Richard Seward Johnson ~ Ray City Farmer

Richard Seward Johnson (1855-1936)

Richard Seward Johnson. Image courtesy of Henry Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

Richard Seward Johnson. Image courtesy of Henry Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.


Richard Seward Johnson, a son of Merritt H. Johnson (1814 – 1877) and Mary Ann Holland (1819 – 1894), was born about 1855.  His father, Merritt H. Johnson, was a farmer of Thomas County, GA who before the Civil War had $600 in real estate and $3453 in his personal estate. His father was not enlisted during the Civil War, instead appearing on the 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia,   a statewide census of all white males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not serving at that time.  Many of the men enumerated in this census were exempt from service, and Merritt H. Johnson may have been exempted on account of his age (50).

Richard Seward Johnson’s parents came from Johnston County, North Carolina to settle in Thomas County, GA some time before 1850, along with his maternal grandparents and many others of the Holland family connection. Enumerated in 1850 in Thomas County, GA and  in Colquitt County in 1860, his parents were apparently residing in that portion of Thomas County which was cut into Colquitt County in 1856.

Richard Seward Johnson left his parents’ household by the time he was 15, as indicated by his absence there in the Census of 1870.  He apparently made his way to Berrien County, GA where on April 28, 1878 he married Ida Isabelle Shaw.   She was a daughter of William Jasper Shaw and Elizabeth Wetherington, born on the first Christmas of the Civil War, December 25, 1861.

Marriage certificate of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Shaw

Marriage certificate of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Shaw

By 1878 Richard Johnson owned 100 acres of lot 498, 10th Land District on the south side of the Ray’s Mill community, 1144 GMD. This land was valued at $300, and another 50 acres valued at $300 were in Mary Ann Johnson’s name. Together, they owned $70 in household furnishings, $259 in livestock, $70 in books and tools. Another 100 acres of Lot 498 was listed as the property of Jerry R. Johnson.  Jonathan Knight held an adjacent plantation of some 12oo acres on lots 497, 496 and 517. Other neighbors included Thomas S. Murphy on portions of lots 497 and 498,  Marcus Giddens on portions of lot 497,  Senator Jonathan E. Bryant on Lot 515, Green Bullard on lot 469,  and James M. Baskin owned lots 470 and 471.

From the 1879 tax records it appears that most of Mary’s acreage had been transferred to Richard. Mary was not listed as a property owner, whereas Richard was shown with 140 acres on Lot 498, valued at $600. His brother, James R. Johnson had also acquired 100 acres of Lot 498.  His father-in-law, William J. Shaw had acquired 310 acres on portions of Lot 499 and 514.  Jeremiah Shaw owned portions of Lots 499 and 500. Another 220 acres of lot 498 belonged to Thomas S. Murphy.  Moses H. Giddens was on a 250 acre portion of Lot 497, James M. Baskin continued on lots 470 and 471, and Jonathan Knight maintained his extensive plantation on adjacent lots.

In 1880, Richard S. Johnson had 140 and James R. Johnson 110 acres on Lot 498.  Moses H. Giddens on was on parts of 497, Thomas S. Murphy on portions of 497 and 498, William J. Shaw on portions of 499 and 514, and James M. Baskin owned lots 470 and 471.

For the  about the next 50 years, Richard Seward Johnson and his bride raised children and crops at Ray City, GA.

  1. William Cauley Johnson (1879 – 1958) married Rosa Lena Knight
  2. Florence Johnson (1881 – 1969) married Johnnie S. Peters
  3. Mary Johnson (1882 – 1914 ) married  Henry Needham Bullard (1878 – 1938)  on May 26,  1901 in Berrien Co., GA.
  4. Bessie Johnson (1885 – 1980) married Joseph B. Patten (1887 – 1971) on February 12, 1910
  5. Lillie Johnson (1886 – 1963) married Charlie Register who served as minister of Cat Creek Church
  6. Manning Filmore Johnson (1890 – 1967) married Marie Lola Carter
  7. Manson Lowndes Johnson (1890 – 1975)
  8. Ida Bell Johnson (1894 – )

Ida Isabell Shaw Johnson died January 4, 1927 at Ray City, Berrien County, GA.  She was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Richard Seward Johnson died in 1936 and was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.


John R. Wood Goes to Paris

Ray City, GA was the boyhood home of John Rhoden Wood, a son of Milledge Dewey Wood and Nancy Caroline Rhoden. He went on to a long career as a diplomat with the US State Department, serving primarily in France, from WWI to WWII.

John R. Wood, 1920 passport photo.

John R. Wood, 1920 passport photo.

John Rhoden Wood was born in Dupont, GA on February 7, 1894. Some time before 1910, the Wood family moved from Dupont to the 1329 Georgia Militia District, near Ray City, GA where John R. Wood spent his teenage years.

At the time of the draft for WWI John R. Wood was living in Jacksonville, FL and working for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. He was 23 years old, of medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair. Wood entered the Army and was sent to France. He achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant before receiving an honorable discharge.

About 1920 John R. Wood married a French girl, Jeanne Victorine Brissaud.

Jeanne Victorine Brissaud, 1920 passport photo.

Jeanne Victorine Brissaud, 1920 passport photo.

That year Wood applied for a passport  to return to France, giving his permanent residence as Ray City, GA.

John R. Wood 1920 Passport Application

John R. Wood 1920 Passport Application

Washington, DC

I, John R Wood, a native and loyal citizen of the United States, hereby apply to the Department of State, at Washington, for a passport for myself and my wife, Mrs. Jeane B. Wood.

I solemnly swear that I was born at Dupont Ga in the State of Ga, on or about the 7 day of Feb, 1894, that my father, M D Wood, was born in Coffee County Ga, and is now residing at Ray City Ga. that I have resided outside the United Stats at the following places for the following periods:

Paris, France. from Dec 1, 1918 to July 1, 1920 and that I am domiciled in the United States, my permanent residence being at Ray City in the state of Ga.

I am about to go abroad temporarily, and I intend to return to the United States within -{months/years} with the purpose of residing and performing the duties of citizenship therein; and I desire a passport for use in visiting the countries hereafter named for the following purpose:

France  – Returning to present employment

I intend to leave the United States from the port of New York sailing on board the  (name of vessel) on September 15, 1920.

Further, I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

J. R. Wood

Sworn to before me this 14th day of July, 1920
D F Smith
Agent, Department of State

In the margins the notation was added, “Honorable discharge from Army dated August 11, 1919 and giving rank as 2nd Lieut  seen and returned 7/14/20.”

The description of applicant gave his age as 26 years and height as 5 foot 11 inches.  He was fair in complexion with a full face, light hair,  high forehead, hazel eyes, straight nose, small mouth and square chin.

John Rhodes Wood's 1920 passport application gave his permanent residence as Ray City, GA.

John R. Wood’s 1920 passport application gave his permanent residence as Ray City, GA.

After some time in France,  John Wood made the return passage on the SS Rochambeau.

Over the next decades John R. Wood made several transatlantic voyages.  In May of 1926 he made the return crossing aboard the SS France.  At the time it was one of the fastest liners afloat.

SS France

SS France

In 1929 he sailed from Le Havre, France to New York aboard the SS Ile de France.

The American Foreign Service Journal, May, 1929 issue reported, “Consul John R. Wood, Paris, is spending his home leave in Ray City, Ga. He expects to return to his post early in June.”

The census of 1930 shows that John R. Wood and family were living in Paris, France where he was employed as Vice Consul.

SS Ile de France, photographed circa 1935

SS Ile de France, photographed circa 1935

On April 18, 1934 John R. Wood again departed from France, sailing from Le Havre aboard the SS Paris and arriving at the port of New York on April 24.  He gave his address in the U.S. as the Department of State, Washington, DC.

S.S. Paris, once the most luxurious ocean liner in the world.

In 1934 John R. Wood sailed aboard the S.S. Paris, once billed as the most luxurious ocean liner in the world.

In 1939, Wood made the Atlantic crossing on the SS Normandie.

SS Normandie at sea in the 1930s.

SS Normandie at sea in the 1930s.

More than a year after Germany invaded France during WWII,  John Wood departed Europe from Lisbon, Portugal on August 1, 1941, on the USS West Point.

USS West Point, August 1, 1941

USS West Point, August 1, 1941

Jeanne Brissaud Wood died on June 14, 1974 in Nice, France.

Later, John R. Wood made his residence in Colquitt County, GA.  He died in Savannah, GA on June 30, 1996 at 102 years of age.

In death he returned to his boyhood home of Ray City, GA where he was interred at Beaver Dam Cemetery, with his parents and others of the Wood family connection.


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Francis Marion Shaw and the Wrought Iron Range

In 1884 or early 1885 a traveling salesman for the Wrought Iron Range Company was working through his territory in Wiregrass Georgia. Apparently sales were brisk for he was closing deals in Irwin, Decatur, Mitchell, Colquitt, Worth, Thomas and Berrien counties.  One Berrien County customer was Francis Marion Shaw, long time resident of the Ray City, Georgia area.         
Wrought Iron Range Salesman, circa 1890

Wrought Iron Range Salesman, circa 1890

In the Feb 24, 1885 edition of the Milledgeville Union & Recorder, F.M. Shaw of Berrien County was listed among those giving testimonial to the purchase of a “Home Comfort” Wrought Iron Range


We the undersigned citizens of the following counties have each purchased Wrought Iron Ranges and cheerfully add our testimony to that of many others as to their superiority and excellence in every respect over any other stove we have ever seen or tried. These ranges take less fuel and cook quicker and more thoroughly than any cooking apparatus now made. The are cleanly, economical and durable, and in our opinion their equal has never been made and the superior never will be. We recommend these ranges to our fellow citizens, feeling sure that should they become purchasers, they and their families will be thoroughly pleased, and never regret having bought a “Home Comfort” Wrought Iron Range.

Irwin Co.
Wm. Granthon   Dan Tucker
M.T Palk       Mrs. R. Palk
H. Harper      G.J. Harper
W.A. Mobley    A.E.M. Lord
Robt. Fussell  Wm. Pridgen
M. Dixon       C. Chancey
J.M. Barnes    S.P. Troupe
John Clemants  Isaac Gibbs
W.E. Fletcher  M.D. Luke
J.D. Rogers    J.S. Boberts
Thomas Gibbs  
O.N. Flours      S.S. May
G.A. Hiers       J. A. Alderman
D. W. Hooker     John Manning
Daniel Burnie    M.J. Alderman
C.J. Strickland  R. Weeks
W.H. Norman      Jas. Tillman
A. Baker         J.A. Tillman   
G.W. Sineath     Wm. Castleberry
J.J. Sineath     J.W. McKinney
W.W. Folsom      Reuben Inman
R.H. Hutchison   N.B. Jones
E. Parrish       Mrs. B. Morrison
L.A. Folston     J.H. Shaw
E.C. Parrish     F.M. Shaw
A.H. Shaw        J. McCraynie
G.B. Scott       J.P. Lovett
R. J. Griffin    Hughy Taylor
John Lindsey     J.W. Sutton
W.R. Watson      H. Giddens
Josh. Gaskins
J.G. Merrett      J.A. Ponder
Mrs. S. Crocker   J.E. Harrel
Aoel Umphreys     J.B. Umphreys
A.B.Belcher       W.J. Dollar
T.M. Chester      John R. Brook
J.J. Gaimons      J.D. Harrell
H.J. Logue        J.M. Whigham
Jas. Bell         G.W. Knight
C.F. Knight       J.A. Smith
T.O. Duggan       M.J. Connel
R.E. Wigham       T.M. Whigham
Mrs. M.J. Martin  J.J. Knight
Jas. Little        T.T. Mites     
T.J. Marceant     W.C. Culpepper
J.J. Moye         E.H. Akridge
J.R.Holton        J.J. Grimer
C.P. Parmer       W. Williams
J.F. Mansfield    W.H. Jones
A.G. Shirrah      F.W. Nix
L.A. Brooks       J.A. Glousen
E. Shanklin       W.S. Bowls
H.A.Hall          J.M. Pilcher, Jr.
S. Collier        Mrs. M. Collier
J.M. Chastain     John Jones
B. Chastain       John S. Culpepper
J.C. Shepherd     Henry White
W.B. Mire         H.R. Brinson
C. Singletary     R. Singletary
R.B. McCond       S.L. Ballard
A.W. Willis       Ben Cravy
G.W. Cravy        J.W. Overstreet
J.J. Henderson    B. Hobley
Hon. W.A. Harris  S.C. Mayo
B. Willis         J.D. Summer
J.M. Champion     A.B. Kierce
E.T. Goodman      T.J. Harris
W.J. Jackson      J.M. Springs
Mrs. N.A. Wilder  S.D. Parker
J.H. Dickson      
  2tFeb. 17, 1885        32     J. T. Drew       ChassongJos.