Sarah Malinda Clements (1862-1947)
Sarah Malinda Clements was born March 12, 1862 in Berrien County, GA. She was the youngest of 13 children born to David G. Clements and Gincey Sirmans. She was a sister of Levi Jordan Clements, who was the patriarch of the Clements sawmill business at Ray City.
Sarah’s parents were pioneer settlers of the area. They were married in Lowndes County, GA on January 1, 1835. Her father came with his parents to Lowndes County about 1832. Her grandfather William Clements and William A. Knight had been neighbors in Wayne County, GA, and her aunt Anne Donald Clements had married Levi J. Knight in 1827. Her mother was Gincey Sirmans, a daughter of Abner Sirmans and Bettie Kirkland. Abner Sirmans, his brothers, and father, Josiah Sirmans, were among the first permanent settlers of Clinch County, GA, having arrived there in 1822. Her aunt Elizabeth “Betsy” Sirmans married Etheldred Dryden Newbern, another pioneer settler of Berrien County.
Sarah’s father and both of her grandfathers, fought under the command of their friend and neighbor Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1836-1838. David G. Clements, William Clements and Abner Sirmans all served with Captain Knight’s Independent Company. David Clements was among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.
Soon after marriage, David G. Clements acquired lot of land 406, 10th district, on which he lived and farmed until his death. He was cut into Berrien out of Lowndes County, 1856. In Berrien County, the Clements home place was in the 1144th Georgia Militia District just north of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.
In 1854, Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Clements, married William Gaskins. The Clements were neighbors of William Gaskins, son of Fisher Gaskins. The Gaskins were another of the early pioneer families of Berrien County. William Gaskins came to the area with his father and brothers, John Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins, with their large herds of cattle, about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek (site of present day Ray City, GA).
At the outset of the Civil War, Sarah’s father and brother, John C. Clements, answered the call of General Levi J. Knight to form a company of men for Confederate service; their names appear on an 1861 muster roll of the Berrien Minute Men. John C. Clements served with Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment; David G. Clements later appears on the 1864 census of southern men who were excluded from the draft on account of age.
Sarah, born during the Civil War, grew up on her father’s farm during the Reconstruction period in Georgia. She attended the local country schools and was educated through the 5th grade. It appears that she lived in her father’s home until his death in 1888.
Although Sarah married twice, she was not lucky in love. She did not marry until the age of 36.
In the Census of 1880, 18-year-old Sarah Ann Clements was enumerated by Census taker L.E. Lastinger in her father’s household. Also present was Sarah’s older sister Mary Ann, to whom she was devoted for life, and their siblings. Next door were Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clements, and her husband William Gaskins. Also neighbors were William’s niece Mary Evelyn Gaskins and her husband George W. Fender.
On October 26, 1898 Sarah married William J. “Bill Jack” Knight. He was born in 1860, but otherwise little is known of his history. The ceremony was performed by Albert Benjamin Surrency in Berrien County, GA.
Sarah Clements and William J. Knight are enumerated together in the census of 1900 in their Rays Mill home. Sarah’s spinster sister, 59-year-old Mary Ann Clements, had also come to live in the Knight household. Sarah’s brother, John C. Clements, and his family remained as neighbors, as did George W. Fender.
William and Sarah owned their farm near Ray’s Mill free and clear of mortgage. Only one offspring was born of this union, but the child died young.
William J. Knight died on January 22, 1909 at his home near Ray’s Mill, GA.
January 29, 1909
Information reached here Monday of the sudden death of Mr. “Bill Jack” Knight, a prominent resident of the Ray’s Mill district. Mr. Knight had been slightly indisposed for two or three days. After eating a light supper Friday night as he was sitting at the fireside he suddenly fell over and died. Mr. Knight was fifty years of age and was married about seven years ago to Miss Sarah Clements, of this place. He was laid to rest at the Beaverdam burial grounds. – Milltown News.
The widow Sarah Knight was enumerated (as Sarah Clements) in 1910 with her sister Mary Ann Clements in their home just east of Ray’s Mill. They were neighbors of John B. Fountain and Frank Gallagher.
Some time before 1920 Sarah married for a second time, joining in matrimony with James W. Suggs. He was from Dooly County, GA, a son of Malinda “Lynne” Ammon and Wright Suggs.
Sarah and James W. Suggs were enumerated together in the Census of 1920, at their farm on a settlement road near Ray’s Mill. Sarah’s sister and constant companion, Mary Ann Clements, resided with the Suggs. On adjacent farms were Parnell Knight and Henry D. Bennett.
The 1926 Influenza epidemic reached its peach in Georgia in March; 1926 was the worst flu year since the pandemics of 1918-1919 which had claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 30 million worldwide. Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Clements, at the age of 86, succumbed to Influenza, dying on March 26, 1926. She was attended by her nephew, Dr. Henry W. Clements, who was a son of Rowena Patten and Levi J. Clements. She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery.
Sometime between 1920 and 1930 James W. Suggs died, leaving Sarah widowed for the second time. Sarah, now on her own, boarded in the farm home of Sherrod Winfield Fender and his wife, Lula Bell Smith. Sherrod was a son of George W. Fender, and a neighbor of Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, and Phil McGowan. Also lodging in the Fender household was Chester Nobles.
Sherrod W. Fender died in 1931, but Sarah continued to live with the widowed Lula Smith Fender. The 1940 census shows Sarah Suggs enumerated as a “companion” of Lula Fender.
Sarah Malinda Clements Suggs died April 8, 1947. She was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City, GA. (Lula Fender was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church.)