Henry Howard Thompson was a Skidder Flagman

Pine and Cypress timber have been an important resource in Wiregrass Georgia since pioneer times. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, “The 1870 census showed that timber was already becoming a profitable industry for Georgia with the annual timber value rising from $2.4 million to more than $4.0 million in that decade. By 1880, Georgia ranked first in the South in total lumber production and was second only to North Carolina in number of sawmills…With virtually no regard for conservation, early settlers simply cleared forestlands, cultivated an area for a few years, then abandoned their fields for freshly cleared lands.”

By the 1900s, virtually every South Georgia town had its sawmill and turpentine operations, including Ray City. In those early days, logging was done by hand;  trees were felled with two-man crosscut saws, and skiddermen like Claudie Royal dragged by horse- or mule-drawn skidder carts to a railroad tram for transportation to the sawmill. There was no safety equipment and little concern about the occupational safety of the workers.  Cutting timber was inherently dangerous, and workers were presumed to know how to do their jobs safely – the risk was theirs.

When steam power was harnessed to do the heavy work of dragging felled pine and cypress timber out of the forests and swamps of Wiregrass Georgia, someone had to signal the equipment operator when the logs were ready to be moved.  That was the job of Henry Howard Thompson,  Skidder Flagman.  In 1917, Thompson was employed at the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City, GA. He gave his home address as Anniston, AL.

Henry Howard Thompson, Draft registration card, 1917

Henry Howard Thompson, Draft registration card, 1917

Henry H. Thompson was born in Heflin, Alabama in 1898, a son of Henry and Rameth Thompson.  On June 5, 1917 he registered for the draft in Berrien County, GA.  Three weeks later, on Sunday, June 24, 1917  Henry married Rose Lee Drawdy in Berrien County.  The ceremony was performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens, Justice of the Peace at Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Henry Howard Thompson, June 7, 1917, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Henry Howard Thompson and Rosa Lee Drawdy, June 7, 1917, Berrien County, GA.

Rose Lee Drawdy, born July 15, 1900, was a daughter of Susan M. Green and Daniel Drawdy, and a granddaughter of Delilah Hinson and Noah Green. Her father was a veteran of the Civil War having served with Company K, 32 Georgia Regiment. Her mother and grandmother later lived at Rays Mill (now Ray City, GA).

As a skidder flagman Henry Howard Thompson was part of a crew that operated an overhead skidder or a ground skidder, sometimes called a “possum dog” skidder. The crew also  included a log “tong” man, drum man, a foreman and other workers.

The skidder, placed in the woods, was used for pulling logs from the forest and bunching them in convenient places to be loaded upon wagons by the team crew and conveyed to the logging railroad. A skidder could be mounted on slides and moved from place to place by means of cable and slides resting on the ground, and upon being put up was operated under its own steam, and a drum, around which there was a steel cable, would draw in the logs. Cables could be run so the skidder dragged logs along the ground,  or could be run from tree to tree with a system of pulleys allowing the logs to be lifted and transported  by overhead skidders.

There were tongs attached to the ends of the cable to be fastened around the logs, and it was the duty of the tong man to apply the tongs to the log, and the flagman would thereupon signal the drum man, who would start the machinery and pull the log to its proper place. The cable ran through a pulley attached to a tree some 15 or 20 feet from the ground, and to offset the strain upon the tree guy wires or lines were run to and attached to other trees some 30 or 40 feet away. The skidder could draw in logs within a radius of 900 feet from all sides…the logs being pulled in would encounter obstructions and the operations were more or less dangerous.

Old time South Carolina logger Lacy Powell talked about how it was:

“The skidder used an 85-foot high rig-tree, usually a cypress with the top cut out and fitted with a huge pulley. It could reach out with cables to pull logs from a 600-foot radius to the track where they were loaded on cars. The rails were moved to the timber as it was cut.”

“It was dangerous work. Falling trees crushed loggers. Limbs snapped from a falling tree and ‘slingshotted’ back to strike loggers.”

“A flagman signaled the skidder operator when a log was hooked on the line to be hauled to the track. The skidder whistle hooted twice to warn the men to watch for the flying log.”

“You knew to stay away from a log on the skidder line,” Powell said.

Steam powered skidder loading logs. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/38948

Steam powered skidder loading logs. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/38948

But, mud and water in the swamp made quick movement by workers impossible.

“You couldn’t run; you settled down in that mud,” he added.

Death was an ever-present hazard in the logging operations. Six long blasts of the steam skidder whistle signaled a fatal accident. ‘That was a lonesome sound. People would come from everywhere to see who was dead.’

The men made stretchers for the dead and injured by running saplings through the sleeves of the denim jackets they usually wore. – Star News, July 26, 1981

 

One such example was that of R. L. Mikell, skidder operator for the Gray and Gatchell sawmill at Howell, GA:

Tifton Gazette
June 29, 1907

Valdosta, Ga., June 5  R. L. Mikell, a skidder for Gray and Gatchell, at Howell [Echols County, GA], suffered injury from an accident to-day that may cause his death. He was operating a skidder; pulling logs from a swamp when one log became fastened against another.   He tried to release it, when the log swung around and struck him, breaking his thigh. The log that obstructed it also flew up and broke the thigh in another place, knocking Mr. Mikell down and rolling over him, causing internal injuries.  The physicians regard his case as critical.

 

By 1920, Henry H. Thompson had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where they were living next door to his sister, Mamie Lou, and  brother-in-law, Charlie Buckhannan.  Henry was a stationary engineer and Charlie was a mechanic, both working for the Henderson Lumber Company. They were living on the East & West Highway in the Henderson Lumber Company quarters.  The Henderson Lumber Company had its operation near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road, about where the  Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad (formerly the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta) terminated at Shaw’s Still.

Later the Thompsons moved to Jacksonville, FL.

Henry Howard Thompson died May 13, 1982 and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson died August 9, 1986. They are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, FL.

Graves of Henry Howard Thompson (1898-1982) and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson (1900-1986).

Graves of Henry Howard Thompson (1898-1982) and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson (1900-1986). Image source: Johnny

Logging Ten Mile Bay

The early sawmill operations of Wiregrass Georgia required a constant supply of  timber to maintain production and profitability. Smaller sawmill operations could be moved close to the timber tracts where logs were being cut. For larger operation, such as the Clements Sawmill on the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad at Ray City,  logging timber typically involved transporting cut logs to the sawmill by skidder and tram.

Skiddermen like Claudie RoyalRobert Christopher Powell and Lawrence Cauley Hall used two wheel “Perry” carts pulled by a team of horses or mules to drag  or skid felled logs.  According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1918 publications, in Georgia a typical skidderman worked a 60 hour workweek, for a wage of 22.5 cents an hour, or $13.50 per week. The skiddermen dragged logs from where they were cut the short distance to the tracks of the railway tram, where they were loaded and hauled to the sawmill.  Oxen could be used pull skidders in areas too wet for horses or mules,  but even oxen couldn’t skid logs out of the deepest swamps.

Ten Mile Bay northeast of Ray City was one of the first places in this section where logs were hauled out of the swamp by overhead skidder.

At Southernmatters.com, Bill Outlaw relates how the deep swamp of Ten Mile Bay provided a hide out for Confederate deserters and draft dodgers during the Civil War. You can read Bill’s observations on Ten Mile Bay at http://www.southernmatters.com/image-database/upload/Nashville/Nashville-051.html The fact was, there were significant numbers of Southerners who did not support Secession or the war. Outlaw describes Ten-mile Bay as lying east of a line drawn between Alapaha and Nashville. William M. Avera, son of Daniel Avera and Tobitha Cook Avera, constructed an earthen dam from 1880 to 1884 across the lower end of Ten Mile Bay.  This impoundment at the southern outfall of the bay created the Avera Mill Pond (now known as Lake Lewis), the mill run forming the Allapacoochee Creek (now known as Ten-mile Creek), which is the eastern boundary of the W.H. Outlaw Farm. Beyond the actual bay, a considerable area of land is quite swampy.

Bill Outlaw cites the unpublished papers of W.H. Griffin Jr., (1863-1932) in which Griffin describes the Ten Mile Bay as a deserter’s stronghold:

“Lying in the Northeastern portion of orginal Berrien county, four miles southeast of Allapaha, and six miles northeast of Nashville,lies an almost impenetrable swamp known far and wide as the ‘Ten Mile Bay.’ It is the sourse of Ten mile Creek, a stream running southward through the flat woods of eastern Berrien, flanked by numerous flat ponds and fed by sluggish pond drains until it mingles its wine colored waters with those of the Fivemile Creek,  near where Empire church is located when together they form Big creek, as stream of no mean importance in the county and which, harboring thousands of perch, pike, jack and trout, to say nothing of the unlimited nimber of catfish, winds its tortuos and limpid way on past Milltown to mingle its leave stained waters with those of the Alapaha river…Its denseness, its dreary solitudes, its repulsiveness on these accounts and on account of the numerous wild animals rattle snakes that frequented its fastnesses rendered it a place which the ordinary mortal dredded to enter. It covers an area of about twenty square miles, being about six miles from North to South and a average with of three to four miles. It is covered in water for a portion of the winter and spring season with a depth of anywhere from one to three feet deep, and interspersed with numerous elevated hummocks which lift their surfaces anywhere from six inches to a foot and a half above the water and from a quarter to a half acre in extent.  These hummocks are overgrown with vines and brambles, Ty Ty other swamp growth and thickly dotted with the tall growing huckleberry or blue berry bushes anywhere from three to ten feet high and from which every year thousands of berries are gathered by the neighboring citizens, who often go from a distance of ten miles away to gather berries.  It  takes a stout heart and brave resolution, to say nothing of intrepid courage and a power of endurance to hardships to get a tenderfoot into that swamp a second time. Only the person who has been through the swamp under the direction of native guides is willing to undertake an excursion into this ‘No man’s Land,’ for the chances are that he will become lost and consequently experience the greatest difficulty in finding his way out of the dreary wilderness of bog and fen, bramble and thicket. This dreary place became the rendezvous of many deserters during the war…”

When the Bootle & Lane sawmill brought overhead skidding to Berrien County in 1917 to log Ten-mile Bay, the news was reported in the Lumber Trade Journal.

1917-logging-ten-mile-bay

The Lumber Trade Journal
September 15, 1917

Complete Construction Work

Savannah, Ga. – Bootle & Lane, who moved to Nashville, Ga., from Charleston, S. C.. a short time ago to embark in the sawmill business, have just completed the work of erecting their mill, six miles east of Nashville, on the Georgia & Florida railroad, and are beginning to make their first shipments of lumber to the markets.  This firm purchased a large quantity of swamp timber in that county.  They are now taking logs out of the Ten-Mile Bay with overhead skidders.  This is an innovation in this country as no such powerful skidders were ever seen there before.  There is a large quantity of valuable timber in this swamp, but no one has ever thought it feasible to get it out.

The overhead skidder was powered by a steam engine which could be moved from place to place on a logging railroad flatcar. The steam engine drove a drum around which there was a steel cable which would draw in the logs to drier land where they could be loaded and conveyed to the sawmill. The steam-powered rig could drag logs from the swamp up to 900 feet in all directions.  Where this equipment was used to pull logs along the ground it was referred to as a “ground skidder” or “possum dog skidder.” But when the system of steel cables and pulleys were rigged from trees allowing logs to be suspended and hauled out above the muddy swamp, it was called an overhead skidder. Operating steam powered skidders was dangerous work.  The logs being pulled in would sometimes encounter obstructions.  Then the flying logs could move in erratic and unpredictable direction.  The steam skidders were worked by teams of men, and communications were passed from the crews to the skidder operator by flagmen, such as Henry Howard Thompson of Ray City, who signaled when the logs were ready to pull. The men knew to stay away from a log on the skidder line.

Advertisement for overhead skidders manufactured by Lidgerwood Mfg. Co. appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to extract timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Advertisement for overhead skidders manufactured by Lidgerwood Mfg. Co. appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to extract timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Advertisement for steel cable used in overhead skidder operations, manufactured by Williamsport Wire Rope Company, appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders rigged with pulleys and steel cables were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to harvest timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Advertisement for steel cable used in overhead skidder operations, manufactured by Williamsport Wire Rope Company, appearing in the Lumber World Review, November 10, 1921. Overhead skidders rigged with pulleys and steel cables were used by the Bootle & Lane Sawmill to harvest timber from Ten Mile Bay, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Related Posts:

Keith Clements and the Beauty Queens

Keith Clements was born in Ray City, GA, a son of James I. Clements and Annie Mae Carter and brother of J.I. Clements, Jr. and Mason Clements. His parents owned a home on the southeast corner of Ward Street and Jones Street. The Clements were among the most prominent families of Ray City.  The Clements sawmill was the largest industry and largest employer in Ray City.  After the Clements sold the lumber business about 1923, Keith’s father went into the retail grocery business.

Keith Clements, 1950,  Georgia Teachers College

Keith Clements, 1950, Georgia Teachers College

Keith attended  Ray City High School and graduated with the class of 1942.  All three Clements brothers served in World War II.

After the war, the three brothers attended Georgia Teachers College, now Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, GA. When a beauty review was organized  at the school to select a “Miss Teachers College,”  Keith Clements was always ready to step up as an escort for one of the young ladies in the competition.

Betty Fuller from McRae,

Betty Fuller from McRae, “Miss T. C. of 1949” with her escort Keith Clements.

1950-Keith-Clements-and-beauty-queen

~

1950-beauty-review-georgia-teachers-college

1950 Reflector – Yearbook of Georgia Teachers College

4th Annual Beauty Review

Lonadine Morgan from Egypt, Georgia, was crowned “Miss T. C. of 1950” at the fourth annual Beauty Review held in and overflowing auditorium. Sponsored by East Hall and escorted by Keith Clements, Lonadine reached the finals with a natural beauty and winning smile, her poise that of a champion. 

Lonadine Morgan,

Lonadine Morgan, “Miss Teachers College” of 1950, Statesboro, GA. Her escort was classmate Keith Clements, of Ray City, GA.

Betty Fuller from McRae,

Betty Fuller from McRae, “Miss T. C. of 1949” with the four other finalists: second-place winner Joyce Bowen of Rhine, third place winner Mary Ida Carpenter of Guyton, fourth place winner Mary West of Greymont, and Fay Joyner of Augusta.

Related Posts:

Lon Fender ~ Turpentine Operator

William Alonzo “Lon” Fender was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920).  His father was a Civil War  veteran and a farmer of the Naylor district, Lowndes County, GA before moving to Ray City, GA in his final years.

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  He owned farmland near here in the 1920s and a  turpentine still at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

Lon Fender was born December 14, 1868, the 5th among 12 Fender children.  He grew up on his father’s farm in the area of Naylor in Lowndes County, Georgia.  In 1898, he married Texas Irene Hagan, a daughter of John William Hagan (1836 – 1918) and  Mary Susan “Pollie” Smith (1834 – 1908).  The couple made their home in Tifton, GA for a time, and afterward at Valdosta, GA.

The 1910 census shows “Alonzo” Fender and his brother John Franklin Fender in Valdosta, GA with their families residing in neighboring households on Patterson Street; both were occupied as turpentine operators.

His parents were still in the Naylor area at that time, renting a farm. The farm was on a road parallel to the new railroad, and was just off the “Milltown Road.”   Their neighbors were Thomas A. Ray, and  the widow Mary C. Stone.  Sometime before 1920 his parents moved to Ray City where they purchased a house on Main Street.   Lon’s older brother, Wilson W. Fender, had come there to Ray City prior to 1910 and operated a hotel there.

Lon’s father,  William Alfred Fender, died prior to the enumeration of the 1920 census. His mother remained in their Ray City, GA home until her own death (said to be later that year), living  with her widowed daughter Nita Knight, and her grand daughters Reba A. Knight, Dorothy Knight, and grandson Ezekiel Knight.  William Alfred Knight and Susannah Allen Fender are buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA, with an undated grave marker.

Lon Fender and his brothers grew to be big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  The Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, Nov. 30, 1906 edition reported one of Lon  (W. L) Fender’s big deals:

1906-lon-fender-timber-deal

Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress
Nov. 30, 1906 — page 8

TURPENTINE AND TIMBER

Big Deals Completed at Valdosta and Milltown

Valdosta, Nov. 27. – (Special)  The largest and most important turpentine and timber deal which has occurred in Georgia in many a day was consummated here Saturday.  W. L. Fender, of this city, bought the entire turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.

Among the most  significant of Lon Fender’s Ray City dealings was his 1921 acquisition of the Sirmans Tract – 2,400 acres of virgin pine forest which was situated just north of town.

November 5, 1921 -  William Lon Fender purchases the 'Sirmans Tract' near Ray City, GA.

November 5, 1921 – William Lon Fender purchases the ‘Sirmans Tract’ near Ray City, GA.

 

Valdosta Times
November 5, 1921

2,400 ACRES OF TIMBER LAND BRING $100,000

VALDOSTA, Nov. 4. – W. L. Fender, of Valdosta, has bought 2,400 acres of timber land in Berrien county for $100,100, this being the largest and most important transaction of this kind recently in south Georgia. The land belonged to the J. C. Sirmans estate and was sold by the administrators. This is virgin long leaf yellow pine, and Mr. Fender will turpentine it and afterward saw the timber.

 

This valuable tract of timber figured prominently as a part of the transaction in which the Jackson Brothers acquired the big sawmill at Ray City – simultaneously purchasing the Clements Lumber Company from the Clements Family, and the Sirmans Tract from Lon Fender.  Local and state newspapers reported the transaction:

The Nashville Herald
February 16, 1923

The new owners [Jackson Brothers] have bought the Lon Fender timber tract, which Mr. Fender bought more than a year ago from the Sirmans estate. It is one of the finest timber tracts in this section of the state. This with the other timber insight affords at least five years running yet, and there is more to be had, it is said, that will run them ten years.

The Atlanta Constitution
March 4, 1923

The [Jackson Brothers] company purchased the Sirmans Timber, the largest body of original pine in south Georgia.  Several hundred acres of this timber had not been turpentined until last year.  This body of timber sold some two years abo for over $100,000 and let at once for turpentine purposes. It lies between Milltown and Nashville. As soon as the turpentine lease is off the Jackson brothers will begin sawing.

In the fall of 1925, Lon Fender leased farmland near Ray City from John Levi Allen.  This land was most of the former Jehu Patten farm, which consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (John Allen had purchased the farm from Jehu Patten in 1902 – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

William Lon Fender continued to make his home on Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA for the rest of his life.  He died March 10, 1949 while in Baldwin County, GA, and was buried  at Sunset Cemetery in Valdosta, GA.

Grave of William Lon Fender, Sunset Cemetery,  Valdosta, GA

Grave of William Lon Fender, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA

Related Posts:

Clements Lumber Company and the Company Town

sawmill bladeTHE SAWMILL CENSUS OF 1920

In the early days of Ray City, GA,  the economic engine of the community was sustained by farming and agriculture.  Large stands of original growth yellow pine supported the development of turpentine and lumber industries in the area.

Related Posts:

The Growth of Timber

 “…in Southern Georgia there are millions of acres of magnificent yellow-pine forests suitable for general building purposes, shipbuilding, etc. Within the last few years, Turpentine Plantations have been opened in these forests, for the purpose of manufacturing naval stores. Large quantities of timber and lumber are being annually shipped from Brunswick and Darien, to Northern, European, and South American ports. In the south-eastern portion of the State, the Live Oak—a valuable wood for shipbuilding—abounds.”   -1876 Handbook of the State of Georgia

Lumber and naval stores came to be among the most important  historic businesses of Ray City. The opening of the Georgia & Florida Railway  in 1908 spurred the growth of a sawmill that quickly became the major employer of the town.

The sawmill was the first large mechanized industrial operation in the Ray City area.

Atlanta Georgian and News,
Aug. 23, 1911 — page 13

Want Ad.

FIRST-CLASS circular saw filer wants a position; can give any reference concerning smooth lumber. No booze fighter.
C.A. Reed, Rays Mill, Ga.             26

In the traditional agricultural occupations issues like child labor or safety were personal matters. But as  employment grew in the emerging industrial workplace the risks and concerns of the community also grew.

“A study of the sources of industrial hazards undertaken in the 1930s by the U.S. Children’s Bureau found “the first three industries in frequency of disabling injuries were logging, coal mining, and sawmilling.” Logging, coal mining, and fertilizer manufacturing were the only industries that exceeded sawmilling in the severity of injuries and the number of fatalities.” The Journal of Southern History , Vol. 56, No. 4 (Nov., 1990), pp. 695-724

In 1923, the Nashville Herald reported an industrial accident at the Clements sawmill.  In early February of that year a young boy, son of Math Phillips, had his eye put out at the sawmill, leaving some to wonder if it was time for stricter enforcement of compulsory school attendance.    Sawmills were dangerous workplaces and newspaper reports of more horrific accidents were not entirely uncommon. With the stockpiling of combustible materials, there was a constant ever present danger of fire – a threat that was magnified in steam-powered sawmills where boilers were typically fired with scrap material.

Clements Lumber Company

Over the years this sawmill was operated under three different owners.  The big sawmill at Ray City first operated under the name Luckie Lumber Company, owned by William F. Luckie. It was a huge operation located about one mile north of Ray City on the rail line of Georgia & Florida Railway .  About 1911, W. F. Luckie sold out to Levi J. Clements and his sons.  The Clements Family had experience in the sawmill trade, and the Clements boys were college-educated businessmen.

 Lucius Jordan Clements, with Helen Elizabeth

Lucius Jordan Clements, with Helen Elizabeth “Betty” Clements and Daisy Pearle Clements. Image courtesy of Ron Yates http://www.yatesville.net

The Clements Brothers ran the company, Lucius J. Clements served as General Manager of the Clements Lumber Company, Irwin Clements was a manager at the mill, and Joe Clements was treasurer.

The superintendent of the mill was Melvin W. Rivenbark. Clarence Jones Gray was stenographer and bookkeeper for the firm. James Edmond Hall and John William Sims were Shipping Clerks and Chester Artemis Hall was an Assistant Shipping Clerk. George B. Norton was foreman of the planing mill. William Andrew Hendrix was an engineer and Samuel Arthur Ganas was employed at the mill as a stationary engineer. Morris C. Sumner was the assistant lumber inspector and Timothy Allen Washington was a lumber grader. Willis Gordon Hill was a stave miller. William Haines Joiner was a locomotive engineer and J. D. Melvin was a fireman. Jacob Ed Akridge was woods superintendent. Tom Lott and Elmore Medley were teamsters and Bee Mannin was a log chopper. Robert Christopher Powell was a skidder operator and Ples Phillips worked on the tram road. Will Thomas was a sawyer. R.D. Ward was a machinist. Bashey Wells was a contractor. Freddie Andrew Wheless was a carpenter. Many men and sometimes boys were employed as “sawmill laborers”, others worked as sawyers, teamsters, firemen, foremen, wheelwrights, commissary clerks, or marketmen. Many of the women worked out of their homes, in the occupation of “laundress.” By 1920, the sawmill had grown to a large industrial operation. A ‘sawmill town’ had grown up to house the sawmill workers and their families. The enumerator for 1920 US Census annotated the census forms to indicate the sawmill residents, showing that there were 78 households with 313 residents living in rented homes at the sawmill.  More workers lived in the surrounding area and in Ray City.

While residents of the ‘sawmill town’ had access to all of the goods and services in Ray City just a mile south on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida, the sawmill company also operated a commissary where workers could shop.   In the 1920’s the Clements sawmill provided a cold storage facility for curing meats as a part of the company operations. The cold storage was also available to the people of Ray City and the surrounding area.

NEWS ITEMS FROM RAY CITY

Nashville Herald, February 16, 1923

The few cold days we had last week were fine for people to hang up their meat. The Clements Lumber Company cold storage cured about 76,000 pounds, all of which was removed last week.

Before the widespread availability of electricity and electric refrigerators, cold storage of meat  was an important service to the community.  Poisoning could result from consumption of meat which was improperly cured or  stored.

House at Clements Sawmill

House at Clements Sawmill
Photographed in 2008, this log house was moved to the old Clements sawmill area around 1975-78 by John David Luke. The original structure was built with notched logs, the wing extending to the right, rear was constructed with sawn boards.

By 1923, the Clements were operating ten miles of tram road track to bring timber to the sawmill. The operation also included a lathe mill, and a planer. The mill had a inventory of sawn lumber on the ground with an estimated value of about $30,000.  In 2013 dollar’s that would have been more than half a million dollars worth of lumber.

In 1923 the Jackson Brothers, owners of the Jackson Lumber Company purchased the entire mill operation from Clements Lumber Company for $75,000 in cash in what was described as “one of the biggest business deals pulled of in this section in some time.”

1923-clements-lumber

If the Spring of 1923 brought the town’s biggest economic boom, the fall of ’23 brought its biggest bust.  For on  November 6, 1923 fire struck the big sawmill  at Ray City, GA  devastating the operation  and the local economy.

<strong>Clements Sawmill Site in 2008, Ray City, GA.</strong><br /> This view of the site of the Clements Sawmill, taken from the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad, shows the location of the remaining foundations. In the distance a residential structure that was later moved to the sawmill site. The

Clements Sawmill Site in 2008, Ray City, GA.
This view of the site of the Clements Sawmill, taken from the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad, shows the location of the remaining foundations. In the distance a residential structure that was later moved to the sawmill site. The “company town” which grew up around the sawmill once boasted a population of more than 300 people and 78 households.

~

Clements Sawmill Foundations, 2008, Ray City, GA. Eighty-five years later, all that remains of the Clements Sawmill are a few concrete foundations in a cow pasture located about one mile north of Ray City, GA, on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railway. Protruding from these foundations are heavy steel anchoring bolts, perhaps used to secure cutting or planing equipment, or to support boilers used to generate steam power for the mill.

Clements Sawmill Foundations, 2008, Ray City, GA.
Eighty-five years later, all that remains of the Clements Sawmill are a few concrete foundations in a cow pasture located about one mile north of Ray City, GA, on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railway. Protruding from these foundations are heavy steel anchoring bolts, perhaps used to secure cutting or planing equipment, or to support boilers used to generate steam power for the mill.

THE SAWMILL AT RAY CITY, GA

1920 Census

The enumerator for 1920 US Census annotated six pages of the census sheets indicate the sawmill residents, showing that there were 78 households with 313 residents living in rented homes at the sawmill.

Name

Relation

Est.Birth

Birthplace

Race

 Occupation

1

Walter Ferrey

head of household

abt 1885

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Lucia Ferrey

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Clifford Ferrey

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

2

Will Goodman

Head of household

abt 1887

District of Columbia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ola Green Goodman

Wife

abt 1879

Georgia

Black

laundress

Charlie Smith

Grandson

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Henry Matchett

Head of household

abt 1876

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Rebecca Matchett

Wife

abt 1884

Georgia

Black

Lenard Matchett

Son

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

Elmo Medley

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Josephine Medley

Wife

abt 1880

Georgia

Black

Edmond Wilson

Head of household

abt 1857

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Emma Wilson

Wife

abt 1875

Georgia

White

Harry Wilson

Son

abt 1901

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Burney Wilson

Son

abt 1902

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer-crossties

Goldie Wilson

Son

abt 1904

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Pearlie Wilson

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Rollie Wilson

Son

abt 1908

Georgia

White

Rossie Wilson

Son

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Edna May Wilson

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

White

Talley Wilson

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

John Browning

Head of household

abt 1895

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Willie Browning

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

White

Moselle Browning

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Odell Browning

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Avanell Browning

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Eulis P  Wallace

Head of household

abt 1889

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Louella Wallace

Wife

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Eunice Wallace

Daughter

abt 1916

Georgia

White

Willis G Hill

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Leila Hill

Wife

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Otis Hill

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Lon S Westbrook

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Blonnie Westbrook

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

White

J Lester Westbrook

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Eanos H Westbrook

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Randall M Westbrook

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Myrtle J Westbrook

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Timothy A Washington

Head of household

abt 1886

Florida

White

Sawmill grader

Viola E Washington

Wife

abt 1887

Florida

White

Eulalie Washington

Daughter

abt 1911

Georgia

White

Eunice A Washington

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

White

M Grace Washington

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

William A Hendricks

Head of household

abt 1879

Georgia

White

Sawmill engineer

Loula Hendricks

Wife

abt 1882

Georgia

White

Willie F Hendricks

Son

abt 1902

Florida

White

Minnie M Hendricks

Daughter

abt 1904

Florida

White

Jennie Vaughn

Head of household

abt 1878

South Carolina

White

Horace Vaughn

Son

abt 1903

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Henry Vaughn

Son

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Edna P Vaughn

Daughter

abt 1909

Georgia

White

Maudell Vaughn

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

White

Leon Vaughn

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Leila Vaughn

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Annie L Snowden

Head of household

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

laundress

Ed Miller

Head of household

abt 1859

Georgia

Black

Farmer -oa

Jennie Miller

Wife

abt 1870

Georgia

Black

laundress

Charity Adams

Daughter

abt 1879

Georgia

Black

laundress

Lilla Adams

Granddaughter

abt 1907

Georgia

Black

Marvin Adams

Grandson

abt 1909

Georgia

Black

Deothia Graham

Granddaughter

abt 1906

Georgia

Black

Howard Graham

Grandson

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Farm laborer

Frank Teacher

Head of household

abt 1871

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Loue Ella Teacher

Wife

abt 1891

South Carolina

Black

Arnie Mathis

Brother-in-law

abt 1900

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Warren P Wright

Head of household

abt 1863

South Carolina

White

Sawmill laborer

C Elizabeth Wright

Wife

abt 1856

Georgia

White

Henry C Smith

Brother

abt 1865

Georgia

White

Jim L Dorman

Head of household

abt 1893

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Abbie W Dorman

Wife

abt 1899

Florida

White

J B Dorman

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

Arlie M Dorman

Son

abt 1917

Florida

White

James P Dorman

Son

abt 1920

Georgia

White

Early A Walker

Head of household

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ruby M Walker

Wife

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Helma C Walker

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Emma C Walker

Daughter

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Isaac B Sirmans

Head of household

abt 1889

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Lucretia Sirmans

Wife

abt 1891

Georgia

White

Jimmie L Sirmans

Daughter

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Ida L Curry

Sister-in-law

abt 1907

Georgia

White

George H Dorman

Head of household

abt 1887

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Emma Dorman

Wife

abt 1897

Florida

White

J Cullin Dorman

Son

abt 1913

Florida

White

Ernest E Dorman

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

M Kathleen Dorman

Daughter

abt 1918

Florida

White

I S Vaughn

Head of household

abt 1887

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Annie R Vaughn

Wife

abt 1894

Georgia

White

Corley Luke

Boarder

abt 1886

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

I Lee Strickland

Head of household

abt 1898

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ada Strickland

Wife

abt 1902

Georgia

White

D Bash Wells

Head of household

abt 1878

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Martha Wells

Wife

abt 1888

Florida

White

Susie May Wells

Daughter

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Ophelia Wells

Daughter

abt 1913

Georgia

White

J B Wells

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Mack G Wells

Head of household

abt 1890

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Emma Wells

Wife

abt 1895

Florida

White

Carey W Wells

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Russell Wells

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

Jervel L Wells

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Frank M Hill

BrotherInLaw

abt 1860

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

James J Wells

Head of household

abt 1876

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Annie Wells

Wife

abt 1887

South Carolina

White

James C Wells

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Woodrow O Wells

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Thomas Harnage

Head of household

abt 1896

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ostella Harnage

Wife

abt 1896

Georgia

White

James Harnage

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Elwood Harnage

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Ruby Harnage

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Robert James

Head of household

abt 1870

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Loula James

Wife

abt 1878

South Carolina

Black

Lewis Gordon

Head of household

abt 1888

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mamie Gordon

Wife

Abt 1895

Georgia

Black

Will Jordan

Head of household

abt 1869

North Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mary Jordan

Wife

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

laundress

Bennie Jordan

Son

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Rufus Jordan

Son

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Willie Jordan

Son

abt 1905

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Alice Jordan

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

Black

Johnnie Jordan

Son

abt 1911

Georgia

Black

Amos Jordan

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

Black

Aaron Jordan

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Daisy Jordan

Daughter

abt 1919

Georgia

Black

Will Searcy

Boarder

abt 1876

United States of America

Black

Sawmill teamster

George Emmett

Head of household

abt 1862

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Anna Emmett

Wife

abt 1866

Georgia

Black

Steve Brown

Head of household

abt 1885

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Effie Brown

Wife

abt 1887

Georgia

Black

S C Brown

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Willie May Brown

Wife

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

laundress

Abraham Brown

Son

abt 1917

Georgia

Black

John H Green

Head of household

abt 1891

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mattie Green

Wife

abt 1894

Georgia

Black

Claudie Green

Son

abt 1911

Georgia

Black

Lonie Green

Daughter

abt 1914

Georgia

Black

Harry Bright

Head of household

abt 1880

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Josephine Bright

Wife

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

Jim Grier

Head of household

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mamie Grier

Wife

abt 1904

Florida

Black

Rainey Medley

Head of household

abt 1885

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Florence Medley

Wife

abt 1881

Georgia

Mulatto

Pearlie Medley

Brother

abt 1891

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer -crossties

Lillie Medley

Sister-in-law

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Douglas Smith

Brother-in-law

abt 1880

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Frank Rines

Head of household

abt 1867

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Harriet Rines

Wife

abt 1870

Georgia

Black

George Merritt

Boarder

abt 1920

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

George Davis

Boarder

abt 1856

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Riley Bryant

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Hannah Bryant

Wife

abt 1898

Florida

Black

laundress

Eddie Young

Head of household

abt 1886

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mary Young

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Henry Lofton

Head of household

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

Sawmill sawyer

Bessie Lofton

Wife

abt 1883

North Carolina

Mulatto

Henry Lofton

Son

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

John Lofton

Son

abt 1905

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Cinthia Lofton

Daughter

abt 1910

Georgia

Black

Willie W Wood

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Viola Wood

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

White

G Willene Wood

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Mary N Wood

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Willie Bolar

Nephew

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Aurelia Goodman

Head of household

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

Innkeeper boarding house

Joseph Jackson

Boarder

abt 1889

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Handy Blue

Head of household

abt 1870

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Julia Blue

Wife

abt 1872

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Lewis Banks

Head of household

abt 1864

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Easter Banks

Wife

abt 1857

Georgia

Black

Elmer Ratliff

Granddaughter

abt 1912

Georgia

Black

Abraham L Thomas

Head of household

abt 1872

Tennessee

Black

Sawmill laborer

Angie Thomas

Wife

abt 1885

South Carolina

Black

Laundress

Ruther Thomas

Son

abt 1912

Georgia

Black

Malachia Thomas

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

Black

Willie Thomas

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Lillie Thomas

Daughter

abt 1916

Georgia

Black

Abraham L Thomas

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Robert Thomas

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

Black

George Stokes

Boarder

abt 1888

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Sam Brown

Boarder

abt 1876

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

John McQueen

Boarder

abt 1896

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ike Wilder

Head of household

abt 1870

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Emma Wilder

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

laundress

Jesse Freelour

Head of household

abt 1868

Virginia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ella Freelour

Wife

abt 1867

Georgia

Black

B Manning

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Wiley Brown

Roomer

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Arie Brown

Roomer

abt 1897

Florida

Black

laundress

Mint  Manning

Head of household

abt 1874

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Carrie Manning

Wife

abt 1870

Florida

Black

laundress

Robert Blanks

Head of household

abt 1894

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ella Blanks

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Carrie B Allen

Stepdaughter

abt 1910

Georgia

Black

N G Goings

Head of household

abt 1866

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mariah Goings

Wife

abt 1888

Georgia

Black

Arthur Goings

Son

abt 1904

Florida

Black

Sawmill laborer

Willie Goings

Son

abt 1906

Florida

Black

Mamie Goings

Daughter

abt 1909

Georgia

Black

Merritt Rouse

Head of household

abt 1863

Virginia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Estill Aaron

Head of household

abt 1876

Florida

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ida Aaron

Wife

abt 1886

Georgia

Mulatto

laundress

Inman Aaron

Son

abt 1909

Georgia

Black

Sess Aaron

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Henry Polite

Head of household

abt 1880

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Otella Polite

Wife

abt 1898

Georgia

Black

laundress

Stella Polite

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

Black

Bertha Carter

Head of household

abt 1898

Georgia

Black

laundress

Willie Melvin

Roomer

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Sylvester Williams

Roomer

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Bud Lamb

Head of household

abt 1886

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Tom Brown

Roomer

abt 1884

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mary Brown

Roomer

abt 1902

United States of America

Black

Chester A. Hall

Head of household

Kansas Hall

Wife

abt 1898

Georgia

White

James A Hall

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Van J Pool

Head of household

abt 1883

Georgia

White

Sawmill –shingle mill

Dora Pool

Wife

abt 1883

Georgia

White

Inn Keeprt – Boarding House

Olya M Pool

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Erwin W Pool

Son

abt 1907

Georgia

White

Newspaper Boy

Verdie K Pool

Daughter

abt 1911

Georgia

White

R Edna Pool

Daughter

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Charlie J Pool

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

H M Dorsey Pool

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

F K Hall

Head of household

abt 1856

Georgia

White

J Hollis Ritch

Son

abt 1887

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Noah H Sumler

Boarder

abt 1895

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Thomas A Sheffield

Head of household

abt 1883

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ida B Sheffield

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Emma R Sheffield

Daughter

abt 1908

Georgia

White

Thomas J Sheffield

Son

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Laura A Sheffield

Daughter

abt 1913

Florida

White

Harvey Sheffield

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

Annie Bell Sheffield

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Emory A Sheffield

Son

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Gilfred Snowden

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Maude Snowden

Wife

abt 1884

Georgia

Black

Augusta Snowden

Daughter

abt 1907

Georgia

Black

Sarah Snowden

Daughter

abt 1908

Georgia

Black

Georgia A Snowden

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

Black

Alice Snowden

Daughter

abt 1914

Georgia

Black

Viola Snowden

Daughter

abt 1916

Georgia

Black

Gilford Snowden

Son

abt 1919

Georgia

Black

Willie Morgan

Brother

abt 1886

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Isaac Snowden

Head of household

abt 1887

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Clyde Spencer

Head of household

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Leetta Spencer

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Cook-private family

John Hardy

Head of household

abt 1891

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ruth Hardy

Wife

abt 1888

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Jeroel Hardy

Daughter

abt 1908

Georgia

Black

Will Jones

Head of household

abt 1886

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Rosa Jones

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

Black

Handy Simpson

Head of household

abt 1898

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Fannie Simpson

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Henry Wright

Roomer

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Charlie Melvin

Head of household

abt 1870

North Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Lissie Melvin

Wife

abt 1874

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Ben Melvin

Son

abt 1898

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Joe Melvin

Son

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Annie Melvin

Daughter-in-law

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Lonzo Williams

Roomer

abt 1870

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Bennie Bolar

Head of household

abt 1892

Virginia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Emma Bolar

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Cook –private family

John H Reed

Nephew

abt 1908

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

J Quinton Clements

Head of household

abt 1894

Georgia

White

Commissary Salesman

Eva M Clements

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Jerald C Clements

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Randall R Clements

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Connie C Devane

Roomer

abt 1885

Georgia

White

Commissary Salesman

Willie Johnson

Head of household

abt 1895

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Callie Johnson

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Cook –private family

Robert L McDonald

Head of household

abt 1873

Georgia

White

Sawyer

Lilla M McDonald

Wife

abt 1876

Georgia

White

W Lillian McDonald

Daughter

abt 1901

Georgia

White

Eunice J McDonald

Daughter

abt 1907

Georgia

White

W Talmage McDonald

Son

abt 1908

Georgia

White

Lemuel C McDonald

Son

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Isaac B McDonald

Son

abt 1912

Georgia

White

Lois A McDonald

Daughter

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Fred H Lemke

  Grandson

abt 1916

Georgia

White

James P Devane

Boarder

abt 1865

Georgia

White

Commissary Salesman

Thomas N Crowe

Boarder

abt 1884

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Marion E Shaw

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Sawmill Marketman

Marion R Shaw

Wife

abt 1898

Georgia

White

Kermitt A Shaw

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Perry Cook

Boarder

abt 1897

Georgia

White

Farm laborer

Charles E Hughes

Head of household

abt 1871

Georgia

White

Sawmill Section Foreman

Nettie Hughes

Wife

abt 1883

South Carolina

White

Elmer L Hughes

Son

abt 1902

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Fred L Hughes

Son

abt 1904

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Mattie B Hughes

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Clyde R Hughes

Son

abt 1908

Florida

White

Glenn C Hughes

Son

abt 1913

Florida

White

Talmage R Hughes

Son

abt 1917

Florida

White

Dave H Cowart

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Laura Cowart

Wife

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Donnald Cowart

Son

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Russell Browning

Boarder

abt 1901

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Luke Browning

Boarder

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Manning A Cersey

Head of household

abt 1889

Georgia

White

Sawmill Fireman

Lula Cersey

Wife

abt 1896

Georgia

White

Vera J Cersey

Daughter

abt 1911

Georgia

White

Clinton A Cersey

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Jewel T Cersey

Son

abt 1916

Georgia

White

Robert  C.C. Powell

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Lovdie Powell

Wife

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Corrie Powell

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Madge Powell

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

R D Ward

Head of household

abt 1886

Georgia

White

Sawmill Machinist

Mamie Ward

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

White

Arthur S Ganas

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Sawmill Engineer

Ruby H Ganas

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

White

Jaunita L Ganas

Daughter

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Chester A Hall

Head of household

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Sawmill Foreman

RAY CITY RESIDENTS LAID TO FINAL REST

Eighty-eight years ago today…

Atlanta Constitution Nov 11, 1923

RAY CITY RESIDENTS LAID TO FINAL REST

Milltown, Ga., November 10.-(Special.)- Two funerals were held in Ray City Thursday, Jewel, 8, son of Mr. and Mrs. Manning Surcey, died of acute Bright’s disease Wednesday night and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery Thursday afternoon. Elder Aaron Knight conducted the funeral services. Henery Purvis, 52, died Wednesday night at his home in Ray City, following a stroke of paralysis. He is survived by his wife. His body was taken to New Adeal late Thursday afternoon for burial.

Data from the 1920 Census shows that Jewel Cersey was the son of Lula Goodin and  Manning A. Cersey.  Jewel’s father, a sawmill fireman, was an employee of the Clements Lumber Company, which was situated about a mile north of Ray City, GA. The family lived in rented house at the sawmill, one of many in the sawmill neighborhood probably owned by the company.

Name Relationship Birth Place of Birth Race Occupation
Manning A Cersey Head of household abt 1889 Georgia White Sawmill Fireman
Lula Cersey Wife abt 1896 Georgia White
Vera J Cersey Daughter abt 1911 Georgia White
Clinton A Cersey Son abt 1913 Georgia White
Jewel T Cersey Son abt 1916 Georgia White
Grave of Jewel Cersey (1916-1923), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Jewel Cersey (1916-1923), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

November 6, 1923 ~ Big Fire Loss at the Ray City Sawmill

sawmill bladeIt was on this date, November 6, 1923 that fire struck the big sawmill at Ray City, GA.

News of the fire was reported on the front page of the Lanier County News, of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. The sawmill owners were nationally prominent businessmen and the story was picked by the Atlanta Constitution.

The Lanier County News
Thursday, November 8, 1923, front page

Ray City Mill Had Big Fire Loss Tuesday

The Jackson Lumber Company suffered a heavy loss when their planning mill, dry kiln, a large amount of lumber and a number of tenant houses in the mill quarters at Ray City burned down Tuesday. By dint of hard work just in the knick of time the main mill was saved from destruction.
The fire started at 10:30 in the morning and spread rapidly. The hose available at Ray City reached only half way from the town to the mill, and was not till afternoon, when the Milltown hose was sent over and the fire department from Valdosta arrived on the scene with additional hose that effective work could be done. Had it not been for this timely aid the whole plant would have been wiped out.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

Jackson Lumber Company

The Jackson Brothers, owners of the Jackson Lumber Company, had purchased the entire mill operation from Clements Lumber Company for $75,000 in cash in what was described as “one of the biggest business deals pulled of in this section in some time.”  The Jackson Brothers were no strangers to big business deals, and were among the wealthiest businessmen in the south. Among their other Georgia investments were ownership of Tallapoosa Mills in Tallapoosa, GA and they were major stockholders in Couch Cotton Mill of Atlanta.

The Jackson Brothers’ purchase included two weeks run of the mill and all of the lumber inventory. The Jackson Brothers also purchased the ‘Sirman’s Timber’, the largest body of original growth pine that was still standing in south Georgia. Several hundred acres of this timber stand had not been turpentined until 1922. The same timber stand had sold around 1920 for over $100,000 and had been leased for turpentining at that time. The Sirman’s Timber stood between Milltown (nka Lakeland), GA and Nashville, GA.

The purchase was reported by the Nashville Herald on the front page of the February 6, 1923 edition.

CLEMENTS LBR. COMPANY SOLD OUT AT RAY CITY

Nashville Herald, February 16, 1923

The Clements Lumber Company one largest and oldest lumber concerns in this section of the state, was sold at Ray City last week by the Clements Brothers to Jackson Brothers, formerly of Tallapoosa, Georgia.

The Clements Lumber Company has been doing business in Ray City for twelve years, it was stated by the present owners. The Jackson Brothers are mill men of considerable experience. They were formerly in the cotton mill business.

They are said to have paid $100,000 and will assume charge of the plant at once.

The new owners have bought the Lon Fender timber tract, which Mr. Fender bought more than a year ago from the Sirmans estate. It is one of the finest timber tracts in this section of the state. This with the other timber insight affords at least five years running yet, and there is more to be had, it is said, that will run them ten years.

The Clements Brothers have not decided yet what they will do in the future.

The Jackson brothers took charge of the mill in the first week of March, 1923. They had been operating a cotton mill in San Antonio, Texas which they sold to return to their former home in Georgia.  Justin C. Jackson became the president of the Jackson Lumber Company making his home in Valdosta, GA.  Jackson Lumber Company made no immediate changes in the crew operating the sawmill at Ray City. They planned to begin sawing the Sirman’s timber just as soon as the turpentine lease was up.

Unfortunately, just eight months later on the afternoon of November 6, 1923 disaster struck. A fire broke out at the Jackson Lumber Company that threatened to consume the entire operation. According to the Atlanta Constitution, the Ray City Fire department responded – running a fire hose from the town to the sawmill, a distance of one mile. But there was only enough hose on hand to reach half the distance to the mill. The Valdosta Fire Department sent a unit with additional hose to fight the blaze. By the time the firefighters from Valdosta arrived , the dry kiln, planing mill, several employees’ cottages, and 150,000 feet of lumber had already burned and the flames had reached the sawmill. They quickly coupled their hoses to the line that had already been laid by the Ray City firemen and carried the line on to the mill. The firefighters were able to save practically all of the sawmill itself, but the damages were estimated to be $50,000 dollars. The plant was insured and it was expected that the mill would be rebuilt.

The Atlanta Constitution reported the $50,000 loss in a page 21 story in the November 8, 1923 edition.

The Nov 8, 1923 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported the sawmill fire at Ray City, GA.

The Nov 8, 1923 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported the sawmill fire at Ray City, GA.

 

Related Posts:

WWI Boom for Clements Lumber Company at Ray City, GA

About 1911  Levi J. Clements,  purchased the big sawmill at Ray City, GA from W.F. Luckie and it became the Clements Lumber Company.   The Clements Family had some experience in the sawmill business. The Clements brothers, Lucius J. Clements, J.I. Clements, and J.S. Clements, operated the mill; Lucius served as the General Manager.

World War I brought an economic boom for the Clements’ sawmill operations.

During World War I, Southern yellow pine was the most abundant of all ship materials and was extensively used in building wood ships along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

During World War I, Southern yellow pine was the most abundant of all ship materials and was extensively used in building wood ships along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

At first the war reduced the market for southern pine lumber, as European markets were closed and the German navy threatened North Atlantic trade. But as War hysteria grew, lumber became a strategic material. By 1917 the U.S. Shipping Board began discussing the construction of  wooden cargo ships to support the war effort.  The price of lumber rose sharply during the war, nearly doubling from 1915 to 1918.4

Lucius J. Clements continued to serve as General Manager at the Clements sawmill, although on September 19,1918, at the age of 37,  he diligently registered for the draft for World War I along with other Ray City men. His cousin, Hod P. Clements had registered a year earlier.

In a 1973 newspaper interview, Hod P. Clements, reflected on the boom World War I, brought to the Clements Sawmill and his relatives L.J. Clements, J.I. Clements, and J.S. Clements.7

 “When World War I broke out, the Clements’ boys, who are my cousins, sold lumber to the government to build ships, and made about half a million dollars,” he said.

According to Clements, the price of lumber rose from $8 a thousand feet to $120 a thousand feet in a year.

Related Posts:

  1. Fondren-Clements Papers; transcribed by Ronald E. Yates 8/17/2009) http://www.yatesville.net/tngrey/getperson.php?personID=I4423&tree=01
  2. Nashville Herald. Feb 6, 1923.. Clements Lbr Company sold out at Ray City. Nashvillle Herald, Nashville, GA. pg 1.
  3. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Card. Lucius J. Clements. Registration Location: Berrien County, Georgia; Roll: 1556961; Draft Board: 0. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.
  4. Ships to Nowhere: The Southern Yellow Pine Fleet of World War I Thomas D. Clark Journal of Forest History, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan., 1986), pp. 4-16 Published by: Forest History Society and American Society for Environmental History Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4004755
  5. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Card. Lucius J. Clements. Registration Location: Berrien County, Georgia; Roll: 1556961; Draft Board: 0. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.
  6. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1920. T625, 2,076 rolls. Census location: Rays Mill, Berrien, Georgia; Roll: T625_235; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 22; Image: 288.
  7. Valdosta Times. 1973. Newspaper clipping. “Natives of Ray City Like to talk about the past.”
  8. Davis, C. G., Clarke, T. W., Drown, F. S., & United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation. (1918). The building of a wooden ship. Philadelphia, Pa: Industrial Service Section, United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corp..

Claudie Royal ~ 1920s Skidderman at Ray City, GA

James Claudie Royal (1893 – 1972)

Claudie Royal was born May 7, 1893, at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He was a son of William Frank Royal and Mary Jones.  His mother died when Claudie was about one year old.  When Claudie was about 4 years old, his father married Arletta Ganos and moved the family to Clinch County.

In 1920,  Claudie Royal and his wife, Thelma, were living in Ray City, GA in the home of his father-in-law, Bill Cole.  They all lived in a house on Jones Street.  The Cole  household at that time  included  William M. “Bill” Cole, his wife  Hattie, and minor children, Clarence, Leroy, Clyde, and Irene.

Claudie Royal and Bill Cole were  sawmill employees. There were several smaller sawmill operators in the area but from about 1909 to 1923 the big sawmill at Ray City, operated under a succession of owners, was the largest employer in the area. In 1920 it was the Clements Lumber Company.

Claudie worked as a “skidderman,”  while Bill Cole was a wheelwright.

As a wheelwright,  Bill Cole worked to build and repair the wheels used on horse- or mule-drawn wagons and carts used in the sawmill operation. The wheel hubs, spokes, and rims were all constructed out of carefully crafted wooden pieces.  The wheel assembly was banded with an iron “tire” that was custom made by a blacksmith.

Working as a skidderman, Claudie Royal drove a team of horses or mules, using a skidder to transport logs.  The skidder dragged logs from where they were cut  the short distance to the tracks of the railway tram, where they were loaded and hauled to the sawmill.   According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1918 publications, in Georgia a skidderman worked a 60 hour workweek, for a wage of 22.5 cents an hour, or $13.50 per week. The workweek was six 10-hour days.

Skiddermen used two wheel carts, like the Perry Cart, to drag felled logs to the tracks of a railroad tram for loading and hauling to the sawmill. This cart has wooden wheels with steel "tires" 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet in diameter. Construction and maintenance of wheels such as these would have been the work of a wheelwright.

Skiddermen used two wheel carts, like the Perry Cart, to drag felled logs to the tracks of a railroad tram for loading and hauling to the sawmill. This cart has wooden wheels with steel “tires” 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet in diameter. Construction and maintenance of wheels such as these would have been the work of a wheelwright.

Log Carts. — In all types of carts the logs are swung beneath the wheels with the rear ends dragging on the ground. The height of wheels ranges from 5 to 10 feet with a corresponding variation in gauge.

A cart used in the Coastal Plain region has an arched axle and wheels 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 feet high. The hounds of the cart are fastened on either side of the tongue by a heavy bolt. A bunk rests on the top of the axel and carries two upright guides between which the tongue fits. The latter is held in place by a spring latch. When the cart is to be loaded it is driven up to one end of a log, then backed until the axle is directly over that part of the log to which the chains or grapples are to be attached. The latch on the guides is then released, the team is backed for a step or two and the hounds are forced into a position nearly vertical, which turns the bunk through a quarter circle and brings it near enough to the ground to permit the grapples or chains to be attached. The elevation of the log is accomplished by driving the team forward, which brings the hounds and tongue to a horizontal position.

– Bryant, R. C. (1923). Logging: The principles & general methods of operation in the United States. S.l.: s.n..

Sliptongue skidder working in the south Georgia pine forest.

Sliptongue skidder working in the south Georgia pine forest.

Hauling logs by mules. Ocilla, GA.

Hauling logs by mules. Ocilla, GA.

James Claudie Royal died  in February, 1972.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave of James Claudie Royal and Thelma Cole Royal, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of James Claudie Royal and Thelma Cole Royal, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Related Posts:

Levi J. Clements

Levi J. Clements 1851-1924, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

In the 1920s, Levi J. Clements and  wife Roena (or Rowena) had moved to a house on North Street in Ray City, GA, probably to be closer to the Clements sawmill. The mill was located between North Street and the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  The Clements were surrounded by their family. Their son, Dr. Henry Clements, had the home next door, and on the other side was the home of their son Lucius, who was General Manager at the sawmill.   Irwin Clements and his wife, Annie, and Joe Clements and his family (wife Effie, and daughter Camille) lived with Levi and Rowena. Irwin Clements was a manager at the mill, and Joe was treasurer.  Levi’s grandson, Leland Gaskins, lived in the big house as well.

Roena Clements 1858-1951, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Mr. Clements died April 25,  1924. He and his wife are buried in New Ramah Primitive Baptist cemetery.

Related Posts