Levi J. Knight, Jr on List of Incompetent Confederate Officers

In the organization and command of the Berrien Minute Men it is noted that Levi J. Knight, Jr. was a nephew of Major Levi J. Knight who originally organized the Berrien Minute Men at Nashville, GA. Levi J. Knight, Jr. also served as an officer in the outfit; In  1861, he was elected 2nd Lieutenant.

In May 1862, Levi J. Knight, Jr was elected Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company C (later Company G), 29th Georgia Regiment. His election followed the resignation of Captain Thomas. S. Wylly. Wylly may have resigned under financial pressure. The Savannah Daily Morning News reported May 19, 1862 that the State of Georgia had filed suit against him for collection of back taxes.

Captain Knight, Jr was detailed to take Company C to Battery Lawton , where they joined the Brunswick Rifles manning artillery defenses of the city. The Berrien Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles had encamped together at Brunswick.  (Berrien Minute Men Company D was manning the battery at Causton’s Bluff and other posts around the city.)

Lawton Battery was part of the complex of Advance River Batteries supporting Fort Jackson on the Savannah River. The battery site had been selected by General Robert E. Lee while on an inspection trip with Col. Edward C. Anderson on December 8, 1861. Anderson noted foundations for a gun Battery were already being constructed with slave labor on a mud island above Fort Jackson. The other sites included Smith’s Island and Huchinsons Island, and “at both which points the General ordered batteries to be erected.” Smith’s Island became the site of Lawton Battery.

1864 map showing relative positions of Savannah, Battery Lawton, Fort Jackson, Fort Lee, Causton's Bluff, Oatland Island and Whitemarsh Island.

1864 map showing relative positions of Savannah, Battery Lawton, Fort Jackson, Fort Lee, and Causton’s Bluff.

Lawton Battery consisted of one 32-pounder rifle gun, one 42-pounder smooth bore, two 8-inch and two 10-inch columbiad guns. The battery was built on low-lying land of Smith’s Island (Barnwell Island, SC) on the Savannah River  opposite Battery Lee.

Lawton Battery, Fort Jackson and the other Advance River Batteries were under the command of Edward C. Anderson. Anderson was educated at a Massachusetts prep school, a former mayor of Savannah and a former officer of the United States Navy. He had participated in numerous naval and amphibious operations in the Mexican-American War.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Anderson was sent to Richmond by Governor Joseph E. Brown, to purchase ordinance from the Tredegar Iron Works for the State of Georgia. Soon after, Anderson was personally summoned to Montgomery, AL by the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, who commissioned him a major in the Corps of Artillery. He was ordered at once to set sail for Europe, as a confidential agent to buy war material for the Confederacy, arranging for its transfer to the Confederate States, through the Union blockade by way of blockade runners. In England, he was stalked continually by spies hired by the United States Consul General, Charles Francis Adams. Anderson described his position as the Secretary of War in England. He and fellow Georgian James D. Bulloch negotiated with the British for the sale of warships and blockade runners to the South. Upon learning of the Southern victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, Anderson raised a Confederate Flag upon the rooftop of a friend’s house in Liverpool. Their success in both exporting arms, and running the blockade prompted other British firms to begin blockade-running efforts. Returning home in November 1861, aboard the newly purchased Merchant Steamship Fingal with Bulloch, they delivered much needed arms and ammunition. Fingal was later converted to the iron-clad CSS Atlanta. Anderson was promoted, and served as “Commander of the River Batteries” as a part of General Robert E. Lee’s staff. At this time, Anderson was placed in command of Fort James Jackson (Old Fort Jackson), becoming the Confederate Headquarters for River Defenses, including the Confederate Navy. He was a member of the Confederate high command at Savannah until the end of the war.

On the 1st of May 1862, a soldier of Battery Lawton staunchly defended the pride, commitment, professionalism and patriotism of the men stationed at the battery.

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 3, 1862

COMMUNICATED
Smith’s Island, May 1st, 1862.

Mr. Editor: Please make room in your valuable paper for the following. In the Republican of yesterday, is to be seen in one of its paragraphs, under the head of “Savannah Never to be Surrendered”

“One thing more remains to be done, and then we shall be ready to measure arms with the enemy. Let the commanders of our various batteries call together their respective garrisons and swear them never to abandon a gun so long as it sets on its carriage, and a soldier is left to man it.”

A soldier takes the liberty here to inform the editor of the Republican (if he is not aware of it,; that we are volunteer.i from Georgia, absent from respectable and comfortable homes, and come without consulting Mr. Republic and, to defend our homes and country at large, and expect to do it to the last. We need no oaths to make us fight for all that is near and dear lo us. Prompted by a sense of duly and a spirit of patriotism, we expect to accomplish all that can be done by human hands. Any one who can’t fight without taking an oath, can’t fight with. No one need be sworn to fight except those who would have others sworn. But God help the country whose battles are to be fought by such men, or the prattling tongues of editors. We are ready and daily expecting the enemy, and have been for weeks, and it has just now transpired that there is one thing more to be done before “we are ready to measure arms with the enemy,” (not so much of the “we,”) and that as set forth in his paragraph. I confess that I am ashamed even to let our enemies know that we have men—or a man in our midst—that would either publicly or privately express such an idea. I confess, also, that I thought the people whose homes are but a few miles above our batteries, and which we are shortly to enter into a life and death struggle for, had more confidence in the soldiers whose lots are cast at batteries amid sand flies, mosquitoes, marsh mud, swamp fever, &c. Georgians never have disgraced themselves on the battle field or elsewhere, neither have they given any cause for any one to suppose they would. If the said Editor wishes to make a display of his patriotism, I would advise him to lay down his air-gun and take a musket. But that he will not do; he prefers remaining In his office amusing himself by abusing Gov. Brown, dictating for wiser men than himself and making himself conspicuous, as well as ridiculous, in various other ways. But the whole trouble with said Editor is this, if “we” are defeated below, the Republican office falls into the hands of the enemy; and I am constrained to believe that he would see it, with all Savannah, laid in ruins before he would for a moment expose his breast to the galling fire of the enemy, and, from his editorial, would conclude that he would have us (hundreds) sacrifice our lives to save his ‘‘little all.” I hope God will save his office, protect his person, and take a liking to his principles. I can’t do either, and more especially the latter. I have my hands full fighting for the Confederacy.

In the spring, men at Smith’s Island may have taken their station with pride, but in warmer weather the conditions at the river batteries were nearly intolerable. At Fort Pulaski, on April 6, Lt. Montfort wrote about the pests:

We are terribly annoyed with sand flies & soon will be musquitoes. Yet we have the consolation of knowing that “Afflictions though they seem severe, are often mercy sent.” While we are annoyed by them we are assured by those acquainted with the paces occupies by Yankee Soldiers & Batteries on the River between here & Savannah, that they are a hundred times worse than here. The places now occupied by them between here & Savannah on the river, are the places on the river where heavy vessels heretofore have had to stop to unload & load & so annoying are the musquitoes & sand flies & the places so sickly that I am informed frequently they have been unable to employ men at one dollar an hour to go there to assist in unloading & loading. And while we have abandoned all idea of assistantance from the Government we put our trust in God, ourselves, the musquitoes & sand flies. If these fail us we are gone.

Lawton Battery

Captain George A Mercer, after visiting Smith’s Island and Fort Jackson on Sunday, June 22, 1862, wrote of the miserable experience.

“Sunday was intensely hot, and I could not but feel how much our brave soldiers were enduring in their present position. Fort Jackson, and the adjacent batteries, are located in low swampy fields, where the insects are terrible the air close and fetid and full of miasma and death. Capt. Blain’s men, on Smith’s Island, are particularly uncomfortable; their tents are pitched on the muddy ground, beneath the blazing sky; not a dry spot of earth, not a shade tree is near; the tide frequently rises above the platforms of their tents, soaks their bedding and washes away all they have; they have positively been obliged to anchor their cooking utensils to prevent their being carried away. And yet these brave fellows must stay — and do stay cheerfully in this dreadful spot, where every comfort is denied them, and sickness and death must add their horrors to the scene. I spent a miserable night last night; I lay down at the Fort but not to sleep; hundreds of fleas ran over me stinging me into a fever; I did not secure one moment’s sleep, but lay tossing in misery, counting the weary hours till morning; had I left the bed and gone outside the net the mosquitoes would have been as bad as the fleas. Indeed a sad necessity is imposed upon our troops; they must garrison spots where a white man can hardly live.

Captain Mercer noted that in August and September 1862, “The River Batteries [were] guarded only by small detachments of ten or twelve men each; the deadly miasma in the vicinity has rendered them uninhabitable.” Regimental returns show Captain Levi J. Knight, Jr was at Camp Debtford in July; Camp Debtford was on the Debtford plantation adjacent to Causton’s Bluff.  In August,  Knight was sent to Camp Anderson.  Other men of the 29th Regiment detailed to Camp Anderson included First Lieutenant Willis Clary, 2nd Lt Henry Clary and Pvt Hines H. Grey of the Georgia Foresters; Stephen D. Chitwood, Fountain Nally, Thomas Mills and John F. C. Mills of the Stephens Volunteers; Elijah W. Bryant, Thomasville Guards; John H. Elkins, John R. Griffin, Jonas Johnson, Peter Madden, George C. Maddox and Hines Holt Grey, 17th Patriots; Isiah Goff, Allen D. Smith, William D. Warren  and R. M. Simpson, Thomas Volunteers.

Camp Anderson was where Major Robert Houston Anderson was forming a “select battalion of sharpshooters” from highly qualified volunteers and select officers and men from the existing regiments around Savannah.  “By Special Order No. 259, District of Georgia, dated July 30, 1862, men were chosen from the regiments manning the defenses of the city to fill up the other companies of the new battalion.” Company D of the new sharpshooter battalion was composed of men selected from the 29th, 30th, 47th, and 13th Georgia Regiments and the 8th Georgia Battalion.  According to Russel K. Brown, “Camp Anderson was situated on Wildhorn Plantation, 12 miles below Savannah on the west bank of the Groves or Little Ogeechee River and near the line of the Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad. William Moody described the camp to his wife thus, ‘We are camped about 1 1/2 miles from Number 1 station and in 1/4 mile from the little Ogechee River on a very high pleasant place tho I exspect it is a sickly place. The sand files is very bad.'” 

Circumstances at Camp Anderson may have been better than at Lawton Battery, but only marginally. As at other Savannah garrisons, health conditions were problematic from the first encampment at Camp Anderson. Men died of typhoid, typhoid fever and typhoid pneumonia, bowel disorders, chronic diarrhea, congestion. Many more went on sick rolls. Desertion became a problem; by the end of the year 29 men would desert from Camp Anderson.  At least one deserter killed himself rather than be captured and returned to Camp Anderson. Another, after firing a shot at Major Anderson, was court-martialed and executed by firing squad. Three more deserters were sentenced to death but were released and returned to duty under a general amnesty and pardon issued by Jefferson Davis.

Levi J. Knight, Jr was not at Camp Anderson for long; After August 29, 1862, he was reported on regimental returns as absent sick.  Willis Clary, suffering with a lung impaired by pneumonia and a congenital short leg, resigned at Camp Anderson on August 22.   Henry Clary was sick in a Savannah hospital; he died September 4, 1862.

 

Regimental return for September 1862 showing Levi J. Knight, Jr. absent from post at Camp Anderson.

Regimental return for September 1862 showing Levi J. Knight, Jr. absent from post at Camp Anderson.

But in October Captain Knight returned to Battery Lawton on Smith’s Island. Also detailed to Battery Lawton was Lt. William Pendarvis, of the Georgia Foresters, Company A, 29th Regiment. In October Pendarvis was “in arrest.” Pendarvis tendered his resignation November 20, 1862 which was endorsed by Col. Anderson. The Colonel had previously busted Pendarvis from rank for “disreputable conduct,” and Pendarvis had been subsequently elected lieutenant while Anderson was away from the post. Anderson pronounced him totally incompetent, and he would have been court-martialed had he not resigned.

It appears that an animosity also developed between Captain Knight and Col. Anderson. The situation culminated on November 28, 1862, when Knight’s insolent behavior drove the Colonel to place him “in arrest” and to make charges against Knight in a letter to Brigadier General Beauregard;

Savannah River Batteries
28th Novb 1862

Capt Geo A Mercer
AAG

Captain
I regret to have to bring to the notice of the Brig Genl Comdg. the total inefficiency of Captain Levi J. Knight, Co G 29th Regt Ga Vols. This officer commands one of the finest companies in the service in point of materiel. Yet from inattention and want of care they have lapsed into a condition o negligence not just to so fine a body of men & very far from creditable to the officers whose duty it was to have encouraged and instructed them. There is a familiarity between the captain & the private soldiers that is hurtful to the service. The men have free access to his tent even to taking possession of his bed and loafing there. As evidence of the detrimental tendency of this system of free intercourse I have to inform you that on the occasion of my exercising the companies today at the great guns Captain Knight’s men failed to come forward at the long roll & only appeared after repeated calls & by my sending up the commanding officer of the port to enforce the order. Captain Knight had been duly notified of my intention to drill the men. He did not accompany his detachments, but after the lapse of half an hour came strolling leisurely down by the longest & most circuitous route & being informed that I had ordered him under arrest for his conduct, excused himself upon the plea of not feeling well. Upon another occasion when reported to me for failing to attend the School of Instruction ordered by you & for leaving the Island without notice to his commanding officers, the same excuse was made & thus it has been again & again. I have been unwilling to suppose that an officer would lightly avail himself of the plea of indisposition to evade his duty & hence have refrained from bringing the matter to your notice heretofore.Candor compels one today that Captain Knight is not fitted for the responsible trust confided to him & that – in the event of any mishap to the officers in command of the Battery – I do not regard him as qualified to fill his place. I should regret to lose his company. Under a different Captain they could be made a credit to the service, but under existing auspices the forces of evil example will demoralize & cripple them.

I am Captain Very Respectfully
Your Obbt

Ed. C. Anderson

By December 1862, Levi J. Knight, Jr was relieved of his command.  Regimental records show Captain Levi J. Knight, Jr was “in suspension,” for insubordinate behavior. On December 4, 1862 he was brought before an Officers Examining Board and he was “suspended from rank and commission by order of General Beauregard. His rank was reduced to private.  On May 28, 1863 his name was on a published “list of officers of different grades who have been dropped from the rolls of the army, in accordance with the provisions of the act for ‘ridding the army of ignorant, disabled and incompetent officers,’ by orders from Adjutant and Inspector General’s office.”

After being stripped of his rank, Knight continued to serve with the Berrien Minute Men. In 1863 he was elected by the company to the rank of Jr 2nd Lieutenant, but the election was set aside by Col. Anderson.

A year later, Knight’s new commanding officer, Captain Edwin B. Carroll,  again put him up for an officers position.

Camp 29th Ga. Regt
July 14th 1864

Capt J. W. Turner
Comdg 29th Ga Regt

Captain
I respectfully make the following statement in the case of private Levi J . Knight Co G 29th Ga Vols. He was elected Jr 2nd Lieut. in Co G on the 28th day of September 1863 but the election return was disapproved by Col. E. C. Anderson — Comdg on the grounds that Knight had been dropped from the rolls and could in consequence hold no position. Knight was detailed by Col. Anderson and sent to Charleston with another company and another election was ordered. While in Charleston he made a fresh statement of his case to Genl Beauregard and thereupon was ordered before the Board of Examiners that he might prove whether or not he should be put on duty as an officer. The decision of the Board is that he is competent for discharge the duties that may devolve upon him. I think he is entitled to the position and hope that he will be ordered on duty as an officer in the Company

Very Respectfully
Your Obt Svt
E. B. Carroll
Capt Comdg Co G
29th Regt

*************************************

Head Qrs Stevens Brigade
July 15, 1864

The enclosed paper is reply returned with the following statement. Co. G. 29 Regt has been on detached duty in Savannah until very recently. Some of the records are accessible in this case now. The facts are that L. J. Knight was Captain of Co G was brought before a Board of Examiners for incompetency. On their recommendation his name was dropped from the rolls by the War department and he became a private in the same company. Upon the occasion of a vacancy he was elected 2 Lt but on some cause his election was set aside by then Comdg Officer Col E. C. Anderson and a new election ordered at Smith [Island]. J. L. Hall was elected, examined and announced in orders and has filled the position ever since. Upon a transfer to duty in some other command Knight appears to have appeared before a Board of Examiners, the findings of which are herewith enclosed – I would Resply ask what action should be taken in the case.
Resply
H. S. Stevens
Brig Genl

 

Confederate States of America
War Department
Adjutant and Inspector Genls Office
Richmond, Va., April 28th, 1864

Genl
I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you that the proceedings and findings of the Examining Boards in the following case, have been confirmed by the War Department.

Sergt. Levi J. Knight, Co. “G”, 29th Ga. Vols.
Decision- “The Board pronounce him qualified for promotion.”

You will please issue the necessary orders.

Very Respectfully, General
Your Obedient Servt

Saml M. Melton
Maj.

By 1864, Levi J. Knight had regained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was captured with the Berrien Minute Men near Nashville, TN on December 16, 1864. He was held as a prisoner of war until June 16, 1865 when he was released after swearing an Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

 

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Jehu Patten and the Serpent

Jehu Patten

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten was a  farmer in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. He and his brothers, William Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within a few miles of each other. They were the sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland),GA.

All five of the Patten brothers served in the Civil War. Jehu Patten served first with Company K, 5th Georgia Regiment and later as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, 54th Regiment Georgia Infantry along with John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie, William Henry Outlaw, Matthew H. Albritton, Benjamin Sirmans and other men of Berrien County who served in the same unit.  In late 1864 he was furloughed home on sick leave and remained there through the end of the war.

Afterward he became a quite accomplished farmer of Berrien County.  The Jehu Patten farm consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (In 1902, Jehu Patten sold this farm to John Levi Allen – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

As a farmer, Jehu had an interest in and respect for the natural world.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Tifton Gazette November 15, 1895  Pg 3 Mr. Jehu Patten, from up in the Ray’s Mill neighborhood, was in town  this week and had a snake about four inches long and as large around as a straw.  He found the little snake in the road and caught it and put it in an envelope. The snake was the smallest we ever saw.  – Times.

Two months later, the Gazette noted: 1896-jehu-patten

Tifton Gazette January 24, 1896  Pg 4 The writer had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Jehu Patten’s a few days since, who lives near Rays Mill.  The weather was very cold, but after I had been there some time, he took me around to show me the results of his last year’s work.  The corn crib was the first place.  To my surprise I found he had gathered between seven and eight hundred bushels of corn, and one hundred of rice, next was the sugar house, and as I entered the door I found on my right three hundred gallons of syrup jugged and sealed, and on my left, up on shelves, five dozen fruit jars, containing apples, pear and peaches, and under the shelves was ten fifty-pound cans of lard, all full.  Next came the meat-house, and there I found he had 5,000 lbs. of meat, and about 75, or 100, lbs, of sausage, and has hogs enough yet to kill to last his family two years.  His meat was fattened on pinders, and it is ascertained that he has now in the field 80, or 100 bushels.  To go with his meat he has about an acre of turnips.  I did not visit his potato house but judge them by his other crop, and by those on his table. This Mr. Patten made with two mules and two negro boys.  He has enough stored away to supply his family three years.  Shurely, he ought to be happy.  He has raised and reared his children to a high degree of civilization, and has only three children, Miss Emma, J. M. and J. L. Patten, and all three are well educated, especially in vocal and instrumental music.  All are working to the highest aspiration.     Oh that we had more such men as him!  Yours for more,   AJAX.

Children of Jehu John Patten and Mary Ellen Lancaster:

  1. William H Patten (1865 – 1886)
  2. George T Patten (1867 – 1890}
  3. James Marcus Patten (1869 – 1944)
  4. Joseph Lacy Patten (1874 – 1898)
  5. Emma Patten (1879 – )

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WWI Registration Certificate of James Isaac Lee

James Isaac Lee (1876 – 1953)

James Isaac Lee was born in Berrien, Georgia, USA on 4 Feb 1876,  a son of Mary Eleanor Parrish (1849-1909) and John Lee (1842-1902).

His father, John Lee, was a Confederate veteran, having served with Company K, 5th Georgia Regiment and with Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment. His mother, Mary Eleanor Parrish, was a daughter of Molcy Knight and the Primitive Baptist minister, Elder Ansel Parrish.

James grew up on his father’s farm, located ” in the forks of Five Mile Creek and  Ten Mile Creek in what was then Berrien Co, GA (since 1920 in Lanier),”  about six or seven miles northeast of present day Ray City, GA.

James I Lee married Valeria Sirmans on November 19, 1902.  She was a daughter of Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight, and a granddaughter of General Levi J. Knight.  In fact, James I Lee and Valorie Sirmans were cousins, both being great-grandchildren of William Anderson Knight. In 1910, James and Valeria were working the farm they owned in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Rays Mill district. In 1920 Valeria Sirmans and James I Lee were living at Ray City, GA. They owned a farm next to Martha Sirmans. 

At the time of the 1918 draft registration for WWI, James I Lee gave the address of their farm as located on the RFD #2 mail route out of Milltown, GA.  (this was prior to the formation of Lanier County). James was 42 years old at the time of registration.  While he had been too old for the earlier registrations which sought men between the ages of 21 and 31, the third registration, conducted on September 12, 1918, required men up to age 45 to appear before the draft board.  James’ draft card shows that he was a self-employed farmer of medium height and build, with grey eyes and dark hair. He was physically disqualified for the draft as a result of “heart failure.”  However, James was issued a registration certificate. All men who registered were given bluish green certificates to prove they had registered. The certificate was embossed with an eagle at the top and merely stated the name of the registrant, date, and location of draft board. The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprise admonished, “If you have reached the age of 18 years and not yet 46, you must register on September 12…you will be given a Registration Certificate to show you have complied with the law.  This certificate should always be carried.”

1918 Registration Certificate of James Isaac Lee. Image courtesy of Edith Mayo.

1918 Registration Certificate of James Isaac Lee. Image courtesy of Edith Mayo.

 Draft Registration

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Dicey Guthrie Watson

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

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

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

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

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

1881-dicey-guthrie-marr-certi

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

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

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

Children of Dicey Guthrie and William Henry Watson were:

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

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

The Clinch County News
January 16, 1953

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

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

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

-30-

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George Washington Knight and the Populist Party

George Washington Knight was born September 8, 1845 in Lowndes County, GA.  His parents were Ann Sloan and Aaron Knight (1813-1887), brother of Levi J. Knight.

At age 16, on  July 3, 1862, George W. Knight enlisted as a Private  in Company E, 54th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  His  unit fought all over Georgia; at Dug Gap, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, and other battle locales.  Matthew Hodge Albritton, James Baskin, William Gaskins, Samuel Guthrie, William J. Lamb, Jeremiah May, Rufus Ray, and Samuel Sanders, among other Berrien countians, also served in this Company.  On April 20-21, 1865, two weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the 54th Georgia Volunteers, under the command of General Howell Cobb, joined in the last defense of Macon.

George Washington Knight surrendered as a corporal with Company E, 54th Infantry Regiment Georgia on May 10,  1865 at Tallahassee, FL.

On Sept 20, 1865 George W. Knight married Rhoda Futch, a daughter of John M. Futch. She was born October 31, 1846; died January 4, 1909.  At first, the newlyweds made their home on a farm owned by George’s father.  But within a few months George bought a farm on Ten Mile Bay near Empire Church, about five miles northeast of the site of Ray’s Mill. George and Rhoda resided on this farm the rest of their lives.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

“In 1892 Georgia politics was shaken by the arrival of the Populist Party. Led by the brilliant orator Thomas E. Watson this  new party mainly appealed to white farmers, many of whom had been impoverished by debt and low cotton prices in the 1880s and 1890s.”   Georgia farmers were being driven into ruin by the combination of falling cotton prices and rising railroad freight taxes .  Populism attracted followers in all of the southern states, but it was especially strong in Georgia.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons.  Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons. Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

The Populist Party ran a candidate for president, as well as candidates for Congress, Governor of Georgia, and the Georgia Assembly.

George Washington Knight was the Populist party’s candidate for Georgia state senator of the Sixth District in 1894, but was defeated.

The platform of the Populist movement called for financial policies to drive up the price of cotton, banking reform, government ownership of the railroads, direct election of senators, and an agricultural loan program, known as the Sub-Treasury Plan,  which would help farmers get the best prices for their crops.

“Realizing that the white vote would probably split between the Populist and Democratic parties, the Populists—and Tom Watson in particular—tried to gain the support of African Americans. Although never calling for social equality, they invited two black delegates to their state convention in 1892 and appointed a black man to the state campaign committee in 1894. They also demanded an end to the convict lease system, a program by which the state leased its prisoners to private mining companies. Work in the mines was dangerous, conditions were brutal, and most of the prisoners were black. Democrats quickly accused the Populists of allying with former slaves. Such racist claims drove many whites from the People’s Party movement, and the contest was marked by fistfights, shootings, and several murders.”

On election day, the Democratic party triumphed over the Populists in the races for the top offices. But the Georgia elections of 1892 and 1894 that kept the Populists out of state offices were marked by blatant corruption.  In 1894 ballot boxes in many Georgia counties were stuffed with more votes than there were voters.

When the Populist ran a presidential candidate in the election of 1896, it split the democratic vote giving the national election to the William McKinley and the Republicans. At the state level, the Populists lost the gubernatorial race to the Democrats. After the defeat of 1896, white Populists slowly drifted back to the Democratic Party, although many of the Populist issues continued in Georgia politics. The Populist Party had never convincingly embraced African-American voters,  who quickly returned to the Republican party.  The Populist party was not always acceptable to the Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass, either.  In November, 1892, for instance, in Empire Church near Rays Mill (Now Ray City), GA charges were preferred against Hardeman Sirmans “for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election.” 

In later years, George Washington Knight returned to the Democratic party.

He died 8 Feb 1913 in Lakeland, Berrien, Georgia. Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight are buried at Empire Church, Lanier county, GA.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Related Posts:

Civil War Service of James Madison Baskin

James M. Baskin, early settler of the Ray City area, fought in the Civil War.  He owned many slaves who worked at his farm, cotton gin and other enterprises.  At the start of the war he was about 32 years of age, and like other able-bodied southern men he joined the Confederate army.  He left behind his wife, Frances Bell Knox Baskin, to care for their young family and to administer the Baskin farm and business interests.

On May 6, 1862 he enlisted at Nashville, GA and was organized along with other recruits into the 54th Georgia Volunteer Infantry at Savannah, Georgia on June 5.   James Baskin became a private in Company E, a company of men from Berrien County under the command of Captains J. H. Evans and H. M. Tally. The regiment served for some time in the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. From January-February, 1863 they were south of Savannah,  with Company E stationed at Coffee Bluff. The orders from March 1863 show they were among the troops assigned to the Savannah River Batteries and other  defenses. In July of 1863, Company E and other infantry units of the 54th Regiment were moved up to the Charleston area, where they were involved in numerous engagements. On July 16th, they fought in the engagement near Grimball’s Landing, James Island, South Carolina. From mid-July to September 1863 they were involved in the defense of Charleston Harbor at Battery Wagner on Morris Island.

James M. Baskin may have returned home some time around June of 1863 as his wife, Frances, delivered the couple’s first son, James B. Baskin, on February 9, 1864. Or perhaps Frances traveled to Savannah to visit him that summer of 1863.  Martha Guthrie and other housewives of Berrien County are known to have made this trip to see their husbands the following year.

The 54th Georgia Regiment was reconstituted on April 22, 1864. They moved to Dalton, GA arriving on May 2, 1864 and went into action in the Atlanta Campaign. They fought almost daily engagements: from May 7-13 demonstrations at Rocky Face Ridge; May 14-15 actions at Lay’s Ferry, Oostenaula River, GA.; May 17 engagement at Adairesville,Ga.;  May 19 combat near Cassville,GA.; May 25-26 Battle of New Hope Church.

On May 25-June 5  the 54th Regiment was participating in operations on the line of Pumpkin Vine Creek, Paulding County, just north of the town of Dallas, GA.

On June 10-July 3 Operations about Marietta and the Pine Mountain-Lost Mountain line; June 27 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain;  July 5-July 17 Operations on the line of the Chattahoochee River; July 20 Battle of Peachtree Creek.

During the Battle of Atlanta, on July 22, 1864 , James M. Baskin was wounded in the hip – one of 83 casualties the Regiment suffered in that engagement.

“He lay all night on the ground. The next day he heard a rustling in the grass and called out.  He was rescued by a Yankee soldier.”

He spent time in  hospital in Lagrange, GA until in April 1865 he was furloughed ‘wounded’  and returned to his home to Berrien County.  While James was away, Frances ran the Baskin farm and cotton gin.   With the end of the war, James Baskin returned to farm life.  After the Baskin’s slaves were freed, most made their homes on the farm and lived out their lives there

While working in the gin Frances had contracted a form of tuberculosis. She died on June 3, 1885 in Rays Mill (now known as Ray City), Berrien County, Georgia.

The widower James Baskin, with minor children still at home, decided to re-marry.  On December 30, 1885 he married Mary Ann Harrell of Lowndes County.  This union produced six children.

In his old age, James M. Baskin applied for and received an annual Indigent Soldier’s pension.  His applications stated that he applied on account of “age and poverty.” He was in bad physical condition and suffered from rheumatism. His application stated his wife owned a small farm where they lived with five children, and up until that time he was “trying to farm” and “made a scant living.’

James Madison Baskin Settled at Beaver Dam Creek.

James Madison Baskin, first of the Baskin family to settle in the Ray City area, came to Berrien county about the time it was created in 1856.  He was the grandfather of Armstrong B. Baskin, and great grandfather of Mary Frances Baskin. James M. Baskin was born 6 April 1829 in Houston County, GA, one of thirteen children born to Sarah Goode and James G. Baskin.  His father was born 1792 in Abbeville District, SC.  and came to Georgia as a child.

When grown to adulthood, James M. Baskin left his family home with two slaves given to him by his father.  These slaves were experienced in construction, and James went into business as a building contractor.

While on a stay in Atlanta, James M. Baskin resided at the Bell House, a boarding house said to be the first hotel in Atlanta. There, he met the proprietor’s daughter, Frances Bell Knox.  She was  a widow with a three-year-old son, Alton Knox.  (The 1850 Dekalb County census  records show that by the age of 17 she was married to Joseph Knox, age 28, and that the couple had a one year old son named Alton.)

About 1852, Frances Bell Knox and James Madison Baskin were married  in Houston County.  In 1853, Frances gave James a daughter,  Fannie E. Baskin.  Another daughter, Sarah “Sallie” E., followed in 1856.

James M. Baskin’s father died in 1856.  About that time he decided to move his family from their home in Houston County.  His adopted son was now seven years old, his daughter three. His wife was probably either pregnant or was caring for their second infant daughter Sarah “Sallie” E., who was born that same year.   Who knows his reasons for uprooting his young family?  The Indian wars were over – south Georgia was secure. The Coffee Road provided a migration route and there was a steady southward flow of settlers.  Perhaps the disposition of his father’s estate incited him to move.  Perhaps he foresaw the coming war and wanted his family farther from north Georgia military objectives, or perhaps he saw more opportunities in the new counties being opened in southern Georgia.

It was in 1856 that Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes County; Levi J. Knight and others were setting boundaries and surveying the new county. James M. Baskin brought his family to the area of Beaverdam Creek in the southernmost part of the new county.  He settled about a mile outside of present day Ray City, GA  on land Lots 470 and 471 in the 10th land district. Tax records from the 1870s show James M. Baskin owned 1080 acres pf land in Berrien county,  relatively valuable land appraised at $1.85 per acre.

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lots #470 and 471.

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lots #470 and 471.

Over the next five years three more daughters were added to the Baskin family: Georgia Ann (1857), Martha J. (1859), and Mary J. (1861)

The Civil War came along and James M. Baskin joined the Confederate army, enlisting as a private in the 54th Georgia Infantry. He fought throughout the war and was wounded in the Battle of Atlanta.

After the war, James Baskin returned to farm life.  Over the next ten years he and Frances had five more children.  In all,  James M. Baskin and Frances Bell had 11 children. James and Frances Baskin, and some of their children, were active in the formation of Beaver Dam Baptist church, now known as Ray City Baptist Church.

Children of James Madison Baskin and  Frances Bell:

  1. Baskin, Fannie E. (1853 – 1892) m. William A. K. Giddens
  2. Baskin, Sarah “Sallie” E. (1856 – ) m. Thomas M. Ray, Jr.
  3. Baskin, Georgia Ann (1857 – 1934) m. Leonard L. Roberts
  4. Baskin, Martha J. (1859 – 1950) m. David C. Clements, Dec. 22, 1881
  5. Baskin, Mary J. (1861 – 1902) m. Ulysses A. Knight
  6. Baskin, James B. (1864 – 1943) m. Fannie Ellen Hagan, dau. of John W. Hagan, Dec. 15, 1887
  7. Baskin, Callie D. (1866 – 1890)  m. John T. Smith
  8. Baskin, William H. (1869 – ) m. Mamie Harrell, dau. of John W.
  9. Baskin, Emma (1872 – ) m. George T. Patten
  10. Baskin, Maggie May (1874 – 1898) m. Robert L. Patten
  11. Baskin, Ollie (1876 – ) m. L. H. Dasher

Frances Bell Knox Baskin died on June 3, 1885 at Rays Mill (now Ray City), Berrien County, Georgia.

James Baskin was a widower, 56 years old, the youngest of his 11 children just 9 years old. He decided to re-marry. Just six months later, on Dec 30 1885 he wed Mary Ann Harrell. She was a native of Lowndes County, born in  Nov. 29, 1859. At 27, she was a prominent citizen experienced in public service, and a former Ordinary (probate judge) of Lowndes county.

Children of James Madison Baskin and Mary Ann Harrell, – m. 30 DEC 1885 in Lowndes County, Georgia

  1. Baskin, Alonzo L. (1886 – ) b.   Nov. 17, 1886, m. Corine Rodriguez
  2. Baskin, Verdie (1888 – ) b.   Dec. 17, 1888, m. James W. Lovejoy
  3. Baskin, Infant (1891 – 1891)
  4. Baskin, Ruby (1893 – ) b.   May 16, 1893, m. Walter M. Shaw
  5. Baskin, Ruth (1894 – 1922) b.   Dec. 15, 1894, died single, age 22 years
  6. Baskin, John Holmes (1897 – ) b.   Oct. 8, 1897, m. Mrs. Laura Hall Sweat of Waycross

James Madison Baskin lived on his land near Ray City with his second wife until his death on July 7, 1913. Mary Ann Harrell Baskin  died April 29, 1917.

He and both of his wives are buried in the Ray City Cemetery.

Related Posts:

Three Wives of George Washington Nix

George Washington Nix was born March 12, 1858 and lived all his life in Berrien  or Lanier County, GA. His mother was  Margaret Ann Mullis.  His father, William Varnell “Varn” Nix, fought in the Civil War, enlisting in Company E 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment on May 6, 1862 in Milltown (Now Lakeland), GA.

In the census of 1860, he appears in the household of William S. Allen, who was a Berrien County miller.

About 1881 George W. Nix married Piety Ann Rowe.  She was the daughter of Charlotte Williams and Joseph Josiah Rowe. Her father served as a Private in Company I, 50th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry and died of pneumonia during the war. Piety Anne was two years old when her father died.

After marriage George and Piety Ann raised crops and children in Berrien county, GA.  Between 1882 and 1902, Piety Ann gave birth nine times.

Children of George W. Nix and Piety Ann Rowe:

Joseph Varn Nix (1882-1963) – served as Sheriff of Berrien County, GA
Eli Lester Nix (1884-1927)
William Frank Nix (1886-1978)
Missouri Arzilla Nix (1888-1966)
Maggie Lee Nix(1891-1921)
Elbert James Nix(1893-1971)
Richard Miles Nix(1895-1978)
Thomas Calvin Nix(1897-1973)
Annie Belle  (1897–1973)
Charlie Columbus  Nix (1902-2002)

In the census of 1900,  the first eight of these children were still at home.  In addition, Piety Ann’s mother, Charlotte “Lottie” Williams Rowe was living with the family in 1900. At the time, she was drawing a Confederate Veterans Widow’s Pension of $100 annually from the State of Georgia. The Nix farm was located in the 1148th Georgia Militia District, in the community of “Hill.”

Piety Ann Nix died May 16, 1908.

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The widower George Washington Nix was left with a household still full of minor children and with his mother-in-law, Lottie Williams Rowe.

On July 20, 1909 G. W. Nix married Arkansas Cook Hughes in a ceremony performed by Noah Tyler, Minister of God.  Born Laura Arkansas Cook , she was  the 54 year-old widow of William Hansford Hughes, and her own children were already   grown.

Marriage Certificate of George W. Nix and Arkansas Hughes, July 4, 1909, Berrien County, GA. The marriage ceremony was performed by Noah Tyler, Minister of God. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

Marriage Certificate of George W. Nix and Arkansas Hughes, July 4, 1909, Berrien County, GA. The marriage ceremony was performed by Noah Tyler, Minister of God. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

Grave marker of Arkansas Cook, b. Nov. 13, 1853 d. Dec. 24, 1911. Born Laura Arkansas Cook, she was the second wife of George Washington Nix. She is buried next to her first husband, William Hansford Hughes, at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38845663

Grave marker of Arkansas Cook, b. Nov. 13, 1853 d. Dec. 24, 1911. Born Laura Arkansas Cook, she was the second wife of George Washington Nix. She is buried next to her first husband, William Hansford Hughes, at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38845663

G.W. and Arkansas made their home in the upper 10th district of Berrien county, where George and his sons continued to farm.  The census of 1910 enumerates the household of George and Arkansas,  with George’s children Elbert, Miles, Thomas, Belle, and Columbus.  Also still residing in the Nix home was Lottie Rowe, mother of his first wife.

The marriage of Arkansas and George Washington Nix was not to endure for long.  Arkansas died December 24, 1911.  The short union of Arkansas Cook Hughes and George Washington Nix was without issue.

Arkansas Cook was buried next to her first husband, William Hansford Hughes, a few miles northeast of Ray City, at Empire Primitive Baptist Church, Lanier County, GA. The two graves share a single white marble monument.

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G.W. Nix, the subject of this post, married a third time. On March 5, 1912, at age 53 he married Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill, believed to be the daughter of Noah and Lucindy Tyler.  She was the 30-year-old widow of  Walter W. Hill.  She had four children of her own; Bessie Lee Hill, Lewis Felton Hill, Agnes V. Hill, and Walter Hill all under age 10.

Marriage certificate of G.W. Nix and D.V. Hill, Berrien County, GA. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

Marriage certificate of G.W. Nix and D.V. Hill, Berrien County, GA. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

For at least a short time it is likely that the household of Valeria and George W. Nix  was a blended family that included children of his first marriage, his step children, and children by his third wife.  But there is little enough published evidence of this connection.

What is known is that Thomas Nix, son of G.W. Nix, married Bessie Hill, daughter of Dicy Valeria Hill on December 24, 1913 in Berrien County, GA.  Father and son married mother and daughter.

Marriage Certificate of Tom Nix and Bessie Hill, Berrien County,GA.

Marriage Certificate of Tom Nix and Bessie Hill, Berrien County,GA. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189098

As further evidence of the blended Nix family , Lucius and his mother,Valeria, appear together with other children of George Washington Nix in a photograph taken about 1965.  Missouri Arzilla Nix, daughter of Piety Ann Rowe Nix, died in 1966.

Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Wife of George Washington Nix, and the Nix children,  photographed circa 1965. Front Row: Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Joe Varn Nix, William Franklin Nix, Missouri Arzilla Nix Ray. Back Row: Lucius Nix, Columbus Charles Nix, Thomas Calvin Nix, Elbert Nix. Lucius was the son of Valeria and G.W. Nix. All others were the children of Piety Ann Rowe and G.W. Nix. (image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/)

Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Wife of George Washington Nix, and the Nix children, photographed circa 1965. Front Row: Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Joe Varn Nix, William Franklin Nix, Missouri Arzilla Nix Ray. Back Row: Lucius Nix, Columbus Charles Nix, Thomas Calvin Nix, Elbert Nix. Lucius was the son of Valeria and G.W. Nix. All others were the children of Piety Ann Rowe and G.W. Nix. (image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/)

By the time of the 1920 census, all of the children of George W. Nix and his first wife had left home. George and Valeria owned a home on Washington Street in Nashville, GA.  He was self-employed as the merchant of a “fish store.”  Enumerated in the Nix household are his step-children (Valeria’s previous children apparently took the Nix surname),  and the children of George and Valeria:

George W Nix 60
Velora Nix 40
Felton H Nix 16
Agnes Nix 12
Walter Nix 9
Lucius Nix 6
George W Nix 4
Lucindy Nix 2

Some time prior to 1930, George W. Nix moved his family to Ray City, GA. His son, Eli Lester Nix, resided at Ray City where he managed his own crosstie operation. Eli Lester Nix died in 1927, leaving behind his widow, Eliza Jane, and five small children.  Perhaps the loss of his son influenced George W. Nix’s decision to move to Ray City.

At the time of the 1930 census, George W. Nix owned a home in town at Ray City valued at $700, free and clear of mortgage. He was working for hire as a drayman. A drayman was historically the driver of a dray, a low, flat-bed wagon without sides, pulled generally by horses or mules, that were used for transport of all kinds of goods.

The 1930 census enumerated the following in the  Ray City household of George W. Nix:

George W Nix 72, Head of household
Velora Nix 48, wife
Gladys Nix 9, daughter
Noah Nix 5, son

As given in the previous post, George Washington Nix Killed by Automobile, G.W. Nix died on February 10, 1932.

After his death, his widow, Dicy Valeria Tyler Nix, continued to live in Ray City,  GA.  She  died there on 7 Oct 1967.  She is buried at Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, GA along with many others of the Nix family connection.

Grave marker of Valeria Tyler Nix, b. Dec. 29, 1881 d. Oct. 7, 1967, Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Valeria Tyler Nix, b. Dec. 29, 1881 d. Oct. 7, 1967, Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, Berrien County, GA.

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More on William Green Avera & Family

Image Detail: William Green Avera, circa 1913

Found a bit more on William Green Avera (1855-1944), life-long educator  and Superintendent of Berrien County Schools, who lived near Ray City, GA.

William Green Avera was the eldest child of Stephen Willis Avera and Martha Elizabeth Akins. When an infant,  his parents brought him to the newly formed Berrien County, where his father engaged in farming.

During the war he [Stephen Willis Avera] enlisted and became a soldier of Company E of the Fifty-fourth Georgia Infantry. His command joined the western army under Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Hood, and stubbornly resisted Sherman’s advance all the way from Dalton to Atlanta. After the fall of the latter city he went to Hood’s army, participating in the battles at Jonesboro, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville, and after the last named engagement he was sent home on detached duty, the war closing before his recall to the front.”

“Laying aside the musket he again put his hand to the plow, and was engaged in farming in Berrien county until 1887, when he sold out and bought a farm in Colquitt county which he still occupies, having reached the good old age of seventy-six years. He married Martha Elizabeth Aikins, who was born in Clinch county, a daughter of William Green and Winnie Ann (Moore) Aikins. Stephen W. Avera and wife reared eleven children, whose names are William Green, Winnie Ann, Polly Ann, Sarah O’Neal, Daniel M., Lyman H., Phebe V., Lou, Junius H., Cordelia and Martha.”

The image detail above is from a family photo taken circa 1913:

The Avera family photo appeared in the 1956 Berrien Centennial edition of the Nashville Herald with the following caption:

MEN IN HISTORY – Above are four men who played a part in the history of Berrien County.  Top left is the late W. G. Avera, better known as “Uncle Billy,” who spent his life working for better education, serving as a teacher and County School Superintendent.  He was also a leader in religious fields. Lower left is Willis Avera, father of W. G. Avera. He fought in the War Between the States. Upper right is I. C. Avera, sheriff of Berrien County for 16 years. Lower right is Daniel Griner, father of Mrs. I. C.  Avera, whose family settled on lands in the eastern part of Berrien County, now part of Nashville. The land was first farmed and later sold as home sites.  The baby is Phin Avera, grandson of the four. The two on left are his maternal grandparents, and the other two his paternal grandparents.

Photo as it appeared in the 1956 centennial edition of the Nashville Herald.

Related Posts:

Professor Avera Lived Near Ray City, GA

 

 

Image detail: William Green Avera, circa 1905. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society, http://berriencounty.smugmug.com/

William Green “Bill” Avera

 

Bill Avera was a lifelong educator of Berrien county who lived in the vicinity of Ray City, GA. He was born August 1, 1855, in  Clinch County Georgia. His father was Stephen Willis Avera and his mother was Martha Elizabeth Aikins. William Green Avera was the oldest of eleven children, his brothers and sisters being  Winnie Ann, Polly Ann, Sarah O’Neal, Daniel M., Lyman H., Phebe V., Lou, Junius H., Cordelia and Martha.

Upon the organization of Berrien County,  Stephen and Martha Avera brought their young son to establish the family homestead in the new county in 1856. During the Civil War, Bill’s father enlisted and became a soldier of Company E of the Fifty-fourth Georgia Infantry. Stephen Avera saw action defending Atlanta from Sherman’s approach and later in the battles at Jonesboro, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville. The war ended while he was at home in Berrien County on detached duty.  After the war, Bill’s father continued to farm in Berrien County.  In 1877 Bill Avera married and established a household of his own near Ray City, GA.

The home of William Green Avera was located about five miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

In addition to his work as a teacher and superintendent William Green Avera worked for teacher education, being frequently involved in the organization and presentation of “teacher institutes.” In the spring of 1895, Avera co-presented with James Rembert Anthony at a teacher institute held at Sparks, GA, on Saturday, March 16, 1895, their presentation: “Grammar, the Actual and Relative Importance of Parsing and Diagramming.” J. R. Anthony was a teacher from Valdosta, GA. Among others on the program was Marcus S. Patten, who presented “Reading: Teaching to read using Holmes as the text.”

In his 1913 work, A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Volume 2, author William Harden gave the following account of William Green Avera:

   PROF. WILLIAM GREEN AVERA. The career of a man who for the greater part of a life time has been identified with the training and education of the youth is always one of the most valuable assets of a community. Probably no educator in south Georgia has been so long or so closely connected with educational progress and the practical work of the schools as the present superintendent of the Berrien county schools, Prof. William Green Avera. He belongs to a family of pioneer Georgians, and was born on a farm in Clinch county, the 1st of August, 1855.

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  Reared in a good home and trained to habits of industry, William G. Avera early manifested special inclination for study and the pursuit of knowledge, and made the best of his early opportunities of schooling. He has been a lifelong student, and when he was eighteen he was entrusted with his first school, located three miles east of Nashville. For thirty-three years, an entire generation, he was in the active work of the schoolroom, and he taught children and children’s children during that time. The aggregate length of his service out of those thirty-three years was twenty-five full years, a third of a long lifetime. In 1907  professor Avera was elected superintendent of the Berrien county schools, and by re-elections has since served continuously in that office. His administration has been marked by many improvements in the county educational system.

   In 1877 Professor Avera was united in marriage with Miss Eliza J. Sirmans. Mrs. Avera was born in Berrien county, daughter of Abner and Frances (Sutton) Sirmans. She died at Sparks in 1905. In 1911 Professor Avera married Margaret McMillan, a native of Berrien county and daughter of Randall McMillan. The following children were born to Professor Avera by his first marriage, namely: Sirman W., Marcus D., Bryant F., Aaron G., Alice J., Homer C., Abner J., Willis M., Lona, and Lula. Marcus D., Homer C., Abner J., and Lula are now deceased. Aaron G. married Fannie Key, now deceased, and has one son, William. Sirman W. married Annie Young and has a daughter named Georgia. Bryant F. married Mary Patton. Alice J. is the wife of William T. Parr, and has four children, J. W.,Stella, Saren and Gladys. Lona married Austin Avera, son of I. C. Avera, sheriff of Berrien county.

   In 1878 Professor Avera settled on a farm eight miles southeast of Nashville, and that was the home of his family until 1904, when it was temporarily removed to Sparks that the children might have the benefit of the superior educational advantages available in the Sparks Collegiate institute there. Prof. Avera’s present home is at Nashville, the county seat of Berrien county. He still owns the old home where all of his children were born and reared, and where his beloved deceased wife and children are buried. Sacred is the memory of this home to the man who has given the best years of his life to the educational and moral upbuilding of this section of Georgia. 

   Professor Avera and wife are members of the Primitive Baptist church, and in politics he is a Democrat.

 

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