Classroom Building and Soup Kitchen at Ray City School

Classroom Building  and Soup Kitchen at Ray City School

Classroom Building at Ray City School.

Classroom Building at Ray City School.

The white wooden classroom building  was already an old building on the campus when Diane Miley attended second grade at Ray City School in 1939.

This building, which was originally located where the kindergarten is now situated, and was later moved further back from Pauline Street to its present location. The entrances to this building were on the north and south sides. A
central north-south hallway ran through the building. On the east side were two big classrooms for the 1st and 4th grades, and a small room used as the Soup Kitchen. On the west side were 2nd Grade and 3rd Grade classrooms. There were no bathrooms in this building, or in the main brick school building for that matter. The toilets at that time were outdoor toilets. the Ray City school did not get indoor toilets until after WWII.

The teachers in this wooden building were:

1st Grade: Mrs. P.M. Shultz
2nd Grade: Miss Josephine Collier
3rd grade: Eloise Johnson
4th grade: a young unmarried teacher

Other Ray City teachers around that time were Jesse Francis Webb, Hazel Tabor, Dorothy Chisholm, and Mary Peele, James Garland Grady.  Julius Glen Tatum was an Ag teacher.

This building housed the original “soup kitchen” lunch room at Ray City School. Off of the 4th grade classroom was a small room which was used as the lunch room. It measured about 10 feet by 12 feet and was equipped with  a cook table, but no sink counter. A big cast iron wood-burning stove occupied one corner of the room.  There were counters and benches along two walls where the children ate.  The lunchroom ladies  could not feed many children at a time. The charge for lunch was 10 cents, but not all children could afford to get a hot lunch. Many brought their lunch from home and ate in the school yard.

Mrs. Hun Knight worked hard to bring the soup kitchen to the school and worked in the kitchen. Mrs. Eula Swindle Hall was the first cook. She was followed by Mrs. Allie Purvis Starling. Leila McConnell also cooked. Martha Burkhalter was a lunchroom “waitress.” Agnes Knight Guthrie also helped in the kitchen. For the paying students, soup was served every day, with brown whole-wheat flour biscuits and butter. The kitchen was supplied with surplus government commodities supplemented with fresh produce that was brought in by local farmers in trade for their children’s lunches. Rossie Futch brought in sweet potatoes in trade for a hot lunch for his children.

Later, after the first school cafeteria building was constructed on the Ray City School campus in 1941, the small soup kitchen was turned into a trigonometry classroom for the high school students.

Related Post

WWII Vets added Vocational Building at Ray City School

History of Ray City School

Second Grade Portraits, Ray City School, 1939

1939 Ray City School 10th Grade

Charles Woodrow Schmoe ~ Ray City School Principal

Ray City School 1934

Ray City School Gets Lunch Room, 1941

Senior Class of 1951, Ray City School

Ray City School Teachers 1950-51, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

Senior Class of 1951, Ray City School

Wilma Harper Shultz Began 60-year Teaching Career at Ray City

1939 Ray City Glee Club Goes On Tour

Ray City Class of 1930 Didn’t Walk

Ray City Girls Form Athletic Club, 1947

W.R. McClure Resigns as Ray City Principal

Mrs. Schmoe ~ Ray City Teacher

1951 Beaverettes Couldn’t Miss; Boys Went Afoul at Homerville

Sankey Booth, Wiregrass Educator

Ray City, GA Women’s Hoops, 1934

Queen of the Harvest celebrated Ray City Gymnasium

Tri-Hi-Y, 1939

 

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WWII Vets added Vocational Building at Ray City School

Vocational School for WWII Vets

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

The Class of 1949 wrote, “This year, 1949, the veterans are also completing a very modern and up-to-date lunchroom, which is a great asset to our school. “

Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-49

Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-49

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WWII Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-1949.

WWII Veterans at Ray City School, 1948-1949.

Albert Studstill was one of the Ray City WWII veterans that helped build the Vocational buildings at the Ray City School and also at the old high school in Nashville, GA .

Geunie Griner’s Tap & Dance Show

Geunie Griner, circa 1960, musician, comedian, newspaper publisher of Berrien County, GA.

Geunie Griner, circa 1960, musician, comedian, newspaper publisher of Berrien County, GA.  Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Geunie Griner

A former Ray City School student tells us that in the 1940s, Geunie Griner  taught music and tap dancing classes in the schools at Nashville and Ray City, GA and possibly at other county schools.  “He would teach the kids perhaps 1st through 3rd grade and some that were even younger. He would go to the schools and offer the dancing classes as an extra curricular activity. Students paid extra for the lessons. At the end of the lessons, he would put on a big show with all the students performing. They wore fancy little costumes.”

New Lois School Reunion, 1997

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New Lois consolidated school, 4th, 5th, 6th Grades, 1933-34 the first year the school was opened. Identified front row left to right: Lucian Parrish, William Forehand, Elby Ray, –––––––– Buckholt, Lamar Weaver, Ronald Parrish, Alton Akins, Pete Akins, Bernys W. Peters. Second row: Amos Luke, C.H. Ray, Lucille Knowles, Camilla Comer, Edna Francis Fountain, Rudelle Lee, Alma Luke, Clementine Mickell. Back row: Hazel Sirmans, ––––––– Fountain, Myrtice Jordan, Helen Griffin, Verna Jordan, Lawanna Griffin. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

New Lois consolidated school, 4th, 5th, 6th Grades, 1933-34 the first year the school was opened. Identified front row left to right: Lucian Parrish, William Forehand, Elby Ray, –––––––– Buckholt, Lamar Weaver, Ronald Parrish, Alton Akins, Pete Akins, Bernys W. Peters. Second row: Amos Luke, C.H. Ray, Lucille Knowles, Camilla Comer, Edna Francis Fountain, Rudelle Lee, Alma Luke, Clementine Mickell. Back row: Hazel Sirmans, ––––––– Fountain, Myrtice Jordan, Helen Griffin, Verna Jordan, Lawanna Griffin. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

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New Lois School when the campus was at its peak. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

New Lois School when the campus was at its peak. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

 

New Lois School Reunion, 1997

New Lois School Reunion, 1997

News Clipping, November 1997

New Lois School students gather for reunion

        About 70 people gathered at the New Lois Community Center (former New Lois School) in Berrien County, for the fourth school reunion.
        There were former students, a principal, a county school superintendent, a school bus driver, lunchroom workers, spouses, family and friends.
        Howard Barker led the group in an opening prayer at the Nov. 1 event. Each person introduced himself, and several told of their memories in years past at New Lois School.
        Sixteen people attended the reunion for the first time. They were Roscoe Stallings of Nashville (former county school superintendent; Doris Lightsey McKinnon of Homerville; Billy Frank Hayes of Bonaire; Ines Hayes Wilson of Adel; Mattie Lou Stevens McLendon of Nashville; Vivian Browning of St. Augustine, Fla.; Royce Noles of Valdosta (former students); Alice Hayes of Bonaire; Dale Hollrah of Nashville; Wylene Lott of Nashville; E. W. Wilkerson of Ray City (spouses); Sherry Carter of Homerville; Christopher Carter of Valdosta; Beck Nash of Nashville; and Edith Peters of Ray City (family members of friends).
        Sarah Blanton, 92, of Valdosta, was recognized as being the oldest teacher present. She taught at Old Lois School. Dorothy Akins of Nashville was the oldest teacher present who taught at New Lois. Johnny Pat Webb, 81, was the oldest student from Old Lois and a bus driver for New Lois. Lucile Noles Browning of Lakeland was the oldest student from New Lois and Don Haskins was a principal teacher at New Lois. Gladys Sargent, 85, of Nashville, was the oldest lunchroom worker.
        According to the registry, Roma Parrish Krejci (former student) and her husband, Ed from Livingston, Texas, traveled the farthest.
        Nine were remembered who have died since the reunion in 1995: W.T. Barker, Nelda Nash Smith, Carroll Cumbus, Hazel Hancock Johnson, Juanita Weaver Fletcher and Ima Jean Ray Beck (former students); Rita Wilkerson Parrish and Victoria Bennett Coppage (former teachers); Ouida Knight Weaver (former lunchroom worker).
        A quilt was handmade and donated by Lucile Noles Browning, Leila Mae Noles Miller and Bessie Noles Johnson. At mealtime, a lucky ticket was drawn by Alton Akins. The winner was Jimmy Hand of Adel. The proceeds of the quilt will go into the New Lois Reunion Fund.
        The blessing was said by Johnny Pat Webb. Serving on the 1997 committee were Pete and Dorothy Akins, Howard Barker, Lucille Browning, Jo Ann McCray, Leila Mae Mller, Annie Belle Outlaw, Carolyn Griffin and Lamar Carter.
        Following lunch Mr. Stallings had a display set up on one of the kitchen tables, a replica of Old Lois School, the girls basement (outdoor privy) and some earlier desk used at Old Lois and other schools throughout the county in earlier years. All of the items were handcrafted by Mr. Stallings, who is known throughout New Lois Community and surrounding areas for his woodworking skills. When asked about the boy’s basement, he pointed to a sign which read “Boys to the creek.”
        It was requested that Carolyn P. Griffin entertain at the piano and several joined in the auditorium for a sing-a-long.
        The social committee for the next reunion is Philip Akins, chairman, Billy Cornelius, Furman Ray, Vivian Browning, Charles Donald Napier, Lamar Carter and Charlie Barker. The reunion will be at 10 a.m. the first Saturday in November 1999 at the New Lois Community Center.

 

Other faculty at New Lois School included Thera Hambrick, Arlo Futch SneadMaxie Snead Patten, Bernys Peters and Grace Swindle, of Ray City, GA.  Earl Weaver and Lella Forrest Long were also on the New Lois faculty. Before WWII, St.Elmo Lee taught agriculture at both New Lois School and at Ray City School. Gerald Huff coached the boys basketball team in 1952.

Other students attending the school included Edna Bennett, Myrtice Jordan, Hazel Ray, Hazel Fletcher, Alma Luke, Lucille Knowle.  In the 1930s, Latrelle Shaw, Lawana Shaw and Otis Shaw attended the New Lois School, walking the four mile distance from their parents’ home near Ray City both ways, daily. Reva Rice and Hubert Comer were students in 1936-37.

Frances Cornelius

Frances Cornelius, born 1938,  lived with her family on Possum Creek Road just west of Ray City, GA.  Her father, Shellie Wade Cornelius, was a bus driver for the Ray City School and her mother, Pearl Williams Cornelius was a teacher.

Frances Cornelius, 1952-53 sophomore at Ray City School

Frances Cornelius, 1952-53 sophomore at Ray City School


Frances "Frankie" Cornelius, Senior, Class of 1955, Berrien High School, Nashville, GA

Frances “Frankie” Cornelius, Senior, Class of 1955, Berrien High School, Nashville, GA

At Berrien High School, Frances Cornelius was a member of 4-H, Glee Club, Tri-Hi-Y, and Future Homemakers of America. She also play on the Girls basketball team and was a cheerleader.

Sue Nix, Miss B.H.S. of 1954

Sue Nix, from the New Lois area near Ray City, GA. Her sister taught music at Ray City.

Sue Nix attended Berrien High School in Nashville, GA, where she was a member of 4-H, Glee Club, Tri-Hi-Y, Broadcaster Staff, Rebel Yell, Annual Staff,  Dramatics Club, and Future Homemakers of America. She served on the  Student Council, and as  Class Vice President and Class Treasurer. She was the Sweetheart of the Future Farmers of America Sweetheart and was elected Miss B.H.S. of 1954.

Sue Nix, 1953

Sue Nix, 1953

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Sue Nix, 1954

Sue Nix, 1954

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Sue Nix, 1955 Senior, Berrien High School, Nashville, GA

Sue Nix, 1955 Senior, Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

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1954 Miss Berrien High School, Sue Nix

1954 Miss Berrien High School, Sue Nix. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

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1954 Homecoming Court - photo from Valdosta Daily Times QUEENS AND COURTS – Here are the football and Berrien High School beauty queens and their courts as they appeared recently at a homecoming in Nashville. Left to right are Anelda Baker, Nancy Nix, Joanne Register, Sally Jo Connell, Patricia Carter, football queen, Sue Nix, Miss Berrien High School, Elaine Carter, Imogene Holland, LulaBelle McEuen and Louise Shouse.

1954 Homecoming Court – photo from Valdosta Daily Times QUEENS AND COURTS – Here are the football and Berrien High School beauty queens and their courts as they appeared recently at a homecoming in Nashville. Left to right are Anelda Baker, Nancy Nix, Joanne Register, Sally Jo Connell, Patricia Carter, football queen, Sue Nix, Miss Berrien High School, Elaine Carter, Imogene Holland, LulaBelle McEuen and Louise Shouse. Image and caption courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

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1954 Miss Berrien High was Sue Nix, resident of the New Lois community near Ray City, GA. The 1954 Football Queen was Patricia Carter.

1954 Miss Berrien High was Sue Nix, resident of the New Lois community near Ray City, GA. The 1954 Football Queen was Patricia Carter. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

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FFA Sweetheart Sue Nix with FHA Beau Kenneth King, Berrien High School, Nashville, GA

FFA Sweetheart Sue Nix with FHA Beau Kenneth King, Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Ray City School, Eighth Grade 1960-61

Ray City School, Eighth Grade 1960-61

In 1954, Ray City High School and all other white high schools in the county were combined into Nashville High School.  The brick school building at Ray City continued to serve as an elementary and middle school until 1994, when all county schools were consolidated into facilities in Nashville.

Ray City Elementary School. Mrs. Taylor & Mrs. Patten's Eighth Grade, 1960-61.

Ray City Elementary School. Mrs. Taylor & Mrs. Patten’s Eighth Grade, 1960-61. Front Row, fourth from the left is Johnny Guthrie. Other Identifications needed.

Boyette Sisters at Georgia State Womens College

Dorothy and Doris Boyette at Georgia State Womans College

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA. 1945

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA. 1945

In 1944, Doris Boyette was a senior at GSWC and her younger sister,  Dorothy “Dot” Boyette was a freshman.  Doris was born 27 Oct 1923; Dot was born May 14, 1926. The girls grew up just east of Ray City, GA, in the adjacent portion of Lanier County. Their parents were Eddie D. Boyette  and Mattie Deen Boyette.

At GSWC, Doris was living in Ashley Hall,  a dormitory for sophomores; her roommate was Clare Carson, who was president of the sophomore class.

October 4, 1944 GSWC Campus Canopy mentions petite blond Dorothy

October 4, 1944 GSWC Campus Canopy mentions petite blond Doris Boyette, of Ray City, GA

Among the Boyette’s 1945 classmates was Carolyn DeVane, also of Ray City, GA. There have been many other Ray City women of G.S.W.C. over the years.

Ashley Hall, Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA 1845

Ashley Hall, Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA 1845

The girls’ activities in 1944-45 included the Polio Drive, scrap paper salvage, planting the Camellia Trail, and dancing with those men from Moody Airfield.  The May 9, 1944 edition of the Campus Canopy student newspaper reported. “It’s boy trouble for Dot Boyette…which of the four do you intend dating Sunday night, Dot? – Gee, we wish we could get one date. ”

1945 women of GSWC at Saturday night dance with the men from Moody Airfield.

1945 women of GSWC at Saturday night dance with the men from Moody Airfield.

The October 4, 1944 school newspaper reported:

“There they were, standing all alone just waiting for us to ask them to dance…Men, men and more men and not one of them had a chance.
    To quote one Freshman, Ann Maddox, “It was wonderful just to look at a man.”
    The dance was swell, but that familiar tap on another’s shoulder could mean one of two things…height of ecstasy or depths of despair…’til the next girl broke. This from Lawanda McCellar, as if she were just tearing herself away from it all.
    “Course I wished my fella had been there,” sighed Mary Tharpe, but what chance would I have had with him if he had been.”
    Annes Jean NeSmith summed it all up in a few words…”Plenty of men, good dancers, nice plausible lines, and I can hardly wait ’til next Saturday night.”
    “I’m still overcome by the sight of those men, to express an honest opinion.” says Betsy Markert still in a daze.
    “All in all the opinion of Converse is that it was wonderful and everybody had a good time, but give us men. We see women all week, is the general idea.
    Favorable opinions were not limited to the college girls though. Several of the Moody Field boys were carefully eavesdropped on. Result: “I just can’t believe it, so many girls. If I were to write my mother and say 15 girls cut in on me she would say I was crazy drunk, or lying.”

The hit songs those college girls were swooning to in 1944-45?  The Campus Canopy mentioned:

In 1945, Dorothy Boyett was elected treasurer of the Baptist Student Union.  In the Winter Quarter, 1945 Dorothy “Dot” Boyette was elected to the Sophomore Council.  “Members of the house council check lights, cards and attend the simple cases of Student Government violation. They are elected at the beginning of each quarter to serve a term of three months.”  Dot Boyett also served on the advertising staff and the business staff of the Campus Canopy.

By late 1945 Dorothy Boyette left Georgia State Womans College and was working in Brunswick, GA.

Dot married Charles Gordon Howell. He was a grandson of Caswell Howell, pioneer settler and one of the first ministers of the First Baptist Church of  Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. Dot and Charles raised crops and children in Lakeland, GA. Their son, Charles Howell, Jr. became Chief of Pediatric Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia. Their grandson, Charles Howell III, is a professional golfer.  Dorothy Boyette died June 2,1985. Interment was at Lakeland City Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Doris Boyette married John Sears and moved to Atlanta, GA.

Obituary of Doris Boyette Sears

Doris Boyett Sears age 87, of Atlanta, GA, passed on Sunday, June 26, 2011. She was predeceased by her husband, John Sears, daughter, Susan Elaine Sears, sisters, Irene B. Smith and Dorothy B. Howell. She is survived by her daughter, Pamela McKinney of Lawrenceville, sister, Louise Davidson of Bonaire, GA, brother, Earl Boyett of Lakeland, GA. 2 grandchildren, Robert Morris and Jennifer Shelton, 4 great grandchildren, Kayla Shelton, Savannah Shelton, Avri Shelton and Joshua Morris, numerous nieces and nephews, cousins and extended family also survive. Mrs. Sears was a charter member of the Johns Creek Baptist Church, a member of the Senior Choir, a Food Pantry Volunteer and an avid Gardner. A Funeral Service to Celebrate the Life of Mrs. Sears will be at 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 30, 2011 at Wages Lawrenceville Chapel. Interment will follow in the White Chapel Memorial Gardens, Duluth.

More Ray City Women of G.S.W.C

West Hall, Georgia State Womans College, 1945

West Hall, Georgia State Womans College, 1945

From 1922 to 1950 the state college in Valdosta, GA was known as Georgia State Womans College (now know as Valdosta State University”.  A number of Ray City women who attended the college during this period were featured in a previous post. Here are a few more who appeared in available yearbooks:

Doris and Dot Boyette were daughters of Eddie D. Boyette  and Mattie Deen Boyette. Their home was in Lanier County, just east of Ray City.

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA, 1942 sophomore at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyette

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA. 1945 sophomore at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Carolyn DeVane was a daughter of Caulie A Devane and Alma L. Albritton. She grew up in the Lois community just west of Ray City, GA.

Carolyn DeVane, 1945, Freshman

Carolyn DeVane, 1945, Freshman

Marian Hambrick, sister of Thera Hambrick, was a daughter of Ruth and John O. Hambrick. Her family’s place was in the Cat Creek community, just southwest of Ray City.

Marian Hambrick, 1941, Freshman

Marian Hambrick, 1941, Freshman

 

Louise Paulk was a daughter of  Gladys Daniels and James M. Paulk. Her father died when she was a toddler and her mother remarried Hun Knight. Her step-father was the owner of the Mayhaw Lake amusement park at Ray City.  Her half-brother was Jack Knight, who attended college at Valdosta after the school went co-educational.

Louise Paulk, 1939, GSWC

Louise Paulk, 1939, GSWC

Marilyn Faye Weaver was a daughter of John W. Weaver and Irene Guthrie. The Weaver farm was just east of Ray City in the 1300 Georgia Militia District in Lanier County, GA.

1949-marilyn-weaver-GSWC

Marilyn Weaver, 1949, freshman at Georgia State Womans College.

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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.

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