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.

related posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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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Bird’s Mill Post Office

A detail of the U.S. Coast Survey Map of Southern Georgia and Part of South Carolina, 1865 depicts the locations of Douglas, Bird’s Mill, Guest, and Nashville,  where Nathan W. Byrd resided from 1854 to 1881.   Milltown, GA and General Levi J. Knight’s residence (site of  Ray’s Mill) are also depicted, as well as early roads in the area, although some locations are distorted by the cartographer.

1865 Map Detail (parts of Berrien, Coffee, and Clinch Counties)

Location of Bird’s Mill and other residences of Nathan W. Byrd

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