Isham Watson, Revolutionary Soldier

Isham Watson, Revolutionary Soldier (1759-1842)

Isham Watson,  a veteran of the Revolutionary War,  and his wife Rhoda Ann Oswald came to Lowndes County, GA about 1831. At least one of their children, son Frederick Watson, came with them to Georgia.  Lowndes county then encompassed  present day Lowndes, as well as Berrien County, Tift, Cook, Brooks, Atkins, Lanier, and  Echols counties. The county seat was at Franklinville, on the Withlacoochee River (although the river was then labeled on maps as the Ockolacoochee). Isham Watson’s place was on Lot 100, 12th Land District, about 10 miles west of Franklinville, and about two miles east of the Little River (labeled on the original land plats as the Withlacoochee).

Isham Watson was born about 1759 in Dobbs County (now Wayne County),  in the British Crown Colony of North Carolina. He  was one of ten children born to Samuel Watson (1731-1784) and Christine Watson (1740-1810).  He grew to young adulthood during the time of escalating tension between England and the American Colonies.

“In the early 1770’s, North Carolina sentiment on the subject of independence was fairly evenly divided. Back country settlers in 1771 openly defied royal authority, but they were successfully quelled by Governor William Tryon at the Battle of Alamance. By 1775, North Carolinians had generally split into two factions: patriots, who were willing to fight England for independence; and loyalists, who were either strongly in favor of British rule or those who did not feel that war was a way to redress grievances.”

Following on news of the fighting  at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, the patriots of North Carolina  began organizing Continental Army and militia units. Isham Watson was among those who were willing to fight for independence.  By the age of 16, he joined Captain John Sheppard’s Company of the Dobbs County Regiment of Militia.  The Dobbs County Regiment, led by Col. Abraham Sheppard, Maj. Martin Caswell, and Maj. William McKinnie, would play a pivotal role in the opening of hostilities in the Revolutionary War.

When Governor Josiah Martin learned of patriot military preparations he fled the palace at New Bern and by July was on board a British warship off the North Carolina shore.

With Governor Martin out of the colony the patriots established a provisional government and began mobilizing their forces.

From his exile, Governor Martin organized a plan to recapture the colony. He hoped to raise a loyalist army of 10,000, many of which would be back-country Highland Scots. The army would then march to the coast and join a British expeditionary force led by Lord Cornwallis, Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker. Together they would be able to re-establish royal authority in the Carolinas.

By February 15, 1776 Governor Martin’s Tory army assembled at Cross Creek (now Fayetteville), NC, mustering about 1,600 loyalists, including some 500 Scots armed with broadswords.   Under the command of Brigadier General Donald McDonald and lieutenant Colonel Donald McLeod, the Tory force began the march down the Cape Fear River to link up the the British regular forces on the coast at Wilmington where Cornwallis and Clinton had six regiments of British regulars  and a fleet of seventy-two ships to control the coast. The goal was to divide the northern and southern colonies.

But through a series of troop maneuvers and posturing, the patriots  managed to intercept the Tory army at Moores Creek Bridge.

On February 20, MacDonald began his march toward the coast; however, he found his way barred by Moore at Rockfish Creek. Instead of bringing on a fight the loyalists turned eastward and crossed the Cape Fear River. With Moore outmaneuvered, another patriot leader, Colonel Richard Caswell with 800 men [private Isham Watson and the Dobbs County Militia among them] rushed to take possession of the bridge on Widow Moores’ Creek, a crossing the loyalists must make in order to reach Wilmington. Moore sent 200 men with Colonel Alexander Lillington to reinforce Caswell and with his own force followed the enemy in hope of attacking his rear.

Lillington arrived at Moores Creek Bridge on the 25th and erected an earthwork on a slight rise overlooking the bridge and its approaches. The creek at this point is a dark, sluggish stream about 50 feet wide and 5 feet deep. A simple wooden bridge provided passage across the creek, but much of the terrain adjacent to the crossing was swampy.

With Caswell’s arrival on the 25th the patriot strength climbed to 1,000 men. Instead of joining Lillington, Caswell crossed the creek to the western bank and prepared a position there.

When the loyalists neared the creek and learned of the presence of the patriots, they had to decide whether to march in another direction or to fight. After a lengthy debate, the younger leaders prevailed and the decision was to fight. MacDonald was ill, so McLeod commanded the attack. Captain John Campbell with 75 picked broadswordsmen was to lead the charge into Caswell’s camp. However, a reconnaissance warned Caswell of his vulnerable position so he withdrew across the creek to the position of Lillington’s earthwork.

Caswell’s troops left their campfires burning as they quietly shifted across the bridge. Thus, on the evening of February 26th, 1776,  Private Watson found himself along with the other patriots “entrenched on a sandy elevation, about one hundred yards [east] from the bridge. The flooring of the bridge was taken up, the pine pole girders thoroughly greased with tallow, over which quantities of soft soap were poured to make crossing the more difficult, and then the patriots resolutely awaited the coming of the Tories.”

An hour before dawn on February 27, the loyalists struck Caswell’s deserted camp and found only low-burning campfires. McLeod quickly regrouped his men and when musket fire was heard near the bridge, they charged with the rallying cry, “King George and Broad Swords.” Though it was not daylight, they rushed the partly-demolished bridge with claymores drawn and bagpipes skirling.  As the advance party struggled across the bridge, they were met with a hail of musketry and artillery fire.

North Carolina Patriots , Private Isham Watson among them, defeated loyalist militia at Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Isham Watson later moved to Lowndes County, GA.

North Carolina Patriots , Private Isham Watson among them, defeated loyalist militia at Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Isham Watson later moved to Lowndes County, GA.

“From their well-defended position, hundreds of patriots trained their guns on the loyalist Scots who charged from the shadows in the light of dawn.  But bravery and broadswords were no match for muskets and cannon.  Within seconds, the front ranks of the loyalists were decimated. Some lay dead below the earthworks, while others drowned in Moore’s Creek.”

The patriots counter-attacked with vigor, producing a loyalist rout. The battle lasted only three minutes, with the patriots losing but one man.

A firsthand account of the battle was written by Colonel Richard Caswell in a letter published in 1776 in  John Almon’s work The Remembrancer.

1776-feb-29-caswell-letter-2

Extract of a letter from Col. Richard Caswell, late a delegate for the province of North Carolina in the Continental Congress, and now commander of a body of troops in that Province, to the Hon. Cornelius Harnett, Esq: president of the Provincial council of North Carolina, dated from his camp at Long Creek, Feb. 29, 1776

“I have the pleasure to acquaint you that we had and engagement with the Tories at Widow Moore’s Creek bridge on the 27th current.  Our army was about one thousand strong, consisting of the Newbern battalion of minute-men, the militia from Craven, Johnston, Dobbs, and Wake, and a detachment of the Wilmington battalion of minute-men which we found encamped at Moore’s Creek bridge the night before the battle, under command of Colonel Lillington.  The Tories, by common report, were three thousand; but General Mcdonald, who we have a prisoner, says there were about fifteen or sixteen hundred. He was unwell that day, and not in battle. Captain McLeod, who seemed to be the principal commander, with Captain John Campbell, are among the slain. The number killed and mortally wounded, from the best accounts I was able to collect, was about thirty; most of them were shot on passing the bridge.  Several had fallen into the water, some of whom, I am pretty certain, had not risen yesterday evening when I left the camp.  Such prisoners as we have made say there were at least fifty of their men missing.

The Tories were totally put to the rout, and will certainly disperse. Colonel Moore arrived at our camp a few hours after the engagement was over. His troops came up that evening, and are now encamped on the ground where the battle was fought. And Colonel Martin is at or near Cross-Creek, with a large body of men. Those, I presume, will be sufficient effectually to put a stop to any attempt to embody again. I therefore, with Colonel Moore’ s consent, am returning to Newbern, with the troops under my command, where I hope to receive your orders to dismiss them. There I Intend carrying the General. If the Council should rise before my arrival, be pleased to give order in what manner he shall be disposed of. Our officers and men behaved with the spirit and intrepidity becoming freemen, contending for their dearest privileges.

RICHARD CASWELL.

To the Hon˙ Cornelius Harnett, President of the Provincial Congress of North-Carolina.

After the battle, the Patriots captured hundreds of loyalists, large quantities of weapons, supplies, and more than £15,000 ($13,850,000 in today’s money).  The Patriot victory at Moores  Creek Bridge played a significant role in ending the British ambitions in North Carolina.

Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, References:

Almon, J. 1776. The Remembrancer, or Impartial repository of public events
Lewis, J. D. 2012. The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge
Moore, F. 1876. Record of the Year, a Reference Scrap Book: Being the Monthly Record of Important Events Worth Preserving, Together with a Selection of the Choicest Current Miscellany, Volume 1, pg 207
National Park Service. 1969. Moores Creek National Military Park Master Plan: History
North Carolina. 1907. The Battle of Moores Creek Bridge in Literary and Historical Activities in North Carolina, 1900-1905.Pg 215

Dobbs County militia participated in a number of subsequent battles in the Revolutionary War, but Isham Watson’s is not known to have been present.  He continued to reside in Wayne County, NC.

On February 12, 1781 Isham Watson was among the citizens of Wayne County, NC signing a petition to the North Carolina General Assembly requesting the appointment of new county commissioners to select a sight for the county courthouse, the former commissioners have failed to select a central location.  It is interesting that so trivial an event of local governance would take up the time and attention of the citizens of Wayne County or the NC General Assembly in light of the fact that Lord Cornwallis was then occupying North Carolina, forcing Nathanael Green’s Continental Army troops to retreat into Virginia.

The British fortunes were quickly reversed. Despite a British victory at Guilford Court House, Cornwallis was unable to control the colony. Just months later, George Washington’s victory at Yorktown would end the major conflicts in America.

Isham Watson remained in Wayne County, NC after the war. The census of 1790 show he was a slaveholder there with 9 slaves.

About 1831, Isham Watson and his wife came to Lowndes County, GA originally settling in Folsom’s District.  Among other Revolutionary soldiers homesteading in Lowndes County were John Davis, Henry Hayman, Gideon Elvington, and William Peters.

In the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery, Revolutionary Soldiers were given extra draws, and Isham Watson, of Lowndes County, GA was a fortunate drawer. He drew a lot in Cherokee County, GA, but it appears that he never occupied the property, and quickly sold it.

The 1834 property tax digests of Lowndes County, GA show that Isham Watson owned 490 acres of pine lands in Section 1, District 12, Lot 100,  Captain Caswell’s District.

The last record of Isham Watson appears in the 1840 Census of Lowndes County, GA.  He died in the 1840s; the location of his grave is not known.

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Watson Grade News May 27, 1904

 

Family of Samuel W. Watson

Family of Samuel W. Watson
Samuel. W. Watson (1863-1925), a son of Mark R. Watson and Rachel Slaughter, was born and raised in the Rays Mill district (1144 Georgia Militia District).
Back Row: James Watson (= Jim Watson, died single, ~28 yo), Bertha Watson (later, married Joe Outlaw). Middle Row: Samuel W. Watson (= Samuel Watson, Sam Watson),Elizabeth Betsy (Boykin) Watson . Front Row: Georgian Ann, Watson , later married Lewis Keeffe), Mark A. Watson (= Mark Watson), circa 1900. Courtesy of Bill Outlaw http://berriencountyga.com/

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Watson Grade News, Tifton Gazette, May 27, 1904

Watson Grade News, Tifton Gazette, May 27, 1904

Tifton Gazette
May 27, 1894

Watson Grade News.

    We had some very nice raining with some hail last Tuesday.
    Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Patten, of Adel, were visitors in this section last Saturday and Sunday.
    The school at ‘Possum Trot closed last Saturday with appropriate exercises and an excellent dinner. The school was under the management of Mr. Walter Patten and was a success in every respect.
    Miss Merl Smith, of High Springs is visiting Miss Belle Patten.
    Barney, the six months’ old son of Mr. and Mrs. B. H. Akins died last Saturday of fever, near this place, after an illness of four weeks.  The remains were interred in Empire cemetery Sunday afternoon.
    Mr. S. W. Watson, of Irwin, was in this section last week looking after some lands that are for sale.
    Mr. K. E. Stapleton, of Milltown, is very sick at this writing.
    Oat cutting is the order of the day now.
    Mr. Mansfield Shaw and Miss Addie Greene were united in marriage Sunday afternoon, Rev. A. A. Knight officiating.
    Mr. R. M. Greene is in Idaho, traveling for a buggy company.
    Mr. M. C. Lee killed a rattlesnake near his yard one day last week that measured nearly six feet.
    Miss Fannie Clements, of Rays Mill, is visiting relatives in this section.
    Miss Rhoda Greene,  who has been very sick for the past week, is convalesing.
    Quite a crowd of young folks enjoyed a social entertainment at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Clements last Saturday evening.
    Miss Mary Clements, of Rays Mill, is visiting her sister, Mrs. M. C. Lee.
                             TRIXIE

 

Additional notes on Watson Grade:

Mr.  & Mrs. M.S. Patten
Marcus Sheridan Patten (1862 – 1950) was a son of William Patten and Elizabeth Register, of Watson Grade near Ray’s Mill, GA.   In 1904,  Marcus and his wife of two years, Mittie Cordelia Walker,  resided at Adel, GA.   In McMillan and Allied Families,  Robert H. McMillan described Mittie as “an exceptional woman, tall and aristocratic in manner and height.” Mittie’s father, Edgar David Walker (1859 – 1927), operated  a turpentine still about five miles east of Adel.  Her mother, Malissa McMillan (1861 – 1885),  had died when Mittie was about four years old, and Mittie spent most of her childhood with her grandparents, John and Sallie McMillan, in Berrien County.

Possum Trot 
Possum Trot  was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Possum Trot School was consolidated with Round Pond and Guthrie School.

Miss Belle Patten
Miss Belle Patten, age 21,  was a daughter of 
James “Irwin” Patten and Leanna Patten. 

Barney Akins
Barney Akins (died of fever) was an infant son of  Robert Henry “Bob” Akins (1876-1941) and  Sarah Jane Murray (1883-1948).  Bob Akins was a grandson of William Green Akins, one of the hunters who tracked down and killed the Berrien Tiger in 1849.

Mr. S.W. Watson
Samuel W. Watson (1863-1925), a son of Mark R Watson and Rachel Slaughter, was born and raised in the Rays Mill district (1144 Georgia Militia District).  S.W. Watson moved his family  to Irwin County some time before 1900, but returned to Berrien before 1910.

Mr. K. E. Stapleton
Kennie E. Stapleton, age 21, was a son of James Stapleton and Eliza Jane Morris.  His father was a fisherman with a house on Main Street in Milltown, GA.

Oat Production
Oats were a staple crop for the farmers of Wiregrass Georgia.  Even in a bad year, farmers like M.C. Lee would produce 5,000 bundles of oats.

Mansfield Shaw and Addie Greene
Addie Greene was a granddaughter of Delilah Ann Hinson.  Her parents were Houston Greene and Ann Elizabeth Futch, of the Connells Mill district near Ray’s Mill. Mansfield Shaw was a son of Elbert Marion Shaw and Matilda Mary Waters.

Mr. R. M. Greene
In 1904, Riley M. Green was working for a buggy company. Born April 20, 1873, he was a son of Marshal E. Green and Mary Elizabeth “Maxie” Mathis. Later, he owned real estate in Ray City, GA and was involved in the incorporation of the Bank of Ray’s Mill.  His sister, Mary Elizabeth “Effie” Green, married Thomas J. Studstill, and Riley took a position as manager at the Studstill sawmill.

Mr. M.C. Lee
Moses C. Lee (1853-1926) was an outstanding farmer of Berrien County, GA  known for his production of food crops and cotton, as well as cattle and hogs.

Miss Fannie Clements
This young woman could have been Fannie Clements, daughter of John C. Clements, or Fannie Lola Clements, daughter of David C. Clements.

Rhoda Green
Rhoda Green (1886 – 1912) was a sister of Riley M. Green.  She died in 1912 and was buried at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Clements
John Miles Clements and wife, Ann Eliza Swindle Clements, were long time residents of Rays Mill  and the parents of Hosea P. “Hod” Clements.

Mary Clements & Mrs. M.C. Lee
Mary Clements, of Rays Mill, was the spinster sister of  Amanda Clements Lee and John Miles Clements.  Amanda Clements Lee was the wife of Moses C. Lee, a noted farmer of Berrien County.

 

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Watson Grade News, March 25, 1904

The article below continued a series of 1904, a series of articles in the Tifton Gazette on the residents of “Watson Grade.”  Watson Grade  referred to a place just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA, near Empire Church where Watson, Patten, Lee, Cook and Sirmans  families all farmed.    The unknown author “Trixie,”  was familiar with the local happenings. On March 25, 1904, the Watson Grade news included the death of J. E. Sirmans, discussed in the previous post, and other personal mentions. 1904-mar-25-watson-grade-news

Tifton Gazette
March 25, 1904
Mr. J. E. Sirmans Dead.

Mr. J. E. Sirmans died last Saturday night at 11:45. He had been sick only about four days, and was not thought to be dangerously ill until a few hours before his death. Mr. Sirmans has been suffering with heart trouble for several years and Dr. Askew, of Nashville, says it was pleurisy complicated with heart trouble that caused his death. He leaves a wife and ten children to mourn his loss. His remains were interred in the Fender cemetery.

Mrs. J.T. Watson is very sick at this writing with grippe.

Miss Belle Patten has returned home from the Land of Flowers, to the delight of her many friends.

 The Odd Fellows of Milltown enjoyed and oyster supper last Wednesday night to the delight of the new members and themselves. Eight were initiated and twelve more have their applications in.

 Misses Carrie Liles and Dora Edson, of near Milltown, were visitors in this section last Sunday.

Mr. M. C. Lee, one of South Berrien’s best farmers, carried a wagon load of bacon to Valdosta last week that brought him about $180.

Mrs. O. Knight has been very ill, but is improving.

Judge J. T. Wilkerson has resigned as J. P., and has moved to Clinch to enter the mercantile business.

Watson Grade, March 14.             TRIXIE.

Notes:

Mrs. J. T. Watson was Jincy Lee Watson, wife of John Thomas Watson.  She was a daughter of Jincy Register and  Moses Corby Lee.  She was suffering from “Grippe” which was the period idiom for Influenza.

Miss Belle Patten, age 21,  was a daughter of James “Irwin” Patten and Leanna Patten.  She had just returned from visiting relatives in Tampa, FL.  Later, some time before 1910, her brother, June Patten, became a dentist and the two of them moved to Fernandina,  FL.

Carrie Liles (1869 – 1959), born Caroline Cook Brown, was the wife of Ben Liles and a daughter of Burwell Atkinson Brown and Margaret E. Morrison. Her traveling companion, Dora Edson, was a half-sister of her husband, Ben Liles.

Moses C. Lee was a noted farmer of Berrien County, and husband of Amanda Clements.  The Lee farm was known as “Stony Hill.”

Mrs. O. Knight was Mary Ellen Cook Knight, the wife of Reverend Orville A. Knight.  Her parents,  were neighbors of Irwin and Leanna Patten, mentioned above.

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Watson Grade News Feb 12, 1904

“Trixie”  continued the reports on Watson Grade in the February 12, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette.  Watson Grade  was a small community near Empire Church just northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA.  It was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others. Like the January Watson Grade News   this February update included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten, as well as reports of marriages and social news.

Tifton Gazette
February 12, 1904

Watson Grade News

The farmers are making big preparations for another crop-buying mules and clearing new grounds.
    Mr. Editor, your solution of the fertilizer question in last week’s issue is the only one that the farmer of today is actually in touch with. The farmers, not being systematically organized, are dependent in selling their products and buying their general supplies, and the only way to surpass this stupid state is for each and every farmer to work to the end of not having “everything to buy.”  Raise it at home; we have all the necessities if we will only use a little energy.
    Mr. M. C. Lee killed a porker last week that weighed 486, net.
    Mrs W. C. Patten has been quite sick with pneumonia, but is improving.
    Mr. J. P. Patten and Miss Fannie Patten were united in marriage Sunday afternoon at the home of the bride’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Patten, near Milltown.  The bride is a sweet and lovable girl, and member of one of Berrien’s best families. The groom is an industrious young farmer of near this place.
    Inspector Tyler was in Milltown last week, looking after some rural routes from that place.  Of the three routes proposed, only two have the required number of families, the one passing through this place and the one through the Ray’s mill vicinity.
   Mr. Will Rouse and Miss Elsie Spell were united in marriage Wednesday afternoon, January 27th, at 3 o’clock, at the home of the bride’s parents, Judge J.  H. Rowan officiating. Both have many friends, who wish for them a long and prosperous journey through life.
    Mr. Jonah Register is quite sick with grippe at this writing.
    Mr. June Patten left last week to take charge of a school near Alapaha.
    Mr. Jos. Watson, who has been suffering with cancer for some time, is improving.
    Prof. W. G. Avera expects to move his family to Atlanta in a few days, his object being to educate his children.  Mr. Avera is one of Berrien’s oldest and best educators, and one of our best neighbors, and we see him go with much regret.

TRIXIE.

1904-feb-12-watson-grade-news

Additional Notes:

Moses C. Lee, a son of Elender Wetherington (1813-1889) and John Levy Lee, was one of the leading farmers of Berrien County.  His daughter, Jennie Lee, was the wife of Sam I. Watson. About 1917 his son, William David “Bill” Lee,  ordered a mail-0rder house from the Sears catalog, which he assembled just east of Ray’s Mill.

Mrs. William C. Patten in the article is Sarah E. Lee, a cousin of M.C. Lee mentioned above.  She was a daughter of Moses Corby Lee (1808-1884)   and  Jincy Register.

John P. Patten  was a son of James Patten (1832-1907) and Phoebe Mathis (1832-1898).  His bride was Fannie Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten  and Martha F. Williams (1847 – 1897). The Mrs. M. E. Patten mentioned in the article was Fannie’s  step-mother Minnie Archibald Patten.  John P. Patten died in 1911 and is buried at Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Will Rouse, of Rays Mill, and Elsie (or Elda?) Spells, of the 1300 Georgia Militia District, were married on January 27, 1904. The couple later made their home at Ray City for many years. The marriage ceremony was performed by Judge J. H. Rowan.  According to William Green Avera, the Judge’s place was on the road “from Milltown to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha.”  This road passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County; Stony Hill, residence of Moses C. Lee; and, Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine Still.

Jonah Register, son of John Register, was a young farmer of Berrien County, GA. He was suffering from grippe, a historical reference to the flu.  He later married Jane Cook, sister of Laura Cook and daughter of William Jackson Cook.  In the 1920s Jonah and Jane Register made their home in Ray City, GA.

Mr. June Patten was a son of Leanna and Irwin Patten.

Joseph Watson was the father of Samuel I Watson.

Professor William Green Avera was one of the most distinguished educators in Berrien County.

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Watson Grade News, January 22, 1904

In 1904, a series of articles on the residents of “Watson Grade” began to appear monthly in the Tifton Gazette. Watson Grade, near Empire Church just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA , was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others.  The first issue of Watson Grade News, as reported by “Trixie,” included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten.

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com

Tifton Gazette
January 22, 1904

Killed by a Lumber Cart.   

Mr. W. C. Patten has been very sick for the past few days, but is improving.   

The school at Round Pond was to have opened up last Monday, but was suspended for two weeks, owing to the disagreeable weather.   

Mr. Mann Rouse is all smiles; he’s a girl.   

Mr. William Patten, aged 83 years, is very ill. He was stricken about a year ago with paralysis and it is supposed that he has the second attack.   

Mr. W. H. Watson has killed forty-nine porkers, of  very good average, this season. Mr. Watson is one of our hustling farmers.   

Mr. and  Mrs. J. I. Patten had a thrilling experience last Monday in a runaway scrape.  They were going to see Mr. Patten’s father, who is very sick, when their horse became frightened and ran away.  Mrs. Patten was thrown from the buggy at once while Mr. Patten remained until the shafts came loose, which left him in the buggy unhurt.  Mrs. Patten was bruised but not seriously injured.   

The young folks of this section enjoyed a nice pound party at Mr. D. P. Kent’s one night last week.   

One of our young men went to Valdosta a few days ago and came back with a new buggy and a lot of furnitures.   

Quite a crowd of our young folks enjoyed  nice dance at the beautiful home of Mr. Z. Spell last Saturday night.   

Miss Belle Patten is visiting relatives in Tampa, Fla.   

The many friends and schoolmates in this county of Miss Creasie Cook, of Coffee county, were shocked last Wednesday to hear of her death, which occurred near Willacoochee Tuesday.  Miss Cook was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Cook, who for years had lived near this place, but Mr. Cook had moved his family only a few days ago to superintend the logging of a saw mill near Willacoochee.  Miss Cook’s death was caused by falling from a timber cart and the log breaking her skull and severely bruising her body eight days before her death.  The remains were interred in Empire cemetery late Wednesday afternoon. Her bereaved parents and relatives have the sympathy of many friends in this, their time of sorrow.

TRIXIE

Watson Grade, Jan. 18.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904. The article included personal mentions of the Watson and Patten families with Rays Mill, GA (Ray City) connections.

Some additional notes on the personal mentions in this article.

W. C. Patten  referenced in the article was William C. “Babe” Patten (1849-1944), a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register.  William C. Patten was  a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace, He was married to Sarah Lee, who was the daughter of Moses Corby Lee and Jincy Register. When his wife’s niece, Jennie Lee, married Samuel I Watson in 1900, it was W. C.  Patten who performed the ceremony.  W.C. Patten, after the death of his first wife, married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.

Round Pond was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Round Pond School was consolidated with Possum Trot and Guthrie School.

Mr. William Patten, age 83, born Nov. 3, 1820, was the oldest son of James and Elizabeth (Lee) Patten.  He was the husband of Elizabeth Register, and father of William C. Patten and James Irwin Patten, also mentioned in the article.

William Henry Watson was a son of Mark R. Watson and Rachel Slaughter, and the husband of Dicey Guthrie.  Dicey and William Watson made their home on the Ray City and Mud Creek road northeast of Rays Mill in the Empire Church community, in that part of Berrien county that was later cut into Lanier County.

Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Patten were James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.  James Irwin Patten was the eldest son of  William and “Betsey” Patten. Leanna Patten was a daughter of Jethro Patten.

Daniel P. Kent, host of the “pound party” was a farmer raising a family in the 1300 Georgia Militia District.  The 1899 Young Folk’s Cyclopedia of Games and Sports provides the following definition:

POUND PARTY, an entertainment to which each guest is required to bring something weighing exactly a pound. These may be eatables, toys, useful articles, or whatever the giver pleases. Each package is numbered and laid aside as it is received. When the guests are ready for the distribution of the parcels, numbered cards, or slips of paper, are passed around and each draws one. Some one then takes the packages one by one, calling its number aloud; the holder of the corresponding number becomes its owner, and must open it in the presence of the company.

Belle Patten was  a daughter of James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.

Creasy  or Creasie Cook, 13-year-old daughter of William Jackson Cook and Annie Laura Mathis,  died as a result of a tragic accident that occurred on January 7, 1904 during logging operations supervised by her father at a Willacoochee sawmill.  He father, W. J. Cook, was a registered voter in at Rays Mill, GA in the 1890s, and others of the Cook family connection lived in the town and surrounding area.   Creasy Cook was buried at Empire Cemetery.

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Dicey Guthrie Watson

Dicey Guthrie was a Berrien native who lived in the county all of her life. And apparently all her life there was disagreement over the spelling of her first name, which appears variously as Dicey, Dicy, Dicie, or Disy.

Dicey Guthrie Watson. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Dicey Guthrie Watson. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

She was born January 16, 1867, a daughter of Martha Newbern and Samuel Guthrie, and grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Rays Mill district.  Her father was one of the men who hunted down the Berrien Tiger in 1849. He was a veteran of the Civil War, having served in the 54th Georgia Regiment.

Ray City History reader Dinah Harrison Watson shared that Dicey Guthrie married William Henry Watson in 1881.  They were married August 24 of that year in Berrien county, GA.

1881-dicey-guthrie-marr-certi

Family of William Henry Watson. (Left to Right) James Pleasent Watson, Mark Mitchell Watson, William Henry Watson, Samuel Solomon Watson, Dicy Guthrie Watson, Martha Watson Patten, Isaac Linton Watson. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Family of William Henry Watson. (Left to Right) James Pleasent Watson, Mark Mitchell Watson, William Henry Watson, Samuel Solomon Watson, Dicy Guthrie Watson, Martha Watson Patten, Isaac Linton Watson. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Dicey and William Watson made their home on the Ray City and Mud Creek road northeast of Rays Mill in the Empire Church community, in that part of Berrien county that was later cut into Lanier County. About Mr. Watson, the Tifton Gazette said in the winter of 1903-04, “Mr. W. H. Watson has killed forty-nine porkers, of very good average, this season. Mr. Watson is one of our hustling farmers.”

Children of Dicey Guthrie and William Henry Watson were:

  • Samuel Solomon Watson 1884 –
  • Mary Martha Watson 1886 –
  • Mark Mitchell Watson 1889 –
  • Isaac Linton Watson 1891 –
  • James Pleasant Watson 1898 – 1989

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The Clinch County News
January 16, 1953

DEATH OF MRS. WATSON
    
    Mrs. Dicy Watson, widow of the late W. H. Watson, age 86, of Berrien County, died New Years’ Day.  She was a daughter of Samuel and Martha Newbern Guthrie, pioneers of Berrien County.  She was married in 1881 to Mr. Watson.  Their home was in the Empire Church community, and burial was at that church.  She was a faithful member of Empire Church.  Four sons survive, also one brother, Colly Guthrie of Jacksonville.

Gravemarkers of Dicey Guthrie and William Henry Watson, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Gravemarkers of Dicey Guthrie and William Henry Watson, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

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Sam I. Watson Dies in Explosion

On March 7, 1939 Samuel Irvin Watson was killed in a tragic accident on his farm near Ray City, GA.  Watson served on the State Board of Education (see Sam I. Watson and the State Board of Education )  and route 64 out of Ray City was named in his honor (see The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway)  The March 8, 1939 Atlanta Constitution reported on Watson’s death with front page headline:

STATE SCHOOL OFFICIAL DIES IN EXPLOSION

2 Farm Tenants of Sam I. Watson  Are Also Killed

Another Tenant Escapes But Is Prevented by Flames From Attempting to Make Rescue

Bucket Brigade Conquers Fire

Lakeland Blast Occurs While Chemically Treating Corn for Weevil

Special to The Constitution.
LAKELAND, Ga., March 7.  Trapped by an explosion and flames which spread quickly through a barn on his plantation near here, Sam I. Watson, member of the Georgia Board of Education, perished early this afternoon with two farm tenants.
    The other victims were J. I. Parrish and Edmond Jones.
    Riley Stone, another tenant on the Watson farm, six miles from here, was standing near a door and fled to safety, prevented by roaring flames from attempting to rescue the others.
    Bodies of the three victims huddled in one of the sheds which surrounded the big structure, were found after the flames had been extinguished by a bucket brigade.
 
    Lint Miller’s Brother-in-Law.

    Watson, a brother-in-law of Lint Miller, chairman of the State Highway Board, was directing the treatment of corn for weevil infestation when the explosion occurred, Stone said.  The four men had treated several thousand bushels with a chemical preparation, and were leaving the barn when the blast came, apparently set off by a spark made by a nail as the door was opened.
    Neighbors reported the explosion was heard a few minutes after 2 o’clock, and that the barn was enveloped in flames almost immediately.  Volunteer fire fighters rushed to the scene and formed a bucket brigade to prevent further spread of the flames and to avert threatened cremation of the three trapped men.

    Well-known Farm.
 
    The main section of the barn was 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, with small sheds on all sides. Contents of the structure included several head of livestock and between 4,000 and 5,000 bushels of corn.
    Watson’s farm, which includes more than 2,000 acres, is one of the best known in south Georgia, largely because of the progressive farming methods the owner had inaugurated and followed in its development.
    Mr. Watson was the second member of the present State Board of Education to meet violent death within the last year.
    Several months ago, Lee Branch, of Quitman, vice chairman of the board, was shot and killed by a deranged member of his family.  Mrs.  Branch also was slain.
    In Atlanta, Governor Rivers expressed deep sorrow over the death of Mr. Watson, who was an old and personal friend.
    “The death of Mr. Watson and his two friends is a great shock to me,” the Governor said.  “I have had few friends closer to me than Mr. Watson. In addition he was an excellent public servant and an outstanding member of the board of education.  The school children of the state and the state itself have lost a fine public official, and I have lost a warm friend. I am deeply grieved.”
    Miss Levond Watson, an employee of the State Department of Public Welfare is a daughter of Mr. Watson.  Mrs. Rivers informed her of the tragedy and she left for home immediately accompanied by Mrs. Rivers.
    Chairman Miller, of the highway board, will leave Atlanta tomorrow morning to attend the Watson funeral.

Sam I. Watson and the State Board of Education

Governor Ed Rivers, Sam I. Watson and Mattie Lucille Lashley Rivers.

Governor Ed Rivers, Sam I. Watson and Mattie Lucille Lashley Rivers.

In his first term, Rivers brought a “Little New Deal” to Georgia and presided over a significant expansion of state services…. Probably the most expensive state reforms came in the area of education. In the four years before Rivers became governor, state spending on public education amounted to about $29 million. During his four years in office, the Rivers administration appropriated almost $49 million, including measures to raise teachers’ salaries and provide free textbooks. Rivers’s reforms did not eliminate racial disparities, but these measures benefited black schools as well as white.
-New Georgia Encyclopedia

In 1937, Rivers enacted legislation that created a new, eleven-member state board of education. Named among the members was Sam I. Watson, of Ray City.

The existing state board of education was abolished by an Act of Feb. 10, 1937 which became effective on July 1, 1937, and a new state board of education was created, composed of eleven members, the governor and one member from each of the ten congressional districts to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate for six year terms. The members shall be citizens who have lived in this state continuously for five years, and shall not be in any way connected with any educational institution nor school book concern; they shall elect one of their members as chairman, and shall hold regular quarterly meetings at the State Capitol, and the state superintendent of schools shall serve as executive secretary, with a salary to be fixed by the board members (Acts 1937, p. 864).

BOARD OF EDUCATION
July 20, 1937-date
Governor, Chairman, Ex-Officio
State Superintendent of Schools, Secretary, Ex-Officio
1st district: DR. R. J. KENNEDY, Statesboro
2d district: LEE W. BRANCH, Quitman
3d district: MRS. FRANK DAVID, Columbus
4th district: ALVIN H. FREEMAN, Newnan
5th district: Dr. W. A. SHELTON, Atlanta
6th district: H. C. WILLIAMS, Adrian
7th district: MRS. ELIZABETH McWATERS, Cedartown
8th district: S. I. WATSON, Ray City
9th district: W. W. McCAY, Eastonellee
10th district: W. C. CLARY JR., Harlem

The Clinch County News reported on the appointment:

The Clinch County News
July 23, 1937 Pg 1

Watson Is Named To State Board.

RAY CITY MAN NAMED TO STATE POST ON BOARD OF EDUCATION

S.I.Watson, named by Governor Rivers as a member of the State Board of Education under the 1937 legislative action which abolished the old board and created a new board of ten members is a well-known and prosperous farmer of Lanier county.
Mr. Watson, known to his friends as Sam Watson, was named as one of Georgia’s Master Farmers a few years ago. He is a brother-in-law to W. L. Miller, chairman of the State Highway Board.
Mr. Watson’s post office is Ray City.
Mr. Watson has not been active in politics and his appointment is considered by those who know him to have been an unusually good one. He represents the Eighth Congressional district on the Board.
L.C. Branch, well known Quitman attorney, is another South Georgian named to the State Board of Education. He represents the Second Congressional District.
The Board is meeting this week to consider matters in connection with the new state educational program. Naming of the members was delayed by Governor River’s illness. The old board went out of office on July first.
-Valdosta Times.

Sam Watson’s service on the State Board of Education ended in 1939 when he was killed in a tragic explosion on his farm near Ray City, GA.

The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Heading northeast on highway 64 out of Ray City, GA  in the direction of Empire Church, you will encounter a sign at the Lanier county line that identifies this route as the Sam I. Watson Highway.  Sam Watson was raised on the Watson family farm, located near Empire Church about 5 miles northeast of Rays Mill, originally settled by his grandparents about 180 years ago.

Born August 9, 1877 in Lowndes county, GA Samuel Irvin Watson  was a son of Mary and Joseph Watson.

By age 22, Sam Watson was occupied as a school teacher. Enumerated in the census of 1900 next to his father, Sam had by that time established an independent household on a part of the family land. As yet unmarried, he owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage. Perhaps the establishment of his homestead was in preparation for matrimony; later that year Sam married Jennie Lee, a daughter of Amanda Clements and Moses C. Lee. Jennie was born on January 5, 1882 in Berrien County and grew up on her father’s farm near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.  As a girl she attended the Green Bay School, along with her brother, Bill.

Sam and Jennie were married July 1, 1900 at the home of the bride’s parents. The ceremony was performed by  William C. Patten, Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace.  (W.C. Patten was the husband of Jennie’s aunt Sarah Lee, and he later married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.)

 

 

In September of 1918, Sam Watson registered for the draft for World War I.  At age 41 he was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and gray hair.

Perhaps Sam found the pay of a teacher was not sufficient to support his growing family. By 1920,  had returned to the occupation of farming, and was an employer in general farming.  One of his employees was John Kirkland. Sam’s eldest daughter, Gola Watson, was already a student in college. The census of 1920 shows the Watson farm was located on the Ray City & Mud Creek Road in the Milltown District of Berrien County, and area soon to be cut into the newly created Lanier county.

Sam Watson, a man of Berrien and Lanier county his entire life, and was again enumerated on his farm near Ray City in the census of 1930. That year the enumeration included a count of citizens who owned radio sets, which Sam Watson did.   In the enumeration of Ray City, there were only eight radio sets within the city limits, the owners being James A. Grissett, John D. Luke, Henry Swindle, Marvin Purvis, Walter Altman, John Simpkins, Joseph Johnson and Fannie Parks.  The average cost of a radio in 1929 was around $139 dollars. In terms of comparable “affordability” for an average person in today’s dollars (2010 index) this would be like making a $7,600 purchase (relative worth based on nominal GDP per capita index – see MeasuringWorth.com).

It is safe to say that Sam Watson was among the prominent citizens of Lanier County. He was a former educator and a successful farmer who could afford relative luxuries, like a radio.  He followed the politics of Ed Rivers, State Assemblyman from Lakeland, GA.

After Ed Rivers was elected Governor of Georgia in 1936 he appointed Sam Watson to the State Board of Education.

But more about that in the next post.

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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 ITEMS

    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.

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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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