Wilma Harper Shultz Began 60-year Teaching Career at Ray City

Eighteen-year-old Wilma Geneva Harper  began her teaching career at Ray City School in 1928. There, while teaching first grade, she met and married Ray City School principal Prentice Munson Shultz.  The couple worked together at the school until 1941.

Wilma Harper was born in Willacoochee, GA on June 13, 1909, a daughter of Minnie Etta Burns and Youngie Harper. Her family lived in Willacoochee and Douglas, GA before moving to Ocilla, GA.

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

At Ray City School, Wilma Harper Shultz taught in a wood-frame classroom building that was constructed as an annex to the brick school built in 1923.  In a 1988 article in the  Rome News,  she reflected on her start at Ray City School and 60 years spent in the classroom.

Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News, December 12, 1988. Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News
December 12, 1988

Retired Teacher Can’t Stay Away

Milledgeville – Wilma Shultz has taught a lot of children, their children, and their childrens’ children in her 60 years in the classroom.

She retired after 46 years as a first-grade teacher in 1974, but retirement could not keep her out of the classroom. She has continued to substitute teach at Midway Elementary School, where she spent most of her career, and at Northside Elementary School.

At 78, the petite, immaculately dressed white-haired woman says teaching is the one thing that keeps her going.

She began in 1928 in Ray City, near Ocilla, where she grew up on a farm. She had set her sights on teaching when she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City school.

The only requirement for teaching then was a teacher-training course, which she took in high school. She began teaching first grade at age 18.

A year later she married the principal.  

They moved to Milledgeville in 1943, where Prentice Shultz taught math at Georgia Military College and his wife worked at a nursery school. They attended college during the summer, getting their education degrees, completing requirements by 1951.

When Prentice Shultz died in 1976, his wife said, she found her life empty and began substitute-teaching to fill the void left by his death.

“It’s hard to be left alone,” she said.  “I’ve seen people my age give up. But, I like being able to get up and go to the classroom.  It’s my therapy.  It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Teaching, she said, has changed. In Ray City she taught in a house converted to a school. There was no indoor plumbing and no lunchroom.

Her students were rural children unprepared for the academic and social aspects of school.  They were shy and frightened, and they didn’t know how to write or count.

“Today, children start off with kindergarten, so you don’t have that long readiness period in first grade,” she said. “When I began teaching, we had to teach them everything from the ground up.  I would say that when children finish first grade now, it is comparable to children in second or third grade then.

But it’s the things that don’t change, she says, that make her love teaching.

“They are still those sweet, innocent children,” she said.

Wilma Harper Shultz died on September 11, 2002.


Mrs. Wilma Shultz, 93, died September 11, 2002, in Greenville.

Mrs. Shultz was a native of Barrow County, but made her home in Milledgeville, Ga., for 58 years before moving to Greenville. She was a graduate of Georgia State College for Women, was a retired elementary school teacher in Baldwin County and was a member of First United Methodist Church.

Surviving are her daughter and son-in-law, Janice and Jimmy
Lyon, of Greenville; and two grandsons, Ray Lyon of Appleton, Wisconsin, and Ken and Candyce Lyon of Charleston.

Services will be Saturday, September 14, at 11 a.m., at First United Methodist Church in Milledgeville, Ga., with Dr. Harold Lawrence officiating. Burial will follow at Baldwin Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

The family will receive friends tonight, September 13th, from 7 to 8:30 at Moore’s Funeral Home in Milledgeville, Ga.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the St. Francis Hospice, 414 Pettgru St. Greenville, SC 29601; or First United Methodist Church Building Fund, 300 W. Hancock St. Milledgeville, GA 31061.

The Mackey Mortuary is in charge of local arrangements.

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

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Chester Lee died of Typhoid Pneumonia

Chester Lee (1887-1908)

Chester Lee, son of Moses Lee and Amanda Clements, had attended the  Georgia Normal College and Business Institute  in Abbeville, GA.    He was a classmate there with Joe and Irwin Clements in 1904, and a number of other young men and women of Ray City were alumni of the college.

A personal mention in th September 9, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette. Irwin and Joe Clements, and Chester L. Lee headed to college.

A personal mention in th September 9, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette. Irwin and Joe Clements, and Chester L. Lee headed to college.

By  1908 the school had relocated to Douglas, GA and in the fall of that year, Chester Lee was continuing his education at the college.     It was a great convenience that  the Georgia & Florida Railroad line connecting Douglas and Ray City, GA had just opened in October 1908.

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Douglas, GA photographed circa 1920.

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Douglas, GA photographed circa 1920.


But by November 1908,  Chester became ill while at the college.  He returned  to the Berrien County home of his parents to die.

1908 Obituary of Chester Lee, son of Moses Lee and Amanda Clements

1908 Obituary of Chester Lee, son of Moses Lee and Amanda Clements

Valdosta Times
December 19, 1908

A Sad Death at Milltown

       Miltown, Ga., Dec. 17. – Chester Lee, the third son of Mr. and Mrs. Moses Lee, a prominent farmer who lives two miles from town, died at the home of his father yesterday morning of typhoid pneumonic fever contracted while he was at school at Douglas.
       Chester came home about five weeks ago complaining of being ill, and took to his bed immediately, since then all that medical skill and loving kindness could do for him was done, but he answered the call of the grim reaper yesterday morning. All of his brothers and sisters was at the bed side when the end came. Chester was just budding into manhood, and was loved by all who became acquainted with him. He was laid to rest at Union cemetery near here this morning, followed by a large crowd of sorrowing friends.
      His death falls very heavily on his parents, as this makes the fourth child that they have lost in as many years.

Grave marker of L. Chester Lee, Union Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image source: Tonya Studstill Long

Grave marker of L. Chester Lee, Union Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image source: Tonya Studstill Long

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G & F Railroad To Open with Big Excursion

Road opens with big excursion

Georgia and Florida railroad prepared to open. Atlanta Georgian and News, Sep. 26, 1908

Georgia and Florida railroad prepared to open. Atlanta Georgian and News, Sep. 26, 1908

Atlanta Georgian and News
September 26, 1908

To Open Road With Big Excursion

Valdosta, Ga., Sept. 26. – The businessmen of Valdosta held a meeting at the city hall yesterday afternoon for the purpose of perfecting arrangements for the entertainment of the people along the line of the Georgia and Florida railroad who are coming to this city on the big excursion which the road will run next Thursday. This event will mark the opening of a passenger schedule on the new line between Hazlehurst and Madison, Fla., via Valdosta, and it is said that hundreds of persons are coming to this city from the different towns along the line. Many of them will be strangers who have never visited Valdosta, and all will be given a royal welcome.
The track-layers on the gap of the line between Valdosta and Nashville joined the rails near Rays Mill last Saturday and this week has been spent in surfacing the roadbed and getting ready for the passenger schedule to go on October 1. The road is now in operating order from Hazlehurst to Madison, Fla.

First Regular Train on the G & F, The Valdosta Times, September 26, 1908 Pg 5

First Regular Train on the G & F, The Valdosta Times, September 26, 1908 Pg 5

The Valdosta Times
September 26, 1908

Many are Coming Next Week

First Regular Train on G. & F. will Bring Large Crowds

It Will Arrive From Hazlehurst Next Wednesday with Five Hundred Excursionists to Spend the Day in Valdosta – Crowd Will be Entertained Here.

The first regular passenger train over the Georgia and Florida railroad will reach this city next Wednesday at noon from Hazelhurst, Ga.
The train will leave Hazlehurst that morning at seven o’clock and it will come through by Broxton, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville and other places, taking up a crowd of people at each station and bring them to Valdosta to spend the day.
The first train will be devoted exclusively to the white people and the officials of the road are working up the crowd to come here. It will consist of the best class of people between here and Hazlehurst, and the citizens of Valdosta have already decided to arrange some line of entertainment for the visitors.
A meeting will be held tonight to take up the matter and discuss what line of entertainment shall be arranged. It has been suggested that open-house be kept for the visitors and that lunches be prepared and served to them. One suggestion was to tag every guest with a badge, which should admit him to the place where refreshments are to be served. Another suggestion was to have the dinner prepared when the guests arrive and serve it to the visitors in a bunch, so that the citizens of Valdosta will have a better opportunity to meet them and talk with them.
The details of the entertainment will be arranged later, it having already been decided to make it all that it should be. Valdosta never lags when a test of hospitality comes and every citizen will do his part toward welcoming to the city the people on the line of road above here.
It is very probable that the meeting tonight will decide all about what kind of entertainment will be given the visitors.

Cauley Hammond Shaw was Ray City Police Chief

Cauley Hammond Shaw (1883-1961)
Ray City Police Chief, 1914

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and www.berriencountyga.com

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and http://www.berriencountyga.com

In 1914 Police Chief Cauley Shaw was the officer responsible for law and order in Ray City, Ga.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law by Bryan Shaw, relates that Cauley H. Shaw served as Deputy Sheriff in Berrien County, 1907; Nashville Police Chief, 1908; Milltown City Marshal, 1910; Douglas Police Chief, 1911; Ray City Police Chief, 1914; Willacoochee Police Chief, 1920; and was the first motorcycle police officer in Valdosta, GA.

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Cauley Hammond Shaw was born November 5, 1883, a son of Charlton Hines Shaw and Rebecca Jane Devane.  As a boy, he attended the local schools through the 7th grade. In the Census of 1900 Cauley H. Shaw, age 16, is enumerated in his parents’ household. His father owned a farm near Adel, GA where Cauley assisted with the farm labor. Cauley’s elder brother, Lester H. Shaw, worked as a teamster, while his younger siblings attended school.

As a young man, Cauley Shaw entered the profession of  law enforcement, serving as a Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County in 1907.   On January 16, 1907 he married Julia Texas Peters , in Berrien county, GA. She was the daughter of William Peters and Sarah Mathis, born May 20, 1883 in Berrien, GA.

A year later  Cauley accepted the position of Police Chief in Nashville, GA. The newlyweds were blessed with their firstborn child on February 21, 1908, a boy they named James C. Shaw. Tragically, their infant son died just six months later on September 3, 1908 and was laid to rest in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. The following year on October 24, 1909 Julia delivered a second child, Julian C. Shaw. Again, tragedy struck, the newborn surviving just a few weeks. The baby Shaw was interred at Cat Creek Cemetery.

In April of 1910, Cauley and Julia were found in Hazelhurst. GA. They were boarding in the household of Rebecca W. Barber, widow of Dr. John W. Barber. Cauley owned a barbershop where he worked on his own account. Soon, though, Cauley returned to police work, serving as City Marshal of Milltown (now Lakeland, GA) in 1910, and Police Chief of Douglas, GA in 1911.

In 1913 a third child was born to Cauley and Julia, a daughter they named Hazel Annie. By this time, Cauley Shaw had moved his young family back to Ray City, GA where he served as Chief of Police.

Bryan Shaw relates an incident report from the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

Again, January 22 , 1915:

 Officers at Ray’s Mill raided a skin game a few nights ago and brought in ten colored men and boys.

The first World War found Cauley Shaw and his family still in Ray City. On September 12, 1918 Cauley Shaw registered for the WWI draft in Ray City. Signing as Registrar on his draft card was the town pharmacist, C.O. Terry. He was 34 years old, medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and light hair. Cauley had given up  his position as Ray City Police Chief to Charlie H. Adams,  and was  employed in farming at Ray City.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

By the time of the 1920 census, Cauley Shaw had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA, where he had returned to law enforcement, working as a city policeman. When the Shaws were enumerated on January 2, 1920 they were renting a house on Vickers Street. The Shaw household consisted of Cauley, wife Julia, their seven-year-old daughter Hazel, and their niece Myrtie Smith, age eight.

The Valdosta City Directory shows, in 1923, Cauley and Julia Shaw were living in a home at 406 Floyd Street, Valdosta, GA.  Cauley was employed as a foreman. His cousin, Brodie Shaw, owned  home a few blocks away at 203 S. Lee Street, and was working as a “yardman” [lumber yard?].  By 1925, the directory shows  Cauley was back in police work for the city of Valdosta.  Brodie Shaw had moved even closer, to a home at 307 Savannah Street.

Some time before 1930, Cauley and Julia moved to Douglas, GA where Cauley had served as police chief in 1911. Cauley again took work as a city policeman. They first rented then purchased a home near the corner of Ashley Street and College Avenue.   In 1930, their daughter, Hazel, married John H. Peterson, of Douglas.

Julia and Cauley remained in Douglas, GA.  The census records show Cauley’s 1940 salary as a police officer there was about  $23 dollars a week.

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and www.berriencountyga.com

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and http://www.berriencountyga.com

Julia Peters Shaw died March 16, 1956.   Cauley Hammond Shaw died in Douglas, GA on March 28, 1961.  Both are buried in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes county, GA.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Image courtesy of  Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.


Witchy Women and Wiregrass Medicine

Among the earliest trained medical men at Ray’s Mill was John Thomas Clower (1830-1893), the son of a Revolutionary Soldier who immigrated from Germany to fight for American independence. A graduate of Atlanta Medical College, John Thomas Clower, served as a military surgeon during the Civil War. Afterwards he came to Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA where he practiced medicine in this community from 1870 until 1887.

There were the Medical Men of Ray’s Mill, and there were the home remedies. Ray City had its faith healers, too. In the 1930, one such healer was Stella Wright ~ Seeress of Ray City, GA.

In the earliest pioneer days of Wiregrass Georgia, medical science was little known, and the people depended more on home remedies and faith than doctors.  In 1922, Warren Preston Ward, of Douglas, GA wrote a series of sketches of early Wiregrass Georgia, and among these was a narrative on medical practices of the early pioneers:

Another thing that entered very largely in the economic life of the people was the question of sickness, medicine and the doctor.  There were no doctors in this section of Georgia when it was first settled, for the reason that there were not enough people to support a doctor; but in every neighborhood there was always someone who knew how to give such medicine and plain remedies as were used at that time.  Among the common remedies then in use were oil and turpentine, for colds; red oak bark as an astringent; elderberry bark as a purgative and an astringent.  The wise ones said scrape the bark down for a purgative and scrape the bark up for an astringent.  For cuts and to stop blood, use cobweb; that is spider webs hanging about the walls covered with smut.  Sweet gum and mullen was used for fevers, pepper tea was used for colds; for sprains, use a mixture of clay and vinegar; for stings, use tobacco; for snake bite, use whisky or poultice made of salt, tobacco and onions; for pneumonia, bleed the person during the first stages; for burns, use the white of an egg mixed with flour;  many people thought that fire could be talked out and there were always many old witchy women ready to talk it out; warts, moles and cancers were conjured (whatever that means). Sage, thyme and rosemary were given by nearly all the people and were used for teas.  Another peculiar remedy was for the hives; the remedy was for any person who had never seen their father to blow their breath in the child’s face and the hives would leave right now, so it was said.
     In these good old days old Uncle Stafford Davis was a celebrated cancer doctor of the conjure kind.  People came to see him for hundreds of miles.  They also wrote him letters for his absent treatment.  Many people thought he was gifted from God.  The old man did not charge anything for his services, if you had anything to give him he accepted it with thanks.  He lived to be 106 years old and died soon after the civil war.  Before his death he undertook to transfer his gift of healing to his grandson, Joseph Ward.  Some of the first doctors to practice in this section [Appling] of Georgia were Doctors Rambo and Smith; old man William Ward also done a little homespun practice.  Dr. C.G.B.W. Parker did a large practice, but people relied mainly upon their home remedies and upon advice of the men and women in the neighborhood who had experience in giving medicine and in nursing the sick.

About 1815 calomel came into general use among the common people.  Many persons got salivated and were afraid to use it.  But sure as you called a doctor he used calomel.  If it salivated, so much the better in some cases. During this time of hot discussion, pro and con, some one expressed his disgust at the use of calomel in these lines-

“Mr. Wade was taken sick,
Go, call a doctor and be quick,
The doctor comes and remembers well
To bring a bottle of calomel.

“He turns to the patient’s wife,
Have you a clean paper and a knife?
I think your husband would do well
To take a dose of calomel.

“The patient grows worse quite fast indeed,
Go call a council and make speed:
The council comes, and remembers well
To double the dose of calomel.

“The patient says to his weeping wife:
This nasty thing has got my life.
I bid you all a long farewell,
Let me do so without the use of calomel.”

    One of the sad features of sickness and death in these old days was that each family often had to doctor and nurse their own sick, and when they died they had to make their own pine-board coffin and put them away in their last resting place, often with no friend to offer a word of sympathy, or a minister of the gospel to offer a word of prayer or to point sad hearts to the better day and better time when they should all meet again in the morning of the resurrection.

During the “Age of Heroic Medicine” (1780–1850), educated professional physicians practiced aggressive techniques including bloodletting, intestinal purging (calomel), vomiting (tartar emetic), profuse sweating (diaphoretics) and blistering, stressing already weakened bodies.  Heroic medicine was strongly advocated by Benjamin Rush (1745–1813), trained in medicine at Edinburgh University and one of the “fathers” of American medicine, who also signed the American Declaration of Independence.  While well-intentioned, and often well-accepted by the medical community, these treatments were actually harmful to the patient.

Calomel, a compound of Mercurous Chloride, became a popular remedy for a variety of physical and mental ailments during the age of “heroic medicine.” It was used by doctors in America throughout the 18th century, and during the revolution, to remove “impurities” from the body. Calomel was given to patients as a purgative or cathartic and was often administered to patients in such great quantities that their hair and teeth fell out, along with other horrific side effects.  One characteristic effect appeared in the well-known phenomenon of mercurial salivation –  a profuse flow of saliva in the body’s effort to rid itself of the deadly a poison.  For many patients the cure of Calomel was suffering and death resulting from mercurial poisoning.

According to Steve Spakov, Loyola University, “It is toxic and its toxicity is compounded because mercury accumulates as a poison. It acts as a purgative and kills bacteria (and also does irreversible damage to their human hosts). Some treatments are of historical interest. The three physicians atttending Gen. Washington’s final hours administered calomel to the dying President. Lewis and Clark carried it on their expedition and used it to treat their men’s STD’s. Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) suffered from its effects.

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The Last Run of the Iron Horse

On March 24, 1954 engine number 507 was the last steam locomotive to make the run down the line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad which passed through Ray City, GA.   The train, photographed below at its last passage through Nashville, GA,was manned by: Engineer Bo Dell Mead, of Douglas, GA; Fireman C. J. Bush, Pridgen, GA; and Conductor H. T. Sowell, of Douglas, GA.

Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad at Nashville, GA, March 24, 1954. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad at Nashville, GA, March 24, 1954. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

In Ray City, there was was the big wooden water tower which provided water for the old steam engines.  This tower stood just south of Main Street,on the east side of the tracks, next to Marvin Purvis’ Grocery Store.




Bound by a Band of Steel

By 1908, Valdosta already had railroads and so did Nashville. Now The Douglas Enterprise reported the Georgia & Florida Railroad would lay track to close the 26 mile gap between them, “Two of the brightest stars of the group of South Georgia’s cities bound by a band of steel.”

The citizens of Ray’s Mill had secured the routing of the tracks to pass through the small community, over a competing route that would have passed through Cat Creek (see Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad).

At that time Mr. J.S. Swindle owned much of the land around the present site of the town.  It is said that he bargained with the railroad company to give them the right of way if they would give him a station.  This agreement was made and thus started the town [of Ray City].

It was projected that regular passenger service on the new G & F line would begin on October 1, 1908.     Two trains a day would stop at the station in Rays Mill.   The train depot and local offices of the Georgia & Florida Railroad were to be among the first businesses in the newly incorporated town of Ray City.  In addition to the depot, the railroad would build a number of section houses at Ray’s Mill to house railroad employees and their families. The new line, it was said, “opens up a splendid territory in this [Lowndes] and Berrien County.”  Ultimately the G & F Railroad would connect Augusta, Georgia and Madison, Florida.

By March, 1908 surveying was underway for the final segment of the Georgia and Florida railroad connecting Nashville and Valdosta, GA.

Surveying the route of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. Valdosta Daily Times, March 7, 1908

Surveying the route of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. Valdosta Daily Times, March 7, 1908

Valdosta Daily Times
March 7, 1908


Work on the Line to Nashville to Start in Short While.

The Georgia and Florida Road Secures Additional Offices Here to be Used During the Period of Constructing the Line – The New Outlets at Augusta.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.

     The links that will complete the Georgia and Florida Railroad are to be built at once and the big road for which Valdostans have hoped and wised so long will soon pass from a dream to reality.
     Mr. G. M. Jones, assistant chief engineer of the road, arrived in Valdosta yesterday.  He has located an office in this city from where he will supervise the construction of the road between Valdosta and Nashville. It is learned on good authority that work will begin right away and be pushed to completion as early as possible.  This is the only line of much length between Madison and Hazlehurst, unless a new one from Douglas is built which would straighten the main road considerably between that city and Hazlehurst.
     It is thought that by the end of the year the whole road will be finished and that through trains will be running from Augusta to Madison.
     It is hard to estimate the benefit this road will be to Valdosta, as it will give the city direct passage into a rich and fast developing territory that it has been hard to reach heretofore.
     It will give her another big trunk line which, it is claimed will be the equal of any one of the lines she now has, which is a pretty big claim.
     With the completion of this road new enterprises are bound to spring up which will add greatly to the city’s material prosperity and growth.
     There is now a road being built from  Augusta to Elberton the Southern has a road from Elberton  to Toccoa, and when the Georgia and Florida is completed a direct route into North-east Georgia will be had which will add greatly to the travel and trade from that part of the state.
      It will open up a field in Georgia for the early melons and truck and field products of this section that has hardly been touched heretofore.
    With the Georgia and Florida road in operation Valdosta should become one of the biggest truck and melon centers in the South.
      It will open up a new territory for the foundries and machine shops, buggy and harness factories and for the production of every factory and field of this section.
     It will be a glad day for Valdosta when train begin to move between here and Augusta.

On March 18, 1908, Engineering and Contracting magazine announced that a contract had been let for construction of the railroad line that would pass through Rays Mill, GA:

“Valdosta, Ga.—Georgia & Florida Ry., J. M. Turner, General Manager, Augusta. Ga., is to construct a line from Valdosta to Nashville, Ga., about 30 miles, to link two of the properties of the company.   A. & F. Wright have been awarded the contract. The Georgia & Florida Ry. controls a number of small roads which it is proposed to connect. Much of this work has already been done.” –  Engineering and contracting. (March 18, 1908). New York: The Myron C. Clark Pub. Co. Pg 25



Ray City Investors Receive State Bank Charter

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

Atlanta Georgian and News, Apr. 28, 1911 — page 3

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

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

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

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Counterfeit Coins in Berrien County

The first bank in Ray’s Mill, GA [Ray City] was not established until 1909. In the earliest days of Berrien County there were no local financial establishments. The nearest bank was 120 miles away at Saint Mary’s, GA, in Camden County. It had a capital of $30,000.00. In the 1840s the cashier was George Washington Winter and the bank’s president was John.G. Winter (see THE LETTERS OF A GEORGIA UNIONIST: JOHN G. WINTER AND SECESSION).

John G. Winters, a prominent citizen of Columbus GA, was president of the Bank of St. Mary's in the 1840s.

John G. Winter was a prominent citizen of Columbus, GA who purchased controlling interest of the Bank of St. Mary’s in 1841. In 1844, he was elected mayor of Columbus. During the Civil War he remained a Unionist.

Due to the remoteness, conducting commerce from the region of present day Berrien county was daunting.  Early Berrien settlers traded at Centerville, GA  near St. Marys and its trading port.  Although the Bank of St. Mary’s issued currency as early as 1840, the pioneer farmers and stockmen of Berrien [then Lowndes county] were not wont to exchange their products for paper money.

1840 ten dollar note, Bank of St. Mary's

1840 ten dollar note, Bank of St. Mary’s.  John G. Winter, President.

The oldtimers may have had reason not to trust paper bank notes, as this clipping from the April 28, 1852 New York Daily Times indicated:

April 28, 1852  New York Daily Times reports the Bank of St. Mary's is broke.

April 28, 1852 New York Daily Times reports the Bank of St. Mary’s is broke.

But large payments received in gold or silver coin could be difficult to carry. According to a Berrien County Centennial article written in 1956,  “It was often transported in ‘saddlebags,’ a kind of leather wallet swung across the saddle, containing a spacious wallet on each side. The cattle raisers of this territory often brought home as much as a half bushel of specie in this manner, obtained from the sale of beef steers driven to Savannah or Jacksonville and sold.”


Berrien County, GA pioneers knew that even commerce transacted in gold coin did not always protect the seller.

The following item appeared in the Atlanta Constitution Tuesday, October 31, 1882.

From the Berrien County News.
 Counterfeit two dollar and a half gold pieces are in circulation in this vicinity. They are not hard to detect. A half a day’s carrying them in the pocket rubs off the (?) gold and exposes to view a white looking metal.”

In 1910 counterfeiters were caught operating in Berrien, Coffee, and Appling counties.

Atlanta Constitution
February 25, 1910


Dr. J. Dedge of Coffee County is Held to Await Trial for Counterfeiting

    Valdosta, Ga. Feb 24 – Dr. J.R. Dedge, a dentist at Nicholls, Coffee county, Ga. and his brother. E. E. Dedge of Milltown, Berrien county, were arrested by United States secret service men and  brought to Valdosta to-day, charged with being implicated in the disposal of counterfeiting $10 gold pieces.
    The former was given a perliminary hearing before United States Commissioner Roy E. Powell and bound over under a bond of $4,000. The warrant against the latter was dismissed.
    Dr. J. R. Dedge was arrested by Special Treasury Agent J. M. Wright and Postoffice Inspector Brittain, at the home of his father in Appling county at a late hour last night, while E. E. Dedge was taken into custody by Deputy Marshals J. M. Sutton and D. H. Riley at Milltown.
    When the former was arrested the officers said a small box containing ten spurious  $10 gold pieces was found in his overcoat pocket and these coins were exhibited as evidence against the accused at the hearing in the afternoon. Their workmanship is pronounced by the officers as about the best they saw. The coins apparently are made of a white metal plated with gold and could be readily passed as genuine on a person who happened not to notice them carefully. Their greatest defect is their light weight, two of them weighing but little more than our genuine coin weighs.
    The case against D. Dedge was worked up by Inspector Brittain. On the stand he stated that the box of coins, which he has received through the mails addressed to the  accused at Douglas, Ga. had been ordered forwarded to Nicholls. The inspector’s attention was called to it by the post-master and his assistants, whose suspicions had been aroused in some manner. The inspector opened the box and carried it to the deputy collector’s office at Macon, where it was exhibited to Collector Storrs.

The Dedge brothers were from a family of dentists who figured prominently Wiregrass history.  They were involved in a number of currency schemes or other frauds, not the least of which was the Wild Man of the Wiregrass.

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1922 Ray City Bus Service was Competition for the G & F

By 1922, busses  were providing passenger service in Ray City and south Georgia, and giving the railroads real competition for the service.   The 1922 Bus Transportation book reported the following:

Buses Get all Passengers.—Because it claims the buses operating out of Valdosta, Ray City and Douglas are absorbing all the passenger business, the Georgia & Florida Railroad has petitioned the Georgia Railroad Commission to reduce its passenger service in and out of Valdosta and between Augusta and Tennille. The petition says that passenger trains 6 and 7 between Hazlehurst and Valdosta earned in January 31 and 32 cents respectively per train mile. A bus line, the petition says, operates from Swainsboro to Augusta, by way of Louisville and Wrens, and runs on a schedule just ahead of the passenger train schedule. Of late the bus has absorbed completely the passenger travel between Wrens and Augusta, and left practically none at the other points.

1922 Bus provides public transportation for Pennsylvania bus line.


Image above: From the preceding page of the same issue of Bus Transportation, a photo of a 1922 era bus.  The busses had to be rugged to take the ride on the rough early dirt roads of the day.  There were no paved roads serving Ray City until the 1940s.

By the late 1920s it was the Dixie Bus Line that was providing regularly scheduled passenger service to Ray City.

Nashville Herald. Jan 24, 1929. 





Leave for Ray City, Valdosta, Cly-

attville, Pinetta, Madison 7:40 a.m. 2:40 p.m. Connects at Valdosta for Lake City, Jacksonville, Tampa; at Madison for Greenville, Tallahassee, and Perry, for  Ray City, Lakeland 5:15 p.m.



Leaves for Alapaha, Ocilla, Fitzgerald, 9:40 a.m., 6:40 p.m. Morning coach connects at Alapaha for Tifton, Albany, at Fizgerald for Cordele, Atlanta, Rochelle, Hawkinsville, Abbeville, Eastman, Dublin,  Afternoon for Cordele, Atlanta.

Leave for Alapaha, Enigma, Brookfield, Tifton, 1:00 connects at Tifton for Fitzgerald, Sylvester, Albany, Moultrie, Thomasville, Cordele, Macon.

For further information call the Union Pharmacy, Bus Station.

Your patronage appreciated,

W.I. McCranie, Mgr.

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