Charles Bruner Shaw

Charles Bruner Shaw (1888-1950)

Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for sharing photos and content for this post. Portions reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletter: Charles Bruner Shaw

Born in 1888 in a corn crib on the John Allen farm just outside Ray City, GA, Bruner Shaw would later serve as a police officer for the town. He was a son of Francis Arthur Shaw and Victoria Giddens Knight.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

After Bruner’s mother died of scarlet fever in 1889, he and his brother Brodie Shaw were raised by their grand parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw.  The home place of  Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw was just west of Ray City, at Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road.  Bruner attended school  through the eighth grade at the two-room Pine Grove School. The Pine Grove and Kings Chapel schools were filled at various times with the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Rachel and Francis Marion Shaw. 

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

At a young age, Bruner Shaw married Mollie Register, daughter of William M. Register (1852-1926) and  Sarah Laura Parrish Register (1854-1933), and granddaughter of Elder Ancil Parrish the old Primitive Baptist preacher of Berrien County.  The Registers were a prominent family of Nashville, GA.  Bruner and Mollie were married on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1905, in a ceremony performed by Bruner’s uncle  Aaron Anderson Knight,  of Ray City, GA. Reverend Knight was  then primitive baptist minister of  Pleasant Church, just west of Ray City, GA.  The bride was one month shy of her 20th birthday; the  groom had just turned 17.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

 

 

Bruner farmed for a while at Ray City, GA near his brother, Brodie Shaw. The census of 1910 shows other neighbors included Mack SpeightsJoseph S. Clements, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher.

A Year of Tragedy

In January, 1911, when his aunt and uncle, Eliza Allen and Sovin J. Knight, moved to Brooks County to a farm on the Little River near Barney, GA, Bruner went along, moving his young family to an adjacent farm. But shortly after their move to Barney, “on April 16, 1911, just 26 days after the purchase of the new farm, Sovin suffered a severe heart attack and died in his new home.

After this family loss  coupled with the death of his infant daughter, Pecola, Bruner Shaw sold his Brooks County farm and returned to Berrien County.  Just six weeks after the sale, his wife, Mollie Register Shaw, died of Scarlet Fever.  She was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Bruner’s widowed aunt Eliza later moved  her daughters, Kathleen and Rachel, back to Berrien County to live in the farm home of her parents  (Bruner’s grandparents) , Rachel Moore Allen Shaw and Francis Marion Shaw, just outside of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

The young widower soon enlisted the help of a teen-age girl to help take care of his children. Fifteen-year-old Charlie Ruth Griffin was the youngest child of William Harrison “Hass” Griffin and Rebecca Jane Parrish, born June 25, 1897 in her family’s cabin on South Old Coffee Road in Berrien County.  Her siblings were Sarah Rebecca, Georgia Lavinia, Mary Ellen, Margaret Frances “Fannie”, Willie Henrietta, William Franklin, and Robert Bruce Griffin.

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

As Charlie took care of Bruner’s children they grew very close to their nursemaid. After a very brief courtship, Bruner and Charlie were  married November 23, 1913 at the home of the Reverend Aaron Anderson Knight in Ray City.  Reverend Knight was then serving as the first pastor of the newly organized New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City.

 

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

 

Charlie gave Bruner three more children,  Francis Marion Shaw, Lynette Narcissis Shaw, and Charles Bruner Shaw, Jr.,  and raised Bruner’s two children, Juanita and William Arthur, as if they were her own.

Bruner and Charlie Shaw were a part of society and leisure at Ray City, GA and Berrien County.  In February, 1914 Bruner was among the people from Ray City attending the carnival at Nashville.  Others from Ray City included  Annie Mae Carter, Margie Dasher, Pearl Hardie Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Harvie, W. H. Luckie, George Norton, J. J. and J. S. Clements.

In 1914, Charlie Ruth and her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw, were also seen at the Mayhaw Lake Resort on Park Street near Ray City. Mayhaw Lake was “The Place” in Berrien County for more than a decade. It was built in 1914 by Elias Moore “Hun”  Knight, of Ray City. The amusement park was such a popular spot that the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave special rates for picnic parties from all points on their line. People from all over the area would journey to Mayhaw Lake, especially on holidays such as the 4th of July and Labor Day. A boarding house [later the home of Effie Guthrie Knight] up the road towards Ray City was opened up by the Paul Knight family   specifically to provide lodging for the Mayhaw crowd. 

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

It was about this time that Bruner began his life-long pursuit of the law enforcement profession.  Bruner entered police work through occasional employment as a deputy at Ray City.  At that time the Police Chief at Ray City was Bruner’s cousin, Cauley Shaw.

An incident report in the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here [Nashville, GA] went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

The Tifton Gazette also reported the incident:

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette
October 16, 1914

C. B. Shaw, C.H. Jones and Charley Thomas were shot by a negro named John Williams, near Rays Mill Oct. 6, says the Milltown Advocate. Thomas has some trouble with the negro about hauling some cotton and the negro fired at him. He went to Rays Mill, secured a warrant and returned for the negro. The negro opened fire and slightly wounded three of the party who returned from Rays Mill with Thomas. The negro escaped.

Over the next few years, Bruner did stints in the police departments of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA and at Willacoochee.  By early 1919, Bruner had been hired by Berrien County Sheriff J. V. Nix as a deputy at Nashville, GA.

Until 1919, most of the activities of a peace officer involved chasing down petty thieves, and raiding an occasional “skins” (gambling) game…

Production and consumption of moonshine – illegal liquor – was also a problem for law officers. State-wide prohibition in Georgia had passed in 1907, with Ray City’s own representative Jonathan Perry Knight among those leading the charge.

However, with the passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution (prohibition), a whole new illicit business was the target of he county sheriff and his deputies. “Blind tigers”, as they were commonly referred, brewed alcohol in what was known as a “lard can” still, using syrup and meal processed through a copper worm. The product was a high explosive liquor with enough alcohol in it to burn like gasoline. Drinking of such had been known to cause blindness, if not death. Thus the name “blind tiger.”

By 1919,  reports of drunkenness and lawlessness in Ray City were making newspapers throughout the section. There were plenty of “blind tigers” running stills and selling bootleg liquor in Berrien County and Ray City, and gambling, too, despite the efforts of lawmen like Bruner Shaw, Cauley Shaw,  Gus Clements, Frank Allen, Marcus Allen, Jim Griner, Wesley Griner, and W.W. Griner.

In April, 1919, part-time deputy Bruner Shaw was again shot by an assailant.

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

Tifton Gazette
May 2, 1919

Shaw Shot by Negro

Nashville, Ga., April 23- Bruner Shaw, a well known young farmer who has served as special deputy sheriff a numbWer of times, was shot from ambush Saturday at the home of Will McSwain, a negro farmer living near Lois, this county. Shaw recognized his assailant as John Harris, a young negro whom he had arrested at Adel several months ago on a misdemeanor charge. The wouldbe murderer used a 23-calibre Winchester rifle, and the bullet entered the left side of Shaw’s head. He was able to come to Nashville today and swear out warrants against the negro, who is in jail here, having been captured by Sheriff Nix.

 

While pursuing his law enforcement career in other towns, Bruner Shaw maintained his Ray City connections. In 1920 Census records show Bruner and Charlie were residing in Ray City. According to Bryan Shaw,  Bruner’s last child, Charles Bruner, Jr., was born on February 6, 1920, in a home on Trixie Street behind the Marion Shaw home in Ray City. Bruner and Charlie resided in the home for three more years, participating regularly in the events of the community, especially dances and song fests.

Nashville Herald
March 15, 1923

News from Ray City—Everybody that wants to laugh as they haven’t since the war, come out on “Dad’s Night” . . . Last but not least will be some very fine singing by several of our gentlemen singers. They alone will be worth your time, should we have no other attraction. Mr. Bruner Shaw has promised us they will give at least four selections.

Later that year, Bruner Shaw was present at the startup of Ray City’s first power plant.

Sometime that fall Bruner, Charlie Ruth, and their five children moved to Polk County, Florida, where Bruner was hired as a deputy.  There was steady work tracking down bootleggers and their moonshine stills. Details of  big raids appeared in the papers:

The Polk County Recorder
March 2, 1924

“With drawn guns and expecting a battle to the death, sixteen deputies from Sheriff Logan’s force [and two federal agents] surrounded an abandoned sawmill camp in Eastern Polk County. Deputies Hatcher and Shaw volunteered to be a party to call for the surrender of the men sought.”

•∏•

Tampa Tribune
March 31, 1924

Lakeland Deputies Catch Moonshiners

Still of 100-Gallon Capacity Is Haul; Several Arrests Are Made

(Special to the Tribune)
Lakeland, March 30. – Lying in the woods near Bowling Green, Deputies [Newt] Hatcher and Shaw of the sheriff’s office Friday night watched a suspected bootlegger uncover two gallons of moonshie near the hiding place. Floyd Douglas, it is alleged, was getting the liquor to sell to Federal Officer Standau, unaware of the officer’s identity. Five gallons more were found in a search, and Douglas and the liquor were taken into custody. This is said to be Douglas’ second offense.
Just before the Bowling Green visit, the three officials made a big haul at Mulberry, here a 100-gallon copper still, 18 barrels of mash and six gallons of ‘shine were found in a swamp a mile from town. A negro man and woman were arrested as operators of the still.

•∏•

The Tampa Times
April 19, 1924

Raids Discourage Makers of ‘Shine

(Special to The Times.)
Bartow, April 19. – When the home of a Mrs. Beaumont, just over the Polk county line in Hillsborough county, was raided Wednesday the officers making the raid captured 244 bottles of 4 1/2 percent beer and three half pint bottles of shine. The arrest was made by Polk county Deputy Sheriffs Hatcher and Shaw with Federal prohibition Officers Standau and Dugan, who took the prisoner and evident to Tampa.
The recent series of captures of “shine” outfits conducted by Sheriff Logan and his deputies seems to have discouraged the moonshining industry in Polk county, according to reports from the sheriff’s office and judging from the record of convictions of violators of the prohibition laws in the criminal court combined with the sentences imposed by Judge Olliphant it seems highly probably that bootleggers of Polk county will decided that business isn’t so good in these parts.

In July, 1924 Bruner served as Night Police Chief in Haines City, FL. His friend and colleague, Newt Hatcher, was the Day Police Chief.

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

The exploits of Officer Shaw were occasionally reported in the Tampa Tribune.  On December 21, 1925, the paper reported C. B. Shaw was involved in a gun battle with a murder suspect.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

Later, Bruner Shaw served as chief of police at Frostproof, FL.  A high profile case while Bruner Shaw as chief of police at Frostproof Florida was the kidnapping of  E. L. Mercer, well-to-do citrus grower.

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

In the fall of 1929, the Shaw family returned to Berrien County, GA where Bruner sharecropped the John Strickland property on the old Valdosta highway. While the family went about bringing in crops of corn, tobacco and cotton, and the children [Marion, Lynette, and Charles, Jr.] were attending school at Kings Chapel, Bruner found temporary employment with the Berrien County Sheriff and the Ray City Police.

By November, 1930 Bruner Shaw was named Chief of Police in Alapaha, GA and moved the family there. He was once again again in pursuit of “blind tigers.”

Nashville Herald,
December 18 , 1930

Last Wednesday afternoon Chief C. B. Shaw and Deputy Sheriff Wesley Griner and W. W. Griner went over near Glory and went down in the river swamp about one mile west of Glory and found 180 gallons of corn mash. There was no still found with this buck. The officers poured out the contents and busted up the barrels. The people of Alapaha are pleased with the work of Mr. C. B. Shaw since he has been Chief of Police. We all hope that Mr. Shaw will stay on here as he is doing such good work and helping to clean up the community by catching blind tigers.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River . Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River. Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

It was the midst of the Great Depression, and though his work was appreciated, the pay was meager.  In the summer of 1931,  Bruner removed his family from Berrien County for last time and the Shaw family moved back to Frostproof.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: CHARLES BRUNER SHAW, SR: Have Badge, Will Travel, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Bruner Shaw’s life, law, business, and family.

Related Posts:

Advertisements

Cauley Hammond Shaw was Ray City Police Chief

Cauley Hammond Shaw (1883-1961)
Ray City Police Chief, 1914

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and www.berriencountyga.com

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and http://www.berriencountyga.com

In 1914 Police Chief Cauley Shaw was the officer responsible for law and order in Ray City, Ga.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law by Bryan Shaw, relates that Cauley H. Shaw served as Deputy Sheriff in Berrien County, 1907; Nashville Police Chief, 1908; Milltown City Marshal, 1910; Douglas Police Chief, 1911; Ray City Police Chief, 1914; Willacoochee Police Chief, 1920; and was the first motorcycle police officer in Valdosta, GA.

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Cauley Hammond Shaw was born November 5, 1883, a son of Charlton Hines Shaw and Rebecca Jane Devane.  As a boy, he attended the local schools through the 7th grade. In the Census of 1900 Cauley H. Shaw, age 16, is enumerated in his parents’ household. His father owned a farm near Adel, GA where Cauley assisted with the farm labor. Cauley’s elder brother, Lester H. Shaw, worked as a teamster, while his younger siblings attended school.

As a young man, Cauley Shaw entered the profession of  law enforcement, serving as a Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County in 1907.   On January 16, 1907 he married Julia Texas Peters , in Berrien county, GA. She was the daughter of William Peters and Sarah Mathis, born May 20, 1883 in Berrien, GA.

A year later  Cauley accepted the position of Police Chief in Nashville, GA. The newlyweds were blessed with their firstborn child on February 21, 1908, a boy they named James C. Shaw. Tragically, their infant son died just six months later on September 3, 1908 and was laid to rest in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. The following year on October 24, 1909 Julia delivered a second child, Julian C. Shaw. Again, tragedy struck, the newborn surviving just a few weeks. The baby Shaw was interred at Cat Creek Cemetery.

In April of 1910, Cauley and Julia were found in Hazelhurst. GA. They were boarding in the household of Rebecca W. Barber, widow of Dr. John W. Barber. Cauley owned a barbershop where he worked on his own account. Soon, though, Cauley returned to police work, serving as City Marshal of Milltown (now Lakeland, GA) in 1910, and Police Chief of Douglas, GA in 1911.

In 1913 a third child was born to Cauley and Julia, a daughter they named Hazel Annie. By this time, Cauley Shaw had moved his young family back to Ray City, GA where he served as Chief of Police.

Bryan Shaw relates an incident report from the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

Again, January 22 , 1915:

 Officers at Ray’s Mill raided a skin game a few nights ago and brought in ten colored men and boys.

The first World War found Cauley Shaw and his family still in Ray City. On September 12, 1918 Cauley Shaw registered for the WWI draft in Ray City. Signing as Registrar on his draft card was the town pharmacist, C.O. Terry. He was 34 years old, medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and light hair. Cauley had given up  his position as Ray City Police Chief to Charlie H. Adams,  and was  employed in farming at Ray City.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

By the time of the 1920 census, Cauley Shaw had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA, where he had returned to law enforcement, working as a city policeman. When the Shaws were enumerated on January 2, 1920 they were renting a house on Vickers Street. The Shaw household consisted of Cauley, wife Julia, their seven-year-old daughter Hazel, and their niece Myrtie Smith, age eight.

The Valdosta City Directory shows, in 1923, Cauley and Julia Shaw were living in a home at 406 Floyd Street, Valdosta, GA.  Cauley was employed as a foreman. His cousin, Brodie Shaw, owned  home a few blocks away at 203 S. Lee Street, and was working as a “yardman” [lumber yard?].  By 1925, the directory shows  Cauley was back in police work for the city of Valdosta.  Brodie Shaw had moved even closer, to a home at 307 Savannah Street.

Some time before 1930, Cauley and Julia moved to Douglas, GA where Cauley had served as police chief in 1911. Cauley again took work as a city policeman. They first rented then purchased a home near the corner of Ashley Street and College Avenue.   In 1930, their daughter, Hazel, married John H. Peterson, of Douglas.

Julia and Cauley remained in Douglas, GA.  The census records show Cauley’s 1940 salary as a police officer there was about  $23 dollars a week.

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and www.berriencountyga.com

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and http://www.berriencountyga.com

Julia Peters Shaw died March 16, 1956.   Cauley Hammond Shaw died in Douglas, GA on March 28, 1961.  Both are buried in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes county, GA.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Image courtesy of  Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

 

Cliff Brown and the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

In the summer of 1917, Cliff Brown was a resident of Ray City, Berrien County, GA when he registered for the draft for World War I. Cliff Brown was African-American and, at age 22, he was of medium height and build, with black hair and black eyes. He was a native of Hawkinsville, GA born May 15, 1895.

An interesting fact from his draft card was that while a resident of Ray City, Brown was an employee of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. He gave his place of employment as “Adel, Ga. to Hampton Springs, Fla”

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

The South Georgia & West Coast Railroad was built by brothers Zenas and James Oglesby of Quitman Georgia, and ran from Adel to Hampton Springs, FL.  In Adel, the line connected with the Georgia & Florida Railroad which served Ray City, GA, running from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL.

Hampton Springs, FL, the southern terminus of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad, was the site of the famous Hampton Springs Hotel, once labeled “Dixie’s Famous Spa.”  While the hotel was very popular with the railroad’s white passengers in the early 1900s, African-Americans like railroad worker Cliff Brown were no doubt denied access to the resort.

In its heyday, “The hotel was world renowned for its sulfur springs and baths known for their healing and medicinal powers. The luxurious hotel boasted lush gardens with elaborate fountains and planters.  The resort had a covered pool with foot baths fed by the springs, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, casino, grand ballroom, outdoor dance pavilion, and railroad depot. The nine-hole golf course was among the first in the region.  The hotel had its own bottling plant and shipped the healing sulfur water nationwide.  It also had its own power plant and the majority of the food served in the dining room was grown and raised at the hotel farm. The hotel had a private hunting and fishing lodge on Spring Creek six miles from the hotel site and an excursion boat with a covered launch.”

Year of the Tiger

In Wiregrass Georgia, 1849 may have been the Year of the Tiger.  Several previous posts have related the story of the Berrien Tiger, a large panther which attacked Jim Hightower (aka James Stewart, step-son of Thomas B. Stewart) near the Alapaha River in 1849 (see Eyewitness Accounts of the Berrien Tiger).

Here is a family story shared by reader Lloyd Harris, of another “Tiger”  encounter which occurred that same year near Argyle, GA, about 35 miles east of Ray City.

When I was young my grandfather related a long ago memory of his grandfather’s encounter with a panther or panthers in the south Georgia wilderness. Our family story coincides with the Berrien Tiger accounts as they happened at approximately the same time. My great great grandfather, James Harris, told this story of his own childhood to my grandad when he was young.

James Harris, 1880s

James Harris, 1880s. Image courtesy of Lloyd Harris.

The  incident happened when James Harris was about five years old, and coincides with the 1849 date of the Berrien Tiger.

Family of James Harris

James Harris was the first of eleven children born to George Harris and Julia Ann Westberry. He was born near Quitman, Georgia, February 16, 1844. 

His father, George Harris, was the son of Thompson Harris (1784-1870) and Nancy Ursery (1784-  )   A Confederate Widow’s Indigent Pension application for Julia Ann (Westberry) Harris in 1908 reflects George Harris’ birth in 1817 in South Carolina. Another source relates that he was born in Appling County, Georgia between 1817 and 1822, after which the family lived in Clinch County.  George was a blacksmith and in addition assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges. His father’s work was known throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. A trademark of their bridges was the integrated use of iron and bored wooden pegs to hold the timbers together.

George was a blacksmith and wheelwright. Family tradition relates that he assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

The church records of Union Church show that George and Julia Harris were received and baptized into its membership August 7, 1841, and were dismissed by letter March 12,1842. They became members of Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844. Their subsequent records cannot be traced due to the loss of church records.

The Harris home and farm in Clinch County, Georgia was on lot 325 in the 7th District which lot was traversed by the county line between Clinch and Ware Counties when Clinch was created in 1850 from Ware County. This property is situated about three miles north of the present village of Argyle. George Harris was granted this lot from the state on June 3, 1849; also granted the adjoining lot 324 on October 3, 1848. He sold lot 324 to his brother, William Harris, November 2, 1849, and then lived on lot 325 until he sold that parcel of land to Richard Bennett on August 12, 1852.

Tale of the Panthers

There is a family tale handed down through many generations relating to frontier life. The event happened in 1849 during the time the Harris family was residing in Clinch County. George Harris was away leaving his wife Julia and the children home alone in a pioneer homestead. Speculation would be that he was away with his father building bridges or hunting. During one night panthers roaming from the nearby Okefenokee swamp menaced the home ranging closer and closer to the cabin. To keep the predators from entering the home the frantic family prayed through the night and burned their beds, and chairs keeping a large fire going. The tactic flushed the space with light and served to repel an attack by the curious cats.

The Harris family story of a young pioneer family praying, hanging blankets over windows, and burning the bed, tables and chairs was passed down serving to entertain several generations with a true historical drama of frontier Georgia living in the nineteenth century.

George and James Harris in the Civil War

George Harris  and his son James both served in the War Between the States. George  Harris enlisted as a Private in the fall of 1862 as a member of the 3rd Cavalry Battalion which was formed during the winter of 1861-1862 with six companies. He along with his unit served on the Georgia coast, scouting and patrolling, until a reorganization of troops occurred on January 1, 1863.  George Harris’ unit was merged into the 4th (Clinch’s) Georgia Cavalry Regiment , and he was placed in Company I. Lieutenant Colonel Duncan L. Clinch and Major John L. Harris were in command.

At the reorganization,  James Harris joined his father’s unit, Company I, 4th Georgia Cavalry as a private.  He participated in the Battle of Olustee, Florida and in the battles around Atlanta. Family tradition relates he contracted measles during the siege of Atlanta and was in the city when it fell to the Union armies under General William T. Sherman. His unit apparently left him outside of the city but in the line of the advancing enemy soldiers. James was convalescing on a farm (place unknown) when “Yankees” were seen approaching. He was hidden by the host family in the stump of a huge oak tree that had “bushed” up. James remained concealed in the oak bush throughout the hot summer day until the Yankees left. Though suffering from sickness, and within a stones throw of the Union soldiers, he remained quite and motionless evading capture! Records also indicate he participated in battle at John’s Island, South Carolina. He surrendered at Thomasville, Georgia and was paroled at Tallahassee, Florida on May 15, 1865.

After the war James Harris married Mary Alice Stone.  She was born February 16, 1842, the daughter of George W. R. Stone and Nancy Howell. The Harris and Stone families are listed in the 1850 Census of Ware County.  James and Alice raised a family and engaged in farming near Adel, GA in present Cook County. He was a skilled blacksmith and wheelwright, as well. James Harris is listed in the 1880 and 1900 census of Berrien County, Georgia.

For James Harris, 1897 was a particularly trying year.  That summer a hailstorm hit the Harris farm, damaging his house and property.

James Harris' plantation hit by storm, 1897.

James Harris’ plantation hit by storm, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
June 18, 1897

Storm Near Cecil.

Cicil, Ga., June 12. – A heavy and damaging hail storm passed three miles north of Cecil late yesterday afternoon.  The cloud traveled in a southeasterly direction, touching the plantation of Mr. James Harris, three miles northeast of this place.  The storm was accompanied by a terrific wind, which destroyed a large amount of Mr. Harris’ fencing and a portion of the roof of his dwelling.  No deaths or personal injuries have been reported.

In November, 1897,  Harris took another blow when his gin was burned down.

James Harris' gin house hit by fire, 1897.

James Harris’ gin house hit by fire, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1897

Gin House Burned

Cecil, Ga., Nov. 17 – At a late hour last night the gin house and contents of Mr. James Harris living two miles northeast of this place, was destroyed by fire. The origin of which is unknown, but is thought to be an incendiary’s work. The amount of the damage could not be learned to-day, but it is thought that it may exceed $1,000. SHEBA.

James’ father, George Harris,  died between 1892 and 1894 in Echols County, Georgia. His mother, Julia Ann Harris, applied for a Confederate Widows pension in 1908 and 1909 in Berrien County, Georgia. George Harris and his wife are buried in Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Lanier County, Georgia in unmarked graves.

In 1919, James Harris sold his farm near Cecil, GA.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

Tifton Gazette
August 29, 1919

    Adel News.  There has been a good deal of activity in the sale of farm lands in Cook county this week.  Mr. W. S. Kirkland sold his farm to Mr. Jim Buck Whiddon and later bought Mr. John Taylor’s place which he also sold.  It is understood that the first brought $15,00.  Both of the places are in the Brushy creek neighborhood.  Mr. James Harris sold his place in the Cecil district to Mr. General Taylor for $15,000 also.

James Harris was a resident of Cecil, Georgia in Berrien/Cook County until his death. He died in Adel, Georgia December 12, 1928.   Alice died October 28, 1928, in Adel Georgia.  They are both buried at the Fellowship Baptist Church Cemetery in Cook County near Cecil, Georgia.

Rjames-harris-gravesite

Special thanks to Lloyd Harris for the contribution of images and content for this post.

Related Posts:

Kiss of the Red Scorpion

Medical Men of Ray’s Mill
Dr. Gordon DeVane

"The striped scorpion (Centruroides hentzi) is a sandhill / coastal plain species.  They are occassionally found in homes and cabins but their favored habitat is under bark of either alive or dead long-leaf pines and slash pine.  They can hide under bark that is quite flat to the tree and thus are not frequently seen..."   -  http://gregsnaturalhistory.com/729/scorpions-of-georgia/

“The striped scorpion (Centruroides hentzi) is a sandhill / coastal plain species. They are occasionally found in homes and cabins but their favored habitat is under bark of either alive or dead long-leaf pines and slash pine. They can hide under bark that is quite flat to the tree and thus are not frequently seen…” – http://gregsnaturalhistory.com/729/scorpions-of-georgia/

Although a fairly common species of the Wiregrass piney woods,  scorpions are rarely seen by most Georgians. But as a young man living a hundred years ago in the Connells Mill district of Berrien County, GA, Gordon DeVane came face to face with one of the critters.

Tifton Gazette
September 27, 1907 Pg 7

While at Pleasant church Sunday, Mr. Gordon DeVane was bitten on the lip by a red scorpion.  His lip swelled considerable and he had to seek medical attention.  Mr. DeVane was tying his horse to a tree when attacked by the scorpion. – Adel News.

James Gordon DeVane stung by red scorpion, 1907.

James Gordon DeVane stung by red scorpion, 1907.

Naturalist Greg Greer has photographed and written about the scorpions of Georgia at http://gregsnaturalhistory.com/729/scorpions-of-georgia/  He identifies the scorpion common to the area of Ray City and Pleasant Church as the striped scorpion, Centruroides hentzi.  Not a deadly scorpion, but still, who wants to get stung on the lip?

Born May 10, 1886, James Gordon DeVane was a son of  Mary Elmina Morris (1866 – 1918)   and James Patrick DeVane (1863 – 1945).  The DeVanes made their home in the Connells Mill District GMD 1329, at a farm on the Cecil-Milltown road.  The father, “Patrick” DeVane was a farmer, and owned his place free and clear of mortgage. The census of 1900 shows that “Gordon” DeVane was “at school.”  Later records attest that he attended the Sparks Collegiate Institute at Adel, GA.

Sparks Collegiate Institute, Adel, GA, circa 1904.

Sparks Collegiate Institute, Adel, GA, circa 1904.

According to the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929  James Gordon Devane was educated in Adel at the Sparks Institute before attending the Atlanta School of Medicine. Was it that scorpion’s kiss that inspired him to study medicine?

The Atlanta School of Medicine was  formally opened in October 1905, merged with the  Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1913, and became a part of Emory University in 1915.  At the Atlanta School of Medicine, Gordon DeVane may have been a classmate of Ray City doctor George H. Folsom  who attended the medical college sometime between 1906 and 1910.

Gordon DeVane graduated from the medical school in 1911 and was subsequently licensed to practice medicine in Georgia and Florida. But at the time of the Census of 1910 Gordon DeVane had returned to the Connell’s Mill District GMD 1329 where he was enumerated in the household of his parents, Patrick and Elmina DeVane. Perhaps in anticipation of his graduation, he gave his profession as “physician” and his occupation as “general practice.”

In 1911 Gordon DeVane married Lottie Bell Patilla or Patills, of Atlanta, and for a while the couple made their home in Winter Garden, FL where Dr. Devane engaged in general practice. But about 1914, Dr. DeVane moved back to Berrien County  to practice medicine in Nashville and Adel, GA.

When James Gordon DeVane registered for the draft for World War I in 1918, he  gave his permanent home address as Adel, Berrien County, GA.  He was 32 years old, medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair.

Like other Berrien County physicians, Dr. DeVane was called to serve. Dr. F.M. Burkhalter was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, then to France with the American Expeditionary Force.  Dr. Lawson Rentz went to Camp Wheeler, then to the Embarkation Service in New Jersey. Dr. Guy Selman was sent to Camp Jackson, SC.  On Dr. DeVane’s  registration card there was a note: “Has been commissioned and accepted as First Lieutenant, Medical Reserve Corps.”

Gordon DeVane, WWI Draft Registration

Gordon DeVane, WWI Draft Registration

Although the war ended before Dr. DeVane was deployed to Europe, he would fight his final battle  on the home front. The Spanish Flu epidemic that killed so many soldiers was not sparing their families.

The most deadly epidemic to ever strike the United States occurred in 1918. As America prepared for war, a soldier at an Army fort in Kansas reported to the base hospital with flu-like symptoms. There, he was diagnosed as having a strain of flu that was called Spanish Influenza (since it was erroneously believed the strain had originated in Spain). Before the year was out, 675,000 Americans would die from the flu — more than the total of all Americans to die in all wars in the 20th century. The 1918 strain of flu created not just an epidemic — but a global pandemic causing 25,000,000 deaths. In the U.S., the epidemic’s worst month October, when almost 200,000 Americans died from the virus. October 1918 was also the month the flu epidemic hit Georgia…  – http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/1918flu.htm

The same papers that carried news of the October 1918 sinking of the HMS Otranto also reported the flu epidemic at home…

Thomasville Times Enterprise, October 12, 1918 reports spread of Spanish Flu epidemic.

Thomasville Times Enterprise, October 12, 1918 reports spread of Spanish Flu epidemic.

As the epidemic reached its peak entire families in Berrien County were stricken.  Along with other medical authorities Dr. DeVane did his best to respond to the crisis.

CENNTENNIAL EDITION – THE ADEL NEWS
Adel, Georgia

April 22, 1973

Dr. James Gordon DeVane

     Dr. James Gordon DeVane was a general practitioner in the years 1917-1918.  The son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick DeVane of Berrien County, he was born in 1886.
     He was a graduate of Southern College of Medicine and Surgery in Atlanta.  He married Miss Lottie Bell Patills of Atlanta in 1911.  They had 2 children, Mrs. Margaret (Jack) Parrish, and James G. Devane.
     Before coming to Adel, Dr. DeVane practiced in Winter Garden, Florida, and in Nashville, Georgia. Preparations had been made for his entering World War I when the Armistice was signed.
     When Adel was hit by the “flu” epidemic in November, 1918, he administered and cared for his stricken patients – entire families in some cases.  Nearing collapse, he brought prescriptions in to the drug store for his patients and went home for his first night’s rest in several days.  Within 24 hours the young doctor died — a victim of the terrible epidemic.

http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/cook/bios/devane.txt

Grave of Dr. James Gordon DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Dr. James Gordon DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

RAY CITY RESIDENTS LAID TO FINAL REST

Eighty-eight years ago today…

Atlanta Constitution Nov 11, 1923

RAY CITY RESIDENTS LAID TO FINAL REST

Milltown, Ga., November 10.-(Special.)- Two funerals were held in Ray City Thursday, Jewel, 8, son of Mr. and Mrs. Manning Surcey, died of acute Bright’s disease Wednesday night and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery Thursday afternoon. Elder Aaron Knight conducted the funeral services. Henery Purvis, 52, died Wednesday night at his home in Ray City, following a stroke of paralysis. He is survived by his wife. His body was taken to New Adeal late Thursday afternoon for burial.

Data from the 1920 Census shows that Jewel Cersey was the son of Lula Goodin and  Manning A. Cersey.  Jewel’s father, a sawmill fireman, was an employee of the Clements Lumber Company, which was situated about a mile north of Ray City, GA. The family lived in rented house at the sawmill, one of many in the sawmill neighborhood probably owned by the company.

Name Relationship Birth Place of Birth Race Occupation
Manning A Cersey Head of household abt 1889 Georgia White Sawmill Fireman
Lula Cersey Wife abt 1896 Georgia White
Vera J Cersey Daughter abt 1911 Georgia White
Clinton A Cersey Son abt 1913 Georgia White
Jewel T Cersey Son abt 1916 Georgia White
Grave of Jewel Cersey (1916-1923), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Jewel Cersey (1916-1923), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Putnal Family ~ Town and Country

Putnal Family of Ray City, GA

The  farm place of Wayne and Ellen Gaskins Putnal was located on the south side of Ray City, on Park Street.  Wayne Putnal worked the farm during the week and on Saturdays he could be found in town at Leon Bradford’s barbershop.  The barbershop was located on the south side of Main Street just opposite the Victory Soda Shop.  Mr. Putnal worked many years there, cutting hair and giving shaves. In his later years he had a noticeable tremble, but his customers could always be confident that he would apply scissors to locks or straight razor to whiskers with the steadiest hand.

There were seven children in the Putnal household, and they attended the Ray City School. They would walk up the dirt road that was Park Street to Johnson Street, then east to the school, joining the other farm children who lived along the way.

Children of Ellen Gaskins and Wayne Putnal:

  1. Leston L. Putnal
  2. Grace Marguerite Putnal
  3. Clifford Earl Putnal
  4. Cary W. Putnal
  5. Nelda E. Putnal
  6. Dorthy E Putnal
  7. Glen H Putnal

Leston Putnal married Louise Cooper after graduating from Ray City High School. During WWII, he joined the Air Force, and it became a 30 year career. While he was away during the war his wife and son rented an apartment in Effie Guthrie Knight ‘s house on Park Street. The large old house had once served as a hotel for tourists visiting the Mayhaw Lake Amusement Park. Later, Leston Putnal and his family lived in Adel, GA.

After high school, the sisters Grace and Nelda Putnal went to Jacksonville, Florida. Nelda  got a job as an operator for the Standard Oil Company and in 1947 she married Charles J. Vance.  Grace Putnal  found work as a bookkeeper.  She married Bobby Earnest  in Duval County, Fl in 1953.

Cary W. Putnal moved to Macon, GA.

Earl Putnal   was known to other Ray City students by the nickname, “Guinea.”  Like his older brother, Earl fought in WWII. He served in the Navy and was wounded in action.  After the war,  he returned to Ray City and married Helen Marie Lee. She was the daughter of   Letha Brantley and Loren Lafayette Lee.   Earl and Helen moved to Jacksonville,  where Earl took a job as a clerk with Spencer Electric company. Later, they moved to Galveston, TX where Helen’s parents had already relocated.

Dorothy Putnal married Payne Webb, a successful merchant of Ray City.  He owned a liquor store located on the south side of Main Street, opposite the present day location of the Dollar General store. The couple spent their honeymoon in Atlanta, and returned to Ray City to make their home. After marriage, Dorothy went on to attend Georgia State Womans College at Valdosta, GA (now Valdosta State University.)   After Payne died of cancer she relocated to Atlanta and remarried.

Glen Putnal became a dentist.

When Wayne and Ellen Putnal were ‘senior citizens,’ they moved from their home on Park Street to a place in town.  Annie Mae Clements sold the Putnals a lot on the west side of her house, the Clements house being located on the southwest corner of  Jones and Ward streets.  Using  the same building plans from which their farm home had been constructed, the Putnals had a house built on the town lot.  In their new home the Putnals were known as “nice people and good neighbors.”

The Putnal house on Park Street is long gone, but the town home still stands on Jones Street in Ray City, GA.

Golden Anniversary of Pleamon Sirmans and Minnie Clements

Pleamon and Minnie Clements Sirmans  were long time residents of Ray City, Georgia.

They were married on August 23, 1910 in Cook County, Georgia and moved to the Ray City area in 1915.

For a time, Pleamon and Minnie Sirmans made their residence at this Ray City, GA Home.

For a time, Pleamon and Minnie Sirmans made their residence at this Ray City, GA Home. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

From a Newspaper article dated August 1960:

THE CITIZENS PRESENTS——-SENIOR CITIZENS

Living in Ray City, Georgia., since 1915, five years after they were married, Mr. and Mrs. Pleamon N. Sirmans were honored last Sunday by friends and relatives on the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary.Born in Willacoochee, Georgia., Mr. Sirmans attended school there. Mrs. Sirmans was born in Adel, daughter of William Clements, first merchant in Adel.

Mr. Clements bought the turpentine still in Willacoochee and it was there that Minnie Clements and Pleamon Sirmans met.

They were married August 23, 1910 by his uncle, E.L. Moore, a justice of the peace. After moving to Ray City, Mr. Sirmans was a car salesman for a number of years in Nashville and for 15 or 20 years operated a grocery store in Ray City. Ill health forced his retirement about 3 years ago (1957). He is on the City Council.

Mrs. Sirmans retained membership in the Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Adel and Mr. Sirmans is a member of the Ray City Methodist Church. In the family are: F. Burns Sirmans, Merle Sirmans and Mrs. W.H. (Hazel) Bradham all of Ray City; Mrs. J.H. (Hilda) Featherstone of Homestead, FL., and four grandchildren.

In addition to serving on the City Council, Pleamon Serman also served as Mayor of Ray City. Minnie Sirmans kept a cowpen behind their house in Ray City. Milking her cows in the

Pleamon and Minnie Clements Sirmans are buried at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Pleamon N. Sirmans

Grave of Pleamon N. Sirmans

Grave of Minnie Clements Sirmans

Grave of Minnie Clements Sirmans

Related Posts

Pleamon N. Sirmans ~ Mayor, Ray City, GA

Arthur Shaw and Shaw’s Still

The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

Near Lynching at Adel and the other F.M. Shaw

Francis Marion Shaw (1846 – 1922) was a long time resident of the Ray City, Georgia area.  Bryan Shaw of the Berrien County Historical Foundation and descendant of Francis Marion Shaw has written extensively about his life (see http://www.fmshawfamily.com/) and has also provided many Shaw family photos at http://berriencountyga.com/

The Other Francis Marion Shaw

But there was another Francis Marion Shaw who resided in the community of Adel, GA.  This F.M. Shaw was known as Francis Marion Shaw, Jr. to distinguish him from the F.M. Shaw of Ray City, known as F.M. Shaw, Sr.  even though the two were only distantly related.

“Francis Marion Shaw, Jr. owned large tracts of land east of Adel, much of which was later deeded to his children. He served in various civic positions, including that of Chairman of the Berrien County Board of Education, County
Commissioner for several terms, and state Representative, the latter an office to which he was elected in 1894.”

 As a sitting County Commissioner at the time the Berrien County Courthouse was completed in Nashville, GA  the name of F.M. Shaw, Jr.  appears on the marble dedication plaque at the entrance to the building.  His term as a commissioner, though, was not all ceremonial, and it wasn’t all “order in the court.”

The following article concerning F.M. Shaw, Jr. of Adel was found in the Atlanta Constitution, May 27, 1902 edition:

MOB IS LIKELY TO LYNCH SEVEN

People are Incensed Over Shooting of Marshal Hyres.

Mayor of Adel Communicates with Governor Candler – He Declares Unless Special Term of Court Is Held, Lynching Can’t Be Stopped.

Valdosta, Ga., May 26. -(Special.)-From telegrams received in this city tonight, it appears that a wholesale lynching is imminent at Adel, 24 miles north of here, on the Georgia Southern railway.  It is very likely that before the sun rises tomorrow morning seven negroes will have been strung up.
W.A. Hyers, marshal of Adel, was shot and mortally wounded by a young negro whom he attempted to arrest last Thursday night. The negro escaped, but was captured at Moultrie on Saturday.
Since his arrest it has developed that the negro was the tool of a gang of six negro gamblers, who it is said gave him $5 and a pistol to kill the marshal. These negroes are under arrest and the people are wrought to a desperate pitch of excitement and are clamoring for the lives of the gang.
A telegram was sent to Solicitor General Thomas, in this city, tonight, signed by Mayor C.B. Webb and County Commissioner F.M. Shaw, stating that unless positive assurance was given that a special term of Berrien superior court would be held to try the accused parties it would be impossible, they feared, to prevent the lynching of the negroes. Solicitor Thomas at once informed Governor Candler and the county judge of Berrien, Judge Hansel and the sheriff, of the state of affairs, and will use every means to avert the lynching.

Oct 12, 1918 ~ 372 U.S. Soldiers Lost in Sinking of Otranto

OTRANTO SUNK IN COLLISION

October 12, 1918 details of the sinking of the troopship Otranto began reaching the U.S.  Out of 699 soldiers on board, 372 were lost. Berrien County and Ray City, Georgia would pay a heavy toll in the disaster.

The October 12, 1918   Atlanta Constitution carried the story.   Nashville, GA resident Early Steward was listed as one of the Otranto survivors.

372 U.S. Soldiers Lost As Result of Sinking Of Transport Otranto

Fort Screven Men Among the Rescued.
A Scottish Port, October 11. –The following American survivors of the Otranto, all of them privates, have been landed here: Charles E. Smithson, David R. Roberts, George S. Taylor, Earle Garver, Stewart Early [Early Steward], Noah Taylor, William Cooney, Robert F. Schaun, Thomas A. Kelly, Ben Smith, Robert Brown, Joseph S. Richards, William Richards, Emil Peterson, Joseph M. Tollock, Sergeant Charles MacDonald, all from Fort Screven automatic replacement draft, and John E. Wean, casual company, Camp Merritt, N.J.

A British Port, October 11. – A large number of American troops have been lost as the result of the sinking of the transport Otranto in the North channel Sunday night between the Scottish and Irish coasts in a collision with the steamer Kashmir.
The Otranto after the collision was dashed to pieces on the rocks off the south Scottish coast with a probable loss of 372 American soldiers.
Three hundred and one men were taken to Belfast by the British destroyer Mounsey, the only vessel which made an attempt at rescue in the terrific gale when the Kashmir, another vessel in the convoy with the Otranto, rammed the Otranto amidships.
Seventeen men were picked up alive on the Scottish coast.
Of the 699 American soldiers on board the Otranto, 310 were landed. Seventeen were rescued alive at Islay, leaving 372 unaccounted for.

Collision Occurred in Storm.
The Otranto and the other vessels of the convoy were battling with the heavy seas and high winds Sunday morning. The storm was so severe and the visibility so bad that the Kashmir, a former Peninsular and Oriental liner, crashed into the Otranto squarely amidships.
The Kashmir backed away badly damaged, but was able to make port.
As the bows of the Kashmir were pulled from the great hole in the side of the Otranto, the water rushed in, but for a time it did not serve to stop the engines. The Otranto tried to proceed, but made no headway against the gale in her crippled condition.
Within a short time the water put out her fires and the Otranto drifted helplessly toward the rock coast of Islay Island, where most of the Tuscania victims met their deaths.
Thirty minutes after the crash the British destroyer Mounsey, herself damaged by the heavy seas, appeared out of the haze in answer to the distress calls from the Otranto. When the destroyer maneuvered to get alongside Captain Davidson, of the Otranto, warned Lieutenant Craven, commanding the destroyer, not to make the attempt.
When it was seen that Craven would make the attempt anyway the men were ordered to remove their shoes and heavy clothing and try to save themselves as best they could.
The destroyer stood off about 100 feet and the gradually came nearer, against the great odds of high waves and the wind, which threatened momentarily to carry her entirely away from the Otranto or dash her to pieces against the side of the wounded vessel.

Struck Rocks Sunday Night.
The Otranto struck the rocks Sunday night south of Saligo bay, Islay Island, an uninhabited section where the coastline in many places rises straight out of the water to the rocky peaks many feet above.
As the destroyer neared the side of the Otranto the men began to jump from 30 to 40 feet from her decks.  The most experienced sailors of the sailors had better success than the soldiers, many of whom had never seen the sea until this trip.
As the destroyer steered toward the side of the steamer many of the men leaped too quickly and missed their reckoning and dropped between the boats. Some of these disappeared in the water, but others of them were caught and crushed between the boats and the lifeboats which had been lowered to act as buffers. The destroyer was badly shattered.
The captain of the destroyer, each time it was brushed away from the side of the Otranto, again would push near enough for many more men to jump to the deck of his vessel. He described  as a veritable rain the number of men landing on the destroyer.
Many of those who reached the decks of the vessel suffered broken bones or otherwise were hurt. Those who missed the deck of the destroyer went almost to instant death.
Four times the battered destroyer came alongside, and each time the previous scene was repeated. At the end of the fourth trip she had 310 Americans, 236 of the crew, 30 French sailors and one British officer on board. The boat was full and having done all possible, she started for port.
The survivors saw the Otranto drifting helplessly toward the rocks as they pulled away toward the Irish coast.  The destroyer barely had time to send a brief message when her wireless was carried away.  The little overloaded vessel had a rough trip to port.

Soldiers at Attention.
One of the American soldiers on board the Otranto pictured the scene when the vessels collided. Soldiers lined the decks as though on parade, and at the word of command stood at attention like statues. They never wavered, remaining there in military formation, exemplifying during the crisis the noblest traditions of the army for heroism and discipline. The same thing, said the soldier, applied to the seamen.
Numbers of bodies today were being washed up rapidly on the shore. It was reported that 175 had been counted at noon and nearly all of them had been identified.
A seaman on the Otranto described the most tragic moment of the disaster as that when the order came for the men to jump and save themselves. The destroyer looked a very small boat alongside the former Orient liner and many landsmen among the American troops thought themselves safer aboard the larger vessel. This was fatal to many of them.
The victims are to be collected at the most suitable place and buried there.  A boat left Liverpool today with material for coffins, fifty laborers and carpenters and chaplains to conduct the funeral. The grave of every man will be marked and charted.
There were few cases among the dead where identification was delayed. Every man had worn an identification tag on his wrist or neck, but in some instances these were torn off and it was necessary to take finger prints of the men.

Heavy “Y” Man Saved.
An instance of the many rescues by the Mounsey was that of T.L. Campbell, a Memphis lawyer and secretary of the Y.M.C.A. He weighs 220 pounds. He was perched on the Otranto’s rail awaiting a chance to spring upon the destroyer the third time the Mounsey came up. As he leaped the Mounsey lurched away and instead of landing in the middle of the deck, as he had hoped to do, one of his legs caught in the cable on the side of the destroyer. Campbell pulled himself aboard uninjured.

“Just when the destroyer was pulling away the last time,” said Campbell today, “the men lined the rails or stood on the afterdeck waving a farewell. A huge wave struck a crowd of about eighteen privates on the afterdeck and a dozen of them were swept into the sea to sure death, as it was impossible to save persons from waves running sixty to seventy feet high.”

London, October 11. -The news of the collision reached London Monday, but nothing was known of the fate of the Otranto until Thursday morning, when the first reports came from Italy. The storm continued to make further attempts at rescue impossible.  No ships pass close enough to that coast in rough weather to see a stricken vessel ashore.

ROLL CALL OF THE OTRANTO DEAD FROM BERRIEN COUNTY,  GEORGIA

Pvt. Hiram Marcus Bennett, Sparks, GA

Pvt. Jim Melvin Boyett, Milltown, GA

Pvt. John Guy Coppage, Cecil, GA

Pvt. Rufus Davis, Sparks, GA

Pvt. Mack Hilton Easters, Lenox, GA

Pvt. George Bruce Faircloth, Milltown, GA

Pvt. Lafayette Gaskins, Nashville, GA

Pvt. Bennie E. Griner, Nashville, GA

Pvt. Lester A. Hancock, Alapaha, GA

Pvt. Robert J. Hancock, Lenox, GA

Pvt. Arthur Harper, Enigma, GA

Pvt. William P. Hayes, Alapaha, GA

Thomas H. Holland, Adel, GA

Pvt. George H. Hutto, Adel, GA

Pvt. Ralph Knight, Ray City, GA

Pvt. Benjamin F. McCranie, Adel, GA

Pvt. James M. McMillan, Nashville, GA

Pvt. William McMillan, Enigma, GA

Pvt. John Franklin Moore, Adel, GA

Pvt. Charlie S. Railey, Alapaha, GA

Pvt. Tillman W. Robinson, Enigma, GA

Pvt. Thomas J. Sirmons, Nashville, GA

Pvt. Shellie Loyed Webb, Ray City, GA

Pvt. Joel Wheeler, Nashville, GA

Pvt. William C. Zeigler, Sparks, GA

« Older entries