Patterson Hotel Built by Lon Fender in 1912

The Patterson Hotel, built by Lon Fender, opened for business on July 15, 1912 in Valdosta, GA.  Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in Wiregrass Georgia and in the history of Ray City, GA.  He owned farmland near here in the 1920s and a  turpentine still at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

The Patterson Hotel, Valdosta, GA was built in 1912 by Lon Fender and Eugenia Devine.  At the time it was the most luxurious hotel in south Georgia.

The Patterson Hotel, Valdosta, GA was built in 1912 by Lon Fender and Eugenia Devine. At the time it was the most luxurious hotel in south Georgia.

The Patterson Hotel located at the corner of Patterson and Savannah Avenues was built on the site of another hotel, the Florence Hotel. It was torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The Patterson Hotel located at the corner of Patterson and Savannah Avenues was built on the site of another hotel, the Florence Hotel. It was torn down to make way for a parking lot.

 

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

William Alonzo “Lon” Fender was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920).  His father was a Civil War  veteran and a farmer of the Naylor district, Lowndes County, GA, later moving to Ray City, GA. His wife, Texas Irene Hagan, was a daughter of Civil War veteran John W. Hagan and Mary Smith.

The Fenders had a knack for the hotel business. Lon Fender’s cousin, William Seaboarn Fender,  was an investor in the Valdosta Hotel Company. His brother, Wilson W. Fender, operated the Fender Hotel at Ray City.

In 1911, Lon Fender partnered with Eugenia Prescott Devine (1850-1927), widow of William H. Devine (1849-1887) to build a modern brick hotel in Valdosta, GA. The Patterson Hotel Company was incorporated in 1912, with a capital stock of $25,000.

This building, the Patterson Hotel, replaced the old Florence Hotel, where Ray City residents Benjamin L. Starling and , stayed during the 1909 Carnival Week and the flight of the Strobel Air Ship.

 

 

In 1911, The Valdosta Times reported that Lon Fender would build the Hotel Patterson.

In 1911, The Valdosta Times reported that Lon Fender would build the Hotel Patterson.

 

Valdosta Times
May 6, 1911

New Hotel Is Now Assured

Work of Tearing Down the Old Florence will Begin as Soon as Possible.

(From Tuesday’s Daily)

       Within the next few days the old Florence hotel will be torn down to make room for a magnificent new hotel which is to go up in its place.
        If you want to buy the Florence almost at your own price, provided you will agree to move it off the ground which it now occupied without any delay. Work on the new hotel cannot commence until the old building is removed and it is decided to begin the work on the new one right away.
        Mr. W. L. Fender this morning closed a trade with Mrs. Devine by which he comes into possession of the ground now occupied by the Florence Hotel, extending eighty feet on Patterson street and two hundred and eleven feet on Savannah avenue.  Mr. Fender is to be leading spirit in building the new hotel, but it is understood Mrs. Devine will be interested in the new building.
        Mr. Curran Ellis, the well known architect, has already prepared the plans for the new hotel and he was in the city this morning and submitted them to Mr. Fender and Mrs. Devine.
       The new hotel will be five stories and will be one of the handsomest structures of its size in the state.
       It will have between ninety and one hundred rooms and every room will have hot and cold water and most of the rooms will have baths attached. The building will have a handsome passenger elevator running from the lobby to the top floor.
        The hotel will have handsome columns extending out over the Patterson street sidewalk with a main entrance on Patterson street but with another entrance on Savannah avenue. There will be a store room on the corner of Patterson street and Savannah avenue to be occupied by a drug store while there will be another store room on the west side of the building to be occupied as an up-to-date cafe. Between these two store rooms will be a colonnade leading to the office and lobby. The kitchen will be on the southwest corner of the building and the dining room will be on the west side as the present one in the Florence hotel.
        The maid p—- —- be on the second floor and on the east side, leading to a large veranda overlooking Patterson street. The building is to be equipped in the very best of styles and it is to be a credit to a town of twenty-five thousand people.  Mr. Fender and Mrs. Devine have already had flattering offers from well known hotel men for a lease of the building.
       Mr. Ellis, the architect is expected to have the working plans completed within a day or two and it is understood that the contract for the work will be let just as soon as possible. Prominent contractors were here this morning figuring on the new building.
       The completion of this new hotel will be the biggest work done in Valdosta during the present year. It will transform the appearance of the city and will give passengers on all of the roads a good view of the imposing structure.

 

Atlanta Constitution, May 12, 1912

Atlanta Constitution, May 12, 1912

 

Atlanta Constitution
May 12, 1912

Little Items of Georgia Cities
Valdosta Hotels.

Valdosta, Ga., May 5. -(Special.) – William Foor, proprietor of the Aragon hotel at Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday closed a ten-year lease for the handsome new hotel built by W.L. Fender and Mrs. Devine in this city. The terms of the lease have not been made public, but a very satisfactory price was received by the owners. The new hotel will open about the 20th of June.The building will be ready for the furnishings within the next few weeks.There are few hansomer hotels in this part of the state than the new structure. The owners of the Valdes hotel have announced their intention to enlarge and refurnish the hotel as soon as the lease of Mr. Ferrell, the present manager, expires in September. The proposed improvements will make the Valdes probably the most handsome hotel in southern Georgia, and will place Valdosta in the front rank in hotel accommodations.

 

Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1912. The Hotel Patterson prepared for a grand opening on July 15, 1912.

Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1912. The Hotel Patterson prepared for a grand opening on July 15, 1912.

Atlanta Constitution
 July 12, 1912

Little Items of Georgia Cities
Hotel Patterson to Open.

Valdosta, Ga. Valdosta’s new hotel, the Hotel Patterson, will be thrown open to the public on the 15th instant. The furnishings which are of the best class, are being installed rapidly and the finishing touches to the building are being pushed. Manager William Foor of Jacksonville, who has leased the property for a number of years, will devote much of his personal time to the hotel and is determined to have it open by the 15th of the month, even if some minor details are not completely finished by then. The house is one of the neatest and most comfortably appointed hotels in the state. It’s kitchen and dining room equipment is of the most modern character and so far as quality goes is not excelled. The building is of pressed brick, four stories with basement, but the owners propose to add two more stories during the latter part of the year or early next spring. Mr. Foor has already signed a contract for the lease of the additional floors. 

 

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Notes on Sarah Malinda Clements

Sarah Malinda Clements (1862-1947)

Sarah Malinda Clements was born March 12, 1862 in Berrien County, GA. She was the youngest of 13 children born to David G. Clements and Gincey Sirmans.  She was a sister of Levi Jordan Clements, who was the patriarch of the Clements sawmill business at Ray City.

Sarah’s parents were pioneer settlers of the area. They were married in Lowndes County, GA on January 1, 1835.   Her father came with his parents to Lowndes County about 1832.  Her grandfather William Clements and William A. Knight had been neighbors in Wayne County, GA, and her aunt Anne Donald Clements had married Levi J. Knight in 1827. Her mother was  Gincey Sirmans, a daughter of Abner Sirmans and Bettie Kirkland. Abner Sirmans, his brothers, and father, Josiah Sirmans, were among the first permanent settlers of Clinch County, GA, having arrived there in 1822. Her aunt Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans married Etheldred Dryden Newbern, another pioneer settler of Berrien County.

Sarah’s father and both of her grandfathers, fought under the command of their friend and neighbor Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1836-1838.  David G. Clements, William Clements and Abner Sirmans all served with Captain Knight’s Independent Company. David Clements was among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Soon after marriage, David G. Clements acquired lot of land 406, 10th district, on which he lived and farmed until his death. He was cut into Berrien out of Lowndes County, 1856. In Berrien County, the Clements home place was in the 1144th Georgia Militia District just north of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

lot-470-471-maps-w-roads-ac

In 1854, Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Clements, married William Gaskins. The Clements were neighbors of William Gaskins, son of Fisher Gaskins.   The Gaskins were another of the early pioneer families of Berrien County.  William Gaskins came to the area with his father and brothers, John Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins, with their large herds of cattle,  about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek (site of present day Ray City, GA).

At the outset of the Civil War, Sarah’s father and brother, John C. Clements, answered the call of General Levi J. Knight to form a company of men for Confederate service; their names appear on an 1861 muster roll of the Berrien Minute Men.  John C. Clements served with Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment; David G. Clements later appears on the 1864 census of southern men who were excluded from the draft on account of age.

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements.  https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

Sarah, born during the Civil War, grew up on her father’s farm during the Reconstruction period in Georgia.  She attended the local country schools and was educated through the 5th grade. It appears that she lived in her father’s home until his death in 1888.

Although  Sarah married twice, she was not lucky in love. She did not marry until the age of 36.

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

In the Census of 1880, 18-year-old Sarah Ann Clements was enumerated by Census taker L.E. Lastinger in her father’s household. Also present was Sarah’s older sister Mary Ann, to whom she was devoted for life, and their siblings.  Next door were Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clements, and her husband William Gaskins. Also neighbors were William’s niece Mary Evelyn Gaskins and her husband George W. Fender.

On October 26, 1898 Sarah married William J. “Bill Jack” Knight.  He was born in 1860, but otherwise little is known of his history. The ceremony was performed by Albert Benjamin Surrency in Berrien County, GA.

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements and William J. Knight are enumerated together in the census of 1900 in their Rays Mill home. Sarah’s spinster sister, 59-year-old Mary Ann Clements, had also come to live in the Knight household.   Sarah’s brother, John C. Clements, and his family remained as neighbors, as did George W. Fender.

William and Sarah owned their farm near Ray’s Mill  free and clear of mortgage.  Only one offspring was born of this union, but the child died young.

William J. Knight died on January 22, 1909 at his home near Ray’s Mill, GA.

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

Information reached here Monday of the sudden death of Mr. “Bill Jack” Knight, a prominent resident of the Ray’s Mill district. Mr. Knight had been slightly indisposed for two or three days.  After eating a light supper Friday night as he was sitting at the fireside he suddenly fell over and died.  Mr. Knight was fifty years of age and was married about seven years ago to Miss Sarah Clements, of this place.  He was laid to rest at the Beaverdam burial grounds.  – Milltown News.

The widow Sarah Knight was enumerated (as Sarah Clements) in 1910 with her sister Mary Ann Clements in their home just east of Ray’s Mill.  They were neighbors of John B. Fountain and Frank Gallagher.

Some time before 1920 Sarah married for a second time, joining in matrimony with James W. Suggs.  He was from Dooly County, GA, a son of Malinda “Lynne” Ammon and Wright Suggs.

Sarah and James W. Suggs were enumerated together in the Census of 1920, at their farm on a settlement road near Ray’s Mill. Sarah’s sister and constant companion, Mary Ann Clements, resided with the Suggs.  On adjacent farms were Parnell Knight and Henry D. Bennett.

The 1926 Influenza epidemic reached its peach in Georgia in March;  1926 was the worst flu year since the pandemics of 1918-1919 which had claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 30 million worldwide. Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Clements, at the age of 86, succumbed to Influenza, dying  on March 26, 1926.  She was attended by her nephew, Dr. Henry W. Clements, who was a son of Rowena Patten and Levi J. Clements.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery.

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Sometime between 1920 and 1930 James W. Suggs died, leaving Sarah widowed for the second time. Sarah, now on her own, boarded in the farm home of Sherrod Winfield Fender and his wife, Lula Bell Smith. Sherrod was a son of George W. Fender, and a neighbor of Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, and Phil McGowan. Also lodging in the Fender household was Chester Nobles.

Sherrod W. Fender died in 1931, but Sarah continued to live with the widowed Lula Smith Fender. The 1940 census shows Sarah Suggs enumerated as a “companion” of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

Sarah Malinda Clements Suggs died April 8, 1947.   She was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City, GA. (Lula Fender was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church.)

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.  Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Lon Fender Loses Milltown Stills

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  Born William Alonzo Fender, he was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920), who became residents of Ray City in their senior years.  Lon Fender himself owned farmland near Ray City in the 1920s.

Lon Fender and his brothers were big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  In 1906, November  the Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, noted that Lon Fender had purchased “the turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.”

Two years later, the Tifton Gazette reported that Fender’s still at Milltown burned on October 21, 1908:

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 -- page 6

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 — page 6

Another account published in the Waycross Journal described the losses as “the turpentine still of W. L. Fender, with 35 barrels of spirits, and 100 barrels of rosin…destroyed by fire.” The Journal further  indicated that the robbery referred to occurred west of Milltown on the Georgia & Florida Railroad, making it likely that the actual scene of the robbery was Jim Swindle’s store at Ray’s Mill, GA.

Another fire struck the Milltown still in 1909:

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 -- page 9

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 — page 9

W.L. “Lon” Fender later purchased a large tract of timber near Ray City, GA,  known as the “Sirmans Timber.”

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William Lonnie Royal and the Turkey Heist

William Lonnie Royal  (1897 – 1981)

Lonnie Royal, 1973.

Lonnie Royal, 1973.

William Lonnie Royal was born June 13, 1897, at  Homerville, Clinch County, GA.  He was a son of Gabriel Marion Royal and Vercy Lee Fender. Some time after 1910 his father rented a farm at Ray City, GA and this is where Lonnie grew to be a man.

On June 21, 1917  William  Lonnie Royal married Utha Gertrude Mixon in Berrien, Georgia.  The ceremony was performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens, who was Justice of the Peace at Ray City.  Utha Mixon was a daughter of Mary Elizabeth Clance and William Henry Mixon, of Ray City.

Marriage Certificate of William Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Berrien County, GA

When the 1918  WWI draft registration occurred, Lonnie Royal was 21 years old and living and working at Ray City. He was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was working for Daniel Jackson “Jack” Gaskins, a farmer in the Lois District just west of town. He listed Frank Royal, of Ray City, as his next of kin.

In the spring of 1919 Lonnie and Utha, now with an infant son, were trying to make a home. It’s unclear just how Lonnie came to such a desperate state, but  he was charged in a number of thefts in the Ray City vicinity. The first case involved the heist of a turkey, said fowl being the property of a Mr. Connell. A second case involved the burglary of the residence of Lonnie’s employer, Jack Gaskins.  Mr. Connell may have been Clinton D. Connell, who was a neighbor of Jack Gaskins. The disposition of these cases was reported in the Nashville Herald:

April 4, 1919 - Lonnie Royal was convicted of a misdemeanor theft.

April 4, 1919 – Lonnie Royal was convicted of a misdemeanor theft.

“Nashville Herald:  Two of the cases against Lonnie Royals, a young white man living near the Berrien-Lowndes line, were tried.  He was acquitted of stealing Mr. Connell’s turkey, but was convicted of burglarizing the home of Mr. Jack Gaskins.  The jury recommended that he be punished as for a misdemeanor.”

Lonnie was acquitted in the case of the turkey heist, and apparently the jury took pity on him in the burglary case as they recommended sentencing for a misdemeanor crime.

Lonnie and Utha made their home in the Ray City area for many years.

Children of William Lonnie Royal and Utha Gertrude Mixon:

  1. Samuel Clarence Royal, b.  Jul 26 1918, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; married Mary Sue Smith; died  March 4, 2008 Louis Smith Hospital, Lakeland, Lanier, Georgia
  2. Clara Mae Royal, b.  Jan 21 1920, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; died  Dec 25 1923, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia
  3. William Clyde Royal, b.  May 14 1921, Lakeland, Lanier, Georgia; married Dora Brown; d.  Feb 27 1997, Columbus, Muscogee, Georgia
  4. Velma Louise Royal, b.  Dec 26 1922, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; died  Dec 12 1923, New Bethel Cemetery, Berrien, Georgia
  5. Alva Inez ‘Mickie’ Royal, b.  May 03 1924 Ray City, Lanier, Georgia; married 1) Woodard Bailey, 2) Horace L. Grayson; died  Jan 09 2010, Beaumont, Texas
  6. Gola Wylene Royal
  7. Agnes Kathleen Royal, b.  Jul 22 1929, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; m. Dale Wilson; died  Dec 04 1972, Phoenix, Arizona
  8. Jewel Christine Royal, b.  Aug 23 1930, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; died  May 28 1944, Lakeland, Lanier, Georgia
  9. Gladys Helen Royal, b.  Aug 18 1933, Ray City, Lanier, Georgia; m. Ralph Henderson ; died  July 23, 2006, Bryon, Olmsted, Minnesota

William Lonnie Royal died March 2, 1981 in Berrien County, GA.  He was buried at Fender Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Graves of Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Fender Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Graves of Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Fender Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

 

Images and information on Mixon family history contributed in part by http://royalmixon.tribalpages.com/

Lon Fender ~ Turpentine Operator

William Alonzo “Lon” Fender was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920).  His father was a Civil War  veteran and a farmer of the Naylor district, Lowndes County, GA before moving to Ray City, GA in his final years.

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  He owned farmland near here in the 1920s and a  turpentine still at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

Lon Fender was born December 14, 1868, the 5th among 12 Fender children.  He grew up on his father’s farm in the area of Naylor in Lowndes County, Georgia.  In 1898, he married Texas Irene Hagan, a daughter of John William Hagan (1836 – 1918) and  Mary Susan “Pollie” Smith (1834 – 1908).  The couple made their home in Tifton, GA for a time, and afterward at Valdosta, GA.

The 1910 census shows “Alonzo” Fender and his brother John Franklin Fender in Valdosta, GA with their families residing in neighboring households on Patterson Street; both were occupied as turpentine operators.

His parents were still in the Naylor area at that time, renting a farm. The farm was on a road parallel to the new railroad, and was just off the “Milltown Road.”   Their neighbors were Thomas A. Ray, and  the widow Mary C. Stone.  Sometime before 1920 his parents moved to Ray City where they purchased a house on Main Street.   Lon’s older brother, Wilson W. Fender, had come there to Ray City prior to 1910 and operated a hotel there.

Lon’s father,  William Alfred Fender, died prior to the enumeration of the 1920 census. His mother remained in their Ray City, GA home until her own death (said to be later that year), living  with her widowed daughter Nita Knight, and her grand daughters Reba A. Knight, Dorothy Knight, and grandson Ezekiel Knight.  William Alfred Knight and Susannah Allen Fender are buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA, with an undated grave marker.

Lon Fender and his brothers grew to be big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  The Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, Nov. 30, 1906 edition reported one of Lon  (W. L) Fender’s big deals:

1906-lon-fender-timber-deal

Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress
Nov. 30, 1906 — page 8

TURPENTINE AND TIMBER

Big Deals Completed at Valdosta and Milltown

Valdosta, Nov. 27. – (Special)  The largest and most important turpentine and timber deal which has occurred in Georgia in many a day was consummated here Saturday.  W. L. Fender, of this city, bought the entire turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.

Among the most  significant of Lon Fender’s Ray City dealings was his 1921 acquisition of the Sirmans Tract – 2,400 acres of virgin pine forest which was situated just north of town.

November 5, 1921 -  William Lon Fender purchases the 'Sirmans Tract' near Ray City, GA.

November 5, 1921 – William Lon Fender purchases the ‘Sirmans Tract’ near Ray City, GA.

 

Valdosta Times
November 5, 1921

2,400 ACRES OF TIMBER LAND BRING $100,000

VALDOSTA, Nov. 4. – W. L. Fender, of Valdosta, has bought 2,400 acres of timber land in Berrien county for $100,100, this being the largest and most important transaction of this kind recently in south Georgia. The land belonged to the J. C. Sirmans estate and was sold by the administrators. This is virgin long leaf yellow pine, and Mr. Fender will turpentine it and afterward saw the timber.

 

This valuable tract of timber figured prominently as a part of the transaction in which the Jackson Brothers acquired the big sawmill at Ray City – simultaneously purchasing the Clements Lumber Company from the Clements Family, and the Sirmans Tract from Lon Fender.  Local and state newspapers reported the transaction:

The Nashville Herald
February 16, 1923

The new owners [Jackson Brothers] have bought the Lon Fender timber tract, which Mr. Fender bought more than a year ago from the Sirmans estate. It is one of the finest timber tracts in this section of the state. This with the other timber insight affords at least five years running yet, and there is more to be had, it is said, that will run them ten years.

The Atlanta Constitution
March 4, 1923

The [Jackson Brothers] company purchased the Sirmans Timber, the largest body of original pine in south Georgia.  Several hundred acres of this timber had not been turpentined until last year.  This body of timber sold some two years abo for over $100,000 and let at once for turpentine purposes. It lies between Milltown and Nashville. As soon as the turpentine lease is off the Jackson brothers will begin sawing.

In the fall of 1925, Lon Fender leased farmland near Ray City from John Levi Allen.  This land was most of the former Jehu Patten farm, which consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (John Allen had purchased the farm from Jehu Patten in 1902 – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

William Lon Fender continued to make his home on Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA for the rest of his life.  He died March 10, 1949 while in Baldwin County, GA, and was buried  at Sunset Cemetery in Valdosta, GA.

Grave of William Lon Fender, Sunset Cemetery,  Valdosta, GA

Grave of William Lon Fender, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA

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Feb 4, 1911 Ray’s Mill News Items

Rays Mill news items appearing in the Feb 4, 1911 Valdosta Times were about the business and social scene in the new town.

The Valdosta Times
 Saturday, February 4, 1911, page 7,
Rays Mill News Items

     Mr. A.L. Bridges has moved into his new building here.
     Mr. W. L. Swindle, of Nashville, has accepted a position with his brother, Mr. J.S. Swindle, of this place.
     Miss Leslie Langford returned to Rays Mill Wednesday night from Vidalia.
Mrs. L.  J. Clements is spending a few days in Milltown this week.
    Mr. G. V. Hardee, druggist of this place, moved in his new building Wednesday.
    Mr. I. Burkhalter made a business trip to Nashville Wednesday.
    Mr. Floyd Fender, of Tifton, is visiting Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Fender for a few days.
    Mrs. Baskin, Mrs. Terry, Mrs. Dr. Clements, Miss Fannie Clements and Miss Lessie Carter represented Beaver Dam Missionary Society at the missionary rally in Valdosta last Tuesday, January 31, and lunch was served at the Tabernacle. They report a good meeting, also a pleasant time for all who attended.
    Mr. A. L. Taylor, of Nashville, has bought Mr. J.T. Webb’s store.
    Mr. W. M. Carter, of Rays Mill, visited Tifton last Saturday returning Sunday night.
    Mr. W. H. Terry made a business trip to Valdosta Wednesday.
    Mr. George Norton spent a few days in Macon last week returning Monday night.

Ray City News appeared in The Valdosta Times, Feb 4, 1911.

Ray City News appeared in The Valdosta Times, Feb 4, 1911.

Austin Lawrence Bridges was a merchant from who came to Ray City in 1909 with his bride, Della Pope.  He bought a house on Jones Street and opened a dry goods store.

William Lawrence Swindle was a farmer of the Ray City area and former Sheriff of Berrien County.  He was a brother of James S. Swindle, and son of James Swindle, Pioneer Settler.

Leslie Alma Langford was the daughter of William E. Langford and Mary Virginia Knight, and sister of Luther Etheldred Langford. In 1918 she married Walter Greene Altman. At the time he was a clerk working for Nix & Miller Company, a sawmill in Ray City, GA, but shortly thereafter he became an ice dealer.  Later Walter owned a cafe where Leslie worked as a waitress.

Mrs. L. J. Clements was Eugenia  Watkins Clements, wife of Lucius J. Clements. Her parents were Sarah and Thomas H. Watkins, of Whitesburg, Carroll County, GA.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from La Grange College in 1907.

Gordon Vancie Hardie was a druggist and entrepreneur of Ray City.

Isaac Burkhalter, Jr was born 1863 in Clinch County, GA just weeks before his father, Captain Isaac Burkhalter was killed at Gettysburg. Isaac Burkhalter, the son, made his home at Rays Mill some time before 1900 with his wife, Marentha Sirmans, where he engaged in farming until his death.

Wilson W. Fender was the owner of the Fender Hotel in Ray City.  His wife Lena Fender was in millinery. His eldest son was telephone lineman Floyd Fender, of Tifton, and his younger son’s were Ike and Lutie. Ike Fender was a telephone operator and Lutie Fender was a soda jerk.

The Ladies of the Beaver Dam Missionary Society

  • Mrs. Baskin mentioned in the story could have been one of several Baskin women: Mary Ann Harrell Baskin, second wife of James B. Baskin; her step-daughter, Fannie Ellen Hagan Baskin; or another of the Baskin wives.  The Baskin family  helped found the Baptist Church at Ray City.
  • Mrs. Terry was Nebbie Luckie Terry. She was a daughter of William F. Luckie and wife of W. H. E. Terry, also mentioned in the article.
  • Mrs. Dr. Clements was Pauline Nelson Clements, wife of Dr. Henry Warren Clements. Dr. Clements owned  the second gasoline powered automobile in Berrien County, a Maxwell Doctor’s Roadster.
  • Miss Fannie Lola Clements was a daughter of Martha J. Cements and David C. Clements.
  • Miss Lessie E. Carter was a daughter of Lorenzo D. Carter and Anna Eliza Fender.

Jesse Thomas Webb, who sold his store in Rays Mill, was a son of Mary and John L. Webb, of the Connells Mill District. After selling his store in Rays Mill he moved to Tifton, GA and opened a store there.

William Manson Carter was a son of Lorenzo D. Carter and Anna Eliza Fender, and brother of Lessie E. Carter. In 1917 he worked as a druggist for C. O. Terry.

William Henry Edward Terry came to Ray City about 1910 and built the first brick building in the new town.

November 6, 1923 ~ Big Fire Loss at the Ray City Sawmill

sawmill bladeIt was on this date, November 6, 1923 that fire struck the big sawmill at Ray City, GA.

News of the fire was reported on the front page of the Lanier County News, of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. The sawmill owners were nationally prominent businessmen and the story was picked by the Atlanta Constitution.

The Lanier County News
Thursday, November 8, 1923, front page

Ray City Mill Had Big Fire Loss Tuesday

The Jackson Lumber Company suffered a heavy loss when their planning mill, dry kiln, a large amount of lumber and a number of tenant houses in the mill quarters at Ray City burned down Tuesday. By dint of hard work just in the knick of time the main mill was saved from destruction.
The fire started at 10:30 in the morning and spread rapidly. The hose available at Ray City reached only half way from the town to the mill, and was not till afternoon, when the Milltown hose was sent over and the fire department from Valdosta arrived on the scene with additional hose that effective work could be done. Had it not been for this timely aid the whole plant would have been wiped out.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

Jackson Lumber Company

The Jackson Brothers, owners of the Jackson Lumber Company, had purchased the entire mill operation from Clements Lumber Company for $75,000 in cash in what was described as “one of the biggest business deals pulled of in this section in some time.”  The Jackson Brothers were no strangers to big business deals, and were among the wealthiest businessmen in the south. Among their other Georgia investments were ownership of Tallapoosa Mills in Tallapoosa, GA and they were major stockholders in Couch Cotton Mill of Atlanta.

The Jackson Brothers’ purchase included two weeks run of the mill and all of the lumber inventory. The Jackson Brothers also purchased the ‘Sirman’s Timber’, the largest body of original growth pine that was still standing in south Georgia. Several hundred acres of this timber stand had not been turpentined until 1922. The same timber stand had sold around 1920 for over $100,000 and had been leased for turpentining at that time. The Sirman’s Timber stood between Milltown (nka Lakeland), GA and Nashville, GA.

The purchase was reported by the Nashville Herald on the front page of the February 6, 1923 edition.

CLEMENTS LBR. COMPANY SOLD OUT AT RAY CITY

Nashville Herald, February 16, 1923

The Clements Lumber Company one largest and oldest lumber concerns in this section of the state, was sold at Ray City last week by the Clements Brothers to Jackson Brothers, formerly of Tallapoosa, Georgia.

The Clements Lumber Company has been doing business in Ray City for twelve years, it was stated by the present owners. The Jackson Brothers are mill men of considerable experience. They were formerly in the cotton mill business.

They are said to have paid $100,000 and will assume charge of the plant at once.

The new owners have bought the Lon Fender timber tract, which Mr. Fender bought more than a year ago from the Sirmans estate. It is one of the finest timber tracts in this section of the state. This with the other timber insight affords at least five years running yet, and there is more to be had, it is said, that will run them ten years.

The Clements Brothers have not decided yet what they will do in the future.

The Jackson brothers took charge of the mill in the first week of March, 1923. They had been operating a cotton mill in San Antonio, Texas which they sold to return to their former home in Georgia.  Justin C. Jackson became the president of the Jackson Lumber Company making his home in Valdosta, GA.  Jackson Lumber Company made no immediate changes in the crew operating the sawmill at Ray City. They planned to begin sawing the Sirman’s timber just as soon as the turpentine lease was up.

Unfortunately, just eight months later on the afternoon of November 6, 1923 disaster struck. A fire broke out at the Jackson Lumber Company that threatened to consume the entire operation. According to the Atlanta Constitution, the Ray City Fire department responded – running a fire hose from the town to the sawmill, a distance of one mile. But there was only enough hose on hand to reach half the distance to the mill. The Valdosta Fire Department sent a unit with additional hose to fight the blaze. By the time the firefighters from Valdosta arrived , the dry kiln, planing mill, several employees’ cottages, and 150,000 feet of lumber had already burned and the flames had reached the sawmill. They quickly coupled their hoses to the line that had already been laid by the Ray City firemen and carried the line on to the mill. The firefighters were able to save practically all of the sawmill itself, but the damages were estimated to be $50,000 dollars. The plant was insured and it was expected that the mill would be rebuilt.

The Atlanta Constitution reported the $50,000 loss in a page 21 story in the November 8, 1923 edition.

The Nov 8, 1923 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported the sawmill fire at Ray City, GA.

The Nov 8, 1923 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported the sawmill fire at Ray City, GA.

 

Related Posts:

Ola Crews and Otis Mikell

The Minutes of the One Hundred Twentieth Annual Session of the Union Primitive Baptist Association, October 18-20, 1975 noted the passing of Ola Crews Mikell:

MEMORIAL COMMITTEE

WE, YOUR COMMITTEE ON MEMORIALS BEG TO SUBMIT OUR REPORT IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR DEAR DECEASED MEMBERS WHO HAVE BEEN CALLED AWAY SINCE OUR LAST SESSION.

…SISTER LEALA MIKELL WAS BORN SEPT. 14, 1891, MARRIED BROTHER O.W. MIKELL MARCH 7, 1909, UNITED WITH OLIVE LEAF CHURCH SEPT. 1911, CAME TO NEW RAMAH CHURCH BY LETTER FEB. 12, 1916, DEPARTED THIS LIFE FEB 14, 1975.

IT IS WITH MUCH SADNESS THAT WE RECORD THESE MEMORIALS, BUT WE SAY TO ALL THAT MOURN THEIR PASSING, WE SHARE IN YOUR LOSS, BUT WE BELIEVE THAT OUR LOSS IS THEIR ETERNAL GAIN, OUR PRAYERS THAT GOD’S RICHEST BLESSINGS WILL FILL THE EMPTINESS THAT IS LEFT BY THEIR ABSENCE.

Anne Leola “Ola” Crews was born in Clinch County, GA on   September 14, 1891, the eldest child of Perry Crews and Rhoda Guthrie. She appeared with her family in the Census of 1900 in the Mud Creek district of Clinch County. Her father was working a rented farm there.

In 1909, Ola Crews married Otis Willie Mikell in Clinch County.  Born April 8, 1885 in Berrien County, he was a tall and slender young man, with dark hair and blue eyes.  His  mother was Rebecca Lee (1845-1932). His father, John A. Mikell (1848-1889), served terms as Justice of the Peace, Road commissioner, and Deputy Sheriff in Clinch County, GA.

Otis Mikell and Ola Crews marriage certificate.

Otis Mikell and Ola Crews marriage certificate.

While the Clinch County marriage license clearly shows that O.W. Mikell and Ola Crews were joined in matrimony on March 7, 1909, census records from this period are confusing.

On the one hand, it appears that Ola continued to live with her mother for some time after her marriage.  In the 1910 census of of the Mud Creek district, Ola Crews was enumerated on April 19 in her widowed mother’s household, under her maiden name, as a single female.  Her mother, Rhoda Crews, was head-of-household, a farmer, working her land on her own account.

On the other hand, the census of Militia District 1280 in Clinch County, enumerated in May, 1910 shows  O.W. Mikell as head of household with his wife, Ola Mikell, married one year.  Otis and Ola were renting a house on the farm owned by his mother. Otis’ brother, George Calhoun Mikell,  and his family were renting the house next door.

Ola and Otis Mikell were members of the Primitive Baptist faith.  Church records show that Ola Mikell united with Olive Leaf Primitive Baptist Church near Dupont, GA in September, 1911.

Some time before 1916, Otis and Ola moved to Ray City, GA. On February 12, 1916 Ola joined with New Ramah Church at Ray City by letter.  The WWI draft registration records show Otis worked as a farmer at M.C. Lee’s place.

In the Census of 1920, Otis W. Mikell was renting a farm on a settlement road near Ray City.  By this time, the Otis and Ola’s household included their five children: Annie C., Alvin L., Cleo,  and the twins  Clementine and Pauline. Also in the Mikell home was Otis’ brother, Augustus.  Farming next door was  John Troutman from Bavaria, Germany, and boarding with him was the Primitive Baptist preacher, Alfred F. Fender.

In the 1930s,  Otis and Ola  were renting a farm and raising their children in the Lois district, near Ray City.

Children of Ola Crews and Otis Mikell:

  1. Annie Clarice Mikell 1911 – December 12, 2002
  2. Alvin Lee Mikell 1913 – 1987
  3. Lula Cleo Mikell, April 4, 1915 – October 27, 2013
  4. Pauline Mikell 1919 – 2006
  5. Clementine Mikell 1919 – 1992
  6. Ola Mae Mikell 1929 –

 

Otis Mikell died February 19, 1958. Ola Crews Mikell died Feb 14, 1975. They are both buried at New Ramah Cemetery in Ray City, along with others  of the Mikell family connection.

Ola Crews and Otis Mikell, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Ola Crews and Otis Mikell, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Early Telephone Systems Operated In Local Towns

In 1924, the Atlanta Constitution reported that a Ray City entrepreneur would purchase the Hahira telephone system.

Atlanta Constitution
March 8, 1924, Pg 8
RAY CITY MAN BUYS HAHIRA PHONE SYSTEM

    Hahira, Ga., March 7. – (Special.)  M.G. Melton, of Ray City, Ga., has purchased the Hahira telephone system from the Bank of Hahira, and will assume management at once.
    The system is comprised of 225 telephones, with rural lines running into adjacent communities, as well as being connected by the Southern Bell system for long distance service.

Unidentified 1920s Georgia switchboard operator. Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Office of Secretary of State. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/vg2,7216

Unidentified young man, 1920s Georgia switchboard operator. Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Office of Secretary of State. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/vg2,7216

By the time of Melton’s Hahira investment, Ray City also had a well established telephone system.

Ray City Public Service Company

Some time prior to 1919, the Ray City Public Service Company served as the telephone company for Ray City, Georgia.  It is said that the first telephone in town was installed at the drugstore that later became the Victory Soda Shop.  Ike Fender and Gillie Ann Cowart were among the town’s first telephone operators.

The Report of the Comptroller-General of the State of Georgia for the year ending December 31, 1922 shows that the Ray City Public Service Company had 16 miles of telephone poles and 75 miles of telephone wire.  The company paid $9.50 for telephone company taxes, and the  total value of the company property was $1,900.00.   In the Report of the Comptroller-General of the State of Georgia for the year ending December 31, 1925, the company name is give as Ray City Telephone Company. The total value of the company property was $1,888.00, and the company paid $9.44 in state taxes.

Later, M.G. Melton relocated to Hahira, but continued his commercial investments in Ray City.  An earlier post told of his intention to operate a telephone exchange in Ray City.

Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929
M.G. Melton Buys A. Turner Brick Bldgs.

   A transaction of much interest to the people of Ray City and surrounding  community is that in which Mr. M. G. Melton of Hahira purchased the two large brick buildings known as the Andrew Turner Buildings.  One of the buildings is two stories high and the top floor is needed for the telephone exchange.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps assisted with the construction of rural telephone lines. Eventually, the large telephone corporations bought out the local exchange operators.

Related Posts:

George W. Fender Buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

George W. Fender, subject of yesterday’s post,  farmed in the Ray City area for more than 50 years.   The year of his birth is most frequently given as 1854, and the census records indicate a birth date that ranges from 1854 to 1857.  But his grave marker at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia records a birth date of 1852.

George W. Fender (1852-1934) and Mary Fender (1958-1932), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

George W. Fender (1852-1934) and Mary Fender (1958-1932), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

 

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