Big Blaze of 1915

The big fire at Rays Mill broke out just a few minutes after sunrise on a Sunday morning, April 25, 1915.  The flames originated in the business district in a small store operated by Johnnie Clements, Jr. and soon spread to nearby buildings including the two story Rays Mill Hotel. The J.M. Parrish & Company store owned by Joseph Math Parrish was also damaged; bookkeeper at the store was Leon Lacy Parrish.  At that time there was no water system in the town, and no way to effectively fight the blaze.

The Nashville Herald
April 30, 1915

Destructive Fire Visits Rays Mill

      One of the most disastrous fires in the history of Rays Mill visited that place Sunday morning about 6 o’clock.  Several stores and considerable amount of goods were destroyed by the flames.

      The fire started in a store owned by John Clements of Milltown, in which building his son, Johnnie Clements, Jr., was operating a small store, and the store and contents were completely destroyed.  The loss in this instance was about $1,000 on the building and about the same amount on the stock.  There was insurance covering about half the loss.

      The flames leaped over a brick building and it was completely consumed [missing] & Co. and set fire to the Rays Mill hotel.  The hotel was a two-story building and it was completely consumed by the fire.  It was owned by Messrs. J.H. and Jas. S. Swindle and was valued at $5,000 or $6,000.  The hotel was destroyed with most of its contents.  Mr. J.F. Hineley, who operated the hotel, also had a small store which was entirely destroyed.

      The flames when the hotel was burning were so hot that the brick store of J.M. Parrish & Co. caught and was entirely destroyed.  The building was valued at about $4,000 and the stock of goods was valued at about $15,000.  The stock was largely the property of Mr. G.W. Varn, of Valdosta.  There was insurance for about half of this loss.

      Two other store buildings belonging to Mr. Will Studstill of Valdosta were destroyed by the flames.  These small buildings were valued at about $1,000, while the stocks of goods in them were small.

      It was impossible to control the flames as there was no water supply sufficient to cope with the fire and about all that could be done was to stand by and watch the different buildings burns and try to prevent any spreading.  The losses are heavy ones and will injure the town materially.

      The total loss is figured at $23,000, and the total amount of insurance carried was $14,000, according to Mr. J.S. Swindle, who was in Nashville yesterday.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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The Tifton Gazette
April 30, 1915

BAD FIRE AT RAY’S MILL

Flames Destroyed Hotel and Stores.  $30,000 Loss

Valdosta, April 26. – One-third of the business section of Rays Mill, a flourishing town fourteen miles from Valdosta, was destroyed by fire on Sunday.  A number of merchants lost their stores and stocks and the Rays Mill hotel, a large two-story building, was entirely destroyed with most of the furnishings.

The losses will amount to about $30,000, the property being partly covered by insurance.  J.F. Hinely, proprietor of the hotel; J.M. Parrish & Company, John J. Clements, Jr., J.H. and J.S. Swindle and W.M. Studstill are the principal losers.

The town has no water facilities and the block in which the flames started was burned before the fire could be checked.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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The Nashville Herald
May 21, 1915

Rays Mill, The Week’s Doings In and Around

      The debris has been cleared away and work on the new buildings which will replace those destroyed by the recent disastrous fire is progressing rapidly.  With the completion of these new brick buildings, we will have what appears from the depot, almost a solid brick block, which we trust will be a reality in the near future.  The J.M. Parrish Company’s store which was only partially destroyed, will be ready for occupancy again within a few days.  This should be good news to all their many customers and friends, as they will have a new and complete line of general merchandise.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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Ray City Bank Woes ~ 1931

1928 Letterhead of The Citizens Bank of Ray City, GA

1928 Letterhead of The Citizens Bank of Ray City, GA

The Citizens Bank, Ray City, GA – 1929 newspaper advertisement from the Ray City News

Through the stock market crash of 1929 The Citizens Bank of Ray City remained in business , and the local ”boosters” remained optimistic. (see Bank of Ray City, GA through Optimism and Depression)  The firm’s letterhead from 1928 shows George W. Varn was president; James H. “Jim” Swindle, Vice President; John D. Luke, Cashier; and J. W. Johnson, assistant cashier.

Nashville Herald November 21, 1929

As we understand it the Citizens Bank of Ray City is one of the strongest financial institutions in the county and its business is growing steadily as will be shown by the last financial statement as called for by the superintendent of state banks.  It has total resources of over $150,000, and deposits of over $100,000 and shows that it has no notes and bills rediscounted. Berrien county is justly proud of its banking institutions and conservative business men do not hesitate to place the Citizens Bank of Ray City along with the head of list.

In fact, in July of 1930, the Atlanta Constitution had reported that the banks of Berrien County, including the Ray City bank were financially sound.

But by the end of December, the Citizens Bank of Ray City had failed.

The closing of The Citizens Bank of Ray City was among those announced in December of 1930.

The closing of The Citizens Bank of Ray City was among those announced in December of 1930.

MORE BANKS CLOSED IN SOUTHERN STATES

New York Times.  Dec 21, 1930.

ATLANTA, Ga., Dec. 20 (AP) – A. B. Mobley, State Superintendent of Banks, announced today his department had been asked to take over the affairs of the Union Banking Company of Douglas, operating branches at Barxton and Nichols, the Toombs County Bank at Lyons and the Citizens Bank of Ray City. Cause of the closings was not stated.

In 1931, the Ray City Bank underwent reorganization. A series of Nashville Herald articles reported on the situation:

The Nashville Herald
January 29, 1931, front page,

R.E. Dean in Charge of Ray City Bank

      Mr. R.E. Dean who is in charge of the affairs of the closed Ray City bank is making satisfactory progress with his work.  Optimism prevails in regard to the opening of the bank, for there can be no better location for a banking institution than Ray City, situated as it is in the heart of one of the finest farming sections in South Georgia, and the land tilled by experienced and reliable farmers who are good for their contracts.

The Nashville Herald
  February 19, 1931, front page,

Citizens Bank, Ray City Applies to Sell Assets

If Offer Is Accepted Depositors Will Receive 50 Per Cent Net.

      According to an announcement of a hearing to be held before Judge W.R. Smith at the court house in this city Saturday, Feb. 21, an application will be made by the State Superintendent of Banks, A.B. Mobley, to sell the assets of the Citizens Bank of Ray City, which closed a short while before Christmas.  It is understood that the depositors have recommended that the offer be accepted.
       An extract from the notice reads as follows:  “Notice is hereby given that the undersigned has received an offer for the purchase of the assets of The Citizens Bank of Ray City, by the terms of which officer the depositors of said Bank are to receive fifty per cent of their claims net, the preferred claims against said Bank being fully paid under the terms of said offer, in addition to the payment of the fifty per cent net to the depositors.”
       The Herald was unable to learn whether or not the bank would be reopened for business.

The Nashville Herald
February 26, 1931, front page,

Ray City Bank Opened Tuesday

      As we go to press encouraging news reaches us, that while permanent arrangements has not yet been perfected for the opening of the bank there, yet tentative arrangements have and the bank has been doing business since Tuesday.  This good news will increase the optimism, now prevailing in this section over the picking-up of business generally.

The Nashville Herald
March 12, 1931, front page

Ray City Bank Pays Depositors 50 Per Cent

John D. Luke, Cashier of Old Bank In Charge of New Organization

      The Ray City Banking Company has reopened for business under an agreement to pay the depositors 50 per cent cash for the amount of their deposits, and has been making these payments since last Thursday.  It is understood that many of the depositors are leaving their money in the bank, which although a private institution is said to be doing a good business, and receiving large deposits.
       The above arrangement was made possible through the efforts of Messrs. George W. Varn, A.D. Lee and Y.F. Carter, who put up the money with which to pay off the depositors.  Mr. John D. Luke, cashier before the bank was closed, is again acting in this capacity.
      The institution is known as the Citizens Banking Company, and serves one of the best communities in this section.  The general prediction is that the institution will continue to prosper.

Article transcriptions provided in part by Skeeter Parker.

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Bank of Ray’s Mill

The Bank of Ray’s Mill and the Bank of Milltown

In 1905, local investors including some with Ray’s Mill connections formed the Bank of Milltown.  The bank was  chartered March 14, 1905 and the bank opened for business March 21, 1906.

GOSSIP AT THE CAPITOL
Atlanta Constitution. Feb 7, 1905 pg. 7

 Application was filed with Secretary of State Philip Cook yesterday for a charter for the Bank of Milltown, at Milltown, in Berrien county. The capital stock of the new bank is to be $25,000 and the incorporators are J.V. Talley, W.L. Patton, P.T. Knight and L.J. Clements, Jr.

The Bank of Ray’s Mill was organized around 1908 with George W. Varn as president and Lewis M. Marshall as cashier. Its directors were J.H.P. Johnson, J.H.SwindleC.O. Terry, Y.F. Carter, Harmon Gaskins, and Frank Fountain. Wallace Johnson, son of J.H.P  Johnson, began working for the bank when he was fourteen years old.  Lewis M. Marshall served as the bank’s cashier until he was succeeded in the early 1920’s by John D. Luke who held the position until the bank failed during the great depression – probably around 1931.  In 1909 the bank’s name was changed to Citizens Bank of Ray City.

The Annual report of the Treasurer and State Bank Examiner of the State of Georgia for the year ending 1910, still lists the bank as the Bank of Ray’s Mill, with a capital of $15,000 dollars.  That sum would have been about $6 million in 2007 dollars.