Freedmen of Lowndes County: 662 Georgia Militia District

Tax Records of Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA as listed in the 1870 Tax Digest

Freedmen listed in the 1870 Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662 tax digest

Freedmen listed in the 1870 Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662 tax digest

“Emancipation is a small evil compared with that arising from the attempt on the part of Congress to regulate the social, civil and political status of the freedmen in the several states.” – Herschel Vespian Johnson, former Governor of Georgia ~ September 12, 1868

Freedmen of Lowndes County:

  •   658 Georgia Militia District
  •   661 Georgia Militia District
  •   662 Georgia Militia District
  •   663 Georgia Militia District
  • 1246 Georgia Militia District

The 662nd Georgia Militia District, also known as the Clyattville District, occupied the southwest corner of Lowndes County.  Following the Civil War and Emancipation there were 200 African-American freedmen living in this district. Of these, only three had achieved land ownership by 1870; Harvey Pemberton, age 50 ; Buck Jones, age 59; and William Jones. Only 152 white men are listed In the 1870 tax records of 662nd GMD .

Some of the men in these rolls may have been present at the Booby Clift Affair, when a group of young white men attempted to bomb a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.

Several African-American men in this district immigrated with their families to Liberia in 1872, including Andrew Turkett, Jefferson Bracewell, Eli Ponder, Lewis Hart, Henry Jones, Caesar White. Also immigrating to Liberia from the Freedmen of the 658 Georgia Militia District of Lowndes County were Jordan Lemmon, Aaron Miller, London Wright, and Andrew “Anderson” Obey, and their families.

As a finding aid, the tables presented here are organized alphabetically by Name of Freedman. Images of the original pages are provided below.

Name Employer County District
Abe James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Abram H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Alford R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Anderson J. ——– Lowndes 662 GMD
Claborn B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Daniel R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Dennis F. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
Ellic G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
George Studstill Lowndes 662 GMD
Jinks B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Lamb F. M. Gaston Lowndes 662 GMD
Mead R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter A. D. Boon Lowndes 662 GMD
Rufus R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Thomas G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Tim G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Wally James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
James Adams D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Doctor Ameson L. H. G. Hunter Lowndes 662 GMD
Drew Anderson C. F. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Ned Anderson D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isom Austin H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Luke Baker G. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Thomas Banks J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Reuben Bee V. F. Dasher Lowndes 662 GMD
Josh Black G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Prince Blake David Peter Gibson Lowndes 662 GMD
Luke Boring J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Manuel Boston Mrs. M. A. B. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter Boston Mrs. M. A. B. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Bowen J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Bowling D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Scot Boyd B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
James Boykin James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Jefferson Bracewell self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
George Bradwell B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Martin Brown B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Jackson Bryan B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Ennies Burk D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Bob Campbell Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph Carbit T. E. Lanier Lowndes 662 GMD
Lafayet Catching Lowndes 662 GMD
Jerry Clayton S. B. Smith Lowndes 662 GMD
Ned Clemons G. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Iverson Collins D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Cox Dr. J. J. Cox Lowndes 662 GMD
Corbet Crocket self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Stephen Crumned Lowndes 662 GMD
Robert Darsey J. M. ——— Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Davis B. J. Sicinger Lowndes 662 GMD
Milton Davis self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Handy Dawson B. Harvey Lowndes 662 GMD
William Dennard J. N. ——– Lowndes 662 GMD
Nelson Dickson J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
William Elling James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Frank Fillmore R. J. Hinely Lowndes 662 GMD
Harrison Flint E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Ike Floyd M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Fort D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Fort James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Richard Fort G. Cornwall Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Gilmore D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Godfrey J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Chick Gordan D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Charles Griffin J. A. Hardie Lowndes 662 GMD
Isom Hall J. N. Strickland Lowndes 662 GMD
David Hamilton B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Robert Harper self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Will Harris J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
C Harrisson A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
William Harrison J. S. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Hart self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Amus Heart D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Tobey Heart F. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
John Henry D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Reuben Horn H. M. Horn Lowndes 662 GMD
Jesse Howell B. L. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Sol Howell J. A. Howell Lowndes 662 GMD
R Irwin A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
John Jackson J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Jackson B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Ben Jinkins R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Jinkins self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Bob Johnson self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Boyd Johnson D. P. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Johnson D. P. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jerry Johnson James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Ned Johnson self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Sam Johnson J. N. Strickland Lowndes 662 GMD
Aaron Jones J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Anthy Jones E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Boston Jones B. J. Sicinger Lowndes 662 GMD
Buck Jones J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Dick Jones J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
Fain Jones J. B. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Handy Jones J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Jones self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Jones J. T. ——– Lowndes 662 GMD
Mud Jones B. J. Sicinger Lowndes 662 GMD
Reddin Jones J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
William Jones J. F. Arnold Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Kee D. P. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Sam King B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
David Kinsley J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Joe Knight M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Lank Knight M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Abe Lambe W. R. Peterson Lowndes 662 GMD
Jim Lee J. S. Swilley Lowndes 662 GMD
Sesar Lester D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter Manor M. A. Lineberger Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Marell D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Demsey Marshall James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Glasco Marshall R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Handy Marshel F. M. Peacock Lowndes 662 GMD
Solomon Marshel F. M. Peacock Lowndes 662 GMD
Fayett Massey R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph McCraney D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Jacob Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
James Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Ishmal Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Paterson Mckinney self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Miles McLeod D. McLeod Lowndes 662 GMD
Joe Miller J. F. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Peter Mincy J. N. ——- Lowndes 662 GMD
Frank Mitchell B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
George Mitchell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isam Mobly D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Chashall Mood self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Sabe Moore R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Monday Morell F. Hinely Lowndes 662 GMD
John Morgan D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jack Moses D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Kelley Moses A. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Daniel Nelson J. H. —–ey Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Nelson J. F. Arnold Lowndes 662 GMD
Solomon Newton C. W. Stokes Lowndes 662 GMD
George Packick D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
R Paton A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Harvey Pembleton self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Daniel Person D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Eli Ponder self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Jacob Preston B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Lovless Peterson W. R. Peterson Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph Phillips William Phillips Lowndes 662 GMD
Sippio Prichard D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Hamp Reed Lowndes 662 GMD
Stephen Richards James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
Aaron Richardson R. H. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Jim Richardson M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Tomb Riley E. A. Thompson Lowndes 662 GMD
John Roe D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Russel D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
C Shanks A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Samuel Shelton E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Andrew Simmons James Thompson Beville Lowndes 662 GMD
William Simmons L. H. G. Hunter Lowndes 662 GMD
Aurlander Simpson J. A. Wisenbaker Lowndes 662 GMD
Jim Simson B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Jacob Smith H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Wiley Smith M. T. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Nelson Snell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Elbert Spain J. W. Perry Lowndes 662 GMD
Elias Spell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
John Spell D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
William Stanfild Lowndes 662 GMD
Fayet Staw D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Ely Strickland T. E. Lanier Lowndes 662 GMD
I Terrell A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Allen Thomas D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Berry Thomas R. Y. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
George Thomas H. C. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Lewis Thomas D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Samuel Thomas D. McSwain Lowndes 662 GMD
Ceasar Tison self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
George Townsend self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Andrew Turkett self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
C Vandross A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Henry Warren B. F. Lane Lowndes 662 GMD
Oren Welch E. A. Thompson Lowndes 662 GMD
Chadwick Wheeler self-employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Caesar White self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Jeremiah White W. Lineberger Lowndes 662 GMD
Richard White self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Dan Williams D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
William Dickerson self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Edgar Williams E. Outlaw Lowndes 662 GMD
Fill Williams D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Frank Williams D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
George Williams B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Isaac Williams B. Harvey Lowndes 662 GMD
Joseph Williams R. J. Hinely Lowndes 662 GMD
Toney Williams W. L. Rogers Lowndes 662 GMD
Ivens Wilson D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Jerry Wilson B. F. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Samuel Winters self employed Lowndes 662 GMD
Moses Witherspoon A. Everitt Lowndes 662 GMD
Sidney Witherspoon D. J. Jones Lowndes 662 GMD
Larry Zeigler B. L. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Fed Zeigler Mrs. M. A. B. Zeigler Lowndes 662 GMD
Andrew Zitterower J. N. —— Lowndes 662 GMD
Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [3 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [3 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [4 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [4 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [5 of 5]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 662, 1870 Tax Digest [5 of 5]

 

Related Posts:

Freedmen of Lowndes County: 658 Georgia Militia District

Tax Records of Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA as listed in the 1870 Tax Digest

The 1870 Property Tax Digest for Lowndes County, GA was a tax roll of adult male residents. The rolls were organized by militia district.

  •   658 Georgia Militia District
  •   661 Georgia Militia District
  •   662 Georgia Militia District
  •   663 Georgia Militia District
  • 1246 Georgia Militia District

For white citizens, the tax records were organized alphabetically and include fields on taxable professions, dentists, auctioneers, photographers, bowling alleys, billiard tables, game tables, race tracks, children, disabled children, hands employed, real estate, and personal estate.

The tax records of African-American “Freedmen” were segregated from those of whites and placed in the very back pages of the digest. They were organized by ‘Names Of Employer” rather than by “Names Of Freedmen.” The only fields included on the form for Freedmen were for real estate and personal estate. Of the 500 “Colored” men on the 1870 tax rolls of Lowndes County, only 22 were reported with taxable personal property and only 11 owned any real estate.

Some of the men in these rolls were undoubtedly present at the Booby Clift Affair,  which occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.  In Valdosta, a group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively called Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.

Illustration of Freedmen in Georgia, 1866. The South: A Tour of Its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, a Journey Through the Desolated States, and Talks with the People

Illustration of Freedmen in Georgia, 1866. The South: A Tour of Its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, a Journey Through the Desolated States, and Talks with the People

As a finding aid, the tables presented here are organized alphabetically by Name of Freedman. Images of the original pages are provided below.

Several African-American men in this district immigrated with their families to Liberia in 1872, including Jordan Lemmon, Aaron Miller, London Wright, and Andrew “Anderson” Obey.

658 Georgia Militia District, Lowdnes County, GA, 1870

Name of Freedman Name of Employer County District
Ples Alexander T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Baalem James Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Andrew Baily Land owner, Self-employed Lowndes 658 GMD
Evis Baker J. J. Hutchinson Lowndes 658 GMD
Sam Bevill T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Morris Brice R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Alford Brown R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Elick Brown I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Carter W.J. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Moses Davis R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Drayton B. A. Edmondson Lowndes 658 GMD
Daniel Folsome R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Randal Folsome H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Caleb Franklin E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Jacob Gayfield W. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Thomas Godin H. B. Heel Lowndes 658 GMD
Charles Green James Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Berry Hall T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Ike Inman J. T. Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Inman W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Ned Johnson R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Nelson Johnson L. Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Oscar Johnson R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Charles Jones E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Bunch King L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Jef King L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Kirkling L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Umphrey Law E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Jordan Lemons B. Wells Lowndes 658 GMD
Jack Lukas E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Robert Lukas E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Manor John Hodges, Sr. Lowndes 658 GMD
Green Martin I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
William Martin R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Elbert McKennon R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Alexander McLevan W. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Joseph Miley R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Primus Miley R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Miller Land owner, Self-employed Lowndes 658 GMD
Albert Miller R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
John Miller Land owner, Self-employed, Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Sam Mincy R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Wilson Mincy R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Mobley Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Dave Moore R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Jerry Nails L. Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Andrew Obea H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Lorenzo Powers I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Moses Powers M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Rafe B. A. Edmondson Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Roberts Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Bill Rountree W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Josiah Rountree W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
John Scruggs Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Frank Sharp H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Ned Sharp R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Henry Sirmons John Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Jack Smith M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Handy Smith M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Dennis Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Hamp Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Ike Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Joseph Swain L. Cokers, Sr. Lowndes 658 GMD
Ben Syrmans R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
William Thompson B. Wells Lowndes 658 GMD
Daniel Vickers William Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Vickers A. H. Ennis Lowndes 658 GMD
London Wright Eli D. Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Wright T Wright John Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Allen Williams E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Williams G. M. Borrew Lowndes 658 GMD
Lee Williams I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Peter Williams J. F. Barefield Lowndes 658 GMD
Peter Williams J. M. Lewis Lowndes 658 GMD

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [1 of 2]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [1 of 2]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 2]

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

The Clift Affair occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.   Much of what has been written about the incident at Valdosta has minimized what would today undoubtedly be categorized as a terrorist attack.

The Clift Affair occurred just days after the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, probably under the leadership of former Confederate General John B. Gordon, began its reign of political terrorism in this state with the murder of Radical organizer George Ashburn at Columbus, GA. (Georgia would later name its largest military training base of WWI and WWII Camp Gordon in honor of General Gordon).     In Valdosta,  group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively referred to as Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.  Local public outcry over the Clift Affair in Valdosta, condemning equally the actions of the candidate and the bombers, was led by Richard A. Peeples, a prominent Confederate veteran and lawyer of Valdosta, and former Clerk of the Court of Berrien County, GA.

 

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift was born in North Marshfield, Plymouth County, MA. on September 30, 1837. He attended the common schools and Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH. He graduated from the medical school of Harvard University in 1862. He entered the Union Army and was acting surgeon from July 13, 1862, to August 7, 1865, then served in the Army of the Potomac until November 18, 1866. Afterwards he moved to Savannah, GA with his brother, Walter Lovell Clift.  J. W. Clift established a medical practice and Walter L. Clift practiced law.  J. W. Clift joined the Georgia Medical Society and was elected Librarian of the organization in January, 1867. The brothers became activists encouraging freedmen to exercise their right to vote which had been granted in the Sherman Military Bill.  J.W. Clift spoke at a Savannah gathering of several thousand freedmen on March 18, 1867.  On May 25, 1867 the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer announced J. W. Clift  had been appointed to the board of voter registration for the city of Savannah by order of Major General Pope under the Reconstruction Acts. Of the 5,330 voters registered in Savannah that year, 3,061 were African-American. At a meeting for the organization of the Republican Party in Chatham County, J. W. Clift was elected as a delegate to the Republican State Convention to be held July 4, 1867 in Atlanta, GA. Both brothers spoke at the Savannah Republican rally October 21, 1867, attended by about 4000 freedmen according to the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer. W. L. Clift was a delegate to the state constitutional convention.  In early 1868, Dr. J. W. Clift was considered as a Radical candidate for mayor of Savannah, but at a mass meeting of freedmen on March 16. 1868 he was nominated as the Radical candidate for the U. S. Congress.

Hitting the campaign trail, J. W. Clift came to Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA. In Pines and Pioneers, J. Shelton described Cliff’s event here:

A candidate for Congress, J. W. Clift arrived in Valdosta to make a campaign speech. Clift sought the Negro vote, and he scheduled an address for Saturday night, April 4, 1868. Without bothering to secure from the authorities the required permission to speak publicly, Clift began his talk to an audience at the courthouse. There was an explosion, for a group of young Confederate veterans had placed a keg containing a “small modicum of powder” beneath the building. No one was hurt, but the young men succeeded in breaking up the meeting.

Primary sources on the Valdosta bombing attack,  the Valdosta Times and Savannah Daily News and Herald, ensconced the event in a shared language that derides the victims and excuses the perpetrators. language that many references have maintained up to the most recent years.

The political candidate, Dr. J. W. Clift was constantly referred to as a “prowling, sniveling booby,” “vagrant scalawag, ” or “carpet bagger.” The terms scalawag and carpetbagger have sometimes been redefined in the modern narrative as neutral;  scalawags were “southerners who supported Reconstruction” and Carpetbaggers were “northerners who came south after the war to seek their fortune through politics.”  But in 1868, these terms were unquestionably pejorative; carpetbaggers were unscrupulous Yankee profiteers and scalawags were the white southern traitors who collaborated with them and the freedmen.  In a clipping from the South Georgia Times reprinted August 20, 1868 in the Atlanta Constitution, Berrien County bragged that it had no scalawags:   “NO SCALLAWAGS IN BERRIEN! No scalawags in Irwin and Telfair, and that’s the reason no election is ordered for those counties. Y.M.D.C. is organized here, but there is not enough radicalism to keep it lively.” (The Young Men’s Democratic Club was the public political wing of the KKK,) Dr. Clift’s brother, Walter L. Clift, a lawyer and delegate to the state constitutional convention, was referred to as a “little cheese-eyed man” and both the Clift brothers were alternately tagged with the description as “a sour little fellow, with weak, wicked eyes…[and] industrious imbecility.” In an extended tirade, the Thomasville Enterprise referred to Dr. Clift as “a silly, overweening school boy, about to be elevated above his capacity…we were never more astonished at the extreme feebleness and want of prestige and capacity in a candidate for so high an office…Such is the contemptible creature who has the effrontery to ask the colored citizens of this district for their votes to send him to Congress of the United States… an unknown adventurer, destitute of talents, character, courage and every manly attribute – an ignorant, insolent upstart, who in the face of an outraged and indignant community, meanly seeks by falsehood and misrepresentation, by appeals to the prejudices and passions of their newly enfranchised race – by hypocrisy and deceit and every base and contemptible artifice, to obtain a position for which he is neither intellectually, morally, legally or socially qualified. 

White Valdostans asserted that by holding the meeting, Dr. Clift himself precipitated the incident  – that he was acting”illegally” since he did not have the approval of civil authorities, although the entire state was then under military rule and Clift was exercising free speech to address a peaceable assembly.  The Valdosta Times even suggested that J. W. Clift planted the bomb himself, in a diabolical plot to implicate “the poor rebs,”  widen the divide between the “good men” of Lowndes county and the “Negroes,” and create a sensation among his black supporters.

Valdosta Times referred to Clift’s audience as “ a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism,” and the “ignorant and credulous classes.” The Valdosta Times wrote that the gullibility of the freedmen was illustrated in their naive belief of Clift’s statements that “white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children.

The conspirators were just “some of the boys [who] concluded to have a little fun.”  They only “intended to create a ‘big scare’.

The bomb was just a “prank“…“a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.” Further, it couldn’t have been a real bomb because it was preposterous that any white man would have risked accidentally blowing himself up in the company of “negroes.

Subsequent reports suggest that the conspirators and their allies, having failed in the full destructive effects of the explosion, further broke up and dispersed the crowd of freedmen by force of arms, surrounding the Courthouse building and holding it throughout the night. At the time of the bombing on Saturday April 4, 1868, Valdosta and all of Georgia was still under the  federal military occupation of Reconstruction, and Federal officers viewed the civil unrest as a collapse of local authority. Albert B. Clark,  Freeman’s Bureau agent at Quitman,  “quickly reported to military headquarters at Thomasville that a riot had occurred and that local authorities were ‘powerless’ to do anything about it.

By Monday, April 6, newspapers all over the country were mentioning the Clift Affair in Valdosta, many attributing the violence to the KKK.

The Philadelphia Age
April 6, 1868
At a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday night, a disturbance was caused by the discovery of a keg of powder under the speaker’s desk. The meeting dispersed amid general excitement.

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Janesville, Wisconsin Gazette
April 6, 1868

The Tribune’s special Savannah of the 5th says the Republican meeting at Valdosta yesterday was broken up by a band of regulators of Ku klux Klan. Powder was placed under the building in which Dr. J. W. Cliff, the Republican candidate for Congress was to speak.

A New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Reconstruction violence in Georgia notes   “It is impossible to untangle local vigilante violence from political terrorism by the organized Klan, but it is clear that attacks on blacks became common during 1868. Freedmen’s Bureau agents reported 336 cases of murder or assault with intent to kill on freedmen across the state from January 1 through November 15 of 1868.”

At Valdosta, a number of concerned white residents of  met to discuss the bombing and attorney Richard A. Peeples, was called to the Chair.  Peeples was a former Clerk of the Berrien County Courts.  R. T. Myddleton was appointed Secretary. Following a motion by Col. A. J. Little, Peeples appointed a committee to draft a resolution expressing condemnation of the actions.  The committee, consisting of Henry Burroughs Holliday, Col. A. J. Little, B. F. Moseley, G. T. Hammond,  and M. C. Morgan quickly composed the following:

Whereas one J. W. Clift a candidate for Congress came to this place on Saturday last, and without giving to the civil authorities the notice required by military orders – so as to enable said authorities to have a police in readiness to preserve order – did at night hold a meeting composed of a large number of negroes, many of whom were armed and standing as guard around the house.

And whereas, certain irresponsible parties did, in a most irregular and disgraceful manner disperse and break up said meeting – thereby endangering the lives of many persons – much to the regret of all good citizens,

We the citizens in meeting assembled, do hereby, express our condemnation and dissapproval of said riotous conduct.

˜ ° ˜

On the evening of Monday, April 6, the civil authorities at Valdosta moved to preempt military intervention in the case. The Mayor M. J. Griffin, of Valdosta, ordered the arrest of  five  suspected conspirators in the bombing: A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo.

A slightly more detailed version of the events in Valdosta, highly sympathetic to “the boys,” was published in the Savannah newspapers.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

        Our readers have had rumors of a muss of some sort got up by the vagrant scalawag who aspires to represent the negro constituency of this District in Congress. We have heard various statements in regard to the affair, but nothing authentic until we met the following in the Valdosta Times of the 8th inst. The editor says:
        On Saturday night last there was quite a stir in our town. One Clift, surnamed booby, was here to make a speech, to induce the colored people to vote for him. He went illegally to work, having no fear of the military before his eyes, called his meeting, went to speaking, sans ceremonie, without so much as saying “by your leave, Mr. Mayor.” Having placed himself in the wrong by his lawless course, it is not to be wondered that there was as little sympathy for him as for his cause. Some of the boys concluded to have a little fun, and placed under the building a keg in which it was said there was a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.
        Another version of it is, that it was placed there with the cognizance of the said Clift, surnamed as above, for the purpose of making a finishing stroke to the poor rebs, as thereby and therein they were to be demolished indirectly by the gunpowder, but directly by his masterly strategy. It is idle to suppose that there was any intention on the part of the boys, if they did it, to blow up their friends and relations, some of whom were in the building. They intended a “big scare” and carried out their purpose quite effectively.
        We condemn in the strongest terms we can use, all such proceedings. They are both unlawful and unjustifiable. They tend to harm the cause they would subserve. The negroes will, of course, be inclined to listen to those who will endeavor to persuade them that it was really the intention to blow them up, and thus the breach be widened that good men are endeavoring to close up as far as may be practicable and right. And so far as this goes Clift has been partially successful, if his is the strategy that laid the explosive train.
        Our citizens have had a meeting and condemned this procedure in unqualified terms of disapproval.
        The strong presumption is that this diabolical gunpowder plot was “a weak invention of the enemy” – a resort of the prowling, sniveling Booby to create a sensation and to increase his electioneering capital with his ignorant and credulous classes.
         The idea that the young men of Valdosta would attempt with a handful of powder to blow up such a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism as must have composed Booby’s auditory, is perfectly absurd – especially when it is considered that the Guy Fawkes of the enterprise in exploding the powder, to which no train or fuse was set, must necessarily have blown himself up with the rest. However fearless and self sacrificing the projector of such a plot might be, it is utterly preposterous to suppose that any white man would be willing to be blown to Ballahack or anywhere else, in such company.

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Valdosta Times
April 8, 1868

We are sorry that the Radicals have not sent a man of sense to run as a candidate for Congressional honors in the First Congressional District. The negroes yesterday “damned” Clift “with faint praise.” His speech was a feeble, sickly tirade against somebody or something, or nobody or nothing. Not one of his hearers could tell to-day what he said or what he meant. Some of them seemed to arouse when he said that white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children. The response of one was “Bress God, brodder, let us pray.’’ The more sensible among them know how to estimate such a pretender. They are not quite so senseless as he took them to be.
Valdosta Times April 8th.

About the accused, this much is known:

  • IVERSON L. GRIFFIN
    Eighteen-year-old Iverson L. Griffin was the son of a wealthy planter and merchant of Valdosta. His father, Thomas B. Griffin, had served as a Confederate state senator of Georgia from 1861-1863 and was therefore disallowed from taking the Oath of Allegiance to restore his U.S. citizenship. His father had been the owner of 12 slaves, including 4 mulatto children under the age of 4. It is also noteworthy that the Mayor of Valdosta at the time was M. J. Griffin; the only M. J. Griffin that appears in the Lowndes County census records of that period is Iverson Griffin’s brother, Marcus J. Griffin.
  • JOHN DANIEL CALHOUN
    At the time of the Clift Affair, 24-year-old John Daniel Calhoun was a deputy sheriff of Lowndes County, GA. Census records suggest he may have been orphaned at an early age. His early childhood was in the household of Harmon Sapp. In the 1860 census, he was enumerated as a teenager in the household of William Bradford, working as a laborer. Also in the Bradford household was Richard Ault, who would later serve as blacksmith for the Berrien Minute Men. By the 1880s Calhoun would move to Berrien County, GA where he farmed in the 1145 Georgia Militia District. In 1905 he was serving as Postmaster in Crossland, GA.
  • ALEXANDER H. DARNELL
    Darnell was a young merchant of Valdosta. He was native of Kentucky and the first record of his presence in Lowndes County is his signature on the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, signed October 18, 1867. He was 25 years old at the time of the Clift incident. He died in Lowndes County in October 1869 from an “abscess of the liver”.
  • JOHN JAMES RAMBO
    Rambo, age 17 at the time of the Clift Affair, was an orphan of Confederate veteran Dr. John Rambo and Mary Ark Ryals. According to The Rambo Family Tree, his parents were both born in England and immigrated to Georgia. His father received his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia in Atlanta, graduating in 1847. John J. Rambo was born January 18, 1851 in Perrys Mill, Tatnall County, Georgia. After his mother died of brain fever in 1859, his father married a second time to Maria Clifton.    His father was enumerated in 1860 as the owner of 7 enslaved people. During the Civil War, his father served as a surgeon in the 47th Georgia Infantry Regiment, rising to the rank of Major.  His step-mother died on March 14, 1862 His father left the army on September 17, 1862 because of a physical disability. Some time during or prior to 1863, John J. Rambo came with his father to live in Valdosta, leaving his half-brother William in the custody of his Clifton grandparents.  John’s father died in Valdosta about August 28 1864 at the age of 34.  After the Clift Affair in Valdosta,  John and some of his Ryals relatives kidnapped his younger step-brother, William Rambo, and traveled by boat to New York.  There, John J. Rambo studied to become a doctor and took up medical practice in Brooklyn, NY for the remainder of his life.

Mayor Griffin’s quick action was temporarily effective in preventing military intervention. By the time Lt. Bard and Corporal John Murray arrived in Valdosta with a detail of federal soldiers the five suspects were already in civil custody. For the time being the U. S. soldiers took no action. But a week later, after the alleged bombers were released on bond, the soldiers moved over night to arrest them and transported them to Savannah for confinement in the federal barracks. Valdosta Mayor M. J. Griffin protested the military arrests and Thomas B. Griffin, father of Iverson L. Griffin, traveled to Savannah to visit the accused in jail.  The South Georgia Times report of the arrest was reprinted in the Savannah Daily News and Herald, along with an exchange of telegrams between Mayor Griffin and military authorities.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Military Arrests in Valdosta.
{From the South Georgia Times}
         We are sorry to have to state that Monday night last some of our young men were taken from their beds and immediately hurried off to Savannah by United States troops, we presume to undergo military trial. It is alleged that they were engaged in the gunpowder sport referred to in — last. They have already given bond – the four are under arrest – to appear and answer before the civil tribunals. Our Mayor and Sheriff promptly discharged their duty in the premises. The hardship of the case is, that civil law has but a name. The iron is —ering in into the soil, and liberty and law is fast passing away. These young men are to be tried where perhaps their case is already prejudged, far away from their homes and sympathy and kindness of friends. Time was when such an act would have fired the great heart of the country from one end of is bounds to the other. They should have been tried by their peers of the vicin– — age, and if guilty of the violation of law, punished as that law would punish them, and not at the behest of prejudiced strangers.
        Our Mayor sent the following telegram to Gen. Meade relative to what had been done here. General Meade’s reply is appended. Alas! for the rights for which our fathers fought, and of which we have so much boasted.
         A telegram was received by Mr. M. J. Griffin, at 6 o’clock yesterday, from Mr. T. B. Griffin that “the boys were all comfortably quartered in the barracks, and well cared for.”

Valdosta, April 14, 1868
Major Gen. Meade, Atlanta, Ga.
Sir: – At a late hour last night, without my knowledge, a party of U. S. soldiers arrived here and carried away the following persons, viz. A. H. Darnell, Iverson Griffin, John Calhoun, Ben Smith, John Rambo – who are alleged to have been concerned in a riot at this place on the 4th inst. These men, as Mayor, I had arrested and bound to appear at the Superior Court of this county to answer for the same. I respectfully request to be informed if they were arrested by your order, and if not, that they be released and take their trial before the civil tribunals of the county.
I have the honor to be,
Your Obedient Serv’t
M. J. Griffin,
Mayor Valdosta

Atlanta, GA., April 14th, 1868
M. J. Griffin, Mayor Valdosta:
The persons named in your telegram were arrested by General Meade’s order, and will be held for trial by Military Commission.
R. C. Drum, A. A. G.

In subsequent days state and national newspapers provided additional details.

The Macon Georgia Weekly Telegraph
April 24,1868

The Clift Electioneering Trick At Valdosta.
Yesterday, Lieutenant Bard, United States Army, arrived in this city on the train from Valdosta, having in charge five young men, whom he had arrested there the day previous, on a charge of having been the originators of the disturbance which occurred at that place on last Saturday night week. –
This is the general supposition, as nothing was said by the arresting officer of the why and the wherefore of their being taken into custody. Their names are Alexander H. Darrell, John Calhoun, John Rambo, Benjamin L. Smith and Iverson L. Griffin. They are all young men of good family, and entirely innocent of all blame in the matter. Mr. Calhoun was Deputy Sheriff of Lowndes County, and a faithful and efficient officer.- Mr. Griffin was not present at the Court House on the night in question, and in no way connected with the affair. Thus are innocent men torn from their families and thrust into prison by the strong arm of military power, and made to suffer by the rascality of a Radical carpet-bag adventurer. [Sav. Rep., 15th.

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Indianapolis Journal
April 30, 1868

ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP A REPUBLICAN MEETING – Information has reached the Congressional Committee rooms that on Tuesday last [Saturday, April 4, 1868] an attempt was made to blow up the Court House at Valdosta, Georgia, where a Republican meeting, composed mostly of colored people, was being addressed by Dr. J. W. Clift (white). A keg containing eighteen pounds of powder had been purchased at a store in the place, and a portion take out to make a train, and the remainder of the powder was placed under the Court House. Fortunately the cask was discovered and removed in season, but the train [fuse] was fired, and in an attempt of the persons present to escape, they were fired upon by a gang of white men outside, who had surrounded the building. This party held possession of the place that night, but on the next day they were dispossessed by the military, and the meeting was held.

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Bedford Inquirer
April 17, 1868

Terrorism In The South

      Our Democratic brethern would have the people believe that the South would be a perfect paradise if such men as Meade, Pope, Sickles, Sheridan, &c., were kept away. General Hancock has had several months control of the Southwest trying to carry out a different policy from that of the before-mentioned heroes with what results is indicated in the following article from the Pittsburg Chronicle of a few days ago:
      The dispatches which we published in yesterday’s issue, relative to the brutal murder of Hon. George W. Ashburn, of Columbus, Georgia, by a gang of villains in disguise, and the breaking up of a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, by a band of regulators of the Ku-Klux Klan, come at the heels of much similar information through letters and newspapers, and show that in portions of the South, a reign of terrorism is in actual operation. It verily seems that these ill-fated people are moved by some malignant fatality to thwart all efforts which look towards their gradual restoration to order and prosperous enterprise. Not satisfied with opposing every political measure that has been devised to enable them to get out of the dreadful slough in which they were left upon the suppression of the rebellion, they are actually engaged in the suicidal business of convulsing society so utterly by lawlessness, as to put a complete quietus upon the views and schemes of all those adventurous Northern capitalists, who had begun seriously to meditate risking their families and fortunes in the South…It is not pleasant for us to be compelled to state that at present, in many Southern States, it would he unsafe for a Northern man to buy property and attempt to carry on any farming or manufacturing enterprise. We have never gone out of our way to give added circulation to the prejudicial stories that are periodically current about the South. Whenever we could, consistently with the truth, present the bright side of the picture, we have cheerfully done so .But it is, in our judgment, perfectly clear from the accumulated information which pours in upon us, that, notwithstanding the cheerful fancies of such military optimists as General Hancock, there is an immense amount of crime perpetrated in Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, and portions of Arkansas and Missouri. How far it would be possible to curb these excesses by military power we cannot determine. It is probably impossible to keep perfect order over so wide an area and amongst a population so thoroughly demoralized by a long and unsuccessful war. Years will elapse before anything bearing the faintest semblance to the orderly and regulated institutions of the North will prevail. Then will slowly set in a desirable immigration, and the wasted and cursed South will begin to recover, to get strength,to enjoy the blessings of law, and to reap the fruits of sensibly directed industry.

The citizens of Lowndes county presented a bond for the release of the alleged bombers to the military authorities in Savannah, but this offer was rejected.

STILL IN CUSTODY – The young men who were arrested by the military at Valdosta, because Dr. Clift attempted to blow himself up with gunpowder, for political capital, are still held in custody at the United States Barracks in this city, awaiting the orders of General Mead.

The men were kept incarcerated through the election of 1868, and for a couple of weeks afterward.  After about a month of confinement, the suspects were finally released on bail secured by citizens of Savannah.

May 8, 1868

Release or the Valdosta Prisoners on Bail.
—Yesterday Messrs. A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo, who, it will be remembered, were arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the supposed attempt to blowup a Radical meeting at Valdosta, previous to the election, while one Clift was addressing it, were released on bail in the sum of $10,000 each, to appear for trial when summoned by the military authorities. This was done by order of General Meade. Captain J. L. Moseley brought to the city a bond of $60,000 of the citizens of Lowndes county, which Col. Maloney would not accept, and six citizens of Savannah, representing nearly $200,000, offered themselves as security, were accepted and the prisoners released. The late prisoners requested us to publish the following:

Savannah, Ga., May 8, 1868.
Editors News and Herald: We, the Valdosta prisoners, who have been confined in the United States Barracks at this place, wish, through your paper, to render our thanks to Col. Maurice Maloney and his command, for their kind treatment, both to us and to our friends who visited us.
Yours Respectfully,
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo, Savannah, GA, May 8,1868.

To the Citizens of Savannah: We wish to return our thanks for their kind attention and hospitality while we were in confinement at this place in the United States Barracks, and to the noble-minded merchants who have so generously stood our most unreasonable bail required by the military authorities. We trust we may at some future time be in such a position as to repay the many obligations under which we have been placed.
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo,

The Georgia Election of April, 1868

The election of 1868 was a four day affair which commenced on April 20. Throughout the voting period, the southern newspapers maintained a cacophony of allegations of voter fraud, corruption, official vote rigging, coercion, voter ignorance, and other irregularities.  By 1867, the conditions of Reconstruction required an Oath of Allegiance to the United States 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.

The April 1868 election in Georgia was a vote for state officers and U.S. congressmen and a vote on ratification of of a new state constitution.  When the votes were counted, the new constitution  was approved by a vote of 88,172 to 70,200. In the race for governor Rufus Bullock, defeated Confederate General John B. Gordon 83,527 to 76,356. In the elections for state representatives, Radicals won 84 of the 172 House seats (29 of them black) and came within three seats of taking control of the House. In the state senate, however, the Radicals (3 of them black)  carried a solid majority, with 27 seats to the Democrats’ 17 seats. The Radical believed blacks were entitled to the same political rights and opportunities as whites.

Clift Wins Seat in House of Representatives

Under Reconstruction, the results of the election were subject to certification by the military authorities. In the announcement made by General Meade, Dr. J. W. Clift was declared the winner in the First Congressional District of Georgia.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 7, 1868

Headq’rs Third Military District, Department of Ga., Fla. and Ala.,
Atlanta, Ga., June 30, 1868.

General Orders No. 93,

From the returns made to these Headquarters by the Boards of Registration, of the election held in the State of Georgia for civil officers of said State and for members of Congress, under the provisions of General Orders No. 40, (Paragraph III,) issued from these Headquarters, which election commenced on the 20th day of April, 1868, and continued four days, it appears that in said election the following named persons were elected Representatives to the Congress of the United States from the Congressional

Districts to their names respectively attached, viz :
             First District—J. W. Clift.
             Second District—Nelson Tift, Sr.
             Third District—W. P. Edwards.
             Fourth District–Samuel Gove.
             Fifth District—C. H. Prince.
             Sixth District—John H. Christy.
             Seventh District—P. M. B. Young.

By order of Major General Meade.
R. C. Drum,
Assistant Adjutant General.

Following the ratification of the 14th Amendment by the newly elected General Assembly, the US Congress initially readmitted Georgia to the Union in July 1868.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.

Joseph Wales Clift served in the Fortieth U.S. Congress from July 25, 1868, to March 3, 1869.  

Second Valdosta Attack on Representative Clift

Representative Clift did not enjoy a triumphant return to Valdosta. While passing through the “notorious” town in October 1868, he and his brother, Walter Lovell Clift, were again assaulted and their lives threatened.

Manitowoc Tribune
October 8, 1868

      We are informed that about ten days ago Joseph W. Clift, M. C. [Member of Congress] from Southern Georgia, while riding in the cars on the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, with his brother was treated in a manner which shows conclusively that free speech is not tolerated in that section of the country.
     When the train stopped at Valdosta a town of one thousand inhabitants, distant from Savannah about one hundred and twenty miles, a large crowd surrounded the cars, and some fifteen or twenty ruffians, armed with heavy sticks, entered the car with the avowed purpose of taking them out and lynching them.
They were only prevented from doing this by the urgent entreaties of several prominent men, one of whom was an elector on the democratic ticket. The argument of the gentleman was, that the ‘boys mustn’t do it because it would injure the party and town!’ The crowd outside becoming weary of waiting for the sport to commence, hooted and yelled ‘Bring the d—-d Radical out!’ and again the roughs seemed determined to accomplish their purpose but were again met by the same objections on the part of their friends and after heaping all manner of insults on them offensive gentlemen were quietly passing through their town, reluctantly relinquished their purpose and left the train. This town Valdosta enjoys an unenviable notoriety as the scene of a Ku-Klux monstralation last April when a band of forty or fifty armed men first placed eighteen pounds of powder under the Court house where Dr. Clift was about to address a Republican meeting and when by accident the infernal plot was discovered just in season to prevent their drunken tool from firing the train [fuse] and hurling three hundred people into eternity, the meeting was broken up by violence, and the mob took and held the town all night threatening to assassinate prominent Republicans and rendering it necessary to send for military aid before the meeting could proceed.
       Several person prominent actors in the April affair, and now under bonds of $10,000 each for their participation in the same were leaders in the recent attack.

Returning to Washington, DC, Clift presented credentials as a Member-elect to the Forty-first Congress but during the recess period actions in Georgia,  including the expulsion of black legislators from the state Assembly and the Camilla Massacre, had resulting in the re-imposition of Reconstruction and federal military jurisdiction for the state under the command of General Alfred H. Terry.  With Georgia’s return to un-reconstructed status, Clift and the other representatives and senators of  Georgia were not allowed to take their seats in the U.S. Congress.  

Thomas Nast sketch from a montage on Reconstruction violence entitled "Southern Justice," Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867

“Southern Justice,” Thomas Nast sketch of Reconstruction violence, Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867  depicted a scene in Texas but aptly portrayed the events of the Camilla Massacre which occurred September 19, 1868.

In January 1870, General Terry  removed ex-Confederates from the Georgia General Assembly, replaced them with the Radical runners-up, and then reinstated the expelled black legislators. “Terry’s Purge”established a solid Radical majority in the Georgia legislature, which ratified the Fifteenth Amendment  in February 1870 and chose new senators to send to Washington.

 The 15th Amendment to the Constitution established voting rights for African American men by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote

On July 15, 1870, Georgia became the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.

Upon the withdrawal of federal military rule from Georgia, the rise of KKK terrorism quickly suppressed the newly gained civil and political rights of southern blacks.  When the midterm election put white supremacists back in control of the state senate, Governor Bullock resigned and fled the state rather than face impeachment by a hostile legislature.

Speaking from the steps of the Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. on November 29, 1871, Dr. Joseph W. Clift made an impassioned appeal to the Radicals of Georgia, which was printed and circulated in a political leaflet.

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

AN ADDRESS TO THE REPUBLICANS OF GEORGIA.

Governor Bullock having resigned, and the duly elected Representatives of the people having decided by an overwhelming majority that a Governor should be elected for the unexpired term, on the 19th of December, 1871, leaving only twenty days to organize a campaign under peculiar circumstances, and understanding that prominent Republicans, whom I honor and respect, have discussed the advisability of sustaining the veto of Governor Conley, by refusing to nominate or vote for any person for Governor, on that day, thereby letting the election go by default, I am prompted to write this letter and advocate, with such vigor as I may, exactly the opposite course of action.

I admit the arguments of my friends:

First . That there is little time to prepare for such a contest.

Second . That Governor Conley’s action, together with the silence of the Republican Representatives, who apparently acquiesced in it, have some force.

Third . Some minds may also be influenced by the depressing influences which still remain as the result of the election last December; and by the additional reason, that challenging for non-payment of the poll-tax, will prevent many colored Republicans from voting.

It has been said to me, let Governor Conley’s position be legal or illegal, it furnishes the Republican party an excellent excuse for not voting, and being badly beaten, the conditions being so unfavorable to their success in the contest. To many, these reasons, with other reasons, may be conclusive against our party running a candidate, and voting December 19; to my mind, they are not good reasons for such a course of action, and I sincerely hope our friends will immediately reconsider the question , and so far from letting the election “go by default,” make the above reasons alleged as sufficient to deter us from contesting the election with our Democratic friends, reasons for putting forth the most earnest and vigorous efforts to organize the party and meet the old enemies of Equal Rights, and exact justice to the colored man fairly and squarely in the teeth, and do brave battle for some pure-minded, honest Republican, who, if elected, will serve out the term with credit to himself and benefit to the State.

I am thoroughly convinced that this is the very best course for us to pursue. The contrary course seems to my mind neither wise, brave, patriotic, or just. We have as much time to work for the election as our opponents.

Governor Conley’s position is at least of doubtful legality, and even if it were technically correct, the voice of the people, speaking through their Representatives, speaks in thunder tones, and most emphatically—and as I think wisely—construes the language of the Constitution of Georgia to mean that a new Governor must be elected next month.

Neither brief time for preparation, Governor Conley’s position, the result of the last election, or the inability of our friends to pay their taxes, should for one instant shut our ears to this call of the people. It must, will, and ought to be obeyed at any cost.

The wishes of the people are entitled to respect, and the individuals, or party, who fail to heed them when so plainly expressed, and on so important a question as the one pending, will do itself great wrong, and suffer in the end accordingly.

I never did, and do not now believe in shirking a fight with Democracy under any pretext however specious, and circumstances however discouraging.

We ought to be ready and willing to meet them whenever and wherever duty calls, and defend the great principles advocated by our party since ’56, and by many good men long before.

These principles are as good and true to-day as ever they were, and the bitter and relentless warfare waged by our unscrupulous opponents against everything which tends to unshackle the hands of the honest laborer of Georgia—and everywhere else—should only nerve every man of us to “gird up his loins” and fight like heroes for the education and elevation of the masses, and the defeat of the cardinal principles of Democracy.

Instead of giving up the fight, let it be continued, and give them no quarter, till the last stronghold of the greatest foe of Liberty, and Equal Rights in this country, shall be carried, and they shall surrender to the cohorts of Freedom, and to the Civilization of the nineteenth Century.

If we would save our “Common School System,” in Georgia, and preserve the liberties of the people, we must fight it out with them, if we all go to our graves before the cause is finally triumphant. But triumphant it will be, and that at no distant time, as sure as a merciful God exists.

The wrongs of our poor people call loudly for redress, and the cry must be heeded, and responded to by all true hearts.

We must play no cowardly part in this fight, nor bow our neck to the Democratic yoke, otherwise we are not worthy the blessings we seek.

Let them, all the leading Republicans now in Atlanta, take Counsel together immediately, and prevail on Gov. Conley, Hon. J. S. Bigby, Ex-Gov. James Johnson, or one of a half dozen other pure and true Republicans of ability, and prominence, to allow the Party to make an effort to place them in the Gubernatorial chair.

Let Governor Conley reconsider his determination, and contest his right to his position before the PEOPLE, that Mighty Tribunal , higher than all courts.

Let us pay our poll taxes , rapidly organize our party in every county, and poll every vote we can; then , if we are ever so badly beaten, we shall have at least the satisfaction of meeting our old enemy face to face, and doing battle valiantly for the right.

It will put us in harness for the greater battle of ’72, in which the principles of justice will surely triumph over oppression and wrong, and the result be perfect Peace.

JOSEPH W. CLIFT.

Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C., Nov. 29, 1871.

 

Joseph Wales Clift died in Rock City Falls, Saratoga County, NY on May 2, 1908; He was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Clift estate, North Marshfield, MA.

 

Berrien’s Black Doughboys: Camp Gordon Men

Camp Gordon Men from Berrien County, GA

During WWI, Berrien County sent its contingent of black soldiers to join the United States Army. While the Jim Crow Army would relegate many black soldiers to support roles, a few Berrien County men would fight in all-black combat units like the 370th Infantry “Black Devils” and the 367th Infantry “Buffalo Infantry.

Nationwide, more than 2.2 million black men were registered over the course of four draft registration calls, of which nearly 370,000 were drafted for induction into the Army. The draft was a lottery in which numbers written on pieces of paper (in red ink) were pulled from a bowl by the U.S. Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker. Every number represented one registrant from each local board who would be called in for examination and if accepted, would be inducted into service.

In March of 1918, 86 black men in Berrien County received their orders of induction.  The orders instructed the men to report to the local draft board in Nashville, GA on April 2, 1918 for examination.

WWI Order of Induction P. M. G. O. Form 1028

WWI Order of Induction P. M. G. O. Form 1028

Along with the Order of Induction the men received written instructions on what to wear and what to pack. They were informed of the consequences of failing to report – a court-martial and possibly the death penalty.  Dire warnings notwithstanding, some twenty of the Berrien County men failed to report on April 2, 1918 as ordered.  According to WWI Historian Jennifer D. Keene, illiteracy prevented some men from complying with written induction orders.  “In many rural southern regions, the control that white landowners maintained over their black workforce influenced the workings of local draft boards. Some land owners withheld draft notices that arrived in the mail or refused to read them to their workers. When these workers failed to report, the government listed them as deserters. White planters subsequently gained both the advantage of their continued labor and the chance to collect a $50 reward from the government whenever they felt inclined to turn in these so-called deserters.”   A scandal over the reward for capture of deserters led to the dismissal of one Berrien County draft board member.

Form 1028A Instructions to Selected Men

Form 1028A Instructions to Selected Men

Important Notice to all Men Selected for Military Service and Ordered to
Report to a Local Board for Military Duty.

The day and hour specified on the Classification List of this Local Board, and on the order and notice of induction into military service which accompanies this notice for you to report to this Local Board for military duty, is the time that marks your actual obligation as a soldier of the United States.

Failure to report promptly at the hour and on the day named is a grave military offense, for which you may be court-martialed. Willful failure to report, with an intent to evade military service, constitutes desertion from the Army “of the United States, which in time of war is a capital offense.

Upon reporting to your Local Board, you will not need, and you should not bring with you, anything except hand baggage. You will not be permitted to take trunks or boxes with you on the train. You should take only the following articles: A pair of strong, comfortable shoes to relieve your feet from your new regulation marching shoes; not to exceed four extra suits of underclothing; not to exceed six extra pairs of socks; four face and two bath towels; a comb, a brush, a toothbrush, soap, tooth powder, razor, and shaving soap. It will add to your comfort to bring one woolen blanket, preferably of dark or neutral color. This blanket should be tightly rolled, the ends of the roll should be securely bound together, and the loop of the blanket thus formed slung from your left shoulder to your right hip.

You should wear rough, strong clothing and a flannel shirt, preferably an olive-drab shirt of the kind issued to soldiers.

Note.—Local Boards may have prepared, in the form of a rubber stamp, and stamp in below or on the back hereof any special instructions, such as a direction to request permission to eat and spend the last night at home, as it may desire to give.

On April 2, 1918 sixty-six African-American men from Berrien County, GA  reported to the draft board as ordered.  After passing examination, it appears the men were given permission to spend their last night at home.  On April 3, at Nashville, GA they boarded the Georgia & Florida train bound for Camp Gordon, near Atlanta.  The local draft board at Nashville, GA used Form 1029 PMGO, issued  by the Provost Marshall General’s Office, to document the entrainment of newly enlisted soldiers (images below). The forms include the draftee’s name, serial number, order number, date ordered to report, draft board, name of the mobilization camp, and the draftee’s occupation.

Statements from the Local Draft Board, Nashville, Berrien County, GA document African-American soldiers selected for the draft and entrained on April 3, 1918.

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-1

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-2

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-3

1918-4-2-berrien county-ga-wwi-inductions-4

  1. Homer Lee Fordham, Alapaha, GA
  2. Dock Moore, Milltown, GA
  3. Wesley Myers, Bannockburn, GA
  4. John W. Faison, Ray City, GA
  5. Alexander Werkerson, Alapaha, GA
  6. Titus Griffin, Milltown, GA
  7. Willie Mullins, Alapaha, GA
  8. Joe Roberson, Ray City, GA
  9. Ben Cooper, Nashville, GA
  10. Collie Simons [Charlie Simmons?], Tifton, GA
  11. King Cooper, Nashville, GA
  12. Henry Mitchell Vaughn, Nashville, GA
  13. John Cleveland, Adel, GA
  14. Frank Mills, Milltown, GA
  15. Major Wilson, Adel, GA
  16. Charles J. Boggs, Ray City, GA
  17. Mack Leroy Cusack, Nashville, GA
  18. William Clarence, Sparks, GA
  19. Leroy McKinney, Milltow, GA
  20. Hilliard Brock, Nashville, GA
  21. Sam Gaines, Milltown, GA
  22. Marvin McArdle, Milltown, GA
  23. Tarba Bennett, Milltown, GA
  24. Elihu Hooker, Milltown, GA
  25. Joseph Williams, Adel, GA
  26. Garfield Baker, Ray City, GA
  27. Rommie Adams, Alapaha, GA
  28. Will Bell, Alapaha, GA
  29. Tom Sanders, Nashville, GA
  30. Thomas Howard, Ray City, GA
  31. Noah Schofield, Adel, GA
  32. Phane Jackson, Milltown, GA
  33. Elijah Walker, Hahira, GA
  34. Sam Bob, Alapaha, GA
  35. David Genrette, Ray City, GA
  36. Caleb Cooper, Nashville, GA
  37. Ethie Melvin, Milltown, GA
  38. Robert Jones, Ray City, GA
  39. Benjamin Greer, Lenox, GA
  40. Jerry Sheppard, Adel, GA
  41. Beamon Seymore, Adel, GA
  42. Dock Gunn, Nashville, GA
  43. Cleveland Sutton, Enigma, GA
  44. Willie Hutchinson, Adel, GA
  45. James Fullard, Alapaha, GA
  46. Arthur Bradshaw, Milltown, GA
  47. Charles Richerson, Cecil, GA
  48. Frank Jones, Bannockburn, GA
  49. Mose Flournoy, Adel, GA
  50. William Eddie Scruggs, Adel, GA
  51. Charley Stanford, Alapaha, GA
  52. Yancey Cowart, Enigma, GA
  53. Lazarus Burgess, Nashville, GA
  54. John Henry Williams, Alapaha, GA
  55. Grover Cleveland, Cecil, GA
  56. John Morris, Cecil, GA
  57. Isaac Flemming, Alapaha, GA
  58. David Pigford, Adel, GA
  59. Elzie Cooper, Nashville, GA
  60. Ezekiel Lavind, Adel, GA
  61. Snow Williams, Nashville, GA
  62. Peter Jones, Alapaha, GA
  63. Sidney Todd, Milltown, GA
  64. Ed Dupree, Milltown, GA
  65. James Givens, Alapaha, GA
  66. Nathaniel McClinton, Alapaha, GA

 

Camp Gordon historic marker, Dekalb County, GA

Camp Gordon historic marker, Dekalb County, GA

 

African-American troops at Camp Gordon, GA

African-American troops at Camp Gordon, GA

Camp Gordon was named in honor of Confederate General John Brown Gordon. After the war, he was a strong opponent of Reconstruction during the late 1860s. He served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1873 to 1880, and again from 1891 to 1897. He also served as the 53rd Governor of Georgia from 1886 to 1890.  Gordon is cited as a prominent member of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan.

Like all southern military camps, those in Georgia operated under the segregation laws of Jim Crow. Federal prohibitions on black troops in combat meant that African American recruits trained and served in engineer service or labor battalions under white officers. -New Georgia Encyclopedia

Of the African American men who were drafted, 89 percent served in labor battalions or as dockworkers. The 42,000 men who did serve in combat were limited to the only two all-black combat regiments, the Ninety-Second and Ninety-Third Divisions. The camps were also segregated, as were most of the YMCA “Y-huts,” which served as places for leisure activities and often had camp libraries, stocked with the help of the ALA’s Library War Service  – American Library Association

Company_14_4th_Training_Battalion_Camp_Gordon_Georgia_September_18_1918_AfricanAmerican_troops

African-American training battalion with white officers at Camp Gordon, September 18, 1918

Camp Gordon, near Atlanta, was one of the largest training centers for Negro troops in the South, housing over 9,000 Georgia blacks by late 1917…Black troops there suffered the indignities common elsewhere, and the absence of any black commissioned officers increased their problems. Most black recruits were assigned to engineer or labor service battalions, where they were to perform tedious, often back-breaking tasks, loading and unloading cargo on both sides of the Atlantic. Since these battalions would have no black officer above the rank of corporal, Camp Gordon officials recruited a number of white sergeants, “specially and carefully selected as having had actual experience in charge of gangs of colored laborers.”  -John Dittmer, Historian

African-American Recruits receiving instruction from a white officer. Camp Gordon, Georgia., 03/04/1918, Image source: National Archives

African-American Recruits receiving instruction from a white officer. Camp Gordon, Georgia., 03/04/1918, Image source: National Archives

Segregation at the camp extended to recreational facilities, YMCA, library, hostess houses, and the soldiers clubs.  The War Camp Community Service Colored Soldiers’ Club of Atlanta, GA worked to bring books to African-American soldiers. The organization’s Secretary, Mr. Edward K. Nichols, writing to the American Library Association observed, “You are doubtless aware that throughout the South the public libraries are closed to the colored people. Hence every organization having in its power to extend library facilities to the colored people at large or any group of them has the opportunity of rendering a very needed and much appreciated service.” 

Colored Soldiers Club, Atlanta, GA

 

Camp Gordon, GA photo by E. Thompson. His title was "Negro soldier reading to boys who can't read. Camp Gordon, Ga. 1917-18" Library of Congress.

Camp Gordon, GA photo by E. Thompson. His title was “Negro soldier reading to boys who can’t read. Camp Gordon, Ga. 1917-18” Library of Congress.

Related Posts:

Carlos J. Boggs and the Buffalo Infantry of WWI

Charlie Parker was a Splendid Soldier

 

 

Jim Crow Cars on the Georgia & Florida Railroad

The opening of the Georgia and Florida Railroad on October 1, 1908 was a big day for Ray City, GA. For African-Americans, the passenger cars which ran on the Georgia & Florida railroad during the first half of the 20th century reflected the pervasiveness of segregation under  Jim Crow laws.    “Jim Crow legislation extended throughout the South to schools, hotels, restaurants, streetcars, buses, theaters, hospitals, parks, courthouses, and even cemeteries.” Jim Crow laws had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the  Plessy v. Ferguson ruling against a black man who had been arrested for riding a whites-only streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653 provided segregated riding space for white and black passengers.

First Jim Crow Railroad Cars

Segregated “Jim Crow” railroad cars predated the Civil War.

“The term “Jim Crow” originated in 1832 as the name of a character in a song and dance written by Thomas D. Rice, a well-known minstrel of the time. Minstrel shows were popular before the Civil War and featured white performers in black face portraying “musical, lazy, childlike blacks.”  In the 1830s, “Jim Crow Cars” referred to segregated cars on some northern railroad lines. “

When the Boston and Providence Railroad opened its route to New York, the company’s president  stated that “an appreciable number of the despised race demanded transportation. Scenes of riot and violence took place, and in the then existing state of opinion, it seemed to me that the difficulty could best be met by assigning a special car to our colored citizens.”  Massachusetts newspapers in 1838 reported frequent incidents of Negroes refusing to sit in Jim Crow sections and being forcibly removed from the train. Negroes also sought relief through the legislature and white abolitionists encouraged boycotts. As a result, a joint legislative committee recommended a bill to halt discrimination. Negative reaction followed. Fearing increased integration, one state senator declared that “such legislation would not stop at forcing the mixture of Negroes and whites in railroad cars, but would subsequently be applied to hotels, religious societies, and through all ramifications of society.” The act failed to pass. By 1841, intense efforts to end Jim Crow cars began. Black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass refused to move to the Jim Crow car and did so only after being physically removed from their seats.15 In 1842, the black abolitionist Charles Lenox Redmond went before a committee in the Massachusetts legislature to protest his segregation in a “special railway car for negroes.” Touching upon the right to equality and inherent inferiority without it, Redmond stated that “the wrongs inflicted and injuries received on railroads by person of color . . . do not end with the termination of the route, but in effect, tend to discourage, disparage, and depress this class of citizens.” Protests, changing public opinion, and threats of legislative action caused rail companies in Massachusetts to abandon segregation practices in 1843. 

First Jim Crow Laws

The first Jim Crow laws are those of Florida and Mississippi in 1865 and Texas in 1866. The laws of Florida provided: “That if any negro, mulatto or other person of color shall intrude himself into…any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of white people, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be sentence to stand in pillory for one hour, or be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, or both at the discretion of the jury, nor shall it be lawful for any white person to intrude himself into any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of persons of color, under the same penalties” [Laws of Florida, 1865, p. 25].

The law of Mississippi was: “That it shall be unlawful for any officer, station agent, conductor, or employee on any railroad in this State, to allow any freedman, negro or mulatto, to ride in any first-class passenger cars, set apart, or used by, and for white persons; and any person offending against the provisions of this section, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…shall be fined not less than fifty dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars; and shall be imprisoned in the county jail until such fine, and costs of prosecution are paid; Provided that this section, of this act, shall not apply, in the case of negroes or mulattoes, traveling with their mistresses, in the capacity of nurses” [Laws of Mississippi, 1865, pp. 231-232]

Texas simply provided that “every railroad company shall be required to attach to each passenger train run by said company one car for the special accommodation of Freedmen” [Laws of Texas, 1866, p. 97].
-The Separation of the Races in Public Conveyances

In Georgia, however,  following the 1868 rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the expulsion of elected African-American assemblymen from the Georgia legislature, the Camilla Massacre, and rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment, the state remained under military rule imposed by the U.S. Congress.

The African-American legislators were re-seated by the federal government, and briefly led an agenda concentrated on political and civil rights.  “In 1870, the Georgia legislature enacted a statute requiring the railroads in the state to furnish equal accommodations to all, without regard to race, color or previous condition, provided the same fare was charged.” (Georgia railroads had previously only charged half-fare for transportation of slaves.) Subsequently, similar civil rights legislation emerged in the Reconstruction legislatures in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and in some northern states.   But in Georgia, this early civil rights movement  was crushed by the end of 1870 as conservatives used terror, intimidation, and the Ku Klux Klan to “redeem” the state. One quarter of the black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Despite prevailing conditions in Georgia, Jim Crow railroad laws seemed to be at an early end  when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 stating, “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”  Many northern states enacted their own civil rights legislation, adopting or adapting the language of the federal act. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Civil Rights Cases (1883) that the public accommodation sections of the act were unconstitutional.

With little or no effective legislation regulating civil rights in public transportation, the railroads made their own rules for providing white-only transportation, and segregating African-Americans in “Negro cars” or Jim Crow cars.

By the 1890s,  many southern states enacted legislation called Separate Coach Laws specifically mandating the segregation of railroad cars, although the legislation “did scarcely more than legalize an existing and widespread custom.”  An 1888 photograph of the wreck of the Savannah, Florida & Western Fast Mail Train appears to depict a Jim Crow Combine Car among the wreckage. Although the newspaper accounts of the wreck only mention the engine, tender, baggage car and smoker, one coach, the Pullman sleeper, and the private car of railroad president E. P. Wilbur, it seems unlikely that a Georgia train of this era would not include a “negro car” or Jim Crow car, especially since eight unidentified African-American men were among the victims of the wreck.

The SF&W route ran from Savannah through Valdosta, GA to Bainbridge, with connections to all points. The September 10, 1892 Albany Weekly Herald complimented the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad for its segregated arrangement of cars:

The S.F.& W.  passenger is one of the best arranged trains in the State. First comes the mail and express car, then the Negroes’ car, then the baggage car and smoker, and last of all the first class coach. All trains would do well to adopt this arrangement with a car between the Negro and white coaches.

White passengers usually rode in the sections furthest from the smoke and coal ash of the steam engine.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the legality of  the railroad “Jim Crow” laws and entrenched the discriminatory principle of “ separate but equal” accommodations for whites and blacks.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
The case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which supplied the occasion for the court’s landmark decision, had its origins in Louisiana. In 1890, Louisiana passed a law calling for “equal but separate” accommodations on railroads for “whites” and “coloreds.” Protesting this law was a group of Creoles and blacks who formed the Citizens Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law. This group arranged a test case along with the railroad that opposed the law  due to the expense of supplying another car.  An “exceedingly light-skinned Negro” named Homer Plessy agreed to test the law. Plessy was subsequently arrested for sitting in the white car.  In his defense, Plessy contended that the Louisiana statute requiring segregation was unconstitutional. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that if the segregation law was upheld, states could “require separate cars for people with different colors of hair, aliens, or Catholics or Protestants or to require colored people to walk on one side of the street and white people on the other side, or to demand that white men’s homes be painted white and black men’s homes black.”

In 1896, the Supreme Court decided against Plessy. Justice Henry Billings Brown writing for the majority concluded that legislative bodies were “powerless to eradicate racial instincts,” and that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane.” Equal rights did not necessitate the “enforced commingling of the two races.”  In his lone and now famous dissent, Justice John Harlan offered that “Our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”  Thus the notion of “separate but equal” had been judicially sanctioned by the nation’s highest court and Jim Crow had been given a new birth–a new license to “jump up and down.”  State laws mandating racial segregation quickly followed the Plessy ruling ensuring a Jim Crow system in the South. The  most blacks could aspire for was equal accommodations.  – NPS National Historic Landmarks Program

The New Georgia Encyclopedia observes, “These facilities were usually ‘equal’ in name only—in all the states with Jim Crow laws, the facilities that served blacks were almost always inferior to the facilities that served whites.”

Plessy v. Ferguson is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history.[3] – Wikipedia

During the Segregation Era, southern railroads operated segregated trains and depots.

Segregated Train Stations <br /> Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read "Colored Men" and "Colored Waiting Room." Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Segregated Train Stations
Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read “Colored Men” and “Colored Waiting Room.” Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Railroads built “combine” cars with segregated sections. The Georgia & Florida combine car pictured at the top of the post had a central baggage section separating the car into two passenger sections, one for black passengers and one for whites. In typical combine cars, each passenger section had a cast iron stove and a bathroom. Waste from the bathrooms was deposited directly on the rails. On some rail lines white drunks would be placed in the black car instead of one of those reserved for whites.

In a typical segregated railroad car, there were no luggage racks in the “colored” section, requiring travelers to cram their suitcases around their feet, and the “colored” bathroom was smaller and lacked the amenities of the “whites” bathroom.  “There are all these subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that ‘you are not as good as the people in the other section,’” says Spencer Crew, curator for the National Museum for African American Culture and History.

The story of travel segregation was not limited to trains and if you traveled by bus or boat or even airlines, such divisions were strictly enforced.

Pullman porters and coach attendants were key figures in the African-American community. “These were very well-traveled individuals, so they had a lot of experience and perspective to share with people they talked to as they were traveling across the country,” says Crew. “Their prominence and importance is an important part of the story.”

The following letter submitted to a House committee holding hearings in 1954 on legislation to end segregated travel attested to the substandard condition of railroad cars for African-Americans. It describes conditions in a combine car  travelling from Savannah, GA in which half of the car was used for baggage and the other half for African-American passengers.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE,
BRANCH OF THE ORANGES AND MAPLEWOOD, N. J.,
East Orange, N. J., May 10, 1954.

Hon. CHARLES A. WOLVERTON,
House of Congress, Washington, DC

The following matters were referred to the director of the Washington Bureau NAACP, Mr. Clarence Mitchell, who advised me that hearing would begin in the House very soon and that you are chairman of the committee covering such matters.

On or about April 22, 1954, Mrs. A. Cherry who lives at 251 Halsted Street, East Orange, N. J., and Mrs. Gertrude Williams who lives at 17 Winthrop Terrace, East Orange, N. J., traveled to Savannah, Ga., on train named Champion of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. Not knowing their return date no reservations were made for returning.

At the railroad station in Savannah, reservation were made for returning on April 28, 1954, on train named Champion of the Coast Line, car No. 39, seats Nos. 13 and 14.

After getting in this car they found it to be completely segregated, no heat, no water, dirty, being half baggage and a large sign reading “Colored,” which sign was still on the car when they left the train in Newark, N. J.

This we believe to be in violation of Federal laws and we are sure are in violation of the laws of the sovereign State of New Jersey.

Names and addresses of witnesses gladly furnished on request.

Sincerely,

DAVID T. DEGRAFFENREID.

P. S. This letter may be used in evidence if desired. D.T.D

A restored Jim Crow car is now on exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The car belonged to the Southern Railway, parent company of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad which ran from Macon through Valdosta, GA to Palatka, FL.

Despite the institutionalized racism of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling,

the decision itself was never explicitly overruled.[4] However, a series of subsequent decisions, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, severely weakened it to the point that it is usually considered to have been de facto overruled.[1] In Brown, the Supreme Court ruled that Plessys “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional in the context of schools and educational facilities.

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. - New Georgia Encyclopedia

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Related Posts:

1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

Given the history of slavery and racial discrimination in the United States, researching African-American genealogy can be a challenging puzzle.  Slave names were not often recorded.  Even after Emancipation, civil records of African-American citizens were often neglected. Further complicating matters,  most of the 1890 census records were lost in a fire and through a series of tragic missteps in the record handling. Fortunately, an 1894 record of the Poll Tax collection in the Rays Mill District (now Ray City, GA) helps to document early African-American residents of the town.    Many of these men were born in slavery and became “Freedmen” after the Civil War and Emancipation. A few were born in northern “Free” states.  After the War, they came  to south Georgia, primarily to work in the naval stores industry, collecting turpentine in the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. Some lived in turpentine camps, some rented farms or houses, a few became property owners, business men and employers in their own right.

Poll Taxes

After the Civil War, the poll tax evolved regionally to be a complex legal device to disenfranchise African-Americans. Georgia led the way in 1868 (effective in 1871), and by 1900 in every formerly-Confederate state had poll taxes aimed at preventing black citizens from voting.

According to Today in Georgia History,

The poll tax, a bulwark of the Jim Crow era, was one of many roadblocks thrown up to keep African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. Although the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1870, guaranteed former male slaves the right to vote, the poll tax, which all voters had to pay was designed to prevent voting. Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war. 

Georgia’s “grandfather clause” allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted  prior to the abolition of slavery to vote without paying the tax. Georgia created a cumulative poll tax requirement: men 21 to 60 years of age had to pay a sum of money for every year from the time they had turned 21, or from the time that the law took effect.

Tax Payers
Ray’s Mill District, Colored, 1894

William Adkinson
Dixie Alston

Peter Burges
Thomas Burges
Saul Brown
William Brown, Sr.
John Black
B. B. Brown
Joe Brown

Walter Curt
Jesse Coleman
Len Coleman

James Davis

David Ellison
S. M. Eady
Sam Eady

Brister Hufman

Henry Gowdine
Henry Gilliard
William Grayham
William Gerald

West Kelley

John Livind

Joe Medlay
Carter Moore
William Mathis
Alex McKnight
S. J. Myers
Sandy Murphy
William McGowin
Richard McGowin
Henry McCoy

Preston Richardson
E. L. Rias
Ebb Ross
Randolph Ried
William Smith
Mack Spights
Gilbert Sloan

Wiley Tarrell

A. Vandross

John Wamble
George Williams
Ed Wilson
John Wade
Alex White
James Whitfield
W. D. Williams

SOME NOTES ON THE TAXPAYERS:

DIXIE ALSTON
Dixie Alston was an African-American born during the Civil War, in March of 1862. He was born in South Carolina, as were both his parents.  In 1883 he married Amelia [unknown], also a native of South Carolina.  It appears that Dixie and Amelia moved to south Georgia sometime in the early 1890s.  In 1894, Dixie Alston registered to vote in the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA.  He subsequently appears in the census of 1900, enumerated as Dixie Aulston, in the 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County.  His household in 1900 included his wife Amelia (age 46), and children, Sarah (18), Lillie (17), Dixie (10), James A. (7), William (5), and Orie B (1).  The Alstons were living in a rented house, and Dixie was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Dixie Alston and family were enumerated in the 1157 Georgia Militia District where Dixie continued to work as a turpentine laborer.  Whereabouts of Dixie Alston after 1910 are unknown, but his son Dixie Alston, Jr. later lived in Nashville GA where he worked for the Keefe and Bulloch turpentine operation.

ROBERT B. “BB” BROWN
BB Brown was born in South Carolina about 1856 he married Corinna, a South Carolina woman, about 1875 and they made their home in South Carolina until some time after 1881. By October 1886, the Browns moved to Georgia. BB Brown paid the poll tax in 1894 to vote in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. The census of 1900 shows the Browns owned a farm in the Rays Mill District free and clear of mortgage. They were neighbors of Levi J. Clements, Alfred Hill, and Ben Knight. In 1910 their neighbors on nearby farms were John Miles Clements, Georgia Cooper, Jeff Williams and James W. Williams. The 1920 census shows the Brown farm was situated at Rays Mill on the Willacoochee Road. Their immediate neighbor was Robert E. Lee and his family. Corinna Brown died sometime before 1930. By this time the Brown farm had been cut into Lanier County. The widower Brown continued to work his farm with the assistance of his children.

SOLOMON “SAUL” BROWN
Solomon Brown was born  about 1862 in South Carolina. He apparently came to the Rays Mill, GA area  some time before 1894. The 1910 census shows him in Rays Mill, widowed, living alone in a rented home and working as a farm laborer.

WILLIAM L. BROWN
William L. Brown was a farmer from South Carolina. He was born in May of 1862. About 1882 he married Lessie. They were in Berrien County, GA by the 1890s where William paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District in 1894. The census of 1900 shows he was working a rented farm near the homes of Richard Eady, William Revell, and Frank Gallagher.

PETER BURGES
Peter Burges, or Burgess, was an African-American born in August of 1865 at the conclusion of the Civil War. He was a native of South Carolina, as were both his parents.  By 1894, Peter Burges made his way to  the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA where he was registered to vote. In the census of 1900, he was enumerated in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the “Ray’s Mill” District, Berrien County. He was single, living alone in a rented house, and working as a turpentine laborer. He subsequently appears in the 1144 G.M.D census of 1910 as a farm laborer, and in 1920 he was renting a farm on the Willacoochee Road.

TOM BURGES
Tom Burges was born about 1850 in Georgia. He was enumerated in 1910 in the 1300 Georgia Militia District. At age 60 he was widowed, living alone in a rented house, and working at a sawmill. He was a neighbor of African-American teacher William M. Clark, sawmill employee Burris Hall, turpentine teamster David Story, turpentine employee John Merritt, and washerwoman Sallie Sanders.

JESSE COLEMAN
Jesse Coleman appears in the Berrien County tax records of 1884. His taxable property included $5 worth of livestock and $5 worth of furniture. In 1890 Jesse Coleman paid the poll tax in the 1329 Georgia Militia District, the Connells Mill District just west of Rays Mill. He had $57 in livestock, $15 in furniture, $10 in tools, and $2 in other property.

JOHN L. LAVIND
John L. Lavind was an African-American farmer from South Carolina. He was born in 1868. About 1886 he married Sarah Sloan, a woman from South Carolina. John and Sarah appear in the 1900 Census in Berrien County where they were neighbors of Arch Parrish. The Lavinds were working a rented farm in the 1145 Georgia Militia District, the Adel District. Living with the Lavinds and assisting with the farm labor were Sarah’s siblings, Alicia A Sloan and Davis Sloan. It appears that Sarah Sloan died sometime in the early 1900s. Census records indicate that John Lavind (enumerated as John Lavine) married a second time in 1908 to a widow woman named Kerene. In 1910, he was making payments on a farm at Adel and working as a self-employed farmer. His neighbors were sawmill workers Beacher Ward and Charlie Beland. In 1920, John and Karene were renting a farm on the Adel and Nashville Road which John was working on his own account. The were neighbors of Theresa Devane Hutchinson, widow of James Henry Hutchinson; her son, Vaude McIntyre Hutchinson was a school teacher.

HENRY MELVIN
Henry Melvin was born in North Carolina about 1863. He apparently came to live in the Rays Mill, GA district some time before 1894. In 1900, he was enumerated in the Mud Creek District of Clinch County, GA where he was renting a house and working as a turpentine laborer. On September 14, 1901 Henry Melvin and Delia Jenkins were joined in Holy Matrimony in Clinch County, GA in a ceremony performed by Joseph Powell, Justice of the Peace. The 1910 census shows Henry and Delia were renting a farm in the 586 Militia District of Clinch County, where they raised crops and children. Some time before 1920 Henry Melvin returned to Ray City, bringing his family to live on the Ray City & Willacoochee Road, on a rented farm which he worked on his own account. Henry Melvin died November 1, 1920 in Berrien County, GA. Anna remarried, probably about 1921, to Emanuel Smith. The Smiths rented a farm near Ray City, where they were neighbors of Walter H. Knight, John S. Fender, J. Mancil Ray and James F. Ray, James R. Johnson, and Lucian H. Grissett. Sometime before 1935 the Smiths moved to Lakeland, GA

HENRY MCCOY
Henry McCoy was born in October 1859 in North Carolina. About 1886 he married Anna. Some time before 1894 they came to Rays Mill, GA where Henry rented and worked a farm. Most of the McCoy’s neighbors were turpentine workers including Odum Wiley, D.D. Oxendine, Peter Burges, and Isham Hill. In 1910, Henry and Anna owned a home on North Street in Ray City. Henry worked as a drayman; Anna worked as washerwoman. Among their neighbors were hotelier Wilson W. Fender, merchant Louis Levin, telegraph operator Ralph E. Spear, blacksmith Rollie N. Warr, policeman Henry Hodges, carpenter Gordon J. Knight, and postmaster Charles H. Anderson. Henry McCoy died sometime after 1910. His widow married Sam B. Cooper on April 22, 1918 in Berrien County in a ceremony performed by Justice of the Peace J. W. Moore. Sam Cooper worked in a shop as a tailor and owned a home in Ray City, in the “Negro Quarters” according to 1920 Census records.

RICHARD MCGOWAN
Richard “Dick” McGowan was born a slave in North Carolina in the 1840s. He was brought to Berrien County (then Lowndes) as a young man, and lived most his life near Ray City, GA.  Freed after the Civil War, he continued to live for a while on the plantation of his former owner, Hardeman Sirmans.

JOSEPH MEDLEY
Joseph Medley was born about 1856 in the state of New York. In 1883, he married a Virginia woman named Jane. By 1885 The Medleys had moved from New York to South Carolina, and by 1888 they were in Georgia. Joseph paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA in 1894. The 1900 Census shows the Medley family in the neighboring Georgia Militia District 1300, the Milltown District, where Joseph owned a farm free and clear of mortgage. The census appears to show that the Medleys also rented a farm in addition to the farm they owned. Joseph farmed while Jane worked as a laundress. Both were enumerated as literate. They were neighbors of Joseph Dedge, Edwin Powell, and John Ed Thigpen brother of Robert Silas Thigpen. In 1910, the Medleys continued to farm in the 1300 GMD. Their son, William Medley, worked as a sawmill fireman, and son Aulie Medley assisted with the farm labor. Next door were Elmore Medley and Rainey Medley who were both employed in turpentine production. Other neighbors included John D. Patten and Matthew G. Patten. In 1920, Joe Medley, age 76, was no longer working. The Medleys rented a house at Milltown on the the Nashville Road. Their son William worked as a farm laborer and Henry worked as a truck driver at a cross tie camp.

SAM JULIAN “JIM” MYERS
Sam Julian “Jim” Myers was born October 1870 in South Carolina. By 1894 he came to Berrien County, GA to work as a turpentine chipper. He paid the 1894 poll tax in the Rays Mill District. In 1897 he married Rosa Sloan and they acquired a home on payments in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Rosa’s brother, Sydney Stone, lived with them and also worked as a turpentine chipper. Also boarding in the Myers household was Dr. Ervin Green; the 1900 Census taker added the notation “Quack” by Green’s occupation. By 1910 Jim Myers took up the ministry in the Methodist faith and moved his family to Adel, GA to a home on Maple Street. By 1920, Reverend Myers took his family to Fitzgerald, GA where they lived on Lemon Street.

ELIOTT RIAS
Eliott Rias was an African-American citizen of Rays Mill, GA for 40 years. He was a son of Pompy and Clarender Rias, born about 1863 in South Carolina. After the Civil War and Emancipation, he and his brothers and sisters grew up helping his parents work their farm in Laws Township, near Kingstree, Williamsburg County, SC. Some time after 1880, Eliott left South Carolina and came to Georgia to work as a turpentine laborer. He appears in the property tax digest of Clinch County as a Freedman, paying the poll tax for 1887 in the 586 Georgia Militia District, the Mud Creek District. About 1892, Eliott married a South Carolina woman named Henrietta. By 1900, Eliott and Henrietta were living at Rays Mill with their four children. They were renting a house and Eliott was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Eliott Rias was renting a farm, which he was farming on his own account. Henrietta was keeping house and minding their seven children. Pauline Hodges, an African-American school teacher, was boarding with them. Among Rias’ neighbors were John L. and Cassie Hall, Babe Baldree, Barney Chism, John Whitfield, Tom Burgess and Mack Speights. By 1920, Eliott and Henrietta were working a rented farm at Rays Mill on their own account.  Some time before 1930, Henrietta Rias passed away. All of Eliott’s children were grown and moved away. Eliatt Rias was left alone, living in Rays Mill in a home he rented for $3.00 a month. He worked as a carpenter. He was a neighbor of Sherrod Fender, Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, Perry Guthrie, Herman Guthrie, and Ivory Wright.

EBENEZER ROSS
Ebenezer “Ebb” Ross was an African-American farm laborer born in Georgia about 1857. The 1870 census shows Ebenezer, age 23, and his wife Fannie, age 17, living in Berrien County, Georgia Militia District 1144, the Rays Mill District. Ebenezer Ross had a net worth of $30. In the 1870s and 1880s the Rosses were neighbors of William and Frances Giddens, Mary and Richard Anthony, Jesse and Margaret Carroll, John T. and Catherine Carroll, Peter and Josephine Best, and Nancy Parker. The 1875 Berrien Property Tax Digest shows Ebenezer Ross paid the poll tax, and his entire taxable property was valued at $20.00. The following year the value of his estate had dropped to just $2.00. In 1880, the Rosses home enumerated in the 1300 GMD. Living next door with the Carrolls was mail rider Everet Roberts. The 1890 tax digest shows the Rosses were faring slightly better. Eb was working for J. H. Wright, one of 58 freedmen employed by Wright.

MACK SPEIGHTS
Mack Speights was an African-American turpentine laborer who lived for about 40 years at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA. According to family members, he was born June 14, 1867 in Ridge, Williamsburg County, South Carolina, a son of Elias McBride Speights and Norah Speights. He married Martha Ellen Cooper in South Carolina on August 14, 1889. He apparently brought his young family from South Carolina to Rays Mill about 1893 and appears on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. Like many young African-American men, he came to work in the naval stores industry, turpentining the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. By 1910, Mack Speights was renting a farm at Rays Mill where he and Martha were raising their eight children His oldest sons, Elias and William, worked as farm labor. The Speights were neighbors of Joseph S. Clements, Brodie Shaw, Bruner Shaw, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher. By 1930, Mack and Martha had moved to Gainesville, FL with several of their children and grandchildren.

ABRAHAM L. VANDROSS
Abraham L. Vandross , an African-American turpentine laborer, was born about 1867 in South Carolina. He was on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. About that same time he married a woman named Hannah. By 1900, Abraham and Hannah had moved to the Dry Lake District of Brooks County, GA where they lived in a rented home. By 1910 Hannah and Abraham returned to Berrien County to the 1300 Georgia Militia District, where they acquired a home which they owned free and clear of mortgage. Abraham continued to work for wages as a turpentine worker; Hannah worked as a washerwoman. They also took in a boarder, Albert Johnson, who was a sawmill employee. In 1910, the Vandrosses were neighbors of William M. Clark, an African-American school teacher. The 1920 Census shows Abraham and Hannah’s home was on Oak Street, Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. Their boarder in 1920 was Reverend Jordan R. Gay.

JOHN WAMBLE
John Wamble was a widowed African-American farmer. He was born about 1850 in Georgia.  At the time of the 1900 Census, he was living near Rays Mill, GA with his two teenaged sons. The Wambles were neighbors of Richard Morehead, Benjamin Moorehead, David C. Clements and Rubin Knight.  His son, Horace, married about 1907 and made his home on the Nashville & Valdosta Road near Cat Creek.

JOHN WADE
John Wade was a Freedman living in Rays Mill, GA with his wife, Emma, and their large family. John Wade was born about 1824. The property tax digest of 1887 shows his taxable property consisted of $7 dollars worth of livestock and $20 in household and kitchen furniture. The 1880 census shows the Wades living and farming in Lowndes County, GA.

JAMES WHITFIELD
James Whitfield may have been an African-American farmer who later lived in Grooverville, Brooks County, GA.  He was born about 1868. This James Whitfield cannot be definitively placed in Rays Mill, however, his son, James Whitfield, Jr. lived in Nashville, GA in the 1920s.

GEORGE WILLIAMS
The 1900 census shows George Williams  in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. He was working as a log turner at a sawmill.  He was born in North Carolina about 1858.  In 1900, he was living alone, apparently in housing at the sawmill.

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Richard McGowen, Slave Boy of Ray City

Richard McGowen, Slave Boy of Ray City

Richard McGowan (or McGowen), an African-American resident of the Ray City area for nearly 80 years, was born into slavery in Duplin County, NC about 1845.

Research on the ancestry of Richard McGowan conducted by Bryan Shaw resulted in an outline which in large part formed the material of this blog post.  Special thanks to Bryan for his contributions. His sources were the Will of William M. McGowan, Jr. 1792; U.S. Census records from 1790 through 1920 from Duplin County, North Carolina, and Berrien County, Georgia; also the Slave Schedule of 1850, 1866 Duplin County Cohabitation Record, tax digests of Berrien County, Georgia, and the estate papers of Hardeman Sirmans. Additional sources for this post include the 1860 Census  Schedule of Slave Inhabitants of Berrien County, GA; 1866 Marriage of Freed People, Duplin County; 1867 Berrien County Loyalty Oath and Voter Registrations; 1894 Colored Voter Registration, Rays Mill, GA; Roots, rocks and recollections by Nell Patten Roquemore, and the 1930 U.S. Census records of Berrien County, GA.  Information which is stated as fact is documented, and presented as most likely or probably. That which is conjecture is presented as a possibility. The history is presented in chronological order.

The McGowan Family

The origins of the family of the slave boy, Richard McGowan had their roots in Duplin County, North Carolina. Richard McGowan is believed to be the descendant of slaves owned by the William M. McGowan, Jr. family of that county.  Willliam M. McGowan, Jr. was born about 1745, son of William McGowen, Sr. of New Hanover County, North Carolina. William Jr. married Mary Dickson in 1767, and by their union they had 10 children: David (c1770), John (c1772), William (c1773), Robert (c1775), Edward (c1777), Michael (c1779), James (c1781), Joseph (c1782), George (c1789), and Alexander (c1790).

William McGowan, Jr. purchased and settled on land in the Grove Creek Swamp area between today’s Kenansville, North Carolina and North East Cape Fear River, north of Highway 24. One biography suggests his land was south of the swamp, however the McGowen African-American cemetery with many unmarked graves is located on the north side of the swamp, between Highway 11 and Sarecta on the Sarecta Road (GPS Coordinates: 34.810733 N 77.996659 W ). The white McGowen family (sometimes spelled McGowan or McGowin) owned hundreds if not thousands of acres of land in Duplin and Hanover counties, NC.  Based on the small number of slaves owned, it does not appear that they had large tracts of land under cultivation.This was consistent with most North Carolina farmers at that time.

William McGowan, Jr.  died in 1792, leaving a will dated October 5, 1792. The will of William M. McGowan, Jr. divided his estate among his children, including the slaves he owned at the time. He willed that his estate be kept together including the slaves until his children were schooled, and all of his debts were satisfied. However he did specifically identify one of his slaves, Will, to be included in son John’s portion of the estate. He also left a “negro wench named Roze” to his wife Mary. He also “lent” her one negro boy named Dick and one negro girl named Nancy, both to be divided amongst the children upon Mary’s death. His will states all his slaves who were not otherwise identified should also go to Mary to work his estate until his affairs were settled, and to be sold off as his minor children reached the age of majority or were married. Was this boy named Dick the son of Will and the grandfather of Richard “Dick” McGowan?

Thus, following the death of William McGowan, Jr. his children and widow continued as landowners and slaveholders in Duplin County, NC. In the 1800 census, son John McGowen is shown  as the owner of 12 slaves.  Son William McGowen owned 5 slaves, son Robert McGowen owned 4 slaves, and widow Mary McGowan owned 11 slaves.

By 1810, John McGowen had 13 slaves, William McGowen had 8 slaves, Mary McGowan had 9 slaves, and James McGowen had 3 slaves.

In the 1820 census, James McGowen had no slaves, Robert McGowen had 13 slaves, and William McGowen had 3 slaves.

By 1850,  the only McGowen slave owners in Duplin County were the sons of William M. McGowan, Jr.: William McGowen, James P. McGowen, and Joseph McGowen.

On the 1850 Census Slave Schedule, Joseph McGowen owned 26 slaves enumerated  as: a female 65, female 58, male 45, male 44, female 39, male 37, male 26, female 24, female 22, male 19, male 18, male 17, male 16, male 15, female 14, female 14, male 14, male 11, female 7, male 6, female 5, male 5, female 3, female 2, male 2, and a female 9 months. James P. McGowen owned 3 slaves – female 50, male 7, and male 3, and William McGowen owned 1 slave, male 18.

In addition to the slaves enumerated in 1850 in the possession of the McGowens,  it appears that two slave boys, Richard and Peter, had been sold by James, Joseph or William McGowan to a Duplin County neighbor, James Dobson.  James Dobson could have purchased the slave boys from any of the three McGowens, but the most likely would be Joseph McGowen as he had the largest slave population.

Marriages of the McGowan Slaves and the Parents of Slave boy Richard McGowan

The parentage of the slave boys Peter and Richard McGowan cannot be stated with certainty.  Records of the Freedman’s Bureau in post-bellum Duplin County, NC provide evidence that their parents may have been McGowen slaves named Thomas and Malvina.

As an almost universal condition of slavery, the slaves of the William M. McGowan family were denied the civil and religious convention of marriage. According to Reginald Washington, African American genealogy specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration, “Slave marriages had neither legal standing nor protection from the abuses and restrictions imposed on them by slaveowners. Slave husbands and wives, without legal recourse, could be separated or sold at their master’s will. Couples who resided on different plantations were allowed to visit only with the consent of their owners. Slaves often married without the benefit of clergy, and as historian John Blassingame states, “the marriage ceremony in most cases consisted of the slaves simply getting the master’s permission and moving into a cabin together.”

Almost immediately after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, federal authorities decreed that marriages of enslaved African-Americans were legitimate and had legal standing.  In some areas the newly created Freedman’s Bureau began issuing marriage licenses to former slaves. Within a year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation providing for the recognition of the marriages of former slaves.  According to Learn NC“The North Carolina office of the Freedmen’s Bureau published announcements outlining the provisions of the law: Any couple who appeared before a Justice of the Peace or Clerk of the Court and stated when they began living together as husband and wife, would be issued a certificate and would be considered lawfully married. Bureau officers worked to make all freedmen in their districts aware of the new rules and of the deadlines for complying with them. In response, tens of thousands of freed couples reported their marriages to county courts.”

On August 18, 1866,  two former slaves giving their names as Thomas McGowen and Malvina McGowen went before the court of Duplin County, NC  for “Acknowledgement” of their marriage  and registered their date of “commencement” as 1826.

Records of Thomas McGowan in the 1866 Marriage of Freed People, Duplin County, NC

Records of Thomas McGowen in the 1866 Marriage of Freed People, Duplin County, NC

There was also another Thomas McGowen in Duplin County who, on August 11, 1866, registered his marriage to Malvina Pearsall.  For this couple, the date of “commencement” was 1855. This Thomas McGowen appears to be the possible son of Thomas and Malvina McGowen who “commenced” their marriage in 1826. An interesting note about this couple is that in the 1870 U.S. Census they are living on or near the farm of John Quincy McGowen and Alexander D. McGowen, sons of Joseph McGowen and grandsons of William M. McGowan.

Was the older Thomas McGowen actually the father of Richard “Dick” McGowan? It is certainly a possibility.

The Dobson Connection

The first slave owner who can be identified with a high degree of certainty as having owned the slave boy Richard McGowan is James Dobson, of Duplin County, NC.  James Dobson was a son of Hezekiah and Elizabeth Davis Dobson. The Dobson property was just to the southeast of the lands owned by the descendants of William M. McGowan, near Kenansville, NC.  In fact, the Dobson Family cemetery is east of Kenansville on the south side of Highway 24 just east of North Dobson Chapel Road.

The 1850 Slave Schedule for Duplin County enumerated the six slaves owned by James Dobson as: a  female 27, male 12, male 10, male 8 (probably Peter McGowan), male 6 (probably Richard “Dick” McGowan), and a male age 2.  That same year, James Dobson moved his family and slaves to that section of  Lowndes County, Georgia which was later cut into Berrien County.  About that same time, a number of families were relocating “from Duplin to Lowndes. Among these families were those of William J. Lamb, James Carroll, Jesse Carroll, William Godfrey, Andrew J. Liles, William Best, James W. Dixon and others. These all settled in or around the village then called Alapaha but now named Lakeland, Lanier County.”  Among others coming from Duplin to Berrien in the mid-century were Robert Rouse, William Hill Boyett, John Bostick, Treasy Boyett Bostick and Mary C. Bostick.

James Dobson settled his family and slaves on land lot 333 of the 10th District, just west of Ten Mile Creek in what is now Lanier County. The 1856 Berrien County Tax Digest shows James Dobson owning 7 slaves, with a total value of approximately $4500. That same year, November 11, 1856, Dobson sold two negro boys, Peter, about 13 years old, and Dick, about 11 years old, to Hardeman Sirmans who lived on the connecting land lot number 339 near present day Ray City, GA. In a bill of sale in possession of the Berrien Historical Foundation, James Dobson warrants that the two boys are of sound body and mind. The sale price was $1900.

1856 Slave Bill of Sale<br> Bill of Sale from James Dobson to Hardeman Sirmans for tw.o slave boys, Dick and Peter, dated November 11, 1856. Image courtesy of the Berrien County Historical Foundation.

1856 Slave Bill of Sale
Bill of Sale from James Dobson to Hardeman Sirmans for two slave boys, Dick and Peter, dated November 11, 1856. Image courtesy of the Berrien County Historical Foundation.

Received of Hardeman Sirmons One thousand nine hundred dollars in full payment for two negro boys, one named Peter about thirteen years old the other named Dick about eleven years old which negroes I warrant to be sound and healthy both in body and mind and I further warrant and  defend the right and titles from of the aforesaid negro boys from and against the claim or claims of myself my heirs executors administrators and assigns and from the claim of all and any other person in witness whereof I the said James Dobson have herewith set my hand and seal this 11th day of November 1856.

James Dobson

The Sirmans Connection

The slave boy Richard McGowan was purchased by Hardeman Sirmans on November 11, 1856.  This was just days before  Berrien county was created from lands cut out of Lowndes County, GA including the lands of Hardeman Sirmans which lay just north of present day Ray City, GA.  By the time Berrien County was created, Hardeman Sirmans was already a prominent citizen of the area.  According to historian Folks Huxford, “Mr. Sirmans served in the Indian War as a private in a volunteer company of Lowndes County militia commanded by his father-in-law, Capt. (afterwards General) Levi J. Knight, August 15th to Oct 15 1838. He was 1st Lieutenant of the 664th militia district, Lowndes County, 1845-46, then served as Captain in same district 1847-1851. Mr. Sirmans was a member of the Masonic order, receiving his degrees in Butler Lodge, No. 211, F. & A.M. at old Milltown (now Lakeland) in 1858. He was the brother of  Rachel Sirmans Mattox; she was the widow of Samuel Mattox who was hanged at Troupville in 1843. In 1847, Hardeman Sirmans married Elizabeth Knight,  eldest daughter of General Levi J. Knight.  General Knight was a neighbor of Mr. Sirmans and the original settler of Ray City.

The 1860 Census Schedule of Slave Inhabitants in Berrien County, GA shows Hardeman Sirmans owned three slaves: Male Mulatto, 25; Male Black, 16 (probably Peter McGowan); Male Black, 14 (probably Richard McGowan). The Slave schedule showed Sirmans provided one “slave house” for his slaves. None of his slaves had escaped and none had been freed.

1860 Census schedule of slave inhabitants of Berrien County, GA enumerating the slaves owned by Hardeman Sirmans.

1860 Census schedule of slave inhabitants of Berrien County, GA enumerating the slaves owned by Hardeman Sirmans.
https://archive.org/stream/acpl_slavecensus_01_reel01#page/n134/mode/1up

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Hardeman Sirmans, a State Militia veteran of the Indian Wars, enlisted in the Confederate Army with the Clinch County Greys. Sirmans spent most of the Civil War in South Georgia patrolling the southern counties in search of deserters. He probably had opportunities to visit his farm and oversee it to some degree. It appears that Richard McGowan remained with the Sirmans throughout the duration of the War.

Hardeman Sirmans Home just north of Ray City, about 1910. The photo was taken after the death of Hardeman, however his wife, Betsy Knight Sirmans is seated at the table, center. Photo courtesy of Patricia Sirmans Miller and the Berrien County Historical Foundation http://berriencountyga.com/

Hardeman Sirmans Home just north of Ray City, GA about 1910. The photo was taken after the death of Hardeman, however his wife, Betsy Knight Sirmans is seated at the table, center. Photo courtesy of Patricia Sirmans Miller and the Berrien County Historical Foundation http://berriencountyga.com/

Richard McGowan, Freedman

After the war, Richard McGowan remained on the Hardeman Sirmans place. The 1867 Berrien County tax digest shows the “Freedman” Richard McGowan was self-employed and that he paid the $1.00 poll tax.  The Reconstruction Act of 1867  allowed all freedmen the right to vote and required states to draft documents providing for black male suffrage. But the poll tax quickly became a device for disenfranchising black voters.  It was not until 1966 that Supreme Court rulings on the Twenty-fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964, outlawed the use of this tax (or any other tax) as a pre-condition for voting in federal or state elections.

It seems odd, but former slaves could exercise their civil right to vote they were also required to take the same Oath of Allegiance as former Confederate soldiers.   Among 0ther former slaves of Berrien County who took the Oath of Allegiance were Moses Riley, Edward Ross, William Adams, Joseph Wilcox, Timothy Wilcox, Edmund Jones, James A. Adams, Alexander Wright, Allen Lewis, Richard Lewis, John Smith, Seaborn Hubbard, Rolin Alexander, Edward Swain, Benjamin Neasmith, Thomas Udderback, Richard Morehead, Henry Brown, John Thomas, George Houston, Frank Head, Hilliard Armstead, Samuel Rose, Jacob Thomas, William Watts, Aaron Wright, Austin Freeman, Daniel Freeman, Madison Daniels, Sandy Thomas, Andrew Wilson, and Thomas Howard.

1867 Oath of Allegiance completed by Richard McGowen in Berrien County, GA.

1867 Oath of Allegiance completed by Richard McGowan in Berrien County, GA.

State of Georgia
County of Berrien

Personally appeared before me this 22nd day of July, 1867, Richard McGowan who states that he resides in the 3d Election Precinct of Berrien County, Georgia, and who makes oath as follows:

“I Richard McGowan 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 19 years 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 disfranchised 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 given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof; that I have never taken an oath as a member of Congress of the United States, or as an officer 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.”

The said Richard McGowan further swears that he has not been previously registered under the provisions of “An act supplementary to ‘an act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States’ – passed March 2, 1867 – and to facilitate restoration,” under this or any other name, in this or any other Election District; and further, that he was born in ______ and naturalized by ___________ on the day of ________________,18__ in the ___________

Richard McGowan

Sworn to and subscribed before me date precinct & county aforesaid

A. Marochetti
Register of the Sixth Registration District

The 1870 census shows Richard McGowan, 23, and another African-American man,  Tony Smith, 24, residing at the Sirmans residence.  Both men were working as farm laborers.

1870 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1870 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA
https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n453/mode/1up

About 1871, Richard had met and married Sally Thomas and they started their family with the birth of their son, Billy followed by Jesse, Henry, Aaron, and Minerva.

What became of the slave boy Peter is not known, however the 1870 census lists a Peter McGowen, age 80 and his wife Polly, age 60, living nearby.  Furthermore, an 1867 Oath of Allegiance and voter registration  completed by a Peter McGowan in Berrien County indicates he came from North Carolina to Georgia around 1849. This may be the father or relative of Peter and Richard McGowan, as he would have been about 55 at the time of Richard’s birth. The 1870 Census shows Polly was born in Georgia and the 1880 Census records her birthplace as South Carolina; either way she is most likely not kin to the boys.

By the 1880 census Richard, age 30 (probably 34) and Sally, 25 were still living near the Sirmans and Knight family farms, but in a separate household in Enumeration District 1144.

1880 Census enumeration of Richard McGowen and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1880 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA
https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n380/mode/1up

There is no 1890 census record of Richard McGowan; most of the 11th census records were lost after a 1921 fire, and a series of tragic missteps in the record handling left nothing. However, Richard McGowan is listed in the 1894  Colored Voter Registration for Ray’s Mill, GA, indicating that he  remained in the community.

The 1900 census lists the members of the Richard McGowan household as: Richard, age 66 born July, 1833 (probably 54 and born c1845); Sallie, age 55 born March, 1845 (probably 45 and born c1855); Minerva, age 25 born February, 1875; Barney age 9 born March, 1891; Maggie, age 7 born December, 1892; Charlie, age 5 born December, 1894; Fannie, age 3 born March, 1897; and Richard Jr., age 7 months born October, 1899. Sallie had given birth to 13 children, ten of whom survived. She probably lost three children sometime between the birth of Minerva and Barney. Richard and Sallie were living next door to their son Jessie and his wife and step children, still in the Rays Mill District. Other neighbors included Moses Lee,  J. J. and Catherine Beagles, Hiram Beagles, and Elizabeth Beagles.

https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n764/mode/1up

1900 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA
https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n764/mode/1up

 

In 1910 the McGowan household consisted of: Richard, age 62 (see note regarding ages); Sallie, age 52; Barney, age 20; Maggie, age 18; Charlie, age 16; and Fannie, age 14. The McGowans  were renting a home about 6 miles east of Ray City and just north of Highway 129, next door to Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Truett and James R. Johnson, Sr. Richard, Barney and Charlie were farm laborers working as wage employees.    The Beigles were still among the neighbors;  ex-convict Thomas J. Beigles and his wife Mary Elizabeth Pearson Beigles owned a nearby farm. It was reported that Richard and Sallie McGowan had been married 30 years (actually 40) and she had given birth to 16 children, only 8 surviving. Richard Jr. appears to be among those who did not survive.

https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n654/mode/1up

1910 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n654/mode/1up

In the 1920 census, Richard, enumerated as Dick McGowen, age 76, was still renting in the Ray City area, farming and living with Sallie, 64; Maggie, 25; Fannie, 23; and a granddaughter, Florrie, 4. They were living next door to Martha J. Baskin Clements, widow of David C. Clements, and her adult children Grover C. Clements, Albert B. Clements and his wife Connie, and Alma Clements. Nearby was the household of Elick Wright, brother of Moses Wright.

https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n322/mode/1up

1920 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n322/mode/1up

 

At the time of the 1930 Census, Richard and Sallie McGowan and several of their children and descendants were still living near Ray City, GA. The family was enumerated April 25, 1930 in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Lanier County, GA, which was cut out of Berrien County in 1920.  Richard, enumerated as age 99, was probably about 86 years old.  Sallie was reported as 76 years old. Residing with them was their daughter Fannie, reported as age 39, actually 33. The McGowans were renting a home near Ray City. Fannie was working as a farm laborer.  Among the nearby neighbors were Americus McGee, Floyd Green, Caulie Pevy, Lucius J. Knight, and John and Wealthy Lee.  Richard McGowan is enumerated as a veteran of the Civil War.

1930-richard-mcgowen-census

1930 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1300 Georgia Militia District, Lanier County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel372#page/n520/mode/1up

On August 6, 1930, just a few months after the 15th census, the Atlanta Constitution reported the death of Richard McGowanThe article even further exaggerated the longevity of the former slave, giving his age as 106.  The article also unfortunately confuses Richard McGowen with his grandson, Philmore McGowan, who was the late husband of Molly Reddick McGowan Hall, a Ray City psychic of widespread fame.

It is understood that both Richard McGowan and Sallie Thomas McGowan are buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery at St John Baptist Church in the Barretts community, five miles south of Ray City, GA .

A Note on the Ages of Former Slaves as Reported in Census Records

Because slaves were deprived of civil and human rights  – education, literacy, personal property –  records of slave birth dates, marriage dates, family relations, genealogy or even place of residence may be very difficult to document. Remembering dates, and counting years  was not easily achieved. It was quite common over the course of eight or nine decades for those vital dates to be forgotten, mistaken or erroneously changed for no particular reason especially if not recorded in a family Bible.  Census enumeration of slaves was typically only a count of heads.  Furthermore, the ages and birth dates of any persons were not of particular consequence prior to the passage of the Social Security act in 1935.

Now regarding the age of Richard, Sallie and their children, It appears that the most definable age of Richard was when he was about 11 years of age in the 1856 bill of sale. He was certainly not born in 1833 as listed in the 1900 census. Probably 1845 is the more accurate birth date. He was listed as 24 in 1870, which appears to be about right. It is more probable that Richard was about 54 in 1900, and that he probably died about the age of 84 in 1930. Ages of Richard’s children are probably more accurate if figured from the date of their earliest recording in the census.

Related Posts

 

 

Charlie Parker was a Splendid Soldier

Charlie Parker (1919-1945)

In Lakeland, GA there is an official military headstone marking the grave of Charlie Parker, who was a resident of Ray City. Charlie Parker enlisted in the army days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He was in the first African American military unit to arrive in England, and he was the first African-American from Berrien County to die in WWII. Like the Army in which he served, the cemetery where he was buried was racially segregated  –  the Lakeland Colored Cemetery. Today this burial ground is known as the Charles Knight Cemetery.

Grave of Charlie Parker (1919-1945), Lakeland, GA <br> CPL 65 ORD AM CO <br> World War II

Grave of Charlie Parker (1919-1945), Lakeland, GA
CPL 65 ORD AM CO
World War II

Charlie Parker, a son of Will Parker and Girtrude “Trudie” Reddick, lived most of his short life at Ray City, GA. He was a nephew of Stella Reddick Wright and Mose Wright.

His father, Will Parker, was born August 8, 1884.  As a man, Will Parker  was medium height and build, with black eyes and black hair.  His mother was Girtrude Reddick; She was a daughter of Albert and Sylvia Reddick. His parents were married  in Coffee County, GA on November 4, 1916 in a ceremony performed by Reverend R. N. Thompson.

By 1918, Charlie’s parents were residing in Berrien County, GA. Will Parker,  was employed by Samuel I. Watson as a farmer, working Watson’s property on RFD #2 out of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. By 1920, Will  and Girtrude Parker had  relocated to Ray City, GA, renting a house in the “Negro Quarters” which were located between Hwy 129 and Cat Creek in the present day vicinity of the Ray City Senior Citizen Center. Will Parker had taken a job with the Georgia & Florida Railroad, and Gertrude was working as a laundress.  Will  and Gertrude had started a family, with their firstborn son Albert Parker born March 1917, and Charlie Parker born January 9, 1919.  Matthew Parker was born in 1921 and Mary Parker in 1922, followed by Stella, Mack, and the twins, Ethel Mae and Willie both of whom died young.  The Parkers neighbors were men like Charlie Palmer, Joe Davis, and Jerry Mullin, all of whom worked for the railroad, and their wives Henrietta Palmer and Essie Davis, who, like Gertrude, worked as laundresses, and Annie Mullin, who was employed as a domestic cook.

1920 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker and his family in Ray City, GA https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n293/mode/1up

1920 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker and his family in Ray City, GA
https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n293/mode/1up

Charlie Parker and his siblings attended grade school, Charlie completing the 5th grade according to his later military records. Of course, at the time schools were segregated. It wasn’t until 1954 that the supreme court ruled on segregation and the 1964 Civil Rights Act compelled the desegregation of schools. Yet segregated schools persisted in the South; In 1965, “In Berrien County, Georgia, 32 Negro parents chose white schools for their children, but the school Superintendent told the U.S. Office of Education that all 32 parents came to him before school opened and said that their names had been forged on the choice forms.”

Charlie’s mother, Girtrude Reddick Parker, died some time in the 1920s.  The 1930 census shows Will Parker, widower, raising Charlie and his siblings alone, although Girtrude’s sisters also mothered the children. Will was renting a house in Ray City for two dollars a month and  continued to work for the railroad. Charlie’s older brother, Albert, quit school and went to work as a farm laborer to help support the family.  The Parkers also took in boarders to help with family expenses; Census records show Eugene and Luvicy Thomas Campbell living in the Parker household. Their neighbors were the widow Nina Dowdy and Charlie Phillips.  Down the street was the residence of Henry Polite, who later married Queen Ester Wright.

1930 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker, his father and siblings in Ray City, GA

1930 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker, his father and siblings in Ray City, GA
https://archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel338#page/n354/mode/1up

In 1939, Charlie Parker was working on the Guthrie farm on Park Street extension. When the men were cropping tobacco in the summer of 1939, one of Charlie’s tasks was to go into town to get ice. The Guthries had a mule that pulled a sled which was used to haul the tobacco from the field to the tobacco barn for curing. At lunch time, when the tobacco croppers were taking a break, Charlie would take the mule and sled down the dirt road into Ray City to the ice house.  Ferris Moore kept a little ice house by the railroad track in front of Pleamon Sirman’s grocery store. The ice was shipped into Ray City from an ice plant in Nashville. Sometimes seven-year-old Diane Miley, one of the Guthrie grandchildren, would ride in the sled with Charlie for the trip into town and back.

Sometime in late 1939, Charlie Parker and his cousin, Dan Simpson,  left Ray City and went to Florida to try their hand at working for the Wilson Cypress Company. Dan was a son of Charlie’s aunt Luvicy Reddick and her first husband, John H. Simpson.

1940 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker at the Wilson Cypress Sawmill Camp, Crows Bluff, FL

1940 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker at the Wilson Cypress Sawmill Camp, Crows Bluff, FL

The 1940 census enumerated Charlie Parker and Dan Simpson in Lake County, FL, working  at the Crows Bluff Camp of the Wilson Cypress Sawmill. Each rented a place to live at the camp for $2.00 a month.

Crows Bluff on the St. Johns River, was about 65 miles up stream from the Wilson Sawmill at Palatka, FL. At one time, the Wilson sawmill was the largest cypress sawmill in the world.

Parker and Simpson worked as “rafting laborers.” The cypress trees were cut and hauled to the river. They were dumped into the water and assembled into rafts which were floated down the river to the sawmill.

Wilson Cypress Company dumping logs into the Saint Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38983

Wilson Cypress sawmill camp in Lake County, FL, dumping logs into the Saint Johns River.
Charlie Parker and Dan Simpson, of Ray City, GA found work with Wilson Cypress Company in the late 1930s as “rafting laborers.”
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38983

Wilson Cypress Company logging operation on a tributary of the St. Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38992

Wilson Cypress Company logging operation on a tributary of the St. Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38992

Timber rafting on a tributary of the St. Johns River, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/27761

Timber rafting on a tributary of the St. Johns River, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/27761

Wilson Cypress Sawmill. Charlie Parker worked for the Wilson Cypress Sawmill prior to WWII. At the time, the sawmill was the largest producer of red-heart tidewater cypress lumber in the world.

Wilson Cypress Sawmill.
Charlie Parker worked for the Wilson Cypress Sawmill prior to WWII. At the time, the sawmill was the largest producer of red-heart tidewater cypress lumber in the world.

The Palatka sawmill operation of the Wilson Cypress Company was shut down December 5, 1945 during WWII.  Later, the chairman of the company board remarked, “There just was no more marketable timber. We had cut it all.”   Over the next 37 years,  the company’s assets were sold off piece by piece, including 100,000 acres of cut over cypress wetlands.

But the war drew Charlie Parker away before the end came for the sawmill.    His elder brother, Albert Parker, had joined the Army nearly a year before the U.S. entered the war, enlisting at Fort Benning, GA on January 21, 1941.

U.S. Army records show that Charlie Parker enlisted with the Army on November 26, 1941, eleven days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He entered the service at Camp Blanding, FL. His physical description at induction was 5’9″ tall and 151 pounds.  His cousin Dan Simpson would be inducted at Camp Blanding the following year.

Camp Blanding was established in 1939 and by 1941, the camp had grown to be the fourth largest city in Florida with more than 10,000 buildings to accommodate two divisions, about 60,000 trainees.  In addition to housing and mess halls, maintenance buildings, PXs, field artillery and rifle ranges, the camp had a 2,800-bed hospital, enlisted men’s and officer’s clubs, bowling alleys, four theaters, and five chapels… The camp had separate training and induction centers for soldiers of both races, although they remained in separate areas of the post…During World War II, approximately one million men received basic training here, the largest of Florida’s 142 military installations built in the 1940s.

Following training, Charlie Parker was initially assigned to the 60th Ordnance Ammunition Company and later transferred to the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company.

“The 65th Ordnance Company were the first Aviation ammunition Unit to arrive in the UK. They were set to immediate work establishing the first Aviation Ordnance Section in a General Service Depot, at Burtonwood. They were briefly transferred to Barnham before being moved to Wortley, Yorkshire to man the first depot to accept AF munitions in quantity from the US. This Unit was the first African American Unit to arrive in England!  Its arrival being the subject of an FBI document, relating to a press release, downplaying the arrival of ‘negro’ troops.”

“The all black 65th Ordnance Company who arrived from Fort Dix, New Jersey in the middle of July 1942 at the nearby small village of Wortley. They were joined the following month by a further 98 black GIs. They had come to service an aerial bomb depot in the vicinity, and were barracked at Wortley Hall, the home of Lord Wharncliffe. According to the detailed account of this by Graham Smith, the locals of Wortley and Sheffield got on very well with the black soldiers, apart from some young men who resented them having relations with local young women. They were resented too by Lord Wharncliffe, who didn’t like having them milling around his living quarters.”

When America entered the war, there were fewer than 4000 African Americans in the armed services; by the war’s end more than 1.2 million African Americans would serve in uniform. Like Charlie Parker, many black soldiers served in segregated units in support roles:

“While most African Americans serving at the beginning of WWII were assigned to non-combat units and relegated to service duties, such as supply, maintenance, and transportation, their work behind front lines was equally vital to the war effort, serving behind the front lines…By 1945, however, troop losses virtually forced the military to begin placing more African American troops into positions as infantrymen, pilots, tankers, medics, and officers in increasing numbers.  In all positions and ranks, they served with as much honor, distinction, and courage as any American soldier did.  Still, African American MPs stationed in the South often could not enter restaurants where their German prisoners were being served a meal. ”  

The 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company served in campaigns in Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, and Rome-Arno. By 1945, the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company (munitions supply) was assigned to Mondolfo Airfield, Italy.  USAAF units known to have been stationed at Mondolfo were:

307th; 308th; 309th Fighter Squadrons, P-51D/K Mustang
Primary mission was to escort B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers on missions into Northern Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia and Austria.
317th; 319th Fighter Squadrons, P-51D/K Mustang
Primary mission was to fly ground air support missions for advancing Allied ground forces in Italy.

Part of Charlie Parker’s job while serving in Italy as a corporal in the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company was handling toxic bombs.  According to the textbook Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare published by the U.S. Army, the US Army Air Force in WWII:

had 100-lb mustard agent bombs; 500-lb phosgene or cyanogen chloride bombs; and 1,000-lb phosgene, cyanogen chloride, or hydrocyanic acid bombs… None of these chemical weapons was used on the battlefield during the war, but the prepositioning of chemical weapons in forward areas resulted in one major disaster and several near mishaps. The disaster occurred December 2, 1943, when the SS John Harvey, loaded with 2,000 M47A1 mustard agent bombs, was destroyed during a German air raid at Bari Harbor, Italy. The only members of the crew who were aware of the chemical munitions were killed in the raid. As a result of the ship’s destruction, mustard agent contaminated the water in the harbor and caused more than 600 casualties, in addition to those killed or injured in the actual attack.

Just days before the German surrender and the declaration of Victory in Europe, Parker suffered his own chemical weapons mishap, a fatal exposure to the toxic gas from a poison gas bomb . His death was reported in the Nashville Herald.

The Nashville Herald
May 31, 1945

Cpl. Parker, Negro, Passes In Italy

        Cpl. Charlie Parker, colored, of Ray City, died in Italy April 26, in a United States Army Station Hospital, located in Southern Italy, where he had been stationed nearly two years.
        While working with toxic bombs, Cpl. Parker inhaled a concentration of the gas. After reporting to the Medical Aid Station he was admitted to the Station Hospital for further treatment. Reports stated that everything possible was done to save his life but to no avail.
        His burial services were conducted on Sunday, April 29, attended by all officers and men of his company except those on duty. Burial was in an American cemetery in Southern Italy. The letter from his commanding officer stated that Parker was a splendid soldier and well liked by those of his company.
        The deceased volunteered in the U.S. Army about three years ago, having in Italy. He was the son of Will Parker and a nephew of Frances Goff, both of Ray City. So far as known at this time, he was the first Berrien county colored person to make the supreme sacrifice in World War II.

(transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker)

After the end of World War II, Charlie Parker’s body was returned to the United States.  The U.S. government mandated a program to return the bodies of servicemen who had been buried in temporary military cemeteries overseas. Following surveys to the population, the government decided that about three fifths of the 289,000 personnel involved would be returned in accordance with family wishes. Between 1946 and 1951, over 170,000 servicemen were returned.

After WWII, the body of Charlie Parker, of Ray City, GA was returned to Georgia aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson.

After WWII, the body of Charlie Parker, of Ray City, GA was returned to Georgia aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson.

The body of Charlie Parker was returned to America aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson, originally built as a Liberty Ship.  As a funeral ship, the USAT Eric G. Gibson was painted white with a large purple mourning band. The ship arrived at the Brooklyn Army Base, NY, in February, 1949, with the bodies of 92 Georgians along with the bodies of more than 5000 war dead from other states.

Ironically, in the 1960s, the Army loaded the S.S. Corporal Eric G. Gibson with chemical weapons of mass destruction- rockets armed with VX nerve gas – and sank it off the coast of  New Jersey to dispose of the deadly weapons. Today, the sunken ship and its deadly cargo remain one of the most dangerous chemical weapons dump sites  in U.S. waters.

In 1949, Francis Reddick Goff applied for a flat marble military headstone to mark the grave of her nephew.

Application for military headstone for Charlie Parker, WWII veteran.

Application for military headstone for Charlie Parker, WWII veteran.

 

Grave of Charlie Parker. Charles Knight Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Charlie Parker. Charles Knight Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Related Posts:

Moses Wright

Moses Wright of Ray City, GA

Moses Wright of Ray City, GA

Moses Wright of Ray City, GA

Moses Wright was born March 2, 1886, a son of Julia Roundtree and Alexander Wright.

His mother, Julia Roundtree, was a daughter of Green Roundtree, a farmer of Lowndes County GA.  By 1870, just five years after the end of the Civil War, Green Roundtree had acquired a farm valued at $500 and a personal estate valued at another $500, making him one of the wealthier African-Americans in Lowndes County, and one of the very few African-American land owners of the time.

His father, Alexander Wright, was born about 1846. After the Civil War, Alexander Wright was enumerated as Ellick Right in Lowndes County, GA where he was engaged in farming. In the 1870s and 1880s, Alexander Wright was living next to the farm of his father-in-law, Green Roundtree. His household included wife, Julia Roundtree Wright, and daughters.

Since the 1890 Georgia census records are lost, little is known of Moses Wright’s early life.  It appears that his father, Alexander Wright, died around 1899, when Moses was about 12 years old. His mother was married a second time, to William Brown. Moses and his siblings were enumerated in the census of 1900 in his step-father’s household, in a rented  Valdosta, GA home. Thirteen-year-old Moses was working as a day laborer.

Moses Wright married about 1903 at the age of 16.  Carrie and Moses Wright made their home in the Cat Creek District, on the Valdosta & Rays Mill Public Road.  They were renting a farm which they worked together on their own account while raising their family.

In 1918, Moses Wright registered for the WWI draft along with other local men. He was a self-employed farmer residing on rural route 4 out of Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.  He gave his next of kin as Cornelius Wright. His physical description was  medium height, stout build, black eyes and black hair.

Moses Wright 1918 draft registration., Lowndes County, GA

Moses Wright 1918 draft registration., Lowndes County, GA

By 1920, Moses and Carrie had moved their family to one of the settlement roads around Ray City, GA. They purchased a farm on credit, and worked it on their own account.  In 1930, the Wrights owned a home at Ray City valued at $1500.

Carrie  Wright died January 23,  1931 in Berrien County, GA at the age of 44.    Afterwards, Moses Wright married Stella Wright, also of Ray City, GA.   She was well known throughout the area as a seeress and a healer.   Stella  and Moses continued to live at Ray City through the 1940 census.

Related Posts:

Cliff Brown and the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

In the summer of 1917, Cliff Brown was a resident of Ray City, Berrien County, GA when he registered for the draft for World War I. Cliff Brown was African-American and, at age 22, he was of medium height and build, with black hair and black eyes. He was a native of Hawkinsville, GA born May 15, 1895.

An interesting fact from his draft card was that while a resident of Ray City, Brown was an employee of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. He gave his place of employment as “Adel, Ga. to Hampton Springs, Fla”

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

The South Georgia & West Coast Railroad was built by brothers Zenas and James Oglesby of Quitman Georgia, and ran from Adel to Hampton Springs, FL.  In Adel, the line connected with the Georgia & Florida Railroad which served Ray City, GA, running from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL.

Hampton Springs, FL, the southern terminus of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad, was the site of the famous Hampton Springs Hotel, once labeled “Dixie’s Famous Spa.”  While the hotel was very popular with the railroad’s white passengers in the early 1900s, African-Americans like railroad worker Cliff Brown were no doubt denied access to the resort.

In its heyday, “The hotel was world renowned for its sulfur springs and baths known for their healing and medicinal powers. The luxurious hotel boasted lush gardens with elaborate fountains and planters.  The resort had a covered pool with foot baths fed by the springs, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, casino, grand ballroom, outdoor dance pavilion, and railroad depot. The nine-hole golf course was among the first in the region.  The hotel had its own bottling plant and shipped the healing sulfur water nationwide.  It also had its own power plant and the majority of the food served in the dining room was grown and raised at the hotel farm. The hotel had a private hunting and fishing lodge on Spring Creek six miles from the hotel site and an excursion boat with a covered launch.”

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