Perry Thomas Knight (1877-1955)

Perry Thomas Knight (March 7, 1877  – September 16, 1955)

http://berriencountyga.com/

Perry Thomas Knight. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Perry Thomas Knight was born March 7, 1877 at Rays Mill (now Ray City) Berrien County, GA. He was a son of George Washington Knight (born 1845 in GA; private, Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment, C. S. A., serving four years; died 1913) and Rhoda (Futch) Knight (born 1846 in Berrien County, GA; died 1909).

P.T. Knight attended the Green Bay School near Ray City, completing there in 1896.  In 1897, he returned to the Green Bay School as a teacher. He made an excursion to Terra Ceia, FL in 1898 , then returned to Berrien County and taught at the Cross Creek School in east Berrien county.

Knight  then attended Southern Normal University in Huntingdon, TN.   He graduated in 1901 and returned to Berrien County to begin the practice of law.   His practice frequently included handling the legal affairs of residents and businesses of Ray’s Mill  (later Ray City, GA).

Perry Thomas Knight attended Southern Normal University, Huntingdon, TN in 1901. In 1908, the building became the home of the Industrial and Training School. Image source: http://tn-roots.com/tncarroll/photos/postcards.htm

Perry Thomas Knight attended Southern Normal University, Huntingdon, TN in 1901. In 1908, the building became the home of the Industrial and Training School. Image source: http://tn-roots.com/tncarroll/photos/postcards.htm

Advertisement for Southern Normal University, 1901.

Advertisement for Southern Normal University, 1901.

Perry Thomas Knight married Annie Lotta Dugger on July 19, 1903. She was a daughter of Wiley Jackson Dugger  and Sallie (Bowen) Dugger. Her father was a hotel keeper and Justice of the Peace at Boston, GA.

Marriage certificate of Perry Thomas Knight and Ann Dugger, Berrien County, GA

Marriage certificate of Perry Thomas Knight and Ann Dugger, Berrien County, GA

In 1905, Perry T. Knight   and boyhood friend Levi J. Clements  were part of a quartet of investors in the formation of the Bank of Milltown:

 GOSSIP AT THE CAPITOL

Atlanta Constitution.
Feb 7, 1905 pg. 7

  Application was filed with secretary of State Philip Cook yesterday for a charter for the Bank of Milltown, at Milltown, in Berrien county. The capital stock of the new bank is to be $25,000 and the incorporators are J.V. Talley, W.L. Patton, P.T. Knight and L.J. Clements, Jr.

 P.T. Knight  attended ministerial school in 1909 at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in Milltown, GA (now Lakeland) and served as pastor of Good Hope Baptist church at Naylor, Brushy Creek church near Nashville, Lois church, and Waresboro church near Waycross. He was a Mason and served as lodge master of the Lakeland Lodge 434 F&AM. He had a farm on RFD #2 out of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. He employed Robert Lee Mathis and Charles Anthony Ray to farm it.

During World War I,  P.T. Knight registered for the draft , his draft card being completed by D.A. Sapp on September 12, 1918 at Nashville, GA.  He gave his address as R.F.D. Milltown, GA. His occupation was Minister. He was of medium height, stout, with blue eyes and dark hair.  He was commissioned 1st Lieutenant and Chaplain in the  5th Infantry, 17th Division at Camp Zachary Taylor, KY .

Army Training School for Chaplains and approved chaplain candidates, Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Ky.,

Army Training School for Chaplains and approved chaplain candidates, Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Ky., “Lining up for Mess”. Original image courtesy of Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/pan.6a29832/

On Nov. 25, 1918 Knight was attached to 5th Infantry  at Camp Beauregard, La.    He received an honorable discharge on December 4,  1918.

Perry Thomas Knight, WWI Service Record.

Perry Thomas Knight, WWI Service Record.

Perry T. Knight was listed among the ordained ministers of the United States in the 1919 American Baptists Yearbook. In 1920 he joined the Baptist Chaplains Club, an organization of military chaplains dedicated to supporting the work of chaplains in the service and to securing legislation relative to the chaplains’ work. By 1925, he had served 4 years as pastor of the Baptist Church of Ray City.

In 1921 things were not going well for farmers in Ray City, GA or elsewhere around the state of Georgia. Perry T. Knight wrote an open letter to the members of the Georgia General Assembly proposing a special legislative session to consider the plight of the farmers and to enact legislation to protect them from looming financial disaster.

‘Corn has been sold at public outcry this winter for the pitiful sum of 15 cents per bushel’ the letter states, ‘and other produce has sold equally low. A one-horse crop sold under distress warrant for rent did not bring enough to pay the officers of the court. The landlord got nothing and the tenant had nothing left.’

‘The people of this section want an extra session of the general assembly called by the governor, and let them enact a stay law for a fixed period so that no creditor can sue any debtor for any contract or obligation up to the present time until after the stay period, and at the same time enact legislation that would not permit a debtor to dispose of nor transfer his property without the consent of his creditor.’

Perry T. Knight was elected as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from Berrien county 1921-1924, and subsequently served in various elected and appointed governmental positions (see Update on Perry Thomas Knight)

In 1923, Knight prepared a record of the outstanding accounts of the Ray City Supply Company in part to reconcile the estate of Francis Marion Shaw, who had an interest in the business.   He also led the fundraising effort to pay for the Doughboy Monument in Nashville, GA.

In the 1920s Perry Thomas Knight became active in state politics. He was elected to the Georgia Assembly and worked in various elected and appointed positions.  His career in public administration is described in the Georgia Official and Statistical Register.

Senator Perry T. Knight, of Ray City,  was appointed to serve on the Western & Atlantic Railroad Commission in 1925.    The General Assembly of Georgia, by an act of 1925, directed the Georgia Public Service Commission to compile all data pertaining to the Western and Atlantic railroad and instructed it to employ its consulting engineer, J. Houston Johnston, to prepare the report. The Western & Atlantic is the historic railroad line from Atlanta to Chattanooga, TN and is still owned by the State of Georgia.  The Western & Atlantic Railroad was the locale of the Great Locomotive Chase  of the W&A locomotive, The General, during the Civil War.

WESTERN AND ATLANTIC RAILROAD COMMISSION
Governor, Ex-Officio
Chairman, Public Service Commission, Ex-Officio
C. Murphy Candler, Chairman, State at Large, Atlanta
Carl N. Guess, Senator, Atlanta
 William M. Sapp, Senator, Dalton
Perry T. Knight, Senator, Ray City
 Fermor Barrett, Representative, Toccoa
 Jud P. Wilhoit, Representative, Warrenton
Edgar B. Dykes, Representative, Vienna
Bessie Kempton, Representative, Atlanta
John M. Murrah, Representative, Columbus
J. Q. Smith, Representative, Cairo
John B. Wilson, Secretary to Commission, Atlanta
(Acts 1925, p. 278.)

While engaged in public service,  Perry and Annie moved to Atlanta, GA where they lived  until his death.

Children of Perry Thomas Knight and Annie Duggar:

  1. Loren Ray Knight (October 10, 1904 – June 17, 1911)
  2. Ralphi Lowell Knight   (Mar. 23, 1906 – Nov. 17, 1907)
  3. Rhoda Adella Knight (May 17, 1808– August 30, 1910)
  4. James Perry Knight 1911 – 1984
  5. Elwin Thomas Knight 1913 – 1972
  6. Lorena Idell Knight (Aug. 5, 1918 – May 30, 1921)

Perry Thomas Knight died September 16, 1955. He was buried at Union Church, Lanier County, Ga.(aka Burnt Church).  Annie Lota Dugger Knight died January 15, 1973. Buried at Union Church, Lanier County, Ga.

Grave of Perry Thomas Knight and Annie Dugger, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Perry Thomas Knight and Annie Dugger, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Related Posts:

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

Read more about Ray City, GA history at http://raycity.pbworks.com/

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


SHORTAGE IS CHARGED

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):

 ESCAPES FROM DETECTIVE

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.

Bank of Ray’s Mill

The Bank of Ray’s Mill and the Bank of Milltown

In 1905, local investors including some with Ray’s Mill connections formed the Bank of Milltown.  The bank was  chartered March 14, 1905 and the bank opened for business March 21, 1906.

GOSSIP AT THE CAPITOL
Atlanta Constitution. Feb 7, 1905 pg. 7

 Application was filed with Secretary of State Philip Cook yesterday for a charter for the Bank of Milltown, at Milltown, in Berrien county. The capital stock of the new bank is to be $25,000 and the incorporators are J.V. Talley, W.L. Patton, P.T. Knight and L.J. Clements, Jr.

The Bank of Ray’s Mill was organized around 1908 with George W. Varn as president and Lewis M. Marshall as cashier. Its directors were J.H.P. Johnson, J.H.SwindleC.O. Terry, Y.F. Carter, Harmon Gaskins, and Frank Fountain. Wallace Johnson, son of J.H.P  Johnson, began working for the bank when he was fourteen years old.  Lewis M. Marshall served as the bank’s cashier until he was succeeded in the early 1920’s by John D. Luke who held the position until the bank failed during the great depression – probably around 1931.  In 1909 the bank’s name was changed to Citizens Bank of Ray City.

The Annual report of the Treasurer and State Bank Examiner of the State of Georgia for the year ending 1910, still lists the bank as the Bank of Ray’s Mill, with a capital of $15,000 dollars.  That sum would have been about $6 million in 2007 dollars.