Matthew Hodge Albritton

matthew-hodge-albritton

Matthew Hodge Albritton was born  March 8, 1842 in Houston County, GA a son of Allen and Rebecca Albritton.  His parents were well off. By the time of the Civil War, Allen Albritton had amassed a net worth that would have made him a multi-millionaire by today’s standards. Allen Albritton, was a farmer and owned land in the 5th District of Houston County, number not known, and adjoining the land of Stephen Castellow and others.

Matthew’s siblings were Littleton L. Albritton, Mariah Albritton, Mary Jane Albritton, William M. B. Albritton, George A. Albritton, Wright M. Albritton and Joe L. Albritton.  About 1842, Matthew’s cousins,  McCuin A. “Mack” Albritton and Matthew R. B. Albritton, also came to live with the family after the death of their father,  McCuin Albritton, Sr.  The boys, Mack and Matthew R. B.,  became legal wards of Allen Albritton, and their father’s property was sold off.

Estate of McCuin Albritton

Administrator’s Sale on the Estate of McCuin Albritton, November 21, 1943.

Macon Georgia Telegraph
November 28, 1843

Administrator’s Sale.

Will be sold, on the first Tuesday in FEBRUARY next, before the Court-House door in Perry, Houston county, within the usual hours, one-half of Lot of Land No. 195, in the 5th District of Houston county,  containing 101 1/4 acres, more or less – belonging to the Estate of McCuin Albritton, deceased, late of Burke county.  Sold agreeable to an order of the Inferior Court of Burke county, when sitting for ordinary purposes.  Terms cash – purchasers to pay for titles.

James Grubbs, Admr.

Nov 21

On March 3, 1852 Matthew’s sister, Mary Jane, married Thomas M. Ray  in Houston County, GA and the newlyweds moved to an area of Lowndes County that was cut into Berrien County in 1856.  T. M. Ray founded a grist mill in 1863 in the southern part of Berrien County, in partnership with Levi J. Knight.  This mill became the nucleus of the community now known as Ray City, GA.

Some time in the 1850s, Allen Albritton moved his family to Pike County, Alabama, near the town of New Providence.  Matthew, William, George, and  Wright all made the move with their father, as well as their adopted cousins Matthew R.B. and Mack. At least by 1857,  Matthew’s brother Littleton L. Albritton and sister Mariah Albritton had followed their sister, Mary Jane, to Berrien County, GA where Mariah married Matthew R. Grace that year.

Allen Albritton established legal guardianship of Matthew R.B. and Mack Albritton in Alabama, and petitioned to be discharged from that responsibility in Georgia.

1860-allen-albritton-adopts-nephews

Georgia Weekly Telegraph, September 20, 1860

Georgia Weekly Telegraph
September 20, 1860

GEORGIA, HOUSTON COUNTY.

Ordinary’s Office, for said County.
Upon hearing the petition of Allen Albritton, Guardian of M.R.B. & M.A. Albritton, minors of McCuin Albritton, deceased, showing that he has recently removed beyond the limits of this State to the county of Pike, State of Alabam, and take with him his said wards, with their property, and has there been duly appointed Guardian of said minors.
 It is ordered that all persons concerned be and appear at the November Term of this Court, to show cause, it any they have, why said Albritton should not be discharged from his said trust.
Given under my hand and official signature, the Sept. 6th, 1860.

W. T. Swift, Ordinary

In the Census of 1860, Matthew Albritton and his family were enumerated in Pike County, Alabama. Matthew, his brother William, and adopted brothers and cousins Matthew R.B, and Mack were all  working the family farm.  Their father and guardian, Allen Albritton,  had $23,775 in his personal estate and another $9,000 in real estate.

1860-censusAllenAlbritton

About 1861, Matthew left the farm in Alabama and joined his brother and sister in Berrien County, GA.

In May of 1862, Matthew’s brother, Littleton Albritton, went to Nashville, GA where he enlisted as a sergeant in Company E, 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment,, the Berrien Light Infantry.  On October 22, Matthew Albritton followed Company E to their encampment at Coffee Bluff near Savannah, GA where he enlisted as a private. Jehu Patten, of the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA, served as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, and other soldiers in the unit included John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie,  William Henry Outlaw, and Benjamin Sirmans.

During the Civil War Matthew was wounded in the throat and later received a wound to the right side.  Following his injuries he was granted a furlough and returned home.  In early April of 1865 he was making his way back north to rejoin his unit when he learned that General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on April 7th.  He surrendered to Federal troops near Augusta, GA. He was paroled  and returned to Berrien County. Later, he would receive a pension for his service in the CSA.

Susan Catherine Byrd

Susan Catherine Byrd

On November 28, 1869 Matthew Albritton was wed to Susan Catherine Byrd, the 21-year-old daughter of Nathan W. Byrd.  Susan Byrd’s family had moved to Nashville, GA around the end of the Civil War. Her father was a farmer and also a mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

Matthew Hodge Albritton lived for many years at Nashville, GA, and later bought a farm home in the Lois Community, just west of Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Matthew and Susan were married for 13 years before her death on March 2, 1882.

Children of Susan Byrd and Matthew Albritton:

  1. Theophilus Theodorea Albritton, born January 07, 1871.
  2. Gertrude Albritton, born May 23, 1872; married Francis Arthur Shaw
  3. Tula Albritton, born 1874; married Lacy Lester Shaw.
  4. Mary Jane Albritton, born July 07, 1876; married Luther Americus Webb.
  5. Sophronia Albritton, born September 22, 1878; married William Guilford Devane.
  6. Matthew Allen Albritton, born January 28, 1881.

Three years later, on July 16, 1885 Matthew, now 43, married again, this time to 27 year old Laura A. Myers of Nashville, GA. This was her first marriage. The couple had five children.

Children of Laura A. Myers and Matthew Albritton are:

  1.      Rena Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA.
  2.      Sarah Nina Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA, married Robert C. Register
  3.      Rebecca L. Albritton, born September 17, 1888 in GA.
  4.      Nona Hortense Albritton, born May 6, 1891 in GA.
  5.      Lola Alma Albritton, born Dec 1, 1893 in GA; married Caulie Augustus DeVane

Matthew Albritton died September 20, 1915  and is buried at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Laura Myers Albritton died April 9, 1921. She was buried in Pleasant Cemetery.

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

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Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863

Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, came to the area in 1855 prior to the formation of Berrien County, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.
Epitaph of Thomas Marcus Ray
The pains of death are past.
Labor and sorrow cease.
and Life’s long warfare closed at last.
His soul is found in peace.

Thomas Marcus Ray was born on September 20, 1822,  in the area of Georgia that would later be known as Griffin, Monroe County, GA.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Ray.  Little is known of his early life.

The 1850 census  shows at age 28 Thomas M. Ray was working as a mechanic in Twiggs County, GA.  He  married Mary Jane Albritton on March 3, 1852  in Houston County, GA. She was the daughter of Allen and Rebecca Albritton, and the sister of Matthew H. Albritton.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

The newlyweds moved to the area of Lowndes County that was later cut into present day Berrien County, GA.  A little more than a year later, Mary Jane gave birth to a son, John William Allen Ray, on May 10, 1853.

Sadly, just six days later Mary Jane died and Thomas, a 31 year old widower,  was left to raise the infant on his own. Thomas buried Mary Jane in the cemetery at Union Primitive Baptist Church, which was the only church in the area. Union Church, now known as Burnt Church, is located on the Alapaha River in present day Lakeland, Lanier County, Georgia.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

In 1853 this section of the state was only sparsely populated, and most of the settlers in the area gathered at least once a month at Union Church for services.  Thomas Ray was among those who attended.  It may be there that he met the 17 year old Mary Adelaide Knight.   She was the daughter of Levi J. Knight, a renowned Indian fighter and prominent planter in the area.  She was also the granddaughter of the Reverend William A. Knight, one of the founders of the Union Church and the first state senator elected to represent Lowndes County.  The following year, on August 22, 1854 Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight were married.

Thomas and Mary established their homestead on lot #516 in the 10th district of Lowndes County near Grand Bay, on land that Thomas purchased from his wife’s grandfather, William A. Knight, in 1855.  This land was soon to be cut into Berrien County in 1856 (and later into Lanier county).  Thomas’ father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, was instrumental in laying out the boundaries of the newly formed Berrien county.

On this land, the newlywed couple settled down to raise a family. In 1855, a daughter was born,  whom they named Mary Susan Ray. In 1858 a son was born to the couple, Thomas M. Ray, Jr.  and in the spring of 1860 Mary A. delivered another son, Charles F. Ray.

The Census of 1860 shows that Thomas M. Ray was clearly a wealthy man in his day.  On the census form his occupation  is listed as merchant.  At that time owned $2000 in real estate, and held $10,400 in personal estate. If he had a comparable net worth in 2007, he would certainly have been a multimillionaire.

The 1860 Census indicates that, in addition to the Ray children, two other youngsters were living with the Ray’s.  John T. Ray, Thomas Ray’s 15 year old nephew, lived with the family and attended school along with his cousins.  John T. Ray would be killed in a train wreck in 1888 (see Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.) A young girl  nine-year-old Efare Hayes (aka Ellifare Hayes), who was also living in the Ray household did not attend school.  Later census forms show that she was a domestic servant for the Rays. The census records show Ray’s neighbors were John Gaskins and Louie M. Young. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules show in that year Thomas M. Ray also was a slave owner, with one black female slave and one slave house enumerated.

Together, Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight had nine more children between 1855 and 1876, their last son being born in the year of Thomas’ death.

In the early 1860’s Thomas Ray partnered with his father-in law Levi J. Knight to build a grist mill and mill pond (now known as Ray’s Millpond) on Beaverdam Creek on land owned by L. J. Knight.  Mr. Knight would provide the land for the project, Mr. Ray would be mechanic and operator.    With the assistance of slave labor, the Ray family began the work to construct the earthen dam that would create an impoundment on Beaverdam Creek. In her later years, Mary Susan Ray, daughter of Thomas and Mary A. Ray, recalled that she helped build the dam when she was young child. ” Each day the family would load all equipment into the wagon, go over and work all day on the dam.”  In the age before power equipment the construction of the earthen dam that created the millpond was a massive undertaking. The dam is 1200 feet long with an average height of 12 feet, 12 feet wide at the top and 20 feet wide at the base.  It took approximately 10,800 tons of earth, dug and moved by human muscle to construct the dam.

It was while the dam was under construction that the initial hostilities of the Civil War broke out. On  April 12, 1861 at 4:30 a.m. Confederate  forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.  During the Civil War, Thomas Ray’s father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, and his future son-in-law Henry H. Knight both served in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  Thomas himself, was a major in the 138th Battalion, 6th Military District, Lowndes, County, GA. There is no record that this unit saw active duty during the war.

Thomas M. Ray was apparently at his home near Grand Bay in the fall of 1861, for Mary delivered another daughter the following spring: Sarah Jane “Sallie” Ray was born May 23, 1862.  According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coast Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill, known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill”  on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Ray was still at home in the late summer to early fall of 1864, for in the spring of 1865 James David Ray was born on April 30, 1865, just days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

After the war, in 1866 Thomas Ray bought land from his partner and father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, where the Rays constructed a new home and moved their family. This land was 225 acres of  lot #424 in the 10th district of Berrien County,  on the west side of Beaver Dam Creek right next to the grist mill.  Nearby were the homes of his mother- and father-in-law, Levi J. and Ann Knight, and his wife’s cousin Henry H. Knight.  To the west of the Ray farm was the property of William Gaskins.

Even after the Civil War ended slavery, cotton was the major agricultural concern in the south.  In 1869, Thomas Ray and William Roberts set up a mill for ginning and carding cotton on Beaverdam Creek downstream from Ray’s Mill.  From that point on the creek came to be known as both Beaverdam Creek and Card Creek.   The cotton mill was situated on land purchased from the estate of William Washington Knight, deceased brother-in-law of T. M. Ray.   (W.W. Knight died of disease during the Civil War; see The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll.)  The mill site included 30 acres on lot #452 and the right to impound water on lot #451, just east of #452. “This operation was apparently taking advantage of a small pond and dam already put in place by John Knight whose property it adjoined…” The dam site was on Beaverdam Creek about 20 yards just east of present day Pauline Street in Ray City, GA..

In early August of 1870 when the census was enumerated for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the household of Thomas M. and Mary Ray  included  their children  William A.,  Mary  S., Thomas M. Jr., Charles F., Sarah J., James D., and one year old Elizabeth Texas Ray.  Also living with the family was Thomas Ray’s mother, Mary Ray, 78 years of age. Ellifare Hayes, the family maid was now a young woman of 19. Eight year old Ellin Jones  was an African-American domestic servant also living in the Ray household.  In 1870  Thomas M. Ray’s personal estate was valued at $5000 and his real estate at $2714.   His neighbors included  Robert A. Elliott and Annis Lastinger Elliott, and their children.  Robert A. Elliott was a mechanic and a hand at the wool mill. Another neighbor was Isaac J. Edmonsen.

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on  February 23, 1870 in the community where he lived (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  Afterwards, Thomas Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests  in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate.  Over time the mill became the focal point of a community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA.

Willis Allen Ray was born in 1871, and Robert Jackson Ray in 1873.

The 1874 tax digest show that Thomas M. Ray was an employer; working for him was Andrew Wilkins, a Freedman and farmhand who lived near Rays Mill.

In 1874 when Mercer Association missionary Reverend J. D. Evans came to Ray’s Mill, Thomas M. Ray was deeply moved by the baptist’s message.  Thomas M. Ray must have attended the church meetings in the old log school house and the big revivals that were held in May and July, for he became instrumental in the formation of a Baptist Church at Ray’s Mill (see Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.)  On September 20, 1874 a small group of followers met with Reverend J. D. Evans  at  the  home of Thomas and Mary Ray to organize the church.  Thomas M. Ray. and David  J. McGee were elected to represent the new church to the Mercer Baptist Association and were sent as messengers to the Valdosta Church. The Reverend J. D. Evans wrote a petitionary letter which they carried to the association. In November 1874 Thomas M. Ray was appointed to a church building committee along with James M. Baskin and D. J. McGee. He served on the committed that selected and procured the site for the construction of the church building. He continued to serve on the building committee until his death.

In 1876, Joseph Henry Ray was born.

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton (1836 – 1853)

  1.  John William Allen Ray (1853 – 1934)

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary A Knight (1836 – 1923)

  1. Mary Susan Ray (1855 – 1926)
  2. Thomas Marcus Ray, Jr (1858 – 1923)
  3. Charles Floyd Ray (1860 –
  4. Sarah Jane (Sally) Ray (1862 – 1938)
  5. James David Ray (1865 – 1937)
  6. Elizabeth Texas Ray (1869 – 1952)
  7. Willis Allen Ray (1871 – 1901)
  8. Robert Jackson Ray (1873 – 1954)
  9. Joseph Henry Ray (1876 – 1907)

Thomas M. Ray died June 14, 1876.  His death was announced in The Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 1, 1876
Thomas M. Ray

Maj. T.M. Ray, a prominent citizen of Berrien County, died last week, after a long spell of illness.

His lodge brothers in Butler Lodge No. 211 Free and Accepted Masons provided this tribute:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday Aug 26. 

     Tribute Of Respect , Butler Lodge No. 211 F.A.M.  Milltown, Ga., Aug. 12th, 1876. Whereas, it hath pleased the Grand Architect of the Universe, in His wise Providence, to remove from labor, in the lodge on earth, to refreshment (as we trust) in the Great Grand Lodge in Heaven, or brother Thomas M. Ray

Therefore be it

     Resolved, 1st. That, in his death Masonry has lost a worthy brother, the neighborhood an upright and honest citizen; his family a kind husband, and indulgent father and a good provider.

     Resolved, 2nd. That while we mourn his loss and miss his association, we bow with meek submission to the will of Him who doeth all things well.

     Resolved, 3rd. That we cherish his memory and recommend to the emulation of the Craft Iris virtues and the uprightness and integrity of his character.

     Resolved, 4th. That we extend to the family an relatives of our deceased brother our heartfelt sympathies, praying upon them the guidance and protection of our common Heavenly  Father.

     Resolved, 5th. That a blank page in our minute book be inscribed to his memory, and that a copy of this preamble and resolution be furnished the family of brother Ray, and a copy furnished the Berrien County News, for publication and the Valdosta Times requested to copy.

By order of Butler Lodge No. 211 F. &A.M.

Ogden H. Carroll, T.O. Norwood, Jesse Carroll,  Com.

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