Preacher Shaw and the Berrien Blue Jays

Preacher Shaw in uniform of the Berrien Blue Jays, 1948.   Image courtesy of www,berriencountyga.com

Preacher Shaw in uniform of the Berrien Blue Jays, 1948. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

From at least the 1880s, baseball was popular among the small towns of Berrien County, GA.  Ray City has produced a number of high school, college and minor league baseball players and coaches, and at least one major league player.  One local baseball legend was Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw of Ray City, GA, better known as Preacher Shaw.

According to family member Bryan Shaw, Preacher Shaw, was the seventh born child of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard Shaw.  He was born May 13, 1906, in a log home on the west bank of Possum Branch, in the New Lois community near Ray City, Georgia and grew up in a nearby home. He was educated in county schools at Pine Grove and Kings Chapel.

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

[Preacher Shaw had a] great love of baseball. During his adult years, he became a gifted ball player, always ready to be coaxed away from the mule and plow to engage in any pick-up game his fellow ball players would draft for him.

In Lamar Blanton’s book, “Tales of Ray’s Mill,” he reflects on his recollection of Preacher Shaw the ball player:

The most famous of the baseball players in our part of the state was a man nicknamed “Preacher,” a title that he somehow obtained without any evident relevant behavior on his part.  Preacher was considerably older than the other members of our team, but age is no handicap to a pitcher who is the complete master of a baseball.  His repertoire included virtually every pitch that has ever been named in baseball jargon. Being past his prime, his fastball did not exactly whistle any more, but he resorted to a vast variety of curves, and speed did not really matter, for it was only an infrequent accident that the hitter was able to get his bat anywhere near a pitch thrown by Preacher.  And all of the time that old son-of-a-gun would just stand there on the mound, grinning with infuriating devilishment as batter after batter left the plate to sit down in complete frustration.

Some of the visiting teams refused to play unless it was agreed that Preacher would not pitch.  He could hold any other position, for he was no better than an average ball player in a non-pitching role, but it was considered an unfair advantage for him to be on the mound.

He and his brother Charlie, who played shortstop, were often recruited by the local ball clubs to beef up their rosters. (Charlie was killed in an auto-train accident in 1937). Preacher actively played he sport until 1948, being listed on the April roster of the semi-pro Berrien Blue Jays that year. However, he was not listed as an active player by the end of the season.

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw (standing, far right), of Ray City, GA played for the Berrien Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team in 1948.

Preacher Shaw (standing, far right), of Ray City, GA played for the Berrien Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team in 1948. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

See more photos of the Berrien Blue Jays at http://www.berriencountyga.com

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How Preacher Shaw Got His Name

Preacher Shaw (1906-1972)

Preacher Shaw was a son of Ray City, Georgia. He was a popular baseball player, sometimes politician, and salesman of Berrien County.

Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw, most commonly known as F.W.M. “Preacher” Shaw, son of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard Shaw. “Preacher” also served as a Berrien County Commissioner. This photo was most likely what prompted his life-long nickname.  Courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw, most commonly known as F.W.M. “Preacher” Shaw, son of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard Shaw. “Preacher” also served as a Berrien County Commissioner. This photo was most likely what prompted his life-long nickname. Courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw was the seventh born child of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard Shaw.  He was born May 13, 1906, in a log home on the west bank of Possum Branch in the New Lois community near Ray City, Georgia.  Two years later the family moved into their new home up on the knoll west of the log home, where Preacher spent the rest of his adolescent life. His formal education was formed in the one-room Pine Grove and two-room Kings Chapel schools.

The earliest known photograph of Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw depicts him at “about 6 or 7 years-old, dressed in a jacket and nickers with a flourished neckerchief, posed in a stoic stance, holding an open book. On the back of the mounted photograph was written “Preacher Boy.” And from this photograph most likely came the moniker that followed him the rest of his life – “Preacher.”

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Samuel Register and the East Florida Militia

According to Folks Huxford, Samuel Register came from Appling County to Lowndes County, GA about 1826 and settled in the 10th Land District near Possum Branch, not too far from the homestead of Levi J. Knight and the future site of Ray City, GA. Samuel Register’s place later became the farm of Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw.

Samuel Register was born in Sampson County, North Carolina on December 1, 1786, almost three years before that state would ratify the U.S. Constitution. He was a son of Dorcas and John Register.

Some time before 1804 Samuel Register came with his family to Bulloch County, GA where he apparently made his home for some 20 years, although there is no records to show that he ever owned land there. In  April of 1806 he married Elizabeth Skinner, a native of South Carolina.

When the U.S. went to war with Britain from 1812-1815 in response to British actions against American expansion and trade, it appears that  Samuel Register, like other Wiregrass pioneers (see Dryden Newbern)  joined the  Georgia Militia.   In the War of 1812 the Georgia Militia was occupied with three main theaters of operation: the Creek War of 1813-14, the British blockade, and the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island in 1814-15.  British  control of St. Marys, GA would have disturbed the economy of the entire Wiregrass region, interrupting trade on the Alachua Trail which ran from the Altamaha River through Centerville, GA, then across the St. Marys River and into  East Florida. The resistance of the Georgia Militia against the British incursions is described  in the New Georgia Encyclopedia  article on the War of 1812.

After the War of 1812, Samuel and Elizabeth remained in Bulloch county. GA until about 1824 when they moved to Appling County, and then on to Lowndes county in 1826.  In 1827,  Samuel Register  received a draw in the land lotteries for his service as a soldier in the War of 1812.

The land lotteries, legitimized by questionable and coercive treaties, continued the encroachment by settlers on the ancestral lands of Native Americans in Georgia, inevitably leading to conflict.  In Florida, hostilities were greatly escalated in December 1835 by the Dade Massacre, where Seminole Indians resisting forced removal to the West   wiped out a force of 110 regular army troops under the command of Major Francis Langhorn Dade.  When conflict between the Wiregrass pioneers and the resistant Indians erupted in 1836, local militia fought engagements in Berrien county.

In the summer of 1836, a company of militia under Capt. Levi J. Knight of near Ray City was sent to protect the settlers from marauding Indians on their way to join the Seminoles in Florida.  When a party of Indians plundered the plantation of William Parker, near Milltown, the militia pursued them N. E. across the county overtaking them near Gaskins Pond not far from the Alapaha River.  Several were killed and some injured as the Indians fled across the river.  A few days later the militia encountered more Indians at Brushy Creek and ran them off.  That was the last real battle with the Indians in this section.

Across the state line in Florida,  actions against Indians were being fought by militia on a regular basis. The Battle of San Felasco Hammock was fought  September 18, 1836, when a force of 25 US Army Regulars and 100 horse-mounted militia from Fort Gilleland, with 25 armed residents of Newnansville, FL engaged and routed about 300 Indians led by Seminole Chief John Jumper. Fort Gilleland, a picketed fortification located south of the Santa Fe River at Newnansville in present day Alachua County, FL, was one of a string of forts stretching from Jacksonville, FL to Clay’s Landing, at the mouth of the Suwanee River.  Newnansville,  the largest inland town in East Florida, was strategically located at the junction of the Jacksonville road and the Bellamy Road which ran from St. Augustine west to Tallahassee and Pensacola. Newnansville was about about 80 miles southeast of Troupville,  in Lowndes County, GA.

In the spring of 1837 militia troops from Lowndes county were sent across the state line to join the forces at Fort Gilleland:

Jacksonville Courier
Jacksonville, May 11, 1837

—Extract of a letter from Col. Mills, to the Editor, dated Fort Gilliland, May 8.

“Major Staniford, with two companies of the 2d Infantry, arrived here yesterday in obedience to orders from Maj. Gen. Jesup, from Lowndes county, Georgia, and are here encamped, awaiting orders.” 

The following summer, in 1837, Samuel Register and other Lowndes county men went south to join the East Florida Volunteer militia to fight against the Indians on the Florida frontier. According to the records of the Florida Department of Military Affairs, Register traveled first to Fort Palmetto, on the Suwanee River at Fanning Springs, FL.

Samuel Register and his sons, David and John,   served with “Captain John J. Johnson’s Company of the 2nd Regiment, East Florida Mounted Volunteers, commanded by Colonel William J. Mills, ordered into the service of the United States by Major General Thomas J. Jessup under the Act of Congress approved May 23d 1836, for six months from the 16th day of June 1837 to the 18th day of December 1837.  Company enrolled at Fort Palmetto, Florida, and marched sixty miles to place of rendezvous at Fort Gilliland, Fla. Company mustered in by Lieutenant W. Wall, 3d Artillery.”

His son-in-law, John Tomlinson, and two other Registers in this same service and company: Samuel Register Jr and John Register, Jr..  Seaborn Lastinger, of Lowndes County, served as a private; he would be shot for desertion during the Civil War. James B. Johnson and Young Johnson , grand uncles of JHP Johnson of Ray City, served in the Florida Drafted Mounted Militia.

Muster Roll of East Florida Volunteers

Muster Roll of East Florida Volunteers

http://archive.org/stream/floridamilitiamu05morr#page/n71/mode/1up

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson's Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson’s Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

http://archive.org/stream/floridamilitiamu05morr#page/n72/mode/1up

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson's Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Muster Roll of Captain John J. Johnson’s Mounted Company of the 2d Regiment of East Florida Volunteers, 2d Brigade of Florida Militia, Commanded by Colonel William J. Mills.

Samuel Register was honorably discharged at Newnansville in December, 1837. He subsequently “served another enlistment in the Indian War under the same Capt Johnson (April 1, 1838-July 31, 1838). He also served a third term under this same Capt Johnson in the Georgia mounted Militia (Aug 25, 1840-Oct 18, 1840). On his Bounty Land application dated Nov 23, 1850, he was granted 160 acres of land for this service. His son-in-law John Tomlinson (husband of Zilpha) who served in the same military unit was granted 80 acres of land for his services”

Between 1840 and 1842, Samuel Register sold out his home-place in the 10th District, and moved from Possum Branch to the 11th Land District where he acquired Land Lot 500.   This lot was in that part of Lowndes county that was cut into the new county of Clinch in 1850, and in 1920 was cut out of Clinch into Lanier County.

In 1856, it was a great boon to Register when the Atlantic & Gulf railroad was charted  to run   from a connection with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf railroad at Screven, by way of his land to Thomasville. But when the surveyors for the new railroad  selected a route through Valdosta bypassing Troupville, that old town was doomed.   Register had a portion of Lot 500 platted into town lots and founded the town of “Registerville.” Although when the railroad people came through, they changed the name to “Stockton”, in honor of one of their contractors, a Mr. Stockton, who had charge of the road construction.

Children of Samuel Register and Elizabeth Skinner:

  1. Zilpha Register, born Feb. 4, 1807, married her first cousin John Tomlinson.
  2. Eady (Edith) Register, born Mar. 1, 1809, married Thomas Mathis Nov. 1, 1826 in Lowndes County.
  3. Guilford Register, born Jan. 7, 1811, married Priscilla Ann DeVane.
  4. David Register, born Apr. 10, 1813, married Matilda McDaniel of Bulloch County.
  5. William Register, born Sept. 24, 1814, married Luraney Harnage from Liberty County.
  6. John Register,  born June 10, 1819, married 1st Elizabeth Cowart, 2nd.Mary Ann Fiveash.
  7. Rebecca Register, born Apr. 5, 1821, married Reverend Hillery Cowart of Echols County.
  8. Phoebe Register, born Aug. 15, 1823, married Zachariah Lee of Clinch County.
  9. Jincy Register, born June 15, 1824, married Moses C. Lee of Berrien County.
  10. Ivy Register, born Apr. 22, 1825, married 1st Leta Lee, married 2nd Lavinia Arnold
  11. Samuel E. Register, born Sept. 16, 1826, married 1st Seneth Lee, married 2nd Mary Hutto, married 3rd Josephine Guthrie, lived in Berrien County.
  12. Elizabeth Register, born Aug. 21, 1828, married William Patten of present Lanier County.
  13. Reubin Register, born Nov. 25, 1830, married Harriet Brown, lived in present Berrien co.
  14. Martha Register, born Dec. 18, 1831, married Hillery P. Mathis of present Lanier co.

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Boys Lost in the Swamp

In 1906 two young men, William Franklin “Frank” Shaw and Ben Giddens, wandered into the South Georgia swamp. When it got late and the skies turned stormy the Shaw family, many of whom lived and worked in the Ray City vicinity, mobilized to search for the boys.  (Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien Historical Foundation, has written about his family history in the newsletter, Family of Francis Marion Shaw.)

The Valdosta Times
June 23, 1906

BOYS LOST IN THE SWAMP.

Cat Creek Lads Go Hunting and Failed to Return.

Frank Shaw and Ben Giddens Followed a Rabbit Into a Swamp and Were Unable to Find Their Way Out

Cat Creek, Ga., June 20 – Last Tuesday afternoon Frank Shaw, aged 15, son of Mr. B. F. Shaw, and Ben Giddens, another boy about the same age left their homes to go to the swamp nearby to gather huckleberries. The dogs that followed the boys treed a rabbit in the swamps, which is a bad place and the boys decided to go in the swamp and get the rabbit, when to their great surprise they found themselves lost.     The night was a dark and stormy one and the trees and limbs were falling in every direction.  The boy’s parents became alarmed by the boys failing to show up and they decided to go in search of them.     Messrs. B. F. Shaw and two sons, F. M. Shaw, Bobbie Taylor, John Shaw, W. B. Parrish, Frank Allen, J. S. Shaw, Brodie and Bruner Shaw, all went in search of the missing boys, some going in every direction.  The dogs that accompanied the boys did not come home, which brought great relief to the boy’s parents who realized that if the boys were either drowned or killed the dogs would have returned home.    The boys managed to find their way out of the swamps and got back to their homes about 11 o’clock, completely tired out.

Fortunately, on this day everyone returned safely to their homes.  Both Frank Shaw and Ben Giddens  would later call Ray City home. Frank Shaw, like many of the Shaw family children, attended school at King’s Chapel.

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Everything is Illuminated in Ray City, GA

Swindle and Clements, one of the historic businesses of Ray City,  was one of the advertisers in the Jan 3, 1929 edition of the Ray City News.  An interesting note in the ad is the emphasis on “Shawinigan Carbide.”  Apparently it was one of their most important items, as the only other item specifically mentioned in the ad was Georgia Peanuts. Advertising this item shows just how little electricity had trickled down to the rural residents of Wiregrass Georgia in 1929.

Swindle and Clements 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

Swindle and Clements 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

What was Shawinigan Carbide?

Carbide lighting is a form of illumination that was used in rural and urban areas of the United States which were not served by electrification. Its use began before 1900 and continued past 1950. Carbide pellets  could be placed in specially constructed lamps that allowed  carefully controlled mixing with water. Wetting the carbide pellets released acetylene gas, which was then burned as the fuel for the lamp.  Alternately, the carbide could be placed  in a container outside the home, with water piped to the container and allowed to drip on the pellets creating the gas. This gas was then piped to lighting fixtures inside the house, where it was burned, creating a very bright flame. Carbide lighting was inexpensive but was prone to gas leaks and explosions.

The convenience of carbide power appealed to rural South Georgia residents like Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw, for whom electricity was inaccessible.  Doc Shaw’s place was situated on Possum Branch, near Ray City.  In an article titled Life on the Doc Shaw farm, granddaughter Gwen Shaw Watson wrote:

Grandpa Shaw was one of the first to have carbide lights. They were a step up from the oil lamps which were commonly used. Later, they had a refrigerator that ran on carbide.

Shawinigan Carbide was just one of the brand name carbide suppliers. Another, was Union Carbide:

Union Carbide advertisment, Farm Journal, 1910

Union Carbide advertisment, Farm Journal, 1910

JUST suppose, when company comes, you could pull a little chain and turn on a flood of light in a cluster of globes hanging from the parlor ceiling.

And suppose a little later you could pull another little chain and turn on a beautiful light in a colored dome hanging over the dining room table.

Pull still other chains and turn on lights in your bed rooms, your kitchen, or your cellar.

Pull another and fill your barn with light that would show up every hair, straw or buckle as plain as these things would show by daylight.

And suppose you made all the gas for these lights yourself, right on the place.

Made it so easy that the work required only fifteen minutes of your time once a month.

Make it so cheaply that the light costs you no more than kerosene.

And suppose you actually used this same home-made gas as fuel for cooking on hot days or when you are in a hurry.

In other words, suppose you had a little acetylene gas plant built for country home use.

A plant that would mean no more washing or breaking of chimneys— no soot or grease to fight with—no wicks to trim, no oil to spill or burn and no coal to store or handle.

Picture the advantages In your mind’s eye—stop and think of the safety, comfort, satisfaction and happiness it would bring to your family.

Do this and you will understand why it is that over one hundred and seventy-six thousand farm houses have been equipped with Acetylene gas to date. Consider also that these one hundred and seventy-six thousand country home owners simply followed the lead of over twenty million city people who have used gas so long that they don’t know what an oil lamp looks like.

Like these city friends, you wouldn’t keep

your oil lamps If city gas could be piped to your place, and this new rural gas, “Acetylene,” beats city gas all hollow in forty ways.

Unlike city gas, your Acetylene will not be poisonous to breathe—you can sleep all night In a room with an open burner with no injurious effects whatever.

Volume for volume, your Acetylene will give ten times more light than your city cousin gets from the best city gas.

Then when you use it as a fuel, your Acetylene will be delivered right in your cooking appliance, where it will supply heat on tap that you can regulate with a thumb screw.

The crushed stone you will use in making your Acetylene is known commercially as Union Carbide, and is sold at factory prices and shipped direct to you from the company’s own warehouse located In your district.

Union Carbide won’t burn—can’t explode, and will keep for years In any climate.

Once a month you will have to drop a few pounds of Union Carbide in one part and a few gallons of water in another part of a small tank-like machine that sets in your basement or in an out-bulldlng.

Genuine Acetylene is produced from just Union Carbide and plain water.

Won’t you let us tell you how little it will cost to make this wonderful light and fuel yourself for your home and all the other buildings on your place? Write us how many rooms yon have, and we will send you free some mighty interesting booklets and give you an estimate as to the cost of a machine and lighting fixtures suited to your requirements.

Just address UNION CARBIDE SALES COMPANY, Dept. C—, 161 Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ills.

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