect to have Grand Master Jeffries and Grand Senior Warden Henry Banks and, possibly some other men who stand high in Masonry.  The Oaklawn school will also have, on the opening day, several prominent speakers, and together with the Masons, they expect to have a big time.    The date for this big occasion will be announced later, as the carpenters and painters are putting the finishing touches on the building now.

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W.R. McClure Resigns as Ray City Principal

The McClures were a Kentucky family and came to Georgia sometime before 1940. By 1945, William R. McClure, his wife Annie Myrtle Hawk, and daughters Reba and Sarah were living at Ray City, GA.

W. R. McClure was employed as the principal at the Ray City School.  The January 7, 1947 minutes of the Berrien County Board of Education show that he worked to build up the school:

Berrien County Board of Education Minutes, January 7, 1947

¨       Four members of the Ray City School Board and the local Supt., Mr. W.R. McClure, met with the Board to discuss their need a gymnasium and several classrooms.  It was the opinion of all present that the only recourse possible was the inclusion of the need in a county bond issue at the proper time.
Transcript courtesy of Skeeter Parker

At the end of that school year, William R. “Mac” McClure announced that he would give up his position as principal of the Ray City School to go into business for himself.  The business, a bookkeeping service called “Mail-Me-Monday, was described in a  previous post.

The Nashville Herald
May 15, 1947 – Pg 1

W.R. McClure Resigns Ray City School To Enter Private Business

      W.R. McClure, superintendent of Ray City high school the past two years, has resigned to enter a business of his own in Ray City.  The resignation is effective at the end of the present school term.

      Mr. McClure will be affiliated with a national organization known as “Mail-Me-Monday” Bookkeeping and Tax Method.  His Franchise is composed of 27 counties in South Georgia with an area office in Atlanta.

      The patrons and pupils of the school regret his leaving but wish him success in his new business.

      Many friends of Mr. and Mrs. McClure are happy to know that they will still make their home in Ray City, with Mrs. McClure continuing her work as mathematics teacher in the Ray City school.
Transcript courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Anna Hawk McClure, wife of W. R. McClure was a math teacher at the Ray City School.

Anna Hawk McClure, wife of W. R. McClure was a math teacher at the Ray City School.

 

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Jehu Patten and the Serpent

Jehu Patten

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten was a  farmer in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA and a confederate veteran.  During the Civil War he served first with Company K, 5th Georgia Regiment and later as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, 54th Regiment Ga. Inf. along with John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie, William Henry Outlaw, Matthew H. Albritton, Benjamin Sirmans and other men of Berrien County who served in the same unit.  In late 1864 he was furloughed home on sick leave and remained there through the end of the war.

Afterward he became a quite accomplished farmer of Berrien County.  The Jehu Patten farm consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (In 1902, Jehu Patten sold this farm to John Levi Allen – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

As a farmer, Jehu had an interest in and respect for the natural world.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Tifton Gazette November 15, 1895  Pg 3 Mr. Jehu Patten, from up in the Ray’s Mill neighborhood, was in town  this week and had a snake about four inches long and as large around as a straw.  He found the little snake in the road and caught it and put it in an envelope. The snake was the smallest we ever saw.  – Times.

Two months later, the Gazette noted: 1896-jehu-patten

Tifton Gazette January 24, 1896  Pg 4 The writer had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Jehu Patten’s a few days since, who lives near Rays Mill.  The weather was very cold, but after I had been there some time, he took me around to show me the results of his last year’s work.  The corn crib was the first place.  To my surprise I found he had gathered between seven and eight hundred bushels of corn, and one hundred of rice, next was the sugar house, and as I entered the door I found on my right three hundred gallons of syrup jugged and sealed, and on my left, up on shelves, five dozen fruit jars, containing apples, pear and peaches, and under the shelves was ten fifty-pound cans of lard, all full.  Next came the meat-house, and there I found he had 5,000 lbs. of meat, and about 75, or 100, lbs, of sausage, and has hogs enough yet to kill to last his family two years.  His meat was fattened on pinders, and it is ascertained that he has now in the field 80, or 100 bushels.  To go with his meat he has about an acre of turnips.  I did not visit his potato house but judge them by his other crop, and by those on his table. This Mr. Patten made with two mules and two negro boys.  He has enough stored away to supply his family three years.  Shurely, he ought to be happy.  He has raised and reared his children to a high degree of civilization, and has only three children, Miss Emma, J. M. and J. L. Patten, and all three are well educated, especially in vocal and instrumental music.  All are working to the highest aspiration.     Oh that we had more such men as him!  Yours for more,   AJAX.

Children of Jehu John Patten and Mary Ellen Lancaster:

  1. William H Patten (1865 – 1886)
  2. George T Patten (1867 – 1890}
  3. James Marcus Patten (1869 – 1944)
  4. Joseph Lacy Patten (1874 – 1898)
  5. Emma Patten (1879 – )

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Year of the Tiger

In Wiregrass Georgia, 1849 may have been the Year of the Tiger.  Several previous posts have related the story of the Berrien Tiger, a large panther which attacked Jim Hightower (aka James Stewart, step-son of Thomas B. Stewart) near the Alapaha River in 1849 (see Eyewitness Accounts of the Berrien Tiger).

Here is a family story shared by reader Lloyd Harris, of another “Tiger”  encounter which occurred that same year near Argyle, GA, about 35 miles east of Ray City.

When I was young my grandfather related a long ago memory of his grandfather’s encounter with a panther or panthers in the south Georgia wilderness. Our family story coincides with the Berrien Tiger accounts as they happened at approximately the same time. My great great grandfather, James Harris, told this story of his own childhood to my grandad when he was young.

James Harris, 1880s

James Harris, 1880s. Image courtesy of Lloyd Harris.

The  incident happened when James Harris was about five years old, and coincides with the 1849 date of the Berrien Tiger.

Family of James Harris

James Harris was the first of eleven children born to George Harris and Julia Ann Westberry. He was born near Quitman, Georgia, February 16, 1844. 

His father, George Harris, was the son of Thompson Harris (1784-1870) and Nancy Ursery (1784-  )   A Confederate Widow’s Indigent Pension application for Julia Ann (Westberry) Harris in 1908 reflects George Harris’ birth in 1817 in South Carolina. Another source relates that he was born in Appling County, Georgia between 1817 and 1822, after which the family lived in Clinch County.  George was a blacksmith and in addition assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges. His father’s work was known throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. A trademark of their bridges was the integrated use of iron and bored wooden pegs to hold the timbers together.

George was a blacksmith and wheelwright. Family tradition relates that he assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

The church records of Union Church show that George and Julia Harris were received and baptized into its membership August 7, 1841, and were dismissed by letter March 12,1842. They became members of Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844. Their subsequent records cannot be traced due to the loss of church records.

The Harris home and farm in Clinch County, Georgia was on lot 325 in the 7th District which lot was traversed by the county line between Clinch and Ware Counties when Clinch was created in 1850 from Ware County. This property is situated about three miles north of the present village of Argyle. George Harris was granted this lot from the state on June 3, 1849; also granted the adjoining lot 324 on October 3, 1848. He sold lot 324 to his brother, William Harris, November 2, 1849, and then lived on lot 325 until he sold that parcel of land to Richard Bennett on August 12, 1852.

Tale of the Panthers

There is a family tale handed down through many generations relating to frontier life. The event happened in 1849 during the time the Harris family was residing in Clinch County. George Harris was away leaving his wife Julia and the children home alone in a pioneer homestead. Speculation would be that he was away with his father building bridges or hunting. During one night panthers roaming from the nearby Okefenokee swamp menaced the home ranging closer and closer to the cabin. To keep the predators from entering the home the frantic family prayed through the night and burned their beds, and chairs keeping a large fire going. The tactic flushed the space with light and served to repel an attack by the curious cats.

The Harris family story of a young pioneer family praying, hanging blankets over windows, and burning the bed, tables and chairs was passed down serving to entertain several generations with a true historical drama of frontier Georgia living in the nineteenth century.

George and James Harris in the Civil War

George Harris  and his son James both served in the War Between the States. George  Harris enlisted as a Private in the fall of 1862 as a member of the 3rd Cavalry Battalion which was formed during the winter of 1861-1862 with six companies. He along with his unit served on the Georgia coast, scouting and patrolling, until a reorganization of troops occurred on January 1, 1863.  George Harris’ unit was merged into the 4th (Clinch’s) Georgia Cavalry Regiment , and he was placed in Company I. Lieutenant Colonel Duncan L. Clinch and Major John L. Harris were in command.

At the reorganization,  James Harris joined his father’s unit, Company I, 4th Georgia Cavalry as a private.  He participated in the Battle of Olustee, Florida and in the battles around Atlanta. Family tradition relates he contracted measles during the siege of Atlanta and was in the city when it fell to the Union armies under General William T. Sherman. His unit apparently left him outside of the city but in the line of the advancing enemy soldiers. James was convalescing on a farm (place unknown) when “Yankees” were seen approaching. He was hidden by the host family in the stump of a huge oak tree that had “bushed” up. James remained concealed in the oak bush throughout the hot summer day until the Yankees left. Though suffering from sickness, and within a stones throw of the Union soldiers, he remained quite and motionless evading capture! Records also indicate he participated in battle at John’s Island, South Carolina. He surrendered at Thomasville, Georgia and was paroled at Tallahassee, Florida on May 15, 1865.

After the war James Harris married Mary Alice Stone.  She was born February 16, 1842, the daughter of George W. R. Stone and Nancy Howell. The Harris and Stone families are listed in the 1850 Census of Ware County.  James and Alice raised a family and engaged in farming near Adel, GA in present Cook County. He was a skilled blacksmith and wheelwright, as well. James Harris is listed in the 1880 and 1900 census of Berrien County, Georgia.

For James Harris, 1897 was a particularly trying year.  That summer a hailstorm hit the Harris farm, damaging his house and property.

James Harris' plantation hit by storm, 1897.

James Harris’ plantation hit by storm, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
June 18, 1897

Storm Near Cecil.

Cicil, Ga., June 12. – A heavy and damaging hail storm passed three miles north of Cecil late yesterday afternoon.  The cloud traveled in a southeasterly direction, touching the plantation of Mr. James Harris, three miles northeast of this place.  The storm was accompanied by a terrific wind, which destroyed a large amount of Mr. Harris’ fencing and a portion of the roof of his dwelling.  No deaths or personal injuries have been reported.

In November, 1897,  Harris took another blow when his gin was burned down.

James Harris' gin house hit by fire, 1897.

James Harris’ gin house hit by fire, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1897

Gin House Burned

Cecil, Ga., Nov. 17 – At a late hour last night the gin house and contents of Mr. James Harris living two miles northeast of this place, was destroyed by fire. The origin of which is unknown, but is thought to be an incendiary’s work. The amount of the damage could not be learned to-day, but it is thought that it may exceed $1,000. SHEBA.

James’ father, George Harris,  died between 1892 and 1894 in Echols County, Georgia. His mother, Julia Ann Harris, applied for a Confederate Widows pension in 1908 and 1909 in Berrien County, Georgia. George Harris and his wife are buried in Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Lanier County, Georgia in unmarked graves.

In 1919, James Harris sold his farm near Cecil, GA.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

Tifton Gazette
August 29, 1919

    Adel News.  There has been a good deal of activity in the sale of farm lands in Cook county this week.  Mr. W. S. Kirkland sold his farm to Mr. Jim Buck Whiddon and later bought Mr. John Taylor’s place which he also sold.  It is understood that the first brought $15,00.  Both of the places are in the Brushy creek neighborhood.  Mr. James Harris sold his place in the Cecil district to Mr. General Taylor for $15,000 also.

James Harris was a resident of Cecil, Georgia in Berrien/Cook County until his death. He died in Adel, Georgia December 12, 1928.   Alice died October 28, 1928, in Adel Georgia.  They are both buried at the Fellowship Baptist Church Cemetery in Cook County near Cecil, Georgia.

Rjames-harris-gravesite

Special thanks to Lloyd Harris for the contribution of images and content for this post.

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Knights Come to Lowndes County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 a group of Revolutionary War “Baby Boomers” came west from Wayne County, Georgia to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the area that would one day become known as Ray City, Georgia.  They were  politically connected and probably had full knowledge that the huge area of Irwin county, occupying the central third of the southern Georgia, was about to be divided into smaller counties.

Among the leaders of this small band of settlers were William Anderson Knight and wife Sarah Cone Knight, his brother Samuel Knight, and his son-in-law Isben Giddens. They brought with them their families, children, livestock, and their possessions to make a new home in the new county of Lowndes, which was created from parts of Irwin County in 1826. These pioneers were experienced at opening up a new county. They were frontiersmen with militia experience, and also experienced at carving farms and plantations from the wilderness of the Wiregrass. In a sense, they were the first ‘Americans’, born between the time of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. They were raised in a time of war; their fathers served as Revolutionary Soldiers. Like the baby boomers of later wars, they grew up in a sort of post-war boom period, where Americans were celebrating their new-found independence and freedom.

The Knights were true Wiregrass pioneers. They came to this section from Wayne County, where William A. Knight had been among the very first settlers, arriving there about 1803. The Knight’s Wayne County place was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the earliest roads in Georgia. On the land adjacent to Knight’s, another Wiregrass pioneer, William Clements, had settled his family.  The Knights and the Clements became steadfast friends with many family and business dealings; William Knight and William Clements served together on the Wayne county Grand Jury of 1813 and worked together in other civic capacities.

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

The Old Post Road…was originally an Indian trail extending from St. Augustine, Florida, northward through south Georgia into the rolling country known as the Sand Hill section. Mitchell’s map of 1756, now in the Library of Congress in Washington, shows this trail. During the Revolutionary War the American forces marched along it on their way to attack a British contingent at Fort Tonyn, which was somewhere south of [U.S. Hwy 84]. Historians have not been able to determine the exact site. The road continued to be used as a stagecoach route and post road between Savannah and Florida until the War between the States.

When Wayne County had been created in 1803, William A. Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The Wayne county seat became known as Tuckersville, after resident John Tucker who served as the first postmaster there. (Waynesville was not officially designated as the county seat until 1829.) William A. Knight served as a post master after John Tucker, and William Clements served as a Wayne County road commissioner. Tuckersville  was located  somewhere north of Waynesville on the Post Road near the Buffalo Swamp, once the home and feeding grounds of herds of Georgia buffalo. The town disappeared from maps after 1850 and its exact location remains a mystery. wayne-historic-marker In its first twenty years, Wayne County was slow in developing.  William A. Knight served as the tax collector for 1806 and 1807, but no monies were returned to the state Comptroller General’s office for those years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia “The area contained hundreds of acres of pine barrens and wiregrass country. Much of the land was undesirable for settlement… Many of the early white settlers were families who, having lost their bids to win richer land in Baldwin or Wilkinson counties in the 1805 land lottery, settled for the isolation and less desirable land offered by Wayne County.”   Perhaps the lack of economic development in Wayne County finally discouraged the Knights. For whatever reason, it appears they decided there were better opportunities in opening up a new county than remaining behind in Wayne County.

As a member of the state Legislature, William A. Knight undoubtedly knew of the impending division of the vast Irwin County into smaller counties. The military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 had opened up the south central Georgia territory to pioneer settlers (see Daniel McCranie). Coffee’s road, as it was soon known, passed from Jacksonville, GA through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line.

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

When the Knights left their farms and came to south central Georgia to build their “log cabin in the wilds of the Wiregrass”, this area of Georgia was all part of the huge Irwin county. Lowndes was created from 2080 square miles carved out of Irwin, which had been plotted into Land Districts. Located on the center of Georgia’s southern border with Florida, Lowndes was still a quite large county. It would later be further divided into six present day counties; Lowndes, Brooks, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Lanier, and Berrien counties.

William Anderson Knight chose a home site on the northwest edge of Grand Bay in what was soon to be Lowndes County. This area, in the 10th land district of Irwin County, had good water and better soil than the typical pine barrens of Wayne County. It was situated between the Alapaha River to the east and the Withlacoochee and its tributaries to the west.

Children of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone:

  1. Thomas Knight, born February 6, 1799
  2. Kezia Knight, born November 20, 1801
  3. Levi J. Knight, born September 1, 1803
  4. William Cone “Big Billie” Knight, born October 8, 1805
  5. John Knight, born July 7, 1807
  6. Sarah Knight, born October 10, 1809
  7. Elizabeth Knight, born September 23, 1811
  8. Aaron Knight, born July 17, 1813
  9. Jonathan Knight, born January 16, 1817

William A. Knight’s place was near the route, such as it was, from Waynesville to Thomasville, GA. About nine miles to the west was Coffee’s Road; equidistant to the east was the site of Union Church, the Primitive Baptist church organized in 1825 by Reverend Fleming Bates and Reverend Matthew Albritton with the Knights, Pattens, Lees and Sirmans as founding members.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Knight and Union Church played a significant role in the rapid growth of Primitive Baptist churches throughout the Wiregrass region.  Union Church was at the head of the local organization of these churches into a Primitive Baptist Association, then known as the Ochlocknee Association. In 1833, Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association. By 1835,& when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee Primitive Baptist Association.

The Knight’s were influential in the development of Lowndes county from the very beginning, from the  convening of the first superior court to the representation in state politics. William A. Knight became the first state senator elected from Lowndes county to serve in the Georgia Assembly, and his son Jonathan Knight became the first state representative.

Following his parents , Levi J. Knight  brought his new bride, Ann Clements Herrin Knight, to homestead in Lowndes County in 1827. Anne was the daughter of the Knights’ Wayne County neighbors,  William and Elizabeth Clements.  L. J. Knight chose a spot not far from Grand Bay, on Beaverdam Creek,   where he established his  home site.  Perhaps even then he saw that the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek could some day be impounded to provide water power for a settlement.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community, first known simply as Knight, GA that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

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