October 1, 1908 First Train Rolls into Rays Mill, GA

On Thursday, October 1, 1908  the very first train rolled into Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. It was an exciting day in the Wiregrass and when the train stopped at the Ray’s Mill depot. Nearly one hundred people boarded for the excursion to Valdosta.

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

The Valdosta Times reported on the great celebration upon the arrival of the train in that city.  Among the  G & F passengers on the very first northbound train rolling out of Valdosta was Louis Malone Bullard, son of Green Bullard and husband of Dollie Howard Knight.

Valdosta Times
October 3, 1908

A BIG CROWD ON EXCURSION

Valdosta’s Neighbors Celebrate Opening of New Railroad.

Nearly Six Hundred People Came to the City Today on Excursion Over the Georgia and Florida Road From Points North of Here – The Visitors are Given a Cordial Welcome.

(From Thursday’s Daily. [October 1, 1908])

The excursion over the Georgia and Florida railroad today, marking the opening of the new line, brought big crowds to Valdosta.  Our neighbors paid us a visit, and Valdostans extended them a cordial greeting.
 The train from Hazlehurst reached the city about 12:30 on schedule time. It was  met at the turnout on the new road by a committee of twenty-five citizens, carrying badges with which to tag the excursionists. Mayor Roberts boarded the engine at the crossing and brought the train into the city, with the whistle blowing and bell ringing every foot of the way.  At the depot the excursionists, numbering nearly six hundred people were formed in line and marched up Patterson street and to the Odd Fellows Hall on Central avenue, where a splendid lunch had been prepared.  The ladies in the party, numbering about one hundred and fifty, were met by a committee at Pinkston’s store and carried up stairs where refreshments had been prepared for them.
 No pains were spared by the committee in charge of the entertainment for the visitors, to make the occasion a pleasant one.  The lunches at both places were simply splendid, and enough had been provided to feed even a larger crowd.
 After dinner there were a number of speeches at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, Judge W. H. Griffin welcoming the visitors to the city in a ten minute talk which was applauded to the echo.  Prof. McDonald, of Douglas, made a splendid speech expressing the appreciation of the people along the new line for the cordial welcome given them by the citizens of Valdosta.  He was followed by Col. Smith, of Nashville, who added his praise to that of the hundreds who had given the occasion their unqualified endorsement.
 Every town on the new line was represented in the excursionists. Hazlehurst, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville, Ray’s Mill and all of the other towns sent representative crowds.  One hundred and seventy-two came from Nashville and nearly a hundred boarded the train at Ray’s Mill.
Between seventy-five and one hundred came up on the early train from Madison and the towns between here and there.
The visitors have a half day to spend  in the city, as the train on the return trip does not leave until six o’clock this afternoon.

First Train.

    The first passenger train of the Georgia and Florida going north left out of Valdosta this morning at about 8:30 o’clock.  It was the accommodation train No. 20, and carried several freight cars and a passenger coach.
    No 20 met the excursion train coming from Hazlehurst, at Nashville.
    Several passengers got aboard.  Some for Mathis, some for Ray’s Mill and others for Nashville.  Among the passengers were J. R. Fitzgerald, Garland Wilkinson and L. M. Bullard.
    Those who watched this first train going north from Valdosta over the new route of the Georgia and Florida, realized the dream of leading Valdostans for years.
   This might well be called the birthday of the new era for the city’s prosperity, as the Georgia and Florida opens up a vast territory that was hard for Valdosta to reach heretofore.
    When completed the road from Madison to Augusta will touch many good towns but among them all it will have no better friend than Valdosta.

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G & F Railroad To Open with Big Excursion

Road opens with big excursion

Georgia and Florida railroad prepared to open. Atlanta Georgian and News, Sep. 26, 1908

Georgia and Florida railroad prepared to open. Atlanta Georgian and News, Sep. 26, 1908

Atlanta Georgian and News
September 26, 1908

To Open Road With Big Excursion

Valdosta, Ga., Sept. 26. – The businessmen of Valdosta held a meeting at the city hall yesterday afternoon for the purpose of perfecting arrangements for the entertainment of the people along the line of the Georgia and Florida railroad who are coming to this city on the big excursion which the road will run next Thursday. This event will mark the opening of a passenger schedule on the new line between Hazlehurst and Madison, Fla., via Valdosta, and it is said that hundreds of persons are coming to this city from the different towns along the line. Many of them will be strangers who have never visited Valdosta, and all will be given a royal welcome.
The track-layers on the gap of the line between Valdosta and Nashville joined the rails near Rays Mill last Saturday and this week has been spent in surfacing the roadbed and getting ready for the passenger schedule to go on October 1. The road is now in operating order from Hazlehurst to Madison, Fla.

First Regular Train on the G & F, The Valdosta Times, September 26, 1908 Pg 5

First Regular Train on the G & F, The Valdosta Times, September 26, 1908 Pg 5

The Valdosta Times
September 26, 1908

Many are Coming Next Week

First Regular Train on G. & F. will Bring Large Crowds

It Will Arrive From Hazlehurst Next Wednesday with Five Hundred Excursionists to Spend the Day in Valdosta – Crowd Will be Entertained Here.

The first regular passenger train over the Georgia and Florida railroad will reach this city next Wednesday at noon from Hazelhurst, Ga.
The train will leave Hazlehurst that morning at seven o’clock and it will come through by Broxton, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville and other places, taking up a crowd of people at each station and bring them to Valdosta to spend the day.
The first train will be devoted exclusively to the white people and the officials of the road are working up the crowd to come here. It will consist of the best class of people between here and Hazlehurst, and the citizens of Valdosta have already decided to arrange some line of entertainment for the visitors.
A meeting will be held tonight to take up the matter and discuss what line of entertainment shall be arranged. It has been suggested that open-house be kept for the visitors and that lunches be prepared and served to them. One suggestion was to tag every guest with a badge, which should admit him to the place where refreshments are to be served. Another suggestion was to have the dinner prepared when the guests arrive and serve it to the visitors in a bunch, so that the citizens of Valdosta will have a better opportunity to meet them and talk with them.
The details of the entertainment will be arranged later, it having already been decided to make it all that it should be. Valdosta never lags when a test of hospitality comes and every citizen will do his part toward welcoming to the city the people on the line of road above here.
It is very probable that the meeting tonight will decide all about what kind of entertainment will be given the visitors.

Rays Mill Gets G & F Depot

The railroad played an important role in the development of Ray City.  It spurred the development of businesses like the Mayhaw Lake Resort and Luckie Lumber Mill (later Clements Lumber Company). It provided farmers with access to distant markets, and the people of Ray City with transportation to cities and connecting destinations.

By September 1908, the  G&F Construction Company was nearing completion of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. The section  running from Nashville, GA via Rays Mill (now Ray City, GA) to Valdosta was the last remaining track to be laid. A contract was let out to construct a “neat and commodious” train depot at Rays Mill  at a cost of $1500 dollars.  The contractor was Richard A. Whitehurst, of Valdosta, GA. In addition to the depot, the railroad built a number of section houses at Ray’s Mill. These were homes for railroad employees and their families.

1908 announcement of the construction of a train depot in Rays Mill, GA

1908 announcement of the construction of a train depot in Rays Mill, GA

NEW ROAD WILL START PASSENGER SCHEDULE
Georgia and Florida Will Begin to Operate Trains Between Nashville, Ga., and Madison, Fla.
Valdosta, Ga., September 5. – (Special.) It is announced that a regular passenger schedule on the Georgia and Florida railroad will be inaugurated on October 1, and that trains will then be run between this city and Hazlehurst, on the Southern railway.  The gap from here to Nashville, Ga.,  26 miles, will be completed within the next three weeks or less, giving a straight line from Hazlehurst to Madison, Fla.  It is understood that two passenger trains a day will be run each way.
      Contractor R. A. Whitehurst, of this city, today signed contracts to build two depots for the road between here and Nashville.  The first will be located at the place of John Mathis, about 8 miles north of this city, and the other at Rays mill, in Berrien county.  The depots are to be neat and commodious structures, and will cost about $1,500 each.  So far as known now these will be the only stations between Valdosta and Nashville, but there is a probability of one more being build.  The new line opens a splendid territory in this and Berrien county.

By November 9, the depot at Rays Mill was ready to open.

Train depot at Rays Mill, GA was ready to open November 9, 1908.

Train depot at Rays Mill, GA was ready to open November 9, 1908.

Valdosta Times
November 6, 1908

The new depots at Mathis and Ray’s Mill on the Georgia and Florida road are nearly completed and will soon be ready for occupancy.  The depot at Mathis was thrown open Monday and an agency established there.  The agency at Ray’s Mill will be established next Monday [Nov 9, 1908]. The company has just received and put on several new passenger cars, which helps general appearances wonderfully.  – Nashville Herald.

Mahlon Parker Bowers was later a Railroad Agent for the G&F Railroad at the Ray City,GA depot.

 

 

The Last Run of the Iron Horse

On March 24, 1954 engine number 507 was the last steam locomotive to make the run down the line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad which passed through Ray City, GA.   The train, photographed below at its last passage through Nashville, GA,was manned by: Engineer Bo Dell Mead, of Douglas, GA; Fireman C. J. Bush, Pridgen, GA; and Conductor H. T. Sowell, of Douglas, GA.

Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad at Nashville, GA, March 24, 1954. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad at Nashville, GA, March 24, 1954. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Related:

 

Bound by a Band of Steel

By 1908, Valdosta already had railroads and so did Nashville. Now The Douglas Enterprise reported the Georgia & Florida Railroad would lay track to close the 26 mile gap between them, “Two of the brightest stars of the group of South Georgia’s cities bound by a band of steel.”

The citizens of Ray’s Mill had secured the routing of the tracks to pass through the small community, over a competing route that would have passed through Cat Creek (see Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad).

At that time Mr. J.S. Swindle owned much of the land around the present site of the town.  It is said that he bargained with the railroad company to give them the right of way if they would give him a station.  This agreement was made and thus started the town [of Ray City].

It was projected that regular passenger service on the new G & F line would begin on October 1, 1908.     Two trains a day would stop at the station in Rays Mill.   The train depot and local offices of the Georgia & Florida Railroad were to be among the first businesses in the newly incorporated town of Ray City.  In addition to the depot, the railroad would build a number of section houses at Ray’s Mill to house railroad employees and their families. The new line, it was said, “opens up a splendid territory in this [Lowndes] and Berrien County.”  Ultimately the G & F Railroad would connect Augusta, Georgia and Madison, Florida.

By March, 1908 surveying was underway for the final segment of the Georgia and Florida railroad connecting Nashville and Valdosta, GA.

Surveying the route of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. Valdosta Daily Times, March 7, 1908

Surveying the route of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. Valdosta Daily Times, March 7, 1908

Valdosta Daily Times
March 7, 1908

ROAD SOON TO BE COMPLETED.

Work on the Line to Nashville to Start in Short While.

The Georgia and Florida Road Secures Additional Offices Here to be Used During the Period of Constructing the Line – The New Outlets at Augusta.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.

     The links that will complete the Georgia and Florida Railroad are to be built at once and the big road for which Valdostans have hoped and wised so long will soon pass from a dream to reality.
     Mr. G. M. Jones, assistant chief engineer of the road, arrived in Valdosta yesterday.  He has located an office in this city from where he will supervise the construction of the road between Valdosta and Nashville. It is learned on good authority that work will begin right away and be pushed to completion as early as possible.  This is the only line of much length between Madison and Hazlehurst, unless a new one from Douglas is built which would straighten the main road considerably between that city and Hazlehurst.
     It is thought that by the end of the year the whole road will be finished and that through trains will be running from Augusta to Madison.
     It is hard to estimate the benefit this road will be to Valdosta, as it will give the city direct passage into a rich and fast developing territory that it has been hard to reach heretofore.
     It will give her another big trunk line which, it is claimed will be the equal of any one of the lines she now has, which is a pretty big claim.
     With the completion of this road new enterprises are bound to spring up which will add greatly to the city’s material prosperity and growth.
     There is now a road being built from  Augusta to Elberton the Southern has a road from Elberton  to Toccoa, and when the Georgia and Florida is completed a direct route into North-east Georgia will be had which will add greatly to the travel and trade from that part of the state.
      It will open up a field in Georgia for the early melons and truck and field products of this section that has hardly been touched heretofore.
    With the Georgia and Florida road in operation Valdosta should become one of the biggest truck and melon centers in the South.
      It will open up a new territory for the foundries and machine shops, buggy and harness factories and for the production of every factory and field of this section.
     It will be a glad day for Valdosta when train begin to move between here and Augusta.

CONTRACT IS LET
On March 18, 1908, Engineering and Contracting magazine announced that a contract had been let for construction of the railroad line that would pass through Rays Mill, GA:

“Valdosta, Ga.—Georgia & Florida Ry., J. M. Turner, General Manager, Augusta. Ga., is to construct a line from Valdosta to Nashville, Ga., about 30 miles, to link two of the properties of the company.   A. & F. Wright have been awarded the contract. The Georgia & Florida Ry. controls a number of small roads which it is proposed to connect. Much of this work has already been done.” –  Engineering and contracting. (March 18, 1908). New York: The Myron C. Clark Pub. Co. Pg 25

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Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad

In 1907 when things began to firm up for the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railway line that would connect Nashville, GA and Valdosta, GA, railroad engineer J. W. Webster  came through the area to lay out the route and to secure the right-of-way for the tracks.  Webster was assisted by Dr. W. B. Goodman, who was the husband of Texas Ray Goodman and son-in-law of Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray. (see Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863)

September 6, 1907 Engineers Secure Rights-of-Way for Georgia and Florida Railroad

The Atlanta Georgian and News, September 6, 1907 Engineers Secure Rights-of-Way for Georgia and Florida Railroad

The Atlanta Georgian and News
September 6, 1907

ENGINEERS SECURE ROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY

Special to The Georgian.

    Valdosta, Ga., Sept. 6. – Assistant Engineer J. W. Webster, of the Georgia and Florida railroad, and Dr. W. B. Goodman, of Nashville, Ga., were in the city yesterday arranging for the right of way for the railroad into this city. They drove through the country, following the proposed line, and closed up options for a considerable portion of the right of way.  The road will likely enter the city on the eastern border, with a sharp curve to the south, where a junction will be effected with the Valdosta Southern to Madison, Fla.
    Engineer Webster states that work on the gap from this city to Nashville will begin in a short while, but owning to the fact that nearly all the railway contractors in the country have about all the work they can handle now with their present equipment, and a disposition not to invest money in increased facilities, it is impossible to state exactly when active work will begin.

The call for proposals to build the Georgia and Florida line drew the attention of some of the largest railroad contractors in the country (see previous post Whangdoodled on Panama Canal Contract, Billy Oliver put in a Bid to Construct G & F Railroad Through Ray City).  With railroad construction underway all over the country in 1907, the original bids had  come in too high for G & F’s liking.  But by late August of 1907 it was settled that Schofield & Sons, of Philadelphia would do the grading as soon as their equipment was available to do the work.

In the final consideration, there were two possible routes for the G & F line from Nashville to Valdosta, one by way of Cat Creek and the other to run past Rays Mill.

The Valdosta Times, January 29, 1908 reported that two routes were surveyed for the Georgia and Florida line from Nashville, GA to Valdosta, GA. One route would pass through Rays Mill, the other by way of Cat Creek.

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, January 25, 1908, page 10
,

Two Routes Surveyed for Road

The work of making the surveys on the road from here to Nashville will probably be completed this week, or within a very few days. Two routes have been surveyed. One of them comes in by way of Cat Creek and the other by Rays Mill. The route by Cat Creek also comes within a short distance of Mr. W.T. Staten’s place on the east, he having been assisting in securing rights of way through that section.

(missing line(s) of print)

routes will be accepted, as the costs of the road is to be considered and then some consideration will probably be taken of the concessions that are given by people along the route. It has not been announced when the work on the road will be undertaken again, but it will probably be when the present warfare on railroads and corporations generally is stopped.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

William Tomlinson Staten (1866-1920), who was assisting the railroad in securing rights-of-way was well known as the  Lowndes County tax collector, president of the Lowndes County Farmers’ Club,  and committee member on the state finance committee of the Southern Cotton Association.  He owned  much property including town lots and plantations.  It was Staten who sold lots to the government for the construction of the federal courthouse and post office in Valdosta, GA.  He owned a big plantation called  “Alue” near Valdosta.   He was a big produce shipper so securing a rail route by his Cat Creek plantation  would have been  in his interest.

But despite the influence of Staten, the support of local citizens of Rays Mill were able to secure the route for the new railroad:

At that time Mr. J.S. Swindle owned much of the land around the present site of the town. It is said that he bargained with the railroad company to give them the right of way if they would give him a station. This agreement was made and thus started the town [of Ray City].

W. T. Staten would later be among those seriously injured in the 1910 wreck of the G & F  train in Valdosta, GA.

The Georgia and Florida Construction Company

If any one man can be credited for the creation of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, it  was John Skelton Williams.  From inception it was intended that the G & F would run from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL, with plans to extend the line all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. But when Williams organized the railroad in 1906 it was far from clear to the citizens of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) that they would ever get a connection.

John Skelton Williams, organizer of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, was the first president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and later became U. S. Comptroller of the Currency.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

John Skelton Williams, organizer of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, was the first president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and later became U. S. Comptroller of the Currency. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1906, John Skelton Williams was already a great power among the railroad men.  He was a leading ‘southern financier’ and the ex-president of the Seaboard Air Line railway.

He became a partner with his father in the banking and brokerage business and later engaged actively in the material development of the South. He organized and consolidated the Seaboard Air Line and was elected the first president of this company in 1900. He also served as president of other railroad companies of less mileage and was president of the Bank of Richmond and of the Southern Investment Company. He was director of several other trust companies, banks and other corporations, and was recognized as one of the leading financiers of the South. – Biography-Of-John-Skelton-Williams

One of the “other railroad companies of less mileage” Williams organized was the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  In the spring of 1906, The Valdosta Times reported with cautious optimism on Williams’ interest in Valdosta for his new line.  At the time,  Williams was occupied with consolidating a precursor to the G & F, referred to in the article as the Augusta & Gulf.

March 10, 1906 The Valdosta Times reports on the organization of the Georgia and Florida Construction Company by John Skelton Williams.

March 10, 1906 The Valdosta Times reports on the organization of the Georgia and Florida Construction Company by John Skelton Williams.

DETAILS OF RAILROAD DEALS.

Official Statement in Regard to the Augusta & Gulf Railroad.

Messrs. Williams and Middendorf Give Out a Statement of Their Recent Deals and Also Give Some Intimation of Their Plans – Valdosta’s Name is Frequently Used in the Deal, But That is All.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.)

    The following official announcement from the Manufacturers’ Record relative to the proposed Augusta and Gulf railroad which will be one of the biggest trunk lines in the south, will prove of great interest locally as shown in the scope and certainty of this project.
    The Georgia and Florida Construction Company, incorporated has been organized at Richmond, Va., for the purpose of uniting and forming a trunk line out of the several Georgia railroads purchased by the syndicate organized by John Skelton Williams of Richmond, J. William Middendorff of Baltimore and their associates.  Information from Richmond received by the Manufacturers’ Record says that the Construction Company, with an authorized capital of 50,000 to $90,000, has the following directors Douglas H. Gordon of Baltimore, president, and representing the International Trust Company of Baltimore, which is a member of the syndicate:  E. L. Bemiss, vice president, and F. E. Nolting, treasurer, both of Richmond; A. H. Rutherford, of Baltimore, secretary; Albert H. Carroll, of Baltimore, Lewis C. Williams and L. M. Williams, both of Richmond.

Buys Six Roads.

The syndicate has thus far purchased six railroads in Georgia with a total length of 227 miles.  They are the Augusta and Florida 30 miles long, from Keysville to Midville; the Midville, Swainsboro and Red Bluff railway, 20 miles long from Midville to Swainsboro; the Millen and Southwestern railroad, 53 miles line, from Millen via Stillmore to Vidalia; the Ocilla and Valdosta railroad, 55 miles long, from Hazelhurst via Broxton and Ocilla to Irwinville; the Douglas Augusta and Gulf railway, 57 miles long, from Barrows Bluff via Broxton, Douglas and Pinebloom to Nashville, and the Nashville and Sparks railroad, 12 miles long, from Nashville to Sparks.  The Millen and Southwestern has a small branch of four miles from Durdenville to Monte. It will be necessary to use only part of some of these roads to form the proposed trunk line.

The Connecting Links.

To connect these various properties and make the proposed continuous railroad from Augusta to Valdosta it will be necessary to build links as follows:  Augusta to Keysville, about 20 miles, connection between the Midville, Swainsboro and Red Bluff railway and the Millen and Southwestern railroad, about 10 miles; Vidalia to Hazelhurst about 25 miles: total, 80 or 90 miles of new construction.
The proposed extension from Valdosta southeward is not yet definitely decided upon.  The object is to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and this may be done by building to Tallahassee to connect with the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama railway, which would take it to the port of Carabelle or a direct line south might be chosen.  From 50 to 60 miles of new line might be required.

Come summertime, Williams had his railroad chartered and  funded with a million dollars in capital. By this time it was clear that Nashville, Berrien County and the Wiregrass stood to benefit from the new railroad.

July 13, 1906, The Americus Times-Recorder reports that John Skelton Williams has received a charter for the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

July 13, 1906, The Americus Times-Recorder reports that John Skelton Williams has received a charter for the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

By September, 1906 surveying was underway to determine the route  the Georgia & Florida would follow from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL.  But it appeared that the main trunk line of the G & F might pass east of Berrien County.

The Valdosta Times, September 15, 1906 reports Georgia and Florida Railroad has surveyors in the field.

The Valdosta Times, September 15, 1906 reports Georgia and Florida Railroad has surveyors in the field.

But by the following summer, July 1907 it began to look like the trunk line of the Georgia & Florida would include construction of a connecting line from Nashville to Valdosta.  No doubt the residents of Rays Mill began to contemplate the possibilities. Next up, Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad.

routes surveyed | Search Results | Ray City History Blog

Whangdoodled on Panama Canal Contract, Billy Oliver put in a Bid to Construct G & F Railroad Through Ray City

The  contract to build the railroad line connecting Nashville, GA by way of Rays Mill (now Ray City) to Valdosta, GA,  might  not seem like a project that would attract one of the largest construction companies in America,  but the 1907 call for bids for construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad did just that. To be fair, the total contract concerned not just the 30 mile stretch of railroad from Berrien to Lowndes county, but about 70 additional miles of track to connect the various shortlines that comprised the Georgia and Florida railroad.

Perhaps the most prominent bidder  for constructing the connecting lines of the G & F was William J. Oliver, the Tennessee contractor who earlier that year had submitted the lowest bid for the immensely huge task of constructing the Panama Canal.  Oliver expected that the South Georgia cotton shipped over the Georgia and Florida Railroad would eventually find its way through the Panama Canal to  meet the demand in Asian markets. When completed, the G & F line would certainly open the way for economic development in Berrien County, GA and fuel the growth of firms such as the Luckie Lumber Company at Ray City, GA.

William Jesse Oliver (1867-1925) was a prominent bidder for the contract to construct the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

William Jesse Oliver (1867-1925) was a prominent bidder for the contract to construct the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

In 1907, the early accounts indicated Oliver had a lock on the canal contract.

January 28, 1907, William J. Oliver to build the Panama Canal.

January 28, 1907, William J. Oliver to build the Panama Canal.

The first week of  February, 1907, Harper’s Weekly Magazine gave a short sketch on  William J. Oliver and his bid for the Panama Canal.

William J. Oliver, Harper's Weekly, Feb 2, 1907

William J. Oliver, Harper’s Weekly, Feb 2, 1907

Harpers Weekly
Feb 2, 1907

THE MAN WHO BID LOWEST FOR THE PANAMA CANAL CONTRACT

      William J. Oliver, in association with Anson J. Bangs, has made a proposition to build the Panama Canal for 6.75 percent, of total cost, and this bid, at the time of writing, is under favorable consideration by the government.  In the combination which made this bid, Mr. Oliver has the dominant interest.  Other bids were for 7.19, 12.50, and 28 per cent.
      Mr. Oliver is thirty nine years of age.  He was born in Mishawauka, a suburb of South Bend, Indiana.  When he was sisteen years of age he started out on the Cotton Belt railroad with s fifteen team outfit as a railroad contractor.  He has gradually progressed from one branch of railroad contracting to another, and owns one of the largest manufacturing plants in the United States for the building of contractors’ machinery.
       Mr. Oliver has also made a specialty of what contractors call “concrete work,” and has built a number of concrete buildings, viaducts, and river bridges for railroads.  He has over $30,000,000 of contracts now under way including the tunnelling of Lookout Mountain for the Southern Railway company, concrete buildings in Louisville and Nashville, a concrete dam at Chattanooga, sixty five feet high,in which there will be 50,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete work.  He is also laying double tracks and building extensions for various railroads.
      In view of the announcement that Mr. Oliver purposes to use negroes from the West Indies as laborers on the canal, under the superintendence of white men from the South, it is interesting to recall the report that Governor Swettenham of Jamaica is opposed to the use of negroes from that island as foreign laborers, and has imposed a prohibitive emigration head tax to prevent the natives from leaving the island for America or Panama.
      In the case of an award, Mr.Oliver will go to the isthmus to superintend personally the work of construction; he will take over the entire plant owned by the government, and will at once proceed to ship additional materials to the Zone.

Ultimately, the contract for construction of the Panama Canal went to the Army Corps of Engineers.  Oliver said he had been “whangdoodled” by President Teddy Roosevelt, but his manufacturing company did end up supplying some of the construction equipment.  The completed canal is still regarded as one of the greatest engineering achievements of the modern world.

May of 1907 found Oliver not in the Canal Zone but in Augusta, GA to bid on the G & F construction project. In the May 20, 1907 edition of The Atlanta Georgian and News,  he was still protesting the politicized award of the Panama Canal contract,  but the paper also reported his comments on the global impact of the opening of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. “When this line is completed,”he said, “it will largely solve the problem involved in the big suits now before the interstate commerce commission in the matter of rates from the South to Oriental ports.  All the cotton goods and other freight that must cross the Pacific will go over this line and through the Panama Canal when it is finished,” he said.

The Atlanta Georgian and News reports William J. Oliver will bid on the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

The Atlanta Georgian and News reports William J. Oliver will bid on the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

Within a few weeks, The Atlanta Georgian and News reported that The Georgia and Florida Railroad  was ready to select a contractor.

By June of 1907, the selection of a contractor for construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad was imminent.

By June of 1907, the selection of a contractor for construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad was imminent.

But the bids came in too high and on June 22,1907 the railroad announced it would hold off on awarding a contract.

June 22, 1907 The Atlanta Georgian and News announcemed that the Georgia and Florida Railroad would not be letting a constrruction contract for some time.

June 22, 1907 The Atlanta Georgian and News announced that the Georgia and Florida Railroad would not be letting a construction contract for some time.

On August 24 the contract was finally awarded, but went to Schofield & Sons of Philadelphia.

August 24, 1907, the Georgia and Florida Railroad contracts for construction of new line.

August 24, 1907, the Georgia and Florida Railroad contracts for construction of new line.

-So in the end, the man who famously did not get the Panama Canal contract, also did not get the Georgia & Florida railroad contract.

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Luckie Stop at Ray City

Luckie Lumber Company

In the early 1900s there were  at least 86 lumber mills situated on the line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad running from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL, some 250 odd miles.   A big sawmill was situated on the railroad just  above Ray City, at a stop known as Luckie.  First operated under the name Luckie Lumber Company, it was owned by William F. Luckie.  About 1911, W.F. Luckie sold out to Levi J. Clements and his sons.  It appears that the Clements may have continued to operate under the name Luckie Lumber Company for several years, for the business was still listed under this name in the March 15, 1915 edition of the Lumber Trade Journal.  (see also Clements Lumber Company and the Company Town;  November 6, 1923 ~ Big Fire Loss at the Ray City Sawmill)

William Floyd Luckie, 1858-1937, operated the Luckie Lumber Company at Ray City, GA

William Floyd Luckie, 1858-1937, operated the Luckie Lumber Company at Ray City, GA

William Floyd Luckie

William Floyd Luckie, Jr.  was born on October 15, 1858 in  Greene County, Georgia. He was a son of William F. Luckie and Delaney Sayers, but was orphaned at an early age.  His father was killed in 1859.

“In 1859, a runaway slave of William Luckey’s was captured. While attempting to punish him, the slave grabbed a knife and stabbed Luckey to death.”  http://www.inheritage.org/almanack/c_greene_03.html

In 1861, his mother followed in death.

Afterward, William Floyd Luckie and his sisters, Falby and Mary were raised by their grandfather, James Martin Sayers, on his farm near Penfield, GA.  William Floyd Luckie was enumerated there in 1870 as William Sayers. At the time, he was assisting his grandfather with farm labor.

On March 20, 1887 William Floyd Luckie married Anita Inez Parks in Dodge County, GA. She was born in 1863 in Georgia.

Anita Inez Parks, first wife of William Floyd Luckie.

Anita Inez Parks, first wife of William Floyd Luckie.

By the census of 1900 the couple had seven children and made their home in Hortense, GA  in Wayne County, GA (now Brantley Co.) William was working as a merchant. Hortense is situated on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which ran the fast mail train through the town, from New York to Jacksonville. But the town generated such little traffic that it wasn’t even a flag stop for the railroad.

Children of Anita “Nida” Inez Parks and William Floyd Luckie:

  1. Fulton Woodard Luckie (1880-)
  2. Annie Mae Luckie (1891-1971)
  3. Nebbie I or J Luckie (1892-1977)
  4. Willis Heard Luckie (1894- abt 1984)
  5. Fannie C Luckie (1895- )
  6. Rosa Kate Luckie (1897- )
  7. Candler C Luckie (1899)
  8. William M Luckie (1902-1931)
  9. John Parks Luckie (November 14, 1903 –  October 23, 1996)

It appears that the Luckies moved about 85 miles from Hortense to McRae, GA  sometime before 1903.  Anita Inez Parks died May 5, 1906 and was buried there at Oak Grove Cemetery. William was left a widower with eight minor children to raise.

About 1907 William F. Luckie married a second time.  In 1908 a son was born to this union, James Luckie (1908-1974). Elizabeth Susan and William Floyd Luckie were enumerated in McRae, GA with their children in 1910. William was working as a sawmill superintendent; Elizabeth was keeping house.  In McRae, the Luckies owned a home on Huckabee Street,  named in honor of William Allen Huckabee. Huckabee was first president of  South Georgia College, a  school which had been founded at McRae about 1885.

Shortly after the 1910 census William F. Luckie came to the newly incorporated town of Ray City, GA.  Mr. Luckie founded the Luckie Lumber Company, a business that within a decade would grow to be one of the largest employers in the area. The big sawmill was located on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida about a mile north of town.

Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Luckie were among the first members of the Ray City Methodist Church, along with Will Terry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Turner, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley. The Church was organized by brother F.D. Ratcliff on October 29, 1910. The Rev. W.E. Hightower of Remerton, Georgia served as the first pastor. Originally the services were held in a tent on the north side of town near the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Will Clements.

The business and social activities of the newcomers were newsworthy. The Valdosta Times, Saturday, November 26, 1910,  noted:

Mrs. B.W. Boyd and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, of Ray’s Mill came down yesterday and spent the day in this city on a shopping trip.

and in  January 19, 1911 The Valdosta Times reported from Rays Mill:

Mr. W. F. Luckie made a business trip to McRae last Saturday returning Monday.

In time, the Luckie children were on the social scene in Berrien county.   The Atlanta Constitution noted Willis Heard Luckie among the Ray City young people at the Nashville, GA carnival in 1914.

Atlanta Constitution, Feb 8, 1914, pg 8 M

Nashville (news items)

Rays Mill was well represented at the carnival last week. Misses Annie Mae Carter, Margie Dasher, Pearl Hardie Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Harvie, W. H. Luckie, George Norton, J. J. and J. S. Clements and C.B . Shaw were among the visitors.

Some time between 1914 and 1920, William F. Luckie had moved his family to Spence, GA in Grady County where he was operating a sawmill at the time of the 1920 census. But by 1921, the Luckies moved to Cairo, GA.

By the time of the 1930 census, William and Elizabeth Luckie had returned to Ray City.  They lived in town in a rented house; William Luckie engaged in truck farming.

William Floyd Luckie died on 16 Aug 1937 in Quitman, Brooks, Georgia. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, Georgia.

William Floid Luckie (1858-1937), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

William Floid Luckie (1858-1937), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

After his death,  Elizabeth S. Luckie went to live in the home of her daughter Nebbie and son-in-law William H. Terry, on South Broad Street in Quitman, GA. She died on May 1, 1953 and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

Elizabeth Susan Luckie, (1876-1953), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

Elizabeth Susan Luckie, (1876-1953), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

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M. W. Henderson and the Wreck of the G & F

Manassah W. Henderson

Manassah W. Henderson, Ray City, GA resident and husband of the evangelist Rebecca J. Henderson ( seeArson and Evangelism in Rays Mill, GA), was injured in a Valdosta train wreck in the summer of 1910.  He was traveling on the Georgia and Florida train, the new railroad built through Ray City in 1909.

 The train was wrecked when an engine of the Georgia Southern & Florida railroad collided with the passenger car of the Georgia & Florida  (see 1910 Train Wreck in Valdosta, GA).

Many of the injured were taken to the Halcyon Sanitarium. The Halcyon was the second hospital in Valdosta, and was said to have the finest operating facilities.

The Halcyon Sanitorium, Valdosta, GA ca. 1906.  The Halcyon, located at Troupe and Rogers Streets ,was the second hospital to open in Valdosta. Built as the home of W.B. Johnson in 1898, it was converted into a hospital by Doctor J.B.S. Holmes in 1906. In 1911 it was sold to another group of physicians and was known as Bellevue. It operated until 1915.

The Halcyon Sanitorium, Valdosta, GA ca. 1906. The Halcyon, located at Troupe and Rogers Streets ,was the second hospital to open in Valdosta. Built as the home of W.B. Johnson in 1898, it was converted into a hospital by Doctor J.B.S. Holmes in 1906. In 1911 it was sold to another group of physicians and was known as Bellevue. It operated until 1915.

The Valdosta Times
July 2, 1910  Page 2

A  DOZEN PEOPLE WERE INJURED IN A COLLISION ON A CROSSING

A Georgia Southern and Florida  Engine Ran Into a Georgia and Florida Passenger Coach,  Knocking it Fifty Feet and Bruising Up Many Of The Passengers, This Morning

   A serious wreck occurred at the crossing of the Georgia Southern and Florida and the Georgia and Florida railroads shortly before eleven o’clock this morning, injuring ten or twelve passengers more or less severely, almost demolishing the rear coach on the Georgia and Florida train which was pulling out for Madison, and badly damaging the front part of a Georgia Southern and Florida locomotive, which ran into the passenger train.

     Among those hurt in the collision were Mrs. F. R. Daniels and her little daughter, Juanita, of this city [Valdosta], Mrs. W. F. Martin, of Madison, Messrs.  J. W. West, W. T. Lane, G. M. Boyd, W. T. Staten, and Dan Thompson, of Valdosta, M. W. Henderson, of Ray’s Mill and Conductor, R. L. Lofton.  There were a few others who were slightly injured but whose names it was impossible to get in the excitement attending the wreck.

   The first news of the collision received up town came in a telephone message from the Valdosta Foundry and Machine Co.’s plant to Ham Brothers’ stables, asking them to send all the carriages in their place to the crossing of the two roads.  It was stated that a wreck had occurred there and that several people had been killed. 

     Intense excitement was created on the streets, the first rumors indicating that the wreck was much more serious than it really was.   A number of physicians were rushed to the scene and a great crowd soon gathered around the overturned coach and the big locomotive which lay with its wheels on one side buried in the earth.

     It is stated that the passenger train on the Georgia and Florida the Valdosta, Moultrie and Western train both reached the crossing about the same time, and both stopped as required by the rules.  The Madison train the pulled across the crossing, all of the train except the last coach —————–overturned ————- passengers in every direction, and was hurled or slided about sixty feet down the track, the coupling to the train then breaking and leaving one end of the coach lying across the Georgia Southern and Florida tracks, while the other end rested on the track of the Georgia and Florida.

     Many of the passengers were thrown through the windows of the overturned coach, while others made their way or were assisted from the ends of the car.  Practically every window and ventilator in the car  was smashed and a shower of flying glass struck the passengers in their faces.

     Many carriages were on the scene in a few minutes, and those passengers who were unable to walk were hastily taken to the carriages and were carried to their homes and to the hospitals for medical attention.

     The passengers sitting on the north side of the car saw the Georgia Southern and Florida engine as it bore down upon the train, and realized that a collision was inevitable, but they had barely time to clutch their seats or to more than move across the car when the impact came.

    Some of the witnesses state that apparently Engineer Burch, in charge of the G. S. and F. engine made every effort to stop, but that he had on sand in his box and that the wheels slid when he threw on the brakes.  The tracks were wet and the locomotive was going down grade, rendering it impossible, according to them, for the locomotive to be stopped in time.  Other persons state that apparently Engineer Burch did not see the train at all and that no effort was made to stop his engine.  As to which of these theories is correct The Times has no way now of knowing.

     There seems to be a wide difference of opinion as to the speed the locomotive was making.  In the opinion of some of those who saw the collision, the locomotive was moving only about six or eight miles an hour, while others think it was moving  at a much faster rate.

     The wreck occurred in an rather dangerous locality, owing to the fact that the shops of the Valdosta Foundry and Machine Company, obstructs from  the view of the trains coming from the north, a view of the tracks around the curve immediately east of the crossing.  Owing to this fact it may be that Engineer Burch did not see the Georgia and Florida train until it was on the crossing.

      The drawhead on the locomotive fastened in the car, and the pull exerted on it by the Madison train, is said to be the cause of the derailment of the engine.  The force of the collision itself was hardly sufficient to have thrown it from the track.  The tracks of both roads for a distance of a hundred feet or more, were torn and twisted, and both lines effectually blocked for several hours.

     Mr. W. T. Staten’s injuries are said to be very serious, but it is impossible at the hour The Times goes to press for the physicians to determine fully their extent.  His shoulder and left side are badly hurt, and it is feared that he has sustained internal injuries.

     Mrs. F. R. Daniel was bruised and severely shocked, while her little daughter’s face was cut and bruised in several places.  Their injuries are not believed to be serious.

     Mrs. F. L. Martin, of Madison, suffered injuries to her side and shoulder, and is suffering from the shock.

     Mr. Andrew Leslie, of Pinetta, Fla., had one bone in his left leg broken.

     Mr. Whittington, of Boston, Ga., had his left ear severely cut and was hurt in the left side.

     Capt. Lofton, Georgia and Florida conductor, was cut in the face and larynx.

     Rev. Mr. Funk of Ohio, shocked and bruised, injuries not serious.

     Mr. M. W. Henderson, of Ray’s Mill, hurt on the head, side and hip.

     Mr. J. W. West, was cut on the face, and severely bruised in the side.

     Mr. G. M. Boyd was severely bruised in one shoulder and side.  His injuries are not thought to be serious.

     Mr. W. T. Lane was cut in the face and neck, and one of his shoulders and hips badly hurt.

     A few of the passengers came out of the overturned car without a scratch, but the experience was one that none of them ———— of Mr. —————-and——————W. Sinclair from instant death was almost miraculous.  They were sitting together on the north side of the train, and started to rise as they saw the locomotive bearing down on them.  Both of them were thrown across the car and through the window to the ground, as the car turned over on them.  Fortunately they fell in an excavation, and this prevented the car from crushing them to death.

      Mr. West lost his pocket book in the wreck, containing some money and many valuable papers, the latter of no value except to himself, however.

      Most of the injured were carried to the Halcyon sanitorium [sic] for treatment,  Dr. Holmes being surgeon at this point for both the Georgia Southern and Florida and the Georgia and Florida.

                Freight Wrecked at Chula.

      The Georgia Southern passenger train due here [Valdosta] about five o’clock this morning was delayed about five hours at Chula by the wreck of a freight train, south bound.  It is said that two or three miles of trains were tied up there by the wreck.   The passenger train reached this city about half past ten o’clock and the loose engine which ran into the Georgia and Florida train was on its way to the coal chute, having run back from the depot to the main line and was rolling slowly down the main line towards the coal chute when it struck the Georgia and Florida train on the crossing.

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