Ray City was boyhood home of Morris Levin

Morris Levin

Morris Levin, 1931. Image detail courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Morris Levin, 1931.  Morris Levin grew up in Ray City, GA and was later instrumental in bringing industry to the Nashville, GA area. Image detail courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Morris Levin was born August 21, 1915,  in New Hanover County, North Carolina.  He was a  son of Nettie Simon and Abe Levin. As a child he came with his parents  to Ray City, GA where his father went into the grocery business for several years.  The 1920 census shows the family lived in a house on Jones Street, and that Abe Levin was a business owner and employer.  Abe Levin showed his support for the community with an advertisement in the 1929 debut of the Ray City News newspaper.

As a teenager, Morris Levin worked on the Ray City farm 0f Effie Guthrie Knight.  He assisted June Guthrie, Effie’s brother, with the farm labor.    June was responsible for the day to day operation of the farm from a young age, and was a farmer all of his life.  Later, the Levins moved to Nashville, GA and operated stores there for many years.    Whenever the Guthries shopped at the Levin store in Nashville, Morris always treated them with such cordiality and respect.  Many Ray City people, folks like Arrin and Verde Futch, continued to shop with the Levins at their Nashville stores.

Morris and Beverly Levin. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Morris and Beverly Levin. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Among the Levin’s good friends in Nashville, was Maude Sizemore.  Maude worked as a practical nurse, and was raising two boys on her own.  The Levins, through their community connections, were able to help Maude with good job opportunities.  One job was providing care for the children of Abraham Simon (A.S.) Harris,  a prominent merchant and owner of the largest department store in Ocilla, A.S. Harris Department Store.

 

Morris Levin,  photographed at Ivy Inn,  Berrien County, GA by A. W. “Wink” Rogers. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Morris Levin, 1965.  Photographed at Ivy Inn, Berrien County, GA by A. W. “Wink” Rogers. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

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Ray City Home of Perry Lee Pittman and Inez Webb

Ray City, GA

Perry L. Pittman and family lived in this Ray City, GA home in the 1940s.

Perry L. Pittman and family rented this Ray City, GA home in the 1930s and 1940s.

Perry L. Pitman was a son of Louranie W. “Rainey” Register and John Edward Pittman.  He was born December 3, 1898 in Clinch County, GA and lived for many years in Berrien County, GA.  As a young man, Pittman was of medium height and medium build, with blue eyes and black hair.  He first married Annie Jewel Fountain, on July 27, 1921 in Berrien County, GA.  She was daughter of William E. Fountain and Nancy Elizabeth Bradford.  After Annie’s death on July 17, 1934, Perry L. Pittman raised their children on his own of several years.

On November 27, 1935 Pittman married Vida Inez Williams,  the widow of Fred Williams.  She  was born August 9, 1903, a daughter of James Alford Webb and Pearlie Ann Register.  For a time, in the late 1930s and 1940s Perry and Inez Pittman made their home in Ray City, GA. Perry was a patrolman for the highway department, working 60 hours a week for an annual salary of $1200 dollars.

1940 census enumeration of Perry Lee Pitman and family in Ray City, GA.

1940 census enumeration of Perry Lee Pitman and family in Ray City, GA.

During this time Perry Lee Pittman also served as the State Representative from Berrien County, GA. In the state legislature he became noted for his opposition to the Grandfather Clause, the  Georgia Constitutional Amendment that violated the voting rights of African-Americans in Georgia. He was also noted for his opposition to religious ceremonies involving the practice of handling live rattlesnakes.

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Other public servants:

Perry L. Pittman Opposed Disenfranchisement of Georgia’s Black Voters.

In 1940s Perry Lee Pittman was a patrolman for the State Highway Department. He was renting a house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA where he lived with his wife, Inez, and their minor children: Howard Pittman, Tommy Pittman, Johnny Pittman, Meredith Williams,  and Cyril Williams.  He was a son of Louranie W. “Rainey” Register and John Edward Pittman.  He was born in Clinch County, GA and lived for many years in Berrien County, GA.

Perry L. Pittman served as the State Representative from Berrien County, GA, and was noted for his opposition to the  Georgia Constitutional Amendment that violated the voting rights of African-Americans in Georgia.

Perry L. Pittman, July 14, 1949, Chaplain of the American Legion, Otranto Post No. 115, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Perry L. Pittman, July 14, 1949, Chaplain of the American Legion, Otranto Post No. 115, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Perry L. Pittman was dedicated in service to his country and community.  He was a Ray City veteran of World War I, a teacher, law enforcement officer, and state legislator.  He was active in the American Legion and other civic organizations, and a member of the Primitive Baptist faith.

Perry L. Pittman, the State Representative from Ray City, GA.

Perry L. Pittman, the State Representative from Ray City, GA.

Atlanta Constitution
February 20, 1941

Representative P. L. Pittman of Berrien.

A representative for a decade, Perry L. Pittman now knows just what makes the wheels behind the law-making body of Georgia turn. He’s a teacher and a farmer and for 18 years has taught in the rural section.  A World War veteran who is most interested in education and agriculture, he is staunchly opposed to the grandfather clause.  He believes in economy and hopes to curtail expenditures whereby all past obligations may be paid in full and old people may receive their benefits through pensions.  He thinks pensions should be equally divided among the blind, cripple, and the dependent.  The solon is 42, married, the father of four daughters and one son.

THE GRANDFATHER CLAUSE

The Grandfather Clause was part of Georgia’s 1908 Disfranchisement Constitutional Amendment , an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that was written specifically to prevent African-Americans from voting in Georgia.  It worked by requiring voters to pass certain tests before they would be allowed to vote, but if your grandfather fought in the Civil War you were exempt from the tests.   According to the Georgia Info website:

In 1906, Hoke Smith campaigned for governor on a progressive platform — but one that championed disfranchisement of Georgia’s black voters. To accomplish this, Smith supported a constitutional amendment that provided that any male at least 21 years of age wanting to register to vote must also: (a) be of good character and able to pass a test on citizenship, (b) be able to read and write provisions of the U.S. or Georgia constitutions, or (c) own at least 40 acres of land or $500 in property. However, any Georgian who had fought in any war from the American Revolution through the Spanish-American War was exempted from these additional qualifications. More importantly, any Georgian descended from a veteran of any of these war also was exempted. Because by 1908, most white Georgia males were grandsons of Confederate veterans, this exemption became known as the “grandfather clause.” Essentially, the qualifications of good character, citizenship knowledge, literacy, and property ownership applied only to blacks wanting to register to vote.

Georgia’s Grandfather clause remained in effect until it was struck down by the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

American Legion Officers, July 1947

Perry Lee Pittman was sworn in as Chaplain of the American Legion Otranto Post 115 (Berrien County, GA) in July 1947, along with other officers. Image and original caption (below) courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.comAmerican Legion Officers, July 1947
The Georgia Legionnaire, August 1947
photo caption:
NEW OFFICERS FOR OTRANTO – Georgia Department Commander of the American Legion, W.E. Burdine (left), installed new officers of Otranto Post 115 (Berrien County) July 7 and is shown congratulating Fred T. Allen, post commander. Looking on are: E.A. Alexander, historian; P.L. Pittman, chaplain. Back row, left to right: Bennie L. Tygart, vice-commander; A.D. Harnage, sergeant-at-arms; Bayne Griffin, finance officer; R.E. Williams, adjutant. (Photo by Jamie Connell) 

From Ray City, the Pittmans moved to Nashville, GA.  Later they would live in Homerville, GA and Valdosta, GA.

Perry L. Pittman & family move to Clinch County

Perry L. Pittman & family move to Clinch County

Clinch County News
February 13, 1953.

Perry L. Pittman and Family Move Here from Nashville

    Mr. and Mrs. Perry L. Pittman and family have moved here [Homerville, GA] from Nashville.     A few days ago Mr. Pittman bought the new home recently build in Hodges Gary subdivision from Mr. A. C. Colley.     He is a field agent with the State Revenue Department, Sales tax Division working in Clinch, Lanier, Echols and Charlton Counties.     Mr. Pittman was born in Clinch County, but has spent most of his life in Berrien County.  He taught school for over 20 years and has served in both houses of the state legislature, from Berrien County.  He has been active in the American Legion and other civic organizations in Nashville and is a member of Long Bridge Primitive Baptist Church.

Children of Perry Lee Pittman and Annie Jewell Fountain (1900 – 1934)

  1. William Arthur Pittman (1921 – 1945)
  2. Thomas Pittman (1924 – )
  3. Perry Howard Pittman (1927 – 1995)
  4. John Wesley Pittman (1933 – )

Children of Perry Lee Pittman and Vida Inez Webb (1905 – )

  1. Meredith Williams (1925 – )
  2. Fred J. Williams (1927 -)
  3. Cyril Williams (1932 – )
  4. Glenda Faye Pittman (1939 – )

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Wiregrass Babes in Sugarland

To children of Wiregrass Georgia, sugar cane was the homegrown candy of choice.  The harvest of the cane crop, and cane grinding time was anticipated by children of all ages.

Children of the Cane. Children in Berrien County, as in other Wiregrass Georgia counties, looked forward to the sugar cane cutting with great anticipation. Pictured here are children of the Liles and Edson families together on the Leggett farm, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Children of the Cane. Children in Berrien County, as in other Wiregrass Georgia counties, looked forward to the sugar cane cutting with great anticipation. Pictured here are children of the Liles and Edson families together on the Leggett farm, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Sugar cane has been an integral part of Wiregrass culture since it was introduced into South Georgia in around 1828.  John Moore began the cultivation of cane when he settled near the Grand Bay swamp in Lowndes County.  By 1876 sugar cane was one of the staple field crops of South Georgia, and an important staple in the farming and agriculture of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), and the section. “Sugar, Syrup, and Molasses are made on a considerable scale in the southern part of this State from tropical Cane.” Hundreds of gallons of cane syrup could be produced from a single acre of sugar cane. In 1879 the Columbus Daily Enquirer reported, “The Berrien County News contends that cane planting can be made as profitable in Southern Georgia as in Mississippi, Louisiana or elsewhere, and that Southern Georgia syrup cannot be excelled by that made anywhere.”

In 1885, Montgomery Folsom, poet/historian of Wiregrass Georgia, wrote about the sweet childhood experience of sugar cane:

The Atlanta Constitution
June 24, 1885 pg 2

Down the River.

Now we have reached the point where the [Little] river widens out, and winds along through interminable swamps.  Here in the autumn the mellow haws hang red on the trees, and in the sweet Indian summer great festoons of wild grapes and “bullaces” hanging in mellow lusciousness from the vines which have twined their tendrils around the topmost boughs of the tall trees.  Fields of yellow corn cover the fertile hillside, the withered stalks rustling and creaking in the whispering breeze.  These farmers have inherited a goodly legacy in these broad acres. The cotton fields are white as snow, and the merry jests and hearty laugh attest the contentment of the laborers. In striking contrast with the brilliant colors of the autumnal foliage is the deep blue green of the sugar cane.  Through long years of cultivation in alien soil it has preserved its identity as a child of the tropics, and holds its green until the great leveler, Jack Frost, chills its sugary sap. Other plants have learned to adapt themselves to the new order of things, and shorten the season of their growth accordingly, but the sugar cane never ripens.  If I have dwelled long on the peculiarities of this plant it is because I have experienced so many perils and pleasures in connection with it.  Is there a south Georgia boy, to-day, who never slipped in at the back of the cane patch, starting nervously as he chanced to snap a blade, picking his way carefully until a selection was made, then cutting down the cane by easy stages, so that it would not crack loudly when it fell; carefully stripping of the blades one, by one, then stealing noiselessly out, ensconcing himself in a fence jamb and then – oh! the delicious taste of the juice! “Trebly sweet when obtained through so much peril. Hark! Ahem!” The boy springs to his feet and trembling in every limb beholds the “old man” leaning his elbow on the fence and watching him intently. “Ahem!” “Is it gittin’ sweet yet sonny?” But the boy is too dumbfounded to answer. ” “Well, I guess I’d better give ye a row, and you musn’t cut any out’n the rest of the patch.” Oh! Joy! In less than ten minutes every child on the place is informed that “pa has give us a row of cane to chaw.” And the old man stalks about in the potato patch in search of a late watermelon, an odd smile on his lips.  He passed the same experience some twenty or thirty years ago.

If you want to learn more about the traditions, practice and science of Georgia cane syrup making, be sure to see Bill Outlaw’s essays at Southern Matters http://www.southernmatters.com/  where he shares family history and research on sugar cane and syrup production, along with other connections to the past.

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Sesquicentennial of Ray’s Mill, 1863 – 2013

150 years ago…

According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coastal Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on February 23, 1870 in the community he founded.   Afterwards, Thomas M. Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate. Over time the mill became the focal point of the community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA, now known as Ray City, Berrien County, GA.