Ray City Bank Woes ~ 1931

1928 Letterhead of The Citizens Bank of Ray City, GA

1928 Letterhead of The Citizens Bank of Ray City, GA

The Citizens Bank, Ray City, GA – 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

Through the stock market crash of 1929 The Citizens Bank of Ray City remained in business , and the local ”boosters” remained optimistic. (see Bank of Ray City, GA through Optimism and Depression)  The firm’s letterhead from 1928 shows George W. Varn was president; James H. “Jim” Swindle, Vice President; John D. Luke, Cashier; and J. W. Johnson, assistant cashier.

Nashville Herald November 21, 1929

As we understand it the Citizens Bank of Ray City is one of the strongest financial institutions in the county and its business is growing steadily as will be shown by the last financial statement as called for by the superintendent of state banks.  It has total resources of over $150,000, and deposits of over $100,000 and shows that it has no notes and bills rediscounted. Berrien county is justly proud of its banking institutions and conservative business men do not hesitate to place the Citizens Bank of Ray City along with the head of list.

In fact, in July of 1930, the Atlanta Constitution had reported that the banks of Berrien County, including the Ray City bank were financially sound.

But by the end of December, the Citizens Bank of Ray City had failed.

The closing of The Citizens Bank of Ray City was among those announced in December of 1930.

The closing of The Citizens Bank of Ray City was among those announced in December of 1930.

MORE BANKS CLOSED IN SOUTHERN STATES

New York Times.  Dec 21, 1930.

ATLANTA, Ga., Dec. 20 (AP) – A. B. Mobley, State Superintendent of Banks, announced today his department had been asked to take over the affairs of the Union Banking Company of Douglas, operating branches at Barxton and Nichols, the Toombs County Bank at Lyons and the Citizens Bank of Ray City. Cause of the closings was not stated.

In 1931, the Ray City Bank underwent reorganization. A series of Nashville Herald articles reported on the situation:

The Nashville Herald
January 29, 1931, front page,

R.E. Dean in Charge of Ray City Bank

      Mr. R.E. Dean who is in charge of the affairs of the closed Ray City bank is making satisfactory progress with his work.  Optimism prevails in regard to the opening of the bank, for there can be no better location for a banking institution than Ray City, situated as it is in the heart of one of the finest farming sections in South Georgia, and the land tilled by experienced and reliable farmers who are good for their contracts.

The Nashville Herald
  February 19, 1931, front page,

Citizens Bank, Ray City Applies to Sell Assets

If Offer Is Accepted Depositors Will Receive 50 Per Cent Net.

      According to an announcement of a hearing to be held before Judge W.R. Smith at the court house in this city Saturday, Feb. 21, an application will be made by the State Superintendent of Banks, A.B. Mobley, to sell the assets of the Citizens Bank of Ray City, which closed a short while before Christmas.  It is understood that the depositors have recommended that the offer be accepted.
       An extract from the notice reads as follows:  “Notice is hereby given that the undersigned has received an offer for the purchase of the assets of The Citizens Bank of Ray City, by the terms of which officer the depositors of said Bank are to receive fifty per cent of their claims net, the preferred claims against said Bank being fully paid under the terms of said offer, in addition to the payment of the fifty per cent net to the depositors.”
       The Herald was unable to learn whether or not the bank would be reopened for business.

The Nashville Herald
February 26, 1931, front page,

Ray City Bank Opened Tuesday

      As we go to press encouraging news reaches us, that while permanent arrangements has not yet been perfected for the opening of the bank there, yet tentative arrangements have and the bank has been doing business since Tuesday.  This good news will increase the optimism, now prevailing in this section over the picking-up of business generally.

The Nashville Herald
March 12, 1931, front page

Ray City Bank Pays Depositors 50 Per Cent

John D. Luke, Cashier of Old Bank In Charge of New Organization

      The Ray City Banking Company has reopened for business under an agreement to pay the depositors 50 per cent cash for the amount of their deposits, and has been making these payments since last Thursday.  It is understood that many of the depositors are leaving their money in the bank, which although a private institution is said to be doing a good business, and receiving large deposits.
       The above arrangement was made possible through the efforts of Messrs. George W. Varn, A.D. Lee and Y.F. Carter, who put up the money with which to pay off the depositors.  Mr. John D. Luke, cashier before the bank was closed, is again acting in this capacity.
      The institution is known as the Citizens Banking Company, and serves one of the best communities in this section.  The general prediction is that the institution will continue to prosper.

Article transcriptions provided in part by Skeeter Parker.

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Ray City Prosperity Proclaimed Amid 1929 Stock Market Crash

In 1929, less than 30 days  after Black Tuesday and  the beginning of the stock market crash,  the Nashville Herald was running stories to bolster the local Berrien County, GA economy.  The Ray City “booster” story assured readers that the bank in Ray City was financially strong,  and that trade was brisk among the  businesses of the town.

The Nashville Herald, front page, November 21, 1929
RAY CITY A VERY PROSPEROUS SECTION

BY CHAS, HIMSELF

In keeping with the policy of the Herald to boost and build up all sections of Berrien County, Mr. A.W. Starling and myself spent Monday afternoon in the interest of a Ray City Community page which appears in another section of this edition.  Upon our arrival, which was the first stop we had ever made in this enterprising town, we were greeted by our old friend, Mr. C.H. Winderweedle, of the firm of Johnson and Winderweedle, who do a general mercantile business and carry in connection a high grade line of groceries.  Mr. Winderweedle showed us every consideration and was one of the first of the business men of the community to sign up for one of the spaces in the booster page.  He was quite a bit more optimistic than some of th merchants called upon and stated that although his was a new firm that he was well pleased with their beginning and intimated that with the bargains they were offering that the and his partner anticipated a continued growth in trade.

Our next stop was made at the Citizens Bank of Ray City, where we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John D. Luke, the popular and efficient cashier of the institution.  Mr. Luke is a man of very pleasing personality and during our short conversation we can very easily understand why the banking institution of which he is the head has prospered as it has.  As we understand it the Citizens Bank of Ray City is one of the strongest financial institutions in the county and its business is growing steadily as will be shown by the last financial statement as called for by the superintendent of state banks.  It has total resources of over $150,000, and deposits of over $100,000 and shows that it has no notes and bills rediscounted.  Berrien county is justly proud of its banking institutions and conservative business men do not hesitate to place the Citizens Bank of Ray City along with the head of list.

We casually visited the firm of Swindle and Clements and were surprised to find the class of merchandise that a large force of clerks were busy dispensing to a large number of customers who were continually pouring in and out of the store.  In fact their rush was so great that it was several minutes before we could interview Mr. Clements, and when we did he readily agreed with our proposition to assist in boosting the county and he and Mr. Swindle readily signed up for one of the ads on the Ray City Booster Page.  While in his store we were what might be termed a “victim of circumstance” insamuch as we spied a string of jack fish, which were so near uniform size that we became attracted to them and after getting their weight, bought the six pound string for the insignificant sum of 90 cents.  Mr. Clements stated that his firm always has a supply of these fresh water fish on hand, which are alive when brought to his store, and supplies the lovers of the finny tribe with fresh oysters at all times in season.  Their meat market which is operated in connection with the store is modern in every detail and is equipped with Frigidaire cold storage apparatus, insuring their patrons of always receiving the most sanitary meats.

Upon a trip of this nature it is natural for one to become fatigued and need refreshing so we made a call upon the C.O. Terry Drug Store, the proprietor of which is familiarly known as “The Accommodating Druggist.”  Dr. Terry, himself waited upon us and true to his slogan proved to be very accommodating.  Being a very busy man dispensing cold drinks, filling prescriptions and waiting upon the trade in general, we did not get to spend as much time with him as we would have like, but a careful survey of the store convinced us that he was modern in his ideas and carried a choice line of drugs as well as druggists sundries.  Another noticeable feature was a large sign across the rear end of the store reading “Sargon” which is evidence enough within itself to show that he is the leading druggist of his section.

Just before taking leave of the little city it was our pleasure to visit the garden of Mrs. J.H.P. Johnson, which is a marvel, especially considering the dry weather.  Our observation of the garden and surroundings, convinced us that there is no danger of the family going hungry unless they should suddenly become too weak to pull up vegetables, milk a cow, kill a chicken, or clean a hog, as there was plenty of evidence that this family believes in living at home.

The above trip was an eye-opener to us, and our suggestion is that the people of Berrien County should “Know Your County Better.”

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

Ray City Home of Hod P. Clements

Hosea “Hod” P. Clements and his wife, Alma,  lived in a house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA, where they raised their daughters, Mildred and Frances.

According to a 1973 Valdosta Times interview, Hod Clements was born in 1890 in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA and moved to Ray City in the 1920s.

Home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA was the residence of Alma and Hosea

Home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA was the residence of Alma and Hosea “Hod” Peoples Clements.

Armed with a degree from the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute, Hod Clements went into business in Ray City.

 “From 1923 until 1945 Clements operated a general store named Swindle and Clements.”

In 1948, buying the old Ray City Bank and its equipment for $3,500 he began banking with a capital of $10,000.

The original Ray City Bank was begun by his uncle Jim Swindle who organized it around 1908.

Ray City Alumni of Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Abbeville, GA

See also Georgia Normal College and Business Institute,

When students in Ray’s Mill, GA sought educational opportunities beyond the common schools of the area, Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Abbeville, Georgia was one option.  In 1902 cousins Lucius Jordan Clements and Bessie Clements graduated from the Institute. L.J. Clements went on to manage the operation of his family’s business, Clements Sawmill at Ray City.  His younger brother, William Grover Clements, also completed studies at the college and returned to Berrien County to become a teacher. Another Clements cousin  who attended the institute in 1911, Hod P. Clements, later founded the Bank of Ray City.

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Abbeville, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA.

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Abbeville, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image coutesty of Berrien County Historical Foundation http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Campus of Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in Abbeville, GA

Campus of Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in Abbeville, GA

"Central Hotel" - Dormitory at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in Abbeville, GA

“Central Hotel” Dormitory at Georgia Normal College and Business InstituteAbbeville, GA

1. The Atlanta Constitution. 30 May 1902. Abbeville College Closes. Atlanta, Georgia. pg 4

 

Checking on Citizens Bank of Ray City

Canceled checks drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City, Ray City, GA document some of the local businesses that Effie Guthrie Knight transacted with during 1927.

1927 check drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City and made payable to Dr. Folsom.

1927 check drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City and made payable to Dr. Folsom.

As the check above shows, Dr. George Hill Folsom came to Berrien County, GA some time prior to 1927. He established his home in Ray City where he engaged in general practice. A check in the amount of $1.00 might have been typical payment for an office visit in that time.

1927 check written by Effie Knight to C.O. Terry, and drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

1927 check written by Effie Knight to C.O. Terry, and drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

Written the same day as the previous check, this check to Ray City pharmacist, C. O. Terry,  may have been to fill a prescription written by Dr. George Hill Folsom.

Check drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City in payment to G. M. Purvis, made out in the amount of two dollars and fifty cents, and signed by Effie Knight.

Check drawn on the Citizens Bank of Ray City in payment to G. M. Purvis

Another check written by Effie Knight  is made out to G.M. Purvis.  Guy Marvin Purvis owned a general merchandise store in Ray City, GA.  Furthermore, he was Effie’s brother-in-law so naturally she’d be inclined to do business there.

 A check made out July 5, 1927 to G.V. Hardie in the amount of twelve dollars and seventy cents, and drawn on the account of Effie Knight at The Citizens Bank of Ray City.

A check made out July 5, 1927 to G.V. Hardie in the amount of twelve dollars and seventy cents, and drawn on the account of Effie Knight at The Citizens Bank of Ray City.

In the 1920s, Gordon Vancie Hardie opened up the first gas station in Ray City, GA. The check above may have been payment for service on Effie Knight’s car.

 

Lawson Fountain ~ Ray City Banker

Lawson Fountain of Ray City, GA.

Lawson Fountain of Ray City, GA.

Lawson Fountain

Lawson Fountain grew up in Ray City, GA and was educated in the Ray City School.  He graduated with the Class of 1939  and later married his high school classmate, Mildred Clements.

In 1949,  Lawson’s father-in-law, H.P. Clements, opened a bank and named it the Bank of Ray City.  Mr. Hod P. Clements and Lawson Fountain operated the state chartered bank until Mr. Clements was forced to retire due to ill health. Then  Lawson Fountain served as President of the bank. His home was on the east side of town.

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In 1959, Lawson Fountain served on the City Council of Ray City.

Lawson Fountain, 1959, Ray City, GA Councilman

Lawson Fountain, 1959, Ray City, GA Councilman

From a 1973 bank newsletter:

    Lawson Fountain returned from Jacksonville, Florida to his hometown in 1956 and helped start the Bank of Ray City. He continued his banking career with the Citizens Bank after it purchased The Bank of Ray City.

    ” I have always enjoyed banking,” Lawson said, ” and knowing just about everybody in this area is an added pleasure in my work. People like banking at home because it saves out-of-town trips for banking services. We are open five days a week from 9 until 4, and the drive-in opens at 8:30 every morning.”

    Lawson is married to the former Mildred Clements, and they both grew up in Ray City. Their only son, James, now lives in Oregon.

    Fishing is Lawson’s favorite pastime, and he said he enjoys the many good fishing places around Ray City.

    The Fountains are active in Ray City United Methodist Church.

    Lawson Fountain’s knowledge of the people and their needs in the Ray City area adds a personal touch to banking at the Bank of Ray City Office of the Citizens Bank.

Grave marker of Lawson F. Fountain, Nov 7, 1922, Jan 23, 1989, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Lawson F. Fountain, (1922-1989) Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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Shoe String Bandits Strike Ray City Bank

In 1972 the headline news in the Ray City, GA area was the robbery of the Ray City Bank.

Ray City, GA Bank robbed in 1972

 Coffee County Progress, June 19, 1972

Ray City Bank Robbed of $3,869

Friday morning, June 16, the Ray City Bank, Berrien County, was held up by two armed black men. They escaped with $3869.90 from the safe and cash drawer.  As  of this time no one has been apprehended.
Chief of police, Johnny Wood, says his department is working with state and federal officials around the clock.
In addition to stealing money from the bank, the robbers locked three employees and two customers in the bank vault after confiscating the money.
Funds at the bank were insured by Fireman’s Insurance Company, and the stolen loot has already been replaced, according to bank president Lawson Fountain.

Eye Witness Report

Head Teller at the Ray City Bank, Mrs. Betty Buerger, gave the Progress her account of the robbery. It is as follows:
“Two black men entered the bank together, one was six feet tall, weighing about 180 pounds, looked to be between 20 and 25 years of age. He was wearing a tan shirt, flared, tight brown pants. He wore his hair in an Afro style and had a moustache.
“The other robber who was holding a snub-nosed pistol, was about five feet six inches tall, wore a purple shirt, and also wore his hair Afro style. He did not speak very much during the time they were in the bank.
“The tall robber came to my teller cage and asked to have two $20.00 bills changed for forty ones. Then the short fellow came in behind me with his pistol drawn.
“About that time the tall man, as he picked up his forty dollars in one dollar bills shoved a homemade pillow case in my cage, and said, ‘hurry up, I don’t want to hurt you.’
“I then emptied my cash drawer into the pillow case and at that time he motioned for me to go to the vault, and pulled the vault door open. He emptied the safe of 500 one dollar bills, crammed it into his pillow case and proceeded to empty John Robinson’s personal cash bag from the vault.
“After opening a new package of shoe strings, the robber tied my hands behind my back, told me to sit on the floor of the vault and tied my feet together.
“Mrs. Marilyn Blyler, another teller, returned from the post office and the pair tied her up and closed the vault door.
“At this time a customer John Brantley and his son Walter entered the bank building, and they were herded into the vault  and were quickly followed by Jimmy Fountain, son of President Lawson Fountain.
” The Robbers asked Jimmy how to lock the vault and Jimmy obliged. As soon as the door was locked the robbers made a clean get-a-way.”
Vault prisoners were concerned for the health of Mr. Brantley, who was reported to be in poor health, but he calmed the others by telling them, “It won’t be long before someone comes, because our wives are outside.
Mrs. Brantley came into the office, did not say anything but coughed. Mr. Brantley said “That’s Hazel, and called to her, reported the bank had been robbed and that he and other employees were locked in the vault, and asked her to get the police.
Jackie Giddens came into the bank and Mrs. Bueger told him how to unlock the vault and within thirty minutes from their lock-in they were all free and breathing a sigh of relief.

The five by five foot concrete and steel vault posed no immediate danger, but could have been disastrous if it had not been opened in a short time.

Witnesses all say they had never seen either of the men before, but from accents they were believed to have been from the North. Both were calm, cool, and collected, indicating they were professionals.

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Bank of Ray City, GA through Optimism and Depression

The Citizens Bank of Ray City was among the first businesses to advertise in the town’s newspaper, The Ray City News, when it began circulation in 1929.

The Citizens Bank, Ray City, GA – 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

In a newspaper clipping from the Jan 3, 1929 issue of the Ray City News the stockholders of the Citizens Bank of Ray City were pleased with the financial reports.

In a newspaper clipping from the Jan 3, 1929 issue of the Ray City News the stockholders of the Citizens Bank of Ray City were pleased with the financial reports.

Ray City News
Ray City, GA
January 3, 1929

 Bank Stockholders Hold Annual Meet

    The stockholders of the Citizens Bank of Ray City held their annual meeting on December 18th – illegible text –
    Examination of the – illegible text – well pleased at the report.
    The same officers and directors were elected for the new year.

In 1929, the Citizens Bank of Ray City, was optimistically advertising for new depositors.

When the stock market crashed, the bank managed to remain in business.  In fact, in July of 1930, the Atlanta Constitution reported that the banks of Berrien County, including the Ray City bank were financially sound.  But by the end of December 1930 the Citizens Bank of Ray City had failed.

 MORE BANKS CLOSED IN SOUTHERN STATES
New York Times.  Dec 21, 1930.

ATLANTA, Ga., Dec. 20 (AP) – A. B. Mobley, State Superintendent of Banks, announced today his department had been asked to take over the affairs of the Union Banking Company of Douglas, operating branches at Braxton and Nichols, the Toombs County Bank at Lyons and the Citizens Bank of Ray City. Cause of the closings was not stated.

“After that bank failed other banks were opened but they all  suffered from the nation’s economic troubles and none were successful. Until, in 1949, H.P. Clements opened a private bank and named it the Bank of Ray City.  It was a state chartered bank operated by Mr. Clements and his son-in-law,  Lawson Fountain. In later years Mr. Clements was forced to retire due to ill health. ”

Bank of Ray City

Bank of Ray City

The Bank of Ray City in 1972. In 1973 the bank was acquired by the Citizens Bank of Nashville. Georgia, and is now the Ray City office of that bank. The old bank building pictured above has since been demolished.

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1929 Merchants Support Ray City News

Many Ray City, GA residents felt that a home town newspaper was an essential element in the growth of the town. When the Ray City News began printing the local news, the local businessmen and merchants placed a full page advertisement showing their support.

The Ray City News, Ray City, Georgia

TO THE PUBLIC

    The undersigned merchants and business men of Ray City herewith announces the establishment of The Ray City News in the town of Ray City;
    And believing that a paper here means a great deal to the commercial life and development of our town, we are taking this method of be-speaking, for the paper, the support of the public and in asking that you subscribe to and read the Ray City News:

Citzens Bank of Ray City
M. G. Melton
C. O. Terry
Swindle & Clements
W.H.E. Terry
J. H.P. Johnson
J. L. Moore
Dr. G. H. Folsom
Charlie Shaw
Norton Service Station
A. Levin
L. F. Giddens
H. W. Woodard
J. A. Purvis
Studstill and Clements
G. M. Purvis    General Merchandise
Ray City Motor Co
Ray City Ice and Cold Storage Co.

Ray City Investors Receive State Bank Charter

News of  the granting of a state charter to the Bank of Rays Mill was published in the Atlanta Georgian and News, April 28, 1911 — page 3:

Atlanta Georgian and News, Apr. 28, 1911 — page 3
CHARTERS ARE GRANTED OF TWO STATE BANKS

Institutions at Douglas and Rays Mill Are Granted Permits To Do Business

    Two banks were granted charters and another put in its application to Philip Cook, secretary of state, Friday morning.
A charter was granted to the Bank of Douglas, Coffee county, capitalized at $50,000, with the following incorporators: Cr. Tidwell, F. Willis Dart, Elmo Tanner, all of Coffee county.
The Bank of Rays Mill was chartered with a capital stock of $25,000, and another financial institution to Berrien county. The following are the incorporators: J.S. Swindle, J.H. Swindle, M.T. Bradford, W.H.E. Terry, R.M. Green, and J. F. Sutton, all of Berrien county, and B.P. Jones, C.L. Jones, C.L. Smith, and J.B. Griffin, of Lowndes county.

The bank opened its doors for business on August 14, 1911.  Later, the name was changed to the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

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