Homecoming for Sergeant Mitchell Moore

Mitchell Haygood Moore (1920-1944)
Killed in Air Combat over Germany,  November 26, 1944, World War II

Grave of Mitchell Haygood Moore, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Mitchell Haygood Moore, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Mitchell Haygood Moore, a young salesman from Sirmans, GA, was a son of Atticus H. Moore and Pearlie Belle Tomlinson.  In 1943, he married Mildred Lorene Clements, of Ray City, GA. His bride was a daughter of Alma and Hosea  “Hod” P. Clements.

Marriage announcement of Mildred Lorene Clements and Mitchell Haygood Moore. Clinch County News.

Marriage announcement of Mildred Lorene Clements and Mitchell Haygood Moore. Clinch County News.

Clinch County News
Friday, December 3,  1943

The marriage of Sgt. Mitchell Haygood Moore of Lanier county, and Miss Mildred Lorene Clements of Ray City, took place recently at the Methodist church in Ray City, Rev. L. D. McConnell officiating.  Sgt Moore is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Atticus H. Moore, former Clinch county residents who were cut off into Lanier when that county was formed in 1920. The bride is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hosea C. Clements of Ray City.

It was in the midst of WWII and Moore was as a Staff Sergeant in the Army Air Force.  Other Ray City AAF men included B-26 pilot James Swindle, B-24 pilot Max Maurice Johnson, and flying officer Jim Paulk.  Staff Srgt Charles B. Shaw, Jr., Ray City, served as a B-17 mechanic in the 8th Army Air Force, Snetterton Heath, England. Howell Shaw served at Sedalia Army Air Field and William C. Webb served in the Medical Corps of the Army Air Force. Lt. Jamie Connell, of Nashville, served as a  navigator-bombardier. Saunto Sollami served in the Army Air Corp and came to the area after the war.

Sgt. Moore was assigned  to the 854 AAF Bomber Squadron, 491st Bomber Group, flying as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator.  Some say he was a bombardier, others say he was a tail gunner. The 491st was one of seven Heavy Bombardment Groups – 488th through 494th – activated in the autumn of 1943.  By April of 1944, the 491st was  in England, and the group engaged in the long-range strategic bombardment of Germany.

A B-24 Liberator Bomber belonging to the 854 AAF Bomber Squadron. This plane was one of 15 B-24s was shot down on the Misburg Mission, November 26, 1944.

A B-24 Liberator Bomber belonging to the 854 AAF Bomber Squadron, 491st Bombardment Group. Of the 28 B-24s that flew the Misburg Mission, November 26, 1944, 16 were shot down. This plane was one of the losses.

In July 1944 the 491st Bombardment Group supported the Allied breakout at St. Lo and assaulted V-weapon sites and communications lines in France during the summer of 1944.  After August, 1944 the 491st concentrated its attacks on strategic objectives in Germany, striking communications centers, oil refineries, storage depots, industrial areas, shipyards, bridges and other targets in such places as Berlin, Hamburg, Kassel, Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, Bielefeld, Hanover, and Magdeburg; on one occasion the 491st attacked the headquarters of the German General Staff at Zossen, Germany.

The Misburg Mission ~ November 26, 1944

Destroying Germany’s petroleum production was a major Allied strategy to shorten the war.  One of the vital German petroleum plants was the large Misburg refinery with 1,060 workers, located about 5 miles east of Hanover, Germany.   On  November 26, 1944,  the 491st bomber group participated in the ninth bomber mission against the refinery at Misburg, part of a massive air strike against Germany by the American Army Air Force on that day.  Combined with other aerial engagements, the day would mark the second largest air battle of WWII.

WWII aerial reconnaissance photo of bombing of the oil refinery at Misburg, Germany.

WWII aerial reconnaissance photo of bombing of the oil refinery at Misburg, Germany. Image courtesy of San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive.

November 26 was to be a black day for the 491st.  Through a series of unfortunate incidents, the bomber group’s defensive integrity was disrupted and the group fell under heavy attack by large numbers of enemy fighters.  As fighter cover for the bomber group, 47 American P-51 Mustangs engaged with more than 250 Luftwaffe fighters in the German skies.

The 491st dispatched 31 B-24s on that day;  three turned back, 28 reached the target, 16 never returned.  According to the 491st Bomber Group website, Mitchell Moore was flying as a Left Waist Gunner on the Misburg raid.

Although more than half of its planes were destroyed, the group fought through the  German interceptor planes, and successfully bombed the target. For this action the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation.

Atlanta Constitution reports bombers lost in November 26, 1944 raid on Misburg oil refinery.

Atlanta Constitution reports bombers lost in November 26, 1944 raid on Misburg oil refinery.

Atlanta Constitution
November 27, 1944

U.S. Planes Shoot Down 122 Germans

1,100 Heavy Bombers Blast Misburg Oil; 700 Fighters Along

LONDON, Nov. 26. — At least 122 Nazi fighter planes of approximately 200 which rose to protect Germany’s largest natural oil refinery at Misburg were shot down in aerial combat todayby and American fleet of 700 fighters and 1,100 heavy bombers.

The American fighters reported downing 110 of the Nazi interceptors, while 12 were destroyed by bomber crews. The escort planes also destroyed seven German planes on the ground in strafing attacks.

Thirty-seven American bombers and 13 fighters were reported missing from operations.

But it was the third largest bag of Nazi fighters shot down in combat. Just last Nov. 2, American pilots picked off 134 enemy planes Merseburg oil center – 13 miles west of Leipzig – and Germany sacrificed 117 in the same area on Sept. 11.

A gigantic battle swirled through the skies over Misburg.

Through the dense clouds stained with exploding flak from hundreds of ground guns, American pilots engaged the Germans in temperatures ranging from 40 to 50 degrees below zero.

NINTH ATTACK

Today’s attack was the ninth on the Misburg refinery, which lies 15 miles east of Hannover and has a yearly production of 220,000 tons. It followed up yesterday’s raid by 2,000 American planes on the Leuna works at Merseburg, one of Germany’s largest synthetic oil plants. Only a dozen enemy fighters were encountered on the Merseburg mission

Mitchell’s plane was one of those which did not return from Misburg.  The war raged on, and at home in Ray City, friends and families grieved and waited for word of Mitchell Moore.

The Nashville Herald,
January 4, 1945

Missing In Action

The friends and relatives of S-Sgt. Mitchell H. Moore regret too know that he has been reported missing in action over Germany since November 26, 1944.
Sgt. Moore was an aerial (torn) receiving his training at (torn) Miss., Loredo, Texas, (torn), later leaving for overseas (torn) peka, Kansas in September (torn).
His wife if the former (torn) red Clements of Ray City (torn) the present time is with her (torn) Mr. and Mrs. H.P. Clements.

On April 11, 1945, The Atlanta Constitution reported that Sergeant Mitchell H. Moore had been classified as killed in action.

The following month, on May 8, 1945 Germany surrendered – It was Victory in Europe day.   After the surrender, a memorial service was held for Staff Sergeant Mitchell H. Moore.

The Nashville Herald
July 19, 1945

Memorial Service For S. Sgt. M.H. Moore

According to an announcement made this week by the family of the late S. Sgt. Mitchell H. Moore, a Memorial Service will be held in his honor on Sunday afternoon, July 22, at 3:30 o’clock at the Unity Methodist church near Lakeland.
S. Sgt. Moore was killed in action over Germany November 26, 1944. He was well and favorably known in this section and has many friends who regret his untimely death. All friends of the family and others desiring to do so may attend the services.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

It would be four more years before Moore’s body was returned to the United States.  The return of the living and the dead was the post-war mission of  the U.S. Merchant marines, ships worked by men like J.B. Mitchell Sirmans aboard the armed merchantman SS Wheaton Victory or Brocy Sirmans on  S.S. William G. Lee.   Moore’s final voyage was aboard the SS Haiti Victory.

Remains of S Sgt Mitchell Moore returned aboard SS Haiti Victory, 1949

Remains of S Sgt Mitchell Moore returned aboard SS Haiti Victory, 1949

 

May 8, 1949, four years to the day after Victory in Europe was declared, the U.S. Army announced the body of S. Sgt Mitchell Moore was among those of 104 Georgians being returned by the SS Haiti Victory.

May 8, 1949, four years to the day after Victory in Europe was declared, the U.S. Army announced the bodies of 104 Georgians were being returned aboard the SS Haiti Victory, among them the body  of S. Sgt Mitchell Moore.

Atlanta Constitution
May 8, 1949

Bodies of 104 Georgians On Way Home From Europe

Remains of 104 Georgians, including 14 Atlantans, who lost their lives during World War II are being returned to the United States from Europe aboud the U. S. Army transport Haiti Victory, the Department of the Army announced.
Armed forces dead originally buried in temporary military cemeteries in France, Holland and Belgium are among those being returned. Next of kin will be notified in advance of the arrival of the remains at the Regional Distribution Center of the American Graves Registration Service.

Funeral services for Mitchell Moore were held at Unity Methodist Church, and the remains were re-interred at Union Church Cemetery (Burnt Church) near Lakeland, GA.

The Nashville Herald
June 16, 1949

S-Sgt. Mitchell Moore Returned to States for Burial

Funeral services will be held Sunday at the Unity Methodist Church of Crisp Community for Staff Sergeant Mitchell Moore, who was killed with his entire crew when their plane was shot down over Hanover, Germany, November 26, 1944. Sgt. Moore will be laid to rest at the Burnt Church cemetery.

Services will begin at 4:30 Sunday afternoon with the Rev. J. W. Herndon of Norman Park, and the Rev. Bishop of Lakeland, officiating.

Sgt. Moore is survived by two brothers, W.W. Moore of Nashville, and J.P. Moore of Stockton, and three sisters, Miss Rosa Lee Moore, Mrs. Shelton Davis, and Mrs. G.E. West, all of Stockton.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

†††

The Nashville Herald
June 23, 1949

Sgt. Mitchell Moore Laid To Rest Sunday

Staff Sergeant Mitchell H. Moore was laid to rest Sunday at the Unity Methodist Church of Crisp Community in Lanier County.

A military burial was given to the air forceman, who was killed over Hanover, Germany in 1944, by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Club of Lakeland. The Rev. J.W. Herndon of Norman Park and the Rev. Bishop of Lakeland officiated.

Sgt. Moore is survived by his wife, the former Miss Mildred Clements of Ray City, two brothers, W.W. Moore of Nashville, and J.P. Moore of Stockton, and three sisters, Miss Rosa Lee Moore, Mrs. Shelton Davis, and Mrs. G.E. West, all of Stockton.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Application for WWII headstone for Mitchell H. Moore.

Application for WWII headstone for Mitchell H. Moore.

The widow, Mildred C. Moore applied for a monument for her husband;  A stark white marble marker to mark the grave of a young man who gave his life in the service of his country.

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W. C. Patten and the Chattanooga Evaporator

Fall in South Georgia from October through the end of the year is still syrup making time -the time that sugar cane is cut and cane syrup produced. In the 1890s, one of the biggest producers of cane syrup and cane sugar in Berrien County was William C. Patten. His production was noted for the use of the Chattanooga Evaporator, which allowed for continuous processing of the juice into syrup, rather than the “batch processing” done in the broad iron kettle of the home farmer.

 

Almost hidden in the steam, the cooker stands over a Chattanooga evaporator and dips his ladle here and there to skim the scum. Occasionally he tests the boiling syrup as it drips from the skimmer and when it "acts right" he lets it out. He doesn't need a saccharometer, and instrument commonly used for the purpose, to know when the syrup is done. His eye is keen and his judgement ripe and he knows when the sweetsome flood is ready. This interesting process is taking place in South Georgia where the natives insist upon sugar-cane syrup and cannot see the taste of a Tennessean, for instance, who has to have his sorghum, which is thicker but not any sweeter. All the same, either goes with flapjacks and hot biscuits - and what would the kids do without old-fashioned molasses candy? There is a Chattanooga cane mill nearby that crushes the stalks as they come from the field and presses out the juice, which then is piped to the evaporator where the cooker keeps a wary eye on the sugar content while the fire is taking out the water.

Almost hidden in the steam, the cooker stands over a Chattanooga evaporator and dips his ladle here and there to skim the scum. Occasionally he tests the boiling syrup as it drips from the skimmer and when it “acts right” he lets it out. He doesn’t need a saccharometer, and instrument commonly used for the purpose, to know when the syrup is done. His eye is keen and his judgement ripe and he knows when the sweetsome flood is ready.

This interesting process is taking place in South Georgia where the natives insist upon sugar-cane syrup and cannot see the taste of a Tennessean, for instance, who has to have his sorghum, which is thicker but not any sweeter. All the same, either goes with flapjacks and hot biscuits – and what would the kids do without old-fashioned molasses candy?

There is a Chattanooga cane mill nearby that crushes the stalks as they come from the field and presses out the juice, which then is piped to the evaporator where the cooker keeps a wary eye on the sugar content while the fire is taking out the water.

 

The Harvester, May, 1921

It is said that  sugar cane cultivation was first introduced into south Georgia by John Moore  when he moved to Lowndes County around 1828. By 1876, Sugar cane became one of the staple crops of Wiregrass Georgia, Berrien County, and of Ray City.   Every farmer had a small cane mill on his farm for pressing the cane to extract the juice, which was cooked down in a cast iron kettle to make syrup. Hundreds of gallons of cane syrup could be produced from a single acre of sugar cane.

Local syrup producers over the years have included the likes of Jehu Patten (1838-1907), farmer of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) District, who in 1896 had “300 gallons of syrup jugged and sealed,” as well as his home produced cane sugar; Levi J. Clements (1851-1924, patriarch of the Clements family and founder of the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City; David C. Clements (1857-1902) who shipped his Georgia cane syrup from Ray City to markets as far as Texas; Moses C. Lee (1853-1926), exemplary farmer of Ray City, who in a year “jugged and barreled 750 gallons of syrup, of the finest that can be made”; Della Outlaw (1891-1932) made cane syrup on what is today the W. H. Outlaw Centennial Farm near Ray City, and bottled it for sale in Nashville, GA (Today, her grandson, Bill Outlaw, makes cane syrup in the family tradition);  David Jackson Skinner (1898-1962), a farmer of the Ray City, GA area and a Deacon of New Ramah Church put up his syrup in cans;  Wiley Chambless (1832-1888) was a Berrien county farmer who grew “red” and “red ribbon” cane; J. McMillan, J.J. McMillan and J.L. Harper, of Alapaha together produced 25 barrels of cane syrup for shipment in 1885; J.N. Bray,  of Berrien County, in 1908 produced 2000 gallons of cane syrup; George W. Leggett (1846-1922) shared the use of his syrup making equipment with family and friends.

The December 14, 1894 the Tifton Gazette reported about William C. Patten’s cane syrup processing:

Tifton Gazette, December 14, 1894. W.C. Patten was one of the largest sugar cane growers in Berrien County, GA

Tifton Gazette, December 14, 1894.W.C. Patten was one of the largest sugar cane growers in Berrien County, GA

 

Mr. W. C. Patten is perhaps the largest sugar cane producer in Berrien County. He uses a Chattanooga Evaporator and it takes about a month to convert his cane crop into sugar and syrup. He lives about five miles north of Milltown. He produces a plenty and to spare of “hog and hominy.”

William C. “Babe” Patten (1849-1944),  was a resident of the “Watson Grade” community, near Empire Church just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA .  Watson Grade was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others

William C. Patten was a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register.    He married Sarah Lee, who was the daughter of Moses Corby Lee and Jincy Register. A prominent farmer of Berrien County, GA, William C. Patten was a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace. When his wife’s niece, Jennie Lee, married Samuel I Watson in 1900, it was W. C.  Patten who performed the ceremony.  W.C. Patten, after the death of his first wife, married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.

The Chattanooga Evaporator

The evaporator is generally placed down hill from the cane mill so that gravity can be used to get the juice from the mill to the evaporator. The evaporator is a shallow pan about three and one-half feet wide by from five to fifteen feet long. Chattanooga evaporators have partitions about nine inches apart, with a small opening or gate at alternate ends to make the juice flow back and forth across the evaporator.

The evaporator rests on a furnace made of steel or brick. Pine wood is considered the best fuel, as it makes a quick, flashing fire and gives more uniform heat the full length of the pan. The aim is to keep a constant flow of juice into, and from, the evaporator. About thirty minutes after the juice enters the evaporator it leaves it as a clear, delicious syrup.

The picture [above] shows a real South Georgia syrup maker. The quality of the syrup depends a great deal on the skill of the “cooker.” As the juice begins to boil a thick, slimy, green scum rises, bringing with it all the impurities. This is skimmed off and thrown into a barrel.

Just a word about that barrel. Sometimes it becomes the focal point of a great deal of attention, such as might arouse the curiosity of the uninitiated. After the skimmings have stood a while a certain amount of juice settles at the bottom, and that juice develops a kick that would bring happiness to prohibition sufferers could they get a chance at it.

On account of the rapid evaporation, the vapor or “steam” sometimes completely hides the outfit, but the cooker plies his ladle, skimming the juice, dipping and throwing back and occasionally raising the ladle and allowing the syrup from the finishing end of the evaporator to drip off. If the “cooker” is an old hand he knows from the way the syrup “acts” when it is done. The inexperienced cooker tests the syrup with a type of hydrometer known as a saccharometer. – The Harvester, May, 1921

1920 advertisement for Chattanooga cane mills, evaporators, furnaces and accessories.

1920 advertisement for Chattanooga cane mills, evaporators, furnaces and accessories.

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Henry Howard Thompson was a Skidder Flagman

Pine and Cypress timber have been an important resource in Wiregrass Georgia since pioneer times. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, “The 1870 census showed that timber was already becoming a profitable industry for Georgia with the annual timber value rising from $2.4 million to more than $4.0 million in that decade. By 1880, Georgia ranked first in the South in total lumber production and was second only to North Carolina in number of sawmills…With virtually no regard for conservation, early settlers simply cleared forestlands, cultivated an area for a few years, then abandoned their fields for freshly cleared lands.”

By the 1900s, virtually every South Georgia town had its sawmill and turpentine operations, including Ray City. In those early days, logging was done by hand;  trees were felled with two-man crosscut saws, and skiddermen like Claudie Royal dragged by horse- or mule-drawn skidder carts to a railroad tram for transportation to the sawmill. There was no safety equipment and little concern about the occupational safety of the workers.  Cutting timber was inherently dangerous, and workers were presumed to know how to do their jobs safely – the risk was theirs.

When steam power was harnessed to do the heavy work of dragging felled pine and cypress timber out of the forests and swamps of Wiregrass Georgia, someone had to signal the equipment operator when the logs were ready to be moved.  That was the job of Henry Howard Thompson,  Skidder Flagman.  In 1917, Thompson was employed at the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City, GA. He gave his home address as Anniston, AL.

Henry Howard Thompson, Draft registration card, 1917

Henry Howard Thompson, Draft registration card, 1917

Henry H. Thompson was born in Heflin, Alabama in 1898, a son of Henry and Rameth Thompson.  On June 5, 1917 he registered for the draft in Berrien County, GA.  Three weeks later, on Sunday, June 24, 1917  Henry married Rose Lee Drawdy in Berrien County.  The ceremony was performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens, Justice of the Peace at Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Henry Howard Thompson, June 7, 1917, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Henry Howard Thompson and Rosa Lee Drawdy, June 7, 1917, Berrien County, GA.

Rose Lee Drawdy, born July 15, 1900, was a daughter of Susan M. Green and Daniel Drawdy, and a granddaughter of Delilah Hinson and Noah Green. Her father was a veteran of the Civil War having served with Company K, 32 Georgia Regiment. Her mother and grandmother later lived at Rays Mill (now Ray City, GA).

As a skidder flagman Henry Howard Thompson was part of a crew that operated an overhead skidder or a ground skidder, sometimes called a “possum dog” skidder. The crew also  included a log “tong” man, drum man, a foreman and other workers.

The skidder, placed in the woods, was used for pulling logs from the forest and bunching them in convenient places to be loaded upon wagons by the team crew and conveyed to the logging railroad. A skidder could be mounted on slides and moved from place to place by means of cable and slides resting on the ground, and upon being put up was operated under its own steam, and a drum, around which there was a steel cable, would draw in the logs. Cables could be run so the skidder dragged logs along the ground,  or could be run from tree to tree with a system of pulleys allowing the logs to be lifted and transported  by overhead skidders.

There were tongs attached to the ends of the cable to be fastened around the logs, and it was the duty of the tong man to apply the tongs to the log, and the flagman would thereupon signal the drum man, who would start the machinery and pull the log to its proper place. The cable ran through a pulley attached to a tree some 15 or 20 feet from the ground, and to offset the strain upon the tree guy wires or lines were run to and attached to other trees some 30 or 40 feet away. The skidder could draw in logs within a radius of 900 feet from all sides…the logs being pulled in would encounter obstructions and the operations were more or less dangerous.

Old time South Carolina logger Lacy Powell talked about how it was:

“The skidder used an 85-foot high rig-tree, usually a cypress with the top cut out and fitted with a huge pulley. It could reach out with cables to pull logs from a 600-foot radius to the track where they were loaded on cars. The rails were moved to the timber as it was cut.”

“It was dangerous work. Falling trees crushed loggers. Limbs snapped from a falling tree and ‘slingshotted’ back to strike loggers.”

“A flagman signaled the skidder operator when a log was hooked on the line to be hauled to the track. The skidder whistle hooted twice to warn the men to watch for the flying log.”

“You knew to stay away from a log on the skidder line,” Powell said.

Steam powered skidder loading logs. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/38948

Steam powered skidder loading logs. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/38948

But, mud and water in the swamp made quick movement by workers impossible.

“You couldn’t run; you settled down in that mud,” he added.

Death was an ever-present hazard in the logging operations. Six long blasts of the steam skidder whistle signaled a fatal accident. ‘That was a lonesome sound. People would come from everywhere to see who was dead.’

The men made stretchers for the dead and injured by running saplings through the sleeves of the denim jackets they usually wore. – Star News, July 26, 1981

 

One such example was that of R. L. Mikell, skidder operator for the Gray and Gatchell sawmill at Howell, GA:

Tifton Gazette
June 29, 1907

Valdosta, Ga., June 5  R. L. Mikell, a skidder for Gray and Gatchell, at Howell [Echols County, GA], suffered injury from an accident to-day that may cause his death. He was operating a skidder; pulling logs from a swamp when one log became fastened against another.   He tried to release it, when the log swung around and struck him, breaking his thigh. The log that obstructed it also flew up and broke the thigh in another place, knocking Mr. Mikell down and rolling over him, causing internal injuries.  The physicians regard his case as critical.

 

By 1920, Henry H. Thompson had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where they were living next door to his sister, Mamie Lou, and  brother-in-law, Charlie Buckhannan.  Henry was a stationary engineer and Charlie was a mechanic, both working for the Henderson Lumber Company. They were living on the East & West Highway in the Henderson Lumber Company quarters.  The Henderson Lumber Company had its operation near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road, about where the  Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad (formerly the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta) terminated at Shaw’s Still.

Later the Thompsons moved to Jacksonville, FL.

Henry Howard Thompson died May 13, 1982 and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson died August 9, 1986. They are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, FL.

Graves of Henry Howard Thompson (1898-1982) and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson (1900-1986).

Graves of Henry Howard Thompson (1898-1982) and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson (1900-1986). Image source: Johnny

Benjamin Thomas Cook in Postbellum Berrien County

Benjamin Thomas Cook (1842-1924) Berrien County,  GA

Benjamin Thomas Cook came to Berrien County, GA after the Civil War and settled on land near Empire Church, not far distant from the grist mill Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight had established on Beaver Dam Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek in southern Berrien County. Cook was a veteran who had been a prisoner of war, and came to Berrien to join others of the Cook family connection.

Benjamin Thomas Cook was born in Georgia in 1842, a son of Martha Knight and John  Cook.  His parents were married  December 5, 1841, in Wilkinson County, and Ben was  first enumerated at eight years old on his father’s farm in the  1850 census  of  the county.

1850-census-benjamin-t-cook

1850 Census enumeration of Benjamin Cook in the household of his parents, Martha Knight and John Cook, Wilkinson County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/7thcensus0067unix#page/n602/mode/1up

By the time of the 1860 census, John Cook had moved his family to Milledgeville, Baldwin County, GA.  John Cook was a miller and Benjamin Thomas Cook was employed as a “common laborer.”

"1860

Milledgeville was then capitol of the State of Georgia, also the site of the state arsenal, penitentiary, lunatic asylum, and Oglethorpe University.  Milledgeville was a bustling city, with a cosmopolitan flair.  The Cook residence was near the Milledgeville Hotel, and the neighbors of the Cooks included not only doctors, pharmacists, craftsmen, politicians and state administrators,  but also professionals such as editors and engineers from New York, fencing masters from France, merchants from many states and countries, attorneys from Scotland, watchmakers from Ireland, daguerreotype artists from Germany, and many others who simply gave their occupation as “gentleman.”

Western view of the State House and other buildings in Milledgeville. The view is from near the residence of R. M. Orme, Esg.; the State House is seen on the right; the Milledgevill and McComb's Hotels on the left. The Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches appear in the central part.

Milledgeville, GA, 1861.

Western view of the State House and other buildings in Milledgeville.
The view is from near the residence of R. M. Orme, Esg.; the State House is seen on the right; the Milledgeville and McComb’s Hotels on the left. The Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches appear in the central part. Barber, J. W., & Howe, H. (1861). Our whole country; or, The past and present of the United States, historical and descriptive. Cincinnati: H. Howe. https://books.google.com/books?id=dpzRlpLAGnwC&q

At the age of 20, Benjamin Thomas Cook was a resident of Milledgeville, Georgia, of florid complexion, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and 5 ft, 3 3/4 inches tall. When the Civil War got underway Benjamin and his brother, Henry Cook, joined the Confederate cause. He enlisted May 1, 1862,  at Macon,  GA  with Company A, 1st Confederate Georgia Regiment, according to the Confederate Pension application he later filed. He appears in the National Park Service database of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors as a private of Company A, 1st Georgia Reserves. There were over thirty Georgia battle units incorporating the “First Georgia” title, so Benjamin’s unit service record remains unclear.

Georgia Ordinances of 1861 required that “every free white person, who shall be engaged in actual service, military or naval, of the State, and shall take an oath of his intention to continue in such service for at least three months, unless sooner discharged honorably, and, also, the oath of allegiance below prescribed.”

“That the oath of allegiance to this State shall be in the following form, to wit: ‘I do swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and true allegiance bear to the State of Georgia so long as I may continue a citizen thereof.”

Those who were residents of Georgia at the time the Ordinance of Secession was passed were implicitly no longer citizens of the United States, but citizens of the State of Georgia. After the passage of Secession, anyone who came from a Union state to reside in Georgia  was required to take the Oath of Abjuration, an explicit statement renouncing their American citizenship.

“The oath of abjuration shall be in the following form, to wit: ‘I do swear (or affirm) that I do renounce and forever abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every prince, potentate, State or sovereignity whatsover, except the State of Georgia.’

While in Confederate service, Benjamin Cook was captured at Milledgeville, GA.  The Roll of Prisoners of War at Point Lookout, MD shows he was captured November 23, 1864, and held as a POW at the federal prison there at Point  Lookout, MD. His brother, Henry Cook, was also among the POWs at Point Lookout, as were John A. Gaskins, John T. Ray, Benjamin Harmon Crum and Aaron Mattox of Berrien County, GA.

Point Lookout had been hastily constructed in 1863 to confine Confederate prisoners of war captured at Gettysburg.

At the end of August 1863, Point Lookout’s stockade held more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers.  The prison population swelled to 9,000 by the end of the year. During the summer of 1864, the prison population grew to 15,500, well more than the stockade’s designed capacity, and reached 20,000 in June 1865. Conditions for the prisoners severely worsened as the population exploded.  The military did not construct barracks or other permanent housing; instead, tents provided inadequate shelter from the sweltering summer heat and brutal winters.  Contaminated water, meager rations, malaria and typhoid fever, and exposure to the elements led to a high death rate in the camp.  Approximately 4,000 of the total 50,000 Point Lookout prisoners died while  incarcerated. National Park Service

Following the Confederate surrender, B.T. Cook swore an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and was released from Point Lookout on June 10, 1865.

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

It appears from the Point Lookout records that B.T. Cook  was transported to Hilton Head, SC arriving on July 1, 1865.

After the War, Ben and his brother, Henry, came to Berrien  County, GA. In doing so, Ben and Henry were joining  about a dozen or so families originating from Wilkinson county who had made the move to the newly established Berrien County some ten years earlier. These included  the families of Ben’s cousins Elijah, Tabitha, and Piety Cook. Tabitha married Daniel Avera and Piety married Nicholas Lewis, both of these couples moving to Berrien.  Dawson Webb, father of Elijah’s first wife, had also moved to Berrien around 1856, and Webb’s daughter Louisa Eliza Webb and son-in-law Moses G. Sutton came to Lowndes County (now Berrien) a few years prior.

In Berrien County on 14 December 1865, Ben married Samantha  Jane “Mantha” Taylor. Jane was the daughter of blacksmith William Jackson Taylor and his wife, Samantha Jane Rogers, originally from Marion County, SC. The marriage ceremony was performed by Jane’s brother, Thomas L. Taylor, Justice of the Peace. 1865-benjamin-thomas-cook-marriage-cert

Back from the war,  Benjamin Cook endured the conditions of Reconstruction in Berrien County, GA. “It was also a time when the entire nation, but especially the South, was forced to come to grips with the legacy of slavery and the consequences of emancipation.” -National Park Service

Congress passed the Reconstruction Act in 1867 requiring the former Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment,  which “defined all persons born in the United States as national citizens, who were to enjoy equality before the law.”  States were compelled to adopt new state constitutions, providing “equal protection of the laws” to all national citizens, black and white.  Southern states which continued to deny the vote to black men would lose representation in Congress.

W. H. Griffin, Jr.,  who was born during the Civil War, described the post-war perspective of ex-Confederates in Berrien County:

“Georgia had been placed under military rule, Union soldiers stood guard everywhere, indignities were piled upon the citizens of Berrien county by scalawags and carpet baggers who subjected war worn soldiers to almost brutal treatment in order to force them to take the oath of allegiance.” – The unpublished papers of W.H. Griffin Jr., (1863-1932) 

In July 28, 1866 The Albany Patriot wrote:

“Unjust and discriminating taxes are heaped upon us, and we are allowed no voice or representation in the councils of the Government. We are invited to degrade ourselves on a level with the most miserable and debauched class of people known among us.  With our oaths of allegiance staring us in the face, we are baselessly charged with disloyalty and our motives impugned.”

By 1867, white Georgia voters were required to complete the Oath of Allegiance in order to be listed in the register of qualified voters. White southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship were required to swear a new oath of allegiance to the United States in order to have their national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote. Some whites who had held posts in the Confederate government or the governments of Confederate states were disqualified from having their citizenship restored through the oath of allegiance.

Like many other men of Berrien County, Benjamin Thomas Cook swore to this new Oath of Allegiance, signifying his acceptance on the written oath by making his x mark over his printed name:

I, B. T. Cook do solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a citizen of the State of Georgia; that I have resided in said State for 24 months next preceding this day, and now reside in the County of Berrien in said State; that I am 21 years old; that I have not been disenfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States, nor for felony committed against the laws of any State or the United States; that I have never been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any executive or judicial office in any state, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof, that I will faithfully support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, encourage others so to do. So help me, God”

Benjamin Thomas Cook,1867 Oath of Allegiance, Berrien County, GA

Benjamin Thomas Cook,1867 Oath of Allegiance, Berrien County, GA

The 1870 census records show Benjamin T. Cook took up farming next door to his brother-in-law, Thomas L. Taylor, and cousin, Elijah Cook, in the 1148th Georgia Militia District. Ben owned $50 in real estate and $85 in personal property. Benjamin T. Cook was undoubtedly a cousin of Elijah Cook, although the exact relationship is not known. Like B. T. Cook, Elijah was a native of Wilkinson County, GA.

1870 Census enumeration of Benjamin T. Cook and family, 1148th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1870 Census enumeration of Benjamin T. Cook and family, 1148th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n437/mode/1up

Around 1874 Benjamin Thomas Cook acquired 65 acres of Berrien County land on Lot 219 in the 10th Land District. About that time, Elijah Cook let go of his land on Lot 217, and acquired Lot 198 which was just to the north.  In 1879, Benjamin T. Cook had 40 acres on lot 217, and Elijah Cook held 680 acres along Five Mile Creek,  on Lots 217 and 198.

In 1880, Benjamin and  Samantha Jane “Mantha” Cook were enumerated by L. E. Lastinger in the 1148th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Children in the Cook household were William (13), Fannie (11), Mary (9), Henry (5) and James (3). William and Mary attended school.  The 1880 census also recorded sickness or disability on the day of enumeration;  11-year-old Fannie Cook was enumerated as at home, suffering from “rheumatism” that left her classified in the census as “maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled.”

Next door to the Cooks  was the family of  Samantha’s sister, Emaline Taylor Lewis, and her husband, Joseph Lewis.  Joseph Lewis was Ben’s  cousin, a son of  Piety Cook and Nicholas Lewis. Two of the sons of Joseph Lewis and Emaline Taylor Lewis, 14-year-old Thomas Lewis and  4-year-old William Lewis, also suffered from debilitating “rheumatism.”

1880 census enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1880 census enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n393/mode/1up

The 1880 population census also shows that three of the children of  Ben’s cousin Elijah Cook and his wife Arinda Chandler Cook were also disabled.  These Cook daughters were Juda, Amanda, and Sarah. These girls were known locally as the “alligator children,” and apparently presented a rare, debilitating form of the genetic skin condition ichthyosis. Two of the grandchildren of Elijah Cook also suffered from ichthyosis, and Ben’s nephew Andrew Cook, son of Henry Cook, was also disabled (When Henry Cook went to prison for manslaughter in 1907, an application was submitted on behalf of Andrew to receive his father’s Indigent Soldiers pension as a dependent.)

Benjamin T. Cook in 1880 had 390 acres on Lot 215. In 1884 Benjamin gave up 160 acres on Lot 215, retaining 130 acres there.

Children of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor include:

  1. William Jackson “Jack” Cook – born March 13, 1867; married 1st Annie Laura Mathis (1871-1910), September 25, 1887; married 2nd, Nancy Barker; married 3rd, Carrie E. Sullivan (1878-1942); died February 1, 1951; Jack, Laura, and Carrie are buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  2. Francis “Fannie” Cook – born April 3, 1868; married Enoch “Bud” Benefield, August 18, 1887, Berrien County GA;
  3. Mary Elizabeth Cook – born December 31, 1878; married James Elijah Benefield March 24, 1891 in Berrien County, GA; died May 22, 1947; buried Poplar Springs Cemetery, Berrien County, GA
  4. Henry Cook – born abt 1875; married Fannie Giddens
  5. James Lewis Cook – born February 7, 1876; married Elizabeth Virginia “Lizzie” Duren, August 24, 1899, Berrien County, GA; died May 31, 1945; buried Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA
  6. Elijah “Lige” Cook – born December 10, 1881 in Berrien County, GA; married Eva Studstill, February 9, 1905; died October 19, 1963; buried Union Hill Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA
  7. Martha Cook – born abt 1884; married Charlie S. Tucker, December 10, 1909 in Berrien County, GA; buried Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook died on Thursday, June 7, 1888.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Samantha Jane

Grave of Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook, first wife of Benjamin Thomas Cook. Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Just seven weeks  after the death of Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook, Benjamin T. Cook married his second wife, Arrilla “Sis” Stone. They were married on Thursday, July 26, 1888, in Berrien County, GA,  the bride’s name appearing on the Marriage license as “Gurila” Stone.  The marriage ceremony was performed by J.P. Patten, Notary Public. Arrilla was a daughter of Elizabeth Harris (1840-1929) and David Stone (1838-1899). The groom was 46 and the bride was 21; she was born in March of 1867. Her father, a Confederate veteran, served with the Okefenokee Rifles,  Company G, 26th Georgia Infantry and was wounded in the abdomen at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm.

1888-benjamin-thomas-cook-marriage-cert

Marriage certificate of Benjamin Cook and Arrilla Stone, July 26, 1888, Berrien County, GA

On January 29, 1898, Ben was enrolled into the Berrien County Confederate Veterans Association in Nashville, GA. Ben and Arrilla Cook appear in the 1900 Census in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA.  In their household were four children: David (7), Elizabeth (5), Nancy (2), Leonard (1).  Also living in the Cook home was Fannie Taylor; the census taker recorder her relationship to Ben as “Grandmother” but she was actually the sister of his first wife, Samantha Jane Taylor. Around their farm were the farms of their son, Lewis Cook, and  their sons-in-law,  Enoch Benefield and James Elijah Benefield.

1900 census enumeration of Benajmin T. Cook and other of the Cook family connection in Berrien County, GA

1900 census enumeration of Benajmin T. Cook and other of the Cook family connection in Berrien County, GA

In the 1910 census records Benjamin T. Cook and Arrilla Cook  appeared in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA; Arrilla was enumerated under the name “Gorilla.” Ben owned his farm, free and clear of mortgage. Ben and Arrilla were listed as parents of seven children: David (16), Elizabeth (15), Nancy 14), Leonard (10), William Harrison (8), and Celia Samantha (2).

1910 census enumeration of the families of Benajmin T. Cook, and his sons Lewis and Elijah

1910 census enumeration of the families of Benajmin T. Cook, and his sons Lewis and Elijah “Lige” Cook in Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n902/mode/1up

Some time between 1910 and 1920, Benjamin Cook became a widower for the second time.  Arrinda Stone Cook was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA, near the grave of Benjamin Cook’s first wife, Mantha J. Taylor Cook. The date death came for Arrinda Stone Cook is not known; the marker for her grave bears only her date of birth.

Children of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Arrinda “Sis” Stone include:

  1. David”Dave” Cook – born June 22, 1891;  married  Lou Annie Gray6/22/1891; died April 1, 1957;  buried at Empire Cemetery.
  2. Elizabeth Cook – born September 1894
  3. Nancy Cook – born October 1897; married Isaac Gray
  4. Leonard Cook – born February 1899; moved to Alabama
  5. William Harrison Cook- born September 13, 1902;  married Mineola Smith (b.3/10/1904); Died February 1, 1967. both are buried at Empire.
  6. Celia Samantha Cook- born June 5, 1907; married Eddie Gray November 11, 1922 in Berrien County (Separated and resumed her maiden name.); died December 1, 1997; buried at Empire Cemetery

By 1918, B.T. Cook was 75 years old. He deeded 30 acres of his land on Lot 309 to his son, James Lewis Cook, and four .

1918-b-t-cook-deed

Quit Claim Deed, B.T. Cook to J.L. Cook, Lot #309 in the 10th District, Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Warranty Deed, B.T. Cook to Elizabeth Cook, #308 in the 10th District, State of Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Warranty Deed, B.T. Cook to Elizabeth Cook, #308 in the 10th District, State of Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Benjamin T. Cook applied for a Confederate Veteran’s pension in  1919. His application for a pension was  accepted, and he was awarded $6.00 a month.

By 1920, Benjamin Cook was 77 years old. He was residing in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Benefield and daughter Mary Cook Benefield. The Benefield  place was situated on the Milltown & Willacoochee Road. Elijah was engaged in general farming with the assistance of his eldest sons, Willie and Eddie Benefield. Just down the Milltown & Willacoochee Road were the farm places of William J. Cook and Elijah Cook.

1920 enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 77, in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Cook.

1920 enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 77, in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Cook. https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n479/mode/1up

Ben  died  at  home on October 5, 1924. The certificate of death, filed in Berrien County, GA, gave his cause of death as “old age & heart trouble.”  His daughter, Mary Benefield, was the informant and R. N. Mathis was the local registrar.  There was no doctor in attendance to sign the death certificate or undertaker to handle funeral arrangements.

1924 death certificate of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Berrien County, GA

1924 death certificate of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Berrien County, GA

Family members who remember Ben recall a man with a temper, who  enjoyed family get-togethers, such as barbecues. He  was  a man who walked with a limp, which was the result of his breaking his  leg when he fell from a barn roof. He rebroke it before  it healed, thus the limp.

Ben  died  at  his home in the 10th district  of  the  newly formed  Lanier County sometime in the early part of 1924.  He  is buried  between his two wives at Empire Cemetery. His home  still stands  as a reminder of the industrious man who came to  Berrien County  and carved a home for himself and his large family  after the Civil War.

Grave of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Grave of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Special thanks to Linda Ward Meadows for contributions of content and images to this article, and for the following selected sources : Tombstones Empire Cemetery; GA Census records 1850  Wilkinson, Co., 1860 Baldwin Co., 1870-1910 Berrien  Co.; Interviews with Grandchildren of Ben & Jane Cook; Pension Records from GA  Archives; Berrien Co. and Wilkinson Co.  marriage  records; Interview with Celia Samantha Cook and her  sister-in-law, Mineola  Smith  Cook, at their home on  10/13/1990;  Cook  family Bibles. Mineola  Smith Cook and Celia Samantha Cook went to  the Berrien County, GA nursing home shortly after my visit with them in 1990. Both are deceased; GA Death Certificate Berrien Co, GA.: Linda Ward Meadows is a great-great granddaughter of Benjamin  Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor Cook. (9088  Val-Del  Road, Adel, GA, 31620. Ph 912-896-3591) lmeadowsz4@windstream.net

Ray’s Mill Founder’s Day ~ November 7, 1863

About 1863, Thomas M. Ray  and Levi J. Knight observed that pioneers had settled southern Berrien County, GA to the extent that  the establishment of a grist mill to serve the local community was warranted.  With the assistance of slave labor, an earthen dam and concrete spillway was constructed to impound a millpond on the swampy headwaters of Beaverdam Creek. The mill house itself was constructed from the local timber; “The ceiling rafters were hand hewed and wood pegs were used instead of nails.” 

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

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

On November 7, 1863 Mr. Ray began operation of the mill, then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill. Powered by water from the pond, the mill could grind meal and hominy grits from corn.

The old mill hopper and mill rock at Ray's Mill.  Image source:  Colquitt Electric Membership Newsletter (full article available at www.southermatters.com

The old mill hopper and mill rock at Ray’s Mill. Image source: Colquitt Electric Membership Newsletter (full article available at http://www.southermatters.com

Ray’s Mill was the first commercial enterprise of historic Ray City. At one time the mill was the central gathering place of this part of Berrien County, as men would take their corn there to be ground. “People would travel for miles by horsedrawn wagons to have several months supply of meal or grits ground for their family. This generally resulted in a a outing for the whole family.”

As Ray’s Mill was the best known landmark of the immediate vicinity, the growing community became known by that name also.  The area’s first postal station was established as early as 1863. The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that AK Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill.

The location of the mill also became the site of the community’s first post office. In 1885,  The Official Register of the United States listed  H.H. Knight   as Post Master of “Ray’s Mills”, Berrien County, Georgia.  By 1886, The Atlanta Medical and Surgical Journal reported that the community had a doctor, serving a population of 150 people. During the decade of the 1890’s Berrien county was one of the top ten fastest growing counties in Georgia. In the late 1890s and early 1900s David Rigell operated a general merchandise store located near the old mill. Rigell’s merchantile may have been only the second retail establishment  at Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), although it is often incorrectly cited as the first.

The grist mill ceased operation in 1954 after 91 years of operation.  Even though the town was incorporated as Ray City in 1909, it was still being marked on maps as Rays Mill as late as 1952.

The millhouse has since been torn down, but Rays Millpond remains as one of the eduring landmarks of Ray City, GA.

An old news photo showing remants of original equipment at Ray's Mill.

An old news photo showing remants of original equipment at Ray’s Mill.