Thomas R. Cox and The Bank of Willacoochee

Thomas R. Cox grew up at Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City) and later returned as a resident. He was only educated through the 8th grade, but made a successful career in bookkeeping.  In the early 1900s he went to Willacoochee, GA to live with his uncle Gid Gasksins and to work  in Gaskin’s general merchandise store as a salesman.

Within a few years Thomas secured a situation as Bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. The Bank of Willacoochee was chartered in 1900 with $25,000 capital investment. The Cashier of the bank was George F. McCranie, son of Malcolm McCranie who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek.

All seemed well until the morning of Thursday, May 4, 1916 when Thomas R. Cox failed to show up for work at the bank.  With Cox’s unexplained disappearance Cashier George F. McCranie suspected the worst, and the bank was closed pending an investigation by the state bank examiner.

Over the next two months some details unfolded, not only in local newspapers, but in papers  as far away as Honolulu.

1916-may-12-tg-bank-of-willacoochee

Tifton Gazette
May 12, 1916

Bank of Willacoochee

Closed Pending Examination of the Books by Authorities

    Willacoochee, Ga., May 9. –  The doors of the Bank of Willacoochee of this place were closed Monday and the institution is in the hands of the state bank examiner.
     T. R. Cox, who was bookkeeper, has been missing since last Thursday. Soon after his departure, it was reported that George F. McCranie, cashier, discovered that errors had been made in keeping the books, and immediately wired for experts to examin into the affairs of the bank. The examination has continued through yesterday and today.
     Later reports say the errors in the books are not as great as reported and that the bank is in good shape.

—–♦—–

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Thomas R. Cox of Willacoochee, GA sought by police. Atlanta Constitution, May 17, 1916

 

Atlanta Constitution
May 17, 1916

Police Asked to Find Missing Bookkeeper

________________

    Police Chief W. M. Mayo was requested to have his men be on the lookout for Thomas R. Cox, former bookkeeper of the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., who was reported to have embezzled the bank of several thousand dollars.
    George F. McCranie, cashier of the institution, called at the police station and told Chief Mayo that the officials of the bank offered a reward of $500 for the former bookkeeper’s arrest.

 

Honolulu Star-Bulleting reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 19, 1916

Charged with the embezzlement of $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., Thomas R. Cox, aged 28, was recently arrested in New York.

 

 

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette
May 26 1916

COX CAUGHT IN NEW YORK

New York, May 25, — Thomas R. Cox, Age 28, was arrested here today charged with embezzling $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, of Willacoochee, Ga.

     The Bank of Willacoochee, considered one of the soundest financial institutions in that section of the state, was closed May 8th following the disappearance of the Bookkeeper, Thomas R. Cox.
    It was at first stated that the shortage amounted to $30,000 but later there were reports that the defalcation was not so great, an error of the adding machine being in part responsible.
    Cox’s home was formerly at Ray City, in Berrien County.

1916-may-27-atlc-thomas-cox

Atlanta Constitution
May 27, 1916

Coffee Sheriff Holds Thos. Cox in New York

Willacoochee, Ga., May 26. — (Special.) — A telegram was received from Sheriff David Ricketson, of this county, last night stating that Thomas R. Cox, who is charged with wrecking the Bank of Willacoochee, was held by him in New York city and requisition papers have been forwarded to the governor of Georgia for his signature. The state bank examiner is still in charge of the institution and the amount of shortage is not known, though it is estimated at several thousand dollars.

1916-june-23-tg-bank-of-willacoochee

Tifton Gazette
June 23,1916

BANK OF WILLACOOCHEE

From the Willacoochee Record.
      At a meeting of the stockholders of the Bank of Willacoochee Tuesday, the stockholders present representing 231 of the 250 shares of the bank, voted unanimously in favor of an assessment sufficient to bring the impaired capital stock up to its par value and resume business.
      This will make the institution as sound as it ever was. Besides a plan has been proposed by depositors are to be insured and new officers for the institution will be elected if the plan of reorganization is successful. It is understood that the present depositors will co-operate with the stockholders for the payment of their claims as it will assure the reorganization and at the same time protect themselves as depositors.

1916-jul-7-atlc-bank-of-willacoochee-reopens

Atlanta Constitution, July 7, 1916 reports that the Bank of Willacoochee has reopened for business

Despite all the reported allegations of embezzlement by Thomas R. Cox, the available newspapers never reported that the Bank Examiners had any findings against him or that he was ever charged with any crime. He later worked as a book keeper in Ray City, GA.

 

The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

There were several south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

After 1908, the route of the Georgia & Florida Railroad was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles.

Obituary of Mason Clements

Mason Clements was a son of James Irwin Clements and Annie Mae Carter Clements,  and  graduated with the Ray City High School Class of 1943.

1950

1950

From Ray City, Georgia… Mason Clements was a three-year letterman for The Professors baseball team  at Georgia Teachers College in 1947, 1948 and 1949… Played major role in the rebirth of the baseball program after 12-year hiatus… Played for three coaches – R.I. DeWitt in ‘47, J.B. Scearce in ‘48 and J.I. Clements in ‘49… Helped Professors to three-year record of 41-21.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Mr. Mason C. Clements entered in to rest at his residence on Wednesday April 19, 2006. He was the son of the late James Irwin Clements and Annie Mae Carter Clements. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Fay Joyner Clements; two sons, Mason Carter Clements, Jr., and wife, Donna, of Atlanta, GA, James Bert Clements, and wife, Sondra, of Atlanta, GA; one daughter Beverly Fay Clements Dye, and husband, Nathaniel, of Evans; six grandchildren, Katherine Clements Epilito, Bonnie Leigh Clements Sapp, Ashley Lauren Clements, Mason Bert Clements, Michelle Weltch Dye, and Jennifer Carter Dye; one great grandchild, Gavin Keith Sapp; and one brother, William Keith Clements, and wife, Joanne of Arlington, TX Mr. Clements was born in Palmetto, FL, having made Augusta his home since 1952. He served with honor during World War II in the United States Marine Corps at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He further distinguished himself as a student athlete at Georgia Southern University where he graduated in 1950. There he was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities and to the Athletic Hall of Fame. Almost fifty-five years after graduation, Georgia Southern honored him with the Mason Clements Wall of Fame at the newly renovated J.I. Clements Stadium which was named after his late brother. He has received recognition throughout his business and community life through his service as President of Ammons Grocery Company, the Georgia Wholesale Grocers Association, and the Exchange Club of Augusta. He was a past member of the Board of Governors of the Augusta Country Club, the Board of Directors of Wachovia Bank of Georgia, and the Athletic Association Board of Georgia Southern University. Mr. Clements was a life long Baptist and a member of the First Baptist Church of Augusta for 52 years where he served on the Board of Deacons. Internment will be at Westover Memorial Park on Friday, April 21, 2006 at 11:00 am with Dr. Timothy Owings and Dr. Rodger Murchison officiating. Pallbearers will be Mr. Daniel P. Matheny, Mr. A. Roy Krouse, Mr. William E. Blanchard, Mr. Patrick G. Smith, Dr. John J. Cudd, Mr. William P. Stevens, Mr. W.T. Bolick, Jr., and Mr. Royce Boone. Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Crusaders Sunday School Class and the Exchange Club of Augusta. In Lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the First Baptist Church Chapel Fund, 3500 Walton Way, Augusta, GA, 30909, American Cancer Society, 2623 Washington Road, Augusta, GA 30904, American Heart Association, 1105-D Fury’s Lane, Martinez, GA, 30907. Platt’s Funeral Home, 721 Crawford Ave. Augusta, GA 30904 706-733-3636 – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/augustachronicle/obituary.aspx?n=mason-c-clements&pid=17494951&fhid=6207#sthash.4XD8KVyD.dpuf

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John Franklin Clements

John Franklin Clements (1810 – 1864)

Grave of John F. Clements, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of John F. Clements, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

John F. Clements, his parents, and brother David C. Clements were among the earlier pioneer families that settled the vicinity of Georgia now known as Ray City, Berrien County. The Clements arrived here some time around 1832.  “The Knights were no doubt responsible for their coming, since they and the Clementses had been neighbors in Wayne County (now Brantley County), and Ann, [John F. Clements’] sister in 1827 had married Levi J. Knight, whose parents had moved to this area a couple of years earlier” – Nell Patten Roquemore

John F. Clements was born October 7, 1810 in Wayne County, GA , a son of William and Elizabeth Clements. As he was growing up his family lived in a part of Wayne county that was later cut into Brantley County. The Clements farm was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the early roads in south Georgia.

Next door to the Clements’ farm lived their friends and future in-laws, the Knights. William Clements had settled his family on land adjacent to the farm of William Anderson Knight, and the two became good friends. William A. Knight, patriarch of the Knight family, was among the very first settlers of Wayne County, having arrived there just after the creation of the county, about 1803.  Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The county seat was named Waynesville.

John F. Clements and his siblings grew up with the sons and daughters of William A. Knight. In late 1827 John F. Clements’ widowed sister, Mary Ann Clements Herrin, married Levi J. Knight in Wayne CountyMr. and Mrs. L.J. Knight set out to homestead in Lowndes county (now Berrien) on Beaverdam creek, at the present site of Ray City, GA.

In Wayne County, John F. Clements served as Tax Collector  for the two year term from 1830-32. He was elected February 12, 1830, with his father William Clements putting up a surety bond along with William Flowers.   Shortly after John’s term as tax collector expired, the entire Clements family followed the Knights and made the move west to Lowndes County, GA.  He took up residence in Mattox’s District, although tax records do not show he acquired land of his own there. Other Lowndes County settlers in this district included David Bell, James Price, Aaron Mattox, Etheldred Newbern, John Jones, Jr., Michael Peterson, John Peacock, Thomas Giddens, George Hunt, and Frederic McGiddery. In 1832, John F. Clements was a fortunate drawer in the Cherokee Land Lottery, drawing Lot 124, 28th District, 3rd Section, Cherokee County.  Lowndes county tax records from 1834-1844 show John F. Clements owned 400 acres of oak and hardwood land in Cherokee County.

During the Indian Wars (Second Seminole War) John F. Clements served in Levi J. Knight’s Independent Company of Lowndes County, appearing on a company muster roll from August 15 to October 15,  1838. Knight’s Company fought at the Skirmish at William Parker’s Place, and Actions on Little River, among other local engagements.

John’s father, William Clements, died in March of 1837. It is said that he is buried in an unmarked grave  in Union Church Cemetery, (now in Lanier County, GA).  John served as the administrator of his father’s estate.

1837-oct-21-southern-recorder-john-f-clements_administrator

John F. Clements appointed administrator of the estate of William Clement.

Southern Recorder
October 31, 1837

Four Months after date, application will be made to the honorable the Inferior Court of Lowndes county, when sitting for ordinary purposes, for leave to sell the land and negroes belonging to the estate of William Clements, late of said county, deceased.  John F. Clements, Adm’r.

 

In 1840, John F. Clements was enumerated in Lowndes County. He was 30 years old. His household included another white  male, age 40-something, a young slave woman and a slave girl.  Neighbors included John Lee, John Roberts, Benjamin Sirmans and John Knight. Later that year he married Nancy Patten, a daughter of James M. Patten and Elizabeth Lee, sister of Jehu Patten. 

John F. Clement served on the Lowndes County Grand Jury of 1841 which was convened in Troupville, GA, seat of Lowndes County, in May, 1841 under Judge Carlton B. Cole. Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the jury.   The jury criticized the condition of roads in the county and the past-due collections for the sale of lots in the town of Troupville. The jury allowed tax collector Norman Campbell thirty dollars, forty-two-cents and three mills for his insolvent list for the year 1839.

By 1844, John F. Clements had also acquired 245 acres in the 10th  District of Lowndes County. He was also administering 490 acres in Rabun County and 550 acres in Wayne County on behalf of his father

By 1850, John F. Clements owned 980 acres in Lowndes County, 50 of which were improved. The cash value of the farm was assessed at $500, and Clements owned another $50 in equipment and machinery. His livestock included 4 horses, 37 milch cows, 87 other cattle, 21 sheep, and 100 swine, valued at $1000 taken all together. He had on hand 300 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of wheat, 1 bale of cotton at 400 pounds, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, 50 lbs of butter, and $125 worth of meat. His neighbors were Aaron Knight, Aden Boyd, Henry Tison and William Giddings.

In 1856, the Clements and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and into the newly created Berrien County.

When the Civil War started, John F. Clements was about 49 years old. The 1864 Census for Reorganizing the Georgia Militia  enumerated John F. Clements in the 1144th Georgia Militia District.  His age was given and 52 years, 7 months.  The 1864 Census for Re-organizing the Georgia Militia was a statewide census of all white males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not at the time in the service of the Confederate States of America. Based on a law passed by the Georgia Legislature in December 1863 to provide for the protection of women, children, and invalids living at home,  the 1864 census was a list of  men who were able to serve in local militia companies and perform such home-front duties as might be required of them. Possibly John F. Clements was mustered into the 5th Georgia Reserves, Company L.  Military records show a J. F. Clements, 1st corporal of Company L paroled May 1, 1865 following the Confederate surrender.

john-f-clements-5-georgia-reserves

John F. Clements died on September 23, 1864 at age 54. He was buried at Union Church Cemetery, Milltown (now Lakeland, GA).  Levi J. Knight assisted the widow Nancy Clements with the administration of the estate. At the time of his death, the Clements farm place was on six hundred and six acres of land situated on parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of Berrien. His widow, Nancy Clements, was left to run their farm, provide for the six of their children who were still at home, and care for her aged mother.

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Gideon Gaskins and the Oak View Hotel

Gideon D. Gaskins

Gideon D. Gaskins was born September 15, 1859 and raised in the vicinity of Ray’s Mill, GA.  His father was William Gaskins and his mother was Elizabeth Clements.  The Berrien County tax digests of 1884-1886 show the twenty-something young Gideon Gaskins in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district, although he was not a land owner.

On October 17, 1886, Gideon D. Gaskins married Lourene “Lula” Clements in Berrien County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Lula was born September 5, 1866, a daughter of John C. Clements  and Mary Patten.

Some time before 1887,  Gideon Gaskins moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where he worked as a merchant.  The 1887 property tax digest show “Giddie” Gaskins owned property in the town of Willacoochee valued at $135, and $25 worth of household furnishings. His stock of merchandise was valued at $300. The 1890 property tax digests show Gaskins’ town property in Willacoochee valued at $200, as well as $50 in household furnishings and $20 in livestock.

An 1898 society item from offered a tongue-in-cheek critique of the Willacoochee merchant’s physique.  Gaskin’s fellow businessmen and neighbors were: Albert Padgett, merchant; William L. Moore, merchant; Joe Vickers, merchant; Henry Paulk, merchant.  Gid Gaskins was apparently leaner and cleaner shaven than his colleagues.

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

Tifton Gazette
June 17, 1898

Clever Joe Vickers is waxing fat, selling good goods and eating fish these days.  The same would be true of our friends Padgett and Moore, but Gid Gaskins is not quite keeping up with the boys in the matter of flesh.  Like Henry Paulk, however, he is better prepared to stand hot weather.

In the census of 1900, Gideon Gaskins gave his occupation as merchant and indicated he was working as a wage employee. By 1902, Willacoochee was a growing concern and Gideon was ready to run his own shop.  He built a brick store in Willacoochee on the south side of the tracks of the Brunswick and Western Railroad. The Brunswick & Western Railroad ran 171 miles from Brunswick, GA to Albany, GA passing through Waynesville, Waycross, Waresboro, Pearson, Sniff, Kirkland, Pinebloom, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma,  Brookfield, Vanceville, Tifton and other towns.  In the 1870s and 80s the Brunswick & Western had been the stomping grounds of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong; in the 1900s Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong,  son of Ben Furlong, was  residing at Willacoochee, GA in the household of his foster parents Benjamin B. Gray and Ellen Gray .

 

1902-mar-21-gideon-gaskins-in willacoochee-ga

Tifton Gazette
March 21, 1902

A Growing Town

    Tifton’s sister city Willacoochee is showing more evidence of thrift and interprise than any town along the Brunswick and Western.
    The Bank of Willacoochee has just finished two handsome brick store rooms on either side of the bank building, and these are occupied by D. E. Gaskins and by Carter & Ford.
   Mr. G. D. Gaskins is erecting a handsome brick store, 25×90 feet, as is also Mr. J. J. Vickers, the former on the south and the latter on the north side of the railroad, where his store was burned last Christmas.
   Both these buildings will soon be completed and occupied. Messrs. M. Corbitt and J. F. Shearer have also put a handsome line of groceries in the post office building.
    Several more improvements are contemplated.

Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula Clements had only one child, Mattie Mae Gaskins, born October 10, 1890. A 1904 news clipping from the Tifton Gazette suggests that Mattie Gaskins may have attended the Sparks Institute as a teen ager.

1904-apr-29-gideon-gaskins-of-willacoochee-ga

The 1910 census records show that Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had come to live with the Gaskins in Willacoochee by that time.  It was a banner year for Willacoochee in 1910.  The opening of the line of the Georgia & Florida on October 1, 1908 had brought a second railroad to the town and by 1910 the town was experiencing a boom in construction.  The Peoples Bank building went up, along with half a dozen still-existing brick and wood commercial buildings.  and the Willacoochee Electric Plant. And in 1910,  the Oak View Hotel was built in Willacoochee; Gideon Gaskins would be the proprietor.

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA, with its distinctive jerkinhead (clipped gable) roof line. The jerkinhead design roof was stronger, but more expensive than a conventional hip gable roof.

The former Oak View hotel still stands on the corner of McCranie Street and Gaskins Street in Willacoochee, GA.  The hotel was built in a prime location,  one block south of the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad and two blocks east of the depot of the recently opened Georgia & Florida Railroad.   After 1908, the route of the G&F was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles. The Gaskins were one of many south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

The costs of constructing the Oak View Hotel may have strained Gideon D. Gaskins’ finances.  In 1910 he received a judgment of bankruptcy, but later determined that he would be able to make good on all his debts.

1910-apr-29-tfg-gaskins-bankrupt

Tifton Gazette
April 29, 1910

Does Not Appear Bankrupt

     Brunswick, Ga., April 23. – The case of G. D. Gaskins of Willacoochee, recently adjudged to be a bankrupt by the local refferee in bankruptcy, will come up for a hearing in this city on May 2.
    The schedule of liabilities and assets of the bankrupt were recently filed in the court for this district, and they show that he has assets of about $7,450, while his liabilities are only about $2,982.11.
    Some of the indebtedness has been paid off since the filing of the petition, and it is expected that when he comes to the hearing he will offer to pay dollar for dollar.

Despite earlier struggles, business was good in Willacoochee. By 1916 Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had secured a position as bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. When Cox disappeared in May, 1916 there were allegations of malfeasance.

Gideon D. Gaskins died at his home in Willacoochee, GA on October 23, 1916.

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Obituary
The Tifton Gazette

Oct 27, 1916

 G. D. Gaskins, Willacoochee.
Willacoochee, Ga., October 24.-(Special.)- G .D. Gaskins, proprietor of the Oak View hotel and a well-known citizen of this county, died at his home here last night about 6 o’clock. He is survived by a wife, one daughter, Miss Mattie Mae Gaskins, of Willacoochee; four brothers, Bart, Tom and John Gaskins of Ray City, and Bryan Gaskins, of Sparks, and three sisters, Mrs. Ida Sirmans, and Mrs. Catherine Roberts of Nashville, and Mrs. Mary Cox of Ray City. The funeral was held at 3 o’clock this afternoon, followed by the interment here.

The grave of Gideon D. Gaskins lies in the Willacoochee City Cemetery.

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

The information from the grave marker is somewhat problematic. First, the given name on the grave does not follow the expected spelling –  “Gidian” instead of “Gideon.” Second, the date of death on the grave -March 21, 1916 – does not match with obituaries published in local and state newspapers which clearly establish the date of death as October 23, 1916.  It appears that the marker on the grave of Gideon D. Gaskins was placed well after the time of his death, perhaps after the time of his wife’s death, and that the date of his passing or even the spelling of his name was not well known to those tending his grave.

After the death of Gideon D. Gaskins his widow, Lula Clements Gaskins, operated the Oak View Hotel for a few years, then returned to Ray City, GA with her daughter, Mattie Mae Gaskins.   They lived in a house on Main Street, Ray City, until Lula’s death in 1947.

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

1940s Ray City Home of Arlie and Marvin Purvis

Arlie and Marvin Purvis lived in this Ray City, GA home in the 1940s.

Arlie and Marvin Purvis lived in this Ray City, GA home in the 1940s.

Over the years, Arlie Guthrie and Marvin Purvis lived in several Ray City homes. The house they occupied in the 1940s was situated on the southwest corner of North Street and Bryan Street in Ray City, GA.  This residence was just one block north of the home of Hazel Hall and Reid Cox, who were dear friends.  Earlier, the Purvises lived in a house on Main Street, where the Coxes boarded with them.

Marvin Purvis was the proprietor of a general merchandise store in Ray City, and Arlie Purvis was a lunchroom lady at the Ray City School.

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Checking on Citizens Bank of Ray City