Virgil Griner receives teaching license from W. G. Avera, 1915

James Virgil Griner (1896-1951)

Virgil Griner, circa 1912-1915.  Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Virgil Griner, circa 1912-1915. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

In October, 1915 William Green Avera wrote James Virgil Griner, of Nashville, GA to inform him of his license to teach third grade.  Avera, the Berrien County School Superintendent, lived about 8 miles northeast of Ray City, GA.  The notification was on the official letterhead of the office of the County School Superintendent and listed the members of the school board.

1915 Berrien County Board of Education

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

William Green Avera, Superintendent – pioneer educator of South Georgia taught in Berrien, Lanier, Cook and Lowndes counties;  born August 1, 1855; son of Steven Willis Avera and Martha Elizabeth Akins; largely self-educated; married first Eliza Jane Sirmans, second Margaret McMillan; elected 1907 as Berrien County School Commissioner an re-elected to three subsequent terms; died January 10, 1944; buried Avera Cemetery.

 

 

 

Alexander W. Patterson, Berrien County, GA

Alexander W. Patterson, Berrien County, GA

Alexander W. Patterson, President, Nashville, GA –  born February 22, 1857 in Lowndes County, GA; son of James Duncan Patterson and Elizabeth McCranie; married Ella T. Lindsey February 10, 1884;  teacher; merchant; Berrien County Ordinary, Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County; chairman of the Berrien County Agricultural Society, 1900.

 

 

 

 

Malcolm L. McMillan, Berrien County, GA

Malcolm L. McMillan, Berrien County, GA

Malcolm L. McMillan, Brookfield, GA   – born October 24, 1853, son of Archibald McMillan and Margaret Young; married Narcissa Henderson; planter and merchant; scribe Masonic Lodge No. 47, Tifton, 1904; Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County, 1904; commissioner Berrien County Board of Education, 1901, 1905, 1906, 1915; vice president Farmers Club of Berrien County, 1905; delegate Southern Cotton Growers’ Association convention, 1906; president Berrien County division of the Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Georgia, 1906; board of directors, Merchants’ and Farmers’ Bank of Tifton, GA, 1906; board of directors , National Bank of Tifton, 1907-10; died May 1, 1933; buried Turner Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery 

 

 

 

Sankey Booth, Berrien County, GA

Sankey Booth, Berrien County, GA

Sankey Booth, Adel, GA – born May 5, 1877; son of the Reverend Irwin R. Booth and Margaret Rives Knowles; married Mamie Shaw 18 Nov 1906;  pioneer school teacher and administrator of south Georgia; Berrien County School Board, 1914-15; Atkinson County School Superintendent, 1918-1920; Ray City School superintendent, 1924-25; Principal, Morven School, 1917, 1925-26;  Principal, Cecil School; died October 29, 1965;  buried Adel cemetery, Cook County, GA.

 

William Manning Pafford, Berrien County, GA

William Manning Pafford, Berrien County, GA

William Manning Pafford, Milltown, GA – born December 12, 1869; son of Rowan Pafford and Frances Corbett; married Della Holland on February 08, 1900; merchant; constructed Lee-Banks Hotel, Milltown, GA, 1905; Mayor, Milltown, GA, 1915; Georgia House of Representatives, 1923-24;  Commissioner, Milltown Airline Railway, 1927; died February 8, 1930; buried Lakeland City Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

 

 

 

John Henry Rowan, Berrien County, GA

John Henry Rowan, Berrien County, GA

John Henry Rowan, Nashville, GA     -born May 15, 1862, Coffee County, GA; son of William Berry Rowan and Roseanna Porter; married Phoebe America Knight June 17, 1886;  built Reedy Branch School, Berrien County, GA; Postmaster, Hill, GA; Judge, Berrien County, 1904; Notary Public, 1904-1905; Democratic Executive Committee of Berrien County, 1904; candidate for Berrien County Commissioner, 1910 and 1912; died August 31, 1921, Berrien County, GA; buried Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

1915 letter from Berrien County School Superintendent William Green Avera to James Virgil Griner

1915 letter from Berrien County School Superintendent William Green Avera to James Virgil Griner

 

Nashville, GA   10/12 1915

Mr. J. V. Griner
Nashville, Ga.
Dear Virgil
Please write Mr. J. E. Rowe Alapaha for the New Home School. It is a good school.

You made license – 3d grade General Elementary. Please let me know.

Sincerely,
W. G. Avera

The letter was received by Virgil’s father, Joe H. Griner, who forwarded the information on to Virgil at Tifton, GA.

Envelop of letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, postmarked October 15, 1915, Alapaha, GA

Envelop of letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, postmarked October 15, 1915, Alapaha, GAa

~

Letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, dated October 15, 1915

Letter from Joe H. Griner to Virgil Griner, dated October 15, 1915

 

Nashville, Ga
Oct 15th, 1915

Dear Virgil I will sende your letter to you. I got it yesterday. Virgil it isent any use to say any thing about the letter. You can reade it and come on. Virgil you come to Roetown Sunday.  It is there big meeting time out there and I will meet you out there if I can. You come to Allapaha Sunday and go on down to meeting.

Very truly

Joe H. Griner

http://berriencountyga.com/

Joseph Henry Griner, (1856-1934) Berrien County, GA

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William Greene Avera Is Laid To Rest

William Green Avera (1855-1944) and Benjamin Gaskins (left) photographed at Irene Church, Lanier County, GA.  Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Green Avera (1855-1944) and Benjamin Gaskins (left) photographed at Irene Church, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William Green Avera was a local educator who received national attention for his innovative teaching methods.

Professor Avera died January 10, 1944. His obituary ran on the front page of the Clinch County News:

Obituary of William Green Avera, Clinch County News, Jan 14, 1944.

Obituary of William Green Avera, Clinch County News, Jan 14, 1944.

The Clinch County News
January 14, 1944 Pg 1

William Avera is Laid to Rest

    Funeral services were held this morning at 11 o’clock (Wednesday) at the Irene Primitive Baptist church in Lanier county [see map] for William Greene Avera, pioneer educator of South Georgia who died at his rural home East of Nashville on Monday afternoon.  He was 88 years of age.
    As a mark of respect all the schools of Berrien county were closed for the funeral services.  Mr. Avera served as superintendent of the Berrien county schools for twenty years and form more than half a century he taught in the schools of Berrien and other counties in south Georgia.
    His second wife, Mrs. Margaret Avera. and one son, Bryant Avera, both of Berrien county and 13 grandchildren and a number of great grandchildren survive.
    Mr. Avera’s first wife was Miss Eliza Jane Sirmans.  There were 11 children from this union.  Mrs. Avera died in 1905 and in 1911 he was married to Miss Margaret McMillan.
    Pallbeareres at the funeral this morning were grandsons of Mr. Avera.  They were: Waldo Avera and W. R. Roberts, of Jacksonville, Fla., Albert Griner, Phiniza Avera and Saron Parr, of Nashville.
    The funeral services were conducted by Elder Orvill Knight.
    Mr. Avera was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Steven Willis Avera of Clinch county.  When he was a young child the family moved to Berrien county. 
    Mr. Avera died in the home in which he lived for 60 years.

Irene Church, 2011, Lanier County, GA

Irene Church, 2011, Lanier County, GA

For additional views of Irene Church see Irene Primitive Baptist Church

Grave of William Green Avera, Avera Cemetery, near Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Avera Cemetery map on Find-a-Grave

Ray City Women Among Dress Revue Winners

An old newspaper clipping covered Ray City women modeling the latest fashions.

Home Demonstration Council Dress Revue, Berrien County, GA

Home Demonstration Council Dress Revue, Berrien County, GA

BERRIEN HOME DEMONSTRATION COUNCIL DRESS REVUE WINNERS
Mrs. J. R. Johnson, Ray City, Suit; Mrs. R. A. Webb, Stylish Stouts, New Lois; Mrs. W. E. Griffin,  Street, Flat Creek; Mrs. E. L. Mobley, Ray City, County winner; Mrs. Terrell Swindle, Allenville, Church Dress; Mrs. Wallace Conner, Avera Mill, Special Occasion.  Mrs. Mobley will represent Berrien County in state wide dress revue August 27 at the State H. D. Council meeting to be held at the University of Georgia Campus, Athens.  Mrs. Conner is alternate.

Mrs. R. A. Webb = Pearlie Ann Register, daughter of Marion Register and Elizabeth L. Parrish Register, and a granddaughter of Ansel Parrish and Molcy Knight. She and her husband, James Alford Webb, lived many years in Ray City and Berrien County.

Mrs. Wallace Conner = Bonnie Lewis, daughter of J. Lonnie Lewis and Mittylene Phillips Lewis. Her husband, Wallace Donald Conner,  was the last miller to operate Avera Mill. He was a son of Ray City residents James Wilson Lewis and Pearlie Sutton Conner.

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James B. Griner Once Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County

James Benjamin “Jim” Griner, born June 22, 1874, was the husband of Mary Catherine Hill Griner (see A Christmas Wedding for Mary Catherine Hill).

As a young man Jim Griner tried his hand at farming, but by the early 1900’s he had turned to a career in law enforcement serving as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County and as the Chief of Police in Nashville, GA. In the 1930s the Griners moved to Ray City, GA  where Jim returned to farming. But by the 1940s Jim Griner put his badge back on to serve as Ray City Police Chief. A fellow lawman of Ray City at that time was  State Patrolman Perry Lee Pittman.

J. B. Griner, Berrien County deputy sheriff with prisoner B. A. Bryant, who killed his father near Nashville, Georgia, 1906. From a newspaper clipping. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

J. B. Griner, Berrien County deputy sheriff with prisoner B. A. Bryant, who killed his father near Nashville, Georgia, 1906. From a newspaper clipping. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

In 1915, Deputy James B Griner and Sheriff I. C. Avera were embroiled in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

It all started when T. J. Luke got a judgement against Moses and Joseph Bembry for debts they owed him. Taking his execution order to the Sheriff, Luke identified certain property owned by the Brembrys  that could be sold to satisfy the debt.  The Brembry property was duly advertised for sale by the Sheriff’s office.

Deputy Sheriff James B. Griner had in mind to obtain the property for himself and sought to borrow the money to make the purchase.  But on the day of the sale the loan fell through.

Frustrated in receiving his money, T.J. Luke demanded satisfaction from the Sheriff’s Office. Luke took the case to court in Berrien County.  On  March 23, 1914 The court directed the Sheriff and his deputy to sell the property immediately with the proceeds payable to Luke. Should the Sheriff’s Office fail to execute the sale, they were directed to appear before the next term of the court.

But a year later, Luke was still waiting for his money.  He took the case to the Supreme Court of Georgia, asserting that the lower court erred in not calling for immediate satisfaction of the debt by the Sheriff’s office.   Fortunately for J.B. Griner and Sheriff I.C.  Avera, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled there was no error.

Read the syllabus of the court, LUKE  vs AVERA, et al.

 

A Christmas Wedding for Mary Catherine Hill

Mary Catherine Hill was born about 1875, and was a lifelong resident of Berrien County.  She first appears in census records in the Census of 1880, as a child in the household of her parents, Betty Newbern and William J. Hill in the 1148th Georgia Militia District.  Her father was a farmer, as were his neighbors Mack Bullard and William Avera.

On Christmas Day 1891,  M. C. Hill married J. B. Griner  in Irwin County, GA.

Mary Catherine Hill and James B. Griner were married Christmas Day, Dec 25, 1891 in Irwin County, GA.

Mary Catherine Hill and James B. Griner were married Christmas Day, Dec 25, 1891 in Irwin County, GA.

The couple made their home in Nashville, GA where  Jimmy engaged first in farming, then took a position as  deputy for Berrien County Sheriff,  I.C. Avera.

Some time after 1930 Jimmy and Catherine  moved to Ray City, GA.  Mary Catherine Hill Griner remained a resident of Ray City, until her death in 1940.

Obituary of  Mrs. J. B.  “Jimmy”  Griner

Mrs. J. B. “Jimmy” Griner, 65, died June 24, 1940 at her home in Ray City,  GA.  She was a daughter of the late William J. and Betty Newbern Hill.  Mary Catherine Hill married Jimmy Griner in 1891. Burial was in Flat Creek Cemetery. Survivors: Her husband and the following children: Lucius E. Griner of Lake Wales, Fla.; J.R. Griner of Ocilla; Mrs. Vinnie Robertson of Illinois; Mrs. Emma Overstreet of Tifton; Mrs. Ethel Sutton of Hollywood, Fla; Miss Mimmie Griner of Ray City; Mrs. Cleo Allen of Ray City.  She is also survived by three brothers and two sisters.

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Avera Cemetery Near Ray City, GA

William Green Avera and a few others of the Avera family connection are buried in the family cemetery just a few miles from Ray City, GA.

Grave of William Green Avera, Avera Cemetery, near Ray City, Berrien County, GA

 

Map showing Avera Cemetery and Ray City, GA

More on William Green Avera & Family

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

Found a bit more on William Green Avera (1855-1944), life-long educator  and Superintendent of Berrien County Schools, who lived near Ray City, GA.

William Green Avera was the eldest child of Stephen Willis Avera and Martha Elizabeth Akins. When an infant,  his parents brought him to the newly formed Berrien County, where his father engaged in farming.

“During the war he [Stephen Willis Avera] enlisted and became a soldier of Company E of the Fifty-fourth Georgia Infantry. His command joined the western army under Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Hood, and stubbornly resisted Sherman’s advance all the way from Dalton to Atlanta. After the fall of the latter city he went to Hood’s army, participating in the battles at Jonesboro, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville, and after the last named engagement he was sent home on detached duty, the war closing before his recall to the front.”

“Laying aside the musket he again put his hand to the plow, and was engaged in farming in Berrien county until 1887, when he sold out and bought a farm in Colquitt county which he still occupies, having reached the good old age of seventy-six years. He married Martha Elizabeth Aikins, who was born in Clinch county, a daughter of William Green and Winnie Ann (Moore) Aikins. Stephen W. Avera and wife reared eleven children, whose names are William Green, Winnie Ann, Polly Ann, Sarah O’Neal, Daniel M., Lyman H., Phebe V., Lou, Junius H., Cordelia and Martha.”

The image detail above is from a family photo taken circa 1913:

The Avera family photo appeared in the 1956 Berrien Centennial edition of the Nashville Herald with the following caption:

MEN IN HISTORY – Above are four men who played a part in the history of Berrien County.  Top left is the late W. G. Avera, better known as “Uncle Billy,” who spent his life working for better education, serving as a teacher and County School Superintendent.  He was also a leader in religious fields. Lower left is Willis Avera, father of W. G. Avera. He fought in the War Between the States. Upper right is I. C. Avera, sheriff of Berrien County for 16 years. Lower right is Daniel Griner, father of Mrs. I. C.  Avera, whose family settled on lands in the eastern part of Berrien County, now part of Nashville. The land was first farmed and later sold as home sites.  The baby is Phin Avera, grandson of the four. The two on left are his maternal grandparents, and the other two his paternal grandparents.

Photo as it appeared in the 1956 centennial edition of the Nashville Herald.

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Georgia Teacher For Fifty Years Only Went To School 335 Days

In 1933 the Atlanta Constitution gave this retrospective on the remarkable life of William Green “Bill” Avera
 

Georgia Teacher for fifty years only went to school 335 days.
Atlanta Constitution. Sept 10, 1933

 
RAY CITY, Ga. -Sept. 9. -(AP) Bill Avera, 78, went to school 335 days over a period of eight years but for 50 years he worked in the educational field, taught hundreds of children and served 16 years as commissioner of education in Berrien county.
  He’s retired from active teaching now but is writing and compiling a textbook on primary arithmetic at his country home near here. He believes the book will simplify the teaching of “figgurs” to children in the grammar grades of school.
  “I know the difficulties which both teacher and pupil have to face in arithmetic and I think this book will help them,” he says. “It will be a distinct change from methods which we used when I was teaching. In the book, I am trying to write and explain the subject from the child’s viewpoint as well as that of the teacher”
  He began teaching in Berrien county in 1877.  Realizing he had much to learn he bought books on geography, arithmetic, grammar and other subjects and studied incessantly when he was not in the classroom to equip himself for his vocation.
  He has taught in Berrien, Lanier, Cook and Lowndes counties and hundreds of young people remember him as their teacher.
  Kindly, congenial,and possessing a wealth of information and knowledge, he is a favorite with children and adults. There is a stone plaque over the arched gateway of his home which he placed in memory of his first wife, who died in 1905. It reads: “In memory of my beloved and faithful wife because she never spoke a harsh word to me nor left undone an act of kindness that would add to my comfort and happiness.”
  Four times Mr. Avera was elected school commissioner of this county and he did much for the progress of rural education. He has a library consisting of more than 500 books for which he spent more than $2,000.

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Professor Avera Lived Near Ray City, GA

 

 

Image detail: William Green Avera, circa 1905. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society, http://berriencounty.smugmug.com/

William Green “Bill” Avera

 

Bill Avera was a lifelong educator of Berrien county who lived in the vicinity of Ray City, GA. He was born August 1, 1855, in  Clinch County Georgia. His father was Stephen Willis Avera and his mother was Martha Elizabeth Aikins. William Green Avera was the oldest of eleven children, his brothers and sisters being  Winnie Ann, Polly Ann, Sarah O’Neal, Daniel M., Lyman H., Phebe V., Lou, Junius H., Cordelia and Martha.

Upon the organization of Berrien County,  Stephen and Martha Avera brought their young son to establish the family homestead in the new county in 1856. During the Civil War, Bill’s father enlisted and became a soldier of Company E of the Fifty-fourth Georgia Infantry. Stephen Avera saw action defending Atlanta from Sherman’s approach and later in the battles at Jonesboro, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville. The war ended while he was at home in Berrien County on detached duty.  After the war, Bill’s father continued to farm in Berrien County.  In 1877 Bill Avera married and established a household of his own near Ray City, GA.

The home of William Green Avera was located about five miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

In addition to his work as a teacher and superintendent William Green Avera worked for teacher education, being frequently involved in the organization and presentation of “teacher institutes.” In the spring of 1895, Avera co-presented with James Rembert Anthony at a teacher institute held at Sparks, GA, on Saturday, March 16, 1895, their presentation: “Grammar, the Actual and Relative Importance of Parsing and Diagramming.” J. R. Anthony was a teacher from Valdosta, GA. Among others on the program was Marcus S. Patten, who presented “Reading: Teaching to read using Holmes as the text.”

In his 1913 work, A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Volume 2, author William Harden gave the following account of William Green Avera:

   PROF. WILLIAM GREEN AVERA. The career of a man who for the greater part of a life time has been identified with the training and education of the youth is always one of the most valuable assets of a community. Probably no educator in south Georgia has been so long or so closely connected with educational progress and the practical work of the schools as the present superintendent of the Berrien county schools, Prof. William Green Avera. He belongs to a family of pioneer Georgians, and was born on a farm in Clinch county, the 1st of August, 1855.

*****

  Reared in a good home and trained to habits of industry, William G. Avera early manifested special inclination for study and the pursuit of knowledge, and made the best of his early opportunities of schooling. He has been a lifelong student, and when he was eighteen he was entrusted with his first school, located three miles east of Nashville. For thirty-three years, an entire generation, he was in the active work of the schoolroom, and he taught children and children’s children during that time. The aggregate length of his service out of those thirty-three years was twenty-five full years, a third of a long lifetime. In 1907  professor Avera was elected superintendent of the Berrien county schools, and by re-elections has since served continuously in that office. His administration has been marked by many improvements in the county educational system.

   In 1877 Professor Avera was united in marriage with Miss Eliza J. Sirmans. Mrs. Avera was born in Berrien county, daughter of Abner and Frances (Sutton) Sirmans. She died at Sparks in 1905. In 1911 Professor Avera married Margaret McMillan, a native of Berrien county and daughter of Randall McMillan. The following children were born to Professor Avera by his first marriage, namely: Sirman W., Marcus D., Bryant F., Aaron G., Alice J., Homer C., Abner J., Willis M., Lona, and Lula. Marcus D., Homer C., Abner J., and Lula are now deceased. Aaron G. married Fannie Key, now deceased, and has one son, William. Sirman W. married Annie Young and has a daughter named Georgia. Bryant F. married Mary Patton. Alice J. is the wife of William T. Parr, and has four children, J. W.,Stella, Saren and Gladys. Lona married Austin Avera, son of I. C. Avera, sheriff of Berrien county.

   In 1878 Professor Avera settled on a farm eight miles southeast of Nashville, and that was the home of his family until 1904, when it was temporarily removed to Sparks that the children might have the benefit of the superior educational advantages available in the Sparks Collegiate institute there. Prof. Avera’s present home is at Nashville, the county seat of Berrien county. He still owns the old home where all of his children were born and reared, and where his beloved deceased wife and children are buried. Sacred is the memory of this home to the man who has given the best years of his life to the educational and moral upbuilding of this section of Georgia. 

   Professor Avera and wife are members of the Primitive Baptist church, and in politics he is a Democrat.

 

Rice Production in Wiregrass Georgia

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

Rice production efforts by settlers  and rice plantations in coastal Georgia are well known, but rice was also grown by pioneer settlers of Lowndes, Berrien and other Wiregrass counties.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

“Rice, Georgia’s first staple crop, was the most important commercial agricultural commodity in the Low country from the middle of the eighteenth century until the early twentieth century. Rice arrived in America with European and African migrants as part of the so-called Columbian Exchange of plants, animals, and germs. Over time, profits from the production and sale of the cereal formed the basis of many great fortunes in coastal Georgia.”

The cultivation of rice on coastal plantations played a significant role in the introduction of slavery in Georgia, which was forbidden by the state’s original charter.

At least by the mid 1800’s settlers further inland,  in the Old Lowndes County region were growing small amounts of rice locally, along with other farming and agriculture efforts.   The total rice production in Lowndes County for the year ending June 1, 1850 was 66,300 pounds.  With the total state production reaching about 39 million pounds of rice that year, Lowndes county was hardly among the chief producers. Still, the rice crop was important to the local farmers  who had settled in the Rays Mill, Georgia (nka Ray City) area.  The Reverend George White in 1855 listed rice, cotton and corn as Lowndes county’s major agricultural crops. The following year, 1856, Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes. One early Berrien county rice grower was Aden Boyd. The Berrien County agricultural and manufacturing records  for 1860 show his farm produced 80 pounds of rice, along with 50 bushels of corn, 10 bushels of oats and 5 bushels of peas and beans. By 1879, Berrien County farmer Wiley Chambless  “gathered 21 bushels of clean, ruff rice from half an acre” and “plan[ned] to plant 50 or 75 acres in rice” for 1880.

Equipment for producing rice was manufactured right here in Georgia. In the 1850’s Nesbet & Levy’s Ocmulgee Foundry and Machine shop in Macon, GA. was manufacturing rice thrashers, among many other agricultural and industrial machines.

In Milltown (now Lakeland, GA.) there was a rice cleaning machine at the Lastinger Mill. Later on, Berrien county residents could take their rice to the Avera mill, built in 1880 near Nashville.   In fact, by 1880 the Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun reported that, “The farmers of Berrien county say that rice pays them better than  cotton.”

1910 – A FEW INDUSTRIAL FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA

Rice – Rice is an important product which can be easily produced in Georgia of very superior quality. The average yield is about 12 barrels per acre and in favorable seasons a second crop of 8 to 10 barrels may be obtained. This product sells for about $3.50 a barrel.