Constitution of Union Church

Located on the banks of the Alapaha River about two miles south of present day Lakeland, GA, the old Union Primitive Baptist Church lies about 10 miles east of where Levi J. Knight settled on Beaver Dam Creek (now Ray City, GA).  It was the first church constituted by the pioneer settlers of this region and became the mother church of many Primitive Baptist churches in south Georgia and North Florida. Levi J. Knight’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight , were among the organizing members of the church.  The history of Union Church, also known as Burnt Church, was the subject of a series of sketches by Folks Huxford.

Like the Knights, the Carters were among the earliest settlers in this section of land which would later become Berrien County, GA,  the Knights arriving in 1824 and Carters in 1825.    Jesse Carter settled his family on the west side of the Alapaha River about one and one half miles south of present day Lakeland. The Knight and Carter families were soon connected.  About 1826, Jessie Carter’s  daughter, Rachel Carter, would marry William Cone Knight, son of William Anderson Knight and brother of Levi J. Knight.

Upon arrival, Jesse Carter established the first place of worship in the wilderness of the newly opened Lowndes County. According to Folks Huxford, “The first church building was known as ‘Carter’s Meeting House.’ Of course the name came from the early Carter family that played such a big part in establishing the church. The meeting houses took their names generally from some family that was most active in building the house. Jesse Carter gave the land for the meeting house and built the original building, which was a small log house.  The church records do not show that Mr. Carter was ever a member of Union Church but his wife, Mary, was a member.”  Jesse Carter would later fight under the command of Levi J. Knight in the Skirmish at William Parker’s Place during the Indian Wars of 1836.

Primitive Baptist Meeting House. Image source: Florida Baptist Historical Society

Primitive Baptist Meeting House. Image source: Florida Baptist Historical Society

In 1825 the primitive baptists convening at Carter’s Meeting House constituted as Union Church.  Fleming Bates and Mathew Albritton acted as the presbytery for the constitution of the church.

State of Georgia
Irwin County

1st October 1825

By the goodness of God we whose names are after ritten having been baptized upon a profefsion of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ having heare before lived in Kettle Creek Church and in Hebron and Macadonice Churches from them, have removed to this wilderness counteary, finding each thereout constituted together.  The propriety of becoming a constituted church and we’re on a greede uanamously. Then made application to our several churches for letters with dismission with leave to be come a constituted body at Carter’s Meeting House on the Alappahaw River by which we with the sefrutance of a presbylen intend to be come with the help of God a church independent (as our internal rights) of aney church or churches Presbytory or —— and we do set apart this day for the purpose of becoming constituted for which purpose we do call the following ordained preacher of the Baptist order to act as the Presbytery Lay – Fleming Bates and Mathew Albritton.

These are the names of the members on which the church was constituted.

William A. Knight
Jonathan Knight
Joshua Lee
James Patten
Josiah Sirmans, O.D.
Sarah Knight
Elizabeth Knight
Mary Knight
Martha Lee
Elizabeth Patten

The 1st of October 1825 being pronounced a church of Christ in order have united upon equal turmes and heare after be called and known by the name of Union Church.

 

Note:  Jonathan and Elizabeth Knight were members of Hebron Church (present day Brantley County, GA) before being dismissed by letter on November 8, 1823, to join in organizing Kettle Creek Baptist Church in Ware County which it seems, was near where they lived.

Related Posts:

Old Union Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Burnt Church

William Patten Drew Lots for Inheritance

William Patten (1820-1907) and his brothers, John Jehu Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within the vicinity of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) and  Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). They were sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee Patten, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland), GA. Their sister, Nancy Patten, married John F. Clements in Lowndes County in 1840.

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William, the oldest of the Patten brothers, married Elizabeth Register on May 4, 1845. She was a daughter of Samuel Register, of Registerville, GA (now Stockton, GA), born in Lowndes, now Lanier County, August 31, 1828. The couple made their home near Ten Mile Creek in the area later known as Watson Grade where they raised 12 children.  William Patten was Justice of Peace in the 664th district, Lowndes County, 1845-1848, and 1849-1856.

It is widely reported that William’s father, James M. Patten, died in 1846. His grave marker bears that date, but legal  notices published in the period newspapers clearly indicate he died prior to March 4, 1845. On that date William Patten applied for letters of administration on the estate.

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father's estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father’s estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
March 25, 1845

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas William Patten applies for letters of administration on the estate of James M. Patten, late of said county, deceased-
These are therefore to cite and admonish all and singular, the kindred and creditors of said deceased, to be and appear at my office within the time prescribed by law, to shew cause, if any exists, why said letters should not be granted.
Given under my hand at office, this 4th day of March 1845. 
William Smith, c.c.o.

William Patten  was appointed the administrator of his father’s estate. Since the legal rights of women were severely abridged in those days, William Patten also acted as legal guardian for his minor siblings, Sarah Patten, James Patten, Elizabeth Patten, John Jehu Patten, Mathew Elihu Patten and Mary Patten.

Altogether there were 11 heirs to the James M. Patten estate, and a distribution of the deceased’ livestock was conducted at the March 1849 Term of the Lowndes Court of the Ordinary, with Levi J. Knight, Justice of the Peace, presiding and Thomas B. Griffin, Clerk of the Court. The livestock was divided into 11 lots. According to the court records, the lots were “numbred 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and were assnged to the distributees in the fowollowing maner to wit the names of the distributees were writen on another piece of paper and put into another hat. The hats were both well shaken. A name was then drawn from the hat containing the names then a number was drawn from the hat containing the number and in that manner continued till all were drawn.

William drew Lot number 5, consisting of “29 head cattle marked crop & split in one eare and under l— in the other, branded VV, approved to $4 per head” and took possession of similar lots on behalf of his six wards. William also purchased from his father’s estate a crosscut saw at $7.00, one bed & furniture at $11.00, one grub hoe at $.50, one desk, powder canister & trunk at $2.75, and five bee hives at $5.37.

William Patten was baptized into Union Primitive Baptist Church on September 9, 1848.  The church was constituted in 1825 on the banks of the Alapaha River by his parents, Elizabeth and James Patten, and maternal grandparents, Martha and Joshua Lee, along with William A. Knight, Sarah Knight, Jonathan Knight, Elizabeth Knight, Mary Knight, Josiah Sirmans, and Matthew Albritton.  William Patten served as clerk of Union church from May 10, 1851 to 1854 when he was dismissed by letter March 11, 1854, to unite with Jethro Patten, Aden Boyd, Nancy Boyd and others in organizing Empire Church. The Boyds gave the land for the church, located near Five Mile Creek  about six miles northeast of present day Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway, on Empire Road. Jethro Patten served as first deacon to the church.

William Patten remained a member of Empire church until his death.  William and Jethro were ordained to the ministry by Empire Church and served as pastors to several churches in Clinch and Berrien Counties.

In 1856, William Patten’s place was cut out of Lowndes into Berrien County and he was immediately elected to the office of Justice of the Peace in the newly formed 1144th district, an office he held from 1856 to 1869.  In 1862 he was Captain of the militia district.

There is nothing in the 1850 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants of Lowndes County or 1860 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants Berrien County to indicate that the Pattens were slave owners.  But like many other southern white men, both slave owners and non-slaveholders, the Pattens went off to fight for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Historian Gordon Rhea attributes non-slaveholders’ commitment in the Southern cause to deep held belief in white supremacy, increasing isolation and alienation from the North, and the southern theological interpretation of biblical support for slavery.  Near universal messaging from Southern religious, political and community leaders  reinforced the fears in white southerners of slave rebellion, collapse of the southern economy, loss of status and privilege, and the alleged criminal desires of freedmen.

It is said that William Patten, John Jehu Patten, James Patten, Matthew Elihu Patten and Jethro Patten all fought for the Confederacy. It appears that Jethro Patten served in the 12th Georgia Militia. Jehu and James served with Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment. William served with Company I, 54th Georgia Regiment. Other Berrien Countians in Company I included John Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins, William Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Lemuel Elam Gaskins.  Matthew E. Patten’s Civil War service is not known.

Children of William Patten and Elizabeth Register Patten:

  1. James Irwin Patten born February 15, 1846; married 1st cousin Leanna Patten, daughter of Jethro Patten and Nancy Brown; died 1934
  2. Lewis C. Patten born October 11, 1847; never married; died September 18, 1890.
  3. William C “Babe” Patten born December 28, 1849; married (1) Sarah Lee (2) Laura Watson.
  4. George W. L. Patten born April 21, 1852; died August 8, 1864.
  5. Henry R. Patten born April 17, 1854; died single, November 23, 1873.
  6. Sylvester M. Patten born May 15, 1856; married Eliza Watson; died 1940
  7. Elizabeth Roena Patten born June 27, 1858; married Levi J. Clements; died 1951
  8. Samuel Register Patten born July 8, 1860; married (1) Laura Curry, daughter of Charles W. Curry (2) Matilda Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten; died 1938
  9. Marcus Sheridan Patten born 1861; married January 1, 1901 to Mittie Walker, daughter of Edgar D. Walker; died 1950
  10. Catherine Matilda Patten born December 20, 1864; died single July 2, 1893.
  11. Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten born November 30, 1866; married John Thomas “J.T.” Webb (1863-1924); died 1955.
  12. Edward Levi Patten born March 31, 1869; died single July 7, 1928.

In 1865 William Patten joined the Masonic fraternity, receiving his degrees in the old Butler Lodge No. 211 at Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). Other members of Butler Lodge included Thomas M. Ray , Hardeman Sirmans and Jesse Carroll.  William Patten was demitted September 18, 1880, and on account of the attitude of his church towards Masonry, never affiliated with a lodge thereafter.

In 1867 William Patten owned all 490 acres of Lot 385 in the 1144th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Lot 385 was north of Milltown (now Lakeland) between the forks of the Alapaha River and Ten Mile Creek. To the west, on Lot 384 his brother James Patten also had some property and the rest of that lot was owned by J. C. Clements. Lot 353 to the northwest was but a small part of the holdings of M. C. Lee.  By 1874, William Patten acquired an additional 490 acres on the adjacent Lot 351 which straddled the Alapaha River.

In 1880, William Patten’s place consisted of 60 acres of tilled land and 920 acres of woodland. He put in 17 acres of corn producing 60 bushels, 20 acres of oats producing 300 bushels, 20 acres of cotton producing 8 bales, 1 acre of cane producing 300 gallons of molasses. He produced well over 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. His orchards included over 100 apple trees and 100 peach trees. His real estate was valued at $800. He owned $50 worth of farming implements and machinery, and $450 in livestock. For the year 1879, he spent $20 on building and repairs, $70 on fertilizer, and $30 on labor. He had one ox, 28 milk cows, and 37 head of other livestock. His herd dropped 16 calves that year and he slaughtered only one animal. On June 1, 1880 he had 75 sheep. His flock dropped 35 lambs that year and he slaughtered three animals. Five sheep were killed by dogs, and ten animals died of stress of weather. He sheared 50 fleeces for 120 pounds of wool. He had 17 hogs, about 20 barnyard chickens and about 50 other poultry. The estimated value of all farm production was $530.

When the 1300th Georgia Militia District was formed in 1889, William Patten was elected Justice of the Peace in that district serving in the office until 1893.

Related Posts:

Widow Clements was a Planter of Berrien County, GA

Nancy Patten Clements (1822-1887)

Nancy Patten Clements was the wife of John Franklin Clements, and mother of his ten children. For 23 years after his death, she was the head of household on the Clements farm. She led her family through the Reconstruction period in the South. She acted as a strong and capable matriarch of her family, under whose management the farm and family prospered.

Born Nancy Patten, she was a daughter of James M. Patten and Elizabeth Lee, and sister of Jehu Patten.  Her paternal grandfather, William Patten of Camden District, S.C., was a Revolutionary Soldier.  Her maternal grandfather, Joshua Lee, was a veteran of the War of 1812. About 1830, her grandfather Joshua built an earthen berm across the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland), the first in the area to serve the original settlers of Ray City, GA. This mill run later became the site of Banks Mill.

Nancy Patten was born October 7, 1822. According to Folks Huxford, her parents married about 1819 and were among the first settlers of this area in what was then Irwin County, GA. They settled on Land Lot 400, in the 10th district of old Irwin County. Lot 400 was situated on Big Creek, about four miles above the community then known as Allapaha, now Lakeland, GA.  (The James M. Patten home-place was cut out of Irwin into Lowndes county,1825; from Lowndes into Berrien, 1856; and from Berrien into Lanier in 1920.) In 1825, Nancy’s parents, Elizabeth and James Patten, and maternal grandparents, Martha and Joshua Lee, along with William A. Knight, Sarah Knight, Jonathan Knight, Elizabeth Knight, Mary Knight, Josiah Sirmans, and Matthew Albritton constituted the primitive baptist Union Church, on the banks of the Alapaha River.

In the latter half of 1840, Nancy married John F. Clements in Lowndes County. Records of the marriage were lost when the Lowndes County courthouse burned in 1858.  Upon her marriage Nancy was about 18 years old; John F. Clements was 30.  His household in the enumeration of 1840 included another white  male, age 40-something, a young slave woman and a slave girl, but as yet, the Lowndes County tax records did not show that he was a land owner.  His neighbors included John Lee, John Roberts, Benjamin Sirmans and John Knight.

At the time of the wedding, the Indian War (Second Seminole War) was under way.  In this conflict John served as a private in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Independent Company of  volunteer militia. This unit saw action in 1836 in the skirmish at William Parker’s place, actions along Warrior Creek, and the skirmish at Cow Creek.

Children of John Franklin Clements and Nancy Patten:

  1.     Rhoda C Clements (1843–1920) married William J. Lee
  2.     Martha Elizabeth Clements (1844–1926) married W. M. Adams
  3.     William Clements (1846– )
  4.     Nancy R Clements (1849–  ) married Levi W. Sirmans
  5.     Mary Mollie Clements (1851–1932)
  6.     Missouri Clements (1854–1928) married Thomas J. Futch
  7.     Sara Amanda Clements (1855–1931) married Moses C. Lee
  8.     Winnie Annie Clements (1855–1893) married William H. Studstill
  9.     David C Clements (1857–1902) married Martha Baskin
  10.     John Miles Clements (1859–1937)

By 1844, Nancy’s husband John F. Clements had acquired 245 acres in the 10th  District of Lowndes County.

By 1850, the Clements’ land had increased to 980 acres in Lowndes County, 50 of which were improved. The cash value of the farm was assessed at $500, and John Clements owned another $50 in equipment and machinery. The livestock included 4 horses, 37 milch cows, 87 other cattle, 21 sheep, and 100 swine, valued at $1000 taken all together. They had on hand 300 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of wheat, 1 bale of cotton at 400 pounds, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, 50 lbs of butter, and $125 worth of meat. Their neighbors were the families of Aaron Knight, Aden Boyd, Henry Tison and William Giddings.

In 1856, the Clements and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and into the newly created Berrien County.

On September 23, 1864 Nancy’s husband John F. Clements died at age 54. She buried him at Union Church, the church her parents had helped to found at Milltown (now Lakeland, GA).

Levi J. Knight assisted the widow Nancy Clements with the administration of the estate. The usual notice was published in the Milledgeville Confederate Union.

Milledgeville Confederate Union
January 3, 1865

    And whereas, Levi J. Knight and Nancy Clements applies to me for letters of administration on the estate of John F. Clements, deceased.
These are therefore to cite and admonish all persons interested to be and appear in my office within the time prescribed by law, and file objections if they have any why said letters should not be granted.
Witness my hand officially, November 7, 1864 [pd$3025 5t.] W.E. CONNELL Ord’y

At the time of John’s death, the Clements farm place was on six hundred and six acres of land situated on parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of Berrien. There, the Clements family had raised corn, oats, sweet potatoes, and other food crops, and livestock including milk cows, beef cattle, sheep and hogs, and of course, cotton.  Nancy Clements was left to run the farm, provide for the six of their children who were still at home, and care for her aged mother.  According to the 1866 map of Berrien County, GA, Lot 356 is situated square on the confluence of Allapacoochee Creek (now Ten Mile Creek) and Camp Creek (now Five Mile Creek), which combine to form Big Creek. To the north, Lot 335 straddles Camp Creek; to the south, Lot 381 lies between Big Creek and the pocosin that formed the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek. This wetland was impounded with an earthen dam by Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight in 1863, who constructed a grist mill at the outflow which became known as Ray’s Mill.

Under prevailing law, Nancy Clements had to apply to the courts for appointment to see to the affairs of her own children.

Milledgeville Federal Union
December 4, 1866

    And whereas, Nancy Clements applies to me for letters of guardianship on the persons and property of the minor heirs of John F. Clements, deceased.
These are therefore to cite and admonish all persons interested to be and appear in my office within the time prescribed by law, and file objections if they have any why said letters should not be granted.
Witness my hand officially, November 5, 1866
15 5c                              W.E. CONNELL Ord’y

The estate of John Franklin Clements was finally liquidated in 1867.

Milledgeville Federal Union, April 2, 1867 — page 4
GEORGIA, Berrien County.

Two months after date, application will be made to the Court of Ordinary, for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John F. Clements, deceased.
LEVI J. KNIGHT, Adm’r.
NANCY CLEMENTS, Adm’rx

January 18th, 1867   (w.e.c.) 26 9

 Milledgeville Federal Union, July 16, 1867 — page 4
Administrator’s Sale.
Will be sold at the Court House door in the town of Nashville, Berrien county, Ga on the first Tuesday in SEPTEMBER next, within legal hours of sale, six hundred and six acres of land being parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of said county. Two improvements on the land. Sold as the property of John F. Clements, deceased. Sold for distribution. Terms twelve months credit, small notes and approved security.
LEVI J. KNIGHT. Adm’r
NANCY CLEMENTS, Admr’x
July 2, 1867.     W E C    49 tds

John’s widow, Nancy Patten Clements, continued to reside in Berrien County. She was assessed for taxes in the 1144th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County in 1867 as the administratrix of the estate of J.F. Clements and and the Guarantor for John’s eldest son, William W. Clements. There were 303 acres of land under her name on Land Lots 356 and 381, 10th Land District. Under the name of William W. Clements there were 677 acres on parts of Lots 356, 381, and 335. Her neighbor on Lot 335 was Jasper Cook.

In the census of 1870 her homeplace was enumerated in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill District, with her children Martha E. Clements, Missouri Clements, Winnie Ann Clements, David C. Clements, John Miley Clements, and Amanda Clements. Nancy’s 78-year-old mother, Elizabeth Patten Thornton, was living with them; after the death of Nancy’s father in 1846, her mother had re-married to William Thornton of Ware County. Also in Nancy’s household was nine-month old William L. Clements . Nancy’s boys helped with the farming while the girls kept house.

Nancy’s farm was described in the 1870 Non-population Agricultural census as 400 acres, with 60 acres improved and 340 acres woodlands. The farm was valued at $300,  equipment and machinery worth an additional $50, and livestock valued at $821. She had 3 horses, 1 mule, 10 milch cows, 2 oxen, 45 other cattle, 30 sheep, and 35 hogs. Her stores included 120 bushels of Indian Corn, 180 bushels of oats, 1 bale of cotton at 450 lbs, 75 lbs of wool, 1 bushel of peas and beans, 4 bushels of Irish potatoes, 150 bushels sweet potatoes, $6 dollars worth of “orchard products”, 120 gallons of molasses, $30  dollars worth of “house manufactures”, and $170 dollars of meat production. Nancy’s total real estate was valued at $500 and her personal estate was valued at $1442. Among her neighbors were Jesse Lee, John Lee, and John W. Peeples.

The 1872 Berrien County tax digest shows Nancy had acquired an additional 200 acres of land on Lots 356 and 381. By 1877 she had acquired 700 acres additional land on Lots 380 and 426, bringing her total acreage up to 1300 acres

The 1880 agricultural census show Nancy Clements’ land holdings at 1040 acres with 40 acres under cultivation and 1000 acres in woodlands and forest. Her farm was valued at $1000, with $10 in implements and machinery.  She spent $5 on building and repairing fences, but no money on fertilizer. Her costs for board and wages for farm labor was $48.  Her $241 in livestock included 1 horse, 13 milch cows, and 27 other cattle. There were 8 calves dropped on her farm in 1879; two cattle were slaughtered, and four more were lost to disease, stolen or strayed. She had 8 sheep on hand; seven lambs were dropped, seven sheep were sold, and one died of disease.  Eight fleeces were sheared, for 19 pounds of wool. She had 10 hogs and 9 barnyard chickens. Her total farm production was estimated at $500.

Berrien County tax digests show that between 1880 and 1887 Nancy Clements executed a number of additional land deals with her children and others of the Clements family connections. She eventually consolidating her personal holdings to all 490 acres of Lot 380, situated on the east side of Ray’s Mill Pond, and disposed of all of her livestock.  Her neighbors included John Lee on parts of Lot 356; George W. Knight on parts of Lots 357 and 358; and her son, John M. Clements on parts of Lots 381 and 356.

Nancy Patten Clements died on October 30, 1887. She was buried at Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Nancy Patten Clements, wife of John Franklin Clements. Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of Nancy Patten Clements, wife of John Franklin Clements. Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image source: Randy Merkel

 

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten dies at Ray City

Elizabeth Register Patten (1828-1916)

Elizabeth Register Patten. Image Source: Terri Hoye

Elizabeth Register Patten. Image Source: Terri Hoye

According to Nell Patten Roquemore’s Roots, Rocks, and Recollections,  Elizabeth Register was a daughter of Samuel Register, of Registerville, GA (now Stockton, GA).  On May 4, 1845, she   married William Patten, son of James and Elizabeth Patten who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County (then Lowndes County).  The bride was  17-years-old and the 25-year-old groom was a Justice of the Peace in Lowndes County. The couple made their home near Ten Mile Creek in the area later known as Watson Grade.   In 1854, William Patten was a constituting member of Empire Church in that section. For 72 years Mr. & Mrs. William Patten together raised crops, livestock, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren until William’s death in 1907.

Children of Elizabeth Register and William Patten:

  1. James Irvin Patten  (1846 – 1935)
  2. Lewis C Patten (1847 – 1890)
  3. William C “Babe” Patten (1849 – 1944)
  4. George W L Patten (1852 – 1864)
  5. Henry R Patten (1854 – 1873)
  6. Sylvester M Patten (1856 – 1940)
  7. Elizabeth Roena Patten (1858 – 1951) married Levi J. Clements
  8. Samuel Register Patten (1860 – 1938)
  9. Marcus Sheridan Patten (1861 – 1950)
  10. C. Matilda Patten (1864 – 1893)
  11. Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten (1867 – 1955 ) married John Thomas “J.T.” Webb (1863-1924)
  12. Edward L. “Mack” Patten (1869 – 1928)

 

It was March 2, 1916 that Marcus Sheridan Patten and his wife, Mittie C. Walker, received word that his mother was on her deathbed in Ray City, GA.

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 3, 1916 -- page 6

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 3, 1916 — page 6

Tifton Gazette
March 3, 1916 — page 6

Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Patten left this morning for Ray City, where they were called to the bedside of Mr. Patten’s mother, who is very ill.

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten died March 2, 1916 at the home of her daughter Mary J. “Mollie” Patten Webb.

 

1916-mar-3-tifton-gaz-elizabeth-patten-obit

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten, mother of Hon. M. S. Patten, of Tifton, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. T. Webb, at Ray City, in Berrien county, Thursday morning at 4 o’clock. 
     Mrs. Patten was 87 years old and the widow of one of South Georgia’s pioneers.  She leaves eight children, six sons and two daughters; Mack Sam, Babe Bess, Marcus and Irvin, Mrs. J. T. Webb, and Mrs. L. J. Clements, Sr.
    She was a saintly woman and goes to her reward with ripe years behind her full of usefulness to family and community.  Her husband died several years ago and since then she has made her home with her children, spending some time here [Tifton] a few weeks ago.
    Mr. Patten left Thursday morning for Ray City upon receipt of news of her death.  She will probably be buried at Old Union church, near Milltown, Friday.

 

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 10, 1916 -- page 8

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 10, 1916 — page 8

Tifton Gazette
Mar. 10, 1916 — page 8

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten

From the Ray City Courier.
   Mrs. Elizabeth Patten, 88 years of age, passed away Thursday morning at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. T. Webb. Mrs. Patten has been a long resident of Berrien county, and at the time of her death was the oldest known woman in South Georgia. 
   She was the head of a great family, representing the fourth generation, having great grand children.  She was a member of the Primitive Baptist church from her childhood and lived a faithful Christian life.  She leaves eight children, S.R., E.L., M.S., J.I., S.M., and W. C. Patten; Mrs. Levi Clements, Mrs. J.T. Webb and a host of relatives and friends.
Services were held Friday morning.  The remains were laid to rest in the old Union church cemetery.

Grave of Elizabeth Register Patten, Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Elizabeth Register Patten, Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Related Posts:

Old Union Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Burnt Church

   Located in present day Lanier County, GA, the old Union Church lies about 10 miles east of where Levi J. Knight settled on Beaver Dam Creek (now Ray City, GA).  It was the first church to serve the pioneer settlers of this region.  L. J. Knight’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight , were among the organizing members of the church.  Built on land provided by Jesse Carter, the church was originally referred to as Carter’s Meeting House, and later designated Union Church.

The church and cemetery  were on a trail used by the Creek Indians traveling between the Chattahoochee River and the Okefenokee Swamp.  During the Indian Wars, 1836-1838,  the church building was partially burned.  The fire-damaged timbers were used in the reconstruction, and since that time Union Church has also been known as Burnt Church.

  “Union Baptist Church, on the Alapaha River ….was constituted October 21, 1825, the first church in the old area of Irwin County.  The original members William A. Knight; his wife, Sarah; Jonathan Knight; his wife, Elizabeth; Joshua Lee; his wife, Martha; James Patten; his wife, Elizabeth; Mary Knight; Josiah Sirmans, deacon.  The Rev. Matthew Albritton served the church as its first minister.”

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

In Pines and pioneers: A history of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1825-1900,  author J. T. Shelton gave the following description described a Big Meeting at Union church:

“The old church had a door on every side for easy access, a rostrum along one wall with seats facing it from three directions. The arrangement allowed the seating of slaves on one side. With feet planted firmly on the wide floor boards, the congregation sat on the pews, each a single plank. The women of the church had scrubbed down with potash and homemade soap both pews and flooring, and the wood had a soft, silvery sheen. The pulpit was seven feet long, twelve inches wide and two inches thick; three to five preachers sat on a long bench behind the  pulpit until each had his turn to address the assembly. The exhorter then paced up and down the generous space provided, and he held forth for two hours before the next preacher had his chance. Listeners came and went; mothers carried out crying babies; little boys believed that they would starve to death before they could get outside to the loaded dinner tables that were as much a part of Big Meeting as the preaching.”

In 1928-30, The Clinch County News published a series of articles on the history of Union Church, portions of which are excerpted below:

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter I

Union Primitive Baptist Church, the mother of all the churches of this faith in this immediate section of Georgia, was organized or constituted October 1st, 1825.  The presbytery consisted of Elders Fleming Bates and Mathew Albritton.

As is well known, the church is located on the banks of the Alapaha River about 1 1/2 miles south of Lakeland formerly old Milltown.  It stands to-day where it has always stood for the past 108 years (1933). The cemetery close by contains the graves of many pioneers and old citizens of east Lowndes, southeast Berrien and western Clinch counties.  Baptisms have always taken place in the nearby river, it not being over one hundred yards from the church to the river.  A high bluff with a sharp bend in the river’s course is the visitor’s introduction after he has passed the church.  Several steady-flowing springs of fine drinking water are to be found on the banks, and eminating from the walls of the bluff.  Part of the bluff slopes off to the river’s edge at the river bend thus making an ideal place for baptism purposes.

The little log-house which was the first building on the site of the present church, had come to be known as Carter’s Meeting House prior to the organization of the church.  For some months prior it had been the scene of monthly meetings or services, and it was the expression of the desire of the settlers to have some kind of divine services in their midst, for there was not a church to be found of any denomination from the Altamaha River to the Florida and Alabama lines.  The settlers in this immediate vicinity were more numerous than in most of the settlements, and many of them Carters.  The meeting-house took its name from old man Jesse Carter and he probably gave the land and his boys had a hand in building the original log house to hold services in.   The earliest settlers had only been living here four years at the time, while the most of them had not living here hardly a year.  Knights, Carters, Giddens and Lees made up most of the settlers west of the river while on the east side of the river were to be found Tomlinsons, Sirmans and Fenders, Corbitts and Mathises.  Further down the river could be found the Wetheringtons, Swilleys, Peters, Walkers, and Roberts.

Elder William A. Knight, at that time a layman, was one of the leading spirits in the formation of the church.  As already stated it was Elders Bates and Albritton who presided at the organization of the church, but to “Old Father Knight” as many people called him in his lifetime, may be attribute more than anyone else the religious activities of the community in those days when the first settlers were moving in.  He led in prayer and in song, and when the preacher failed to keep an appointment because of lurking Indians, high waters or other providential hindrances it was Bro. Knight who took charge and carried on the service. Five years after the church was organized he was licensed to preach the Gospel and two years later (1832) he was ordained to the full Gospel ministry.

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 Union Church had been constituted under the auspices of the Piedmont Primitive Baptist Association, but by 1827 the establishment of a number of new churches prompted a desire to divide the association.  According to a history thesis by Michael Otis Holt,

On August 24, 1827, a council met in Thomas County, Georgia to determine the feasibility of forming a new association in the region. The council arranged for another meeting at Mt. Gilead Church in September and requested that all interested churches send messengers with a statement of faith and the date of their constitution together with names of the ministers taking part in it. The careful attention to detail was necessary, because many churches in the area had cut corners in their organization. An example is Shiloh Church in Ware County. In 1833, the Ochlocknee Association would not accept Shiloh Church because it was constituted “illegally.” However, the association did offer instruction on how to craft a new constitution, which Shiloh did. The council decided to go ahead with the plans for a new association. In October, 1827, the Piedmont Association, “received and read a petition from seven Baptist churches situated between the Alapaha and Flint River praying ministerial aid to constitute them into a new association.” The Piedmont set Matthew Albritton and Fleming Bates to oversee the organization of the Association. Both were members of Union Church, near present day Lakeland, Georgia, which requested and received dismission from the Piedmont to join the new association.

The association held an organizational meeting at Bethel Church in what is now Brooks County, Georgia, in November, 1827. Six churches took part in the constitution of the Association. Union Church, was almost certainly the church that joined at the first session of the new association, which called itself Ochlocknee. In the first year of its existence, the Ochlocknee Association claimed 138 members among its seven churches. The initial meeting went well and Bates and Albritton reported to Union Church that, ‘much harmony and love abounded.’ 

The new association grew quickly. By 1833, the Ochlocknee had thirty-­five churches with 1,010 members. Though migration to the region was steadily increasing during this time, it did not account for all of the increase. In 1833, 179 were baptized into the association’s churches. Fourteen new churches applied for membership during the same year. So many neophytes comprised the new churches that the association appointed William Knight to instruct them on the proper duties of churches to the association. The rapid expansion expanded the Ochlocknee’s borders to extend from the Piedmont Association to the St. John’s Association. The expansive size of the association prompted a proposal to divide at the 1833 meeting.

In 1834, Friendship, Union, and Elizabeth churches in Georgia, and Providence, New Zion, Concord, Newington, and New River in Florida, were dismissed from the Ochlocknee Association to form a new association.  In a reflection of the intense territorialism of the associations of the period, the new body was given a boundary that extended up the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Little River. The association took the name Suwannee River and scheduled a constitutional meeting at Concord Church for December, 1834.  The delegates duly arrived at the meeting, but the ministers failed to show. At a  rescheduled meeting held in September, 1835, only one appointed minister showed, so the delegates co­opted William A. Knight as the other member of the presbytery and proceeded to formally organize the association.

The Suwannee River Association did not experience rapid growth like the Ochlocknee. The Second Seminole War was the primary cause for the association’s slow growth and sparse representation. The 1838 session recommended that the churches increase their days of fasting and prayer, ‘that the Lord might divert the judgments which seem to hang over us.’ They also suggested they put off any general business of the association, “by reason of the unsettled affairs of our country.”  The 1839 session met in the safer Georgia territory and again suggested more prayer and fasting, “so that the warwhoop of a savage foe, might not be heard any longer in our land to the great disturbance of our fellow citizens, while numbers of our women and infant children are falling victims to their relentless hands.”  Nearby associations “lamented the situation of the Suwannee Association, on account of the Indian War in that vicinity.” 

By the beginning of the 1840s, tensions in the region had eased and the Suwannee was experiencing growth. The 1840 minutes of the Suwannee Association speak of a revival that was strongest among its congregations in Georgia. However, this period of growth and expansion would eventually produce discord and division among the Baptists of South Georgia.

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In 1856 the Union Association was constituted with twelve churches formerly belonging to the Suwannee Associationmost of whose churches were in Florida.  A division was agreed to, making the State line the dividing line between the two Associations The constituting presbytery  was composed of Elders J. E. W. Smith, William A. Knight and J. B. Smith met at Union Church. Her ministers were Elders William A. Knight, Moses Westberry, Ansel Parrish, J. D. Hutto and E. J. Williams, with perhaps two licentiates. Harmony prevailed for a number of years, and the progress of the Association was upward and onward.

Clinch County News
September 20, 1929

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter XIII.

As has been stated before, the minutes of the church from the beginning in 1825 to 1832 have been lost.  We understand, however, that Rev. William A. Knight was the first pastor as well as the guiding hand of the church during these early years.  It is certain that he was one of the charter members and the only ordained minister holding his membership with the church during that time. Assuming that he was pastor during those seven years, the list of pastors up to recently [1929], is as follows:

  • William A. Knight                          1825-1832
  • Matthew Albritton (died)              1832-1850
  • William A. Knight (died)               1850-1860
  • Ansel Parrish                                1860-1865
  •                               (No record, 1865 to 1873)
  • Timothy William Stallings            1873-1888
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                       1888-1900
  • Timothy William Stallings           1900-1902
  • A. A. Knight                                     1902-1907
  • J. A. Chitty                                       1907-1911
  • Aaron A. Knight                                1911-1913
  • Isham Albert Wetherington                        1913-1915
  • Orville A. Knight                          1915-1916
  • E. R. Rhoden                                1916-1918
  • I. A. Wetherington (died)         1918-1923
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                    1923-1925
  • Orville A. Knight                        1925-1927

If the writer could properly write the life of these earnest consecrated servants of the Lord, it would be equal to writing an account of the religious life of this section in the Primitive Baptist denomination.  Fearless in fighting sin and bold in preaching Christ and faithful in contending for the Faith, they have served nobly and well and unborn generations will bear witness to the fruits of their work.  With few exceptions the writer has not sufficient biographical data at hand now to write of their individual lives, but we know of their godly records.  We hope to write later of the lives of these great preachers.

Church Clerks

The clerks of the church likewise contain a list of fine men, known throughout their communities and  counties for their good, upright lives, and their staunch Christian characters. We do not know who the first clerk was.

Elected

  • Owen Smith              September 7, 1832
  • Joshua Sykes              January 12, 1839
  • Isaac D. Hutto                  April 13, 1845
  • William Patten                  May 10, 1851
  • William Lastinger              July 8, 1854
  • John Studstill                       Jan 9, 1858
  • William Giddens                May 7, 1863
  • E. R. Rhoden                 October 8, 1891
  • W. R. Rhoden         November 10, 1894
  • J. L. Robertson        February 12, 1898
  • Wm. J. Knight                  May 12, 1900
  • J. A. Weaver                 August 10, 1901
  • G. L. Robinson      September 12, 1924
  • J. A. Weaver          September 12, 1925
  • J. S. Shaw                     October 8, 1926

A good portion of the minutes is in the handwriting of assistant clerks.  These assistant clerks were generally elected by the church, but of late years there have been no assistants.  The list of assistant clerks is as follows:

  • William A. Knight          1834-1837
  • Levi Drawdy                  1837-1848
  • James Walker                1853-1854
  • Richard H. Burkhalter 1861-1862
  • John P. Tomlinson       1887-1900
  • John T. Watson            1900-1902

Deacons

The church has had but few deacons during its 105 years [as of 1929] of existence.  There were apparently never over two at the time, and when elected they served for life unless sooner dismissed by letter or otherwise.  The list given below is full of as fine men as ever lived in this section.  We do not in the list make any attempt to show how long they served except in those cases where they died members of the church.  We do not know who the first deacons of the church were.  List follows:

Bro. Edmund Mathis, one of the deacons, having removed his membership, Bro. Joshua Lee was elected in his place March 10, 1833, and ordained April 13, 1833 by Elders Peacock, Friar and Knight.

September 6, 1839, Bro. Edmund Mathis was received back into the membership by letter from Concord church, Hamilton County, Fla., and acted as a deacon until dismissed again by letter April 10, 1841.

On June 13, 1841, brethren Jacob Hughes and John Lee were ordained deacons.  Members of the presbytery not shown by minutes.

March 13, 1852, brethren Richard H. Burkhalter and J. D. Peters were elected deacons.  They were ordained June 12, 1852 but the minutes do not show who constituted the presbytery.  Bro. Burkhalter died in 1862 and Bro. Peters also died a member but we do not know when.

The minutes do not show any further ordination of deacons until 1891 when Bro. John P. Tomlinson was elected on May 9th.  On June 13, 1891 he was ordained by Elders J. A. O’steen and T. W. Stallings.

On December 9, 1899, Bro. James L. Robinson was elected a deacon but was never ordained.

On November 10, 1906 Bro. Israel G. Carter was elected a deacon and ordained January 12, 1907 by Elders B.P. Lovett from Salem Church, I. A. Wetherington from Unity church,  A. A. Knight , the pastor.

On October 9, 1909, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected deacon, and ordained February 12, 1910 by Elders Wetherington, Chitty and A. A. Knight .

Treasurers

The minutes do not disclose that the church ever had any treasurer until 1909 whem on October 9th, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected as such.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Some other members of Union Church:

  • George Harris – received August 7, 1841, dismissed by letter March 12, 1842; joined Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844
  • Julia Ann Westberry Harris – received August 7, 1841, dismissed by letter March 12, 1842; joined Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844
  • William Hughes  – joined by letter, December 8, 1838
  • William Wesley Johnson – baptized August 10, 1839
  • Amelia Sherley Johnson – baptized June 13, 1840
  • John Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1839
  • Elender Wetherington Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1838
  • Joshua Lee – constituting member, October 1, 1825
  • Martha Ford Lee – constituting member, October 1, 1825
  • Moses C. Lee – baptized September 11, 1841
  • Jincey Register Lee – baptized September 10, 1854
  • Thomas Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Eady Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Tyre Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Nancy Lee Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Mehala Rice Monk – joined by letter 1838
  • Elizabeth Skinner Register – received by letter into Union Church, September 13, 1828, from Fellowship Baptist Church, Appling County, and dismissed by letter April 10, 1841 from Union to participate in constituting Wayfare Church
  • William Patten – baptized September 9, 1848, dismissed by letter March 11, 1854 to organize Empire Church

 

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Jehu Patten and the Serpent

Jehu Patten

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten (1838-1907)

Jehu Patten was a  farmer in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. He and his brothers, William Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within a few miles of each other. They were the sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland),GA.

All five of the Patten brothers served in the Civil War. Jehu Patten served first with Company K, 5th Georgia Regiment and later as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, 54th Regiment Georgia Infantry along with John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie, William Henry Outlaw, Matthew H. Albritton, Benjamin Sirmans and other men of Berrien County who served in the same unit.  In late 1864 he was furloughed home on sick leave and remained there through the end of the war.

Afterward he became a quite accomplished farmer of Berrien County.  The Jehu Patten farm consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (In 1902, Jehu Patten sold this farm to John Levi Allen – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

As a farmer, Jehu had an interest in and respect for the natural world.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Jehu Patten captures serpent, November 15, 1895.

Tifton Gazette November 15, 1895  Pg 3 Mr. Jehu Patten, from up in the Ray’s Mill neighborhood, was in town  this week and had a snake about four inches long and as large around as a straw.  He found the little snake in the road and caught it and put it in an envelope. The snake was the smallest we ever saw.  – Times.

Two months later, the Gazette noted: 1896-jehu-patten

Tifton Gazette January 24, 1896  Pg 4 The writer had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Jehu Patten’s a few days since, who lives near Rays Mill.  The weather was very cold, but after I had been there some time, he took me around to show me the results of his last year’s work.  The corn crib was the first place.  To my surprise I found he had gathered between seven and eight hundred bushels of corn, and one hundred of rice, next was the sugar house, and as I entered the door I found on my right three hundred gallons of syrup jugged and sealed, and on my left, up on shelves, five dozen fruit jars, containing apples, pear and peaches, and under the shelves was ten fifty-pound cans of lard, all full.  Next came the meat-house, and there I found he had 5,000 lbs. of meat, and about 75, or 100, lbs, of sausage, and has hogs enough yet to kill to last his family two years.  His meat was fattened on pinders, and it is ascertained that he has now in the field 80, or 100 bushels.  To go with his meat he has about an acre of turnips.  I did not visit his potato house but judge them by his other crop, and by those on his table. This Mr. Patten made with two mules and two negro boys.  He has enough stored away to supply his family three years.  Shurely, he ought to be happy.  He has raised and reared his children to a high degree of civilization, and has only three children, Miss Emma, J. M. and J. L. Patten, and all three are well educated, especially in vocal and instrumental music.  All are working to the highest aspiration.     Oh that we had more such men as him!  Yours for more,   AJAX.

Children of Jehu John Patten and Mary Ellen Lancaster:

  1. William H Patten (1865 – 1886)
  2. George T Patten (1867 – 1890}
  3. James Marcus Patten (1869 – 1944)
  4. Joseph Lacy Patten (1874 – 1898)
  5. Emma Patten (1879 – )

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Knights Come to Lowndes County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 a group of Revolutionary War “Baby Boomers” came west from Wayne County, Georgia to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the area that would one day become known as Ray City, Georgia.  They were  politically connected and probably had full knowledge that the huge area of Irwin county, occupying the central third of the southern Georgia, was about to be divided into smaller counties.

Among the leaders of this small band of settlers were William Anderson Knight and wife Sarah Cone Knight, his brother Samuel Knight, and his son-in-law Isben Giddens. They brought with them their families, children, livestock, and their possessions to make a new home in the new county of Lowndes, which was created from parts of Irwin County in 1826. These pioneers were experienced at opening up a new county. They were frontiersmen with militia experience, and also experienced at carving farms and plantations from the wilderness of the Wiregrass. In a sense, they were the first ‘Americans’, born between the time of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. They were raised in a time of war; their fathers served as Revolutionary Soldiers. Like the baby boomers of later wars, they grew up in a sort of post-war boom period, where Americans were celebrating their new-found independence and freedom.

The Knights were true Wiregrass pioneers. They came to this section from Wayne County, where William A. Knight had been among the very first settlers, arriving there about 1803. The Knight’s Wayne County place was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the earliest roads in Georgia. On the land adjacent to Knight’s, another Wiregrass pioneer, William Clements, had settled his family.  The Knights and the Clements became steadfast friends with many family and business dealings; William Knight and William Clements served together on the Wayne county Grand Jury of 1813 and worked together in other civic capacities.

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

The Old Post Road…was originally an Indian trail extending from St. Augustine, Florida, northward through south Georgia into the rolling country known as the Sand Hill section. Mitchell’s map of 1756, now in the Library of Congress in Washington, shows this trail. During the Revolutionary War the American forces marched along it on their way to attack a British contingent at Fort Tonyn, which was somewhere south of [U.S. Hwy 84]. Historians have not been able to determine the exact site. The road continued to be used as a stagecoach route and post road between Savannah and Florida until the War between the States.

When Wayne County had been created in 1803, William A. Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The Wayne county seat became known as Tuckersville, after resident John Tucker who served as the first postmaster there. (Waynesville was not officially designated as the county seat until 1829.) William A. Knight served as a post master after John Tucker, and William Clements served as a Wayne County road commissioner. Tuckersville  was located  somewhere north of Waynesville on the Post Road near the Buffalo Swamp, once the home and feeding grounds of herds of Georgia buffalo. The town disappeared from maps after 1850 and its exact location remains a mystery. wayne-historic-marker In its first twenty years, Wayne County was slow in developing.  William A. Knight served as the tax collector for 1806 and 1807, but no monies were returned to the state Comptroller General’s office for those years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia “The area contained hundreds of acres of pine barrens and wiregrass country. Much of the land was undesirable for settlement… Many of the early white settlers were families who, having lost their bids to win richer land in Baldwin or Wilkinson counties in the 1805 land lottery, settled for the isolation and less desirable land offered by Wayne County.”   Perhaps the lack of economic development in Wayne County finally discouraged the Knights. For whatever reason, it appears they decided there were better opportunities in opening up a new county than remaining behind in Wayne County.

As a member of the state Legislature, William A. Knight undoubtedly knew of the impending division of the vast Irwin County into smaller counties. The military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 had opened up the south central Georgia territory to pioneer settlers (see Daniel McCranie). Coffee’s road, as it was soon known, passed from Jacksonville, GA through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line.

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

When the Knights left their farms and came to south central Georgia to build their “log cabin in the wilds of the Wiregrass”, this area of Georgia was all part of the huge Irwin county. Lowndes was created from 2080 square miles carved out of Irwin, which had been plotted into Land Districts. Located on the center of Georgia’s southern border with Florida, Lowndes was still a quite large county. It would later be further divided into six present day counties; Lowndes, Brooks, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Lanier, and Berrien counties.

William Anderson Knight chose a home site on the northwest edge of Grand Bay in what was soon to be Lowndes County. This area, in the 10th land district of Irwin County, had good water and better soil than the typical pine barrens of Wayne County. It was situated between the Alapaha River to the east and the Withlacoochee and its tributaries to the west.

Children of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone:

  1. Thomas Knight, born February 6, 1799
  2. Kezia Knight, born November 20, 1801
  3. Levi J. Knight, born September 1, 1803
  4. William Cone “Big Billie” Knight, born October 8, 1805, married Rachel Carter, daughter of Jessie Carter.
  5. John Knight, born July 7, 1807
  6. Sarah Knight, born October 10, 1809
  7. Elizabeth Knight, born September 23, 1811
  8. Aaron Knight, born July 17, 1813
  9. Jonathan Knight, born January 16, 1817

William A. Knight’s place was near the route, such as it was, from Waynesville to Thomasville, GA. About nine miles to the west was Coffee’s Road; equidistant to the east was the site of Union Church, the Primitive Baptist church organized in 1825 by Reverend Fleming Bates and Reverend Matthew Albritton with the Knights, Pattens, Lees and Sirmans as founding members.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Knight and Union Church played a significant role in the rapid growth of Primitive Baptist churches throughout the Wiregrass region.  Union Church was at the head of the local organization of these churches into a Primitive Baptist Association, then known as the Ochlocknee Association. In 1833, Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association.  On July 13, 1833, William A. Knight along with Fleming Bates and John Tucker formed the presbytery to constitute Providence Church in “East Florida, Columbia County on Olustee,” according to the original minutes of that church.

By 1835,& when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee Primitive Baptist Association.

The Knight’s were influential in the development of Lowndes county from the very beginning, from the  convening of the first superior court to the representation in state politics. William A. Knight became the first state senator elected from Lowndes county to serve in the Georgia Assembly, and his son Jonathan Knight became the first state representative.

Following his parents , Levi J. Knight  brought his new bride, Ann Clements Herrin Knight, to homestead in Lowndes County in 1827. Anne was the daughter of the Knights’ Wayne County neighbors,  William and Elizabeth Clements.  L. J. Knight chose a spot not far from Grand Bay, on Beaverdam Creek,   where he established his  home site.  Perhaps even then he saw that the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek could some day be impounded to provide water power for a settlement.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community, first known simply as Knight, GA that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

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