John R. Wood Goes to Paris

Ray City, GA was the boyhood home of John Rhoden Wood, a son of Milledge Dewey Wood and Nancy Caroline Rhoden. He went on to a long career as a diplomat with the US State Department, serving primarily in France, from WWI to WWII.

John R. Wood, 1920 passport photo.

John R. Wood, 1920 passport photo.

John Rhoden Wood was born in Dupont, GA on February 7, 1894. Some time before 1910, the Wood family moved from Dupont to the 1329 Georgia Militia District, near Ray City, GA where John R. Wood spent his teenage years.

At the time of the draft for WWI John R. Wood was living in Jacksonville, FL and working for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. He was 23 years old, of medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair. Wood entered the Army and was sent to France. He achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant before receiving an honorable discharge.

About 1920 John R. Wood married a French girl, Jeanne Victorine Brissaud.

Jeanne Victorine Brissaud, 1920 passport photo.

Jeanne Victorine Brissaud, 1920 passport photo.

That year Wood applied for a passport  to return to France, giving his permanent residence as Ray City, GA.

John R. Wood 1920 Passport Application

John R. Wood 1920 Passport Application

Washington, DC

I, John R Wood, a native and loyal citizen of the United States, hereby apply to the Department of State, at Washington, for a passport for myself and my wife, Mrs. Jeane B. Wood.

I solemnly swear that I was born at Dupont Ga in the State of Ga, on or about the 7 day of Feb, 1894, that my father, M D Wood, was born in Coffee County Ga, and is now residing at Ray City Ga. that I have resided outside the United Stats at the following places for the following periods:

Paris, France. from Dec 1, 1918 to July 1, 1920 and that I am domiciled in the United States, my permanent residence being at Ray City in the state of Ga.

I am about to go abroad temporarily, and I intend to return to the United States within -{months/years} with the purpose of residing and performing the duties of citizenship therein; and I desire a passport for use in visiting the countries hereafter named for the following purpose:

France  – Returning to present employment

I intend to leave the United States from the port of New York sailing on board the  (name of vessel) on September 15, 1920.

Further, I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

J. R. Wood

Sworn to before me this 14th day of July, 1920
D F Smith
Agent, Department of State

In the margins the notation was added, “Honorable discharge from Army dated August 11, 1919 and giving rank as 2nd Lieut  seen and returned 7/14/20.”

The description of applicant gave his age as 26 years and height as 5 foot 11 inches.  He was fair in complexion with a full face, light hair,  high forehead, hazel eyes, straight nose, small mouth and square chin.

John Rhodes Wood's 1920 passport application gave his permanent residence as Ray City, GA.

John R. Wood’s 1920 passport application gave his permanent residence as Ray City, GA.

After some time in France,  John Wood made the return passage on the SS Rochambeau.

Over the next decades John R. Wood made several transatlantic voyages.  In May of 1926 he made the return crossing aboard the SS France.  At the time it was one of the fastest liners afloat.

SS France

SS France

In 1929 he sailed from Le Havre, France to New York aboard the SS Ile de France.

The American Foreign Service Journal, May, 1929 issue reported, “Consul John R. Wood, Paris, is spending his home leave in Ray City, Ga. He expects to return to his post early in June.”

The census of 1930 shows that John R. Wood and family were living in Paris, France where he was employed as Vice Consul.

SS Ile de France, photographed circa 1935

SS Ile de France, photographed circa 1935

On April 18, 1934 John R. Wood again departed from France, sailing from Le Havre aboard the SS Paris and arriving at the port of New York on April 24.  He gave his address in the U.S. as the Department of State, Washington, DC.

S.S. Paris, once the most luxurious ocean liner in the world.

In 1934 John R. Wood sailed aboard the S.S. Paris, once billed as the most luxurious ocean liner in the world.

In 1939, Wood made the Atlantic crossing on the SS Normandie.

SS Normandie at sea in the 1930s.

SS Normandie at sea in the 1930s.

More than a year after Germany invaded France during WWII,  John Wood departed Europe from Lisbon, Portugal on August 1, 1941, on the USS West Point.

USS West Point, August 1, 1941

USS West Point, August 1, 1941

Jeanne Brissaud Wood died on June 14, 1974 in Nice, France.

Later, John R. Wood made his residence in Colquitt County, GA.  He died in Savannah, GA on June 30, 1996 at 102 years of age.

In death he returned to his boyhood home of Ray City, GA where he was interred at Beaver Dam Cemetery, with his parents and others of the Wood family connection.


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Embezzler Son of Illiterate Tax Collector Escapes Detectives at Ray’s Mill, GA

Read more about Ray City, GA history at

On April 3, 1909 the Atlanta Georgian and News reported charges of malfeasance against the office of the Berrien County Tax Collector,  W.H. Studstill.   By today’s standards it seems difficult to believe, but just 100 year’s ago the Berrien tax collector was an illiterate who could not sign his own name.

All of this may have only indirectly affected Ray’s Mill residents, in that they and all other Berrien County tax payers were the victims of  the embezzlement. But a follow-up article (below)  from the Atlanta Constitution carries the drama to the Ray’s Mill stage.

 Atlanta Georgian and News
April 3, 1909


Berrien Tax Collector Makes Affidavit.

    Nashville, Ga., April 3. – Tax Collector W.H. Studstill may be called upon to make good an alleged claim of $913 which is charged against him. A year ago Studstill’s bondsmen made good a shortage of several hundred dollars, after Studstill had sacrificed all his property. The county authorities permitted Studstill to continue in office to the end of his term, January 1, 1909, with the understanding that Silas and R.W. Tygart, of Nashville, have charge of the affairs of the  office.
When Messers Tygart undertook to collect the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Company’s taxes the company answered by stating that they had forwarded their check  for the amount during the latter part of December, and  that it had been paid, indorsed [sic] by W. H. Studstill, tax collector of Berrien county, per John F. Studstill, at the Atlantic National Bank of Jacksonville, Fla., on December 27, 1908.
Studstill was in Nashville on Monday and signed an affidavit that he had not received the money, and that he knew nothing of the transaction. Studstill is an illiterate man, not being able to even sign his name. During his administration – except last year –  his son, John F. Studstill has, transacted all business connected with the office of his father.
Studstill’s affidavit, with a statement of the circumstances of the case, have been forwarded to Comptroller-General Wright.

On May 26, 1909,  the Atlanta Constitution reported  the following escape from  Detective Tucker in Rays Mill, GA (nka Ray City, GA):


John F. Studsill Charged with Getting Money Fraudulently.

    Milltown, Ga., May 25. – (Special)- John F. Studstill, who was recently captured in Bowling Green, Fla., on advices from Ashdown for getting money fraudulently, escaped from Detective Tucker, who had him in charge, while waiting for the train at Ray’s Mill, near here, Saturday afternoon.
   Studstill has been in considerable trouble here of late about money matters; he was for two years his father’s assistant in the tax collector’s office in this (Berrien) county, but was under no bond. Last year the county commissioners called for a settlement from the tax collector, but Tax Collector Studstill was unable to produce the books, claiming his son, John F. Studstill, had them. The commissioners finally checked up Sr.  Studstill’s books, and found him several thousand dollars short, which he promptly made good. It seems that his son, John F. Studstill, did all the work in the office, and it was through his hands that the money was short.
   Some time during the fall the Atlantic Coast Line railway sent W. H. Studstill a check to this place, as this is his home and postoffice, a check covering their taxes for 1908, the check amounting to $913.55. John F. Studstill got it from the office, and carried it to Jacksonville, Fla., and cashed it at one of the banks there. Studstill got word that they were on his track, so he left home here, and took a steamer from Jacksonville for parts unknown. After a delay of two weeks or more the Bank of Milltown, of this place, began to get sight drafts from Studstill at different points in Texas, finally winding up with a draft through the Ashdown bank, of Ashdown, Ark., for $5,-000.  All the drafts were turned down, as Studstill had withdrawn all his funds from the bank.

Perhaps a reader or additional research will provide the conclusion to this saga of family betrayal, embezzlement, and flight from justice.