Preacher Shaw and the Berrien Blue Jays

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

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

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

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

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

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

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

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

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

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

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

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

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

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

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Preacher Shaw and Susie Ray

Preacher Shaw and Susie Ray

Preacher Shaw, circa 1926. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw, circa 1926. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw was a son of Ray City, Georgia. He was a popular baseball player, sometimes politician, and salesman of Berrien County. His given name was Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw, but at a young age he acquired the nickname “Preacher,” a moniker that stuck for life. As a boy, Preacher Shaw attended Pine Grove School and the Kings Chapel School, located just across the county line, in Lowndes County. His parents, Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard, had attended the same school in their youth.

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

 It was at the Kings Chapel school that Preacher Shaw met his life-long companion, Susie Ray, daughter of Charles M. Ray and Maggie Hutto Ray. She had finished her educational training by attending Georgia State Womans College [now Valdosta State University], and had been teaching at Pleasant Vale and Indian Camp  schools. She had just started teaching at Kings Chapel when she met young Preacher Shaw.  It is not clear if he was finishing his formal education of if he was attending a function there and made her acquaintance.

The only automobile that the couple had to court in was the rumble-seat coupe that belonged to Susie. But it was adequate and they were mar- ried on November 13, 1927 in the home of Susie’s parents by Elder Aaron Knight. The couple set up house for a brief time with Susie’s parents, where their first child, Latrelle was born July 14,1928. They shortly thereafter moved into the Martha Carter place just off of the Old Valdosta Highway near Barker Road. Here their second child Lawanna was born March 26, 1930. During this time, Preacher was farming the property of Susie’s parents. The family then moved into a small home on Indian Camp Road about a mile west of the Ray homeplace. It had been the old White Pond Church, which had been moved to the Ray property by Preacher and Susie’s brothers, Henry and Buck. By November the following year 1931, Preacher and Susie had moved over to the “Dock” Shaw place, helping on that farm. They lived in the log house that Preacher had been born in 25 years earlier. Their third child, a son Otis was born on November 16, 1931. Early the following year in 1932, Preacher suddenly suffered an attack of appendicitis, and was rushed to the Little Griffin Hospital in Valdosta. His recovery was slow, and Susie stayed at the home of Preacher’s sister, Cora Shaw Griffin. Susie visited Preacher daily while walking to the hospital and back carrying baby Otis.

Preacher worked the Ray property until about 1937, when he went down to Jacksonville, Florida to work for his brother-in-law, Lewis Ennis, Mary Idell’s husband. Lewis owned and  operated a service station and oil company in Avondale, Florida. Preacher would drive back and forth from Jacksonville to Ray City about once a month, while Susie worked the family farm. The children were attending the New Lois School about this time, walking the four mile distance each way, daily. One of their fondest childhood moments was when Preacher brought home a used girl’s bicycle from Jacksonville. With the birth of their fourth and last child, Gerald on April 5, 1938, Preacher found employment a little closer to home, working on a construction crew, building roads near Thomasville. However this opportunity turned into tragedy, when one of the construction tractors turned over on top of him. He was hospitalized in critical condition for sometime before finally recovering. He carried scars from that accident the rest of his life. All during the months and years that Preacher was working out of town, Susie was home, raising the children and working the farm. She was also an accomplished seamstress, sewing all of the children’s clothes. She was often sought after for seamstress work by many of her neighbors and her work was well known throughout the county. When Preacher recovered from the accident, he returned to work the farm, and the family moved in and lived with Susie’s widowed mother. About 1940 Mrs. Ray deeded the Ray homeplace and 100 acres of the farm in the 134th land lot to Susie.  Maggie Ray died August 2, 1942.

About 1945, Preacher went to work in Nashville for Jake Rutherford in the fertilizer business. This began a long venture in the feed, seed, and fertilizer business that lasted over two decades. He worked at the Leah Stallings Feed and Seed, Perkins Warehouse, and John David Luke at the Nashville Mills. He was a “drummer”, a natural-born salesman, selling seed and fertilizer, then traveling through out Berrien and the surrounding counties, buying back the farmers’ crops. Then he would sell them seed for the next crop year.

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

How Preacher Shaw Got His Name

Preacher Shaw (1906-1972)

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

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

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

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

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

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

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King’s Chapel School

King’s Chapel School
Portions reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletters courtesy of Bryan Shaw

King's Chapel School

King’s Chapel School

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kings-chapel-2

King’s Chapel School

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King's Chapel School

King’s Chapel School

Several schools in lower Berrien county provided the basic education for local families around the turn of the century. The Pine Grove and Kings Chapel schools were filled with the children of Rachel and Marion Shaw. The Pine Grove schoolhouse is no loner standing, but the Kings Chapel school is still weathering the years. It is located just across the county line, and sits just around the corner from its original location.

The two-room schoolhouse has tongue-and-groove wallboards which were covered with a mixture of charcoal and egg whites to create a dull black surface. This sufficed as a blackboard. Each classroom had a wood burning stove for heat. One room has doors opening to each side, while the other has two doors to the front side. A single door joins the two rooms in the center wall. The structure formerly had a porch on the front wall, which was used as a stage for plays and graduation days.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported the Kings Chapel School as one of only two libraries in Berrien County, the other being at the Ray City School.

The school also served as a voting precinct. It was in use until the school districts were combined in the mid-1930s.

Today the schoolhouse serves as a storage shed, owned by David Fields. His mother, Eva Pearl Gaskins, taught there a number of years.

 ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

1905 Staff

  • M.G. Knight, Principal
  • Susan Parish, 1st grade license, former principal of River Bend School
  • Lillie Brown, Assistant teacher

1905 Honor Students

  • Arlie Gaskins
  • Stella Mathis
  • David Mathis
  • Idel Williams
  • Minnie Gaskins
  • Regem Gaskins
  • Ruth Gaskins
  • Ivah Williams
  • Archie Horn
  • Edith Smith
  • Alma Smith
  • Maggie Mae Smith
  • Tom Smith
  • Clarence Bradfield
  • Cordie Gaskins
  • Bertie Parish
  • Lillie McDonald

Other 1905 Students

  • Neta Bradford
  • Susie Mathis
  • Carrie Lou Williams
  • Pearl Smith
  • Ilah Peters
  • Perry Swindle
  • Johnnie Mathis
  • Frank Shaw
  • Lonnie Smith
  • Eugene Mathis
  • Caulie Smith
  • Mansfield Smith

1906 Staff

  • Mr. James B. Peters, Principal
  • Mr. Thomas E. Casey
  • Miss Susie Parrish

1906 Student Officers of the Kings Chapel School Literary Society

  • J.W. Deans, President
  • Leon Parrish, Vice President
  • Lillie McDonald, Secretary
  • Callie Hightower, Assistant Secretary

Other 1906 students:

  • David Mathis, 4th Grade Honor Roll
  • Maggie May Smith, 4th Grade Honor Roll
  • Lonnie Swindle, 4th Grade Honor Roll
  • Arlie Gaskins, 4th Grade Honor Roll
  • Cora Shaw, 4th Grade Honor Roll
  • Mary Deane, 4th Grade Honor Roll
  • Alma Smith, 4th Grade  Honor Roll
  • John Deane, 5th Grade Honor Roll
  • Tom Smith, 5th Grade Honor Roll
  • Martha Hall, 5th Grade Honor Roll
  • Caulie Smith, 5th Grade Honor Roll
  • Idella Williams, 5th Grade Honor Roll
  • C.C. Smith, 7th Grade Honor Roll
  • Clarence Bradford, 7th Grade Honor Roll
  • C.W. Bradford
  • Martha Hall
  • Eva Williams
  • H.E. Mathis
  • Charles Dean
  • Ilah Peters
  • Iva Williams
  • F.H. Gaskins
  • Shelly Mathis
  • Susie Mathis
  • Cora Webb
  • Eugene Mathis
  • Billie Peters
  • Perry Swindle
  • Mansfield Smith

1907 Staff

  • John Smith (of Nashville), Principal

Other Kings Chapel Students and Staff

  • Susie Bullard
  • Susie Ray -taught at King’s Chapel School  circa 1926 after attending college at Valdosta.
  • Fannie Bullard
  • Sallie Bullard
  • Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw – attended from about 1875 to about 1885
  • Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw
  • Mary Idell Shaw,  attended from about 1918 and completed the 8th grade in 1924
  • Charles Bruner Shaw, Jr, attended 1929-1930
  • Marion Shaw, attended 1929-1930
  • Lynette Shaw, attended 1929-1930
  • Ina Weaver Brown, taught 1930

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