Notes on Sarah Malinda Clements

Sarah Malinda Clements (1862-1947)

Sarah Malinda Clements was born March 12, 1862 in Berrien County, GA. She was the youngest of 13 children born to David G. Clements and Gincey Sirmans.  She was a sister of Levi Jordan Clements, who was the patriarch of the Clements sawmill business at Ray City.

Sarah’s parents were pioneer settlers of the area. They were married in Lowndes County, GA on January 1, 1835.   Her father came with his parents to Lowndes County about 1832.  Her grandfather William Clements and William A. Knight had been neighbors in Wayne County, GA, and her aunt Anne Donald Clements had married Levi J. Knight in 1827. Her mother was  Gincey Sirmans, a daughter of Abner Sirmans and Bettie Kirkland. Abner Sirmans, his brothers, and father, Josiah Sirmans, were among the first permanent settlers of Clinch County, GA, having arrived there in 1822. Her aunt Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans married Etheldred Dryden Newbern, another pioneer settler of Berrien County.

Sarah’s father and both of her grandfathers, fought under the command of their friend and neighbor Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1836-1838.  David G. Clements, William Clements and Abner Sirmans all served with Captain Knight’s Independent Company. David Clements was among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Soon after marriage, David G. Clements acquired lot of land 406, 10th district, on which he lived and farmed until his death. He was cut into Berrien out of Lowndes County, 1856. In Berrien County, the Clements home place was in the 1144th Georgia Militia District just north of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

lot-470-471-maps-w-roads-ac

In 1854, Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Clements, married William Gaskins. The Clements were neighbors of William Gaskins, son of Fisher Gaskins.   The Gaskins were another of the early pioneer families of Berrien County.  William Gaskins came to the area with his father and brothers, John Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins, with their large herds of cattle,  about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek (site of present day Ray City, GA).

At the outset of the Civil War, Sarah’s father and brother, John C. Clements, answered the call of General Levi J. Knight to form a company of men for Confederate service; their names appear on an 1861 muster roll of the Berrien Minute Men.  John C. Clements served with Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment; David G. Clements later appears on the 1864 census of southern men who were excluded from the draft on account of age.

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

Sarah, born during the Civil War, grew up on her father’s farm during the Reconstruction period in Georgia.  She attended the local country schools and was educated through the 5th grade. It appears that she lived in her father’s home until his death in 1888.

Although  Sarah married twice, she was not lucky in love. She did not marry until the age of 36.

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

In the Census of 1880, 18-year-old Sarah Ann Clements was enumerated by Census taker Lacy Elias Lastinger in her father’s household. Also present was Sarah’s older sister Mary Ann, to whom she was devoted for life, and their siblings.  Next door were Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clements, and her husband William Gaskins. Also neighbors were William’s niece Mary Evelyn Gaskins and her husband George W. Fender.

On October 26, 1898 Sarah married William J. “Bill Jack” Knight.  He was born in 1860, but otherwise little is known of his history. The ceremony was performed by Albert Benjamin Surrency in Berrien County, GA.

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements and William J. Knight are enumerated together in the census of 1900 in their Rays Mill home. Sarah’s spinster sister, 59-year-old Mary Ann Clements, had also come to live in the Knight household.   Sarah’s brother, John C. Clements, and his family remained as neighbors, as did George W. Fender.

William and Sarah owned their farm near Ray’s Mill  free and clear of mortgage.  Only one offspring was born of this union, but the child died young.

William J. Knight died on January 22, 1909 at his home near Ray’s Mill, GA.

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

Information reached here Monday of the sudden death of Mr. “Bill Jack” Knight, a prominent resident of the Ray’s Mill district. Mr. Knight had been slightly indisposed for two or three days.  After eating a light supper Friday night as he was sitting at the fireside he suddenly fell over and died.  Mr. Knight was fifty years of age and was married about seven years ago to Miss Sarah Clements, of this place.  He was laid to rest at the Beaverdam burial grounds.  – Milltown News.

The widow Sarah Knight was enumerated (as Sarah Clements) in 1910 with her sister Mary Ann Clements in their home just east of Ray’s Mill.  They were neighbors of John B. Fountain and Frank Gallagher.

Some time before 1920 Sarah married for a second time, joining in matrimony with James W. Suggs.  He was from Dooly County, GA, a son of Malinda “Lynne” Ammon and Wright Suggs.

Sarah and James W. Suggs were enumerated together in the Census of 1920, at their farm on a settlement road near Ray’s Mill. Sarah’s sister and constant companion, Mary Ann Clements, resided with the Suggs.  On adjacent farms were Parnell Knight and Henry D. Bennett.

The 1926 Influenza epidemic reached its peach in Georgia in March;  1926 was the worst flu year since the pandemics of 1918-1919 which had claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 30 million worldwide. Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Clements, at the age of 86, succumbed to Influenza, dying  on March 26, 1926.  She was attended by her nephew, Dr. Henry W. Clements, who was a son of Rowena Patten and Levi J. Clements.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery.

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Sometime between 1920 and 1930 James W. Suggs died, leaving Sarah widowed for the second time. Sarah, now on her own, boarded in the farm home of Sherrod Winfield Fender and his wife, Lula Bell Smith. Sherrod was a son of George W. Fender, and a neighbor of Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, and Phil McGowan. Also lodging in the Fender household was Chester Nobles.

Sherrod W. Fender died in 1931, but Sarah continued to live with the widowed Lula Smith Fender. The 1940 census shows Sarah Suggs enumerated as a “companion” of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

Sarah Malinda Clements Suggs died April 8, 1947.   She was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City, GA. (Lula Fender was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church.)

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Advertisements

Eliza Allen and Sovin Knight

Eliza Allen (1862-1945),  wife of Sullivan J. “Sovin” Knight

Eliza Allen Knight. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Eliza Allen Knight. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Bryan Shaw has written about the life and family of Eliza Allen in the Shaw Family Newsletters.  She was a daughter of Barzilla Allen and Rachel Moore Allen and sister of John Levi Allen and William Barzilla Allen.  “She was born October 31, 1862, four months after the death of her father, Barzilla Allen, who had died of measles while serving with the Confederate Army in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

Her mother remarried in 1866 to Francis Marion Shaw,  a veteran of the Civil War who had lost his right arm in a skirmish near Cedar Key, FL in 1864, and who raised Eliza and her brothers as his own children. Eliza grew to womanhood on her step-father’s farm at the community of Lois near Ray City, GA.  “She was educated in the rural schools of the Lois, Georgia community, and attended the Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church with her mother and siblings…. At the age of 17, on June 6, 1880, she married Sullivan Jordan “Sovin” Knight, son of John W. Knight and Candacy Leaptrot.” Sovin’s brother was Primitive Baptist minister, Aaron Anderson Knight, of Ray City. The marriage was performed in Berrien County by William H. Snead, Justice of the Peace.

1880-sullivan-j-knight-marr-cert

In 1878, Sovin Knight was a young farmer who owned 50 acres of land in section 375 of the 10th district, on the northeast bank of Cat Creek,  about four miles north of  Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  This was probably part of his father’s holdings. The land was valued at $250 and he had livestock valued at $100. Bryan Shaw describes the land dealings of Sovin Knight in detail in his Shaw Family Newsletters.

Sullivan Jordan

Sullivan Jordan “Sovin” Knight. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

After marriage Eliza and Sovin moved just southeast across Cat Creek to the adjacent land lot 408, to a 113 acre farm situated on Indian Camp Branch.  Within a few years Sovin was farming 412 acres slightly farther to the northeast on lots 364 and 365 on the north side of Indian Camp Bay, about six miles northeast of Ray City.  Sovin worked this farm on Indian Camp Bay for the next twenty years on his own account or on behalf of his father, John W. Knight.  Nearby were the farms of Levi J. Gaskins, John A. Kirkland, and Joe S. Clements.

Children of  Eliza Allen and Sullivan Jordan Knight

  1. Marion Mansfield Knight – born  May 9, 1881, Berrien County, GA; married November, 1906 to Mollie Gaskins, daughter of Levi J. Gaskins ; died March 20, 1940
  2. Effie J. “Sissy” Knight – born  August 15, 1882, Berrien County, GA; married Eldrid “Dred” Guthrie on October 17, 1900; died September 25, 1935
  3. Lillie C. Knight, – born February 2, 1885, Berrien County, GA; died March 12, 1885.
  4. Infant son Knight – Born and died about 1887
  5. Leland Thomas Knight – born  July 17, 1888, Berrien County, GA; married Lillie Sirmans on September 23, 1909; died May 8, 1949
  6. Ada Virginia Knight  – born  January 31, 1889 Berrien County, GA; married Joseph Redding “Buddy” Gaskins  September 1, 1907;  died March 5, 1964
  7. Fannie E. Knight – born  November 14, 1890, Berrien County, GA; married Sanford Gideon Gaskins about 1908; died May 16, 1969
  8. Rossie O. Knight – born  August 28, 1892 Nashville, GA; Never married; Served in France during WWI and with the Army of Occupation in Germany;  died November 16, 1963; buried Pleasant Cemetery,  near Ray City, GA
  9. Ida Lena Knight – born  October 22, 1898, Berrien County, GA married Edgar Ezekiel Hickman June, 1914; died February 17, 1977
  10. Rachel Knight – born May 1, 1901, Berrien County, GA; married Robert Talmage Chism about 1916; died January 7, 1985
  11. Ora Kathleen Knight – born May 16, 1904, Berrien County, GA; married Henry Alexander Swindle November 24, 1920; died June 2, 2003, at Savannah, GA.

Eliza and Sovin suffered a serious setback when the Knight house burned down in January 1909 while they were attending the funeral of  Sovin’s aunt Rhoda Futch Knight.

In January, 1911 Sovin J. Knight sold the remaining farm property in Berrien county to  Dr. Pleasant H. Askew,  prominent physician, businessman and landowner of Nashville, GA,  and moved Eliza and their four youngest children to Brooks county, near Barney, GA.

Eliza Allen and Sovin J. Knight lived in this home at Barney, GA in 1911.  Photographed in 1998.  Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation www.berriencountyga.com

Eliza Allen and Sovin J. Knight lived in this home at Barney, GA in 1911. Photographed in 1998. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation http://www.berriencountyga.com

Shortly after their move to Barney, “on April 16, 1911, just 26 days after the purchase of the new farm, Sovin suffered a severe heart attack and died in his new home. He left his wife of 31 years, a widow with three children, a survivor once again.” Sullivan Jordan Knight was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

After settling the estate of her husband about 1914, “Eliza and her two daughters returned to Berrien county, where she moved into her parents’ farm home just outside of Ray City.  She joined the newly constituted New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City by letter of transmission.

About 1917,  she moved with her aging parents into town to a new home located on the north side of Jones Street and just  east of Ward Street.

Home built circa 1917 for Francis Marion and Rachel Horne Shaw was later the residence of Gordon V. Hardie and wife, Addie Hodges Hardie.

Home built circa 1917 for Francis Marion and Rachel Horne Shaw was later the residence of Gordon V. Hardie and wife, Addie Hodges Hardie.

Eliza lived with her parents in their  Ray City home, raising her last two children, until November, 1920, when her youngest daughter, Kathleen was married to Ray City merchant Henry A. Swindle.

Henry and Kathleen took Eliza into their home on Main Street, Ray City, GA, where she resided for the following 25 years… She spent most of those years involved in the social and religious functions of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church in Ray City,  an association which she dearly loved.”

Eliza Allen Knight with her granddaughter, Carolyn Swindle, daughter of Henry and Kathleen Knight Swindle.  Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation www.berriencountyga.com

Eliza Allen Knight with her granddaughter, Carolyn Swindle, daughter of Henry and Kathleen Knight Swindle. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation http://www.berriencountyga.com

Ann Eliza Allen Knight,  passed away on November 4, 1945, at the age of 83.  She was buried next to her husband at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Grave of Sullivan Jordan Knight and Eliza Allen

Grave of Sullivan Jordan Knight and Eliza Allen

Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for research, content and images contributed to this article.

Billy McDonald at the University of Arizona

Billie McDonald, University of Arizona, 1952

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA at the University of Arizona, 1952

Billie McDonald, a son of Lacy Albert McDonald and Carrie Eugenia Langford, was born  November 10, 1920 at Ray City, GA.  He was a grandson of William C. McDonald and Jane Lastinger McDonald.

Billie and his sisters attended the Ray City School.  Mabel McDonald graduated from the Ray City  School (then a junior high school) with the class of 1930 and went on to graduate from Valdosta High School in 1932.   Eugenia McDonald graduated  from Ray City High School with the class of 1936, and Billie McDonald graduated with the RCHS class of 1938.  One of Billie’s classmates at Ray City was  J.I. Clements who went on to a long coaching career at Georgia Southern University.

Billie McDonald’s father, Lacy A. McDonald, (1881-1960) was born at Cat Creek, Lowndes County, GA and worked in the Cat Creek District as a rural mail carrier. Lacy McDonald was probably educated at Kings Chapel School near Ray City, as was his sister, Lillie McDonald, who attended the school in 1906.

Billie’s mother, Carrie Eugenia Langford (1894-1984), was born at Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) on August 31, 1894, a daughter of William E. Langford and Mary Virginia Knight, granddaughter of William Washington Knight, and great granddaughter of Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City, GA.  Her parents owned a place between the farms of her uncle Walter Howard Knight and cousin Paul Knight.

Lacy McDonald and Carrie E. Langford were married on January 3, 1915 in Berrien County, GA. The ceremony was performed by Perry Thomas Knight, Minister of God. Afterward,  they made their home at Ray City, on the farm of Carrie’s parents.  Lacy continued to work as a rural mail carrier.  His 1918 draft registration gives his physical description as short and slender with brown eyes and dark hair.

In the summer of 1931,  ten-year-old Billie McDonald, his sister Mabel and their mother all went to Camp Wilkins, the first 4-H camp in Georgia.  Camp Wilkins was a program at the Georgia State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts at Athens, GA, now known as the University of Georgia.  Billie and Mabel were there for the summer-long boys’ and girls camps. Their mother, Carrie McDonald, was there for a week long session for Farm Women.  Also attending from Ray City  that summer at Camp Wilkins were Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936), and girls Clyde Carter (RCHS 1936), Margaret Carter, Clyde Moore, Doris Swindle, and Grace Swindle.  Chloe Johnson was there also, attending the summer school for farm women.    The 4-H activities in Berrien County were coordinated by County Agricultural Agent Donald L. Branyon.

Billie Graduated with the RCHS class of 1938.  In 1950, he was enrolled at the University of Arizona.  While pursuing his degree there he was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA, attended the University of Arizona in 1950. Billie was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA, attended the University of Arizona in 1950. Billie was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

 The only prerequisite for membership in Ramblers,  Arizona’s hiking club, is an incurable wanderlust. Ramblers departed regularly each Sunday for many points of interest in the Southwest, including Miller Peak, Mt. Lemmon, and Baboquivari Peak. The Rambler pin identifies those who have tramped on a required number of hikes.

Billie McDonald married Lucile “Lucy” Ponsell (Lucy) McDonald (1921-2008). She was born near Waycross GA  and lived in Jacksonville, FL during her early life. She also lived in Arizona, Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi before settling in Ray City, GA. She was a volunteer at  the Ray City library. She was a member of the First Baptist Church in Ray City where she also worked in the church library.

Related posts:

 

King’s Chapel School

King’s Chapel School
Portions reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletters courtesy of Bryan Shaw

King's Chapel School

King’s Chapel School

Ω

kings-chapel-2

King’s Chapel School

Ω

King's Chapel School

King’s Chapel School

Several schools in lower Berrien county provided the basic education for local families around the turn of the century. The Pine Grove and Kings Chapel schools were filled with the children of Rachel and Marion Shaw. The Pine Grove schoolhouse is no loner standing, but the Kings Chapel school is still weathering the years. It is located just across the county line, and sits just around the corner from its original location.

The two-room schoolhouse has tongue-and-groove wallboards which were covered with a mixture of charcoal and egg whites to create a dull black surface. This sufficed as a blackboard. Each classroom had a wood burning stove for heat. One room has doors opening to each side, while the other has two doors to the front side. A single door joins the two rooms in the center wall. The structure formerly had a porch on the front wall, which was used as a stage for plays and graduation days.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported the Kings Chapel School as one of only two libraries in Berrien County, the other being at the Ray City School.

The school also served as a voting precinct. It was in use until the school districts were combined in the mid-1930s.

Today the schoolhouse serves as a storage shed, owned by David Fields. His mother, Eva Pearl Gaskins, taught there a number of years.

 ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

1905 Staff

  • M.G. Knight, Principal
  • Susan Parish, 1st grade license, former principal of River Bend School
  • Lillie Brown, Assistant teacher

1905 Students

  • Neta Bradford
  • Susie Mathis
  • Carrie Lou Williams
  • Pearl Smith
  • Ilah Peters
  • Perry Swindle
  • Johnnie Mathis
  • Frank Shaw
  • Lonnie Smith
  • Eugene Mathis
  • Caulie Smith
  • Mansfield Smith

1906 Staff

  • Mr. James B. Peters, Principal
  • Mr. Thomas E. Casey
  • Miss Susie Parrish

1906 Student Officers of the Kings Chapel School Literary Society

  • J.W. Deans, President
  • Leon Parrish, Vice President
  • Lillie McDonald, Secretary
  • Callie Hightower, Assistant Secretary

Other 1906 students:

  • David Mathis, 4th Grade
  • Maggie May Smith, 4th Grade
  • Lonnie Swindle, 4th Grade
  • Arlie Gaskins, 4th Grade
  • Cora Shaw, 4th Grade
  • Mary Deane, 4th Grade
  • Alma Smith, 4th Grade
  • John Deane, 5th Grade
  • Tom Smith, 5th Grade
  • Martha Hall, 5th Grade
  • Caulie Smith, 5th Grade
  • Idella Williams, 5th Grade
  • C.C. Smith, 7th Grade
  • Clarence Bradford, 7th Grade
  • C.W. Bradford
  • Martha Hall
  • Eva Williams
  • H.E. Mathis
  • Charles Dean
  • Ilah Peters
  • Iva Williams
  • F.H. Gaskins
  • Shelly Mathis
  • Susie Mathis
  • Cora Webb
  • Eugene Mathis
  • Billie Peters
  • Perry Swindle
  • Mansfield Smith

1907 Staff

  • John Smith (of Nashville), Principal

Other Kings Chapel Students and Staff

  • Susie Bullard
  • Fannie Bullard
  • Sallie Bullard
  • Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw
  • Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw
  • Mary Idell Shaw,  attended 1918-1924
  • Charles Bruner Shaw, Jr, attended 1930
  • Ina Weaver Brown, taught 1930

Related Posts:

 

Rossie O. Knight and the WWI Victory Medal

Rossie O. Knight (1892-1963)

Rossie O. Knight as a young Soldier. Born August 28, 1892, Rossie O. Knight grew up in Ray City, GA.

Rossie O. Knight as a young Soldier. Born August 28, 1892, Rossie O. Knight grew up in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation, http://www.berriencountyga.com

Rossie O. Knight was a son of Sovin J. Knight and Ann Eliza Allen,  and grew up on his parents’ farm near Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He moved with his parents to the area of Barney, GA in 1911. His father, Sovin J. Knight, died April 16, 1911 shortly after the move.

Rossie joined the Army in 1913. He was stationed at Fort Hancock, NJ until August 1917 when he shipped out to France with the 1st Division.

WW1 Victory Medal US 1st Div of the type awarded to Rossie O. Knight.

WW1 Victory Medal US 1st Div of the type awarded to Rossie O. Knight.  Image source: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/169740-ww1-5-bar-victory-medal/

Rossie O. Knight’s service records show he participated in four major 1918 offensives of World War I: Montdidier-Noyon, Ainse-Marne, Saint Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne.  He also served in the Toul Defensive Sector. In recognition of this service he received the WWI Victory Medal with five clasps.

Wikipedia provides the following description of the Victory Medal:

 “The front of the bronze medal features a winged Victory holding a shield and sword on the front. The reverse features ‘THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION’ in all capital letters curved along the top of the medal. Curved along the bottom of the back of the medal are six stars, three on either side of the center column of seven staffs wrapped in a cord. The top of the staff has a round ball on top and is winged on the side. The staff is on top of a shield that says “U” on the left side of the staff and “S” on the right side of the staff. On left side of the staff it lists one World War I Allied country per line: France, Italy, Serbia, Japan, Montenegro, Russia, and Greece. On the right side of the staff the Allied country names read: Great Britain (at the time the common term for the United Kingdom), Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, Rumania (spelled with a U instead of an O as it is spelled now), and China.  Battle clasps, inscribed with a battle’s name, were worn on the medal to denote participation in major ground conflicts.  For general defense service, not involving a specific battle, the “Defensive Sector” Battle Clasp was authorized. The Defensive Sector clasp was also awarded for any battle which was not already recognized by its own battle clasp.”

The Victory Medals were awarded after the end of World War I.  Veterans completed an “Application for Victory Medal” and the medals were mailed to the servicemen instead of awarded in person. For example, the boxes containing the Victory Medals for United States Army World War I veterans were mailed out by the depot officer at the General Supply Depot, U.S. Army, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in April 1921. An outer light brown box with an address label glued to it and its postage area marked “OFFICIAL BUSINESS, Penalty for private use $300” contained an inner white box stamped with the bars the serviceman was supposed to receive on his medal. The inner white box contained the medal, which was wrapped in tissue paper.

 

Rossie O. Knight Application for Victory Medal, WWI

Rossie O. Knight Application for Victory Medal, WWI

Rossie O. Knight WWI service record

Rossie O. Knight WWI service record

Rossie O. Knight arrived with the 1st Division in Europe on August 7, 1917.  According to the First Division Museum at Cantigny:

The 1st Infantry Division was literally America’s first division. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, it had no divisions. President Woodrow Wilson promised the Allies he would send “a division” to France immediately. Four infantry regiments (16th, 18th, 26th and 28th) and three artillery regiments (5th, 6th and 7th) were ordered from the Mexican border in Texas to Hoboken, NJ, to board transports for France. On June 8, 1917, Brigadier General William Sibert assumed command of them as the “First Expeditionary Division.” Organized as a “square” division of more than 28,000 men, the First Division was twice the size of either the Allied or German divisions on the Western Front.

From September 21, 1917 to August 6, 1919 Rossie O. Knight served with Company C, 1st Division Ammunition Train (1 Div Am Tn on his service record).  Fellow Berrien countian John Bullock Gaskins was also serving in Company B, of the 1st Division Ammunition Train. The Ammunition Train was a convoy of trucks and wagons:  “For a Division, the ammunition train consists normally of four wagon companies and four truck companies.  This very important unit carries rifle ammunition to the Infantry, and shells to the Artillery.  Usually, the moving of ammunition is accomplished under cover of darkness, but in the big offensives the ammunition trucks are kept going day and night.”

WWI Soldiers loading ammunition for transportation

WWI Soldiers loading ammunition for transportation

The First Division won the first American victory in World War I at the Battle of Cantigny. Cantigny is a small village north of Paris, in the Picardy region of France. Held by the German Army, Cantigny formed a dangerous salient in the Allied lines. On May 28, 1918, the First Division attacked and defeated the German forces in the village and held it against repeated German counterattacks, despite suffering more than 1,000 casualties. The success raised the Allies’ morale, convinced the British and French that the Americans were capable of operating in independent fighting units, and disproved German propaganda about American incapacity.

From  August 22 to October 18, 1917 the 1st Division Ammunition Train and Rossie O. Knight were attached to the Scottish 15th Division at Le Valdahon, France.  According to the U.S. Army Handbook of Ordnance Data, Valdahon was a Field Artillery training camp, where troops were issued 75-mm guns and 155-mm howitzers, and received technical instruction in their operation.

campvaldahon12

Camp Valdahon, France

 

 

MONTDIDIER-NOYON (June 9-13,1918)

Sergeant Rossie O. Knight and the U.S. 1st Division were assigned to the Montdidier-Noyon sector when the Germans made an offensive  there on June 9-13, 1918.  Service in this sector proved to be typical active trench warfare, and the companies of the Ammunition Train were occupied ferrying small arms munitions and artillery rounds to the front lines.

The German infantry launched an attack on the night of June 8-9, 1918.  Twenty-one German divisions attacked the French on a twenty-three mile front extending from Montdidier, France to the Oise River at Noyon.

Effects of artillery shelling, Montdidier, France, WWI

Effects of British artillery shelling, Montdidier, France, WWI

The main assault was against the left of the French division which was on the right of the U.S. 1st Division; In this action the U.S. 1st Division took artillery fire and repelled diversionary raids. The battle was opened by an intense German artillery bombardment, which began at midnight…there was an extensive use of gas, both chlorine and mustard.  The Germans attempted to neutralize the Allied artillery batteries by firing on them with phosgene and mustard gas. Along the roads shrapnel was used and the front positions were shelled with gas and high explosives. The assault continued during the next five days. Though the U.S. 1st Division was not directly engaged, it was subjected to intense artillery fire and its units participated both defensively and offensively in several raids.  The Germans advanced from 2 to 5 km. (1.2 to 3.1 miles) and came close to breaking the Allied lines. But the French had anticipated the assault, and the counterattack was successful in holding the Germans.  This was the first repulse of a German offensive in 1918, and is regarded by some authorities as the true turning point of the war. Activities then diminished rapidly, relatively speaking, but from the time that the 1st Division captured Cantigny until it turned that sector over to the French, there was continuous heavy shell fire, with gas attacks and many raids, though all of the last mentioned were repulsed successfully.   The fighting was over by June 12, 1918. The fighting capacity of  the  German army was critically damaged with little to show for the heavy losses incurred.  For Rossie O. Knight personally, the Montdidier-Noyon Offensive was up and down. He started out the battle as a Sergeant, but on June 11, 1918 he was busted down to the rank of Private for some unknown infraction.

The Ainse-Marne Offensive (15 July – 6 August 1918)

By the end of June, Rossie O. Knight had at least regained his status as PFC. He continued to serve with the 1st Division Ammunition Train,  keeping the front lines supplied with ammunition through the Allied counter-offensive known as the Aisne-Marne Campaign.  The Ainse-Marne action also known as the Second Battle of the Marne,  began on July 15, 1918 when 23 German divisions attacked the French Fourth Army east of the city of Reims, France.  Just days earlier on July 10th, fellow Berrien countian Lawrence Ryan Judge, a sergeant with the 1st Division’s 26th infantry, was killed in action.

In the Ainse-Marne Offensive, British, French and American troops,  including the U.S. 1st Division, held the Germans back for three days at the Marne River.  Even before the German offensive on the Marne, the Allies had been planning a massive counterattack in the area.

July 1918, men of the US 1st Division waiting to enter the Ainse-Marne Offensive.

July 1918, men of the US 1st Division waiting to enter the Ainse-Marne Offensive.

After three days of fighting at the Marne, it became evident the German offensive was weakening.  The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by French forces and including several hundred tanks overwhelmed the Germans on their right flank, inflicting severe casualties.  The Allied counterattack was launched on July 18, with fourteen divisions including the U.S. 1st Division.

 

WWI Ammunition Train, July 18, 1918

WWI Ammunition Train, July 18, 1918

According to J. Rickard,  “All around the line the Allies advanced between two and five miles. That night the Germans were forced to retreat back across the Marne river. The rapid Allied advance threatened German communications within the salient and even offered the chance of trapping the German troops around Château Thierry.”   One Berrien county solider who fought at Château Thierry was Private John Lory McCranie, of Adel, GA.  McCranie was fighting with the 42nd Division and also later saw service at Saint Mihiel, Argonne Forest and Sedan. He died shortly after the war as a result of having been gassed.

1918-7-25-moving-up-to-marne-salient

July 25, 1918. Trains moving up to the Marne salient.

Faced with this massive Allied counterattack the Germans dropped back to form a new defensive line along the line of the Aisne and Velse rivers.  As the Germans fell back and the 1st Division moved up,  Rossie O. Knight also advanced, moving to the rank of Corporal on August 1, 1918.

The new German line began to form up around August 3. On  August 6, the Americans probed the new line and were repulsed, ending the offensive, but the German defeat marked the start of the relentless Allied advance.

Saint Mihiel Offensive (September 12-16, 1918)

Since the fall of 1914, the Germans had occupied the Saint-Mihiel salient, a triangular wedge of land between Verdun and Nancy, in northeastern France. By heavily fortifying the area, the Germans had effectively blocked all rail transport between Paris and the Eastern Front. This position had constantly threatened Paris and forced the Allies to maintain defensive positions. It was at a forward listening post at the front lines of Saint Mihiel that Lorton W. Register, of Ray City, had been killed by artillery shelling in March, 1918.

After the Ainse-Marne Offensive in July, General John J. Pershing and Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch decided that the 1st Army of the AEF should establish its headquarters in the Saint Mihiel sector and challenge the German position there.  The attack at the St. Mihiel Salient was part of a plan by Pershing in which he hoped that the American forces would break through the German lines and capture the fortified city of Metz.  Thus, on September 12, 1918, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) launched its first major WWI offensive operation as an independent army.

The attack began with the advance of Allied tanks across the trenches at Saint Mihiel, followed closely by the American infantry troops. Foul weather plagued the offensive as much as the enemy troops, as the trenches filled with water and the fields turned to mud, bogging down many of the tanks.

st-mihiel2

Stalled ammunition wagon holding up an advancing column on the second day of the Saint Mihiel Offensive, September 13, 1918

 

The ammunition convoys to which Corp. Rossie O. Knight was assigned worked around the clock for 80 hours to  keep the advancing American troops supplied.  Also present  during the Saint Mihiel Offensive were Lieutenant Asbury Joe Hall, Jr. and Private John Bryan Thomas, both of Adel, GA, and Private Carlie Lawson of Ray City.   Lieutenant Hall was attached to Company “H,” 3rd Infantry and had been in France since January 1918.  During that time he had been gassed once and wounded twice;  Hall’s luck ran out on the second day of the Saint Mihiel Offensive, September 13, 1918 when he was struck and killed by an artillery shell fragment. John Bryan Thomas served on the Ammunition Train for the 5th Division. Thomas contracted Influenza which resulted in his death on August 15, 1918.  Private First Class Carlie Lawson fought at Saint Mihiel with Company G, 11th Infantry.

Supply trains during the St. Mihiel Offensive, September 1918

Supply trains during the St. Mihiel Offensive, September 1918

Despite the conditions, the American attack proved successful—in part because the German command made the decision to abandon the salient—and greatly lifted the morale and confidence of Pershing’s young army. By September 16, 1918, Saint Mihiel and the surrounding area were free of German occupation.

Machine gunners and supply trains at St. Mihiel

Machine gunners and supply trains at St. Mihiel

But the U.S. offensive at St. Mihiel faltered as artillery and food supplies were left behind on the muddy roads. Plans for the attack on Metz had to be given up. As the Germans fell back to new positions the American forces immediately shifted further south where they combined with British and French forces in a new offensive near the Argonne Forest and the Meuse River.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive

In the wake of the U.S.-run attack at Saint Mihiel, some 400,000 U.S. troops were assigned to the region to participate in what was to be the final operation of the war, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, also known as the Battle of the Argonne Forest.  Under the command of  General Pershing, the American-led attack began at 11:30 pm on September 25, 1918  with a six-hour-long  artillery barrage against the German positions. The preliminary bombardment, using some 800 mustard gas and phosgene shells, killed 278 German soldiers and incapacitated more than 10,000.  The infantry assault, carried out by 37 French and American divisions, began at 5:30 the next morning with the support of more than 700 Allied tanks and some 500 aircraft from the U.S. Air Service.  Led by the advancing tanks, the infantry troops advanced against German positions in the Argonne Forest and along the Meuse River aiming to cut off the entire German 2nd Army. By the morning of the following day, the Allies had captured more than 23,000 German prisoners; by nightfall, they had taken 10,000 more and advanced up to six miles in some areas. The Germans continued to fight, however, putting up a stiff resistance.

On September 30, Pershing called a halt to the Meuse-Argonne offensive, but operations were resumed October 4.

The Germans were exhausted, demoralized and plagued by the spreading influenza epidemic, whereas arriving U.S. reinforcements where strengthening the Allied advance.  American reinforcements in transit to Europe included hundreds of Georgia soldiers, dozens from Berrien County, who went down with the ill-fated troopship HMS Otranto off the coast of Islay, Scotland on October 6, 1918. Among the Otranto dead were Rossie’s cousin, Ralph Knight,  and fellow Ray City resident Shellie Lloyd Webb.  About that same time Sammie Mixon of Allenville, GA, who was fighting in the Meuse-Argonne with Company “H”, 18th Regiment, First Division, was wounded in action and died from pneumonia a few days later. In the early morning hours of October 8, 1918 Isaac R. Boyett, of Adel, GA was fighting with Company C, 328th Infantry  in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive near the the French town of La Forge when he was severely wounded by machine gun fire.  Later that same day, Boyett’s regimental mate, Alvin C. York, earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in capturing 132 German soldiers at the village of Châtel-Chéhéry.  Boyett died  of his wounds two days later. Carlie Lawson also fought in the Battle of the Argonne Forest with Company G, 11th Infantry; he returned from the war and lived to be 100 years old.

The German troops stubbornly held on in the Argonne Forest for another month before beginning their final retreat. William Wiley Tison, of  Ray City, was with the 51st Infantry, 6th Division, which participated in the Meuse-Argonne operation from November 1-8, 1918. With arriving U.S. reinforcements the Allies had time to advance some 32 kilometers before the general armistice was announced on November 11, bringing the First World War to a close.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was a part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. It was fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice on November 11, a total of 47 days. The battle was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks which brought the war to an end. The Meuse-Argonne was the principal engagement of the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War and was “probably the bloodiest single battle in U.S. history”.

1918 Meuse Argonne

1918 Meuse Argonne

~

From May 1918 to the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the First Division suffered more than 20,000 casualties, including killed, wounded and missing. With commanders such as MG William Sibert, MG Robert L. Bullard and MG Charles P. Summerall, the First Division established a reputation for excellence and esprit de corps.

Post Armistice  Activities  November 12, 1918-August 14, 1919
On November 12, the 1st Division moved into Bois de Romagne.  On Nov 13,  the Division moved via Malancourt and Verdun-sur-Meuse into billets near Domremyla-Canne and Gondrecourt, and prepared for the advance into Germany as a part of the Army of Occupation.

Related Posts:

James & Ida Lou Patten and the Cruise to Cuba

James Marcus Patten (1869-1944) was a lifelong resident of the Ray’s Mill area (now Ray City). He was a son of Jehu John Patten and Mary Ellen Lancaster. He married Ida Lou Hall, of Newton, GA about 1902. They were both teachers and they taught in the common schools of the Ray City area for many years.

In  October of 1932 James and Ida Lou took a cruise to  Cuba.    Thirty-three years earlier, the U.S. had fought the Spanish-American War which had  liberated of Cuba from Spain, along with the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. U.S. efforts to normalize relations with Cuba had helped to make Cuba the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean.

The Pattens traveled on the S.S. Cuba, sailing out Tampa, FL to Havana, Cuba, and returning by way of Key West, FL. Port of entry records at Key West, FL show they sailed from Havana on October 25, 1932  for the return voyage.

 

James Marcus Patten and Idalou Patten visit Havana, Cuba

James Marcus Patten and Idalou Patten, of Ray City, GA, visited Havana, Cuba in late October, 1932

 

SS Cuba at Morrow Castle (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro) entering Havana Harbor

SS Cuba at Morrow Castle (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro) entering Havana Harbor. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

“Twice weekly the S. S. ‘Cuba’ of the Peninsular & Occidental Steam Ship Company, makes the trip from Port Tampa to Havana, via Key West and return.”

“S.S. Cuba – Twin screw, oil burner, length 342 feet, width 47 feet, speed 17 knots per hour, passenger capacity 512.  Especially designed for service in the tropics, having wide decks, all outside rooms and spacious saloons. One hundred and thirty-two first-cabin rooms with 16 parlor rooms containing double bed and sofa berth, private shower bath, toilet, running water, electric fans and every convenience for comfort.”

 

SS Cuba brochure,  P&O Steamship Company

SS Cuba brochure, P&O Steamship Company. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba brochure, P&O Steamship Company

SS Cuba brochure, P&O Steamship Company. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

Observation Deck, P&O Steamer

Observation Deck, P&O Steamer. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba Promenade Deck

SS Cuba, Promenade Deck. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba Promenade Deck, Aft

SS Cuba, Promenade Deck, Aft. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba Main Lobby and Purser's Office

SS Cuba, Main Lobby and Purser’s Office. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba, Veranda

SS Cuba, Veranda. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba, Dining Room

SS Cuba, Dining Room. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba, Writing Room

SS Cuba, Writing Room. Image courtesy of Björn Larsson http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

SS Cuba postcard

SS Cuba postcard

Havana excursion SS Cuba

Havana excursion SS Cuba

Just days after the Pattens left Cuba a hurricane struck the island, making landfall on November 9, 1932 at  Santa Cruz del Sur.  Thousands of lives were lost in the storm.