William Greene Avera Is Laid To Rest

William Green Avera (1855-1944) and Benjamin Gaskins (left) photographed at Irene Church, Lanier County, GA.  Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Green Avera (1855-1944) and Benjamin Gaskins (left) photographed at Irene Church, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William Green Avera was a local educator who received national attention for his innovative teaching methods.

Professor Avera died January 10, 1944. His obituary ran on the front page of the Clinch County News:

Obituary of William Green Avera, Clinch County News, Jan 14, 1944.

Obituary of William Green Avera, Clinch County News, Jan 14, 1944.

The Clinch County News
January 14, 1944 Pg 1

William Avera is Laid to Rest

    Funeral services were held this morning at 11 o’clock (Wednesday) at the Irene Primitive Baptist church in Lanier county [see map] for William Greene Avera, pioneer educator of South Georgia who died at his rural home East of Nashville on Monday afternoon.  He was 88 years of age.
    As a mark of respect all the schools of Berrien county were closed for the funeral services.  Mr. Avera served as superintendent of the Berrien county schools for twenty years and form more than half a century he taught in the schools of Berrien and other counties in south Georgia.
    His second wife, Mrs. Margaret Avera. and one son, Bryant Avera, both of Berrien county and 13 grandchildren and a number of great grandchildren survive.
    Mr. Avera’s first wife was Miss Eliza Jane Sirmans.  There were 11 children from this union.  Mrs. Avera died in 1905 and in 1911 he was married to Miss Margaret McMillan.
    Pallbeareres at the funeral this morning were grandsons of Mr. Avera.  They were: Waldo Avera and W. R. Roberts, of Jacksonville, Fla., Albert Griner, Phiniza Avera and Saron Parr, of Nashville.
    The funeral services were conducted by Elder Orvill Knight.
    Mr. Avera was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Steven Willis Avera of Clinch county.  When he was a young child the family moved to Berrien county. 
    Mr. Avera died in the home in which he lived for 60 years.

Irene Church, 2011, Lanier County, GA

Irene Church, 2011, Lanier County, GA

For additional views of Irene Church see Irene Primitive Baptist Church

Grave of William Green Avera, Avera Cemetery, near Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Avera Cemetery map on Find-a-Grave

Ray City Citizens Fought Creation of Lanier County

In August 1919, the General Assembly of Georgia passed an act to place an amendment to the Georgia Constitution creating Lanier County on the ballot  for the November 1920 general elections.  But in 1920,  as the election approached, there was strenuous objection from the Ray City area.  Many citizens who were well associated with the history of Ray City found that their property would be on the Lanier side of the new county line, including such family  names as Giddens, Clements, Swindle, Sirmans and others.  Desiring to remain in Berrien county, these land owners, led by A.W. Gaskins, filed a motion with the courts to stop the vote on the constitutional amendment that would create the new county.

Atlanta Constitution
Sep 2, 1920

COURT IS ASKED TO BAR CREATION OF LANIER COUNTY

     Hearing on a permanent injunction brought by citizens of Berrien county to restrain Governor Dorsey from advertizing, as required by law, the proposed constitutional amendment creating the new county of Lanier, was set for September 11, in the Fulton superior court, by Judge John D. Humphries, following a short hearing on a temporary injunction on the same petition, which was denied by Judge Humphries.
     The bill was filed by Attorneys R.A. Hendricks, James A. Alexander and W.D. Biue, of Berrien county, and Bryan and Middlebrooks, of Atlanta. The petitioning citizens are as follows:
     A.U. Gaskins, A.H. Giddens, H.C. Clements, R.D. Swindle, John Sirmans, Raygood Lankford, S.S. Watson, L.S. Sirmans, Mrs. Rachel Postick, W.L. Rouse, John C. Sirmans, J.B. Baskins, J.W. Bloodworth, J.J. Porke, Leo Griner, J.H.Patten. S.H. Winderweedles, W.C. Johnson, Mrs. Martha Clements, A.J. Clements, Levi J. Clements, L. J. Clements, Jr., Bud Watson, Bryant Avers, J. L. Lee, Jasper J. Cook, L.S. Simms, J.H. Clements, J. P. Watson, D. Harrell, R.S. Johnson and John Boyett.
     This action was taken to prevent the submission to the voters in the general election in November of the question of the creation of Lanier county, and the petition asks that Governor Dorsey be enjoined from issuing a proclamation authorizing the vote, and that Secretary of State S. Guyt McLendon be restrained from announcing the result of any vote on the question; and that the state superintendent of printing be restrained from printing a proclamation by the governor.
     The petitioners claim that the promoters of Lanier county made a written and signed agreement with the affected property owners of Berrien county as to the part of Berrien county that would be in Lanier county; that the agreement was violated without their knowledge and consent, so that 9,540 additional acres of land, valued at $150,000, was taken into the county. The petitioning citizens represent this extra land, and declare that they did not want to be taken into the new county.

The petitioners request for an injunction was denied. They appealed all the way to the Georgia Supreme court where they lost in the case of  GASKINS et al v. DORSEY, Governor, et al.  The  Amendment issue went ahead in November, and the constitutional amendment to create Lanier county was passed by the voters.

The petitioners, this time led by Dr. H.W. Clements,  then filed  for an injunction to stop the first election of officers in the newly created county, but that too, failed.   While Clements and others appealed to a higher court, the election was held as scheduled on  the first Wednesday in December 1920.

Not to be deterred, Dr. Clements and others again pursued the appeal of two cases all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, CLEMENTS el al v. WILKERSON et al  and CLEMEMENTS et al v. ANDERSON et al, in an attempt to nullify the creation of the new county.

But in the end the Georgia Supreme court ruled that any decision was moot since the election  of  county officers had already been held and the case was dismissed.

All challenges aside, Georgia voters approved the constitutional amendment on Nov. 2, 1920, which marks the official date of the creation of Lanier County.

Related posts:

Professor Avera Lived Near Ray City, GA

 

 

Image detail: William Green Avera, circa 1905. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Society, http://berriencounty.smugmug.com/

William Green “Bill” Avera

 

Bill Avera was a lifelong educator of Berrien county who lived in the vicinity of Ray City, GA. He was born August 1, 1855, in  Clinch County Georgia. His father was Stephen Willis Avera and his mother was Martha Elizabeth Aikins. William Green Avera was the oldest of eleven children, his brothers and sisters being  Winnie Ann, Polly Ann, Sarah O’Neal, Daniel M., Lyman H., Phebe V., Lou, Junius H., Cordelia and Martha.

Upon the organization of Berrien County,  Stephen and Martha Avera brought their young son to establish the family homestead in the new county in 1856. During the Civil War, Bill’s father enlisted and became a soldier of Company E of the Fifty-fourth Georgia Infantry. Stephen Avera saw action defending Atlanta from Sherman’s approach and later in the battles at Jonesboro, Franklin, Murfreesboro and Nashville. The war ended while he was at home in Berrien County on detached duty.  After the war, Bill’s father continued to farm in Berrien County.  In 1877 Bill Avera married and established a household of his own near Ray City, GA.

The home of William Green Avera was located about five miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

In addition to his work as a teacher and superintendent William Green Avera worked for teacher education, being frequently involved in the organization and presentation of “teacher institutes.” In the spring of 1895, Avera co-presented with James Rembert Anthony at a teacher institute held at Sparks, GA, on Saturday, March 16, 1895, their presentation: “Grammar, the Actual and Relative Importance of Parsing and Diagramming.” J. R. Anthony was a teacher from Valdosta, GA. Among others on the program was Marcus S. Patten, who presented “Reading: Teaching to read using Holmes as the text.”

In his 1913 work, A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Volume 2, author William Harden gave the following account of William Green Avera:

   PROF. WILLIAM GREEN AVERA. The career of a man who for the greater part of a life time has been identified with the training and education of the youth is always one of the most valuable assets of a community. Probably no educator in south Georgia has been so long or so closely connected with educational progress and the practical work of the schools as the present superintendent of the Berrien county schools, Prof. William Green Avera. He belongs to a family of pioneer Georgians, and was born on a farm in Clinch county, the 1st of August, 1855.

*****

  Reared in a good home and trained to habits of industry, William G. Avera early manifested special inclination for study and the pursuit of knowledge, and made the best of his early opportunities of schooling. He has been a lifelong student, and when he was eighteen he was entrusted with his first school, located three miles east of Nashville. For thirty-three years, an entire generation, he was in the active work of the schoolroom, and he taught children and children’s children during that time. The aggregate length of his service out of those thirty-three years was twenty-five full years, a third of a long lifetime. In 1907  professor Avera was elected superintendent of the Berrien county schools, and by re-elections has since served continuously in that office. His administration has been marked by many improvements in the county educational system.

   In 1877 Professor Avera was united in marriage with Miss Eliza J. Sirmans. Mrs. Avera was born in Berrien county, daughter of Abner and Frances (Sutton) Sirmans. She died at Sparks in 1905. In 1911 Professor Avera married Margaret McMillan, a native of Berrien county and daughter of Randall McMillan. The following children were born to Professor Avera by his first marriage, namely: Sirman W., Marcus D., Bryant F., Aaron G., Alice J., Homer C., Abner J., Willis M., Lona, and Lula. Marcus D., Homer C., Abner J., and Lula are now deceased. Aaron G. married Fannie Key, now deceased, and has one son, William. Sirman W. married Annie Young and has a daughter named Georgia. Bryant F. married Mary Patton. Alice J. is the wife of William T. Parr, and has four children, J. W.,Stella, Saren and Gladys. Lona married Austin Avera, son of I. C. Avera, sheriff of Berrien county.

   In 1878 Professor Avera settled on a farm eight miles southeast of Nashville, and that was the home of his family until 1904, when it was temporarily removed to Sparks that the children might have the benefit of the superior educational advantages available in the Sparks Collegiate institute there. Prof. Avera’s present home is at Nashville, the county seat of Berrien county. He still owns the old home where all of his children were born and reared, and where his beloved deceased wife and children are buried. Sacred is the memory of this home to the man who has given the best years of his life to the educational and moral upbuilding of this section of Georgia. 

   Professor Avera and wife are members of the Primitive Baptist church, and in politics he is a Democrat.