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


      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.


Related Posts 

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 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.

1910 Train Wreck Gave Charlie Taylor A Fat Lip

On a Monday morning,  February 21, 1910 Charles A Taylor, a farmer who lived just east of Rays Mill, GA , took a train trip on the Georgia & Florida Railroad.  Shortly before 10:00 am that morning, he boarded the train headed for Valdosta.  But just a few miles down the track, as the train approached the station at Bemiss, about ten miles south of Ray City,  there was a head-on collision.

1909 Train wreck  on the Georgia and Florida Railroad at Bemiss, GA about ten miles south of Ray City.

1909 Train wreck on the Georgia and Florida Railroad at Bemiss, GA about ten miles south of Ray City.

The Valdosta Times
February 22, 1910  Pg 5


Baggagmaster Wetherington Hurt in Smashup at Bemis Today

(From Monday’s Daily.)

    Passenger train No. 3. southbound, and a northbound freight train on the Georgia & Florida Railroad, had a head-on collision at Bemiss, eight miles north of Valdosta this morning about 10 o’clock.  The cause of the collision has not yet been fully ascertained.  One report says that the freight train instead of pulling into the south end of the side-track at Bemiss, ran on to the north end, preparatory to backing onto the siding, when it was struck by the passenger train which was slowing up for the station.  Another report is that the brakes on the freight train refused to work and the engineer was not able to control his train.
    Mr. C. S. Wetherington, baggage-master, of this city, was the only person seriously hurt in the collision, though a number of passengers were badly shaken up and one of them had some slight cuts on his face.  The full extent of Mr. Wetherington’s injuries had not been learned when The Times went to press, but unless he is hurt internally it is not believed that they are very serious. Mr. Wetherington is a son-in-law of Elder A. V. Simms, of Valdosta.
    Mrs. Lankford, wife of Judge Lankford, of the county court of Douglas, was slightly bruised and Mr. C. A. Taylor, of Rays Mill, had his lip cut.  Neither of these parties are seriously injured, however.
    Dr. J. B. S. Holmes, the road’s surgeon, was telephoned to immediately after the wreck and he went to the scene in an automobile to minister to the injured.  The baggagemaster was brought to the city in an automobile, and is now at the Halycon, where he is receiving medical attention.
    It is said that both locomotives were practically demolished, the passenger locomotive plowing its way almost half through the other.  The passenger cars were not greatly damaged.  The fact that both trains were running very slowly is all that prevented the collision from being a much more dangerous one – possibly a repetition of the disastrous wreck on the Georgia Southern & Florida last week.  The freight train was making only eight or ten miles an hour, at the time and the passenger was probably not running faster than fifteen or eighteen miles an hour.
    The track was blocked by the wreck and all trains were delayed for many hours.

Born  in 1870, Charles A. Taylor was a son of  William Henry Taylor (1849 – 1918) and Amanda F. Parrish (1850 – 1930).  He lived and farmed all of his life near Ray City, GA.  Charlie Taylor died in 1927 and was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City.

Related posts:

Batts Goins ~ Tie Chopper

Batts Goins and his wife, Elzira, were an African-American couple living in Ray City, GA in the 193o’s. The Goins were renting a house for $3.00 a month.

Batts Goins was 64 years old but still working for a living.   Like many of his neighbors, he made his living in the timber industry.  His trade was “Tie Chopper.” A tie chopper, or tie hacker, was a person who made railroad ties.

“The tie choppers usually worked alone. They first felled the tree with a saw, cut the lower limbs off, and marked off the ties on the bark to see how many ties could be cut from the tree. The tree was then “scored” with an axe on both sides in order to start making the two flat faces of the tie. These sides were then chipped with a “broad ax,” thus making two smooth faces. The bark was then peeled from the other two faces and the tree was then cut into finished ties. After the ties were made the top of the tree was lopped, that is, the branches were cut from the trunk. In this operation these branches were scattered evenly over the ground. The tie chopper then cleared a road through the middle of his strip and “parked” his ties on the road. He then stamped his private mark on each tie.”   ~ an account of the tie chopper from Our national forests: a short popular account of the work of the United States Forest Service on the national forests.

Tie choppers hand-hewed two flat faces on felled logs using a broad axe, then stripped the bark off the remaining sides. The finished tie was suitable for laying track.

Typically, tie choppers would cut timber off their own land, or pay a land owner by the tree, or “stump”  for each tree they cut into ties.

 Throughout the country the work is usually done between October 1 and April 1, both because many of the railroads require in their specifications that the timber be cut during that period and because other work is less active in the fall and winter.

As is the case in all timber values expressed as stumpage, the value of ties in the tree varies with their kind and quality, their accessibility, and the difficulty of logging and transportation to market…. Southern yellow pine stumpage is worth from 6 to 14 cents [per tie], with an average of about 10 cents.

Contracts for hewing No. 1 ties range from 14 or 15 cents for difficult conditions, down to 10 cents for good “chances” and from 8 to 11 cents for “seconds.”….Tie hacks bend every effort to make all the “firsts” possible from every tree handled, as it is current opinion among them that there is no money in making “seconds” …. where the timber ran about three ties per tree, each man turned out about 20 ties on an average per day. In a 10-hour day the time was divided as follows: 1 1/4 hours felling, 2 1/2 hours limbing and scoring, 3 hours facing, 1 hour bucking into lengths and 1 1/4 hours peeling.  ~ Railway engineering and maintenance, Volume 14

In earlier decades many millions of railroad ties were produced completely by hand labor, but by the 1930’s at least some parts of the process were completed mechanically.

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Claudie Royal ~ 1920s Skidderman at Ray City, GA

James Claudie Royal (1893 – 1972)

Claudie Royal was born May 7, 1893, at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He was a son of William Frank Royal and Mary Jones.  His mother died when Claudie was about one year old.  When Claudie was about 4 years old, his father married Arletta Ganos and moved the family to Clinch County.

In 1920,  Claudie Royal and his wife, Thelma, were living in Ray City, GA in the home of his father-in-law, Bill Cole.  They all lived in a house on Jones Street.  The Cole  household at that time  included  William M. “Bill” Cole, his wife  Hattie, and minor children, Clarence, Leroy, Clyde, and Irene.

Claudie Royal and Bill Cole were  sawmill employees. There were several smaller sawmill operators in the area but from about 1909 to 1923 the big sawmill at Ray City, operated under a succession of owners, was the largest employer in the area. In 1920 it was the Clements Lumber Company.

Claudie worked as a “skidderman,”  while Bill Cole was a wheelwright.

As a wheelwright,  Bill Cole worked to build and repair the wheels used on horse- or mule-drawn wagons and carts used in the sawmill operation. The wheel hubs, spokes, and rims were all constructed out of carefully crafted wooden pieces.  The wheel assembly was banded with an iron “tire” that was custom made by a blacksmith.

Working as a skidderman, Claudie Royal drove a team of horses or mules, using a skidder to transport logs.  The skidder dragged logs from where they were cut  the short distance to the tracks of the railway tram, where they were loaded and hauled to the sawmill.   According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1918 publications, in Georgia a skidderman worked a 60 hour workweek, for a wage of 22.5 cents an hour, or $13.50 per week. The workweek was six 10-hour days.

Skiddermen used two wheel carts, like the Perry Cart, to drag felled logs to the tracks of a railroad tram for loading and hauling to the sawmill. This cart has wooden wheels with steel "tires" 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet in diameter. Construction and maintenance of wheels such as these would have been the work of a wheelwright.

Skiddermen used two wheel carts, like the Perry Cart, to drag felled logs to the tracks of a railroad tram for loading and hauling to the sawmill. This cart has wooden wheels with steel “tires” 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet in diameter. Construction and maintenance of wheels such as these would have been the work of a wheelwright.

Log Carts. — In all types of carts the logs are swung beneath the wheels with the rear ends dragging on the ground. The height of wheels ranges from 5 to 10 feet with a corresponding variation in gauge.

A cart used in the Coastal Plain region has an arched axle and wheels 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 feet high. The hounds of the cart are fastened on either side of the tongue by a heavy bolt. A bunk rests on the top of the axel and carries two upright guides between which the tongue fits. The latter is held in place by a spring latch. When the cart is to be loaded it is driven up to one end of a log, then backed until the axle is directly over that part of the log to which the chains or grapples are to be attached. The latch on the guides is then released, the team is backed for a step or two and the hounds are forced into a position nearly vertical, which turns the bunk through a quarter circle and brings it near enough to the ground to permit the grapples or chains to be attached. The elevation of the log is accomplished by driving the team forward, which brings the hounds and tongue to a horizontal position.

– Bryant, R. C. (1923). Logging: The principles & general methods of operation in the United States. S.l.: s.n..

Sliptongue skidder working in the south Georgia pine forest.

Sliptongue skidder working in the south Georgia pine forest.

Hauling logs by mules. Ocilla, GA.

Hauling logs by mules. Ocilla, GA.

James Claudie Royal died  in February, 1972.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave of James Claudie Royal and Thelma Cole Royal, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of James Claudie Royal and Thelma Cole Royal, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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1914 Box Ball Alley ~ Mayhaw Lake at Rays Mill, GA

In the early 1900s, Box Ball was a popular arcade game that was sweeping the country.  In 1914, box ball made its way to Ray City, GA.  An advertisement appearing in a 1914 Berrien County, GA newspaper promoted a new amusement park and and attractions at Ray’s Mill (now know as Ray City).  The Mayhaw Lake Amusement Park was a business operated by Elias Moore “Hun” Knight.

MAYHAW LAKE AT RAYS MILL, GA – Mayhaw lake is located 1-2 from Rays Mill and is now open. For outings, picnics and amusements, it can’t be excelled in South Georgia. – A fine bathing pool supplied with fine Sulphur water, one of the best Skating Rinks and Box Ball Allers in this Section.  Cold drinks, hot lunches at all hours during day and night; also a good base ball diamond open to visiting teams for match games. – The Georgia & Florida Railroad will give special rates for picnic parties from all points on their line. – For Special Rates apply to T.E. Harris, Commercial Agent Ga. & Fla., Valdosta, Ga. – E.M. Knight, Prop. – Ray’s Mill, Georgia.

Box ball alleys were manufactured by the American Box Ball Company (Holcomb &  Hoke). The company website provides the following information:

Box ball was a modified version of bowling, using smaller balls in knocking down five pins set horizontally across a wooden alley. Lanes were portable and available in three sizes, providing for quick and easy installation in amusements parks, bars and other entertainment venues both big and small. Purchase of American Box Ball Company in 1903 prompted Holcomb & Hoke’s relocation to Indianapolis, Indiana. Fueled by the cross-country success of their fledgling business, the two men built their first manufacturing facility in 1906. Demand for the game remained steady for the next seven years, at which time they concluded that the box ball market was nearly saturated.

E.M. Knight must have regarded box ball alleys as a good investment.  He may have been able to acquire a used alley, or perhaps he purchased direct from the manufacturer.  A 1914 ad touted the potential profits of a box ball alley operation.

1910 Train Wreck in Valdosta, GA

Manassah W. Henderson

Manassah Henderson of Ray’s  Mill, GA was injured in the 1910 train wreck in Valdosta.  Read additional accounts at http://raycity.pbworks.com/

Atlanta Georgian and News, Jun. 29, 1910 — page 3

Two collide at Right Angle in
Valdosta Railroad


Thrown in Heap Against Sides
of Car — Cut by Flying Glass
and Otherwise

    Valdosta, GA. June 29 – Ten or twelve passengers were more or less seriously injured in a wreck which occurred in the railroad yard in this city shortly before 11 o’clock today. The rear coach on a Georgia and Florida railroad train was struck at right angle and hurled a distance of 50 feet by a locomotive of the Georgia Southern and Florida railroad at a crossing of the two roads.
The passengers in the coach were thrown in a huddle by the impact, nearly of them being cut by flying glass, while some of them sustained internal injuries.
Among those injured were;
Mrs. Daniels and daughter, of Valdosta.
Mrs. W. F. Martin, of Madison, Fla.
W.T. Staten,
J.W. West,
G.M. Boyd,
W. T. Lane, of Valdosta,
W.M. Henderson, of Rays Mill, Ga.
It is not known yet whether the injuries of any of them will prove fatal.
The wreck appears to have been the fault of the Georgia Southern and Florida engineer.

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Ray’s Mill has Arrived

In March, 1909, Eugene Ray filed a newspaper article with the date line ” Rays Mill, Ga., March 9. — (Special)”.

“To colonies of people, south Georgia offers special inducements. While it is true that there are in every county and in almost every district small tracts of land for sale, and while it is true that there are in every town men, enterprising and patriotic, who will divide up their real estate holdings to suit the purchaser, yet there are tracts of thousands of acres owned by the wealthy sawmill man, who, having cut the timber off his land, desires no to dispose of it to the farmer and dispose of it in a body. Selling it that way, he would sell it cheaper. I mention these facts in answer to inquiries received by mail.”

“But there is land suitable for every class…”

“Rays Mill, a very new town on the Georgia and Florida Railroad, ten miles south of Nashville, is in this section, and is proud of its location. Less than six months ago there was no town and no sign of it. Today there are at least a half a dozen new store houses completed or being built, and probably twenty-five new residence buildings completed or planned, to say nothing of a half a hundred new cabins for the colored laborer. A two story hotel building is near completion and will soon be occupied. M.E Studstill has a new sawmill here and J.H. Crenshaw has another. Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here. A.L. Bridges is another young merchant who will soon move his store to town. Louis Bullard is completing a two story house. And so on — all in five months. The truth is, Rays Mill, the town, has just about ‘arrived,’ or will soon.”


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William F. Luckie ~ Luckie Lumber Mill

A business which contributed much to the new town of Ray City, GA was the Luckie Lumber Company.  It was a huge operation run by William F. Luckie and located about 1 mile north of town on the Georgia & Florida rail line.

Luckie sold the sawmill operation to the Clements Brothers some time around 1911.

Mr. Luckie was on the social scene in Berrien county:

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. I.  and J. S. Clements and C.B . Shaw were among the visitors.

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