Watson Grade News, March 25, 1904

The article below continued a series of 1904, a series of articles in the Tifton Gazette on the residents of “Watson Grade.”  Watson Grade  referred to a place just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA, near Empire Church where Watson, Patten, Lee, Cook and Sirmans  families all farmed.    The unknown author “Trixie,”  was familiar with the local happenings. On March 25, 1904, the Watson Grade news included the death of J. E. Sirmans, discussed in the previous post, and other personal mentions. 1904-mar-25-watson-grade-news

Tifton Gazette
March 25, 1904
Mr. J. E. Sirmans Dead.

Mr. J. E. Sirmans died last Saturday night at 11:45. He had been sick only about four days, and was not thought to be dangerously ill until a few hours before his death. Mr. Sirmans has been suffering with heart trouble for several years and Dr. Askew, of Nashville, says it was pleurisy complicated with heart trouble that caused his death. He leaves a wife and ten children to mourn his loss. His remains were interred in the Fender cemetery.

Mrs. J.T. Watson is very sick at this writing with grippe.

Miss Belle Patten has returned home from the Land of Flowers, to the delight of her many friends.

 The Odd Fellows of Milltown enjoyed and oyster supper last Wednesday night to the delight of the new members and themselves. Eight were initiated and twelve more have their applications in.

 Misses Carrie Liles and Dora Edson, of near Milltown, were visitors in this section last Sunday.

Mr. M. C. Lee, one of South Berrien’s best farmers, carried a wagon load of bacon to Valdosta last week that brought him about $180.

Mrs. O. Knight has been very ill, but is improving.

Judge J. T. Wilkerson has resigned as J. P., and has moved to Clinch to enter the mercantile business.

Watson Grade, March 14.             TRIXIE.

Notes:

Mrs. J. T. Watson was Jincy Lee Watson, wife of John Thomas Watson.  She was a daughter of Jincy Register and  Moses Corby Lee.  She was suffering from “Grippe” which was the period idiom for Influenza.

Miss Belle Patten, age 21,  was a daughter of James “Irwin” Patten and Leanna Patten.  She had just returned from visiting relatives in Tampa, FL.  Later, some time before 1910, her brother, June Patten, became a dentist and the two of them moved to Fernandina,  FL.

Carrie Liles (1869 – 1959), born Caroline Cook Brown, was the wife of Ben Liles and a daughter of Burwell Atkinson Brown and Margaret E. Morrison. Her traveling companion, Dora Edson, was a half-sister of her husband, Ben Liles.

Moses C. Lee was a noted farmer of Berrien County, and husband of Amanda Clements.  The Lee farm was known as “Stony Hill.”

Mrs. O. Knight was Mary Ellen Cook Knight, the wife of Reverend Orville A. Knight.  Her parents,  were neighbors of Irwin and Leanna Patten, mentioned above.

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Wiregrass Babes in Sugarland

To children of Wiregrass Georgia, sugar cane was the homegrown candy of choice.  The harvest of the cane crop, and cane grinding time was anticipated by children of all ages.

Children of the Cane. Children in Berrien County, as in other Wiregrass Georgia counties, looked forward to the sugar cane cutting with great anticipation. Pictured here are children of the Liles and Edson families together on the Leggett farm, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Children of the Cane. Children in Berrien County, as in other Wiregrass Georgia counties, looked forward to the sugar cane cutting with great anticipation. Pictured here are children of the Liles and Edson families together on the Leggett farm, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Sugar cane has been an integral part of Wiregrass culture since it was introduced into South Georgia in around 1828.  John Moore began the cultivation of cane when he settled near the Grand Bay swamp in Lowndes County.  By 1876 sugar cane was one of the staple field crops of South Georgia, and an important staple in the farming and agriculture of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), and the section. “Sugar, Syrup, and Molasses are made on a considerable scale in the southern part of this State from tropical Cane.” Hundreds of gallons of cane syrup could be produced from a single acre of sugar cane. In 1879 the Columbus Daily Enquirer reported, “The Berrien County News contends that cane planting can be made as profitable in Southern Georgia as in Mississippi, Louisiana or elsewhere, and that Southern Georgia syrup cannot be excelled by that made anywhere.”

In 1885, Montgomery Folsom, poet/historian of Wiregrass Georgia, wrote about the sweet childhood experience of sugar cane:

The Atlanta Constitution
June 24, 1885 pg 2

Down the River.

Now we have reached the point where the [Little] river widens out, and winds along through interminable swamps.  Here in the autumn the mellow haws hang red on the trees, and in the sweet Indian summer great festoons of wild grapes and “bullaces” hanging in mellow lusciousness from the vines which have twined their tendrils around the topmost boughs of the tall trees.  Fields of yellow corn cover the fertile hillside, the withered stalks rustling and creaking in the whispering breeze.  These farmers have inherited a goodly legacy in these broad acres. The cotton fields are white as snow, and the merry jests and hearty laugh attest the contentment of the laborers. In striking contrast with the brilliant colors of the autumnal foliage is the deep blue green of the sugar cane.  Through long years of cultivation in alien soil it has preserved its identity as a child of the tropics, and holds its green until the great leveler, Jack Frost, chills its sugary sap. Other plants have learned to adapt themselves to the new order of things, and shorten the season of their growth accordingly, but the sugar cane never ripens.  If I have dwelled long on the peculiarities of this plant it is because I have experienced so many perils and pleasures in connection with it.  Is there a south Georgia boy, to-day, who never slipped in at the back of the cane patch, starting nervously as he chanced to snap a blade, picking his way carefully until a selection was made, then cutting down the cane by easy stages, so that it would not crack loudly when it fell; carefully stripping of the blades one, by one, then stealing noiselessly out, ensconcing himself in a fence jamb and then – oh! the delicious taste of the juice! “Trebly sweet when obtained through so much peril. Hark! Ahem!” The boy springs to his feet and trembling in every limb beholds the “old man” leaning his elbow on the fence and watching him intently. “Ahem!” “Is it gittin’ sweet yet sonny?” But the boy is too dumbfounded to answer. ” “Well, I guess I’d better give ye a row, and you musn’t cut any out’n the rest of the patch.” Oh! Joy! In less than ten minutes every child on the place is informed that “pa has give us a row of cane to chaw.” And the old man stalks about in the potato patch in search of a late watermelon, an odd smile on his lips.  He passed the same experience some twenty or thirty years ago.

If you want to learn more about the traditions, practice and science of Georgia cane syrup making, be sure to see Bill Outlaw’s essays at Southern Matters http://www.southernmatters.com/  where he shares family history and research on sugar cane and syrup production, along with other connections to the past.

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