The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

There were several south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

After 1908, the route of the Georgia & Florida Railroad was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles.

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Charlie Parker was a Splendid Soldier

Charlie Parker (1919-1945)

In Lakeland, GA there is an official military headstone marking the grave of Charlie Parker, who was a resident of Ray City. Charlie Parker enlisted in the army days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He was in the first African American military unit to arrive in England, and he was the first African-American from Berrien County to die in WWII. Like the Army in which he served, the cemetery where he was buried was racially segregated  –  the Lakeland Colored Cemetery. Today this burial ground is known as the Charles Knight Cemetery.

Grave of Charlie Parker (1919-1945), Lakeland, GA <br> CPL 65 ORD AM CO <br> World War II

Grave of Charlie Parker (1919-1945), Lakeland, GA
CPL 65 ORD AM CO
World War II

Charlie Parker, a son of Will Parker and Girtrude “Trudie” Reddick, lived most of his short life at Ray City, GA. He was a nephew of Stella Reddick Wright and Mose Wright.

His father, Will Parker, was born August 8, 1884.  As a man, Will Parker  was medium height and build, with black eyes and black hair.  His mother was Girtrude Reddick; She was a daughter of Albert and Sylvia Reddick. His parents were married  in Coffee County, GA on November 4, 1916 in a ceremony performed by Reverend R. N. Thompson.

By 1918, Charlie’s parents were residing in Berrien County, GA. Will Parker,  was employed by Samuel I. Watson as a farmer, working Watson’s property on RFD #2 out of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. By 1920, Will  and Girtrude Parker had  relocated to Ray City, GA, renting a house in the “Negro Quarters” which were located between Hwy 129 and Cat Creek in the present day vicinity of the Ray City Senior Citizen Center. Will Parker had taken a job with the Georgia & Florida Railroad, and Gertrude was working as a laundress.  Will  and Gertrude had started a family, with their firstborn son Albert Parker born March 1917, and Charlie Parker born January 9, 1919.  Matthew Parker was born in 1921 and Mary Parker in 1922, followed by Stella, Mack, and the twins, Ethel Mae and Willie both of whom died young.  The Parkers neighbors were men like Charlie Palmer, Joe Davis, and Jerry Mullin, all of whom worked for the railroad, and their wives Henrietta Palmer and Essie Davis, who, like Gertrude, worked as laundresses, and Annie Mullin, who was employed as a domestic cook.

1920 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker and his family in Ray City, GA https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n293/mode/1up

1920 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker and his family in Ray City, GA
https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n293/mode/1up

Charlie Parker and his siblings attended grade school, Charlie completing the 5th grade according to his later military records. Of course, at the time schools were segregated. It wasn’t until 1954 that the supreme court ruled on segregation and the 1964 Civil Rights Act compelled the desegregation of schools. Yet segregated schools persisted in the South; In 1965, “In Berrien County, Georgia, 32 Negro parents chose white schools for their children, but the school Superintendent told the U.S. Office of Education that all 32 parents came to him before school opened and said that their names had been forged on the choice forms.”

Charlie’s mother, Girtrude Reddick Parker, died some time in the 1920s.  The 1930 census shows Will Parker, widower, raising Charlie and his siblings alone, although Girtrude’s sisters also mothered the children. Will was renting a house in Ray City for two dollars a month and  continued to work for the railroad. Charlie’s older brother, Albert, quit school and went to work as a farm laborer to help support the family.  The Parkers also took in boarders to help with family expenses; Census records show Eugene and Luvicy Thomas Campbell living in the Parker household. Their neighbors were the widow Nina Dowdy and Charlie Phillips.  Down the street was the residence of Henry Polite, who later married Queen Ester Wright.

1930 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker, his father and siblings in Ray City, GA

1930 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker, his father and siblings in Ray City, GA
https://archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel338#page/n354/mode/1up

In 1939, Charlie Parker was working on the Guthrie farm on Park Street extension. When the men were cropping tobacco in the summer of 1939, one of Charlie’s tasks was to go into town to get ice. The Guthries had a mule that pulled a sled which was used to haul the tobacco from the field to the tobacco barn for curing. At lunch time, when the tobacco croppers were taking a break, Charlie would take the mule and sled down the dirt road into Ray City to the ice house.  Ferris Moore kept a little ice house by the railroad track in front of Pleamon Sirman’s grocery store. The ice was shipped into Ray City from an ice plant in Nashville. Sometimes seven-year-old Diane Miley, one of the Guthrie grandchildren, would ride in the sled with Charlie for the trip into town and back.

Sometime in late 1939, Charlie Parker and his cousin, Dan Simpson,  left Ray City and went to Florida to try their hand at working for the Wilson Cypress Company. Dan was a son of Charlie’s aunt Luvicy Reddick and her first husband, John H. Simpson.

1940 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker at the Wilson Cypress Sawmill Camp, Crows Bluff, FL

1940 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker at the Wilson Cypress Sawmill Camp, Crows Bluff, FL

The 1940 census enumerated Charlie Parker and Dan Simpson in Lake County, FL, working  at the Crows Bluff Camp of the Wilson Cypress Sawmill. Each rented a place to live at the camp for $2.00 a month.

Crows Bluff on the St. Johns River, was about 65 miles up stream from the Wilson Sawmill at Palatka, FL. At one time, the Wilson sawmill was the largest cypress sawmill in the world.

Parker and Simpson worked as “rafting laborers.” The cypress trees were cut and hauled to the river. They were dumped into the water and assembled into rafts which were floated down the river to the sawmill.

Wilson Cypress Company dumping logs into the Saint Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38983

Wilson Cypress sawmill camp in Lake County, FL, dumping logs into the Saint Johns River.
Charlie Parker and Dan Simpson, of Ray City, GA found work with Wilson Cypress Company in the late 1930s as “rafting laborers.”
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38983

Wilson Cypress Company logging operation on a tributary of the St. Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38992

Wilson Cypress Company logging operation on a tributary of the St. Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38992

Timber rafting on a tributary of the St. Johns River, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/27761

Timber rafting on a tributary of the St. Johns River, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/27761

Wilson Cypress Sawmill. Charlie Parker worked for the Wilson Cypress Sawmill prior to WWII. At the time, the sawmill was the largest producer of red-heart tidewater cypress lumber in the world.

Wilson Cypress Sawmill.
Charlie Parker worked for the Wilson Cypress Sawmill prior to WWII. At the time, the sawmill was the largest producer of red-heart tidewater cypress lumber in the world.

The Palatka sawmill operation of the Wilson Cypress Company was shut down December 5, 1945 during WWII.  Later, the chairman of the company board remarked, “There just was no more marketable timber. We had cut it all.”   Over the next 37 years,  the company’s assets were sold off piece by piece, including 100,000 acres of cut over cypress wetlands.

But the war drew Charlie Parker away before the end came for the sawmill.    His elder brother, Albert Parker, had joined the Army nearly a year before the U.S. entered the war, enlisting at Fort Benning, GA on January 21, 1941.

U.S. Army records show that Charlie Parker enlisted with the Army on November 26, 1941, eleven days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He entered the service at Camp Blanding, FL. His physical description at induction was 5’9″ tall and 151 pounds.  His cousin Dan Simpson would be inducted at Camp Blanding the following year.

Camp Blanding was established in 1939 and by 1941, the camp had grown to be the fourth largest city in Florida with more than 10,000 buildings to accommodate two divisions, about 60,000 trainees.  In addition to housing and mess halls, maintenance buildings, PXs, field artillery and rifle ranges, the camp had a 2,800-bed hospital, enlisted men’s and officer’s clubs, bowling alleys, four theaters, and five chapels… The camp had separate training and induction centers for soldiers of both races, although they remained in separate areas of the post…During World War II, approximately one million men received basic training here, the largest of Florida’s 142 military installations built in the 1940s.

Following training, Charlie Parker was initially assigned to the 60th Ordnance Ammunition Company and later transferred to the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company.

“The 65th Ordnance Company were the first Aviation ammunition Unit to arrive in the UK. They were set to immediate work establishing the first Aviation Ordnance Section in a General Service Depot, at Burtonwood. They were briefly transferred to Barnham before being moved to Wortley, Yorkshire to man the first depot to accept AF munitions in quantity from the US. This Unit was the first African American Unit to arrive in England!  Its arrival being the subject of an FBI document, relating to a press release, downplaying the arrival of ‘negro’ troops.”

“The all black 65th Ordnance Company who arrived from Fort Dix, New Jersey in the middle of July 1942 at the nearby small village of Wortley. They were joined the following month by a further 98 black GIs. They had come to service an aerial bomb depot in the vicinity, and were barracked at Wortley Hall, the home of Lord Wharncliffe. According to the detailed account of this by Graham Smith, the locals of Wortley and Sheffield got on very well with the black soldiers, apart from some young men who resented them having relations with local young women. They were resented too by Lord Wharncliffe, who didn’t like having them milling around his living quarters.”

When America entered the war, there were fewer than 4000 African Americans in the armed services; by the war’s end more than 1.2 million African Americans would serve in uniform. Like Charlie Parker, many black soldiers served in segregated units in support roles:

“While most African Americans serving at the beginning of WWII were assigned to non-combat units and relegated to service duties, such as supply, maintenance, and transportation, their work behind front lines was equally vital to the war effort, serving behind the front lines…By 1945, however, troop losses virtually forced the military to begin placing more African American troops into positions as infantrymen, pilots, tankers, medics, and officers in increasing numbers.  In all positions and ranks, they served with as much honor, distinction, and courage as any American soldier did.  Still, African American MPs stationed in the South often could not enter restaurants where their German prisoners were being served a meal. ”  

The 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company served in campaigns in Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, and Rome-Arno. By 1945, the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company (munitions supply) was assigned to Mondolfo Airfield, Italy.  USAAF units known to have been stationed at Mondolfo were:

307th; 308th; 309th Fighter Squadrons, P-51D/K Mustang
Primary mission was to escort B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers on missions into Northern Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia and Austria.
317th; 319th Fighter Squadrons, P-51D/K Mustang
Primary mission was to fly ground air support missions for advancing Allied ground forces in Italy.

Part of Charlie Parker’s job while serving in Italy as a corporal in the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company was handling toxic bombs.  According to the textbook Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare published by the U.S. Army, the US Army Air Force in WWII:

had 100-lb mustard agent bombs; 500-lb phosgene or cyanogen chloride bombs; and 1,000-lb phosgene, cyanogen chloride, or hydrocyanic acid bombs… None of these chemical weapons was used on the battlefield during the war, but the prepositioning of chemical weapons in forward areas resulted in one major disaster and several near mishaps. The disaster occurred December 2, 1943, when the SS John Harvey, loaded with 2,000 M47A1 mustard agent bombs, was destroyed during a German air raid at Bari Harbor, Italy. The only members of the crew who were aware of the chemical munitions were killed in the raid. As a result of the ship’s destruction, mustard agent contaminated the water in the harbor and caused more than 600 casualties, in addition to those killed or injured in the actual attack.

Just days before the German surrender and the declaration of Victory in Europe, Parker suffered his own chemical weapons mishap, a fatal exposure to the toxic gas from a poison gas bomb . His death was reported in the Nashville Herald.

The Nashville Herald
May 31, 1945

Cpl. Parker, Negro, Passes In Italy

        Cpl. Charlie Parker, colored, of Ray City, died in Italy April 26, in a United States Army Station Hospital, located in Southern Italy, where he had been stationed nearly two years.
        While working with toxic bombs, Cpl. Parker inhaled a concentration of the gas. After reporting to the Medical Aid Station he was admitted to the Station Hospital for further treatment. Reports stated that everything possible was done to save his life but to no avail.
        His burial services were conducted on Sunday, April 29, attended by all officers and men of his company except those on duty. Burial was in an American cemetery in Southern Italy. The letter from his commanding officer stated that Parker was a splendid soldier and well liked by those of his company.
        The deceased volunteered in the U.S. Army about three years ago, having in Italy. He was the son of Will Parker and a nephew of Frances Goff, both of Ray City. So far as known at this time, he was the first Berrien county colored person to make the supreme sacrifice in World War II.

(transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker)

After the end of World War II, Charlie Parker’s body was returned to the United States.  The U.S. government mandated a program to return the bodies of servicemen who had been buried in temporary military cemeteries overseas. Following surveys to the population, the government decided that about three fifths of the 289,000 personnel involved would be returned in accordance with family wishes. Between 1946 and 1951, over 170,000 servicemen were returned.

After WWII, the body of Charlie Parker, of Ray City, GA was returned to Georgia aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson.

After WWII, the body of Charlie Parker, of Ray City, GA was returned to Georgia aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson.

The body of Charlie Parker was returned to America aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson, originally built as a Liberty Ship.  As a funeral ship, the USAT Eric G. Gibson was painted white with a large purple mourning band. The ship arrived at the Brooklyn Army Base, NY, in February, 1949, with the bodies of 92 Georgians along with the bodies of more than 5000 war dead from other states.

Ironically, in the 1960s, the Army loaded the S.S. Corporal Eric G. Gibson with chemical weapons of mass destruction- rockets armed with VX nerve gas – and sank it off the coast of  New Jersey to dispose of the deadly weapons. Today, the sunken ship and its deadly cargo remain one of the most dangerous chemical weapons dump sites  in U.S. waters.

In 1949, Francis Reddick Goff applied for a flat marble military headstone to mark the grave of her nephew.

Application for military headstone for Charlie Parker, WWII veteran.

Application for military headstone for Charlie Parker, WWII veteran.

 

Grave of Charlie Parker. Charles Knight Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Charlie Parker. Charles Knight Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

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Jim Griner ~ Lawman

Deputy Jim Griner,  Berrien County Lawman

James Benjamin “Jim” Griner , who was Ray City, GA Police Chief in the 1940s, also served as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County from 1905 to 1915.  (In 1915,  Griner was elected Police Chief of Nashville, GA.)  Below are a few clippings from newspapers around the region  about his time as Deputy Sheriff .

Deputy Sheriff James B. "Jim" Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Deputy Sheriff James B. “Jim” Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Griner’s ten years of deputy work were filled with escorting prisoners, working the bloodhounds, trailing chain gang escapees,  tracking arsonists, raiding gambling dens and blind tigers, gunfights with desperadoes, and more. He began his law enforcement career as a deputy for Sheriff Marion J. Kinard.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Tifton Gazette
March 24, 1905

Mr. I. C. Avera, for a long time deputy sheriff, is now city marshal of Nashville, and makes a model officer.  Messrs. J. A. Lindsey and J. B. Griner are Sheriff Kinard’s deputies, and are making good officers.

 

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

 

Tifton Gazette
April 26, 1907

Deputy Sheriff Griner went to Homerville Sunday and brought Charlie Israel back to jail. He is the young white man who dug a hole in the brick wall of the county jail and made his escape a few weeks ago. Sheriff Screven Sweat of Clinch captured him. – Nashville Herald. Israel is the young man that burglarized the store of J. B. Gunn, at Enigma, several weeks ago.

1908-jim-griner-and-ed-sutton

Tifton Gazette
September 18, 1908

 

Ed Sutton, who was tried and adjudged insane here last week, got away from Deputy Sheriff Griner at Cordele, while enroute to the asylum. The county authorities offer a reward of $25 for him. – Nashville Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

 

Waycross Journal
July 2, 1909

Nashville, Ga., July 2. – John A. Gaskins, living in the upper Tents [Tenth] district, six or eight miles east of Nashville, came here and got Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and his blood hounds to go to his place for the purpose of tracking incendiaries who set fire to his gin house Monday night. The dogs failed to track the offender, however, and Mr. Griner returned to Nashville without a prisoner. Mr. Gaskins thinks he has a clue, as threats have been made against him because he refused to let certain parties fish in his mill pond. The ginnery, which had just been completed was a total loss.

 

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Tifton Gazette
December 17, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and John Bradford went down in Clinch county Monday night and captured Dick Studstill, a desperate negro who is wanted in this county for assault with intent to murder. He resisted arrest several months ago, near Sparks, and shot at Sheriff Avera and posse who were raiding a gambling and tiger den. – Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Vienna News
April 14, 1911

Sets Bullets Flying Wildly in Nashville

Adel, Ga., April 11. – News has reached this city of an affray at Nashville Saturday evening in which Beaty Gaskins, a well known and prominent young man, undertook to shoot up the town. He began by shooting at a young man named Knight, and continued to shoot until he had fired nine times. He came near hitting a clerk in Wein’s store and sent a bullet into the county school commissioner’s office in which were a number of teachers, it being the time of the monthly meeting of the teacher’s institute. He also sent a bullet into the office of J. P. Knight, ex-senator from this district. After shooting half a dozen times Gaskin directed his shots into the office of Judge W. D. Buie of the city court, hitting that official and Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, who was there.
Mr. Griner returned the fire and slightly wounded Gaskins, was then arrested. Later he was released under bond of $10,500. He is a son of John A. Gaskins, one of the wealthiest men in Berrien county.

1913-jim-griner-and-oscar-jones

Tifton Gazette
November 7, 1913

Nashville Herald: Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner left Friday for Belleville, Illinois, in response to a telegrram from the Prison Commission advising him to go after Oscar Jones, who escaped from the Berrien county chaingang two years ago.  He is a lifetime man sent here from Fulton county in 1911.

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Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Tifton Gazette
June 12, 1914

Bob Luke, who shot and killed Calvin Lingo about three weeks go, was placed under arrest last week by Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, of Berrien.  Luke says he killed Lingo in self defense while Lingo was under the influence of whiskey.  He offered to surrender but the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of Justifiable homicide and he was turned loose.  Lingo’s brother had the warrant sworn out for Luke.  George Henderson, the only eye-witness to the tragedy, has also been placed under arrest.

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Atlanta Constitution
December 31, 1914

Two Prisoners Escape Berrien County Jail

Nashville, Ga., December 30. – (Special.) – J. C. Carter, a white man held in the Berrien county jail here for stealing hogs, and Capers Beach, colored, held for securing goods under false pretense, escaped late last night by sawing a bar in two and climbing to the ground on tied blankets. Love Vickers, colored, reported it to Deputy Sheriff J. B. Griner, but they had already successfully effected their escape. When last seen they were headed for Sparks on the Georgia and Florida track.

Lon Fender Loses Milltown Stills

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Unknown turpentine still, early 1900s, Lowndes County, GA

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  Born William Alonzo Fender, he was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920), who became residents of Ray City in their senior years.  Lon Fender himself owned farmland near Ray City in the 1920s.

Lon Fender and his brothers were big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  In 1906, November  the Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, noted that Lon Fender had purchased “the turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.”

Two years later, the Tifton Gazette reported that Fender’s still at Milltown burned on October 21, 1908:

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 -- page 6

Tifton Gazette, Oct. 30, 1908 — page 6

Another account published in the Waycross Journal described the losses as “the turpentine still of W. L. Fender, with 35 barrels of spirits, and 100 barrels of rosin…destroyed by fire.” The Journal further  indicated that the robbery referred to occurred west of Milltown on the Georgia & Florida Railroad, making it likely that the actual scene of the robbery was Jim Swindle’s store at Ray’s Mill, GA.

Another fire struck the Milltown still in 1909:

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 -- page 9

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 19, 1909 — page 9

W.L. “Lon” Fender later purchased a large tract of timber near Ray City, GA,  known as the “Sirmans Timber.”

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October 1, 1908 First Train Rolls into Rays Mill, GA

On Thursday, October 1, 1908  the very first train rolled into Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. It was an exciting day in the Wiregrass and when the train stopped at the Ray’s Mill depot. Nearly one hundred people boarded for the excursion to Valdosta.

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

The Valdosta Times reported on the great celebration upon the arrival of the train in that city.  Among the  G & F passengers on the very first northbound train rolling out of Valdosta was Louis Malone Bullard, son of Green Bullard and husband of Dollie Howard Knight.

Valdosta Times
October 3, 1908

A BIG CROWD ON EXCURSION

Valdosta’s Neighbors Celebrate Opening of New Railroad.

Nearly Six Hundred People Came to the City Today on Excursion Over the Georgia and Florida Road From Points North of Here – The Visitors are Given a Cordial Welcome.

(From Thursday’s Daily. [October 1, 1908])

The excursion over the Georgia and Florida railroad today, marking the opening of the new line, brought big crowds to Valdosta.  Our neighbors paid us a visit, and Valdostans extended them a cordial greeting.
 The train from Hazlehurst reached the city about 12:30 on schedule time. It was  met at the turnout on the new road by a committee of twenty-five citizens, carrying badges with which to tag the excursionists. Mayor Roberts boarded the engine at the crossing and brought the train into the city, with the whistle blowing and bell ringing every foot of the way.  At the depot the excursionists, numbering nearly six hundred people were formed in line and marched up Patterson street and to the Odd Fellows Hall on Central avenue, where a splendid lunch had been prepared.  The ladies in the party, numbering about one hundred and fifty, were met by a committee at Pinkston’s store and carried up stairs where refreshments had been prepared for them.
 No pains were spared by the committee in charge of the entertainment for the visitors, to make the occasion a pleasant one.  The lunches at both places were simply splendid, and enough had been provided to feed even a larger crowd.
 After dinner there were a number of speeches at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, Judge W. H. Griffin welcoming the visitors to the city in a ten minute talk which was applauded to the echo.  Prof. McDonald, of Douglas, made a splendid speech expressing the appreciation of the people along the new line for the cordial welcome given them by the citizens of Valdosta.  He was followed by Col. Smith, of Nashville, who added his praise to that of the hundreds who had given the occasion their unqualified endorsement.
 Every town on the new line was represented in the excursionists. Hazlehurst, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville, Ray’s Mill and all of the other towns sent representative crowds.  One hundred and seventy-two came from Nashville and nearly a hundred boarded the train at Ray’s Mill.
Between seventy-five and one hundred came up on the early train from Madison and the towns between here and there.
The visitors have a half day to spend  in the city, as the train on the return trip does not leave until six o’clock this afternoon.

First Train.

    The first passenger train of the Georgia and Florida going north left out of Valdosta this morning at about 8:30 o’clock.  It was the accommodation train No. 20, and carried several freight cars and a passenger coach.
    No 20 met the excursion train coming from Hazlehurst, at Nashville.
    Several passengers got aboard.  Some for Mathis, some for Ray’s Mill and others for Nashville.  Among the passengers were J. R. Fitzgerald, Garland Wilkinson and L. M. Bullard.
    Those who watched this first train going north from Valdosta over the new route of the Georgia and Florida, realized the dream of leading Valdostans for years.
   This might well be called the birthday of the new era for the city’s prosperity, as the Georgia and Florida opens up a vast territory that was hard for Valdosta to reach heretofore.
    When completed the road from Madison to Augusta will touch many good towns but among them all it will have no better friend than Valdosta.

-30-

G & F Railroad To Open with Big Excursion

Road opens with big excursion

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

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

Atlanta Georgian and News
September 26, 1908

To Open Road With Big Excursion

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

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

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

The Valdosta Times
September 26, 1908

Many are Coming Next Week

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

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

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

Rays Mill Gets G & F Depot

The railroad played an important role in the development of Ray City.  It spurred the development of businesses like the Mayhaw Lake Resort and Luckie Lumber Mill (later Clements Lumber Company). It provided farmers with access to distant markets, and the people of Ray City with transportation to cities and connecting destinations.

By September 1908, the  G&F Construction Company was nearing completion of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. The section  running from Nashville, GA via Rays Mill (now Ray City, GA) to Valdosta was the last remaining track to be laid. A contract was let out to construct a “neat and commodious” train depot at Rays Mill  at a cost of $1500 dollars.  The contractor was Richard A. Whitehurst, of Valdosta, GA. In addition to the depot, the railroad built a number of section houses at Ray’s Mill. These were homes for railroad employees and their families.   A big wooden water tower was constructed just south of Main Street on the east side of the tracks to provide water for the trains.

1908 announcement of the construction of a train depot in Rays Mill, GA

1908 announcement of the construction of a train depot in Rays Mill, GA

NEW ROAD WILL START PASSENGER SCHEDULE
Georgia and Florida Will Begin to Operate Trains Between Nashville, Ga., and Madison, Fla.
Valdosta, Ga., September 5. – (Special.) It is announced that a regular passenger schedule on the Georgia and Florida railroad will be inaugurated on October 1, and that trains will then be run between this city and Hazlehurst, on the Southern railway.  The gap from here to Nashville, Ga.,  26 miles, will be completed within the next three weeks or less, giving a straight line from Hazlehurst to Madison, Fla.  It is understood that two passenger trains a day will be run each way.
      Contractor R. A. Whitehurst, of this city, today signed contracts to build two depots for the road between here and Nashville.  The first will be located at the place of John Mathis, about 8 miles north of this city, and the other at Rays mill, in Berrien county.  The depots are to be neat and commodious structures, and will cost about $1,500 each.  So far as known now these will be the only stations between Valdosta and Nashville, but there is a probability of one more being build.  The new line opens a splendid territory in this and Berrien county.

By November 9, the depot at Rays Mill was ready to open.

Train depot at Rays Mill, GA was ready to open November 9, 1908.

Train depot at Rays Mill, GA was ready to open November 9, 1908.

Valdosta Times
November 6, 1908

The new depots at Mathis and Ray’s Mill on the Georgia and Florida road are nearly completed and will soon be ready for occupancy.  The depot at Mathis was thrown open Monday and an agency established there.  The agency at Ray’s Mill will be established next Monday [Nov 9, 1908]. The company has just received and put on several new passenger cars, which helps general appearances wonderfully.  – Nashville Herald.

Mahlon Parker Bowers was later a Railroad Agent for the G&F Railroad at the Ray City,GA depot.

 

 

Clements Lumber Company and the Company Town

sawmill bladeTHE SAWMILL CENSUS OF 1920

In the early days of Ray City, GA,  the economic engine of the community was sustained by farming and agriculture.  Large stands of original growth yellow pine supported the development of turpentine and lumber industries in the area.

Related Posts:

The Growth of Timber

 “…in Southern Georgia there are millions of acres of magnificent yellow-pine forests suitable for general building purposes, shipbuilding, etc. Within the last few years, Turpentine Plantations have been opened in these forests, for the purpose of manufacturing naval stores. Large quantities of timber and lumber are being annually shipped from Brunswick and Darien, to Northern, European, and South American ports. In the south-eastern portion of the State, the Live Oak—a valuable wood for shipbuilding—abounds.”   -1876 Handbook of the State of Georgia

Lumber and naval stores came to be among the most important  historic businesses of Ray City. The opening of the Georgia & Florida Railway  in 1908 spurred the growth of a sawmill that quickly became the major employer of the town.

The sawmill was the first large mechanized industrial operation in the Ray City area.

Atlanta Georgian and News,
Aug. 23, 1911 — page 13

Want Ad.

FIRST-CLASS circular saw filer wants a position; can give any reference concerning smooth lumber. No booze fighter.
C.A. Reed, Rays Mill, Ga.             26

In the traditional agricultural occupations issues like child labor or safety were personal matters. But as  employment grew in the emerging industrial workplace the risks and concerns of the community also grew.

“A study of the sources of industrial hazards undertaken in the 1930s by the U.S. Children’s Bureau found “the first three industries in frequency of disabling injuries were logging, coal mining, and sawmilling.” Logging, coal mining, and fertilizer manufacturing were the only industries that exceeded sawmilling in the severity of injuries and the number of fatalities.” The Journal of Southern History , Vol. 56, No. 4 (Nov., 1990), pp. 695-724

In 1923, the Nashville Herald reported an industrial accident at the Clements sawmill.  In early February of that year a young boy, son of Math Phillips, had his eye put out at the sawmill, leaving some to wonder if it was time for stricter enforcement of compulsory school attendance.    Sawmills were dangerous workplaces and newspaper reports of more horrific accidents were not entirely uncommon. With the stockpiling of combustible materials, there was a constant ever present danger of fire – a threat that was magnified in steam-powered sawmills where boilers were typically fired with scrap material.

Clements Lumber Company

Over the years this sawmill was operated under three different owners.  The big sawmill at Ray City first operated under the name Luckie Lumber Company, owned by William F. Luckie. It was a huge operation located about one mile north of Ray City on the rail line of Georgia & Florida Railway .  About 1911, W. F. Luckie sold out to Levi J. Clements and his sons.  The Clements Family had experience in the sawmill trade, and the Clements boys were college-educated businessmen.

 Lucius Jordan Clements, with Helen Elizabeth

Lucius Jordan Clements, with Helen Elizabeth “Betty” Clements and Daisy Pearle Clements. Image courtesy of Ron Yates http://www.yatesville.net

The Clements Brothers ran the company, Lucius J. Clements served as General Manager of the Clements Lumber Company, Irwin Clements was a manager at the mill, and Joe Clements was treasurer.

The superintendent of the mill was Melvin W. Rivenbark. Clarence Jones Gray was stenographer and bookkeeper for the firm. James Edmond Hall and John William Sims were Shipping Clerks and Chester Artemis Hall was an Assistant Shipping Clerk. George B. Norton was foreman of the planing mill. William Andrew Hendrix was an engineer and Samuel Arthur Ganas was employed at the mill as a stationary engineer. Morris C. Sumner was the assistant lumber inspector and Timothy Allen Washington was a lumber grader. Willis Gordon Hill was a stave miller. William Haines Joiner was a locomotive engineer and J. D. Melvin was a fireman. Jacob Ed Akridge was woods superintendent. Tom Lott and Elmore Medley were teamsters and Bee Mannin was a log chopper. Robert Christopher Powell was a skidder operator and Ples Phillips worked on the tram road. Will Thomas was a sawyer. R.D. Ward was a machinist. Bashey Wells was a contractor. Freddie Andrew Wheless was a carpenter. Many men and sometimes boys were employed as “sawmill laborers”, others worked as sawyers, teamsters, firemen, foremen, wheelwrights, commissary clerks, or marketmen. Many of the women worked out of their homes, in the occupation of “laundress.” By 1920, the sawmill had grown to a large industrial operation. A ‘sawmill town’ had grown up to house the sawmill workers and their families. The enumerator for 1920 US Census annotated the census forms to indicate the sawmill residents, showing that there were 78 households with 313 residents living in rented homes at the sawmill.  More workers lived in the surrounding area and in Ray City.

While residents of the ‘sawmill town’ had access to all of the goods and services in Ray City just a mile south on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida, the sawmill company also operated a commissary where workers could shop.   In the 1920’s the Clements sawmill provided a cold storage facility for curing meats as a part of the company operations. The cold storage was also available to the people of Ray City and the surrounding area.

NEWS ITEMS FROM RAY CITY

Nashville Herald, February 16, 1923

The few cold days we had last week were fine for people to hang up their meat. The Clements Lumber Company cold storage cured about 76,000 pounds, all of which was removed last week.

Before the widespread availability of electricity and electric refrigerators, cold storage of meat  was an important service to the community.  Poisoning could result from consumption of meat which was improperly cured or  stored.

House at Clements Sawmill

House at Clements Sawmill
Photographed in 2008, this log house was moved to the old Clements sawmill area around 1975-78 by John David Luke. The original structure was built with notched logs, the wing extending to the right, rear was constructed with sawn boards.

By 1923, the Clements were operating ten miles of tram road track to bring timber to the sawmill. The operation also included a lathe mill, and a planer. The mill had a inventory of sawn lumber on the ground with an estimated value of about $30,000.  In 2013 dollar’s that would have been more than half a million dollars worth of lumber.

In 1923 the Jackson Brothers, owners of the Jackson Lumber Company purchased the entire mill operation from Clements Lumber Company for $75,000 in cash in what was described as “one of the biggest business deals pulled of in this section in some time.”

1923-clements-lumber

If the Spring of 1923 brought the town’s biggest economic boom, the fall of ’23 brought its biggest bust.  For on  November 6, 1923 fire struck the big sawmill  at Ray City, GA  devastating the operation  and the local economy.

<strong>Clements Sawmill Site in 2008, Ray City, GA.</strong><br /> This view of the site of the Clements Sawmill, taken from the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad, shows the location of the remaining foundations. In the distance a residential structure that was later moved to the sawmill site. The

Clements Sawmill Site in 2008, Ray City, GA.
This view of the site of the Clements Sawmill, taken from the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad, shows the location of the remaining foundations. In the distance a residential structure that was later moved to the sawmill site. The “company town” which grew up around the sawmill once boasted a population of more than 300 people and 78 households.

~

Clements Sawmill Foundations, 2008, Ray City, GA. Eighty-five years later, all that remains of the Clements Sawmill are a few concrete foundations in a cow pasture located about one mile north of Ray City, GA, on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railway. Protruding from these foundations are heavy steel anchoring bolts, perhaps used to secure cutting or planing equipment, or to support boilers used to generate steam power for the mill.

Clements Sawmill Foundations, 2008, Ray City, GA.
Eighty-five years later, all that remains of the Clements Sawmill are a few concrete foundations in a cow pasture located about one mile north of Ray City, GA, on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railway. Protruding from these foundations are heavy steel anchoring bolts, perhaps used to secure cutting or planing equipment, or to support boilers used to generate steam power for the mill.

THE SAWMILL AT RAY CITY, GA

1920 Census

The enumerator for 1920 US Census annotated six pages of the census sheets indicate the sawmill residents, showing that there were 78 households with 313 residents living in rented homes at the sawmill.

Name

Relation

Est.Birth

Birthplace

Race

 Occupation

1

Walter Ferrey

head of household

abt 1885

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Lucia Ferrey

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Clifford Ferrey

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

2

Will Goodman

Head of household

abt 1887

District of Columbia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ola Green Goodman

Wife

abt 1879

Georgia

Black

laundress

Charlie Smith

Grandson

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Henry Matchett

Head of household

abt 1876

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Rebecca Matchett

Wife

abt 1884

Georgia

Black

Lenard Matchett

Son

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

Elmo Medley

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Josephine Medley

Wife

abt 1880

Georgia

Black

Edmond Wilson

Head of household

abt 1857

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Emma Wilson

Wife

abt 1875

Georgia

White

Harry Wilson

Son

abt 1901

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Burney Wilson

Son

abt 1902

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer-crossties

Goldie Wilson

Son

abt 1904

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Pearlie Wilson

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Rollie Wilson

Son

abt 1908

Georgia

White

Rossie Wilson

Son

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Edna May Wilson

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

White

Talley Wilson

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

John Browning

Head of household

abt 1895

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Willie Browning

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

White

Moselle Browning

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Odell Browning

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Avanell Browning

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Eulis P  Wallace

Head of household

abt 1889

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Louella Wallace

Wife

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Eunice Wallace

Daughter

abt 1916

Georgia

White

Willis G Hill

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Leila Hill

Wife

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Otis Hill

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Lon S Westbrook

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Blonnie Westbrook

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

White

J Lester Westbrook

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Eanos H Westbrook

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Randall M Westbrook

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Myrtle J Westbrook

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Timothy A Washington

Head of household

abt 1886

Florida

White

Sawmill grader

Viola E Washington

Wife

abt 1887

Florida

White

Eulalie Washington

Daughter

abt 1911

Georgia

White

Eunice A Washington

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

White

M Grace Washington

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

William A Hendricks

Head of household

abt 1879

Georgia

White

Sawmill engineer

Loula Hendricks

Wife

abt 1882

Georgia

White

Willie F Hendricks

Son

abt 1902

Florida

White

Minnie M Hendricks

Daughter

abt 1904

Florida

White

Jennie Vaughn

Head of household

abt 1878

South Carolina

White

Horace Vaughn

Son

abt 1903

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Henry Vaughn

Son

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Edna P Vaughn

Daughter

abt 1909

Georgia

White

Maudell Vaughn

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

White

Leon Vaughn

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Leila Vaughn

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Annie L Snowden

Head of household

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

laundress

Ed Miller

Head of household

abt 1859

Georgia

Black

Farmer -oa

Jennie Miller

Wife

abt 1870

Georgia

Black

laundress

Charity Adams

Daughter

abt 1879

Georgia

Black

laundress

Lilla Adams

Granddaughter

abt 1907

Georgia

Black

Marvin Adams

Grandson

abt 1909

Georgia

Black

Deothia Graham

Granddaughter

abt 1906

Georgia

Black

Howard Graham

Grandson

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Farm laborer

Frank Teacher

Head of household

abt 1871

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Loue Ella Teacher

Wife

abt 1891

South Carolina

Black

Arnie Mathis

Brother-in-law

abt 1900

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Warren P Wright

Head of household

abt 1863

South Carolina

White

Sawmill laborer

C Elizabeth Wright

Wife

abt 1856

Georgia

White

Henry C Smith

Brother

abt 1865

Georgia

White

Jim L Dorman

Head of household

abt 1893

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Abbie W Dorman

Wife

abt 1899

Florida

White

J B Dorman

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

Arlie M Dorman

Son

abt 1917

Florida

White

James P Dorman

Son

abt 1920

Georgia

White

Early A Walker

Head of household

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ruby M Walker

Wife

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Helma C Walker

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Emma C Walker

Daughter

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Isaac B Sirmans

Head of household

abt 1889

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Lucretia Sirmans

Wife

abt 1891

Georgia

White

Jimmie L Sirmans

Daughter

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Ida L Curry

Sister-in-law

abt 1907

Georgia

White

George H Dorman

Head of household

abt 1887

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Emma Dorman

Wife

abt 1897

Florida

White

J Cullin Dorman

Son

abt 1913

Florida

White

Ernest E Dorman

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

M Kathleen Dorman

Daughter

abt 1918

Florida

White

I S Vaughn

Head of household

abt 1887

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Annie R Vaughn

Wife

abt 1894

Georgia

White

Corley Luke

Boarder

abt 1886

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

I Lee Strickland

Head of household

abt 1898

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ada Strickland

Wife

abt 1902

Georgia

White

D Bash Wells

Head of household

abt 1878

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Martha Wells

Wife

abt 1888

Florida

White

Susie May Wells

Daughter

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Ophelia Wells

Daughter

abt 1913

Georgia

White

J B Wells

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Mack G Wells

Head of household

abt 1890

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Emma Wells

Wife

abt 1895

Florida

White

Carey W Wells

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Russell Wells

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

Jervel L Wells

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Frank M Hill

BrotherInLaw

abt 1860

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

James J Wells

Head of household

abt 1876

Florida

White

Sawmill laborer

Annie Wells

Wife

abt 1887

South Carolina

White

James C Wells

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Woodrow O Wells

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Thomas Harnage

Head of household

abt 1896

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ostella Harnage

Wife

abt 1896

Georgia

White

James Harnage

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Elwood Harnage

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Ruby Harnage

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Robert James

Head of household

abt 1870

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Loula James

Wife

abt 1878

South Carolina

Black

Lewis Gordon

Head of household

abt 1888

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mamie Gordon

Wife

Abt 1895

Georgia

Black

Will Jordan

Head of household

abt 1869

North Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mary Jordan

Wife

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

laundress

Bennie Jordan

Son

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Rufus Jordan

Son

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Willie Jordan

Son

abt 1905

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Alice Jordan

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

Black

Johnnie Jordan

Son

abt 1911

Georgia

Black

Amos Jordan

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

Black

Aaron Jordan

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Daisy Jordan

Daughter

abt 1919

Georgia

Black

Will Searcy

Boarder

abt 1876

United States of America

Black

Sawmill teamster

George Emmett

Head of household

abt 1862

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Anna Emmett

Wife

abt 1866

Georgia

Black

Steve Brown

Head of household

abt 1885

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Effie Brown

Wife

abt 1887

Georgia

Black

S C Brown

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Willie May Brown

Wife

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

laundress

Abraham Brown

Son

abt 1917

Georgia

Black

John H Green

Head of household

abt 1891

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mattie Green

Wife

abt 1894

Georgia

Black

Claudie Green

Son

abt 1911

Georgia

Black

Lonie Green

Daughter

abt 1914

Georgia

Black

Harry Bright

Head of household

abt 1880

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Josephine Bright

Wife

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

Jim Grier

Head of household

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mamie Grier

Wife

abt 1904

Florida

Black

Rainey Medley

Head of household

abt 1885

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Florence Medley

Wife

abt 1881

Georgia

Mulatto

Pearlie Medley

Brother

abt 1891

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer -crossties

Lillie Medley

Sister-in-law

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Douglas Smith

Brother-in-law

abt 1880

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Frank Rines

Head of household

abt 1867

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Harriet Rines

Wife

abt 1870

Georgia

Black

George Merritt

Boarder

abt 1920

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

George Davis

Boarder

abt 1856

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Riley Bryant

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Hannah Bryant

Wife

abt 1898

Florida

Black

laundress

Eddie Young

Head of household

abt 1886

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mary Young

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Henry Lofton

Head of household

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

Sawmill sawyer

Bessie Lofton

Wife

abt 1883

North Carolina

Mulatto

Henry Lofton

Son

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

John Lofton

Son

abt 1905

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Cinthia Lofton

Daughter

abt 1910

Georgia

Black

Willie W Wood

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Viola Wood

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

White

G Willene Wood

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Mary N Wood

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Willie Bolar

Nephew

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Aurelia Goodman

Head of household

abt 1875

Georgia

Black

Innkeeper boarding house

Joseph Jackson

Boarder

abt 1889

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Handy Blue

Head of household

abt 1870

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Julia Blue

Wife

abt 1872

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Lewis Banks

Head of household

abt 1864

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Easter Banks

Wife

abt 1857

Georgia

Black

Elmer Ratliff

Granddaughter

abt 1912

Georgia

Black

Abraham L Thomas

Head of household

abt 1872

Tennessee

Black

Sawmill laborer

Angie Thomas

Wife

abt 1885

South Carolina

Black

Laundress

Ruther Thomas

Son

abt 1912

Georgia

Black

Malachia Thomas

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

Black

Willie Thomas

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Lillie Thomas

Daughter

abt 1916

Georgia

Black

Abraham L Thomas

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Robert Thomas

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

Black

George Stokes

Boarder

abt 1888

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Sam Brown

Boarder

abt 1876

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

John McQueen

Boarder

abt 1896

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ike Wilder

Head of household

abt 1870

South Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Emma Wilder

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

laundress

Jesse Freelour

Head of household

abt 1868

Virginia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ella Freelour

Wife

abt 1867

Georgia

Black

B Manning

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Wiley Brown

Roomer

abt 1901

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Arie Brown

Roomer

abt 1897

Florida

Black

laundress

Mint  Manning

Head of household

abt 1874

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Carrie Manning

Wife

abt 1870

Florida

Black

laundress

Robert Blanks

Head of household

abt 1894

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ella Blanks

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Carrie B Allen

Stepdaughter

abt 1910

Georgia

Black

N G Goings

Head of household

abt 1866

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mariah Goings

Wife

abt 1888

Georgia

Black

Arthur Goings

Son

abt 1904

Florida

Black

Sawmill laborer

Willie Goings

Son

abt 1906

Florida

Black

Mamie Goings

Daughter

abt 1909

Georgia

Black

Merritt Rouse

Head of household

abt 1863

Virginia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Estill Aaron

Head of household

abt 1876

Florida

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ida Aaron

Wife

abt 1886

Georgia

Mulatto

laundress

Inman Aaron

Son

abt 1909

Georgia

Black

Sess Aaron

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

Black

Henry Polite

Head of household

abt 1880

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Otella Polite

Wife

abt 1898

Georgia

Black

laundress

Stella Polite

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

Black

Bertha Carter

Head of household

abt 1898

Georgia

Black

laundress

Willie Melvin

Roomer

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Sylvester Williams

Roomer

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Bud Lamb

Head of household

abt 1886

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Tom Brown

Roomer

abt 1884

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Mary Brown

Roomer

abt 1902

United States of America

Black

Chester A. Hall

Head of household

Kansas Hall

Wife

abt 1898

Georgia

White

James A Hall

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Van J Pool

Head of household

abt 1883

Georgia

White

Sawmill –shingle mill

Dora Pool

Wife

abt 1883

Georgia

White

Inn Keeprt – Boarding House

Olya M Pool

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Erwin W Pool

Son

abt 1907

Georgia

White

Newspaper Boy

Verdie K Pool

Daughter

abt 1911

Georgia

White

R Edna Pool

Daughter

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Charlie J Pool

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

H M Dorsey Pool

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

F K Hall

Head of household

abt 1856

Georgia

White

J Hollis Ritch

Son

abt 1887

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Noah H Sumler

Boarder

abt 1895

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Thomas A Sheffield

Head of household

abt 1883

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Ida B Sheffield

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Emma R Sheffield

Daughter

abt 1908

Georgia

White

Thomas J Sheffield

Son

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Laura A Sheffield

Daughter

abt 1913

Florida

White

Harvey Sheffield

Son

abt 1915

Florida

White

Annie Bell Sheffield

Daughter

abt 1917

Georgia

White

Emory A Sheffield

Son

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Gilfred Snowden

Head of household

abt 1890

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Maude Snowden

Wife

abt 1884

Georgia

Black

Augusta Snowden

Daughter

abt 1907

Georgia

Black

Sarah Snowden

Daughter

abt 1908

Georgia

Black

Georgia A Snowden

Daughter

abt 1912

Georgia

Black

Alice Snowden

Daughter

abt 1914

Georgia

Black

Viola Snowden

Daughter

abt 1916

Georgia

Black

Gilford Snowden

Son

abt 1919

Georgia

Black

Willie Morgan

Brother

abt 1886

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Isaac Snowden

Head of household

abt 1887

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Clyde Spencer

Head of household

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Leetta Spencer

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Cook-private family

John Hardy

Head of household

abt 1891

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Ruth Hardy

Wife

abt 1888

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Jeroel Hardy

Daughter

abt 1908

Georgia

Black

Will Jones

Head of household

abt 1886

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Rosa Jones

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

Black

Handy Simpson

Head of household

abt 1898

United States of America

Black

Sawmill laborer

Fannie Simpson

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Henry Wright

Roomer

abt 1903

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Charlie Melvin

Head of household

abt 1870

North Carolina

Black

Sawmill laborer

Lissie Melvin

Wife

abt 1874

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Ben Melvin

Son

abt 1898

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Joe Melvin

Son

abt 1902

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Annie Melvin

Daughter-in-law

abt 1900

Georgia

Black

Laundress

Lonzo Williams

Roomer

abt 1870

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Bennie Bolar

Head of household

abt 1892

Virginia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Emma Bolar

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Cook –private family

John H Reed

Nephew

abt 1908

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

J Quinton Clements

Head of household

abt 1894

Georgia

White

Commissary Salesman

Eva M Clements

Wife

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Jerald C Clements

Son

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Randall R Clements

Son

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Connie C Devane

Roomer

abt 1885

Georgia

White

Commissary Salesman

Willie Johnson

Head of household

abt 1895

Georgia

Black

Sawmill laborer

Callie Johnson

Wife

abt 1897

Georgia

Black

Cook –private family

Robert L McDonald

Head of household

abt 1873

Georgia

White

Sawyer

Lilla M McDonald

Wife

abt 1876

Georgia

White

W Lillian McDonald

Daughter

abt 1901

Georgia

White

Eunice J McDonald

Daughter

abt 1907

Georgia

White

W Talmage McDonald

Son

abt 1908

Georgia

White

Lemuel C McDonald

Son

abt 1910

Georgia

White

Isaac B McDonald

Son

abt 1912

Georgia

White

Lois A McDonald

Daughter

abt 1914

Georgia

White

Fred H Lemke

  Grandson

abt 1916

Georgia

White

James P Devane

Boarder

abt 1865

Georgia

White

Commissary Salesman

Thomas N Crowe

Boarder

abt 1884

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Marion E Shaw

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Sawmill Marketman

Marion R Shaw

Wife

abt 1898

Georgia

White

Kermitt A Shaw

Son

abt 1918

Georgia

White

Perry Cook

Boarder

abt 1897

Georgia

White

Farm laborer

Charles E Hughes

Head of household

abt 1871

Georgia

White

Sawmill Section Foreman

Nettie Hughes

Wife

abt 1883

South Carolina

White

Elmer L Hughes

Son

abt 1902

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Fred L Hughes

Son

abt 1904

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Mattie B Hughes

Daughter

abt 1906

Georgia

White

Clyde R Hughes

Son

abt 1908

Florida

White

Glenn C Hughes

Son

abt 1913

Florida

White

Talmage R Hughes

Son

abt 1917

Florida

White

Dave H Cowart

Head of household

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Laura Cowart

Wife

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Donnald Cowart

Son

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Russell Browning

Boarder

abt 1901

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Luke Browning

Boarder

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Manning A Cersey

Head of household

abt 1889

Georgia

White

Sawmill Fireman

Lula Cersey

Wife

abt 1896

Georgia

White

Vera J Cersey

Daughter

abt 1911

Georgia

White

Clinton A Cersey

Son

abt 1913

Georgia

White

Jewel T Cersey

Son

abt 1916

Georgia

White

Robert  C.C. Powell

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Sawmill laborer

Lovdie Powell

Wife

abt 1893

Georgia

White

Corrie Powell

Daughter

abt 1915

Georgia

White

Madge Powell

Daughter

abt 1918

Georgia

White

R D Ward

Head of household

abt 1886

Georgia

White

Sawmill Machinist

Mamie Ward

Wife

abt 1895

Georgia

White

Arthur S Ganas

Head of household

abt 1892

Georgia

White

Sawmill Engineer

Ruby H Ganas

Wife

abt 1900

Georgia

White

Jaunita L Ganas

Daughter

abt 1919

Georgia

White

Chester A Hall

Head of household

abt 1899

Georgia

White

Sawmill Foreman

Cliff Brown and the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147636

In the summer of 1917, Cliff Brown was a resident of Ray City, Berrien County, GA when he registered for the draft for World War I. Cliff Brown was African-American and, at age 22, he was of medium height and build, with black hair and black eyes. He was a native of Hawkinsville, GA born May 15, 1895.

An interesting fact from his draft card was that while a resident of Ray City, Brown was an employee of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad. He gave his place of employment as “Adel, Ga. to Hampton Springs, Fla”

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

1917 Draft Registration of Cliff Brown, Ray City, GA

The South Georgia & West Coast Railroad was built by brothers Zenas and James Oglesby of Quitman Georgia, and ran from Adel to Hampton Springs, FL.  In Adel, the line connected with the Georgia & Florida Railroad which served Ray City, GA, running from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL.

Hampton Springs, FL, the southern terminus of the South Georgia & West Coast Railroad, was the site of the famous Hampton Springs Hotel, once labeled “Dixie’s Famous Spa.”  While the hotel was very popular with the railroad’s white passengers in the early 1900s, African-Americans like railroad worker Cliff Brown were no doubt denied access to the resort.

In its heyday, “The hotel was world renowned for its sulfur springs and baths known for their healing and medicinal powers. The luxurious hotel boasted lush gardens with elaborate fountains and planters.  The resort had a covered pool with foot baths fed by the springs, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, casino, grand ballroom, outdoor dance pavilion, and railroad depot. The nine-hole golf course was among the first in the region.  The hotel had its own bottling plant and shipped the healing sulfur water nationwide.  It also had its own power plant and the majority of the food served in the dining room was grown and raised at the hotel farm. The hotel had a private hunting and fishing lodge on Spring Creek six miles from the hotel site and an excursion boat with a covered launch.”

The Last Run of the Iron Horse

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

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

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

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

 

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