The “Valdosta Special” opened Georgia & Florida Railroad, October 1, 1908

Georgia & Florida Railroad

The Section Foreman in Ray City was Cauley May.

EXCURSION TO OPEN RAILROAD - The "Valdosta Special" came through Ray City October 1, 1908 to open the main line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The picture was made in Nashville, GA, showing passengers to first ride the new line.

EXCURSION TO OPEN RAILROAD – The “Valdosta Special” came through Ray City October 1, 1908 to open the main line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The picture was made in Nashville, GA, showing passengers to first ride the new line.


Georgia & Florida Railroad No. 100 passenger car

Georgia & Florida Railroad No. 100 passenger car

Georgia and Florida Railroad, January, 1955. Wendell and Necie Rogers with Engine 507 at the Nashville, GA depot. Image courtesy of

Georgia and Florida Railroad, January, 1955. Wendell and Necie Rogers with Engine 507 at the Nashville, GA depot. Image courtesy of


T.J. Sutton and Ed Benton with Georgia and Florida Railroad Engine No. 507 at the depot in Nashville, GA, March 24, 1955. Image courtesy of

T.J. Sutton and Ed Benton with Georgia and Florida Railroad Engine No. 507 at the depot in Nashville, GA, March 24, 1955. Image courtesy of

Nashville Herald
Thursday, February 16, 1956

Main Line of Ga. & Fla. Railroad Opened in 1908.

          The Georgia & Florida Railroad (now Railway) is a part of the rich history of this section of Georgia, and in a large measure has contributed to the growth and expansion of Berrien County, and the counties adjacent.
      This railroad furnished a more stable means of transportation than was available in the early days, despite the multiplicity of small log lines.

Organized in 1906
         The Georgia & Florida was organized by Mr. John Skelton Williams in 1906 and at that time consisted of the following roads:
         The Augusta and Florida Railroad, 49 miles in length from Keysville to Swainsboro.
         The Millen & Southwestern Railroad of 42 miles between Millen and Vidalia.
         The Douglas, Augusta & Gulf Railroad, 76 miles between Hazlehurst and Nashville, via Broxton.
         The Nashville & Sparks Railroad twelve miles from Nashville to Sparks, GA.
         The Sparks Western twenty miles of log road between Sparks and Kingwood.

No Shops

         None of the roads had any shops except the Millen & Southwestern, other than a pair of heavy jacks and such hand tools as were needed in doing the general repair work in the operation of trains.
         The rolling stock was an odd assortment of all sorts of engines, a few log cars, a few box cars and two to four passengers cars.
         Out of this hodge podge assortment of rail lines and equipment the work of creating a going railroad business was started.
         Financial conditions of the railway became critical in 1913 and on March 27, 1915, receivers were appointed, which receivership continued until January 1, 1927 when the Georgia & Florida Railway was sold and deeded to The Georgia & Florida Railroad. Due to disastrous floods and heavy costs the Railroad again was ordered into receivership by the District Court of the United States.
         Despite it’s financial troubles the receivers have done a good job of increasing the rolling stock, installing Diesel engines, etc. and the road now ships the largest percentage of tobacco, turpentine and watermelons than any other road of it’s size.

Nashville Proud of G. & F.

         The Georgia & Florida Railroad continues to be well thought of in Berrien county and Nashville. For Nashville it is the only surviving rail link to the outside world, though passenger and mail service have long since been discontinued.
        The road serves as the principal freight hauler of merchandise and manufactured goods. Since the coming of the Tobacco Market it has to be especially valuable, and goes all out to give service to it’s patrons.
        It’s contributions to the growth of the section through which it traverses have been great, and though at times the railroad itself was in financial jam, there has been no movement that would develop this part of Georgia but the Georgia & Florida railroad could be depended upon to do it’s part.
         The first tobacco market in Georgia was on the Georgia & Florida railroad in 1917, when the farmers as well as railroads were asking for a market. A meeting of business men was held at Douglas and in just one hour the capital was subscribed. When the season opened in the late summer, the Red Warehouse with a floor space of 90×140 was doing business on the Georgia & Florida. The first tobacco was sold for 20 cents per pound, but today tobacco is gold in Georgia.

Georgia and Florida Railroad

Georgia and Florida Railroad

Aubrey Sizemore

During WWII, Aubrey Sizemore served in the US Navy. Before the War he worked for Harveys Supermarket in Nashville, GA driving a “rolling store” on a route that served rural customers of Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Aubrey Sizemore, Mount Paron Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Alapaha, GA

Grave marker of Aubrey Sizemore, Mount Paron Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Alapaha, GA

Aubrey Sizemore and Maude Griner

Aubrey Sizemore and Maude Griner

Aubrey Sizemore in Navy Uniform

Aubrey Sizemore in Navy Uniform

Aubrey Sizemore - USNR

Aubrey Sizemore – USNR

John Guthrie Tells Story of Berrien Tiger

John Guthrie, folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA relates the story of the Berrien Tiger.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985) , folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985) , folk musician and merchant of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy Library of Congress.

The legendary Berrien Tiger was a large panther that attacked two Wiregrass victims in 1849, before the creation of Berrien county, GA.  Guthrie was a nephew of Hamp Guthrie, who was mauled by the big cat, and grandson of Martha Newbern Guthrie, who was an eyewitness.

John Elwood Guthrie was a son of Arren H. Guthrie and Elizabeth Lucinda “Lucy” Newbern Guthrie.  He moved with his family to Ray City in 1922 and attended the Ray City School. He and his parents and siblings resided on the the farm of his sister, Effie Guthrie Knight on Park Street.  As a boy he attended the Primitive Baptist Church but later attended the Ray City Methodist Church.  He married Madge Sellers and they made their home on North Street in Ray City.

John Elwood Guthrie (1911-1985)
Ray City, Georgia,
August 20, 1977

I was borned out on the Alapaha River.

You want me to tell you a little story about the Alapaha River?

OK. Now, believe it or not, now…if you want do a little research you can go back and find this story.

Now my grandmother…she was about ninety year old when she first began to come to our house. She’d sit in a rockin’ chair and all of us kids would gather up around her, and she would begin to tell us stories about the Civil War and things that happened back during that time.

Here’s a story…now you can believe it or not. Now, it did appear in the Valdosta paper, the Valdosta Times, and also in the Berrien Press. If you want to do a little research you can look it up. But, it happened.

A young boy back in those days, he went down on the Alapaha River a lookin’ for some hogs down there at was lost. And whiles he was down there they was some animal. Now, they said it was a tiger – now you can believe it or not – they said it was a tiger. But it appeared, now, in both these papers. They said it was a tiger.

He jumped on this boy’s back, and he clawed him up, and bit ‘im, and he thought he had killed ‘im. And he tried to drag ‘im back in the river swamps down there. But he’s too heavy. He couldn’t carry ‘im. Instead, he covered ‘im up with leaves. Covered ‘im up with leaves.

So this boy, when he came concious again, he was almost dead, but he got back ta house an he told his brothers and sisters and his parents an’ everything about it. Well, they formed a search party and they went down there lookin’ for this animal. They had their dogs, and their guns, and everything. That’s on Alapaha River, now, right over here.

When they got down to the swamp, the dogs, the first thing, they began to bark, you know, and run all down the river swamps. Well, it wasn’t very long before all them dogs came back, and their hair was standin’ right straight up on their backs, up there, and they just whimperin’, the dogs.

So, the men decided they’d go down there an’ see what had happened. Well, they went down there, and an ol’ uncle o’ mine, his name was Hamp -now, this is history, now if you don’t believe it you can go back and search. His name was Hamp.  And, he was a little bit behind all the rest. Well, this animal, whatever it was, jumped on his back. Jumped on his back and he began to claw ‘im an’ bite ‘im, an’ almost killed ‘im.

Some of the rest of the fellas in the search party looked around back there, and they saw what was happenin’ and they had a gun and they just shot whatever it was, if it was a tiger or whatever it was. They shot ‘im and killed ‘im. And when they killed ‘im, they had to pull his claws out of Uncle Hamp’s back, back there.

Now, this is history, now if you won’t believe it, all right. If you don’t, you can go back an’ search the records, and that’s part of the history.

Adler, T. A. & Guthrie, J. (1977) John Guthrie tells stories and plays guitar, Ray City, Georgia. Ray City, Georgia. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, .

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Lucious Norman Gillham

Lucious Norman Gillham was a veteran of World War II and came to Ray City, GA with his wife after the war. He was born in Jackson County, GA on January 5, 1908, a son of George Washington Gillham and Estelle Mae Gillham.

Lucious N. Gillham enlisted April 24, 1943 at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA.  At the time of enlistment he was living in Fulton County, GA, and was employed as a textile mill worker.  His father and older siblings had all been mill workers at the Porterdale Mill at Newton County, GA since before 1920s.  Lucious was only educated through the 5th grade, after which he left school to take up work. After the death of his father in 1925, Lucious went to work at a textile mill in Varennes, SC but by 1935 he was back at the Porterdale Mill working as a doffer.

Porterdale Mill belonged to the Bibb Manufacturing Company,  one of the largest employers in the state.  “The City of Porterdale is located 35 miles east of Atlanta on the Yellow River in Newton County, Georgia.  In 1899 the Bibb Manufacturing Company built a twine mill on the river and named it Porterdale Mill after a founder of the community, Oliver Porter.  The community of mill homes attracted workers looking for jobs and a better life.”

Porterdale Mill, Georgia

Porterdale Mill, Georgia

People came from all over the state to work in the Porterdale mill.  Among the many workers enumerated at Porterdale in the 1940 census  were Pasco Olandro Hall, of Ray City, GA; Tom Sirmans Jones, of Nashville, GA;  Grady Bloodworth, from the upper 10th District of Berrien County; Jesse Franklin Bennett of Adel, GA; Lois, Jessie Mae, James and Elmer Black, four teenage siblings from Lowndes County, GA.  One wonders if Lucious Gillham and the mill workers from South Georgia knew each other, and if their association later influenced Lucious to come to Ray City. At any rate, Lucious  and Jeanette Gillham moved about 1947 to Ray City,  where for 18 years they worked a farm on Route 1.

Lucious Gillham died on May 28, 1965 and was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.  His obituary appeared in the Nashville Herald.


Obituary of Lucious Norman Gillham, of Ray City, GA

Obituary of Lucious Norman Gillham, of Ray City, GA

Nashville Herald
June 3, 1965

Lucious Gillham Dies On Friday Morning

        Lucious N. Gillham, who made his home on Route One, Ray City, and was for the past eighteen years a resident of that area, succumbed to a lengthy illness early Friday morning, May 28. Mr. Gillham was confined to Berrien County Hospital at the time of his passing.
        Born on January 5, 1908, the deceased was 57 years of age.  A native Georgian, he was the son of the late George W. and Stella Mae Lowrey Gillham. He was married on December 31, 1935 to the former Miss Jeanette Dorsey, by whom he is survived. Mr. Gillham saw service in the United States Army during World War II, and before declining health curtailed his activity he was a farmer.
        Funeral services were conducted from the Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church at 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, May 30, with Elder Howard Weaver officiating. In accordance with Primitive Baptist doctrine, an unaccompanied choir sang three time-honored hymns of consolation, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, and In the Sweet Bye and Bye. Laid to rest in the churchyard cemetery, Mr. Gillham was accompanied to his place of last repose by a cortege of military men from nearby Moody Air Force Base.
        Besides his widow, Mr. Gillham leaves three sisters, Mrs. Doris Dix, of Griffin, and Mrs. Mildred West and Mrs. Beatrice Goode, both of Douglasville. There are also a number of nices and nephews.
       All details were completed under the direction of Lovein Funeral Home.



Grave of Lucious N. Gillham and Jeanette Dorsey Gillham, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA

Grave of Lucious N. Gillham and Jeanette Dorsey Gillham, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA

Harveys Supermarket Served Rural Residents with Rolling Stores

In the 1940s Aubrey Sizemore, of Nashville, GA, worked as a truck driver and salesman on a “rolling store” for Harveys Supermarket.

Aubrey Sizemore

Aubrey Sizemore (1910-1974)

Census records show that Aubrey Sizemore worked as a grocery salesman during that time period.  At the time of enumeration he was living with his wife, Maude Griner, and sons, Joe Sizemore and Bobby Sizemore in Nashville, GA. Also residing in the Sizemore household was his mother-in-law, Sarah Griner.

The 1940 census enumeration of Aubrey Sizemore confirms he worked as a grocery salesman.

The 1940 census enumeration of Aubrey Sizemore shows he worked as a grocery salesman.

Family members recall that Aubrey Sizemore drove a rolling store for Harveys Supermarket.

Harveys Supermarket, Nashville, GA. Image courtesy of

Harveys Supermarket, Nashville, GA. In addition to the location in Nashville, Harveys served rural residents with “rolling stores.” Image courtesy of

The Harveys Supermarket chain was founded by J. M. and Iris Harvey in Nashville, GA in 1924. Their son, Joe H. Harvey, took over the chain in 1950.  The rolling stores served rural residents all over the area, including the families residing in the Ray City area.

Harveys Supermarket once operated a fleet of "rolling stores" - trucks that brought groceries and dry goods to shoppers in rural areas.

The Harveys Fleet
Harveys Supermarket once operated a fleet of “rolling stores” – trucks that brought groceries and dry goods to shoppers in rural areas.

The Rolling Store, once a celebrated fixture in town and country alike, has also been a victim of these dramatically changing times.

A rolling store is exactly what its name suggests.  Although mobile vendors have existed since well before the nation’s founding, these vendors were limited by the distance their horses or feet could carry them. That changed with the spread of the diesel engine in the early 20th century. Rural families who lacked access to these mechanized forms of rapid transportation could still only make it into town maybe three or four times in an entire year to do their essential shopping, but now the store could come to them, often in the form of a brightly painted truck or retrofitted bus that would stop at the same places at the same time each week.

Everything was available from a rolling store’s efficiently stocked shelves: fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, canned goods, wheat flour, lard, kerosene and tools, pre-made underwear, overalls, shirts. Come early Spring, the trucks would be stocked with Easter dresses for little girls, and come autumn, that same shelf space would be filled with school supplies for the new academic year. Even with their hodge-podge of goods, these moving stores could easily sell out of everything each time they hit the country roads, which could amount to some 9,000 to 10,000 pounds of goods in a single day.  — Time Magazine


In Berrien County, GA Aubrey Sizemore drove a daily route of 50 miles or more, stopping at houses all along the way. Many of these people didn’t have any way of getting to town unless they walked. He would slow and blow the horn and people came running out.  He would stop and let up the sides of the truck where you could see in to see the merchandise. 

The children came running for the penny candy the rolling store carried. They sold little syrup candies wrapped in wax paper.  The chewy candy was made from sugar cane and had a distinct taste. 

Some of the women would ask for goods and if the driver didn’t have them on the rolling truck he would bring them on the next round.

If you had something you wanted to barter, if you had a chicken, or eggs, or butter you could trade out for goods or for a “due bill” – a promissory note you could use for store credit at Harveys store in Nashville or from the rolling store. 

The Harveys rolling store had groceries and some dry goods.  You could buy needle and thread and other sewing supplies. You could buy yard goods – cloth – in three yard bundles.  A woman could make a dress from three yards.  Anything Harveys had in their store in Nashville you could find on the rolling store.   – Sizemore Recollections


Many a rolling store’s motto was also “We Buy Anything, We sell Everything,” meaning rural families could also barter with the store, trading “eggs, chickens and pecans” for items like flour, shoes, or chewing tobacco. As a result, in addition to the children’s joyful cries of “Here it comes! Here it comes!” and the honking of the store’s horn, a municipality could often tell if a rolling store was on its way by the cacophony of squawking emanating from the overloaded chicken coops on the top or back of the truck. (This bartering policy also meant that many a child raided their family’s chicken house the morning of the rolling store’s scheduled arrival for an egg or two to exchange for a stick of gum or a piece of candy.)  While those who grew up running to greet the drivers of rolling stores remember these enterprises with great fondness, these endeavors could not withstand the rise of the personal automobile. – Time Magazine


During WWII, Aubrey Sizemore entered the US Navy.

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