Old Ray City Fire Department

Today, Ray City, GA has a fine volunteer fire department housed in a modern facility on the south side of Main Street.  In the 1970s, the fire department consisted of a one-engine garage on the ground of City Hall.

Fire station at Ray City, GA, 1978

Fire station at Ray City, GA, 1978

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Berrien Minute Men On the Square

Before the Civil War, some 32 percent of the population of Lowndes and Berrien County, Georgia were enslaved African-Americans.  In neighboring Thomas County, 51 percent of the people were enslaved. These numbers paled in comparison with the slave population of the coastal counties, where as much as 86 percent of the population toiled in bondage on the sea island cotton and rice plantations of Georgia’s tidewater.  In all, the State of Georgia estimated its citizens owned  three billion dollars worth of slaves.

Almost immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln,  Levi J. Knight formed the Berrien Minute Men, a company of 103 volunteer infantrymen. Levi J. Knight, original pioneer settler of Ray City, GA was the military leader of the community and a slave owner. He had served as a captain of the local militia company in the Indian Wars, and as a general in the state militia.

The Berrien Minute Men drilled and paraded in the local communities before being called up for deployment. By May, 1861 newspapers reported, “the county is alive with volunteers, and all eager for a fight with the Abolitionists. Our citizens have liberally contributed funds to equip and prepare for service the poor men connected with the companies, and also to supply with provisions and clothing the destitute families of those who shall enter the service.

In 1888 a visitor to Nashville, GA met with surviving veterans of the Berrien Minute Men. A brief passage on their reminiscences was printed in the Atlanta Constitution.

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA
About the Illustration: The Berrien Minute Men of the Georgia 29th Regiment in an 1861 pre-deployment ceremony at the Nashville, Georgia courthouse square. The mounted officer depicts Captain Levi J. Knight (1803-1870) a prominent leader in the area and retired major general of the Georgia militia. The building in the background represents the Berrien County Courthouse, the only known structure from Civil War era Nashville, GA which is documented in photographs. The balcony shown on the courthouse was actually not present until the building was converted to a hotel in 1898. Illustrator: Alan H. Archambault. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

The writer of the 1888 news clipping recalled the company of men in their uniforms on the courthouse square.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

Atlanta Constitution
Friday April 6, 1888. Pg. 2.

A Brave Band of Men.

Berrien Correspondence Quitman, Ga., Herald.  May the brain that dictates and the hand that indites this sentence be paralyzed if we ever forget our friends and comrades in the days that tried men’s souls. From this county went forth the “Berrien Minute Men” to battle for the lost cause. They were the finest body of men we ever saw in line, and they belonged to the old Twenty-ninth Georgia. Twenty-five or thirty of them on the right of the company were over six feet high. They wore a grey uniform, cut on the claw-hammer style, with a black breast, and trimmed with large gilt buttons. They were a dangerous looking set, and truer, braver, manlier hearts never beat beneath the confederate grey.

Where are these stalwart forms now? We did not see them on the courthouse square at Nashville, where they once mustered so bravely.

Alas! nearly all of this gallant band have passed over the river and are resting under the shade of the trees. We met Henry Knight, John Knight, Lacy Lastinger, Jim Roberts, Jack Parrish, Frank Parrish, and a few others that we knew in the long ago, and we were welcomed, aye, thrice welcomed.

 

About the Courthouse

According to the Berrien Historical Foundation, the Berrien Courthouse was a two-story wooden structure that served the county’s judicial needs from 1858 until around 1897.  The courthouse occupied the square in Nashville, on lands purchased from pioneer, Daniel Griner, and chosen by a commission appointed by the Judge of the Inferior Court.

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

When the present brick courthouse was to be constructed, the two story wood structure was purchased by Dr. William Bryan Goodman, who moved it to the northeast side of the square and converted it into a hotel.

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

Tifton Gazette
September 20, 1901

At the entertainment given by Dr. and Mrs. W. B. Goodman in Nashville Thursday evening last, at which a voting contest for a name for the new Nashville hotel was held, about $20 was realized for the Nashville Methodist church fund. The name “Hotel Hansell,” was selected, in honor of the Southern circuit’s veteran judge.

October 25, 1901 Tifton Gazette reports Hotel Hansell under new management.

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Marsh’s Ferry, the Lopahaw Bridge and Tyson Ferry

One of the early roads in Berrien County described by William Green Avera was, “the road from Milltown northward to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha. This road pass[ed] by the residence of the late John Studstill, first sheriff of Berrien County, later the home of Joe Studstill, his son; Stony Hill, the old residence of the late Moses C. Lee; Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine still; the residence of the late J. H. Rowan [and] the residence of his widow, Mrs. Phoebe Rowan; the residence of the late William Gaskins — the grandfather of the late Alvah W. Gaskins of Nashville, GA.”    At  Tyson Ferry,  the Milltown road intersected the Coffee Road.

Alapaha River was crossed by the Coffee Road at this site.

Monday, June 19, 2017, Julian Fields led a field trip to the site where the ferry on the old Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7_-0AzgKgw

It was the 1823 opening of the Coffee Road that led to the creation of Lowndes County, which then covered a vast area of Wiregrass Georgia including present day Berrien County, GA.   When  John Coffee first cut through the wilderness, there was no ferry or bridges.  Early travelers on Coffee road traversed the Alapaha river  at Cunningham’s Ford. With seasonally high water, the river was no doubt difficult, if not impossible to cross. The WWALS Watershed Coalition documents a number of waypoints, creek and river crossings on the route of the old Coffee Road.

It appears that some time prior to 1836, a ferry was established over the Alapaha for the convenience of Coffee Road travelers.  Marsh’s Ferry was operated by Reuben Marsh, an early settler of Irwin County who was one of the commissioners appointed by the legislature to fix the location of the county seat, Irwinville.

THE LOPAHAW BRIDGE

In 1836 the Georgia Assembly provided partial funding for the construction of a public bridge over the Alapaha River. Later records of the Inferior Court of Irwin County indicate  Tyson Ferry was put into service to replace this bridge .

1836 Georgia Act to construct a bridge across the Lopahaw River

1836 Georgia Act to construct a bridge across the Lopahaw River

 

       AN ACT, To appropriate the sum of eight hundred dollars, to build a Bridge across the Lopahaw.
      Whereas, it is all important that a Bridge should be built across the Lopahaw, at or near Coffee’s Road, and whereas, the citizens are unable to build the said Bridge, and whereas, a subscription is on foot to raise or contribute eight hundred dollars which is thought will be about one half of the amount necessary and requisite to build and erect a substantial Bridge, for remedy whereof:
       Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is enacted by the authority of the same, That Jacob Polk of the county of Irwin, Daniel Grantham, Sen’r. John McMillon, be and they are hereby authorized to draw and appropriate the sum of eight hundred dollars, for the purpose of building a Bridge over and across the Lopahaw, at or near where the Coffee Road crosses the said river, and for the repair of Coffee’s Road.
       Sec. 2. Be it enacted by the authority of the same, That the said Commissioners shall give bond and sufficient security for the faithful discharge of their duty, and properly to expend the aforesaid sum for the erection of said Bridge.
        Sec. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That His Excellency the Governor, be, and he is hereby authorized and required, on the receipt of said bond as before required, to pay the amount of eight hundred dollars to the said Commissioners aforesaid, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.

JOSEPH DAY,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
ROBERT M. ECHOLS,

President of the Senate.
Assented to, Dec. 26, 1836.
WILLIAM SCHLEY, Governor.

It appears that the Lopahaw bridge was not constructed on the direct path of Coffee Road over the Alapaha, for at the February 1838 term of the Inferior Court of Irwin County marking commissioners were appointed to lay out a route which bypassed the ford and proceeded over the public bridge, rejoining Coffee road after the crossing.

At February term, 1838, Jacob A. Bradford, John Harper and Leonard Jackson, appointed commissioners to lay out and mark road, leaving Coffee road near Cornelius Tyson’s to public bridge on Alapaha, thence to intersect Coffee road
at or near Micajah Paulk’s, Sr. 

When the  Inferior Court of Irwin County next met road commissioners were appointed for Coffee Road, to include the new routing over the public bridge.

At July term, 1838, Leonard G. Jackson, Shaderick Griffin and Andrew McClelland, appointed commissioners on road, commencing at C. Tyson’s to public bridge on Alapaha, then to intersect Coffee road near Micajah Paulk’s, they to commence at county line and ending at district line.

There is reason to question just how long this bridge remained in service, for in 1841, Georgia experienced a severe, wide-spread flood known as the Harrison Freshet:

In the early part of March, 1841, after President Harrison’s inauguration, the big fresh occurred west of the Oconee, and the Ocmulgee, Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, and all other smaller streams, contained more water and produced greater damage than ever known. In this section the last inundation was also called the Harrison freshet; hence the confusion that arose many years afterwards in distinguishing which was the proper Harrison fresh. The discrimination was, however, distinctly recorded at the time of the occurrences. The fresh of May and June, 1840, while the convention was held at Milledgeville, was named by the Democrats, “The Nomination Freshet,” and the fresh of March, 1841, was also named by the same “unterrified” authority “The Harrison Inauguration Freshet.” An iron spike was driven into the western abutment of the [Macon] city bridge by Mr. Albert G. Butts, denoting the highest water ever in the river down to that time, March, 1841. The spike still remains, and is inspected at every freshet in the Ocmulgee.

The flood of the Harrison Freshet is known to have washed away bridges on the Alapaha River.   “Few bridges on the common streams … stood the shock.” The Milledgeville Federal Union declared it a 100 year flood.  The “extraordinary flood…caused awful damage in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina” with major erosion, land slides, “roads rendered almost impassable, and plantations disfigured with enormous gullies.

Whether or not the Lopahaw Bridge weathered the storm is not known, but Clement’s History of Irwin County relates that “the public bridge” over the Alapaha was condemned at the January 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court.

TYSON FERRY

At the same 1856 term of court according to James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County“Cornelious Tyson was granted authority to erect a ferry on Alapaha River on the Coffee road at the location of the condemned bridge and he is allowed to charge the following rates: man and horse, six and one-fourth cents; horse and cart, twenty-five cents; four-horse wagon, fifty cents; horse and buggy, thirty-seven and one-half cents.” 

Cornelius Tyson was one of the five marking commissioners appointed by the state legislature in 1856 to fix the boundary lines of the newly created Berrien County.  Cornelius Tyson is enumerated in Berrien County, GA as Cornelius Tison in the Census 1860.

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Juanelle Wilson, Mayor of Ray City

Juanelle Wilson, Mayor of Ray City

Juanelle Wilson, 1986, Mayor of Ray City, GA

Juanelle Wilson, 1986, Mayor of Ray City, GA

 ◊:◊:◊:◊

Juanelle Wilson was elected May of Ray City, GA, 1986

Juanelle Wilson was elected Mayor of Ray City, GA, 1986

Valdosta Times
January 20, 1986

Ray City Gets First Female Mayor

RAY CITY- For the first time in the history of Ray City, a woman has been elected as the mayor.

Juanelle Wilson was sworn into office at City Hall by City Clerk Betty Shearl Jan. 7.

She is excited about her election. “I was pleased to know people wanted me and supported me,” she said.

Mrs. Wilson, wife of Don A. Wilson, isn’t a newcomer to the political arena. She ran for the Ray City mayor’s office unsuccessfully three times, the first being in 1973. But later that year she was placed on the City Council by a special election and has been very active in politics since that time.

In addition to serving on city council, she has worked as city clerk and she still serves as director of the Ray City Bicentennial Park.  Mrs. Wilson would like to see a swimming pool and tennis court added to the park in the near future.

She is also active with the homecoming committee, which is in charge of annual homecoming activities on tap for the July 4th weekend celebration in Ray City.

“I have worked as hard as I could and enjoyed every minute of it,” she said of her hectic schedule.  Mrs. Wilson sees a progressive year for Ray City.  She would like to see the sewer system upgraded and a multi-housing plan started. She adds that a small industry would also contribute to the city’s expansion.

Mrs. Wilson attended Mayor’s Day in Atlanta where she sought funds for the projects she has on the agenda. “When we lift the face of the city, we need to lift mine, too,” she joked.

She said her husband and their only grandchild, Miriam, who lives with them, are excited for her and supportive of her endeavors.

No one in Mrs. Wilson’s family was ever interested in politics, with the  exception of her grandfather, the late Fred Purvis of Berrien County. She said whenever he served on the jury, he usually would up bringing some of his fellow jurors home for the night, if they lived too far away.

“I like people,” said Mrs. Wilson. “I have to be around people.” She has good rapport with the city’s council members. They are Willie James Doe, Raymond Bailey, Johnny Cooper and Eston Giddens.

At one time, a telephone service which contacted senior citizens on a daily basis to ensure their safety, was operative in the city. Mrs. Wilson would like to see this project re-established.

“We desperately need a community center to be used for the youth and senior citizens as a gathering place,” said Mrs. Wilson.  She sees that as one of her goals.

Mrs.Wilson said she feels her efforts for the city and the people who live there will be successful. “I think I’ll have their support and I’ll do the best job I can,” she said.

The 62-year-old mayor, who will celebrate her birthday Feb. 17, was born in Atlanta. Her father, the late Henry L. Starling, was a student of Georgia Tech on the GI Bill at that time. Mrs. Wilson said her father designed the tobacco flue and that required her family to move constantly. Her family returned to Berrien County when she was 6 months old.

Mrs. Wilson and her husband were married on Jan. 14, 1943. She and her husband move 22 time during his 27 1/2 years of service in the Air Force. “It was fun traveling and being part of the communities,” she said.

The Wilsons have two children, Barbara Joyce, who lives near Ray City, and a son, Dale Allen of San Diego, Calif.

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1922 Ray City Elections

 

William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist

William Hamilton Griffin (1853-1917)

William Hamilton Griffin was born in that part of Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. He became a prominent public administrator and jurist of Wiregrass Georgia, and was involved in some of the most dramatic legal contests in Ray City history.

William H. Griffin

William H. Griffin

William Hamilton Griffin  was born July 18, 1853, on his father’s plantation, located in that portion of Lowndes county which is now included in Berrien county, GA. His honored parents, William D.and Nancy (Belote) Griffin, were also natives of Lowndes county.”

He was a cousin of Bessie Griffin, and Lester Griffin of the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA),

“The father, William D. Griffin, aided in effecting the organization of Berrien county and was its second treasurer, which office he held continuously until his death, in 1892, except one term, during the so-called -“Reconstruction” period, immediately succeeding the Civil War, when nearly all white voters were, under Federal statutes, practically disfranchised. The father was a soldier in the Confederate service during the latter part of the war and was with Johnston’s forces in the operations of the Atlanta Campaign.”

The paternal grandfather represented Brooks county in the state legislature, though his residence was on land now in Lowndes county. The great-grandfather, James Griffin, was a private soldier in the Revolutionary War.  James Griffin and Sarah Lodge Griffin were early settlers of Irwin County, GA.

William H. Griffin, the subject of this sketch, was afforded only the advantages of the common schools of his native county, the family fortunes, in common with those of most southern families, having been seriously affected by the war. He was educated in the public schools and academies at Nashville, GA. He soon developed traits of leadership and at twenty was elected clerk of the court for Berrien County, an office he held in 1874-5. From 1882 to 1885 he held of the office of Ordinary of Berrien County. While in this office he studied law, and in 1884 he was admitted to the Georgia bar. He at once began the practice of his profession at Nashville, but in 1885 he removed to Valdosta, GA.  There he formed a law partnership with Judge Benjamin F. Whittington, as Whittington & Griffin, this relation continuing for several years.

He was elected mayor of Valdosta in 1892, and served three consecutive terms. Governor William Yates Atkinson appointed him judge of the city court of Valdosta in 1897, for a term of four years, at the expiration of which he was reappointed for a like term, by Governor Allen D. Candler, and continued on the bench until 1905. During his eight years of service he tried 1,358 civil cases and 2008  criminal cases, a total of 3,866. His decisions were carried to the supreme court but 18 times and were reversed in only two cases.

In politics Judge Griffin was a Democrat, having always given that party his unqualified support. He served as mayor of Valdosta, judge of the city court, representative in the state legislature from Lowndes County, Chair of the Democratic Executive Committee of Lowndes County, and as referee in bankruptcy. His elevations to public office were a tribute to his worth and to the respect with which he was held by the community.

He was a member of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and held membership in various bar associations. His chief recreations were fishing and hunting.

William H. Griffin was twice married — first, on May 18, 1879, to Margaret “Maggie” MacDonald, daughter of Dougal P. and Anna (Peeples) MacDonald, of Nashville, Berrien county. Maggie McDonald was born in 1864. Her father was listed on the 1860 roster of Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men, but he was also enumerated in Berrien County on the 1864  Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. Maggie was apparently raised by Dr. Hamilton M. Talley, as she appears in his household in Berrien County in the census of 1870. She died in 1890.

William H. Griffin was second married to Miss Carrie Abbott, of Randolph, VT, September 28, 1892. He had two children of the latter marriage—William Abbott Griffin, born in 1896, and Margaret Griffin, born in 1902. William and Carrie Griffin were members of the Methodist Episcopal church South.

William H. Griffin served as attorney for the estate of prominent Rays Mill turpentine man Robert S. Thigpen, engineering some of the largest property deals in Ray City history in the disposal of the Thigpen estate.  Thigpen’s holdings at the time of his death in 1898 included his turpentine plants and naval stores stock at Rays Mill, Naylor and Lenox, GA.

In 1899, William H. Griffin represented James Thomas Beagles, defending him for the Killing of Madison G. Pearson at Henry Harrison Knight’s store at Rays Mill (now Ray City),GA some 12 years earlier. The Beagles case was tried before Judge Augustin H. Hansell. Attorney Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words. Beagles was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only two years incarceration.

In 1906, after his retirement from the bench Judge Griffin entered into a partnership with Hon. Elisha Peck Smith Denmark, and formed the law firm, Denmark & Griffin. It was said that “He enjoyed the confidence, esteem and patronage of the most prominent and important people and business interests of Lowndes and adjoining counties.”

In the matter of Green Bullard’s estate, William H. Griffin was retained by William B. Shaw to represent the interests of his wife, Fannie Bullard ShawGreen Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and  owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek. The Shaws wanted the estate to be administered by Fannies’ brother, Henry Needham Bullard, rather than her half-brother, William Malachi Jones.   The other side of the family was represented  by Buie & Knight in the dispute. Mallie Jones was the son of Mary Ann Knight Bullard by her first husband, William A. Jones.

Judge Griffin’s name was synonymous with integrity. He “walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and spoke the truth in his heart.” He exemplified the best ideals of the profession. He was generous-spirited, and gave liberally of praise and commendation where he thought it due.  When the first train to roll through Ray City on the Georgia & Florida Railroad arrived at Valdosta, it was Judge W. H. Griffin that gave the welcome address at the celebration.

His death occurred at his home in Valdosta, April 15, 1917, and the throng of people, including many lawyers from other counties, who attended his funeral attested strongly the esteem and love there was for him in the hearts
of those who knew him.

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Post-Search Light
Apr. 19, 1917

Judge Griffin Died Sunday

Prominent Valdosta Jurist Passed Suddenly Away From Heart Trouble – Well Known Here.

    The following account appearing under a Valdosta date line in the daily press Monday will be interest to Bainbridge friends of the deceased.
     Judge Griffin was well known here, and was related to Representative E. H. Griffin, of this city.
    “Judge William H. Griffin, one of Valdosta’s prominent men and a leading south Georgia lawyer, succumbed to attack of heart failure this afternoon at 1:45 o’clock after less than an hour’s illness.  He was alone at his home when the attack came on him, members of his family being at church.  Mrs. Griffin returned home soon after he was stricken and a physician reached his side in a few minutes but was powerless to relieve his patient.
    “Judge Griffin was sixty-four years of age, an active south Georgian, and for forty years a citizen of Valdosta. He was a member of the law firm of Denmark & Griffin, and controlled a large and lucrative practice.  He was a member of the two last general assemblies of Georgia and exerted a strong but conservative influence in that body.  He had been judge of the city court of Valdosta, mayor of the city, member of the school board and active in the public life of this city and section, which loses one of its best citizens in his death.
     “Judge Griffin is survived by his wife and two children, a son, Mr. Abbot Griffin, and daughter, Miss Margaret.
   “His son was in Macon, where an announcement of his father’s death reached him.
    “Judge Griffin’s funeral and interment will take place here probably on Monday.”

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery. Image source: Robert Strickland.

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Charles X Jones Was a Leading Spirit of Ray City

In a shady cemetery plot at New Bethel Church, about seven miles southwest of Ray City, GA, lies the grave of the town’s first elected mayor, Dr. Charles X. Jones.

Grave of Charles X. Jones (1870-1933), First Elected Mayor of Ray City, GA

Grave of Charles X. Jones (1870-1933), First Elected Mayor of Ray City, GA

Charles X. Jones was born in Carroll County, GA on September 15, 1870 (or 1869 according to his death certificate).    When Charles  was born  his father, Maj. William Dudley Jones, was 50 and his mother, Martha H. Word, was 45. His father was a farmer at Bowdon, GA and also served as county tax collector of Carroll County. His mother’s parents were John Bryson Word and Amelia Sparks.

Census enumeration of Charles X. Jones, son of Major William Dudley Jones, in Carroll County, Georgia, on June 3, 1880.

Census enumeration of Charles X. Jones, son of Major William Dudley Jones, in Carroll County, Georgia, on June 3, 1880.

Charles X. Jones grew up on his father’s farm near Bowdon, GA in the 1111th district of Carroll County.  Bowden was a progressive community and the site of Bowdon College, “Georgia’s fifth chartered institution of higher education and first coeducational institution. Bowdon was a frontier community of merchants and yeomen who nourished the growth of a school where earnest students of limited means bettered their lives and their communities…Graduates have carried the honor of the institution into our state and national capitals and throughout the world. From her halls have come educators, doctors, lawyers, journalists, judges, bankers, farmers, industrialists, governors, and senators.”  Charles X. Jones was admitted to Bowden College where he completed the full program of study and graduated on July 1, 1891.

Bowdon College, GA, photographed circa 1899. Charles X. Jones graduated from Bowdon College in 1891.

Bowdon College, GA, photographed circa 1899. Charles X. Jones graduated from Bowdon College in 1891.

Jones later attended the medical school in Augusta, GA now known as Georgia Regents University, and received his medical degree  in 1898.

Old Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA. Charles X. Jones graduated with a medical degree in 1898.

Old Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA. Charles X. Jones graduated with a medical degree in 1898.

After medical school, young Dr. Jones came to Berrien County,GA to the Ray’s Mill Community.  He boarded with James S. Swindle and Catherline “Candas” Swindle while establishing his practice.

Census enumeration of Charles X. Jones, physician, in Rays Mill, Berrien County, Georgia, on June 13, 1900.

Census enumeration of Charles X. Jones, physician, in Rays Mill, Berrien County, Georgia, on June 13, 1900.

In 1901, Dr. Jones married 17-year-old Effie J. Mclean; he was about 31 years of age. The marriage ceremony was performed in Berrien County, GA by Elder Aaron Anderson Knight, Primitive Baptist Minister of Ray City.  Elder Knight’s church at that time was New Ramah Church in Ray City, GA

Dr. Charles X. Jones married Effie J. McLean on December 3, 1901 in Berrien County, GA.

Dr. Charles X. Jones married Effie J. McLean on December 3, 1901 in Berrien County, GA.

In 1903, Charles X. Jones purchased a 4 acre tract of land from James S. Swindle along Card Creek, the outflow of Ray’s Millpond now known as Beaverdam Creek.  That same year Charles and Effie began their family with the birth of their first child, Sam Jones.

In the summer of 1905, word came from Bowdon, GA that Dr. Jones’ father had died of a stroke. The obituary was published in the Atlanta Constitution and other state papers.

Obituary of Major William Dudley Jones, died June 19, 1905.

Obituary of Major William Dudley Jones, died June 19, 1905. Atlanta Constitution, June 21, 1905.

Atlanta Constitution
June 21, 1905

Major W.D. Jones, Carrollton, Ga.

Major W. D. Jones, a very highly respected citizen of this county, who lived near Bowdon, died suddenly as a result of a stroke of paralysis yesterday. He was 90 years old. He was the father of the late Colonel J. W. Jones, of Bowdon, and of Dr. Charles X. Jones, near Valdosta.

In 1908, Charles X. Jones’ tract of land was platted into town lots in the newly incorporated town of Rays Mill, GA.  Charles and Effie built the first house in  the  town and became its first residents. This house was located on the lot that surrounds the present Methodist Church. The street which ran past the Jones residence was named Jones Street in the doctor’s honor. Redding D. Swindle was  appointed as the mayor until the first elections could be held, and Jones carried the election in the first casting of ballots for the government of the new town. Mary Etta Swindle, wife of R.D. Swindle won a contest to name the new town, proposing it be called Ray City, GA although the title of Rays Mill persisted for many years thereafter.

The Jones residence was the very first household enumerated in Rays Mill, GA in the census of 1910. Dr. Charles X. Jones was enumerated with a reported age of 39, wife Effie J. Jones (26), and their children Sam Jones (7), Fred Jones (5), Trixie Jones (3), and Charles X. Jones, Jr (1).

Census enumeration of Dr. Charles X. and family in Rays Mill, Berrien County, Georgia, April 15, 1910.

Census enumeration of Dr. Charles X. and family in Rays Mill, Berrien County, Georgia, April 15, 1910.

Dr. Jones was also a banker. When the Bank of Rays Mill was formed in 1911, Dr. Jones  was elected Vice President of the bank, and served on the Board of Directors along with B. P. Jones,  J. S. Swindle, J. H. Swindle, W. H. E. Terry, L. J. Clements and bank president Clarence L. Smith. Later, Charles X. Jones  and Clarence L. Smith served together on the board of directors of Southern Bank & Trust Co., formed 1913 in Valdosta, GA.  The Southern Bank & Trust Company closed its doors in 1918.

By 1920, Dr. Jones had acquired a farm south of Ray City, near the community of Barretts on the Ray City – Valdosta Road, where he relocated and continued his medical practice. This was in the 1307th Georgia Militia District, the Cat Creek District of Lowndes County, GA. In the census of 1920, Jones residence was enumerated by census taker Arthur Walton McDonald, brother of Lacy A. McDonald who was a mailman at Ray City.

1920 census enumeration of Dr. Charles X. Jones, Lowndes County, GA

1920 census enumeration of Dr. Charles X. Jones, Lowndes County, GA

By the time of the 1930 census, Charles X. Jones was about 60 years old and retired from medical practice. His farm place near Barretts, valued at $5000,  was owned free and clear of mortgage. Census record indicate Jones had become a merchant/operator of a dry goods store.  Also in Dr. Jones household were his  son, Charles X. Jones, Jr.,  daughter Trixie Jones Moore (widow of Carl L. Moore), and her children, Mattie Lou Moore and Helene Moore. Trixie Jones Moore, worked as a general merchandise clerk, while Charles X. Jones, Jr. helped with the farm work.

1930 census enumeration of Charles X. Jones, Lowndes County, GA. Now retired from medical practice, Jones operated a dry goods store and maintained his farm in the Barretts Community.

1930 census enumeration of Charles X. Jones, Lowndes County, GA. Now retired from medical practice, Jones operated a dry goods store and maintained his farm in the Barretts Community.

On August 3, 1933 Charles X. Jones suffered an attack of “apoplexy” – a venerable word for a stroke, a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), often associated with loss of consciousness and paralysis of various parts of the body.  Before the day was out he succumbed to death.

Charles X. Jones was a civic minded citizen and an important figure in the incorporation of the town of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He was said to be a leading spirit of the town.

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Postmaster Hamilton W. Sharpe Takes Offense

Hamilton W. Sharpe

Hamilton W. Sharpe was a pioneer settler of Lowndes County and a contemporary of Levi J. Knight, who settled at the site of Ray City.  The two fought together in July, 1836 actions against Indians which occurred in this immediate area including the Battle of Brushy Creek and actions on Warrior Creek  in what was then Lowndes County (now Berrien and Cook counties,) Georgia.

Sharpe first came to Lowndes via the Coffee Road:

As has been discussed, one of the first roads of any kind to be constructed through south Georgia  was the Coffee Road, built by General John Coffee in 1823.  It was a “road” only in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.   

One of General Coffee’s overseers in the laying out of the road was Enoch Hall, a son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall.  The Halls were among the very first settlers in the area of Irwin County that became Lowndes county by an act of the Georgia Legislature, December 23, 1825. At July , 1824 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court July term, 1824, Sion Hall, James Allen, and Thomas Townsend were appointed to lay out a road from Ocmulgee River to Alapaha River.

Sion Hall established a tavern on the Coffee Road, about two miles north of present day town of Morven,GA and his brother, John Hall, operated a liquor bar there.

In 1826, Hamilton W. Sharpe, then a young man hardly in his twenties, came down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home and traveler’s inn of Sion Hall.  It was at Hall’s Inn that the first court in Lowndes County was held a few months afterwards.  Sharpe along with others expected that the permanent county-seat would be established there.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home.    Thus, Hall’s Inn and Sharpe’s Store  were situated approximately 25 miles southwest of present day  Ray City, GAthe site first settled by the Knight family in the winter of 1826.

In 1828, Hamilton W. Sharpe obtained the establishment of a U. S. Post Office at his store, for which he was appointed Postmaster.  The Sharpe’s Store Post Office served Wiregrass Pioneers for almost 25 years.

<strong>Post marked Sharpe's Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.</strong><br />The Sharpe's Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the

Post marked Sharpe’s Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.
The Sharpe’s Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the “Whig Rascals” in Alabama, and on the politics of Georgia. Of the men running for Governor he wrote: “Judge [Edward] Hill probably drinks no more liquor than Towns though he has been called a horrid drunkard.” (George W. Towns won by aggressively endorsing “southern rights” and playing to fears about Congressional interference with slavery.)

 

In December of 1846, Hamilton Sharpe responded to a letter to the editor published in the Savannah Daily Republican, written by a subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes County, GA. Okapilco was on the mail route from Franklinville via Sharpe’s Store to Bainbridge, GA. Without naming names, this subscriber appeared to be complaining about the way Postmaster Sharpe charged postage due on the mail, the selection of mail routes, the infrequency and irregularity of the mail service, even the quality of the conveyance by which the mail was delivered. To these criticisms Hamilton Sharpe took great offense, and his written, point-by-point response was in turn published in the Republican, transcript below.

Sharpe's Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, Dec. 28, 1846.

Messrs. Editors. – My attention has been called by a friend, to a letter in the Republican of the 9th inst., from a correspondent of yours, writing from “Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” over the signature of a “Subscriber.”

I notice the letter, first; because therein is an evident intention to censure some Post Master in this vicinity and secondly, because the writer has made statements which are not facts.  The writer says, “we are now, (a recent thing,) charged ten cents on single letters from your city, and though these letters are originally stamped five vents, by the Post-Master at Savannah, &c., yet on their arrival in this county, an additional five cents is placed over the original by some little powers that be, &c.” Now if your “Subscriber” intends this as a charge against this office, I flatly deny the fact, and will appeal to the way-bills from Savannah, and the Post-Master at that place to sustain me.  If a letter is received from Savannah at this office, charged with five cents only, I feel myself bound, in the discharge of my official duty, to mark the letter “under charged,” and add an additional five cents, which I may have done, but as to “placing an additional five cents over the original,” it is not allowed by this “little power that be.”

Again, he says “there are two routes from Savannah, one via Darien not over two hundred miles.” He must be very ignorant of the rout over which the mail travels “via Darien,” or he would not risk his love of truth in such a glaring assertion.  It had not even been a doubt in my mind whether it is not more than three hundred miles from this to Savannah even by the route via Darien; but as I had no means of ascertaining the precise distance, I was disposed, if I erred at all, to err on the side of the public, and consequently charged five cents on all letters not exceeding half an ounce in weight, until by general consent (“Subscriber” exempted, I suppose,) the mail was changed on the other route, which every body knows to be four hundred miles and upwards.

In 1845, I corresponded with Mr. Schley, the Post-Master, in Savannah, on this subject – a gentleman whom I have ever considered as worthy of the confidence of the public – and I am persuaded that he has said in good faith in discharge of his duty, and will not deny but what his way-bills, are invariably, since the change was made in the rout, charged ten cents on all letters from his office to this.

This gentleman, the “Subscriber” from “Okapilco,” whoever he is, seems to be very censorious. He wants the mail oftener, &c., and who does not? But how are we to get it, by writing to you a letter of censure and compalints, embellished with a few of his little “cat’s paw” flourishes of wit, implicating the conduct of Post-Masters, in the discharge of their official duty?  If this is the way we are to get a change in our mail arrangements, it will present a new aspect to matters and things in the Post Office Department, and besides he will not get many to follow in his walks.  But let him go to work at the right place, instead of censuring the “little powers that be” – let him supplicate the law-making power, and his course will be considered by all to be more open and generous at least, and no doubt he will gain the co-operation and influence of the community at large.

Why arraign the Post-Master General in this matter – we have as many mails now as we had under former Administrations, and get them as regular, and there is as few complaints, and as few causes of complaints.  Perhaps “Subscriber” wants a mail route established for his own especial benefit, twice or thrice a week, and then he would be “blest by the light spreading influence emanating from Cave Johnson’s Express,” sure enough.

What does “Subscriber” means by the “news carrying quadruped” – is it the contractor, the old sulky, the old gray horse that draws the sulky, or little Barney who rides and drives?  I am sure little Barney is a faithful little soul to his business, and as often as the old gray has failed, he has as often obtained a substitute – and where is the cause for this notorious letter from “Subscriber.”

I am at a loss, Messrs. Editors, to know which looks the worst to a man “up a tree,” “little men in big places,” or big men in little places. If “Subscriber” is acquainted with “Euclyd,” perhaps he may solve the question himself. Does “Subscriber” know what the new Post Office law is, with regard to this matter? If he does not, he had better inform himself on the subject. It is found on the first page of the new “Post Office Laws and Regulations,” beginning with the first clause, and if he cannot understand its mystifications, let him employ a lawyer.

I will now take leave of your “Subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” who, it seems, would seek some notoriety at other men’s expense, but who is very careful to conceal his real name.

HAMILTON W. SHARPE.

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Grand Jurors of 1845, Lowndes County, GA

In June of 1845, The Grand Jury of Lowndes County, Georgia convened at Troupville, GA. The reader will bear in mind that in 1845, Lowndes encompassed all of present day Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties, as well.  So the citizens on this 1845 grand jury were the friends and neighbors of  the Knights, Giddens, Sirmans, and others who settled around present day Ray City, GA.

It had been 20 years since Judge Holt had convened the first Lowndes Superior court in 1825 at the home of Sion Hall on the Coffee Road. In the intervening years, not one, but three Courthouses had been built. The first courthouse was at Franklinville, but after a few years the county seat was moved to Lowndesville, and then to Troupville, in the fork of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers. The 1845 Court may have been conducted with a bit decorum, than the original. Then again, it may not have been. Troupville was said to be a wicked place, with horse racing & other gambling, drinking, games and amusements.

Judge Carlton B. Cole presided at the 1845 court session, and Duncan Smith served as clerk of the Court.

The jurors were Samuel E. Swilley, John W. Spain, John Carter, Sr., Enoch Hall, Matthew M. Deas, James Wade, Jesse Hunter, Mathew Young, James McMullen, John McMullen, James Sowell, A. S. Smith, William H. Devane, Sampson G. Williams, William Folsom, Thomas B. Griffin, David Matthis, Ezekiel W. Parrish, Dennis Wetherington, Joshua Limeberger, and Henry Strickland, with Robert Micklejohn serving as foreman of the Jury.

Robert Micklejohn (1799-1865)
Robert Micklejohn was born July 2, 1799 in Louisville, GA, which was named in honor of King Louis XVI and was then serving as the State Capitol of Georgia. At the age of five, he moved with his parents, George Micklejohn and Elizabeth Tanner,to Milledgeville, GA which became the state capitol in 1806. He married Mary Jane Sowell on September 3, 1823 in Milledgeville, GA. In 1830-31, he served as Tax Collector of Baldwin County. He came to Lowndes County about 1845 where he entered into a partnership with Richard Allen, Robert Prine, and his brother-in-law James Sowell. Invoices in probate records indicate Robert Micklejohn also worked for Captain Samuel E. Swilley as a tutor and clerk. By 1850  he returned to Milledgeville, where he served as clerk of the City Council and as a Justice of the Peace. Robert Micklejohn died on his 66th birthday, July 2, 1865. His grave is at Memorial Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville, GA.

Captain Samuel E. Swilley (1793-1846)
Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a military leader in the late 1830s conflicts with Native Americans. His company of men fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek, actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836, and led the Skirmish at Troublesome Ford.  Samuel Swilley came from Appling County to Lowndes in 1827, bringing  his wife and children  to settle about 23 miles south of the Lowndes county seat at Franklinville.  He established a large plantation  on Hammock Lake near present day Lake Park, GA, where he constructed a substantial log house on the edge of the woods and log cabins for his slaves in the midst of his corn fields. He built a water-powered mill  with a grist mill, cotton gin and sawmill.  In all, his land holdings in Lowndes county consisted of more than 5000 acres. He was a member of the Democratic Republican Party of Lowndes County.  Just a year after serving on the Grand Jury, in the fall and winter of 1846, a deadly fever struck the Swilley household taking the lives of  Mr. Swilley, his wife and most of their children. For years thereafter, it was referred to as the Swilley Fever.

David Mathis (1802-1875)
David Mathis was a Whig and a strong supporter of state’s rights. He was among the Pioneers of Old Lowndes Toast[ing] State Rights and American Independence at the Fourth of July 1835 Jubilee at Troupville, GA. In 1836, he served in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company in  the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County.   “David Mathis, oldest son of John Mathis, was born in North Carolina in 1802, and was brought as an infant by his parents to Bulloch County, Georgia. He was married in 1822 to Miss Sarah Monk, born 1801 in Bulloch County a daughter of William and Jerushia Monk. David Mathis brought his family to what was then Lowndes County in the winter of 1825-1826, and settled on lot 102, 9th district. This is one mile east of the present village of Cecil, Cook County. In January 1826, he built his log home, a sturdy and comfortable home that he occupied until his death about fifty years later. This home was on the Coffee Road, main thoroughfare of travel in those days from middle Georgia into southwest Georgia and Florida. It was a stagecoach stop where the horses were rested. Many people in those pioneer days enjoyed the hospitality of the Mathis home.  Mr. Mathis was ensign of the militia in the 658th district, 1828-1840, and Justice of Peace, same district, 1829-1834. In the Indian Wars of 1836, he provided forage for the Volunteers of Hamilton W. Sharpe’s Company. He served as Justice of Berrien Inferior Court, 1861-1862. Mr. Mathis was a member of Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church into which he was baptized about 1840, but later transferred his membership to Salem Church which is now in the City of Adel. His wife was a member also. He died about 1875 and his wife died soon after. They were buried at Pleasant Church.”

John Carter, Sr. (1794-1880)
According to descendants “John Carter was born in Colleton District, South Carolina in 1794. John usually signed his name as John Carter, Sr., to distinguish himself from his first cousin John Carter. He was a son of Elijah Carter. He was married in Colleton about 1825 and his wife Lavinia, born 1799 in South Carolina. Her maiden name is unknown. Mr. Carter removed from his old home in South Carolina, near Little Salkehatchie River to Lowndes County, GA, in 1830.  Mr. Carter was a First Lieutenant in the militia in the 661st district of Lowndes County, 1832-33 and served again in the same company between 1835-39. He served an enlistment as a private under Capt. Samuel E. Swilley in the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the Florida Mounted Volunteers, June 16th to Dececember 16th, 1837, in the 2nd Florida Indian War. It was noted he entered into this enlistment with 1 black horse. He was Honorably Discharged from Ft Gilleland on December 18. He enrolled at Ft Palmetto in [Levy County, Florida].  John Carter, Sr., was baptized into the membership of Union Primitive Baptist Church; August 9, 1840; and the next year, on June 9, 1841, was dismissed by letter with others, to join in the constituting of Antioch Church which was nearer his home. He became a charter member of Antioch and continued as a member there for some years, as did his wife.  Their home was cut out of Lowndes into Echols County in 1858.”

Matthew M. Deas (1794-1873)
“Matthew M. Dees, an early prominent citizen of Lowndes County, was born in South Carolina, in 1794, and was a son of John Dees, R. S., and his wife, Mary. The parents moved with their children to Tattnall County, Ga., at an early date, and it was there that the subject grew to manhood and married. His first wife by whom his children were born, was Jane Strickland, born 1795 in N. C. daughter, of Lewis and Martha Grantham Strickland, a pioneer Tattnall County family. In 1829, Matthew M. Dees removed from Tattnall County to Madison County, FL, and settled near the Georgia line, thence he moved to Lowndes County about the time the Indian War began, and he acquired lands in the present Clyattville district of Lowndes County. He served as Major of the 138th Battalion, Lowndes County militia, 1838-1841. About 1845 he moved to the Bellville section of Hamilton County, Fla., only a few miles from his former Georgia home, and lived there until his death about 1872. He served as County Commissioner of Hamilton County, 1849-1851, and as a Justice of Peace there, 1863-65. The first wife died in 1851, in Hamilton County, and Mr. Dees was married to Rebecca Downing, Jan, 9, 1853, in Hamilton County. She was born 1802 in South Carolina. She survived her husband several years. He is listed in the 1850 Census for Hamilton County, FL (56 years old) Maj. Dees died intestate in Hamilton Co. Fla., November, 1873”

Matthew Young
Matthew Young was among the prosperous planters living near Troupville, GA and making that town their trading headquarters. The 1850 agricultural census of Lowndes County shows Matthew Young owned 3040 acres of land, 300 acres of which were improved. He had $440 worth of farm equipment and machinery, five horses, a mule, 30 milk cows, two oxen, 70 other cattle, 75 sheep and 100 hogs. His crib was stocked with 800 bushels of Indian corn,  400 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 25 lbs of butter. He had 28 bales of ginned cotton at 400 lbs each, and 150 lbs of wool.

A.S. Smith
A.S. Smith was a Storekeeper at Troupville, GA.

Sampson G. Williams (1808-1896)
Sampson G. Williams lived in McCraney’s District, Lowndes County. was one of the fortunate drawers in the 1832 Cherokee Land lottery.  He was born January 31, 1809, a son of James Williams, Revolutionary Soldier, and Elizabeth Holleway.  Sampson Griffin Williams married Elizabeth McCranie, daughter of Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie, on March 10, 1831 in Lowndes, later Berrien, and now Cook County. His place was 490 acres on Land lot 323, 9th District.  S. G. Williams served in Hamilton W. Sharpe’s company in the Indian Wars of 1836, and later was elected Senator in the Georgia Assembly.

Thomas B. Griffin (1816-1877)
Thomas Butler Griffin was born 1816 in Montgomery Co, GA, and lived in Old Troupville in Lowndes County, GA. He  was a wealthy merchant and planter, a member of the Lowndes County Democratic Party. He, along with Andrew J. Clyatt,  Duncan Smith, and John W. Spain, represented Lowndes County at the May 3, 1841 Convention of Democratic Young Men of Georgia, in Milledgeville, GA.     In a meeting at Swain’s Inn at Troupville, Thomas B. Griffin, was selected delegates to the Convention in Milledgeville to nominate a Governor of the Democratic party.  In 1843, He married Jane Moore, daughter of Jesse Moore and Rebecca Studstill. She was born 1827 in Bullock Coounty, GA, and died April 13, 1892 in Lowndes County.  Thomas B. Griffin, was the Sheriff of Lowndes county 1846-1848.  Thomas B. Griffin moved from Troupville to the new town of Valdosta,  and according to the Valdosta Historic Downtown Visitor’s Guide,  owned the first store in Valdosta, located at Patterson and Hill Avenue. Thomas B. Griffin was elected State Senator for the period of 1861-1863. In 1873, he was one of the incorporators on the Valdosta and Fort Valley Railroad. He died January 20, 1877 in Lowndes Co, GA.

Ezekiel W. Parrish (1818-1887)
Ezekiel W. Parrish, born February 16, 1818, in Bulloch county, Georgia, son of Henry Parrish and father of Ansel A. Parrish, was very young when his parents removed to southern Georgia and after his father’s death he remained with his mother until his marriage, when he bought land one mile from where is now located the town of Cecil and there engaged in farming and stock-raising. In 1864 he sold his farm and received its value in Confederate money, which he still held when the war closed, but fortunately he had retained about seventeen hundred acres east of Hahira in Lowndes county. He settled on the latter estate, erected the necessary buildings and made it his home until his death on September 1, 1887. Martha C. (Wootten) Parrish, his wife, born in Taliaferro county, Georgia, had preceded him in death, her demise having occurred in June, 1871. She was a daughter of Redden Wootten and wife, the latter of whom was a Miss Bird before her marriage.

Joshua Lymburger (1809-1848)
Joshua Lymburger or Limeberger came from Effingham to Lowndes county,GA  some time before 1834 and settled with his wife in Captain Dees’ district. He was a son of Israel Christian  Limeberger and Mary Catherine Schneider. Joshua Limeberger married Salome Schrimp on January 10, 1830 in Effingham County, GA.   In 1834, he owned 490 acres in Irwin county and was the agent of record for 2027 acres in Houston county under his father’s name. By 1848  he owned two lots of land [980 acres MOL]  in Lowndes County. Joshua Limeberger died May 13, 1848 in Lowndes County, GA.  His grave is at Forest Grove Cemetery, Clyattville, GA.

John W. Spain (1818-1870)
John William Spain, born December 4, 1818, a son of Levi Spain and Rachel Inman Spain. His father  died while John was a minor;  about 1830 his mother married Major Frances Jones, a weathly planter who built one of the earliest plantation mansions of Lowndes county, known today as Eudora Plantation (in present day Brooks County).  Married Member of the Democratic Republican Party. John W. Spain was elected as the Lowndes county representative to the state legislature for the 1841-1843 term. John W. Spain, along with Andrew J. Clyatt,  Duncan Smith, and Thomas B. Griffin, represented Lowndes County at the May 3, 1841 Convention of Democratic Young Men of Georgia, in Milledgeville, GA. In 1844, the Georgia Legislature passed an act “to establish John W. Spain’s bridge across the Withlacoochee river, on his own land, in the 12th district of Lowndes county, and rate the ferriage for the same.” In the 1850s he served as postmaster of the post office at Piscola, Lowndes, County, GA.  Among his properties, Spain owned Lot #10 of the 15th district, in Brooks County. In 1859, he served as a Brooks County Road Commissioner. At the onset of the Civil War, he provided $2000 to equip the Brooks Rifles militia company with rifles.  Applied for and received a presidential pardon from President Andrew Johnson for acts of Rebellion, August 28, 1865. Died November 7, 1870; grave at West End Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

Enoch Hall (1804-1886)
Enoch Hall, a Lowndes county pioneer and son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall, was an overseer in the laying out of the Coffee Road, and settled with his father near present day Morven, GA, about 1823 shortly after the opening of the road. Justice of the Lowndes County Inferior Court, 1832-37. Served as Lt. Colonel, Lowndes County, 81st Regiment, Georgia Militia, under Colonel Henry Blair. Enoch Hall led, as a Major, a company of men in Actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836  Together with his father, Sion Hall, the Halls held 2,680 acres of pine lands in the 12th Land District of Lowndes County, 1220 acres in Cherokee County, 2027 acres in Lee County, 2027 acres in Carroll County and 4054 acres in Randolph County, GA. Died September 2, 1886; grave at Hall Cemetery, Morven, GA.

James Wade 
James Wade, Soldier, McCraney’s, Lowndes County, GA was one of the lucky drawers in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery. He served on the May 1933 term of the Lowndes County Grand Jury.  He was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Georgia legislature in 1834 “to contract for and cause to be built in the county of Lowndes a suitable Court-house and Jail.”

Jesse Hunter (1811-1871)
Jesse W. Hunter was born about 1811 in Georgia, a son of Abraham Hunter and Ann Rushing. According to the History of Brooks County, he came to Lowndes County  about 1823,  shortly after the opening of the Coffee Road, with his mother and father, who settled in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule Creeks. The 1844 Lowndes County Tax Digest shows Jesse W. Hunter owned 301 acres of pine lands in Lowndes County and 360 acres of hardwood in Cherokee County. His Lowndes county home was cut into Brooks county when it was formed in 1858.  During the Civil War, he was drafted into Company F, 5th Georgia Regiment, but petitioned Governor Brown for a discharge on account of age and infirmity. Jesse W. Hunter died August 16, 1871. The grave of Jesse W. Hunter, and the grave of his wife Elizabeth are at Union Church Cemetery (aka Burnt Church), near Lakeland, GA.

James Sowell
James Sowell was a brother-in-law of Robert Micklejohn, who served as foreman of the 1845 Grand Jury of Lowndes County.  He was born 1801 in Bertie  North Carolina, a son of Ezekiel Sowell and Ann Layton. He came with his family to Georgia some time before 1823, and on December 8, 1826 James Sowell married Milly Rape in Henry County, GA.  James Sowell, Hood’s District, Henry County was a lucky drawer in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery, drawing lot number 159 in the Tenth District,Third Section of the Cherokee Country.  Tax digests show that James Sowell had arrived in Lowndes County, GA by 1844, settling in Captain Samuel E. Swilley’s District.  The 1850 census shows James and Milly in Lowndes County with their nine children. Some time before 1860, James Sowell moved his family to Florida where they were enumerated in Hamilton County.

James McMullen (1806-1865)
According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, “James McMullen  was born and reared in Georgia. His father was one of the earlier settlers of Georgia, having located in Thomas county while that section of the country was in its pristine wilderness. He was of thrifty Scotch ancestry and a man of sterling integrity.  James McMullen was trained to habits of industry and early showed natural ability as a mechanic.  Although he never learned a trade, he became an expert with tools, and could do general blacksmithing, or  make either a barrel or a wagon. After his marriage he lived for a while in Thomas county, from there  removing to that part of Lowndes county that is now a part of Brooks county. Purchasing land in the Hickory Head district, he was there a resident until his death at the age of sixty years. He married Harriet Rountree, who was born in Lowndes county, where her father, a pioneer settler, was murdered by negroes while taking the produce of his farm to one of the marketing points in Florida, either Tallahassee or Newport. She too died at the age of three score  years…In his political affiliation James McMullen was a Whig, and long before there were any railroads in Georgia he served as a representative to the state legislature.”  His daughter, Martha McMullen, married Edward Marion Henderson, who died of wounds after the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek. In 1859, James McMullen served as a Brooks County Road Commissioner. Died December 6, 1865; grave at James McMullen Cemetery, Brooks County, GA.

John McMullen (1808-1868)
According to the 1913 text Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends, “John and James McMullen, brothers, were among the earliest pioneers to enter the pine solitudes of this section [present day Brooks County] of Georgia…”   John married Nancy Rountree and James married  Harriet Rountree, daughters of Francis Rountree, of Lowndes County, GA. In 1859, John McMullen served as foreman of the first Grand Jury in Brooks County.

William H. Devane (1817-1869)
William H. Devane was a farmer in the 53rd Division of Lowndes County, GA. He came with his parents to Lowndes County as a boy around 1828. His father, Benjamin Devane,  was a veteran of the War of 1812, and served in the Indian Wars in Florida and Georgia; In 1838, Benjamin Devane served as a private in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company.  William H. Devane married his first cousin, Margaret A.Rogers, about 1841.  In 1859, he served as a Brooks County Road Commissioner. At the onset of the Civil War,  William H. Devane sought to raise a company of Brooks County volunteers, but ended up enlisted in Company E, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment.

David McCall (1802-1881)
David McCall, Jr, was born in 1802,  a son of David McCall and Frances “Fannie” Fletcher. He married Eleanor Johnson on  July 20, 1825 in Tatnall County, GA; she was born in 1810. In 1835 they made their home in Appling County, GA.  Some time before 1844, they relocated to Lowndes County, Georgia.  He was later a hotel keeper in Valdosta, GA.

William Folsom
William Folsom was the uncle of Penneywell Folsom, who fell at Brushy Creek in the Indian Wars of 1836. The Folsom place was located near the Coffee Road, and about a mile and a half further west is where the road crossed the Little River. “The Folsom bridge, a noted crossing place, spans the [Little] river here.”  The Folsoms had built a small fort against Indian attacks, and it was from this fort that the Lowndes county pioneers marched to the encounter at Brushy Creek.  In 1837,  William Folsom served on the commission appointed to select a new site for the Lowndes county seat of government;  a location at the junction of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers was chosen, and Troupville became the county site.

Dennis Wetherington (1807-1885)
Dennis Wetherington, an early settler of Lowndes County, was born in South Carolina, October 1, 1807, a son of Peter Wetherington.  He moved to Lowndes County with his parents between 1825 and 1830. In 1831, he first married Sarah Carter, a daughter of Captain Jesse Carter and Mary “Molsy” Touchton. The couple settled on a farm in the present day Naylor District. Dennis Wetherington was baptized into the membership of Union Church, February 11, 1832, and was dismissed by letter to join in constituting Unity Church nearer his home, about 1842. Molsy Carter Wetherington died about 1850. After her death, Mr. Wetherington married 2) Rebecca Roberts, daughter of John C. Roberts, who lived on Cow Creek. Upon Rebecca’s death, he married her sister, Elizabeth Roberts. This according to Folks Huxford.

Henry Strickland (1794-1866)
Henry Strickland was born in 1794 in Georgia.  He married Sarah Lanier November 6, 1820 in Effingham County, GA. He moved his family to Lowndes County about 1831 and settled in Captain Caswell’s District.  The 1834 Lowndes County tax digest shows he owned 930 acres in Lowndes County, 400 acres in Effingham County, 490 acres in Appling, 490 acres in Thomas County, 250 acres in Baker county, 2027 acres in Lee County, and 2027 acres in Meriwether County. Henry Strickland was Justice of Lowndes Inferior Court from 1833 to 1837 and again from 1857 to 1859;  December 23, 1835 appointed commissioner to select the site of the Lowndes County courthouse and jail; Major of the 138th Battalion, Georgia Militia, 1836 to 1838 – participated in actions at the Little River; December 22, 1837, appointed to the board of trustees for the proposed Lowndes County Academy at Troupville; Primitive Baptist; affiliated with Friendship Church along with wife, Sarah, soon after moving to Lowndes County;  membership received by letter in March, 1846 at Old Antioch Church, now in Echols county,  elected church clerk;  died 1866.

Magnum Post Office Briefly Served Pioneers of Old Berrien

Lowndes County, GA,  1839

After south Georgia was first opened to settlers in the 1820s, the federal government established post offices to serve the pioneers.  But for many years, the  Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers were few and far between.

As of 1836 there were only two post offices in all of Lowndes County, GA, an area which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties. These post offices are shown on the 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.

In 1836 area settlers traveled to post mail either at the county court house at Franklinville, GA, or at a post office on the Coffee Road which existed only briefly in Lowndes County. Contemporary accounts give the name of this post office as Mangum, although the 1839 Burr postal map, the official U. S. Postal Service Record of Appointment of Postmasters, and List of the Post-Offices in the United States give the name as Magnum.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes. (Detail of 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.).

Actually, the Burr map was out of date by the time it was published in London in 1839.

In 1836, the Franklinville post office was located near  the Withlacoochee River about 10 miles southwest of the homestead of Levi J. Knight at Beaverdam Creek (now the site of Ray City, GA).  But in 1837 this post office was transferred another 12 miles farther southeast to Troupville, GA when the county seat was relocated to the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers.

The Magnum post office, as shown on the 1839 Burr map, was situated  another 15 miles to the west of Franklinville, GA.  Prior t0 1836 it was been known as the Sharpe’s Store post office, where Hamilton Sharpe served as postmaster and operated his country store on the Coffee Road. Sharpe, who had become busily engaged with politics and with the Indian Wars, stepped down as post master in 1836. The Sharpe’s Store post office was renamed Magnum post office, and John Hall, Sr. took over as postmaster effective April 1, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
April 28, 1836

THE POST-OFFICE, at “Sharpe’s Store” Lowndes county, Georgia, has changed its name to that of Mangum and John Hall Esq. has been appointed postmaster.

Postmaster John Hall, Sr. was a brother of Sion Hall.  Sion Hall, one of the very earliest settlers of Lowndes (now Brooks) county, had established a tavern on the Coffee Road about 1823.   Sharpe’s Store had opened about four years later near Hall’s Inn, which served as the first site of Superior Court meetings in Lowndes County.

The Magnum, or Mangum, Post Office was short-lived, though. Postal records show that on January 28, 1837 the name reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton Sharpe resumed as post master. Sharpe served as postmaster until 1848, and the Sharpe’s Store Post Office continued under other postmasters until closing in 1853.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum  and Sharpe's Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum and Sharpe’s Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

After the post office moved from Franklinville to Troupville in 1837, the Knight’s and other early settlers of the Ray City area had a round trip of about 44 miles to get their mail.  The round trip to  the post office at Sharpe’s Store was about 50 miles, although it was may have been on the better travel route via the Coffee Road. But for the Knights, the bustling town of Troupville, with its social happeningstravelers and ramblers, commerce and trade, religion and  politics, court proceedings, legal affairsamusements, hotels and inns, was undoubtedly the preferred destination. On the other hand, Hamilton W. Sharpe, like Levi J. Knight, was a political and military leader of Lowndes County, and the two are known to have had frequent associations.

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Electric Lights and Running Water for Ray City, GA

Ray City Water and Light

Ray City Light Plant - September 18, 1923

Ray City Light Plant – September 18, 1923.  Bruner Shaw was among those present at the start-up of the power plant.

In the 1920’s the cities and towns of south Georgia were all working to bring electricity to homes and businesses. In fact, in the first six months of 1922, Georgia ranked 4th among all states east of the Mississippi in hydroelectric power production. At that time, 87% of all electricity generated in Georgia came from hydroelectric power.  In Ray City, though, the people still relied on kerosene lamps or gas light.

In 1922, Milltown, GA (now known as Lakeland, GA,)  began work on a one-thousand horsepower hydroelectric plant. The plant was expected to supply enough electric current for Milltown, Valdosta, and for other area towns including Ray City,  GA.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution; March 12, 1922

Work Soon to Begin on Hydro-Electric Plant at Milltown

Milltown, Ga., March 12. –(Special.) — The town council has purchased water meters and light meters and as soon as they arrive they will be installed.

F.E. Hatch, of Albany, will begin work in a few weeks on the hydroelectric plant. He has been delayed by not securing right of way from some parties. The plant is to be located on Lake Irma with water piped from Burk’s Pond, a mile away. The plant will cost about $350,000.  A thousand horsepower will be generated by the plant, current enough to supply cheap power for Milltown, Valdosta, Ray City, Adel, Sparks, Nashville, Ocilla and other towns.

Ray City wasn’t waiting for power to be run from another town, though.  Funds were appropriated in sufficient amount, it was thought,  to complete the construction of a municipal waterworks and  power plant in Ray City, and a contract was let.

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution; July 21, 1922

Ray City to Install Electric Light Plant

Milltown, Ga., July 21. –(Special.)  Ray City is soon to have electric lights and waterworks.

Mayor L. F. Giddens has closed the contract with McGraw & Co., of Thomasville, to put in the plant. All material is bought and expected any day. Work has begun on wiring the homes, and this part of the work will be completed by August 1.

The contract also has been let for boring a well near the dam, and the city will be piped as soon as possible, to give the people both electric lights and waterworks. They will own their own hydro-electric plant.

Bonds have been sold to take care of the expense. 

But the construction of the electric plant at Ray City didn’t progress well. The water quality from the deep well was bad, and the dam for the hydroelectric plant needed repairs before it was even completed. By the end of October there was still no power or water service in the city.

 

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution; October 28, 1922

Ray City Will Get Water and Lights

Ray City, Ga., October 27. –(Special.) — The deep well at Ray City has struck a vein of sulphur water.

The pipes have been laid and are being connected. Citizens expect to have water in their homes in a few more days. The dam at Beaverdam Pond is being repaired and in the course of a few weeks, the wiring having already been done, Ray City will be equipped with electric lights.

 

But for electrification, things got worse instead of better.  Attempts to repair the dam failed, and when the dam finally broke the project was off schedule and hopelessly over budget. A year later the dream of cheap hydroelectric power in Ray City was running out.  In the meantime the city was running a kerosene fueled motor to drive the electric generator. It would take another bond issue to continue the project, and the people of Ray City put it to the vote. The election at Ray City to float additional bonds, $5000 for school purposes and $7000 for water and lights, was carried 64 for and 4 against.  The Annual Report of the State of Georgia for 1922 reported Ray City had a deep well at 255 feet; by 1924 the bacteriological condition of the water was still untested.

 

 

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution; November 11, 1923

$12,000 Bonds Voted For Use in Ray City

Milltown, Ga., November 10 –(Special.) — The election at Ray City to float additional bonds, $5,000 for school purposes, and $7,000 for water and lights was carried 64 for and 4 against. Several years ago Ray City floated bonds sufficient, it was thought, to build a new school building, but building expenses exhausted the funds and left the building incomplete. As soon as the new bonds are sold, the work on the building will be completed and Ray City will have one of the best modern school buildings in the state.

It was also thought that sufficient funds were appropriated to put in a waterworks and electric light plant. But these funds gave out before the work was what they wanted. There is a hydroelectric plant. The dam was broken some time ago and the light is furnished now by a powerful kerosene engine. The funds to be raised by these additional bonds is for the completion of this work.

 On January 5, 1928 the Georgia Power & Light Company purchased the Ray City Electric plant, for the sum of $3,816.

Epilogue:

On Beaverdam Creek, just east of the Pauline Street bridge, are the concrete remains of the Ray City hydroelectric dam.  Nearby, the remnants of a mechanical shed remain.  The old Ray City water tower was torn down and sold for scrap a few years ago.

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