Escape Artist Lamar Fountain Caught Again

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain

From 1968 to 1975 Lamar Fountain escaped from area jails six times to return to his friends and family at Ray City, GA. Berrien county sheriff Walter J. Gaskins composed the Ballad of Lamar Fountain to tell the story of this extraordinary escape artist. Fountain once told his jailor, “When I’m in jail, I feel like there’s a 200-pound weight on me. When I get out I feel free.”

A 1975 Newsweek article described Fountain thus, “The son of a poor but respectable Ray City family, Fountain dropped out of school early on and began running with a rowdy crowd in nearby Valdosta; later he did odd jobs driving pickups and got into a series of minor scrapes in Georgia and Florida, including a couple of rape charges that were later dropped. ‘It wasn’t rape at all,’ he maintained. ‘I got caught in bed with another man’s wife.’ Mostly his problems were just drunken brawls, and no serious charges ever stuck.”

That was until 1968 when a woman accused him of a $20 theft. When Fountain was stopped by police, he had a wallet that belonged to another man. With Fountain in jail, the authorities found he was also wanted for forging checks. Unable to provide bail, and after languishing for months behind bars waiting for arraignment before a grand jury, Lamar Fountain escaped from the Valdosta jail.

When he was apprehended, the charge of escape was added to the pending charges for theft of the wallet, the $20, and the check forgery. Lamar plead guilty and was was sentenced to more than 20 years. But all too often, Fountain was able to break away from his jailors and make his way back to “the ramshackle Kent’s Grocery in Ray City and boast to loyal neighbors about his exploits.”

The Florence Times
November 13, 1974

Escape Artist Caught Again.

      RAY CITY, Ga. – Two officers hid among the thickets, watching the marsh below. After 40 minutes, they saw a flicker of light.
They waited until a car passed on the rural highway, then advanced several feet and stopped, afraid to scare off their elusive prey. Each time a car went by, they moved a little closer.
      Finally they were only 15 feet away. Chief Deputy Robert Swanson stood up, shone his flashlight and identified himself as a Berrien County Police Officer.
“Y’all got me, just don’t shoot,” said the heavily bearded man, putting down his fishing pole and flash light, taped over to dim the light.
      And so Sunday night ended the latest escape in the remarkable career of Lamar Fountain.
     Seventy-eight days before, Fountain
, 54, had escaped from Thomas County jail. It was his third escape of the summer and sixth since 1968 when he first was arrested on three minor theft charges – a $37 bad check charge an two alleged thefts of $5 and $20.
    During previous escapes, Fountain had traveled to California and New Jersey. But he had been homesick and had trouble getting jobs without revealing his telltale Social Security number, so he returned each time to south Georgia where relatives could help him, and where, each time, he was caught.

      This time Fountain never left the swamplands around his native Ray City and Swanson said, “lots of folks said we wold never catch him.”
In fact, authorities said, many local residents aided the escapee.
      But Swanson knew the area well from his own duck hunting trips and some residents helped by calling the sheriff’s office each time they spotted Fountain, allowing officers to keep trak of his approximate location.
      Swanson said Fountain had been living in a small shelter in the woods, made of cyprus poles and insulated with linoleum and moss. Inside were a makeshift bunk, jugs of fresh water and cooking utensils.
      Fountain was sentenced in 1969 to 20 years for the three thefts and his first escape. He faces additional time for each of his five subsequent escapes.
      Wearing a two-inch beard and suffering from a cold, Fountain said yesterday that he just wants to go home to his native Ray City to raise cattle and hogs.
      “I want out. I’ve never done anything wrong except when I was drunk. But I don’t drink anymore. My body just can’t stand it.
      “I hope some people will get involved in my case and give me another chance. I’ve served six years already. That’s long enough for a $5 theft.”
       Fountain declined to reveal the tricks he used to elude search parties and bloodhounds. “I may need to use them again,” he said.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.


J. H. Gaskins and the Draft Board Scandal

James Henry Gaskins

James Henry Gaskins

On this date 96 years ago today, December 16, 1917, a World War I draft board scandal blazed across the front page headlines of  The Atlanta Constitution.  Draft Board members in Fulton county and one in Berrien County, J. H. Gaskins, were summarily dismissed.

James Henry Gaskins, a former resident of the Ray City, GA area, was a clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA (see Clerk).  He  had been appointed as clerk of the Berrien County Exemption Board with the implementation of the WWI Selective Service Act in 1917.  The local exemption boards, composed of leading civilians in each community, were responsible for the administration of the selective draft. These boards issued draft calls in order of numbers drawn in a national lottery and determined exemptions based on the draftees’ dependents, essential occupations, or conscientious objection.

Gaskins was dismissed from the Exemption Board in December, 1917 after he became embroiled in a scandal over reward money for capture of a man who had failed to report for the draft. He continued, however, to hold his position in the clerk’s office of the Superior Court.

The following material, excerpted from the headline article, describes Gaskins case:

The Atlanta Constitution
December 16, 1917 
PRESIDENT FIRES FULTON EXEMPTION BOARD: Fulton Board Members Discharged by President.


44 Per Cent of Whites Examined Were Excused on Physical Grounds, While Very Few Negroes Were Exempted From Service According to Statistics.

President Wilson has summarily discharged the entire exemption board of Fulton county, on the ground that the board has granted a large number of unwarranted exemptions and discharges.
    Statistics compiled from an investigation in the action of the Fulton county exemption board shows that out of 618 white men called in Fulton county, 526 were exempted, and that the number of men exempted on physical grounds amounted to 44 per cent of the total white men called.  On the other hand, the statistics show that 202 negroes were called in Fulton county, and only six negroes were exempted on any ground whatsoever.
    Major Joel B. Mallet, in charge of the administration of the selective service law in Georgia, on Saturday transmitted to the Fulton exemption board the order of the provost marshal general, from the president, discharging the board…

    Major Mallet has also received, through Provost Marshal General Crowder, an order discharging J. H. Gaskins, clerk of the Berrien county exemption board, for an alleged attempt to graft a part of a reward for the capture of a deserter.  T. J. Griffin, Sr., of Nashville, Ga., has been appointed to succeed Mr. Gaskins.
    The cases of both Mr. Gaskins and the Fulton county exemption board are still in the hands of the department of justice for whatever disposition the department may see fit to make of the cases.
    Gaskins is alleged to have written a letter to the chief of police of Detroit, stating that he held the name and Detroit address of a Berrien county negro who was classed as a deserter for failure to report, and that he would furnish the chief with information for the arrest of the negro on condition the chief would send him $25 of the $50 reward which the chief would receive upon presenting his prisoner at the nearest training camp.  The chief forwarded the letter to the provost marshal general.

Case of Mr. Gaskins.

    The discharge of Mr. Gaskins from the Berrien county board came when the provost marshal general, upon receipt of Gaskins’ letter to the Detroit chief of police, asked Major Mallet to make an investigation.   Major Mallet wrote to Mr. Gaskins and asked him for the name, serial and order number of the deserter he had written to the Detroit chief about.  Mr. Gaskins came forward with the information. A copy of his letter was sent to Washington, and his removal followed.
    Mr. Gaskins letter to the Detroit chief of police was as follows:
“Chief of Police, Detroit, Mich.
    “Dear Sir:  I have a negro who is in your city and he is a deserter, and if you will give me $25 out of the  $50 reward I will give you his name and street number, together with copies of his registration and medical examination blanks that are required under the rules.  You understand, under the rules, you only have to deliver him to the nearest training camp.  Kindly wire or write me by return mail that you will do this.  I will forward the necessary papers above mentioned.
     “Yours truly,
(signed)           “J. H. GASKINS”

    This letter was forwarded by the Detroit chief to Provost Marshall General Crowder.  General Crowder kept the original and sent a copy to Major Mallet, asking an investigation, commenting that “such action is entirely improper on the part of any member of any board.
    “The seriousness of the character of the offense,” continued General Crowder, “prompts me to request an immediate investigation and report to this office by you.”
    Major Mallet wrote to Mr. Gaskins:
    “Will you kindly forward to this office your letter to the chief of police of Detroit, Mich., along with the name of the deserter referred to.”

    Mr. Gaskins replied to Major Mallet:
    “I have your letter and beg to advise that the negro, LeRoy Whittaker, order No. 126, serial No. 1456, was delivered to proper authorities at Camp Wheeler, November 6.”
     This letter was forwarded to the provost marshal general, together with a copy of the letter which Major Mallet wrote to Mr. Gaskins.

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James Henry Gaskins – Clerk of the Superior Court

Ray City, GA Veterans of World War 

James Henry Gaskins – Clerk of the Superior Court

James Henry “Jim” Gaskins (1872 – 1928), mason, elected official, and son of a prominent Wiregrass family,  served for about 3o years as a clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA.

When James Henry Gaskins was serving as Deputy Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, he lived in the Connell's Mill District, near Ray City, GA.

While serving as Deputy Clerk of the Berrien County Superior Court, James Henry Gaskins lived in the Connell’s Mill District, near Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of

Born October 24, 1872, James Henry “Jim” Gaskins  came from a long line of Gaskins who were pioneer settlers of the Berrien County, GA area. Born and raised in Berrien County, he was a son of the Reverend Fisher H. Gaskins and Pollie Gaskins.

Construction of the Berrien County, GA Courthouse, 1898. For three decades James Henry "Jim" Gaskins worked in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County.  Image courtesy of

Construction of the Berrien County, GA Courthouse, 1898. For three decades James Henry “Jim” Gaskins worked in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County. Image courtesy of

In 1900, Jim Gaskins was enumerated in the Connell’s Mill District, Georgia Militia District 1329, near Ray City, GA. At age 29, he was living in his parents household and was employed as the deputy clerk of the Berrien Superior Court.

Jim Gaskins’  father died in 1905. Sometime before the census of  1910, Jim and his widowed mother moved to Nashville, GA where they lived in a home on Dennis Street.  Gaskins continued to serve as deputy clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County.

On Thursday, September 2, 1915 James Henry Gaskins married Charity Maybelle “Belle” Strickland in Berrien County, GA.  The ceremony was performed by the Justice of the Peace, J. H. Hull.

Family of James Henry "Jim" Gaskins and Charity Maybelle "Belle" (Strickland), circa 1920. Children are Homer Lee Gaskins(L) and Daniel Bates Gaskins (R). In the 1920s James Henry Gaskins was Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of

Family of James Henry “Jim” Gaskins and Charity Maybelle “Belle” (Strickland), circa 1920. Children are Homer Lee Gaskins(L) and Daniel Bates Gaskins (R). In the 1920s James Henry Gaskins was Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of

With the onset of World War I in 1917,  James Henry Gaskins was appointed as clerk of the Berrien County Exemption Board.  Administration of the selective draft  was entrusted to local boards, composed of leading civilians in each community. These boards, known as Exemption Boards, issued draft calls in order of numbers drawn in a national lottery and determined exemptions for dependency, essential occupations, or conscientious objection.  Gaskins was dismissed from the Exemption Board in December, 1917 after he became embroiled in a scandal over reward money for capture of a draft dodger.  He continued, however to hold his position in the clerk’s office of the Superior Court.

In 1919,  a sizable transaction over the timber rights of the Gaskins family land was noted in state newspapers.

The Atlanta Constitution
December 16, 1919


    Valdosta, Ga., December 15.– (Special.) The sale of saw mill and turpentine privileges on the Fisher H. Gaskins lands in Berrien county, which has just been consummated, establishes a record price for timber and disposes of one of the finest of the few bodies of round timber now left in the state.  The lands in question are located a few miles northwest of Nashville, 8,000 acres covered with magnificent long-leaf yellow pine which has never been worked by turpentine or saw mill men.
    Willis & Norman, turpentine operators who have been located for some time at Mineola in this county, bought the Gaskins lands, paying $200,000 for the saw mill and turpentine rights on the 8,000 acres.  It is understood that Willis and Norman will begin operation on the tract as soon as possible, working the timber for naval stores first.  It will require about three years’ time to complete the turpentine operations, after which a large saw mill will be built, probably at Nashville, to cut the merchantable timber on the tract.

By 1920 Jim Gaskins was elected Clerk of Berrien County.  He and Belle, and their young family were in the house on Dennis Street in Nashville, GA. Boarding next door were former Ray City residents, Dr. Guy Selman, and his wife Bessie.

Jim Gaskins died in the summer of 1928 while still serving as Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County, GA.    Lilla Gaskins Whiddon was appointed to serve as Clerk until an election could be called.

The Atlanta Constitution
July 11, 1928

To Elect Clerk.

    Valdosta, Ga., July 10. — Voter of Berrien county will select a successor to J. H. Gaskins, clerk of the superior court, on September 12, the same date as the state primary.
    The death of Mr. Gaskins last week was followed by the appointment of Mrs. Lilla Gaskins Whiddon as acting clerk until an election could be called. 
The executive committee, after considering the matter , decided upon September 12 as the date and fixed July 20 as the date for closing the entries and a fee of $25 is charged for each candidate.


Grave of James Henry Gaskins and Charity Maybelle Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of James Henry Gaskins and Charity Maybelle Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

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1922 Spring Fever Hits Ray City

In these Valdosta Daily Times personal mentions from the spring of 1922, the Ray City news items were mostly about the social activities of the young people of the community.  An interesting note is the  mention of the Ray City Band and the musical troupe’s excursion to Valdosta, GA.

Valdosta Daily Times
April 6, 1922.


    Ray City, Ga., April 5. –Miss Eula Lee Connell and Miss Lilla Gaskins, accompanied by Miss Connell’s parents, spent Sunday with Mr. and Mrs. O. B. Connell, of Valdosta.
    Miss Gola Tom Gaskins was the guest of Miss Gola Flem Gaskins Saturday night and Sunday.  They were accompanied by Mr. Harvey Clements Sunday afternoon for an afternoon ride.
    Mr. Fred Williams was the company of Miss Inez Webb Sunday afternoon.
    Miss Eula Walden spent Sunday with Miss Mae Bowden.
    The Ray City band went to Valdosta Sunday afternoon for a concert with them.
    Mis Beulah Lee spent the weekend with Miss Jennie Watson.
    Miss Gola Tom Gaskins will be the guest of Miss Eula Lee Connell during the week-end of Easter.
    Mr. Grover Combs was a visitor to Miss Minnie Gaskins Saturday afternoon.
    Miss Mary Shaw and Miss Julia McClelland spent Saturday night and Sunday with Miss Mona Strickland.
    Mr. Albert Bradford was a visitor to Miss Rachel Wetherington last Saturday night.
    Mr. Adrian Williams was the visitor of Miss Ethelyn Terry Sunday night.


Additional Notes

Eighteen year-old Lilla Gaskins, was a daughter of Daniel Jackson Gaskins and Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Gray. The Gaskins made their home on Cat Creek Road in the Lois community. Lilla’s friend and neighbor, Eula Lee Connell, age 14, was a daughter of Clinton D Connell and Reedy M Connell.   That week, Lilla travelled with the Connells to visit their relatives, Mamie and Oscar B. Connell, in Valdosta, GA. Later, Lilla Gaskins would serve as the Berrien County Clerk of the Superior Court.

Another neighbor and cousin was sixteen year old Golie Gaskins, daughter of Mary E. and Flemming B. Gaskins. She was was visiting with another cousin of the same name and age who was the daughter of Linie and William Thomas Gaskins. Their companion was Harvey J. Clements, son of Henry Clements of Ray City.

Vida Inez Webb, of Ray City, was a daughter of James Alford Webb and Pearlie Ann Register. In 1922, she was being courted by Fred S. Williams of Cat Creek. They were married the following year.  Later, Vida Inez Webb married Perry Lee Pittman.

Mae Bowden was a daughter of Ressa and Hayne Bowden. The Bowdens had a home on Main Street in Ray City, where her father was a barber.

Beulah Lee was the 18 year old daughter of Wealthy Mathis and John A. Lee. They lived at Ray City on the  Willacoochee Road, on the farm of Beulah’s brother, Robert E. Lee. She spent the last weekend of March, 1922 with her friend Jennie Watson.  This may have been 18-year-old Jentis Watson, daughter of Samuel I. Watson who had a place on the Ray City & Mud Creek Road.

Miss Minnie Gaskins, another daughter of Daniel J. Gaskins and sister to Lilla Gaskins, was called upon by Grover Cleveland Combs, who would later own a restaurant in Valdosta.

Mona Strickland, 16 year-old daughter of John and Onnie Strickland of the Lois community near Ray City, entertained guests Julia McClelland, of Adel, and Mary Vera Shaw, of Ray City.

Rachel Wetherington was the 15-year-old daughter of Bell and Linton A Wetherington, of Cat Creek. Her visitor was Albert Bradford, a 19-year-old Gaskins cousin, son of the widow Maggie Gaskins Bradford, of Lois. His father, Mack Tally Bradford, died in 1919.

Ethelyn Terry was the 16-year-old daughter of Mary V. and Jack Terry. Her father had a farm on the Valdosta Road at Ray City, near the places of John W. Cowart, Mallie Shaw and Lewis W. Register. Ethelyn’s caller was Herman Adrian Williams of Cat Creek.


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Almost Gone ~ Graves of D. Edwin Griner and Sarah Rouse at New Ramah Cemetery

Grave marker of D. Edwin Griner (June 21, 1870 - March 12, 1942), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Grave marker of D. Edwin Griner (June 21, 1870 – March 12, 1942), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

In the 1930’s D. Edwin Griner  was a miller working at a grist mill in Ray City, GA.  He and his wife, Sarah “Sallie” Rouse grew up in Berrien County, GA and lived for many years in and around Ray City.   They are buried at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA, although their grave markers have become almost illegible.

The cemetery at New Ramah is well tended these days, although the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church was torn down last year. The concrete markers of Edwin and Sallie Griner have not suffered from neglect, just from the wear of time. Concrete is less durable than granite: Memory less durable than concrete.

Here, then, is a brief tribute to the memory of  Edwin and Sallie Griner:

D. Edwin Griner was born June 21, 1870 in Berrien County, GA, a scion of the earliest pioneer families of Georgia and of Berrien County. He was the eldest son of Sallie Gaskins and Samuel Griner.

His father was Samuel Jackson Griner (1848-1909). He was descended from the Greiner family who came to Georgia with the Salzberger immigration. Edwin’s Great Grandfather, Captain John Griner fought in the Revolutionary War.

His mother, Sarah C. “Sallie” Gaskins, was the daughter of Harmon and Malissa Gaskins, early settlers of Berrien County.  Her father fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek, the last real engagement with the Indians in this region.

Although the grave marker of D. Edwin Griner bears the birthdate of June 21, 1870, he is not recorded in his parents household in the Census of 1870, since the census that year only enumerated “the name of each Person whose place of abode, on 1st day of June, 1870, was in this family.” At the time of his birth, Edwin’s parents were living in the 1148th Georgia Militia District, and posting their mail in Nashville, GA.

Edwin’s father, Samuel J. Griner, worked as a farmer, although at 21 years of age he did not yet have any land of his own – he had $284 in his personal estate. Perhaps he was working the land owned by one of his  many Gaskins in-laws who lived nearby.

Through 1880, Edwin’s father continued to farm in the 1148th Georgia Militia District. Ten-year-old Edwin attended school, as did his younger siblings who were old enough. Although his mother was occupied “keeping house,” she had evidently suffered a disability of some type, for the 1880 census record shows that she was, “Maimed, Crippled, Bedridden, or otherwise disabled.”

On October 22, 1894 D. Edwin Griner married Sarah “Sallie” Rouse in Berrien County, GA.  She was the daughter of Robert and Kizzia Rouse. The couple made their home in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Rays Mill District where the census of 1900 shows they owned a farm near Sallie’s parents and others of the family connection.

D. Edwin Griner and Sallie Rouse were married October 22, 1894 in Berrien County, GA.

D. Edwin Griner and Sallie Rouse were married October 22, 1894 in Berrien County, GA.

In 1910, Edwin  and Sarah Griner were enumerated by census taker Redding D. Swindle there in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Rays Mill District, along with son William, and daughter Sarah V.  The Griners owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage, where Edwin was farming on his own account. Sarah’s family was farming in the same neighborhood. Her brother, Joseph Rouse, was working the farm next door, and also in Joseph’s household was her widowed mother, Kizzie N. Rouse. Nearby, was the farm of another brother, Alfred Rouse.

Some time prior to 1920 D. Edwin Griner moved his family to Clinch County, GA where he owned a farm on the Stockton Road in the Mud Creek District.  Edwin and  son, Willie, did the farming while his Sarah and daughter, Sarah V., kept house.

By 1930, the Griners had moved back to Ray City, Berrien County, GA.  They had a house in town valued at $700.  The household included Edwin, Sarah, and their son,  William, who had lost his wife.    Thelma Sirmans and her boys were renting the place next door, and the blacksmith, Henry Woodard, was another neighbor.  Edwin worked as a miller, a wage employee at a local grist mill.  His gravemarker shows that he was also a Mason, perhaps a member of the Ray City lodge No. 553, or one of the other local lodges.

D. Edwin Griner died March 12, 1942. He was buried at New Ramah Cemetery on Park Street, Ray City, GA.  At his side rests Sarah “Sallie” Rouse Griner.  No date of death is discernible on the concrete headstone marking her grave, but her obituary gives her date of death as January 29, 1951.

Sarah "Sallie" Rouse Griner, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Sarah “Sallie” Rouse Griner, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Griner graves at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Left: Sarah "Sallie" Rouse Griner. Middle: D. E. Griner. Right: Willie "Bill" Edwin Griner.

Griner graves at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Left: Sarah “Sallie” Rouse Griner. Middle: D. E. Griner. Right: Willie “Bill” Edwin Griner.

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Sarah Knight Gaskins ~ Confederate Widow

Confederate Widows PensionSarah Knight, daughter of Ann D. Clements and General Levi J. Knight,  was born 06 April 6, 1831 in Lowndes, Co., Ga.  Her husband, Gideon Gaskins, died during the Civil War. He was a son of  Polly Barrow and John Gaskins.

On September 19, 1863, Levi J. Knight applied to become guardian of the children of his deceased son-in-law, Gideon Gaskins.  The required legal advertisement ran in the newspapers at Milledgeville, GA then serving as the state capitol.

Milledgeville Confederate Union, Oct. 13, 1863.
GEORGIA Berrien County.
Whereas Levis J. Knight applies for letters of Guardianship of the person and property of the minor heirs of Gidieon Gaskins.
All persons interested will file their objections if any in my office by the first monday in November next orterwise letters will be granted.

     Witnessed my official signature.
H.T. PEEPLES, Ordinary.
Sept. 19th 1963.      Paid $3    19 5t

With the death of her husband, Sallie was left a widow with six children, one a newborn, to raise on her own.

Children of Gideon and Sarah “Sallie” Knight Gaskins:

  1. Polly Ann Gaskins –  born March 10, 1849;   married Daniel J. Jones, September 28, 1863
  2. John Brinson Gaskins – born April 8, 1852;   married Fannie Lankford January 18, 1874
  3. Elizabeth Gaskins –  born June 28, 1854;   died sometime before 1860
  4. Mary Evelyn Gaskins  –  born January 14, 1858;   married George W. Fender, December 29, 1870
  5. Levi J. Gaskins  –  born 18 Nov 1860;   married Mary Strickland,  February 24, 1878
  6. Jonathan Wade Gaskins –  born 28 July 1862;   married Mary Corbett, February 28, 1896

In 1891, Sarah “Sallie” Gaskins applied for and received a Confederate Widow’s Pension of $100.00. Her claim was based on the fact that Gideon Gaskins had died in the army of disease contracted while in the service. Henry Harrison Knight, John G. Knight, and John W. Hagan all signed the affidavit  attesting to the service and good standing of Gideon Gaskins.  She continued to receive the yearly pension payment through her death in 1903.

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John Gaskins ~ Berrien Cattleman

John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distance from today’s Ray City, GA location.

Although the Gaskins were a bit remote from those settlers who homesteaded in the area around Beverdam Creek, they became well connected with the settlement there that grew to become Ray City.

The Gaskins and Knights  came to the area about 1825,  around the time Lowndes County was created by the Georgia Legislature out of parts of Irwin County. The Clements followed about 1832.  Fisher Gaskins, William Clements and William A. Knight, the patriarchs of these families, were all sons of Revolutionary Soldiers, and all experienced in opening new counties.

One son of John Gaskins married Sarah Knight, a daughter of General Levi J. Knight.  Another married a daughter of David G. Clements. (Four of Gaskins’ sons married women of the Sirmans family.) Daughter Emily Gaskins married Joseph Newbern, son of Etheldred Dryden Newbern .

John Gaskins and his brothers, Harmon and William, served in  Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company  in the Indian Wars 1836-1838 and fought at the Battle of Brushy Creek.  At least one of his sons served in Knight’s  Berrien Minutemen  during the Civil War.

The Gaskins were very successful cattlemen of Berrien county (formerly Lowndes). Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote this about Fisher Gaskins:

“When he moved to Florida, he left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

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Ballad of Lamar Fountain ~ Escape Artist

From 1968 to 1975 Lamar Fountain escaped from area jails six times to return to his friends and family at Ray City, GA.  Berrien county sheriff Walter J. Gaskins composed the Ballad of Lamar Fountain to tell the story of this extraordinary escape artist.   Fountain once told his jailor, “When I’m in jail, I feel like there’s a 200-pound weight on me. When I get out I feel free.”  In 1975 the story of Lamar Fountain made the national news.

Ballad of Lamar Fountain

Lamar Fountain was not a bad man;
He went to prison in this great land.
Whisky and women were the cause of it all;
That’s been many a man’s downfall.
Poor Lamar Fountain.

Many days and nights have come and gone
Since Lamar left his loved ones at home
He suffered many days and nights away,
Thinking of his parents who were old and gray.
Poor Lamar Fountain.

He escaped first from the Valdosta jail
Because he was unable to make bail.
Some of the leaders of this great land
Have committed crimes much worse than this man.
Poor Lamar Fountain.

A man with no money can only say
With God’s help he’ll be free someday.
As a law-enforcement officer I can’t stand
To see advantage took of any poor man.
Poor Lamar Fountain!

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