Ray City Water and Light
In the 1920’s the cities and towns of south Georgia were all working to bring electricity to homes and businesses. In fact, in the first six months of 1922, Georgia ranked 4th among all states east of the Mississippi in hydroelectric power production. At that time, 87% of all electricity generated in Georgia came from hydroelectric power. In Ray City, though, the people still relied on kerosene lamps or gas light.
In 1922, Milltown, GA (now known as Lakeland, GA,) began work on a one-thousand horsepower hydroelectric plant. The plant was expected to supply enough electric current for Milltown, Valdosta, and for other area towns including Ray City, GA.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution; March 12, 1922
Work Soon to Begin on Hydro-Electric Plant at Milltown
Milltown, Ga., March 12. –(Special.) — The town council has purchased water meters and light meters and as soon as they arrive they will be installed.
F.E. Hatch, of Albany, will begin work in a few weeks on the hydroelectric plant. He has been delayed by not securing right of way from some parties. The plant is to be located on Lake Irma with water piped from Burk’s Pond, a mile away. The plant will cost about $350,000. A thousand horsepower will be generated by the plant, current enough to supply cheap power for Milltown, Valdosta, Ray City, Adel, Sparks, Nashville, Ocilla and other towns.
Ray City wasn’t waiting for power to be run from another town, though. Funds were appropriated in sufficient amount, it was thought, to complete the construction of a municipal waterworks and power plant in Ray City, and a contract was let.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution; July 21, 1922
Ray City to Install Electric Light Plant
Milltown, Ga., July 21. –(Special.) Ray City is soon to have electric lights and waterworks.
Mayor L. F. Giddens has closed the contract with McGraw & Co., of Thomasville, to put in the plant. All material is bought and expected any day. Work has begun on wiring the homes, and this part of the work will be completed by August 1.
The contract also has been let for boring a well near the dam, and the city will be piped as soon as possible, to give the people both electric lights and waterworks. They will own their own hydro-electric plant.
Bonds have been sold to take care of the expense.
But the construction of the plant at Ray City didn’t progress well. The water quality from the deep well was bad, and the dam for the hydroelectric plant needed repairs before it was even completed. By the end of October there was still no power or water service in the city.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution; October 28, 1922
Ray City Will Get Water and Lights
Ray City, Ga., October 27. –(Special.) — The deep well at Ray City has struck a vein of sulphur water.
The pipes have been laid and are being connected. Citizens expect to have water in their homes in a few more days. The dam at Beaverdam Pond is being repaired and in the course of a few weeks, the wiring having already been done, Ray City will be equipped with electric lights.
Things got worse instead of better. Attempts to repair the dam failed, and when the dam finally broke the project was off schedule and hopelessly over budget. A year later the dream of cheap hydroelectric power in Ray City was running out. In the meantime the city was running a kerosene fueled motor to drive the electric generator. It would take another bond issue to continue the project, and the people of Ray City put it to the vote. The election at Ray City to float additional bonds, $5000 for school purposes and $7000 for water and lights, was carried 64 for and 4 against.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution; November 11, 1923
$12,000 Bonds Voted For Use in Ray City
Milltown, Ga., November 10 –(Special.) — The election at Ray City to float additional bonds, $5,000 for school purposes, and $7,000 for water and lights was carried 64 for and 4 against. Several years ago Ray City floated bonds sufficient, it was thought, to build a new school building, but building expenses exhausted the funds and left the building incomplete. As soon as the new bonds are sold, the work on the building will be completed and Ray City will have one of the best modern school buildings in the state.
It was also thought that sufficient funds were appropriated to put in a waterworks and electric light plant. But these funds gave out before the work was what they wanted. There is a hydroelectric plant. The dam was broken some time ago and the light is furnished now by a powerful kerosene engine. The funds to be raised by these additional bonds is for the completion of this work.
On January 5, 1928 the Georgia Power & Light Company purchased the Ray City Electric plant, for the sum of $3,816.
On Beaverdam Creek, just east of the Pauline Street bridge, are the concrete remains of the Ray City hydroelectric dam. Nearby, the remnants of a mechanical shed remain. The old Ray City water tower was torn down and sold for scrap a few years ago.
- 1922 Ray City Elections
- Lyman F. Giddens’ Barbershop
- Everything is Illuminated in Ray City, GA
- Mayor Lyman F. Giddens Brings Electric Plant to Ray City ~ 1922