John Franklin Clements

John Franklin Clements (1810 – 1864)

Grave of John F. Clements, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of John F. Clements, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

John F. Clements, his parents, and brother David C. Clements were among the earlier pioneer families that settled the vicinity of Georgia now known as Ray City, Berrien County. The Clements arrived here some time around 1832.  “The Knights were no doubt responsible for their coming, since they and the Clementses had been neighbors in Wayne County (now Brantley County), and Ann, [John F. Clements’] sister in 1827 had married Levi J. Knight, whose parents had moved to this area a couple of years earlier” – Nell Patten Roquemore

John F. Clements was born October 7, 1810 in Wayne County, GA , a son of William and Elizabeth Clements. As he was growing up his family lived in a part of Wayne county that was later cut into Brantley County. The Clements farm was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the early roads in south Georgia.

Next door to the Clements’ farm lived their friends and future in-laws, the Knights. William Clements had settled his family on land adjacent to the farm of William Anderson Knight, and the two became good friends. William A. Knight, patriarch of the Knight family, was among the very first settlers of Wayne County, having arrived there just after the creation of the county, about 1803.  Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The county seat was named Waynesville.

John F. Clements and his siblings grew up with the sons and daughters of William A. Knight. In late 1827 John F. Clements’ widowed sister, Mary Ann Clements Herrin, married Levi J. Knight in Wayne CountyMr. and Mrs. L.J. Knight set out to homestead in Lowndes county (now Berrien) on Beaverdam creek, at the present site of Ray City, GA.

In Wayne County, John F. Clements served as Tax Collector  for the two year term from 1830-32. He was elected February 12, 1830, with his father William Clements putting up a surety bond along with William Flowers.   Shortly after John’s term as tax collector expired, the entire Clements family followed the Knights and made the move west to Lowndes County, GA.  He took up residence in Mattox’s District, although tax records do not show he acquired land of his own there. Other Lowndes County settlers in this district included David Bell, James Price, Aaron Mattox, Etheldred Newbern, John Jones, Jr., Michael Peterson, John Peacock, Thomas Giddens, George Hunt, and Frederic McGiddery. In 1832, John F. Clements was a fortunate drawer in the Cherokee Land Lottery, drawing Lot 124, 28th District, 3rd Section, Cherokee County.  Lowndes county tax records from 1834-1844 show John F. Clements owned 400 acres of oak and hardwood land in Cherokee County.

During the Indian Wars (Second Seminole War) John F. Clements served in Levi J. Knight’s Independent Company of Lowndes County, appearing on a company muster roll from August 15 to October 15,  1838. Knight’s Company fought at the Skirmish at William Parker’s Place, and Actions on Little River, among other local engagements.

John’s father, William Clements, died in March of 1837. It is said that he is buried in an unmarked grave  in Union Church Cemetery, (now in Lanier County, GA).  John served as the administrator of his father’s estate.

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John F. Clements appointed administrator of the estate of William Clement.

Southern Recorder
October 31, 1837

Four Months after date, application will be made to the honorable the Inferior Court of Lowndes county, when sitting for ordinary purposes, for leave to sell the land and negroes belonging to the estate of William Clements, late of said county, deceased.  John F. Clements, Adm’r.

 

In 1840, John F. Clements was enumerated in Lowndes County. He was 30 years old. His household included another white  male, age 40-something, a young slave woman and a slave girl.  Neighbors included John Lee, John Roberts, Benjamin Sirmans and John Knight. Later that year he married Nancy Patten, a daughter of James M. Patten and Elizabeth Lee, sister of Jehu Patten. 

John F. Clement served on the Lowndes County Grand Jury of 1841 which was convened in Troupville, GA, seat of Lowndes County, in May, 1841 under Judge Carlton B. Cole. Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the jury.   The jury criticized the condition of roads in the county and the past-due collections for the sale of lots in the town of Troupville. The jury allowed tax collector Norman Campbell thirty dollars, forty-two-cents and three mills for his insolvent list for the year 1839.

By 1844, John F. Clements had also acquired 245 acres in the 10th  District of Lowndes County. He was also administering 490 acres in Rabun County and 550 acres in Wayne County on behalf of his father

By 1850, John F. Clements owned 980 acres in Lowndes County, 50 of which were improved. The cash value of the farm was assessed at $500, and Clements owned another $50 in equipment and machinery. His livestock included 4 horses, 37 milch cows, 87 other cattle, 21 sheep, and 100 swine, valued at $1000 taken all together. He had on hand 300 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of wheat, 1 bale of cotton at 400 pounds, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, 50 lbs of butter, and $125 worth of meat. His neighbors were Aaron Knight, Aden Boyd, Henry Tison and William Giddings.

In 1856, the Clements and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and into the newly created Berrien County.

When the Civil War started, John F. Clements was about 49 years old. The 1864 Census for Reorganizing the Georgia Militia  enumerated John F. Clements in the 1144th Georgia Militia District.  His age was given and 52 years, 7 months.  The 1864 Census for Re-organizing the Georgia Militia was a statewide census of all white males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not at the time in the service of the Confederate States of America. Based on a law passed by the Georgia Legislature in December 1863 to provide for the protection of women, children, and invalids living at home,  the 1864 census was a list of  men who were able to serve in local militia companies and perform such home-front duties as might be required of them. Possibly John F. Clements was mustered into the 5th Georgia Reserves, Company L.  Military records show a J. F. Clements, 1st corporal of Company L paroled May 1, 1865 following the Confederate surrender.

john-f-clements-5-georgia-reserves

John F. Clements died on September 23, 1864 at age 54. He was buried at Union Church Cemetery, Milltown (now Lakeland, GA).  Levi J. Knight assisted the widow Nancy Clements with the administration of the estate. At the time of his death, the Clements farm place was on six hundred and six acres of land situated on parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of Berrien. His widow, Nancy Clements, was left to run their farm, provide for the six of their children who were still at home, and care for her aged mother.

Related Posts:

Notes on Sarah Malinda Clements

Sarah Malinda Clements (1862-1947)

Sarah Malinda Clements was born March 12, 1862 in Berrien County, GA. She was the youngest of 13 children born to David G. Clements and Gincey Sirmans.  She was a sister of Levi Jordan Clements, who was the patriarch of the Clements sawmill business at Ray City.

Sarah’s parents were pioneer settlers of the area. They were married in Lowndes County, GA on January 1, 1835.   Her father came with his parents to Lowndes County about 1832.  Her grandfather William Clements and William A. Knight had been neighbors in Wayne County, GA, and her aunt Anne Donald Clements had married Levi J. Knight in 1827. Her mother was  Gincey Sirmans, a daughter of Abner Sirmans and Bettie Kirkland. Abner Sirmans, his brothers, and father, Josiah Sirmans, were among the first permanent settlers of Clinch County, GA, having arrived there in 1822. Her aunt Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans married Etheldred Dryden Newbern, another pioneer settler of Berrien County.

Sarah’s father and both of her grandfathers, fought under the command of their friend and neighbor Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1836-1838.  David G. Clements, William Clements and Abner Sirmans all served with Captain Knight’s Independent Company. David Clements was among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Soon after marriage, David G. Clements acquired lot of land 406, 10th district, on which he lived and farmed until his death. He was cut into Berrien out of Lowndes County, 1856. In Berrien County, the Clements home place was in the 1144th Georgia Militia District just north of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

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In 1854, Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Clements, married William Gaskins. The Clements were neighbors of William Gaskins, son of Fisher Gaskins.   The Gaskins were another of the early pioneer families of Berrien County.  William Gaskins came to the area with his father and brothers, John Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins, with their large herds of cattle,  about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek (site of present day Ray City, GA).

At the outset of the Civil War, Sarah’s father and brother, John C. Clements, answered the call of General Levi J. Knight to form a company of men for Confederate service; their names appear on an 1861 muster roll of the Berrien Minute Men.  John C. Clements served with Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment; David G. Clements later appears on the 1864 census of southern men who were excluded from the draft on account of age.

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

Sarah, born during the Civil War, grew up on her father’s farm during the Reconstruction period in Georgia.  She attended the local country schools and was educated through the 5th grade. It appears that she lived in her father’s home until his death in 1888.

Although  Sarah married twice, she was not lucky in love. She did not marry until the age of 36.

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

In the Census of 1880, 18-year-old Sarah Ann Clements was enumerated by Census taker Lacy Elias Lastinger in her father’s household. Also present was Sarah’s older sister Mary Ann, to whom she was devoted for life, and their siblings.  Next door were Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clements, and her husband William Gaskins. Also neighbors were William’s niece Mary Evelyn Gaskins and her husband George W. Fender.

On October 26, 1898 Sarah married William J. “Bill Jack” Knight.  He was born in 1860, but otherwise little is known of his history. The ceremony was performed by Albert Benjamin Surrency in Berrien County, GA.

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements and William J. Knight are enumerated together in the census of 1900 in their Rays Mill home. Sarah’s spinster sister, 59-year-old Mary Ann Clements, had also come to live in the Knight household.   Sarah’s brother, John C. Clements, and his family remained as neighbors, as did George W. Fender.

William and Sarah owned their farm near Ray’s Mill  free and clear of mortgage.  Only one offspring was born of this union, but the child died young.

William J. Knight died on January 22, 1909 at his home near Ray’s Mill, GA.

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

Information reached here Monday of the sudden death of Mr. “Bill Jack” Knight, a prominent resident of the Ray’s Mill district. Mr. Knight had been slightly indisposed for two or three days.  After eating a light supper Friday night as he was sitting at the fireside he suddenly fell over and died.  Mr. Knight was fifty years of age and was married about seven years ago to Miss Sarah Clements, of this place.  He was laid to rest at the Beaverdam burial grounds.  – Milltown News.

The widow Sarah Knight was enumerated (as Sarah Clements) in 1910 with her sister Mary Ann Clements in their home just east of Ray’s Mill.  They were neighbors of John B. Fountain and Frank Gallagher.

Some time before 1920 Sarah married for a second time, joining in matrimony with James W. Suggs.  He was from Dooly County, GA, a son of Malinda “Lynne” Proctor and Wright Suggs.

Sarah and James W. Suggs were enumerated together in the Census of 1920, at their farm on a settlement road near Ray’s Mill. Sarah’s sister and constant companion, Mary Ann Clements, resided with the Suggs.  On adjacent farms were Parnell Knight and Henry D. Bennett.

The 1926 Influenza epidemic reached its peach in Georgia in March;  1926 was the worst flu year since the pandemics of 1918-1919 which had claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 30 million worldwide. Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Clements, at the age of 86, succumbed to Influenza, dying  on March 26, 1926.  She was attended by her nephew, Dr. Henry W. Clements, who was a son of Rowena Patten and Levi J. Clements.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery.

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Sometime between 1920 and 1930 James W. Suggs died, leaving Sarah widowed for the second time. Sarah, now on her own, boarded in the farm home of Sherrod Winfield Fender and his wife, Lula Bell Smith. Sherrod was a son of George W. Fender, and a neighbor of Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, and Phil McGowan. Also lodging in the Fender household was Chester Nobles.

Sherrod W. Fender died in 1931, but Sarah continued to live with the widowed Lula Smith Fender. The 1940 census shows Sarah Suggs enumerated as a “companion” of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

Sarah Malinda Clements Suggs died April 8, 1947.   She was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City, GA. (Lula Fender was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church.)

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Levi J. Knight ~ in the Antebellum Wiregrass

Antebellum Wiregrass

By the early 1840s Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, was well known across the state for his military and political leadership, and had been noted in the national press for his actions in the Indian Wars. In his home county of Lowndes, (now Berrien), GA Knight  had a well established estate and was consolidating his real property.   On April 11, 1842 he  purchased 9 lots in the 10th District.  These Lots were available for purchase to anyone with the cost of the $18 survey fee. The Digest of the Taxes of Lowndes County for the Year 1844 shows the following about the property held by the Knight family:

Levi J. Knight owned 7350 acres of pines in the 10th district, Lowndes County, 40 acres of “oak & hickory” on Lot No. 830 in the 18th District, Cherokee county, and seven slaves.

William A. Knight, father of Levi J. Knight, owned 2940 acres of pine land in the 10th district  in Lowndes county, this land improved with bridges and ferries valued at $200. Also three slaves and 250 acres of pine land on Lot 250 in the 7th District in Early County. His tax liability for the year was $15. 26.

John Knight owned Lot No. 453 in the 10th District, Lowndes county, with 490 acres of pine land. No slaves were assessed, with his total property tax being $0.85.

Aaron Knight owned the adjacent Lot No. 454, with all 490 acres in pines. No slaves were assessed, with his total property tax being $0.85.

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In 1846, Lowndes County Deputy Sheriff Jesse W. Carter advertised a Sheriff’s sale which included Levi J. Knight’s property in Lot No. 292 in the 10th district. The land was sold to satisfy a debt Knight owed to Elias Roberts.

The Milledgeville Federal Union, April 28, 1846 — page 3 Lowndes Sheriff’s Sale. Will be sold on the first Tuesday in June next, within the legal hours of sale, before the Court house door in the town of Troupville, Lowndes county, the following property, to wit:… …at the same time and place, will be sold 490 acres of land, known as lot No. 292, in the 10th district of originally Irwin now Lowndes county; levied on as the property of Levi J. Knight, to satisfy a fi fas from Lowndes Superior Court-Elias Roberts vs. Levi J. Knight: property pointed out by defendant. JESSE W. CARTER, D.S. April 16, 1846.

Elias Roberts, plaintiff in the above case, was a fellow veteran of the Indian Wars. He had settled a home place in western Lowndes county bordering on Mule Creek.  About him, historian William Harden wrote,

Elias Roberts, having bought land bordering Mule creek, first built a house of round logs to shelter his family. Then his slaves laboriously whip-sawed boards from the native timber and with a skilled house-joiner and carpenter to direct the operations, a commodious two-story dwelling was erected. The boards were two and a half inches thick, were dove-tailed together at the ends, and were fastened to the studding with wooden -dowel-pins in lieu of nails. When finished, and for some years afterward, this was the most pretentious residence in all this countryside…  Before coming into this part of Georgia, he had served under General Jackson in the Florida Indian wars, and after coming here was a member of a company organized for protection against the Indians over the border, the company being several times called out to drive the red men back to their reservations. During such troublous times the Roberts homestead above described became the place of refuge for the women and children of the settlement, so that it served both as a residence and a fort. Elias Roberts had been a participant in the battle of Brushy Creek in 1836, when the Indians made their last great stand in defense of their hunting grounds.

In 1847, L. J. Knight’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth,  married Hardeman Sirmans.  According to historian Folks Huxford, “Mr. Sirmans served in the Indian War as a private in a volunteer company of Lowndes County militia commanded by his father-in-law, Capt. (afterwards General) Levi J. Knight, August 15th to Oct 15 1838. He was 1st Lieutenant of the 664th militia district, Lowndes County, 1845-46, then served as Captain in same district 1847-1851. Folks Huxford also states in his sketch of Levi J. Knight that when the Mexican War broke out in 1848,  Knight enlisted and served as a captain of volunteers the greater part of that war. About this service, little else is known. In 1850 Levi J. Knight resigned his commission as Major General of the 6th Division of the Georgia Militia, an office he held since 1840. He tendered his resignation in a simple letter to Governor George W. Towns posted September 16, 1850 from Troupville, GA. (see The Commission of Major General Levi J. Knight.) Resignation notwithstanding, state newspapers continued at least through 1854 to report Maj. General Knight as in command of the 6th Division, Georgia Militia with his Head Quarters at Troupville, GA . The 1850 census of Lowndes County, Georgia showed Levi J. Knight’s real estate holdings by that time had amassed a value of $5000. At the time of enumeration his occupation was listed as farming. The  Knight household in 1850 included Levi J. Knight (47)  Ann D. Knight (48), and children William Washington Knight (21), John Knight (18), Mary A. Knight (14), Levi A. Knight (12), Jonathan D. Knight (10), Keziah A. Knight (7).  Also in the Knight home was Elizabeth Clements, age 80, blind, born in Ireland.  Sons William and John assisted their father with farming, The General’s neighbors were his son-in-law Hardeman Sirmans, and William Patton, who was Justice of the Peace. These were difficult and contentious political times. The threat of southern rebellion over the constitutionality of slavery, the fugitive slave law, and the admission of free states to the Union was imminent. In November of 1850, Levi J. Knight  was selected by “the People of Lowndes county, believing that no just cause of resistance now exists” as the Whig delegate to a state Convention that had been called “to resist past aggression – the admission of California into the Union.”  In light of the Compromise of 1850 which had been passed by the U.S. Congress the previous month, Knight pledged that he believed the people of Georgia could honorably acquiesce  in reference to the subject of slavery;  that he would exercise “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation” at the Convention; and that he would  commit no act nor give his vote for any measure that would tend directly or indirectly to subvert the Constitution of Georgia, or the United States. As one of the most educated men in the county, L. J. Knight was frequently called upon by his neighbors to handle legal affairs. In 1850 he acted with power of attorney for Thomas Giddens, an illiterate veteran of the Seminole Wars, to receive 80 acres of land due Giddens as compensation for eight months of military service. 1850-ljknight-power-of-attorney In the election of 1851, Levi J. Knight was re-elected to the State Assembly as the Senator from Lowndes, Ware, and Clinch counties. Following his retirement from the Georgia Militia, General Levi J. Knight engaged in the construction of Georgia railroads.  He became one of the principals in the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, apparently as both a commercial venture and as a strategy in response to looming military conflict  (see General Levi J. Knight ~ Railroad Tycoon and General Knight’s Railroad Rolls Into Civil War ). In 1856 L. J. Knight was instrumental in the laying out and establishing of Berrien County, newly created from portions of Lowndes, Irwin and Coffee counties. One of Knight’s unhappy senatorial duties in 1856 was  to serve as chair of the legislative delegation sent to pay last respects to Andrew J. Miller, a member of the Georgia Legislature for 20 years and twice president of the state senate.  

The joint committee of the Senate and House appointed to attend the funeral could not reach this city [Augusta] in time. The Mayor received the following dispatch from the chairman : — Macon, February 5. Hon. W. E. Dearing, Mayor: — A joint committee of both Houses came this far on their way to attend the funeral of the Hon. A. J. Miller; but the trains failed to connect, and we cannot reach Augusta in time. Levi J. Knight, Chairman.

In the fall of 1857, Levi J. Knight suffered the passing of his wife, Ann D. Herrin Knight, she having died on October 14, 1857.  The burial was at Union Church cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA.

Grave of Ann D. Knight, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Ann D. Knight, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

On Sept 1, 1858, the General’s youngest daughter, Keziah, married her cousin, James A. Knight.  The Census of 1860 shows the couple living in the General’s household. November, 1859 Levi J. Knight was among the gentlemen “appointed by the Governor, Delegates from the State at Large, and from the several Congressional Districts, to represent the State of Georgia in Southern Commercial Convention, to be held in the City of Savannah, on the 8th of December next.” In the winter of 1859 Levi J. Knight’s mother and father both passed away.  His mother, Sarah Cone Knight, died of old age in November 1859 at the age of 80. The following month his father William Anderson Knight, revered Primitive Baptist minister, also succumbed at the age of 82.  Their deaths are recorded in the 1860 Berrien County Mortality Schedule under the names William Knyte and Sarah Knyte. The year came to a close with Levi J. Knight disposing of some of his Lowndes county property:          

Weekly Georgia Telegraph. Dec. 13, 1859. Advertisement. Pg. 1 FOR SALE! In Lowndes County – fourteen hundred and seventy (1470) acres land – particularly desirable for planting and conveniently located in one body. For description, apply to Gen. Levi J. Knight. Milltown, Berrien county, Ga., or to W. COWLES nov 12              at E.L. Strohecker & Co.

The 1860 United States Federal Census lists Levi J.Knight’s occupation as a farmer, with real estate valued at $5000, and a personal estate of $1500. Related Posts:

Levi J. Knight ~ Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836

  1. Wayne County Beginnings 1803-1827
  2. Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836
  3. Seminole Wars 1836 – 1842
  4. Antebellum Wiregrass 1843 -1860
  5. Civil War 1861-1865
  6. Wiregrass Reconstruction 1866-1870

Settling in Lowndes County

About 1827 Levi J. Knight and his new bride Ann Herrin Clements homesteaded  on land on Beaverdam Creek, near the present day site of Ray City, GA.  In their first year on Beaverdam Creek, the Knights established a household and prepared to begin a family.

The Knight homestead was situated in Lowndes County (present day Berrien County).  When the first Superior Court in Lowndes County was convened at Sion Hall’s Inn on the Coffee Road, Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury. At that time, the only post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was  at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.   When Franklinville, GA became the first town in Lowndes County in 1828, the post office was moved there.  Located west of the Withlacoochee River about 9 miles southwest of the Knight property, Franklinville served as the first county seat of Lowndes County and a courthouse of hewn logs was constructed there at a cost of $215. According to Huxford’s “Sketch of the Early History of Lowndes County, Georgia“, Franklinville was a small trading community of one or two stores and a few houses. Hamilton W. Sharpe, a fellow Whig, regarded Franklinville a place of intemperance. Settlers in Lowndes County did most of their trading at Tallahassee, St. Marks or Newport, Florida, or traveled to Centerville on the St. Marys River.

In 1829, Levi  was Justice of the Peace for the 658th District, Lowndes County:

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Election Districts and Elections. Courts and elections to be held at the house of Sion Hall,  1825, vol. iv. 128 –  Removed to the house of Francis Roundtree, 1826, vol. iv. 134 –  Elections in the  15th district to be held at the house of Daniel Burnett; in the 16th, at the house of Silas Overstreet, 1828, vol. iv. 179 –  At Jesse Goodman’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Williams’ district; at Sion Hall’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Pike’s district; at John Townsend’s, being the court ground in Studhill’s district; at Levi Knight’s, the court place in Knight’s district; at Lewis Roberts’, the justices’ court place in Johnson’s district; and at Mr. Davis’, in Cowart’s district, 1829, vol. iv. 185—One dollar to the presiding magistrate for attending at the court-house to consolidate the returns, 1829, vol. iv. 409

Levi J. Knight received power of attorney from his father-in-law, William Clements, of Wayne County, on 19 Nov. 1830, “to appear for him in the Courts in Alabama and to sue for and collect all demands he has against Angus McDonald…” Angus McDonald had served as deputy clerk of the superior court of Wayne County. Georgia.  On December 24, 1822 William Clements had put up surety on the $1000 bond of Angus McDonald, guardian of Sidney Pilcher who was the orphan of Harriet Burney. Apparently, Clements had to make good on the surety, and he wanted Levi J. Knight to get his money back.

Ann gave birth to their first son,  William Washington Knight in 1829. Three more children were born over the next three years; Elizabeth (1830), John G. (1832), and Sarah (1833). During this period Levi J. Knight served out  his term (1829-1833) as Justice of the Peace, and returned to his experience as a surveyor, again mapping lands the state had gained from the Indians. As the state surveyor of Cherokee lands, Section 3, District 13, he took field notes  recording the distances and points demarcating the district and land lots, land features, roads, and watercourses. These field notes, along with those of other surveyors, were conducted prior to the distribution of lands in the 1832 Land Lotteries in Georgia.

Career in Public Service
“Levi, J. Knight, a planter of Berrien County…held several county offices; for a number of years he represented the county and was senator from his district in the general assembly.”
“He was commissioned a justice of the peace of the 658th district of Lowndes County in 1829, and served until 1832, when he was elected State senator from Lowndes County. He was again elected justice of the peace and commissioned October 15th, 1838. He served again as senator through the sessions of 1834-35 and 1837 to 1841. In 1845 he was again elected justice of the peace and served four years. In 1851 he was elected State senator from the 5th district, which then included Berrien County, and served through the session of 1851-52.”
Levi J. Knight was Sheriff of Wayne County (1824), Justice of the Peace of Lowndes County (1829-1833), State Senator from Lowndes County (1832, 1834, 1837, 1841). He was Senator from 5th District (1851-1856). He was Justice of the Berrien Inferior Court 1861, and a Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1868.
Levi J. Knight or one of his sons occupied a seat in the Georgia General Assembly for a period of forty years.

 Levi J. Knight was elected to the State Assembly as  Senator from Lowndes County in 1832 and 1834.  It was in this time that the Whig Party was rising against what was seen as executive excesses of “King Andrew” Jackson.  The Whigs favored national development and over time built an unlikely coalition of  anti-slavery, pro-slavery, and anti-masonic supporters. Levi J. Knight became a strong supporter of the Whig party and served as the Lowndes delegate to the Whig state conventions on several occasions.

In 1835, Levi J. Knight gave the Fourth of July oration at the county courthouse at Franklinville to a large crowd and enthusiastic crowd, “We have come up on the jubilee of our country’s liberty, to honor the day that gave birth to the greatest republic in the world.”  The celebration was followed by a banquet with a round of regular toasts to Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette, and to former Georgia Governor, George Michael Troup, as well as some to denounce the excesses of President Andrew Jackson.

Some time in the 1830s the Lowndes County center of government moved from Franklinville to the growing settlement of Lowndesville. Located about twenty miles south of the Knight homestead, Lowndesville was near the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers. This location was touted by some to become a riverboat landing and the prospect of river transportation was hoped to foster a pioneer boom period for the community, but according to Montgomery M. Folsom  that dream was never realized.

When the community had grown to about 25 families, the name of the town was changed to Troupville in honor of Georgia Governor George M. Troup.  Troup was an outspoken proponent of the State Rights theory, which asserted that individual states were not bound by Federal law. Levi J. Knight and many other pioneers of old Lowndes County were Troup supporters, and in 1834 Levi J. Knight and his father William A. Knight were instrumental in forming the  the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA.  Troupville quickly became the leading town in the region. In Troupville there were stores, hotels, churches, doctors, lawyers, newspapers, entertainment, even a bowling alley. The Knights were among the planters of Lowndes County who made Troupville their center of trade  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

In 1836 another daughter was born to the Knights, Mary Adelaide Knight. As a young woman, Mary would become the bride of Thomas M. Ray who, along with her father, founded the original grist mill at Ray City.

In the spring of 1836 there were reports and rumors of Indians attacking pioneers in other parts of the state. The Seminole War was brewing… and that summer the original settlers of Ray City, GA were engaged in Indian skirmishes.

  1.  (1942). History of Lowndes County: Georgia, 1825-1941. Valdosta, Ga.: General James Jackson chapter, D.A.R. Pg 5-6.
  2. Georgia. 1837. A digest of the laws of the state of Georgia: containing all statutes and the substance of all resolutions of a general and public nature, and now in force, which have been passed in this state, previous  to the session of the General assembly of Dec. 1837.pg 995
  3. THE SOUTH GEORGIA HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL QUARTERLY, VOL. 1, JULY 1922, NO. 3, pp. 03-05.OLD RECORDS BOOK “H” OF BONDS, WAYNE COUNTY, GEORGIA, COURT OF ORDINARY, FIRST 77 PAGES.
  4. Huxford,F. 1971. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VI, The Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia 1971. pg 139.’
  5. Huxford,F. 1954. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume II, Press of the Patten Publishers, Adel, Georgia, pg 176.
  6. Huxford, F. 1975, Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VII, Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia. pg 226.
  7. Huxford, F. 1967. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume V, Herrin’s Print Shop, Waycross, GA. pg 162.
  8. Georgia Surveyor General. 1832 – SURVEY RECORDS – FIELD NOTE BOOKS – Cherokee, Section 3, District 13, Levi J. Knight, 1832. http://find.sos.state.ga.us/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=324&q=&rootcontentid=231131#id231131
  9. Memoirs of Georgia, Volume I, Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 1895, Book, page 316
  10. Huxford, F. (1916). History of Clinch County, Georgia, , comp. and ed. by Folks Huxford. Macon, Ga: J.W. Burke. pg. 265
  11. Loyless, T. W. (1902). Georgia’s public men 1902-1904. Atlanta, Ga: Byrd Print. Pp 166.

Levi J. Knight ~ Wayne County Beginnings

  1. Wayne County Beginnings 1803-1827
  2. Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836
  3. Seminole Wars 1836 – 1842
  4. Antebellum Wiregrass 1843 -1860
  5. Civil War 1861-1865
  6. Wiregrass Reconstruction 1866-1870

In November of 1827 Levi J. Knight  became the original settler at Beaverdam Creek, Lowndes County, GA (now Berrien county). At the age of 24, he was already a leader,  experienced in military matters and in civil service. He was a man of action, an Indian fighter, and he was among the earliest pioneers to settle in the Wiregrass area of southern Georgia.    To this newly opened land he brought his new bride, Ann D. Herrin Knight. The couple had married just a few days earlier, on Nov 14, 1827 in an area of Wayne County that is now Brantley County, Georgia.

Levi’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight, brothers Aaron Knight, William C. Knight, Jonathan Knight and others of the family connection had preceded them, having settled in Lowndes County two years earlier.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community first known simply as Knight,  that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

Wayne County Beginnings

Levi was born on the first of September, 1803 in Wayne County, Georgia.  His mother was Sarah Cone Knight; his father, Elder William Anderson Knight.  Levi grew up in Wayne County at the southern frontier of the young American nation. Wayne county had only been officially created by the Georgia General Assembly just three months before he was born. This land had been the ancestral home of the Creek Indians, and there was continuing conflict between the Native Americans and encroaching settlers. Despite efforts of the state of Georgia to take the Creek land by treaty,  conflicts continued as the Georgia Land Lotteries brought more settlers to the area.

Levi J. Knight’s family had been among the first to settle in Wayne county, his parents having arrived there in 1803 prior to his birth.  The Knights were well positioned in the community, and already had a long tradition of military service.  Both of Levi’s grandfathers were veterans of the Revolutionary War. His paternal grandfather, John Knight, had been a  sergeant in the 1st Georgia Battalion of Continental Troops in the American Revolution and had received several land grants in South Carolina, Georgia, and in Spanish Florida.  On his mother’s side, his grandfather was William Cone,  a Baptist pastor and Revolutionary soldier who served as a captain  in McLean’s Regiment of Georgia Troops, under General Francis Marion.  William Cone served as a major in the 1st Battalion of the Richmond County Militia  (see Levi J. Knight’s Military Heritage).

While Levi J. Knight was a young boy, his uncle Jonathan Knight was sheriff of Wayne County from 1810-1812 and became Captain of the Wayne County militia in 1813.  No doubt Captain Knight regaled his young nephew with pioneer tales- true stories all – of cattle ranching, tracking run-away slaves, and fighting privateers in Spanish Florida. At just 15 years old,  Levi J. Knight served as a private in the Wayne County militia. The militia was engaged in defending the frontier settlers from Indian attacks that continued even after the Creek War of 1814.

On May 3rd, 1824 extant legal records note that Levi J. Knight, along with Robert Stafford posted sureties in the amount of $500 for Sibbiah O’Neil [or O’Neal] for the guardianship of Martha and Mary T. O’Neil. The O’Neals were friends of the Knights.  Later, Sarah Amanda “Sallie” O’Neal,  daughter of Henry O’Neal and Jane Dowden, would marry Levi J. Knight’s nephew, Levi J. Knight, Jr. (son of John and Sarah Knight).

Before he was 21, on June 16, 1824 Levi was appointed as Sheriff of Wayne County to serve out an unexpired term. Shortly after that, his parents relocated to the soon-to-be-created Lowndes County area.  His father, William A. Knight, was elected as the first state senator from the new county, and his brother Jonathan was elected as the first representative.  Levi J. Knight served on the jury in the first Superior Court of the new county.

According to state records, in 1826 Levi J. Knight was working  as a state surveyor mapping land in north Georgia newly ceded by the Creek natives.  The Official Register of Land Lottery of Georgia, 1827 shows he was a “fortunate drawer” in the land lottery of 1827, having received Lot 223, District 23, Section 1 (Lee County, GA),  in the drawing of April 24,  1827.

It was in this situation that Levi courted and smartly married the former Mrs. Ann Donald Herrin. She was the 25 year-old daughter of  William and Elizabeth Clements, a well-to-do family of Wayne County. Levi J. Knight and Ann Herrin were wed on November 14, 1827 in Wayne County, Georgia.  Jonathan Knight, Justice of the Peace completed the marriage license.   Just days later, the newlywed pioneers headed south to settle on Beaverdam Creek in Lowndes County (now Berrien), Georgia.

From 1832 to 1840 Levi J. Knight was elected six times to the Georgia Assembly as the Senator from Lowndes County. His father had served in the same office before him.  L. J. Knight was a contemporary of John M. Berrien, for whom Berrien county was named.

Children of Levi J. Knight and Ann D. Clements Herrin:

  1. William Washington Knight – born about 1829 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Mary Elizabeth Carroll; died December 27 , 1863 Berrien County, Georgia
  2. Elizabeth Knight – born  April 14, 1830, Lowndes County, Georgia; married Hardeman Sirmans; died September 6, 1912, Berrien County, GA
  3. John Graham Knight – born June 23, 1832 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married 1) Eliza B. Carter, 2) Mary Ann Davis; died May 8, 1908 Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia
  4. Sarah “Sally” Knight – born April 6, 1831 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Gideon Gaskins; died April 13, 1903
  5.  Mary Adelaide Knight – born about 1836 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Thomas M. Ray; died November 11, 1923
  6. Levi A. Knight – born about 1838 Lowndes County, GA; died about 1856
  7. Jonathan David Knight – born April 2, 1840 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married Emily E. Brandon; died March 9, 1884
  8. Keziah A. Knight –  born about 1843 Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA; married her cousin, James Aaron Knight, in 1858

Sources:

  1. Huxford, F. (1922). Marriage Licenses Wayne County, Ga. in The South Georgia historical and genealogical quarterly A quarterly magazine devoted to the history and genealogy of southern Georgia and its settlers. Homerville, Ga: [s.n.]. Copied from Book “C” of transcribed records, pages 176 to 204, Covering Years 1809 to 1850. Available online at http://www.archive.org/details/southgeorgiahist00huxf
  2. Huxford, F. 1951. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Vol 1. pg 159
  3. Hill, L. 2005. The CONE FAMILY HISTORY and its Variants such as MacCone, Kohn, Coan: Scotland/Ireland immigrants to USA. pgs 1822-1823
  4. http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~soup/Campbell/ps36/ps36_337.htm
  5. Huxford, F. (1916). History of Clinch County, Georgia, , comp. and ed. by Folks Huxford. Macon, Ga: J.W. Burke. pg. 265
  6. OLD RECORDS BOOK “H” OF BONDS, WAYNE COUNTY, GEORGIA, COURT OF ORDINARY, FIRST 77 PAGES in THE SOUTH GEORGIA HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL QUARTERLY. , VOL. 1, JULY 1922, NO. 3, pp. 03-05.
  7. Houston, M. L. (1929). Reprint of Official register of land lottery of Georgia, 1827. Columbus, Ga: Printed by the Walton-Forbes.
  8. Huxford, F. (1922). Marriage Licenses Wayne County, Ga. in The South Georgia historical and genealogical quarterly A quarterly magazine devoted to the history and genealogy of southern Georgia and its settlers. Homerville, Ga: [s.n.]. Copied from Book “C” of transcribed records, pages 176 to 204, Covering Years 1809 to 1850. Available online at http://www.archive.org/details/southgeorgiahist00huxf
  9. Georgia. (1927). Georgia’s official register. Atlanta: The Dept.
  10. New Georgia Encyclopedia. John Macpherson Berrien (1781-1856). http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-3239

Knights Come to Lowndes County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 a group of Revolutionary War “Baby Boomers” came west from Wayne County, Georgia to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the area that would one day become known as Ray City, Georgia.  They were  politically connected and probably had full knowledge that the huge area of Irwin county, occupying the central third of the southern Georgia, was about to be divided into smaller counties.

Among the leaders of this small band of settlers were William Anderson Knight and wife Sarah Cone Knight, his brother Samuel Knight, and his son-in-law Isben Giddens. They brought with them their families, children, livestock, and their possessions to make a new home in the new county of Lowndes, which was created from parts of Irwin County in 1826. These pioneers were experienced at opening up a new county. They were frontiersmen with militia experience, and also experienced at carving farms and plantations from the wilderness of the Wiregrass. In a sense, they were the first ‘Americans’, born between the time of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. They were raised in a time of war; their fathers served as Revolutionary Soldiers. Like the baby boomers of later wars, they grew up in a sort of post-war boom period, where Americans were celebrating their new-found independence and freedom.

The Knights were true Wiregrass pioneers. They came to this section from Wayne County, where William A. Knight had been among the very first settlers, arriving there about 1803. The Knight’s Wayne County place was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the earliest roads in Georgia. On the land adjacent to Knight’s, another Wiregrass pioneer, William Clements, had settled his family.  The Knights and the Clements became steadfast friends with many family and business dealings; William Knight and William Clements served together on the Wayne county Grand Jury of 1813 and worked together in other civic capacities.

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

The Old Post Road…was originally an Indian trail extending from St. Augustine, Florida, northward through south Georgia into the rolling country known as the Sand Hill section. Mitchell’s map of 1756, now in the Library of Congress in Washington, shows this trail. During the Revolutionary War the American forces marched along it on their way to attack a British contingent at Fort Tonyn, which was somewhere south of [U.S. Hwy 84]. Historians have not been able to determine the exact site. The road continued to be used as a stagecoach route and post road between Savannah and Florida until the War between the States.

When Wayne County had been created in 1803, William A. Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The Wayne county seat became known as Tuckersville, after resident John Tucker who served as the first postmaster there. (Waynesville was not officially designated as the county seat until 1829.) William A. Knight served as a post master after John Tucker, and William Clements served as a Wayne County road commissioner. Tuckersville  was located  somewhere north of Waynesville on the Post Road near the Buffalo Swamp, once the home and feeding grounds of herds of Georgia buffalo. The town disappeared from maps after 1850 and its exact location remains a mystery. wayne-historic-marker In its first twenty years, Wayne County was slow in developing.  William A. Knight served as the tax collector for 1806 and 1807, but no monies were returned to the state Comptroller General’s office for those years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia “The area contained hundreds of acres of pine barrens and wiregrass country. Much of the land was undesirable for settlement… Many of the early white settlers were families who, having lost their bids to win richer land in Baldwin or Wilkinson counties in the 1805 land lottery, settled for the isolation and less desirable land offered by Wayne County.”   Perhaps the lack of economic development in Wayne County finally discouraged the Knights. For whatever reason, it appears they decided there were better opportunities in opening up a new county than remaining behind in Wayne County.

As a member of the state Legislature, William A. Knight undoubtedly knew of the impending division of the vast Irwin County into smaller counties. The military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 had opened up the south central Georgia territory to pioneer settlers (see Daniel McCranie). Coffee’s road, as it was soon known, passed from Jacksonville, GA through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line.

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

When the Knights left their farms and came to south central Georgia to build their “log cabin in the wilds of the Wiregrass”, this area of Georgia was all part of the huge Irwin county. Lowndes was created from 2080 square miles carved out of Irwin, which had been plotted into Land Districts. Located on the center of Georgia’s southern border with Florida, Lowndes was still a quite large county. It would later be further divided into six present day counties; Lowndes, Brooks, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Lanier, and Berrien counties.

William Anderson Knight chose a home site on the northwest edge of Grand Bay in what was soon to be Lowndes County. This area, in the 10th land district of Irwin County, had good water and better soil than the typical pine barrens of Wayne County. It was situated between the Alapaha River to the east and the Withlacoochee and its tributaries to the west.

Children of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone:

  1. Thomas Knight, born February 6, 1799
  2. Kezia Knight, born November 20, 1801
  3. Levi J. Knight, born September 1, 1803
  4. William Cone “Big Billie” Knight, born October 8, 1805, married Rachel Carter, daughter of Jessie Carter.
  5. John Knight, born July 7, 1807
  6. Sarah Knight, born October 10, 1809
  7. Elizabeth Knight, born September 23, 1811
  8. Aaron Knight, born July 17, 1813
  9. Jonathan Knight, born January 16, 1817

William A. Knight’s place was near the route, such as it was, from Waynesville to Thomasville, GA. About nine miles to the west was Coffee’s Road; equidistant to the east was the site of Union Church, the Primitive Baptist church organized in 1825 by Reverend Fleming Bates and Reverend Matthew Albritton with the Knights, Pattens, Lees and Sirmans as founding members.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Knight and Union Church played a significant role in the rapid growth of Primitive Baptist churches throughout the Wiregrass region.  Union Church was at the head of the local organization of these churches into a Primitive Baptist Association, then known as the Ochlocknee Association. In 1833, Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association.  On July 13, 1833, William A. Knight along with Fleming Bates and John Tucker formed the presbytery to constitute Providence Church in “East Florida, Columbia County on Olustee,” according to the original minutes of that church.

By 1835,& when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee Primitive Baptist Association.

The Knight’s were influential in the development of Lowndes county from the very beginning, from the  convening of the first superior court to the representation in state politics. William A. Knight became the first state senator elected from Lowndes county to serve in the Georgia Assembly, and his son Jonathan Knight became the first state representative.

Following his parents , Levi J. Knight  brought his new bride, Ann Clements Herrin Knight, to homestead in Lowndes County in 1827. Anne was the daughter of the Knights’ Wayne County neighbors,  William and Elizabeth Clements.  L. J. Knight chose a spot not far from Grand Bay, on Beaverdam Creek,   where he established his  home site.  Perhaps even then he saw that the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek could some day be impounded to provide water power for a settlement.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community, first known simply as Knight, GA that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

Related Posts:

Memorial to Levi J. Gaskins

Levi Joseph Gaskins, a son of Gideon Gaskins and Sarah “Sally” Knight, was a member of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, GA. His maternal grandparents where Ann D. Clements and General Levi J. Knight, and on his father’s side were Polly Barrow and John Gaskins.  Upon his death in 1921, Levi J. Gaskins was buried at New Ramah Cemetery.

Levi J. Gaskins, 1860-1921, Rays Mill, GA

Levi J. Gaskins, 1860-1921, Rays Mill, GA

Minutes of  the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church

Memorial

It is with much sorrow and regret that we here record the death of our beloved brother Levi J. Gaskins who was born to this Life Nov. 18th, 1860 and Died Dec. 15, 1921.

He together with his faithful wife united with the Church at New Ramah on Sept 7, 1916 at which place he lived to his Death. He was united in marriage to his wife who was Miss Mary Strickland Feb 24th, 1878.

We can truthfully say of our beloved and departed brother that He was ever faithful kind and gentle. As a husband father and friend, and as a neighbor he was ever ready to raise the fallen and help the weak. In truth His life was as we feel the life of a Christian who is unselfish and unassuming.

Our beloved brother was never the author of confusion in the Church or in His community, and we feel that His life is worth of our Imitation

 and we would say that we grieve not for Him as we would for one who has no Hope for we feel that our loss is His eternal gain and when the blessed Savior comes again to gather his jewels home that this dear brother will be formed and fashioned like his Glorious body and be escorted away to that Celestial City not made with hands where there will be no more sickness sorrow pain nor Death.

We pray God’s greatest and richest blessings upon the berieved family Trusting that they may be able to be resigned to the will of Him who doeth all things well.

by your committy

C. B. Herring
W. L. Register
G. C. Mikell

Grave of Levi J. Gaskins and Mary E. Strickland, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave of Levi J. Gaskins and Mary E. Strickland, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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Portrait of Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight , Berrien County, GA

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight , Berrien County, GA

Ray City History
Hardeman Sirmans (1821 – 1896)  Elizabeth Knight (1830 – 1912)

Hardeman Sirmans was born October 25, 1821 in Appling County, Georgia, the son of Jonathan Sirmans and Martha “Patsy” Rouse.

During the Indian War in 1838-39 Hardeman Sirmans and his father served as privates under Captain Levi J. Knight (later General Knight) in the Lowndes County militia. They both appear on the 1838 Muster Roll of Captain Knight’s Independent Company.

In 1847 Hardeman married Elizabeth Knight, daughter of General Levi J. Knight and Ann D. Herrin. She was born in 1830.

According to Folks Huxford,

“Mr. Sirmans served in the Indian War as a private in a volunteer company of Lowndes County militia commanded by his father-in-law, Capt. (afterwards General) Levi J. Knight, August 15th to Oct 15 1838. He was 1st Lieutenant of the 664th militia district, Lowndes County, 1845-46, then served as Captain in same district 1847-1851. For nearly twenty years Mr. Sirmans was a member of the Masonic order, receiving his degrees in Butler Lodge, No. 211, F. & A.M. at old Milltown (now Lakeland) in 1858. He withdrew and was granted a demit Dec. 8 1877, on account of his church’s attitude toward secret orders. He united in 1877 with Empire Primitive Baptist Church and was baptized. On Jan. 21, 1888 he withdrew from the church, but was restored Nov. 21, 1888. On Nov. 26, 1892, charges were preferred against him in his church for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election; however, the church minutes state he ‘satisfied’ the church, Dec. 24, 1892, and the charges were dropped. He remained a member until his death Sept. 21, 1896. His children seemed to have disagreed over the division of his estate, and it was finally divided by arbitration in Berrien Superior Court, March 8, 1897. Mrs. Sirmans died Sept. 6, 1912, and was buried by her husband in the cemetery at Empire Church.”

Before the Civil War, Hardeman Sirmans was a slave owner. One of his slaves was Richard McGowan. For a time after the war, Richard McGowan continued to live on the Sirmans farm, working as a farm laborer.

Children of Elizabeth Knight and Hardeman Sirmans:

  1. Levi Winfield Sirmans 1848 –  married Nancy R. Clements
  2. Jonathan D Sirmans 1850 – 1926 married Nancy Elizabeth Clements
  3. Sarah Malissa Sirmans 1852 – 1898
  4. Lott W. Sirmans 1854 – 1898 married Josephine Knight
  5. Thomas Hardyman Sirmans 1860 – 1931
  6. Martha Elizabeth Sirmans 1862 – 1935 married Joe S. Clements
  7. Joseph O Sirmans 1862 – 1848 married Olive Pearl Matheny
  8. Jay Sirmans 1864 – 1916 married Rachel Allifar Smith
  9. Clara Sirmans 1868 – 1928 married Frank Gallagher
  10. Christiana Sirmans 1869 – 1943 married Joseph Bartow Gaskins
  11. Annie B. Sirmans 1872 – 1963 married John Chilton Matheny
  12.  Valeria Sirmans 1874 – 1961 married James Isaac Lee

Related Posts:

Annie B. Sirmans Once Owned Ray’s Mill

Image detail: Ann Sirmans Matheny, circa 1915. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Image detail: Ann Sirmans Matheny, circa 1915. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Annie B. Sirmans was the granddaughter of Anne Donald Clements and General Levi J. Knight, and the daughter of Elizabeth Knight and Hardeman Sirmans. About 1931, she inherited Ray’s Mill which had been founded by her grandfather and her uncle Thomas M. Ray almost 70 years earlier.

Annie B. Sirmans was born on Christmas day, 25 December 1872 in Berrien County, GA.

In 1880, seven-year-old Annie Sirmans was living with her parents and eight brothers and sisters in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district. Also boarding in the Sirmans home were two young girls, Eliza and Mary Hays. Annie’s father was a farmer, and her older brothers assisted with the farm labor.

In 1890, her brother,  Hardy Sirmans, Jr. purchased Ray’s Mill, the grist mill originally constructed on Beaver Dam Creek by his uncle Thomas M. Ray and grandfather, General Levi J. Knight.  Assisted by Mitch Fountain, Hardy Sirmans, Jr. operated the mill until his death in 1931.

As Annie grew older, she continued to live on her parent’s farm. On Sept 21, 1896 her father died leaving her brother, Thomas Hardeman “Hardy” Sirmans, to become the head of the household. The census of 1900 shows Annie Sirmans was still at home in her brother’s household. Her mother and siblings, Bellaria and Joseph, and nephew Daniel Walker Sirmans also shared the house.

In 1905 while in Tennessee, Annie’s brother Joe Sirmans married Olive Pearl Matheny, the daughter of Judith L. Craft and James W. Matheny.  Joe Sirmans brought his bride back to make their home in Willacoochee, GA about 20 miles north of Ray’s Mill.  No doubt it was through this family connection that Annie Sirmans came to know John Chilton Matheny, brother of Olive P. Matheny.  John C. Matheny was thirty-something , with blue eyes and dark hair, average in height and build.  He was a farmer and since age 22 when his father died,  head of the Matheny family, responsible for his mother and siblings.

Four years later, On October 5, 1909 Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny were wedded  in Berrien County, GA.  She was 37, he 35.  It was the first marriage for both.  At first, the newlyweds made their home near the Ray’s Mill community (now Ray City, GA) on the Sirmans home place, now the farm of Annie’s bachelor brother, Hardy Sirmans.  Annie’s mother was still there  at the Sirmans place, as well as her Aunt Mary Ray and nephew Daniel Walker. The census of 1910 shows Hardy Sirmans and John C. Matheny both farming on their own account.

Infant son of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, grave marker, October 7, 1912.

Infant son of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, grave marker, October 7, 1912. Empire Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Annie may have married late, but within  couple of years she was pregnant.  On October 7, 1912 she gave birth to a baby boy. Sadly, the child died the same day.   The infant was buried near his grand parents, Elizabeth and Hardeman Sirmans,  at Empire Church cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

The following year Annie was again pregnant, and on May 23, 1914 she presented  John C. Matheny with a son, Thomas Hardeman Matheny. The image detail above is from a photograph of Annie and the boy (view the full image), probably taken around 1915, and clearly portrays her great affection for  the child.  But tragedy struck the family again when Thomas died at age two on September 15, 1916.

Thomas Hardeman Matheny, 1914-1916, Empire Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Hardeman Matheny, 1914-1916, Empire Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Perhaps  the loss was too much for John Matheny to bear;  A notation  on the bottom of his 1917 draft registration written by Perry Thomas Knight observed that John had just returned from the insane asylum.  Annie and John would remain childless for the rest of their lives.

At that time the draft card notes, the Mathenys were making their home in Nashville, GA 10 miles above Ray City, but by the census of  1920  Annie and John Matheny were back at Ray City where they owned a farm on “Settlement Roads” that John worked on his own account.  Annie’s older brother, Hardy Sirmans (Thomas Hardeman Sirmans), lived with the couple and also farmed.  The farm next door was rented by  Annie’s nephew, Daniel Walker Sirmans and his young family.

In the census of 1930,  the Mathenys were still living in the Ray’s Mill Precinct, the 1144th Georgia Militia District.  They owned a home valued at $1000.00.  John continued to work the farm on his own  account: Annie assisted with the farm labor. Annie’s brother Hardy, now 70, still resided with the couple but no longer worked.  The Mathenys had also taken in a boarder, Matthew F. Fender, who worked as a farm laborer.

But the 1930s brought hard times in the life of Annie Sirmans Matheny. Annie’s brother, Hardy Sirmans, died on July 27, 1931.  In 1932, Ann lost her husband: John Chilton Matheny died December 15, 1932. Both men were buried at Empire Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

After the death of Hardy Sirmans, Annie inherited ownership of her family’s gristmill, Ray’s Mill.  Later, the widowed Ann Matheny sold Ray’s Mill to Pollard Fountain, the son of Mitch Fountain who had operated the grist mill with her deceased brother.

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

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

Annie Sirmans Matheny died in 1963 and was buried next to her husband at Empire Church Cemetery.

Grave marker of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, Empire Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of Annie B. Sirmans and John Chilton Matheny, Empire Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

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