Ray City Blues

John Guthrie

During the 1920s and 30s in Ray City, GA the emergence of the Blues music genre in the local African-American community reflected its birth in the Mississippi Delta.  Folk musician, John Guthrie (1911-1985), was just a young white kid with a keen interest in music when he developed deep admiration for the talent of black musicians performing in the turpentine “Quarters” of Ray City, GA.

 

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

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

According to Allaboutjazz.com, “The Blues has deep roots in American history, particularly African-American history. The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 19th century. Its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves – African-American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields. It’s generally accepted that he music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.

Then, “The African American music combined with the folk music of white European settlers to produce new styles of music.

In a 1977 recording, Guthrie talks of local African-American pioneers of glass slides and crying strings, and plays a brief medley of Rocking Chair Blues, “a traditional oral formular that has been used in any number of songs” according to Brian Hoskin,  and Jimmie Rodgers 1929 “Blue Yodel #6 (Blues Like Midnight).  As a young man during the Great Depression, John Guthrie sometimes impersonated Jimmie Rodgers in hopes of obtaining a free meal.

John Guthrie (recorded 1977

Folks, I’d like to go back a little bit through ages. When I was just a kid and bought my first guitar I used to go down to a place they called the “Quarters.”

Now, I want to explain that a little bit further – the Quarters. We used to have turpentine stills in this part of the country. The man that owned turpentine stills, he would build shacks or shanties down for the black people to live in. Down in those shanties or shacks they would have a little place down there where they sold soda pop…well, the colored people called it ‘soady waters.’

I’d go down there and they’d have a guitar player down there and he’d have a bottle neck on the end of his finger and he’d be playing these old black tunes. There is no white man that can play a tune just like that black man could play one.

At this time I’m going to do the best I can about the way them guys used to play guitar. They’d pull the strings and it would whine and they call it ‘cryin’ strings, now if you know what I mean.

I’m going down to the river
I’m going to take me a rocking chair
I’m going down to the river
I’m going to take me a rocking chair
And if the blues don’t leave me,
Lord I’ll rock on away from here

I got the blues like midnight
Moon shinin’ bright as day
I got the blues like midnight
Moon shinin’ bright as day
I wish a tornado would come
and blow my blues away.

Folk musician Jimmy Rodgers recorded a series of Blue Yodel songs from 1927 to his death in 1933. “Rogers’ background in blackface minstrel shows and as a railroad worker enabled him to develop a unique musical hybridization drawing from both black and white traditions, as exemplified in the Blue Yodel sounds. In his recordings Rodgers and his producer, Ralph Peer, achieved a “vernacular combination of blues, jazz, and traditional folk” to produce a style of music then called ‘hillbilly.” Rodgers’ Blue Yodel #6, also known as Blues Like Midnight, was recorded in 1929 and has been covered by Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Allman Brothers, among others.

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Levi J. Knight, Jr on List of Incompetent Confederate Officers

In the organization and command of the Berrien Minute Men it is noted that Levi J. Knight, Jr. was a nephew of Major Levi J. Knight who originally organized the Berrien Minute Men at Nashville, GA. Levi J. Knight, Jr. also served as an officer in the outfit; In  1861, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant.

In May 1862, Levi J. Knight, Jr was elected Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company C (later Company G), 29th Georgia Regiment. His election followed the resignation of Captain Thomas. S. Wylly. Wylly may have resigned under financial pressure. The Savannah Daily Morning News reported May 19, 1862 that the State of Georgia had filed suit against him for collection of back taxes.

Captain Knight, Jr was detailed to take Company C to Battery Lawton , where they joined the Brunswick Rifles manning artillery defenses of the city. The Berrien Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles had encamped together at Brunswick.  (Berrien Minute Men Company D was manning the battery at Causton’s Bluff and other posts around the city.)

Lawton Battery was part of the complex of Advance River Batteries supporting Fort Jackson on the Savannah River. The battery site had been selected by General Robert E. Lee while on an inspection trip with Col. Edward C. Anderson on December 8, 1861. Anderson noted foundations for a gun Battery were already being constructed with slave labor on a mud island above Fort Jackson. The other sites included Smith’s Island and Huchinsons Island, and “at both which points the General ordered batteries to be erected.” Smith’s Island became the site of Lawton Battery.

1864 map showing relative positions of Savannah, Battery Lawton, Fort Jackson, Fort Lee, Causton's Bluff, Oatland Island and Whitemarsh Island.

1864 map showing relative positions of Savannah, Battery Lawton, Fort Jackson, Fort Lee, and Causton’s Bluff.

Lawton Battery consisted of one 32-pounder rifle gun, one 42-pounder smooth bore, two 8-inch and two 10-inch columbiad guns. The battery was built on low-lying land of Smith’s Island (Barnwell Island, SC) on the Savannah River  opposite Battery Lee.

Lawton Battery, Fort Jackson and the other Advance River Batteries were under the command of Edward C. Anderson. Anderson was educated at a Massachusetts prep school, a former mayor of Savannah and a former officer of the United States Navy. He had participated in numerous naval and amphibious operations in the Mexican-American War.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Anderson was sent to Richmond by Governor Joseph E. Brown, to purchase ordinance from the Tredegar Iron Works for the State of Georgia. Soon after, Anderson was personally summoned to Montgomery, AL by the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, who commissioned him a major in the Corps of Artillery. He was ordered at once to set sail for Europe, as a confidential agent to buy war material for the Confederacy, arranging for its transfer to the Confederate States, through the Union blockade by way of blockade runners. In England, he was stalked continually by spies hired by the United States Consul General, Charles Francis Adams. Anderson described his position as the Secretary of War in England. He and fellow Georgian James D. Bulloch negotiated with the British for the sale of warships and blockade runners to the South. Upon learning of the Southern victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, Anderson raised a Confederate Flag upon the rooftop of a friend’s house in Liverpool. Their success in both exporting arms, and running the blockade prompted other British firms to begin blockade-running efforts. Returning home in November 1861, aboard the newly purchased Merchant Steamship Fingal with Bulloch, they delivered much needed arms and ammunition. Fingal was later converted to the iron-clad CSS Atlanta. Anderson was promoted, and served as “Commander of the River Batteries” as a part of General Robert E. Lee’s staff. At this time, Anderson was placed in command of Fort James Jackson (Old Fort Jackson), becoming the Confederate Headquarters for River Defenses, including the Confederate Navy. He was a member of the Confederate high command at Savannah until the end of the war.

On the 1st of May 1862, a soldier of Battery Lawton staunchly defended the pride, commitment, professionalism and patriotism of the men stationed at the battery.

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 3, 1862

COMMUNICATED
Smith’s Island, May 1st, 1862.

Mr. Editor: Please make room in your valuable paper for the following. In the Republican of yesterday, is to be seen in one of its paragraphs, under the head of “Savannah Never to be Surrendered”

“One thing more remains to be done, and then we shall be ready to measure arms with the enemy. Let the commanders of our various batteries call together their respective garrisons and swear them never to abandon a gun so long as it sets on its carriage, and a soldier is left to man it.”

A soldier takes the liberty here to inform the editor of the Republican (if he is not aware of it,; that we are volunteer.i from Georgia, absent from respectable and comfortable homes, and come without consulting Mr. Republic and, to defend our homes and country at large, and expect to do it to the last. We need no oaths to make us fight for all that is near and dear lo us. Prompted by a sense of duly and a spirit of patriotism, we expect to accomplish all that can be done by human hands. Any one who can’t fight without taking an oath, can’t fight with. No one need be sworn to fight except those who would have others sworn. But God help the country whose battles are to be fought by such men, or the prattling tongues of editors. We are ready and daily expecting the enemy, and have been for weeks, and it has just now transpired that there is one thing more to be done before “we are ready to measure arms with the enemy,” (not so much of the “we,”) and that as set forth in his paragraph. I confess that I am ashamed even to let our enemies know that we have men—or a man in our midst—that would either publicly or privately express such an idea. I confess, also, that I thought the people whose homes are but a few miles above our batteries, and which we are shortly to enter into a life and death struggle for, had more confidence in the soldiers whose lots are cast at batteries amid sand flies, mosquitoes, marsh mud, swamp fever, &c. Georgians never have disgraced themselves on the battle field or elsewhere, neither have they given any cause for any one to suppose they would. If the said Editor wishes to make a display of his patriotism, I would advise him to lay down his air-gun and take a musket. But that he will not do; he prefers remaining In his office amusing himself by abusing Gov. Brown, dictating for wiser men than himself and making himself conspicuous, as well as ridiculous, in various other ways. But the whole trouble with said Editor is this, if “we” are defeated below, the Republican office falls into the hands of the enemy; and I am constrained to believe that he would see it, with all Savannah, laid in ruins before he would for a moment expose his breast to the galling fire of the enemy, and, from his editorial, would conclude that he would have us (hundreds) sacrifice our lives to save his ‘‘little all.” I hope God will save his office, protect his person, and take a liking to his principles. I can’t do either, and more especially the latter. I have my hands full fighting for the Confederacy.

In the spring, men at Smith’s Island may have taken their station with pride, but in warmer weather the conditions at the river batteries were nearly intolerable. At Fort Pulaski, on April 6, Lt. Montfort wrote about the pests:

We are terribly annoyed with sand flies & soon will be musquitoes. Yet we have the consolation of knowing that “Afflictions though they seem severe, are often mercy sent.” While we are annoyed by them we are assured by those acquainted with the paces occupies by Yankee Soldiers & Batteries on the River between here & Savannah, that they are a hundred times worse than here. The places now occupied by them between here & Savannah on the river, are the places on the river where heavy vessels heretofore have had to stop to unload & load & so annoying are the musquitoes & sand flies & the places so sickly that I am informed frequently they have been unable to employ men at one dollar an hour to go there to assist in unloading & loading. And while we have abandoned all idea of assistantance from the Government we put our trust in God, ourselves, the musquitoes & sand flies. If these fail us we are gone.

Lawton Battery

Captain George A Mercer, after visiting Smith’s Island and Fort Jackson on Sunday, June 22, 1862, wrote of the miserable experience.

“Sunday was intensely hot, and I could not but feel how much our brave soldiers were enduring in their present position. Fort Jackson, and the adjacent batteries, are located in low swampy fields, where the insects are terrible the air close and fetid and full of miasma and death. Capt. Blain’s men, on Smith’s Island, are particularly uncomfortable; their tents are pitched on the muddy ground, beneath the blazing sky; not a dry spot of earth, not a shade tree is near; the tide frequently rises above the platforms of their tents, soaks their bedding and washes away all they have; they have positively been obliged to anchor their cooking utensils to prevent their being carried away. And yet these brave fellows must stay — and do stay cheerfully in this dreadful spot, where every comfort is denied them, and sickness and death must add their horrors to the scene. I spent a miserable night last night; I lay down at the Fort but not to sleep; hundreds of fleas ran over me stinging me into a fever; I did not secure one moment’s sleep, but lay tossing in misery, counting the weary hours till morning; had I left the bed and gone outside the net the mosquitoes would have been as bad as the fleas. Indeed a sad necessity is imposed upon our troops; they must garrison spots where a white man can hardly live.

Captain Mercer noted that in August and September 1862, “The River Batteries [were] guarded only by small detachments of ten or twelve men each; the deadly miasma in the vicinity has rendered them uninhabitable.” Regimental returns show Captain Levi J. Knight, Jr was at Camp Debtford in July; Camp Debtford was on the Debtford plantation adjacent to Causton’s Bluff.  In August,  Knight was sent to Camp Anderson.  Other men of the 29th Regiment detailed to Camp Anderson included First Lieutenant Willis Clary, 2nd Lt Henry Clary and Pvt Hines H. Grey of the Georgia Foresters; Stephen D. Chitwood, Fountain Nally, Thomas Mills and John F. C. Mills of the Stephens Volunteers; Elijah W. Bryant, Thomasville Guards; John H. Elkins, John R. Griffin, Jonas Johnson, Peter Madden, George C. Maddox and Hines Holt Grey, 17th Patriots; Isiah Goff, Allen D. Smith, William D. Warren  and R. M. Simpson, Thomas Volunteers.

Camp Anderson was where Major Robert Houston Anderson was forming a “select battalion of sharpshooters” from highly qualified volunteers and select officers and men from the existing regiments around Savannah.  “By Special Order No. 259, District of Georgia, dated July 30, 1862, men were chosen from the regiments manning the defenses of the city to fill up the other companies of the new battalion.” Company D of the new sharpshooter battalion was composed of men selected from the 29th, 30th, 47th, and 13th Georgia Regiments and the 8th Georgia Battalion.  According to Russel K. Brown, “Camp Anderson was situated on Wildhorn Plantation, 12 miles below Savannah on the west bank of the Groves or Little Ogeechee River and near the line of the Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad. William Moody described the camp to his wife thus, ‘We are camped about 1 1/2 miles from Number 1 station and in 1/4 mile from the little Ogechee River on a very high pleasant place tho I exspect it is a sickly place. The sand files is very bad.'” 

Circumstances at Camp Anderson may have been better than at Lawton Battery, but only marginally. As at other Savannah garrisons, health conditions were problematic from the first encampment at Camp Anderson. Men died of typhoid, typhoid fever and typhoid pneumonia, bowel disorders, chronic diarrhea, congestion. Many more went on sick rolls. Desertion became a problem; by the end of the year 29 men would desert from Camp Anderson.  At least one deserter killed himself rather than be captured and returned to Camp Anderson. Another, after firing a shot at Major Anderson, was court-martialed and executed by firing squad. Three more deserters were sentenced to death but were released and returned to duty under a general amnesty and pardon issued by Jefferson Davis.

Levi J. Knight, Jr was not at Camp Anderson for long; After August 29, 1862, he was reported on regimental returns as absent sick.  Willis Clary, suffering with a lung impaired by pneumonia and a congenital short leg, resigned at Camp Anderson on August 22.   Henry Clary was sick in a Savannah hospital; he died September 4, 1862.

 

Regimental return for September 1862 showing Levi J. Knight, Jr. absent from post at Camp Anderson.

Regimental return for September 1862 showing Levi J. Knight, Jr. absent from post at Camp Anderson.

But in October Captain Knight returned to Battery Lawton on Smith’s Island. Also detailed to Battery Lawton was Lt. William Pendarvis, of the Georgia Foresters, Company A, 29th Regiment. In October Pendarvis was “in arrest.” Pendarvis tendered his resignation November 20, 1862 which was endorsed by Col. Anderson. The Colonel had previously busted Pendarvis from rank for “disreputable conduct,” and Pendarvis had been subsequently elected lieutenant while Anderson was away from the post. Anderson pronounced him totally incompetent, and he would have been court-martialed had he not resigned.

It appears that an animosity also developed between Captain Knight and Col. Anderson. The situation culminated on November 28, 1862, when Knight’s insolent behavior drove the Colonel to place him “in arrest” and to make charges against Knight in a letter to Brigadier General Beauregard;

Savannah River Batteries
28th Novb 1862

Capt Geo A Mercer
AAG

Captain
I regret to have to bring to the notice of the Brig Genl Comdg. the total inefficiency of Captain Levi J. Knight, Co G 29th Regt Ga Vols. This officer commands one of the finest companies in the service in point of materiel. Yet from inattention and want of care they have lapsed into a condition o negligence not just to so fine a body of men & very far from creditable to the officers whose duty it was to have encouraged and instructed them. There is a familiarity between the captain & the private soldiers that is hurtful to the service. The men have free access to his tent even to taking possession of his bed and loafing there. As evidence of the detrimental tendency of this system of free intercourse I have to inform you that on the occasion of my exercising the companies today at the great guns Captain Knight’s men failed to come forward at the long roll & only appeared after repeated calls & by my sending up the commanding officer of the port to enforce the order. Captain Knight had been duly notified of my intention to drill the men. He did not accompany his detachments, but after the lapse of half an hour came strolling leisurely down by the longest & most circuitous route & being informed that I had ordered him under arrest for his conduct, excused himself upon the plea of not feeling well. Upon another occasion when reported to me for failing to attend the School of Instruction ordered by you & for leaving the Island without notice to his commanding officers, the same excuse was made & thus it has been again & again. I have been unwilling to suppose that an officer would lightly avail himself of the plea of indisposition to evade his duty & hence have refrained from bringing the matter to your notice heretofore.Candor compels one today that Captain Knight is not fitted for the responsible trust confided to him & that – in the event of any mishap to the officers in command of the Battery – I do not regard him as qualified to fill his place. I should regret to lose his company. Under a different Captain they could be made a credit to the service, but under existing auspices the forces of evil example will demoralize & cripple them.

I am Captain Very Respectfully
Your Obbt

Ed. C. Anderson

By December 1862, Levi J. Knight, Jr was relieved of his command.  Regimental records show Captain Levi J. Knight, Jr was “in suspension,” for insubordinate behavior. On December 4, 1862 he was brought before an Officers Examining Board and he was “suspended from rank and commission by order of General Beauregard. His rank was reduced to private.  On May 28, 1863 his name was on a published “list of officers of different grades who have been dropped from the rolls of the army, in accordance with the provisions of the act for ‘ridding the army of ignorant, disabled and incompetent officers,’ by orders from Adjutant and Inspector General’s office.”

After being stripped of his rank, Knight continued to serve with the Berrien Minute Men. In 1863 he was elected by the company to the rank of Jr 2nd Lieutenant, but the election was set aside by Col. Anderson.

A year later, Knight’s new commanding officer, Captain Edwin B. Carroll,  again put him up for an officers position.

Camp 29th Ga. Regt
July 14th 1864

Capt J. W. Turner
Comdg 29th Ga Regt

Captain
I respectfully make the following statement in the case of private Levi J . Knight Co G 29th Ga Vols. He was elected Jr 2nd Lieut. in Co G on the 28th day of September 1863 but the election return was disapproved by Col. E. C. Anderson — Comdg on the grounds that Knight had been dropped from the rolls and could in consequence hold no position. Knight was detailed by Col. Anderson and sent to Charleston with another company and another election was ordered. While in Charleston he made a fresh statement of his case to Genl Beauregard and thereupon was ordered before the Board of Examiners that he might prove whether or not he should be put on duty as an officer. The decision of the Board is that he is competent for discharge the duties that may devolve upon him. I think he is entitled to the position and hope that he will be ordered on duty as an officer in the Company

Very Respectfully
Your Obt Svt
E. B. Carroll
Capt Comdg Co G
29th Regt

*************************************

Head Qrs Stevens Brigade
July 15, 1864

The enclosed paper is reply returned with the following statement. Co. G. 29 Regt has been on detached duty in Savannah until very recently. Some of the records are accessible in this case now. The facts are that L. J. Knight was Captain of Co G was brought before a Board of Examiners for incompetency. On their recommendation his name was dropped from the rolls by the War department and he became a private in the same company. Upon the occasion of a vacancy he was elected 2 Lt but on some cause his election was set aside by then Comdg Officer Col E. C. Anderson and a new election ordered at Smith [Island]. J. L. Hall was elected, examined and announced in orders and has filled the position ever since. Upon a transfer to duty in some other command Knight appears to have appeared before a Board of Examiners, the findings of which are herewith enclosed – I would Resply ask what action should be taken in the case.
Resply
H. S. Stevens
Brig Genl

 

Confederate States of America
War Department
Adjutant and Inspector Genls Office
Richmond, Va., April 28th, 1864

Genl
I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you that the proceedings and findings of the Examining Boards in the following case, have been confirmed by the War Department.

Sergt. Levi J. Knight, Co. “G”, 29th Ga. Vols.
Decision- “The Board pronounce him qualified for promotion.”

You will please issue the necessary orders.

Very Respectfully, General
Your Obedient Servt

Saml M. Melton
Maj.

By 1864, Levi J. Knight had regained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was captured with the Berrien Minute Men near Nashville, TN on December 16, 1864. He was held as a prisoner of war until June 16, 1865 when he was released after swearing an Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

 

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Bill Griner

Grave of Bill Griner, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image source: Robert Strickland

Grave of Bill Griner, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image source: Robert Strickland

William E. “Bill” Griner (1902-1984), son of Sarah and D. Edwin Griner,  was the custodian at the Ray City School. He came to school very early every day and built a fire in the pot-bellied stove in every room. There were four classrooms and the soup kitchen in the old wooden building. In the brick building there were six classrooms, the principal’s office and the laboratory, each with their own stove.  At Christmas, every student brought Bill a gift.

Bill Griner had a home on Main Street in Ray City.  This home was an unpainted, low, wooden bungalow on the north side of Main Street on the block of land between Ward Street and Samuel Street. His neighbors to the west were the family of Caulie and Marietta Smith.

It appears that after the death of Robert L. Griner, Tessie Vining Griner and her daughter Sadie moved in with William E. “Bill” Griner.  Sadie had a son nicknamed Peanut, and although Bill himself had only two years of formal schooling, he worked hard to make sure that Peanut made it through high school. Peanut later became a policeman at Remerton, GA.

 

Isbin Giddens (1788-1853), Pioneer Settler of Old Berrien

Isbin Giddens (1788-1853)

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 Isbin (or Isben) Giddens brought his wife, Keziah Knight Giddens, and their two young children,  William and Moses Giddens from Wayne County, GA to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the present day Ray City, GA. They came along with Keziah’s brother William Cone Knight, her parents, and their minor children John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Jonathan Knight. Also making the move to Lowndes was Keziah’s uncle Samuel Knight, his wife Fannie, and their children Fatima, Moses, Aaron, Jesse, Thomas, and Joel.

Isbin Giddens was born in Blounts Creek, Beaufort County, North Carolina on November 4, 1788 just a few months after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the son of Moses Giddens and Catherine Jones.

Some time before 1816, “when he was about grown,” Isbin  Giddens moved from North Carolina to Wayne County, Georgia .  He served as lieutenant of the 334th District Militia, Wayne County, from 1816 to 1820. It was probably during that time period that he became acquainted with the family of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone Knight. William A. Knight was then serving as a Justice of Peace in the 334th District. William’s son, Jonathan Knight, was a captain in the Wayne County militia; another son, Levi J. Knight, served as a private.

Giddens became good friends with the Knights, and on Wednesday, April 7, 1819 just before Easter, Isbin married William A. Knight’s 17-year-old daughter, Keziah Knight (born November 25, 1801).

Isbin Giddens served as a grand juror the October, 1822  term of the Superior Court of Wayne County, and at other times also served on both petit and grand juries in the county.

About 1823 Isbin and Keziah Giddens were baptised into Kettle Creek Church in present day Ware County. Fannie Knight, wife of Samuel Knight, was a member of this church, as were Keziah’s parents, William and Sarah Knight.

Over the winter of 1824-25 Isbin and Keziah departed Wayne county along with her parents and brothers to settle in parts of present day Lanier County.  Isben Giddens made his farm along what is now the Ray City-Lakeland public road. The following year, his brother-in-law, Levi J. Knight, joined the family and became the first to settle on land along  Beaverdam creek at the present day location of Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

On February 10, 1827 Isbin and Keziah moved their letters from Kettle Creek Church to Union Primitive Baptist Church.  Keziah’s father had been instrumental in the organization of Union Church, it being the first Baptist Church in this section. The church organization took place October 1, 1825, at Carter’s Meeting house,  located on the west bank of the Alapaha River.  Mr. Knight was the first clerk of the new church and later became its pastor.

For the 1827 Georgia Land Lottery, Isbin Giddens registered in the 10th District of Lowndes County.  On the 33rd Day’s Drawing – April 13, 1827, he was the fortunate drawer of Lot 248 in the 13th District of of the newly formed Lee County.

In the Census of 1830, Isbin Giddens is enumerated along with early Berrien County settlers like Joshua Lee, William A. Knight and John Knight. He served on the Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833 which was convened at Franklinville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County.

In the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, Isbin Giddens and his sons, William and  Moses served under the command of  now  Captain Levi J. Knight,  in the Lowndes County Militia.  The Giddens were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Spouse & Children

Keziah Knight 1801 – 1861

  1. William Moses Giddens 1820 – 1899
  2. Moses H Giddens 1821 – 1906
  3. Matilda Giddens 1826 – 1887
  4. Sarah Giddens 1828 – 1918
  5. Aaron L. Giddens 1831 – 1862, married Mary Smith
  6. Keziah Ann Giddens 1836 – 1904
  7. Mary M Giddens 1838 – 1901
  8. Isbin T. Giddens 1840 – July 17, 1862
  9. Matthew O Giddens 1844 – 1865
Isben Giddens died on his farm October 21, 1853. He was buried at  Union Church Cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA. He died with a legally valid will, and his three sons WilliamMoses, and Aaron served as executors of his estate.

In 1855 Kizziah Knight Giddens married the widower Allen Jones.  She died in 1861 and was buried at Union Church, Lanier County GA.

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GAGrave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Isben Giddens’ sons, Isbin T. Giddens and Matthew O. Giddens, served in the Civil War.  On August 1, 1861 they joined the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Neither would survive the war.  Mathew O. Giddens was taken prisoner on December 16, 1864 near Nashville, TN. He was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio where three months later, on Feb 8, 1865, he died of pneumonia. His brother, Isbin T. Giddens, died of brain fever at Guyton Hospital in Georgia.

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William Patten Drew Lots for Inheritance

William Patten (1820-1907) and his brothers, John Jehu Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within the vicinity of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) and  Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). They were sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee Patten, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland), GA. Their sister, Nancy Patten, married John F. Clements in Lowndes County in 1840.

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William, the oldest of the Patten brothers, married Elizabeth Register on May 4, 1845. She was a daughter of Samuel Register, of Registerville, GA (now Stockton, GA), born in Lowndes, now Lanier County, August 31, 1828. The couple made their home near Ten Mile Creek in the area later known as Watson Grade where they raised 12 children.  William Patten was Justice of Peace in the 664th district, Lowndes County, 1845-1848, and 1849-1856.

It is widely reported that William’s father, James M. Patten, died in 1846. His grave marker bears that date, but legal  notices published in the period newspapers clearly indicate he died prior to March 4, 1845. On that date William Patten applied for letters of administration on the estate.

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father's estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father’s estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
March 25, 1845

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas William Patten applies for letters of administration on the estate of James M. Patten, late of said county, deceased-
These are therefore to cite and admonish all and singular, the kindred and creditors of said deceased, to be and appear at my office within the time prescribed by law, to shew cause, if any exists, why said letters should not be granted.
Given under my hand at office, this 4th day of March 1845. 
William Smith, c.c.o.

William Patten  was appointed the administrator of his father’s estate. Since the legal rights of women were severely abridged in those days, William Patten also acted as legal guardian for his minor siblings, Sarah Patten, James Patten, Elizabeth Patten, John Jehu Patten, Mathew Elihu Patten and Mary Patten.

Altogether there were 11 heirs to the James M. Patten estate, and a distribution of the deceased’ livestock was conducted at the March 1849 Term of the Lowndes Court of the Ordinary, with Levi J. Knight, Justice of the Peace, presiding and Thomas B. Griffin, Clerk of the Court. The livestock was divided into 11 lots. According to the court records, the lots were “numbred 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and were assnged to the distributees in the fowollowing maner to wit the names of the distributees were writen on another piece of paper and put into another hat. The hats were both well shaken. A name was then drawn from the hat containing the names then a number was drawn from the hat containing the number and in that manner continued till all were drawn.

William drew Lot number 5, consisting of “29 head cattle marked crop & split in one eare and under l— in the other, branded VV, approved to $4 per head” and took possession of similar lots on behalf of his six wards. William also purchased from his father’s estate a crosscut saw at $7.00, one bed & furniture at $11.00, one grub hoe at $.50, one desk, powder canister & trunk at $2.75, and five bee hives at $5.37.

William Patten was baptized into Union Primitive Baptist Church on September 9, 1848.  The church was constituted in 1825 on the banks of the Alapaha River by his parents, Elizabeth and James Patten, and maternal grandparents, Martha and Joshua Lee, along with William A. Knight, Sarah Knight, Jonathan Knight, Elizabeth Knight, Mary Knight, Josiah Sirmans, and Matthew Albritton.  William Patten served as clerk of Union church from May 10, 1851 to 1854 when he was dismissed by letter March 11, 1854, to unite with Jethro Patten, Aden Boyd, Nancy Boyd and others in organizing Empire Church. The Boyds gave the land for the church, located near Five Mile Creek  about six miles northeast of present day Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway, on Empire Road. Jethro Patten served as first deacon to the church.

William Patten remained a member of Empire church until his death.  William and Jethro were ordained to the ministry by Empire Church and served as pastors to several churches in Clinch and Berrien Counties.

In 1856, William Patten’s place was cut out of Lowndes into Berrien County and he was immediately elected to the office of Justice of the Peace in the newly formed 1144th district, an office he held from 1856 to 1869.  In 1862 he was Captain of the militia district.

There is nothing in the 1850 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants of Lowndes County or 1860 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants Berrien County to indicate that the Pattens were slave owners.  But like many other southern white men, both slave owners and non-slaveholders, the Pattens went off to fight for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Historian Gordon Rhea attributes non-slaveholders’ commitment in the Southern cause to deep held belief in white supremacy, increasing isolation and alienation from the North, and the southern theological interpretation of biblical support for slavery.  Near universal messaging from Southern religious, political and community leaders  reinforced the fears in white southerners of slave rebellion, collapse of the southern economy, loss of status and privilege, and the alleged criminal desires of freedmen.

It is said that William Patten, John Jehu Patten, James Patten, Matthew Elihu Patten and Jethro Patten all fought for the Confederacy. It appears that Jethro Patten served in the 12th Georgia Militia. Jehu and James served with Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment. William served with Company I, 54th Georgia Regiment. Other Berrien Countians in Company I included John Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins, William Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Lemuel Elam Gaskins.  Matthew E. Patten’s Civil War service is not known.

Children of William Patten and Elizabeth Register Patten:

  1. James Irwin Patten born February 15, 1846; married 1st cousin Leanna Patten, daughter of Jethro Patten and Nancy Brown; died 1934
  2. Lewis C. Patten born October 11, 1847; never married; died September 18, 1890.
  3. William C “Babe” Patten born December 28, 1849; married (1) Sarah Lee (2) Laura Watson.
  4. George W. L. Patten born April 21, 1852; died August 8, 1864.
  5. Henry R. Patten born April 17, 1854; died single, November 23, 1873.
  6. Sylvester M. Patten born May 15, 1856; married Eliza Watson; died 1940
  7. Elizabeth Roena Patten born June 27, 1858; married Levi J. Clements; died 1951
  8. Samuel Register Patten born July 8, 1860; married (1) Laura Curry, daughter of Charles W. Curry (2) Matilda Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten; died 1938
  9. Marcus Sheridan Patten born 1861; married January 1, 1901 to Mittie Walker, daughter of Edgar D. Walker; died 1950
  10. Catherine Matilda Patten born December 20, 1864; died single July 2, 1893.
  11. Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten born November 30, 1866; married John Thomas “J.T.” Webb (1863-1924); died 1955.
  12. Edward Levi Patten born March 31, 1869; died single July 7, 1928.

In 1865 William Patten joined the Masonic fraternity, receiving his degrees in the old Butler Lodge No. 211 at Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). Other members of Butler Lodge included Thomas M. Ray , Hardeman Sirmans and Jesse Carroll.  William Patten was demitted September 18, 1880, and on account of the attitude of his church towards Masonry, never affiliated with a lodge thereafter.

In 1867 William Patten owned all 490 acres of Lot 385 in the 1144th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Lot 385 was north of Milltown (now Lakeland) between the forks of the Alapaha River and Ten Mile Creek. To the west, on Lot 384 his brother James Patten also had some property and the rest of that lot was owned by J. C. Clements. Lot 353 to the northwest was but a small part of the holdings of M. C. Lee.  By 1874, William Patten acquired an additional 490 acres on the adjacent Lot 351 which straddled the Alapaha River.

In 1880, William Patten’s place consisted of 60 acres of tilled land and 920 acres of woodland. He put in 17 acres of corn producing 60 bushels, 20 acres of oats producing 300 bushels, 20 acres of cotton producing 8 bales, 1 acre of cane producing 300 gallons of molasses. He produced well over 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. His orchards included over 100 apple trees and 100 peach trees. His real estate was valued at $800. He owned $50 worth of farming implements and machinery, and $450 in livestock. For the year 1879, he spent $20 on building and repairs, $70 on fertilizer, and $30 on labor. He had one ox, 28 milk cows, and 37 head of other livestock. His herd dropped 16 calves that year and he slaughtered only one animal. On June 1, 1880 he had 75 sheep. His flock dropped 35 lambs that year and he slaughtered three animals. Five sheep were killed by dogs, and ten animals died of stress of weather. He sheared 50 fleeces for 120 pounds of wool. He had 17 hogs, about 20 barnyard chickens and about 50 other poultry. The estimated value of all farm production was $530.

When the 1300th Georgia Militia District was formed in 1889, William Patten was elected Justice of the Peace in that district serving in the office until 1893.

Related Posts:

William Devane

William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane (1838-1909), planter of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, GA. His brother, Benjamin Mitchell DeVane (1835-1912), was a notary public and an alderman in the city government of Adel, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane was born in Lowndes, now Berrien County, March 30, 1838, and was a son of Francis DeVane. His grandfather, Captain John DeVane, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. William’s father and uncles Benjamin (1795-1879) and William Devane (1786-1870) had come to Lowndes County from Bulloch County, GA about 1831 along with  others of the DeVane family connection.

The 1850 census places William DeVane in his father’s Lowndes County household, along with his older siblings Benjamin and Patrick who worked as laborers. William, age 12, apparently was not yet assisting with the farm work, although records do not indicate that he was attending school at that time, either.   William’s brother Thomas was working the farm next door.  Some of the neighbors included Samuel Connell, William Parrish, Ansel Parrish, Absolom Parrish, James Parrish, James J. Fountain and Thomas Futch.

At the time of the 1860 census, William and Benjamin DeVane were still living in their father’s household and working at farming. The census records indicate William, age 23, attended school that year. Patrick DeVane and Thomas DeVane had farms nearby. Some of the neighbors were Nathaniel Cooper, William B. Turner, Henry J. Bostick, Fredrick M. Giddens, John A. Money, and Ansel Parrish.

During the Civil War, William and his three brothers all joined the army. William was the first to join, enlisting in Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment  as a private  on March 4, 1862 at Nashville, GA.  Benjamin DeVane enlisted in the same company May 9, 1862 at Nashville, GA. He was later elected 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, 50th GA Regiment and served to the end of the war. Patrick joined Company I on August 14, 1862 at Calhoun, GA. He fell out sick at Culpepper, VA on November 18, 1862 and died in a Confederate hospital on December 13, 1862; his estate was administered by William Giddens. William Devane’s brother Thomas Devane enlisted in Company H, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment on 21 Dec 1862.

The 50th Georgia Regiment was sent to the defenses around Savannah.  Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish, son of the DeVane’s neighbor James Parrish, wrote home on April 23, 1862 describing their encampment situated near Savannah:

“about one or one and a half miles east of the city where we can have a fair view of the church steeples and the nearest part of the town…Our camps are very disagreeable now in consequence of the dryness of the weather, the ground being sandy and loose and the winds high. it keeps ones eyes full of sand almost all the time which is not a very good remedy…It is about one mile or little over to the river from our camps. We can see the steamboats passing almost constantly…Our camps are situated near extensive earthworks or entrenchments for the protection of our troops should the enemy attempt to attack the city by land. Fort Boggs [is] on the river below town about 1/2 miles below…it commands the river tolerable well. the marsh between the channel and the fort is about 1/4 of a mile wide and the fort is on a high bluff at the edge of the marsh and is covered from the view of the river by a strand of thick bushes on the hillside…Captain Lamb‘s Company [Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment] has moved from Camp Tatnall to a place on the river below fort Jackson and about one mile and a half from Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.

The 50th Georgia Regiment went on station at Fort Brown. Fort Brown was situated at the Catholic Cemetery at what is now the intersection of Skidaway Road and Gwinette Street.

Fort Brown was one of the anchors of an extensive earthworks protecting Savannah.

A line of formidable earthworks, within easy range of each other, in many places connected by curtains, and armed with siege and field guns, was thrown up for the immediate protection of Savannah. Commencing at Fort Boggs on the Savannah River and thence extending south and west in a semi-circular form, enveloping the at distances varying from one to two and a quarter miles, it terminated at the Springfield plantation swamp. The principal fortifications in this line were Fort Boggs, mounting fourteen guns, some of them quite heavy and commanding the Savannah River – Fort Brown, near the Catholic Cemetery, armed with eleven guns – and Fort Mercer, having a battery of nine guns. Between Springfield plantation swamp – where the right of the line rested just beyond Laurel Grove cemetery – and Fort Mercer, were eighteen lunettes, mounting in the aggregate twenty guns. Connecting Fort Mercer with Fort Brown was a cremaillere line with nine salients, mounting in the aggregate eight guns. Between Fort Brown and Fort Boggs were seven lunettes armed with eight guns. These works were well supplied with magazines. It will be noted that the armaments of these city lines consisted of seventy pieces of artillery of various calibers, among which 32,24,18, 12, and 6 pounder guns predominated. A considerable supply of ammunition was kept on hand in the magazines. – Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 17

 

On May 18, 1862 Ezekiel Parrish wrote from “Savannah, Ga Camps near Fort Brown”:

We are living very hard here now for the soldiers rations of bacon have been reduced to so small a portion that we are pretty hard {illegible} for something to grease with. Several of our last ration of bacon has been less than one pound to the man for four May’s rations, but of the other kinds of provisions we draw plenty to do well though the pickel beef is so poor and salt and strong that it is not very good and in fact some will do without before they will eat it. Occasionally we get some fresh beef but it is very poor without any grease to go with it…The water here is very bad and brackish and a continual use of it is enough to make anybody sick.

William DeVane, 24 years of age,  would serve only a short time before providing a substitute. Substitution was a form of Civil War draft evasion available to those who could afford it.

Substitution
With war a reality, the Confederate legislature passed a law in October 1861 declaring that all able-bodied white men were obligated to serve in the military. This statute allowed substitutions for men who had ‘volunteered’ for the militia. It also permitted those not required by law to enlist in the military to serve as substitutes. However, by the Spring of 1862, after a year of fighting and hardship, the flow of new volunteers became a trickle, which forced the 
Confederacy to pass the first American conscription law. In April 1862 the legislature authorized a draft of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years. This law also allowed substitutes to be used. Later that year, in September 1862, the legislature extended the maximum draft-eligible age to forty-five years. The revision specifically stated that only those who were not eligible for the draft presumably those too old, too young, or foreign citizens – could serve as substitutes.  – Mary L. Wilson, 2005, Profiles in Evasion

The market price of a soldier, it is said, soon mounted to from $1500 to $3000. …To employ a substitute or to accept services as one was regarded by many, and almost universally so in army circles, as highly reprehensible.  – A. B. Moore, 1924, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

After just over three months of service and without engaging in any action, DeVane secured a discharge from the army June 18, 1862, by furnishing a substitute. According to company rolls, John R. Croley  enlisted that same day at Fort Brown, Savannah, GA as a substitute in DeVane’s stead.   The 47-year-old Croley (also Crowley or Crawley) was himself exempt from military service. Croley had brought his family from Sumter County to Berrien County in 1860.

Shortly after assuming DeVane’s place, Croley and the rest of the 50th Georgia Regiment were sent to Camp Lee in Virginia. Croley was to have a rough time of it. Soon sick, he was left behind at the camp when the regiment pulled out on August 21, 1862. In February 1863 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, Richmond, VA with Rheumatism. On March 12, he was admitted to the the C.S.A. General Hospital at Farmville, VA with diarrhea.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Croley returned to duty April 29.  He was with his unit when the 50th GA Regiment entered the Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863. Severely wounded and taken prisoner of war, he was sent to one of the Union hospitals in and about Gettysburg.  His arm was amputated, but he did not recover. He died of wounds July 31, 1863.  The location of his burial is not known, presumably in the vicinity of Gettysburg.  A monument in his memory marks an empty grave at Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Croley left behind a widow and four children in Berrien County. William DeVane sat out the rest of the war.

DeVane was married on May 10 1865 in Dooly County, GA to Miss Sarah Jane “Sallie” Butler of that county. She was born February 12, 1842, a daughter of Ezekiel and Eliza Butler.

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Born to William and Sallie were eleven children:

  1. Emma Lorena DeVane, born February 18, 1866, married George W. Marsh of Sumter County, FL.
  2. Marcus LaFayette DeVane, born April 25, 1867, died September 15, 1889.
  3. Columbus Clark DeVane, born February 11, 1869, never married.
  4. Ada Belle DeVane, born April 10, 1870, married William J. Hodges of Lowndes County, GA
  5. Ezekiel H. DeVane, born December 4, 1872, married Beulah Parrish, daughter of Elbert Parrish.
  6. William E. Pemberton DeVane, born November 8, 1875, married Mary McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland
  7. John F. DeVane, born August 2, 1877; died October 1878.
  8. Benjamin Robert DeVane, born October 15, 1879; married Bessie Whitehurst, daughter of Nehemiah Whitehurst
  9. Caulie Augustus DeVane, born September 15, 1882; married Alma Albritton, daughter of Matthew Hodge Albritton
  10. Connard Cleveland DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married Nellie Mae Coppage, daughter of Jehu Coppage
  11. Onnie Lee DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married John W. Strickland, son of William J. Strickland of Clinch County.

The homeplace of William DeVane was about four and half miles west of Ray City on the Nashville-Valdosta Road. It was situated on the north half of lot 457, 10th district. Possum Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek, crosses the northeast corner of this land. The place was given to William by his father before the elder DeVane’s death in 1868. William DeVane had received no deed however, and title was vested in him March 1870, by arbitration proceedings agreed to by all the heirs.

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

The 1870 Census enumeration shows that William DeVane’s household then included his wife, Sarah Jane, and children, Emma, Marcus, Columbus, and Ada, as well as an African-American boy, Rufus Prine, who at age 11 was working as farm labor.

Berrien County Tax records also document that after the War, William DeVane worked his farm with the help of freedman Joseph Prine. The relationship between Joseph and Rufus is not known.  Joseph Prine was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1816. The 1872 tax records show DeVane employed seven hands between the ages of 12 and 65. This count matches exactly with the 1870 Census enumeration of the Joseph Prine household, which then included Joe Prine (56), Jane Prine (54), Samuel Prine (22), Chaney Prine (33), Elza Prine (17), Jasper Prine (14), and George Prine (11), as well as the younger Prine children, Jinnie (8), Huldy (7), Eliza (5), and Philip(2).

In 1872, the William DeVane farm consisted of 508 acres on portions of lots 457 and 418 in the 10th Land District. To the north was Mary DeVane with 755 acres on Lots 418 and 412. Benjamin Mitchell DeVane also owned portions of Lot 418 and 419. John Baker had 122 acres on Lot 419. William H. Outlaw had 245 acres on Lot 419. To the south, John W. Hagan owned 356 acres on lots 503 and 504. J.S. Roberts also had some acreage on 503 and 504.  To the east, the Reverend John G. Taylor, Sr. had 400 acres on Lot 456.  By 1877 John Webb had acquired a 1470 acre tract just to the northeast of the William DeVane place.

 

William DeVane developed one of the finest plantations in Berrien County, containing 935 acres. It was situated on a public road and Possum Creek. The main house was six-rooms, and there was also a three-room house and a tenant house on the place. The six-horse farm of over 100 cultivated acres was said to produce a bale of cotton to the acre. Devane kept 120 head of stock on a fine stock range. His equipment included farm implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle, two wagons, and two buggies.

Sallie Butler DeVane died June 15, 1896.  A death announcement appeared in the Tifton Gazette.

Tifton Gazette
July 10, 1896

Mrs. Sallie Devane, of this county, wife of Mr. William Devane, died on Tuesday of last week.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

 

William DeVane died March 8, 1909.

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

 

A series of legal advertisements regarding the estate of William DeVane appeared in the local papers:

Valdosta Times
March 27, 1909

Notice to Debtors and Creditors All parties having claims against the estate of the late Wm. Devane, are requested to present them properly made out, to the undersigned. Those indebted to his estate will please make settlement at once.
The deceased at the time of his death was not indebted to any of the heirs.
C. C. Devane,
Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. 5.

*********************

Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1909

Notice of Sale.

We will sell to the highest bidder for cash, on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county, at the Wm. Devane estate, the following property: 935 acres of land; one farm containing 150, the other 785 acres; 175 in cultivation, 120 head of stock. Farming implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle; two wagons; two buggies; 350 bushels of corn; six tons of cotton seed. Heirs of Wm. DeVane.

Valdosta Times
November 20, 1909

Public Sale

We will sell to the highest bidder, for cash on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county at the Wm. DeVane place, the following property: 2 farms containing 935 acres, 150 in one, 785 acres in the other; 111 acres in cultivation; fair Improvements—timber is fine; 120 head of stock and farming Implements. C. C. Devane, Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. No. 5.

**********************

Valdosta Times
August 14, 1912

FOR SALE—A fine plantation, One of the best in Berrien county, containing 935 acres, within 4 1/2 miles of Georgia and Florida railroad. Nearest station, Ray’s Mill. 6-horse farm in state of cultivation. Soil very productive, will produce bale of cotton to the acre, other crops in proportion. One six-room dwelling, one three-room and a tenant house on the place. Good water. Near schools and churches. Fine stock range. River runs through edge of land. Public road through farm. Will sell on account of division between heirs. If desired stock, mules, hogs, cattle, goats and farm implements can be bought at reasonable prices. C. C. DeVane, Hahira, Ga., R.F.D.

 

John W. Hagan Encounters the Georgia Melish

The Civil War letters of John William Hagan document in part the actions of the Berrien Minute Men, a Confederate infantry raised in Berrien County, GA by Ray City settler, General Levi J. Knight. In his letter of July 7, 1864, Hagan writes about the retreat of the Confederate States Army towards Atlanta.  On July 5, the CSA made a brief stand at “Johnston’s River Line,” a defensive line  on the north side of the Chattahoochee River which included earth and log works known as  “shoupades,” after Confederate engineer Brig. General Francis A. Shoup.

About the time the Berrien Minute Men were taking up positions on the River Line the regular Confederate States Army troops were reinforced by Georgia Militia state troops  which Hagan’s letter optimistically describes as “10,000 effective men.”  

Gustavus Woodson Smith,  major general of the Georgia state militia,  considered his troops creditable but unseasoned.

Albany Patriot
July 14, 1864

JOE BROWN’S PETS UNDER FIRE

          The Atlanta Appeal is permitted to make the following extract from a letter from Gen. G. W. Smith to a gentleman in this city. Gen. Smith is not given to adjectives and adverbs, and means always what he says.
         “The enemy ran up square against my State troops yesterday about 5 p. m. The cavalry were forced back and passed through our lines and the yankees cam on us right strong. Some misapprehension of orders caused a little confusion for a few moments only upon the left of our line, and perhaps twenty men left the trenches, but were back in a few minutes. The militia behaved very creditably; they stood their ground and stopped the advance of the enemy. We had only six men wounded and two missing, the dirt they had thrown up saving them from much loss, and enabled them to hold their ground against superior forces. They have rendered a good service to the army and the country, and have found out that every ball fired by the enemy didn’t kill a man. The militia will do. I watched them closely, and consider them all right – not yet veterans – but they will fight.

After the Battle of Atlanta, the Georgia Militia was praised in the press.

Augusta Chronicle & Sentinel
July 31, 1864

Our gallant militia officers have fairly won their spurs…They have been styled “Gov. Brown’s pets,” but are now, also, the pets of the army and the people. They have done infinite credit to their patron; and neither he nor they will ever be ashamed of the sobriquet. He has given them a rough handling, for pets, but it has been all the more glorious and advantageous for them. He has been unusually careful of their military education, and they have not failed to profit by their training in the school to which he sent them.

But others would be less complimentary of the state troops.

W. G. Lewis, an Arkansas soldier with the regular Confederate States Army,  encountered the volunteer soldiers of the Georgia militia near a pontoon bridge the Confederates had built across the Chattahoochee at Paces Ferry.  The skirmish at Paces Ferry, fought July 5, 1864,  after which the Confederate forces retreated across the river and attempted to cut loose the pontoon bridge.

The disdain of  regular CSA troops for the state militia, or “Melish” in the soldiers’ derisive vernacular,  is apparent in Lewis’ reflections, published in the Sunny South newspaper January 21, 1899:

        Many stories have been written for this page about the old veteran soldiers, and I hope many more will find their way to these columns ere the old soldiers are numbered with the things of the past.
        There is a time in every individual’s life when we love to live in the past. “Days that are gone seem the brightest” was said by some poet long ago, and this adage, it seems to me, is applicable to nearly every phase of life. From the most exalted to the lowest walks of life, we all love to think of the days that have long since passed away. The old soldier has arrived at that period when he loves to look back and live over again those turbulent scenes he was once an actor in. Then let us tell our stories while we may, for there will come a time when this page will be devoted to another class of literature than that of stories from the old soldiers, for there will soon be none left to write them.
        Some of these stories have been pathetic, some humorous, while others told of heroic deeds of this or that command or individual soldier.  I do not remember of ever seeing anything on this page about the Georgia militia. They took part in the campaign around Atlanta, and I thought a brief sketch of the militia as I saw them upon one occasion, together with a humorous incident which befell them shortly afterwards, might be interesting to those who love to read this page. Although the main features of this sketch or matter-of-fact story that I here present to the reader are humorous, and I might say ludicrous when viewed from a military standpoint, it will be borne in mind that it is not the intention of the writer to cast an odium upon the fair state which these men represented or any of her soldiers, for the incident here related is nothing more than what would happen to any body of untrained soldiers.
        The historian as well as the old veteran who fought side by side with the Georgians knows their courage as soldiers cannot be questioned.
        But war with all its grim realities has its humorous as well as its dark side sometimes; and there is not a company or regiment of soldiers who participated in the civil war but at some time or other has not seen the “funny side.” The Georgia militia was no exception to this rule: though what was fun for our boys in this instance was “death to the frogs,” as the old saying goes.
        So with this explanation I hope that if kind providence has spared even one or more of these good old men who form the of this sketch, and if he should read these lines that he will forgive the writer and join in a laugh over the inevitable which happened so long ago.
         But a sad thought intrudes upon my memory here, when I reflect that in all probability there is not one of them left to tell the story, for most of them were then past the meridian of life.
          It was on one beautiful evening, the 4th of July ’64 if I remember correctly, late in the afternoon, when Johnston’s rear guard reached the pontoon bridge which crossed the Chattahoochee river, on his retreat to Atlanta. This rear guard was composed of the brigade of cavalry to which I was attached.
         A desultory artillery fire was being kept up o us from a distant battery, so far away, though, that their shots were spent by the time the reached us, and would come rumbling over the bluff where we were waiting our turn to cross the river. They could be plainly seen before they struck the ground, ricochetting in the air, and giving the boys time in one instance to get out of the way. They had the exact range of our bridge, though, and had their shots been shells, might have done considerable damage; but they were solid shot and did but little execution. An amusing incident happened while we waited at the bridge. A darky seeing one of these spent balls come turning end over end, and lighting near where he stood, ran over and picked it up, when he dropped it quicker than you would a red-hot poker and ran like a good fellow. “What’s the matter?” asked some one. “That thing’s hotter than h—” shouted the darky as the boys roared with laughter. There was only one casualty from these balls in our brigade. A trooper in the First Mississippi cavalry had one of these cannon balls to strike his hand as he held his carbine, cutting his hand off and killing his horse.
        This is distressing somewhat, but we will come to the militia now pretty soon. As we crossed the pontoon and ascended the eastern bank the sun was casting his farewell rays for the day just over the tree tops that stood on the western bluff.
         Away to our left across an open field, I saw a body of soldiers marching in columns of fours.  As our respective lines of march converged, we were soon in speaking distance and near enough to see who they were. A glance at their clean, new looking uniforms, their superfluous trappings and plethoric haversacks, their snow-white beards in many instances, told us without an introduction, that this was the veritable Georgia militia, of which we had so often heard.
        No sooner were we in speaking distance than such another tirade of jests and gibes that they were greeted with from our boys I had seldom ever heard before, and their very odd appearance amused them very much. It is proper to state here that several of the southern states had given nicknames to their soldiers, which they went by till the end of the war. The North Carolinians, for instance, were called the “Tarheels,” the Floridians “Sand Diggers,” Alabamians “Yellow Hammers,” while the Georgians were called “Goober Grabbers.” Hence the reader will understand what our boys meant by their mock earnestness concerning the Georgians’ peanut crop.
        So the militia were greeted with such gibes as these: “Here’s your Georgia goober grabbers!” “Here’s your melish!” and “Lay down melish, I am going to bust a cap,” and “I say, old man, how is your peanut crop this year?” One tall, lank old fellow, who carried a pack that looked more like the pack that belongs to a pack mule, was accosted by one of our boys thus: “I say, my friend, what state are you moving to?” “Why do you ask?” said the unsuspecting Georgian. “I see you have all your household goods. What did you do with the furniture?”
      In this way we exchanged jokes as long as we were in sight of each other, the Georgian taking it all in the very best of humor, and giving our boys back as good as they sent.
        Away back in my rear as far as I could see down that long line of cavalry, the boys were still having their fun with the militia, and every now and then a shout of laughter would go up, telling that some one had been the butt of a joke.
        These men were as robust and fine looking a body of men as I ever saw. The commander in particular was as fine a military looking man as I ever saw. He was tall and handsome, with a fine gray uniform: he was the finest looking officer I had seen during the war.  He did not seem to be an old man, and I am sorry that I can’t remember his name at present.
        We soon passed out of sight of the militia, and I had almost ceased to think anything more about them in the many shifting scenes of soldier life for the next week or so,  when the next time I saw them—well,  I didn’t see them. I only saw where they had been a few minutes before.
General Johnston, the good old economical general. I called him, because when an article is scarce, then it’s time to be economical, this was General Johnston. He knew that Confederate soldiers were scarce. He, therefore, never rushed his men over breastworks continually to have them shot down, but instead husbanded his troops, and never fought unless he had the advantage. Well, as I was going to say, this wise old general, after we had crossed the Chattahoochee, knew we needed a rest, after our arduous campaign around Kennesaw, in all that rain and mud, and we were completely worn out.  So, to give us rest and at the same time season the militia who had never been under fire, he placed them on picket duty instead of the regular soldiers. That, of course, helped us considerably. The militia was camped on or near the river, while the main army rested some distance back from the river. One day while the army, I might with propriety say, “lay peacefully dreaming” (even if it was day time), a terrific cannonading opened from the opposite side of the river. We were somewhat surprised at this and some one said they thought the Federals were going to force a passage of the river nearly in our front, but the enemy had no such idea. Pretty soon a detachment of cavalry from our brigade was galloping to the front, to see what was up. When we arrived on the scene of action, that which which met our sight caused us to laugh, even in the midst of danger. It was the militia camp, but not a sign of militia could be seen. Their camps had been hurriedly deserted, while their baggage, rations and everything else lay in profusion about the camp. There were turkeys and chickens tied to trees, old country hams hung conveniently from overhanging limbs, butter and eggs in the camp, and even pickles, preserves and all the delicacies of home life. They left blankets, and their quilts that their good old dames bad supplied them in some cases with, and some of the boys said they found a feather bed in the camp, but I did not see this. Well, you should have seen the boys loot that camp in less time than I can tell it. Did the officers control them? Well, I guess not. There, amid an occasional bursting of a shell, they set about feasting, as they had not for many a day. The Federals had silently masked their batteries on the opposite bank of the river and without the least warning, had suddenly poured in upon them a shower of shells which was so sudden and unexpected that the militia, at once sought safety in flight. It has always been a puzzle to me whether the Yankees had been informed by some deserter of the location of the militia camp, and who they were or whether they had looked through their field glasses and saw how sumptuously they fared, and had envied them to that extent that they concluded to shell them out for spite. Be that as it may, this was one time when to the victor belonged the spoils was reversed, for while the Federals had the satisfaction of routing the militia, our boys had the pleasure of appropriating the spoils to themselves. The shells soon ceased, while our boys took the place of the militia and order was again restored.
         A short time after this incident I was very much amused at a story I heard one of our infantry tell on a militiaman. This soldier went out to relieve him from picket duty, when he found the old gentleman sitting at the foot of a tree, his gun across his lap, smoking his pipe, despite the strict army regulations prohibiting smoking while on duty. As the old man straightened up the soldier noticed he had no cartridge box. “Where is your cartridge box, my friend?” observed the soldier. “Oh,” said the militiaman, “the pesky thing chafes me and I threw it away. I carry my cartridges here,” and the old man went down in the coat tail pockets of his long, civilians’ coat that struck him about the heels, and produced a handful of cartridges. “This is where I carry them,” said he, with an air of indifference.
Months went by and the militiaman was transferred to some distant part of the line in the siege of Atlanta, where no doubt he served his country with honor, as there was plenty of fighting all along the line, and I never heard anything more from him until after the fall of Atlanta, when Governor Brown issued a proclamation disbanding the Georgia militia in order that they might go home and cut their crop of sorghum cane. No doubt some of the old soldiers who were in the Georgia campaign remember how the soldiers joked and commented upon this. All the southern papers had something to say about it, and one of the papers in commenting wound up with a verse of doggerel poetry, which ran something like this:

“Three cheers for Governor Brown
And his sweet proclamation.
Likewise the “Georgia Militia,”
With their cane knives raised on high:
For they will drive away starvation.
In the sweet by and by.
When they cut the Georgia sugar cane,”
They will suck sorghum till they die.”

W. G. LEWIS
Co. K. Ballentine’s Reg. Cav., C. S. A. Hope. Ark.

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Henry Harrison Knight Wrote City Charter for Nashville, GA

Henry Harrison Knight with wife Mary Susan Ray and their son Levi Jackson Knight circa 1896. The Knight home was at Ray City, GA. Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Henry Harrison Knight with wife Mary Susan Ray and their son Levi Jackson Knight circa 1896. The Knight home was at Ray City, GA. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Henry Harrison Knight, author of the original city charter of Nashville, GA, was a resident of Ray City. He served in the state Legislature as Representative of Berrien County and as a member of the Board of  County Commissioners  through several terms. In 1885,  The Official Register of the United States listed  H.H. Knight   as Post Master of “Ray’s Mills”, Berrien County, Georgia.

As a part of the Bicentennial Celebration in Nashville on the 4th of July, 1976, his grandson, Jack Knight, presented Nashville Mayor Bobby Carroll with a copy of the charter.

Nashville, GA city charter, 1892

Copy of original city charter presented by Jack Knight to the mayor of Nashville, GA July 4, 1976

Nashville Herald
July 8, 1976

Copy Original City Charter Presented by W. D. Knight

        A highlight of the bicentennial festivities in Nashville Sunday, July 4, was a presentation of a copy of the original city charter from W. D. ‘Jack’ Knight.
        The charter was drawn up by H. H. ‘Henry’ Knight of Ray City, father of E. M. ‘Hun’ Knight, and grandfather of Jack.  He served as representative from Berrien County in 1892-93.
        Passed in 1892 and signed by the governor on Dec. 20 of that same year, the charter stated the city limits extended one-half mile in all directions from the courthouse. Also. W. L. Swindle was elected the first mayor, along with five councilmen.
        Mr. Knight, who was born in 1840, owned one of the first stores in Ray City, and served as commissioner of Berrien County for three years. He also served in the Confederate Army where he was wounded on two different occasions. 
        Mr. Knight was married to the daughter of T. M. Ray for whom Ray City was named. He died in 1899 and is buried with his wife in Beaver Dam Cemetery in Ray City.

WD Knight presents Nashville, GA City Charter to Mayor Bobby Carroll during Bicentennial Celebration, July 4, 1976. Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

WD Knight presents Nashville, GA City Charter to Mayor Bobby Carroll during Bicentennial Celebration, July 4, 1976. Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

Portrait of Harry Elmore DeVane (1922-1946)

Special thanks to Joseph Johnson for contributing this photo.

 Portrait of Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Harry Elmore DeVane (1922-1946) U.S.N. in winter service dress uniform

Portrait of Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Harry Elmore DeVane (1922-1946) U.S.N. in winter service dress uniform. Image courtesy of Joseph Johnson.

Harry Elmore DeVane (1922-1946)

Harry E. DeVane,  Ray City High School class of 1938, was a son of Caulie Augustus DeVane and Alma L Albritton.

During WWII, Harry E. DeVane served in the U.S. Navy.  He participate in the Invasion at Normandy as a Boat Officer on USS LST 291, a Tank Landing Ship. On D-Day LST 291 did its job of landing tanks, trucks and troops at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944 and transporting wounded soldiers back from the beach. Following D-Day, DeVane participated in the Navy’s operation to ferry troops and equipment across the Rhine River. After the surrender of Germany and Victory in Europe, Harry Elmore DeVane was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. While serving on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, on February 7, 1946, Harry E. DeVane was killed in a shipboard accident.

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Charles Bruner Shaw

Charles Bruner Shaw (1888-1950)

Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for sharing photos and content for this post. Portions reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletter: Charles Bruner Shaw

Born in 1888 in a corn crib on the John Allen farm just outside Ray City, GA, Bruner Shaw would later serve as a police officer for the town. He was a son of Francis Arthur Shaw and Victoria Giddens Knight.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

After Bruner’s mother died of scarlet fever in 1889, he and his brother Brodie Shaw were raised by their grand parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw.  The home place of  Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw was just west of Ray City, at Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road.  Bruner attended school  through the eighth grade at the two-room Pine Grove School. The Pine Grove and Kings Chapel schools were filled at various times with the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Rachel and Francis Marion Shaw. 

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

At a young age, Bruner Shaw married Mollie Register, daughter of William M. Register (1852-1926) and  Sarah Laura Parrish Register (1854-1933), and granddaughter of Elder Ancil Parrish the old Primitive Baptist preacher of Berrien County.  The Registers were a prominent family of Nashville, GA.  Bruner and Mollie were married on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1905, in a ceremony performed by Bruner’s uncle  Aaron Anderson Knight,  of Ray City, GA. Reverend Knight was  then primitive baptist minister of  Pleasant Church, just west of Ray City, GA.  The bride was one month shy of her 20th birthday; the  groom had just turned 17.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

 

 

Bruner farmed for a while at Ray City, GA near his brother, Brodie Shaw. The census of 1910 shows other neighbors included Mack SpeightsJoseph S. Clements, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher.

A Year of Tragedy

In January, 1911, when his aunt and uncle, Eliza Allen and Sovin J. Knight, moved to Brooks County to a farm on the Little River near Barney, GA, Bruner went along, moving his young family to an adjacent farm. But shortly after their move to Barney, “on April 16, 1911, just 26 days after the purchase of the new farm, Sovin suffered a severe heart attack and died in his new home.

After this family loss  coupled with the death of his infant daughter, Pecola, Bruner Shaw sold his Brooks County farm and returned to Berrien County.  Just six weeks after the sale, his wife, Mollie Register Shaw, died of Scarlet Fever.  She was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Bruner’s widowed aunt Eliza later moved  her daughters, Kathleen and Rachel, back to Berrien County to live in the farm home of her parents  (Bruner’s grandparents) , Rachel Moore Allen Shaw and Francis Marion Shaw, just outside of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

The young widower soon enlisted the help of a teen-age girl to help take care of his children. Fifteen-year-old Charlie Ruth Griffin was the youngest child of William Harrison “Hass” Griffin and Rebecca Jane Parrish, born June 25, 1897 in her family’s cabin on South Old Coffee Road in Berrien County.  Her siblings were Sarah Rebecca, Georgia Lavinia, Mary Ellen, Margaret Frances “Fannie”, Willie Henrietta, William Franklin, and Robert Bruce Griffin.

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

As Charlie took care of Bruner’s children they grew very close to their nursemaid. After a very brief courtship, Bruner and Charlie were  married November 23, 1913 at the home of the Reverend Aaron Anderson Knight in Ray City.  Reverend Knight was then serving as the first pastor of the newly organized New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City.

 

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

 

Charlie gave Bruner three more children,  Francis Marion Shaw, Lynette Narcissis Shaw, and Charles Bruner Shaw, Jr.,  and raised Bruner’s two children, Juanita and William Arthur, as if they were her own.

Bruner and Charlie Shaw were a part of society and leisure at Ray City, GA and Berrien County.  In February, 1914 Bruner was among the people from Ray City attending the carnival at Nashville.  Others from Ray City included  Annie Mae Carter, Margie Dasher, Pearl Hardie Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Harvie, W. H. Luckie, George Norton, J. J. and J. S. Clements.

In 1914, Charlie Ruth and her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw, were also seen at the Mayhaw Lake Resort on Park Street near Ray City. Mayhaw Lake was “The Place” in Berrien County for more than a decade. It was built in 1914 by Elias Moore “Hun”  Knight, of Ray City. The amusement park was such a popular spot that the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave special rates for picnic parties from all points on their line. People from all over the area would journey to Mayhaw Lake, especially on holidays such as the 4th of July and Labor Day. A boarding house [later the home of Effie Guthrie Knight] up the road towards Ray City was opened up by the Paul Knight family   specifically to provide lodging for the Mayhaw crowd. 

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

It was about this time that Bruner began his life-long pursuit of the law enforcement profession.  Bruner entered police work through occasional employment as a deputy at Ray City.  At that time the Police Chief at Ray City was Bruner’s cousin, Cauley Shaw.

An incident report in the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here [Nashville, GA] went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

The Tifton Gazette also reported the incident:

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette
October 16, 1914

C. B. Shaw, C.H. Jones and Charley Thomas were shot by a negro named John Williams, near Rays Mill Oct. 6, says the Milltown Advocate. Thomas has some trouble with the negro about hauling some cotton and the negro fired at him. He went to Rays Mill, secured a warrant and returned for the negro. The negro opened fire and slightly wounded three of the party who returned from Rays Mill with Thomas. The negro escaped.

Over the next few years, Bruner did stints in the police departments of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA and at Willacoochee.  By early 1919, Bruner had been hired by Berrien County Sheriff J. V. Nix as a deputy at Nashville, GA.

Until 1919, most of the activities of a peace officer involved chasing down petty thieves, and raiding an occasional “skins” (gambling) game…

Production and consumption of moonshine – illegal liquor – was also a problem for law officers. State-wide prohibition in Georgia had passed in 1907, with Ray City’s own representative Jonathan Perry Knight among those leading the charge.

However, with the passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution (prohibition), a whole new illicit business was the target of he county sheriff and his deputies. “Blind tigers”, as they were commonly referred, brewed alcohol in what was known as a “lard can” still, using syrup and meal processed through a copper worm. The product was a high explosive liquor with enough alcohol in it to burn like gasoline. Drinking of such had been known to cause blindness, if not death. Thus the name “blind tiger.”

By 1919,  reports of drunkenness and lawlessness in Ray City were making newspapers throughout the section. There were plenty of “blind tigers” running stills and selling bootleg liquor in Berrien County and Ray City, and gambling, too, despite the efforts of lawmen like Bruner Shaw, Cauley Shaw,  Gus Clements, Frank Allen, Marcus Allen, Jim Griner, Wesley Griner, and W.W. Griner.

In April, 1919, part-time deputy Bruner Shaw was again shot by an assailant.

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

Tifton Gazette
May 2, 1919

Shaw Shot by Negro

Nashville, Ga., April 23- Bruner Shaw, a well known young farmer who has served as special deputy sheriff a numbWer of times, was shot from ambush Saturday at the home of Will McSwain, a negro farmer living near Lois, this county. Shaw recognized his assailant as John Harris, a young negro whom he had arrested at Adel several months ago on a misdemeanor charge. The wouldbe murderer used a 23-calibre Winchester rifle, and the bullet entered the left side of Shaw’s head. He was able to come to Nashville today and swear out warrants against the negro, who is in jail here, having been captured by Sheriff Nix.

 

While pursuing his law enforcement career in other towns, Bruner Shaw maintained his Ray City connections. In 1920 Census records show Bruner and Charlie were residing in Ray City. According to Bryan Shaw,  Bruner’s last child, Charles Bruner, Jr., was born on February 6, 1920, in a home on Trixie Street behind the Marion Shaw home in Ray City. Bruner and Charlie resided in the home for three more years, participating regularly in the events of the community, especially dances and song fests.

Nashville Herald
March 15, 1923

News from Ray City—Everybody that wants to laugh as they haven’t since the war, come out on “Dad’s Night” . . . Last but not least will be some very fine singing by several of our gentlemen singers. They alone will be worth your time, should we have no other attraction. Mr. Bruner Shaw has promised us they will give at least four selections.

Later that year, Bruner Shaw was present at the startup of Ray City’s first power plant.

Sometime that fall Bruner, Charlie Ruth, and their five children moved to Polk County, Florida, where Bruner was hired as a deputy.  There was steady work tracking down bootleggers and their moonshine stills. Details of  big raids appeared in the papers:

The Polk County Recorder
March 2, 1924

“With drawn guns and expecting a battle to the death, sixteen deputies from Sheriff Logan’s force [and two federal agents] surrounded an abandoned sawmill camp in Eastern Polk County. Deputies Hatcher and Shaw volunteered to be a party to call for the surrender of the men sought.”

•∏•

Tampa Tribune
March 31, 1924

Lakeland Deputies Catch Moonshiners

Still of 100-Gallon Capacity Is Haul; Several Arrests Are Made

(Special to the Tribune)
Lakeland, March 30. – Lying in the woods near Bowling Green, Deputies [Newt] Hatcher and Shaw of the sheriff’s office Friday night watched a suspected bootlegger uncover two gallons of moonshie near the hiding place. Floyd Douglas, it is alleged, was getting the liquor to sell to Federal Officer Standau, unaware of the officer’s identity. Five gallons more were found in a search, and Douglas and the liquor were taken into custody. This is said to be Douglas’ second offense.
Just before the Bowling Green visit, the three officials made a big haul at Mulberry, here a 100-gallon copper still, 18 barrels of mash and six gallons of ‘shine were found in a swamp a mile from town. A negro man and woman were arrested as operators of the still.

•∏•

The Tampa Times
April 19, 1924

Raids Discourage Makers of ‘Shine

(Special to The Times.)
Bartow, April 19. – When the home of a Mrs. Beaumont, just over the Polk county line in Hillsborough county, was raided Wednesday the officers making the raid captured 244 bottles of 4 1/2 percent beer and three half pint bottles of shine. The arrest was made by Polk county Deputy Sheriffs Hatcher and Shaw with Federal prohibition Officers Standau and Dugan, who took the prisoner and evident to Tampa.
The recent series of captures of “shine” outfits conducted by Sheriff Logan and his deputies seems to have discouraged the moonshining industry in Polk county, according to reports from the sheriff’s office and judging from the record of convictions of violators of the prohibition laws in the criminal court combined with the sentences imposed by Judge Olliphant it seems highly probably that bootleggers of Polk county will decided that business isn’t so good in these parts.

In July, 1924 Bruner served as Night Police Chief in Haines City, FL. His friend and colleague, Newt Hatcher, was the Day Police Chief.

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

The exploits of Officer Shaw were occasionally reported in the Tampa Tribune.  On December 21, 1925, the paper reported C. B. Shaw was involved in a gun battle with a murder suspect.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

Later, Bruner Shaw served as chief of police at Frostproof, FL.  A high profile case while Bruner Shaw as chief of police at Frostproof Florida was the kidnapping of  E. L. Mercer, well-to-do citrus grower.

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

In the fall of 1929, the Shaw family returned to Berrien County, GA where Bruner sharecropped the John Strickland property on the old Valdosta highway. While the family went about bringing in crops of corn, tobacco and cotton, and the children [Marion, Lynette, and Charles, Jr.] were attending school at Kings Chapel, Bruner found temporary employment with the Berrien County Sheriff and the Ray City Police.

By November, 1930 Bruner Shaw was named Chief of Police in Alapaha, GA and moved the family there. He was once again again in pursuit of “blind tigers.”

Nashville Herald,
December 18 , 1930

Last Wednesday afternoon Chief C. B. Shaw and Deputy Sheriff Wesley Griner and W. W. Griner went over near Glory and went down in the river swamp about one mile west of Glory and found 180 gallons of corn mash. There was no still found with this buck. The officers poured out the contents and busted up the barrels. The people of Alapaha are pleased with the work of Mr. C. B. Shaw since he has been Chief of Police. We all hope that Mr. Shaw will stay on here as he is doing such good work and helping to clean up the community by catching blind tigers.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River . Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River. Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

It was the midst of the Great Depression, and though his work was appreciated, the pay was meager.  In the summer of 1931,  Bruner removed his family from Berrien County for last time and the Shaw family moved back to Frostproof.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: CHARLES BRUNER SHAW, SR: Have Badge, Will Travel, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Bruner Shaw’s life, law, business, and family.

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