Family of Lester Griffin

Lester Griffin, born July 30, 1890, was a son of Lillian Melissa Knight and Noah Webster Griffin, grandson of  Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, and great grandson of Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA. He was a brother of Bessie Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester’s parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District) but moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before his birth in 1890.   There, Lester Griffin grew to manhood and took up farming on his own account on rented land.

Sometime before 1917, Lester Griffin moved to Irwin County, where he took a wage job farming for James O. Sutton, who owned a farm on the Ocilla-Lax Road. Sutton’s mother was a Griffin.

On August 12, 1917 in Irwin County, GA, Lester Griffin married Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin.   She was a daughter of Rachel McMillan and Bartow B. Griffin, keeping it all in the family. The blushing bride was 18 years old; the 26-year old groom was of medium height, slender, with dark hair and blue eyes.

According to Griffin family members, “Lester Griffin and Margaret Elizabeth (Lizzie) Griffin were distant cousins.  Lester’s Great-Grandfather Thomas Griffin and Lizzie’s Great-Grandfather Joshua Griffin were sons of James Griffin, Revolutionary Soldier, and Sarah Lodge Griffin, early settlers of that part of Irwin County.”

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin had five children:

  1. Bonita Griffin
  2. Noah Webster Griffin
  3. Audrey Griffin
  4. Ommie  Griffin
  5. Cecil Lester Griffin

Descendant Alan K. Griffin shares the following:

From what we were told, mostly by Daddy’s oldest sister, Bonita, Lester Griffin took a job in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a carpenter/builder when she was a child.  This corresponds to the South Florida real estate boom of that time (see Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz).  She vividly recalled travelling by wagon and walking on their move to that area and coming home.”

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster "Webb" Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster “Webb” Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

“There was a violent hurricane that hit the Miami area on September 18, 1926, with winds estimated between 131 and 155 MPH  (see Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane).  Because there was little warning or understanding of hurricanes at that time, more than 370 lives were lost and 35,000 were made homeless in Southern Florida.   Some thought the storm was over when the eye passed over and were outside when the second part of the storm hit (the eye reached the coast at Coral Gables about 6AM and lasted 35 minutes).  The highest winds and storm surge (up to 10 feet) was in the second part of the hurricane.  Fort Lauderdale, just to the North also had severe storm surge from the Hurricane.  Prior to the hurricane, Grandmamma Lizzie and the children had travelled home, apparently for a visit.  Both of Lizzie’s parents had birthdays in August, Bartow Beauregard Griffin (August 18, 1861 – August 12, 1929) and Rachel McMillan Griffin (August 12, 1860 – October 29, 1938) so perhaps the visit home was to celebrate their 65th and 66th birthdays, respectively.  In any event, they were fortunate not to have been in Ft. Lauderdale.  As Bonita related, Lester remained  and rode out the storm in their house, which overturned in the storm (similar to photo below), nearly taking his life.  Whether they would have all survived is doubtful, had they remained with him. 

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

“They never returned to live in South Florida, instead buying a house on 5th Street in Ocilla, GA near the home of Lizzie’s brother, John Griffin.  Lester  became a night watchman, or deputy policeman in Ocilla sometime after returning.  He became sick with flu and pneumonia sometime in late 1928 and was under the care of Dr. G. L. McElroy and Dr. G. W. Willis from December 17 till he died on News Years Eve, December 31, 1928.    The information on the death certificate was provided by Lizzie’s brother, John. 

 

Lester Griffin (left) and friend.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin (left) with ‘a friend’ (as noted on the back of photo).  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 “Lester Griffin died December 31, 1928 at the age of 38.  He died of pneumonia leaving his widow and children at a tough time with the depression and all they faced.

“Bonita was 10 years old at his death, Webb 9, Audrey 7, Ommie 5, and Cecil was 1 year and 8 months old. So, here was Lizzie at 30 years old, with five young children to raise on her own, and a house with a mortgage.  By the Grace of God, the Woodmen of the World covered Lester’s mortgage, so the home became Lizzie’s outright.  She had many of her family nearby, but being a proud lady, went to work as a seamstress to support them, and worked her whole life.  (She still worked at A. S. Harris Department Store in Ocilla when my brothers and I would spend weeks there during summers in the 1960’s.) Bonita helped with the younger children and home chores, and Webb worked to support the family as well.

“Odd thing is, Lester’s Father, Noah Webster Griffin,  similarly died in 1897 at the age of 41 , leaving his widow, Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin, to raise 8 children (one, William Howard Griffin, that she was about 6  months pregnant with at Noah’s death).   Noah Webster Griffin actually died from Typhoid fever, possible due to contaminated well water at the farm they had moved to about a year earlier.

“I recently found the only photo I know of Lillian at about age 80, still looking very strong with daughter-in-law, Lizzie Griffin (Lester’s widow), Lizzie’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher with baby daughter, Faye, Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of WH and Carrie Griffin),  Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of Lillian’s son, William Howard Griffin), Charles Harold Griffin (son of WH and Carrie Griffin), and Ommie Griffin (daughter of Lizzie) .

“Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin (1862-1947) as you may know, was the sister of Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934) and Mary Virginia Knight Langford (1856-1916).  Another sister, Margaret Ann Knight, b. 1858 died in 1863 at the tender age of 5 years.  This is documented in one of the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Carroll Knight.”

Family of Lester Griffin

Family of Lester Griffin
Left to Right: Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin at about age 80, still looking very strong; Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin (Lester Griffin’s widow); Lester’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher  (in rear) with baby daughter, Faye Fletcher; Lester’s daughter Ommie Griffin (front, center); Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of Lester’s brother, William Howard Griffin); Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of WH Griffin); Charles Harold Griffin, son of WH and Carrie Griffin (front, right). Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester and Lizzie Griffin are buried at Brushy Creek Cemetery, Ocilla, GA with many others of the Griffin family connection.

 

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Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane

The hurricane that hit south Florida in September of 1926 was one of the worst storms in U.S. history.

The hurricane that hit south Florida in September of 1926 was one of the worst storms in U.S. history.

When the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 struck, Ray City and Nashville residents were among a number of Georgians caught in the devastation.  Pearlie Sutton Conner and four of her children were among the refugees, as well as Oliver Conner, all of Ray City, GA. Nashville residents stranded by the storm included: M.A. Harper and wife; Mrs. H. Giddings and three children;  Maude Harper  Griner , wife of Arnold Griner;  Rachel Hill Griner, wife of Samuel Bryant Griner; Jerome Griner, and Arnold Griner, Jr.

Miami's new drydock, results of hurricane, Sept. 18, 1926. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Miami’s new drydock, results of hurricane, Sept. 18, 1926. Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Pearlie Sutton Conner was the wife of James Wilson Conner. Her father was George Washington Sutton and her mother was Julia Ann “Annie” Spell.  The 1890 Berrien County, GA Property Tax Digests show that Geo W. Sutton owned 100 acres in Land Lot 510, 10th District valued at $300.  The Sutton farm was not far from Ray City, in the Connells Mill District, the 1329 Georgia Militia District. The Suttons took their mail at the Lois community.

James Wilson Conner, born on June 22, 1877 in Pulaski County, GA was the son of Daniel Johnson Conner and Nancy Caroline Conner. It is said that his mother died in childbirth and that he was raised by Louisa Conner, who is thought to be a cousin. His father was a Confederate veteran who was wounded in the Civil War.

By the census of 1900 Pearlie’s family had moved about 200 miles west of Ray City to the small community of Ponce De Leon, FL situated on on the Florida Panhandle, where her father owned a farm free and clear of mortgage.

Pearlie Sutton and James Wilson Conner were married in 1899, and were enumerated in the 1900 census of Holmes County (Ponce de Leon District), FL living on the farm next door to her father’s property.

1900 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, Ponce de Leon, Holmes County, Florida.

1900 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, Ponce de Leon, Holmes County, Florida.

Some time before 1920 James and Pearlie had moved their family back to Berrien County, Georgia. They owned a farm on the Nashville Enigma Public Road which James worked on his own account.

1920 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1157 Georgia Militia District near Nashville, Berrien County, Georgia.

1920 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1157 Georgia Militia District near Nashville, Berrien County, Georgia.

http://www.archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n424/mode/1up

Within a few years, the Conners moved to Ray City, GA . At least they made their home there by 1926. James Wilson Conner was a member of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City, until dismissed by letter.

In 1926 their daughter, Cora Lee Conner, was married to Leamon Andy Godwin. The wedding took place in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

So it came to pass that in the very last days of  the summer of 1926, Pearlie Sutton Conner and four of her children were in south Florida. It was then, on September 18, 1926 when the Great Miami Hurricane made landfall.

The 1926 storm was described by the U.S. Weather Bureau in Miami as “probably the most destructive hurricane ever to strike the United States.” It hit Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Hollywood, Hallandale and Miami. The death toll is estimated to be from 325 to perhaps as many as 800. No storm in previous history had done as much property damage. 1926 Miami: The blow that broke the boom

Much has been written about The Big Blow of 1926. The population growth of south Florida in the preceding decade had been explosive, fueled by the Florida land boom. The newcomers and tourists had slight experience with hurricanes.  The approach of the tropical storm raised little alarm with the public, or with authorities.  It was just hours before the storm came on shore that a hurricane warning was finally issued,   “But in 1926 there were few avenues for warning people. Only a handful of people owned radios to hear the warnings broadcast on South Florida’s only radio station.”   After the storm had passed, the damage was captured on film. A 1926 silent movie newsreel, Miami: The Magic City, documents the extent of the damage and The Sun Sentinel and PBS have informative articles.

At the time, Miami’s hurricane was considered the country’s greatest natural disaster since the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Today the Category 4 storm ranks among 20th-century U.S. hurricanes as the 12th strongest and 12th deadliest. After adjustment for 1996 construction costs, the storm is the U.S.’s 20th most costly, with an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage. – The American Experience: The Hurricane of 1926

The Atlanta Constitution headline tolled the death and decimation of the 1926 hurricane.

The Atlanta Constitution headline tolled the death and decimation of the 1926 hurricane.

In the aftermath of the storm, the Red Cross and the National Guard assisted with aid to the refugees. When transportation could be arranged, Florida travelers fled the destruction.  Many Georgians boarded northbound trains at West Palm Beach, including Pearlie Sutton Conner and her children, and other Berrien County residents.

The Atlanta Constitution
September 23, 1926

GEORGIA REFUGEES HOMEWARD BOUND

West Palm Beach, Fla., September 22. – The following Georgia refugees from Hollywood came here today and were given transportation to their former homes:
Mr. and Mrs J. R. Bowman and two babies, Winder, Ga; Mrs. R H. Armstrong and five children, Cochran, Ga.; Martha and Gladys Burgamy, Cochran, Ga; Mrs. B. W. Atkinson and baby, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Mrs. C. J. Sutton and two children, Atlanta; Mrs. H. E. Webb, Vidalia, Ga.
Mrs. J. W. Webb, Vidalia, Ga.; Mrs. J. J. Chancellor and two children, Cordele, Ga.; Mrs. J. M. Thornton and one child, Madison, Ga.; Mrs. Beulah Lester, Columbus, Ga.; Mrs. Annie Franklin and three children, Clarksville, Ga.; Mrs. R. C. Davidson and three children, Comer, Ga.; Mrs. J. B. Bivings and two children, Savannah, Ga., Catherine Bivings, Macon, Ga., Lilla, Lula, Lillian and Robert Hudson, Thomasville, Ga.; Mrs. Lincoln Frost and baby, Thomasville, Ga.; Mrs. Reuben Rushing and baby, Thomasville, Ga.; Mrs. E. M. Stokes, Cochran, Ga.
Mrs. S. A. Crews, Waycross, Ga.; Mrs. L.D. Fletcher and three children, Andalusia, Ga.; Mrs. B. H. Thomas and two children, Winder, Ga.; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hutchinson and son, Atlanta; Mrs. E. W. Cross and daughter, Cordele, Ga.; Mrs. A. L. Pittman, Athens, Ga.; Mrs. R. A. Clyatt and two children, Atlanta; Mrs. Arnold Griner, Mrs. S. B. Griner, Jerome Griner and Arnold Griner, Jr., Nashville, Ga.
Mrs. G. W. Thomas and four children, Winder, Ga.; Mrs. J. H. King and two children, Comer, Ga.; Julia and Estelle McClanden, Wadley, Ga.; Mrs. W. L. George and two children, West Green, Ga; Mrs. E. E. Olds and child, Lawrenceville, Ga.; Mrs. W. L. Revel and three children, Sargent, Ga.;

GEORGIA REFUGEES LEAVE FOR HOME
Continued from First Page.

Mrs. R. L. Thompson and two children, Winder, Ga.; Mrs. Ruby Hall and six children, Comer, Ga.; Mrs. J. W. Conner and four children, Ray City, Ga.; Oliver Conner, Ray City, Ga.; Mrs. L W. Conder and baby, Columbus, Ga.; Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Daniels and six children, Cochran, Ga; Mrs. R. H. Darnell and four children, Fairmont, Ga.; Mrs. J. W. Ingram, Jr.; and son, Dublin, Ga.; Mrs. A. Roll and two children, Atlanta, Ga; Mrs. W. R. Titshaw and son, Pitts, Ga.; Mrs. H. T. Hosskins and child, Comer, Ga.; Mrs. O. P. Gulibeau, Augusta, Ga.; Mrs. H. G. Harvey and two children, Pelham, Ga; Mrs. J. D. Duvall and daughter, Toccoa, Ga.; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Kramer, Atlanta; Mr. and Mrs. Orris Canatsy and child, Pitts, Ga.; Mrs. J. A. Warren and 10 children, Pitts, Ga.; M. A. Harper and wife, Nashville, Ga.; Mrs. Lillie Titshaw and three children, Pitts, Ga; Mrs. H. Giddings and three children, Nashville, Ga.; Mrs. P. W. Ross, Cordele, Ga.; Mrs. A. C. Wilkens, Cordele, Ga.; Buelah Wilkens, Cordele, Ga; Mrs. R. W. Dowdy and six children, Pitts, Ga.; F. F. Keener and four children, Toccoa, Ga; Mrs. G. G. Sanders and two children, Elberton, Ga.

At home in Georgia, the Conners continued to reside in the Ray City vicinity. In the Census of 1930, they were enumerated in the 1300 Georgia Militia District, to the east of the town, in Lanier County.

Enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1300 Georgia Militia District, Lanier County, Georgia.

1930 census enumeration of James W. Conner and family, 1300 Georgia Militia District, Lanier County, Georgia.

http://www.archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel372#page/n518/mode/1up

 The Conners remained in Ray City, thereafter.   James Wilson Conner died in 1954 and Pearlie Sutton Conner died in 1959. They were buried at New Ramah Church cemetery, at Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Pearlie Sutton and James Wilson Conner, New Ramah Church Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Pearlie Sutton and James Wilson Conner, New Ramah Church Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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