Jim Crow Cars on the Georgia & Florida Railroad

The opening of the Georgia and Florida Railroad on October 1, 1908 was a big day for Ray City, GA. For African-Americans, the passenger cars which ran on the Georgia & Florida railroad during the first half of the 20th century reflected the pervasiveness of segregation under  Jim Crow laws.    “Jim Crow legislation extended throughout the South to schools, hotels, restaurants, streetcars, buses, theaters, hospitals, parks, courthouses, and even cemeteries.” Jim Crow laws had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the  Plessy v. Ferguson ruling against a black man who had been arrested for riding a whites-only streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653

Georgia & Florida combine car No. 653 provided segregated riding space for white and black passengers.

First Jim Crow Railroad Cars

Segregated “Jim Crow” railroad cars predated the Civil War.

“The term “Jim Crow” originated in 1832 as the name of a character in a song and dance written by Thomas D. Rice, a well-known minstrel of the time. Minstrel shows were popular before the Civil War and featured white performers in black face portraying “musical, lazy, childlike blacks.”  In the 1830s, “Jim Crow Cars” referred to segregated cars on some northern railroad lines. “

When the Boston and Providence Railroad opened its route to New York, the company’s president  stated that “an appreciable number of the despised race demanded transportation. Scenes of riot and violence took place, and in the then existing state of opinion, it seemed to me that the difficulty could best be met by assigning a special car to our colored citizens.”  Massachusetts newspapers in 1838 reported frequent incidents of Negroes refusing to sit in Jim Crow sections and being forcibly removed from the train. Negroes also sought relief through the legislature and white abolitionists encouraged boycotts. As a result, a joint legislative committee recommended a bill to halt discrimination. Negative reaction followed. Fearing increased integration, one state senator declared that “such legislation would not stop at forcing the mixture of Negroes and whites in railroad cars, but would subsequently be applied to hotels, religious societies, and through all ramifications of society.” The act failed to pass. By 1841, intense efforts to end Jim Crow cars began. Black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass refused to move to the Jim Crow car and did so only after being physically removed from their seats.15 In 1842, the black abolitionist Charles Lenox Redmond went before a committee in the Massachusetts legislature to protest his segregation in a “special railway car for negroes.” Touching upon the right to equality and inherent inferiority without it, Redmond stated that “the wrongs inflicted and injuries received on railroads by person of color . . . do not end with the termination of the route, but in effect, tend to discourage, disparage, and depress this class of citizens.” Protests, changing public opinion, and threats of legislative action caused rail companies in Massachusetts to abandon segregation practices in 1843. 

First Jim Crow Laws

The first Jim Crow laws are those of Florida and Mississippi in 1865 and Texas in 1866. The laws of Florida provided: “That if any negro, mulatto or other person of color shall intrude himself into…any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of white people, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be sentence to stand in pillory for one hour, or be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, or both at the discretion of the jury, nor shall it be lawful for any white person to intrude himself into any railroad car or other public vehicle set apart for the exclusive accommodation of persons of color, under the same penalties” [Laws of Florida, 1865, p. 25].

The law of Mississippi was: “That it shall be unlawful for any officer, station agent, conductor, or employee on any railroad in this State, to allow any freedman, negro or mulatto, to ride in any first-class passenger cars, set apart, or used by, and for white persons; and any person offending against the provisions of this section, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…shall be fined not less than fifty dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars; and shall be imprisoned in the county jail until such fine, and costs of prosecution are paid; Provided that this section, of this act, shall not apply, in the case of negroes or mulattoes, traveling with their mistresses, in the capacity of nurses” [Laws of Mississippi, 1865, pp. 231-232]

Texas simply provided that “every railroad company shall be required to attach to each passenger train run by said company one car for the special accommodation of Freedmen” [Laws of Texas, 1866, p. 97].
-The Separation of the Races in Public Conveyances

In Georgia, however,  following the 1868 rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the expulsion of elected African-American assemblymen from the Georgia legislature, the Camilla Massacre, and rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment, the state remained under military rule imposed by the U.S. Congress.

The African-American legislators were re-seated by the federal government, and briefly led an agenda concentrated on political and civil rights.  “In 1870, the Georgia legislature enacted a statute requiring the railroads in the state to furnish equal accommodations to all, without regard to race, color or previous condition, provided the same fare was charged.” (Georgia railroads had previously only charged half-fare for transportation of slaves.) Subsequently, similar civil rights legislation emerged in the Reconstruction legislatures in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and in some northern states.   But in Georgia, this early civil rights movement  was crushed by the end of 1870 as conservatives used terror, intimidation, and the Ku Klux Klan to “redeem” the state. One quarter of the black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Despite prevailing conditions in Georgia, Jim Crow railroad laws seemed to be at an early end  when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 stating, “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”  Many northern states enacted their own civil rights legislation, adopting or adapting the language of the federal act. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Civil Rights Cases (1883) that the public accommodation sections of the act were unconstitutional.

With little or no effective legislation regulating civil rights in public transportation, the railroads made their own rules for providing white-only transportation, and segregating African-Americans in “Negro cars” or Jim Crow cars.

By the 1890s,  many southern states enacted legislation called Separate Coach Laws specifically mandating the segregation of railroad cars, although the legislation “did scarcely more than legalize an existing and widespread custom.”  An 1888 photograph of the wreck of the Savannah, Florida & Western Fast Mail Train appears to depict a Jim Crow Combine Car among the wreckage. Although the newspaper accounts of the wreck only mention the engine, tender, baggage car and smoker, one coach, the Pullman sleeper, and the private car of railroad president E. P. Wilbur, it seems unlikely that a Georgia train of this era would not include a “negro car” or Jim Crow car, especially since eight unidentified African-American men were among the victims of the wreck.

The SF&W route ran from Savannah through Valdosta, GA to Bainbridge, with connections to all points. The September 10, 1892 Albany Weekly Herald complimented the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad for its segregated arrangement of cars:

The S.F.& W.  passenger is one of the best arranged trains in the State. First comes the mail and express car, then the Negroes’ car, then the baggage car and smoker, and last of all the first class coach. All trains would do well to adopt this arrangement with a car between the Negro and white coaches.

White passengers usually rode in the sections furthest from the smoke and coal ash of the steam engine.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the legality of  the railroad “Jim Crow” laws and entrenched the discriminatory principle of “ separate but equal” accommodations for whites and blacks.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896
The case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which supplied the occasion for the court’s landmark decision, had its origins in Louisiana. In 1890, Louisiana passed a law calling for “equal but separate” accommodations on railroads for “whites” and “coloreds.” Protesting this law was a group of Creoles and blacks who formed the Citizens Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law. This group arranged a test case along with the railroad that opposed the law  due to the expense of supplying another car.  An “exceedingly light-skinned Negro” named Homer Plessy agreed to test the law. Plessy was subsequently arrested for sitting in the white car.  In his defense, Plessy contended that the Louisiana statute requiring segregation was unconstitutional. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that if the segregation law was upheld, states could “require separate cars for people with different colors of hair, aliens, or Catholics or Protestants or to require colored people to walk on one side of the street and white people on the other side, or to demand that white men’s homes be painted white and black men’s homes black.”

In 1896, the Supreme Court decided against Plessy. Justice Henry Billings Brown writing for the majority concluded that legislative bodies were “powerless to eradicate racial instincts,” and that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane.” Equal rights did not necessitate the “enforced commingling of the two races.”  In his lone and now famous dissent, Justice John Harlan offered that “Our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”  Thus the notion of “separate but equal” had been judicially sanctioned by the nation’s highest court and Jim Crow had been given a new birth–a new license to “jump up and down.”  State laws mandating racial segregation quickly followed the Plessy ruling ensuring a Jim Crow system in the South. The  most blacks could aspire for was equal accommodations.  – NPS National Historic Landmarks Program

The New Georgia Encyclopedia observes, “These facilities were usually ‘equal’ in name only—in all the states with Jim Crow laws, the facilities that served blacks were almost always inferior to the facilities that served whites.”

Plessy v. Ferguson is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history.[3] – Wikipedia

During the Segregation Era, southern railroads operated segregated trains and depots.

Segregated Train Stations <br /> Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read "Colored Men" and "Colored Waiting Room." Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Segregated Train Stations
Signs above the doors at a Georgia railroad station in 1938, read “Colored Men” and “Colored Waiting Room.” Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Railroads built “combine” cars with segregated sections. The Georgia & Florida combine car pictured at the top of the post had a central baggage section separating the car into two passenger sections, one for black passengers and one for whites. In typical combine cars, each passenger section had a cast iron stove and a bathroom. Waste from the bathrooms was deposited directly on the rails. On some rail lines white drunks would be placed in the black car instead of one of those reserved for whites.

In a typical segregated railroad car, there were no luggage racks in the “colored” section, requiring travelers to cram their suitcases around their feet, and the “colored” bathroom was smaller and lacked the amenities of the “whites” bathroom.  “There are all these subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that ‘you are not as good as the people in the other section,’” says Spencer Crew, curator for the National Museum for African American Culture and History.

The story of travel segregation was not limited to trains and if you traveled by bus or boat or even airlines, such divisions were strictly enforced.

Pullman porters and coach attendants were key figures in the African-American community. “These were very well-traveled individuals, so they had a lot of experience and perspective to share with people they talked to as they were traveling across the country,” says Crew. “Their prominence and importance is an important part of the story.”

The following letter submitted to a House committee holding hearings in 1954 on legislation to end segregated travel attested to the substandard condition of railroad cars for African-Americans. It describes conditions in a combine car  travelling from Savannah, GA in which half of the car was used for baggage and the other half for African-American passengers.

East Orange, N. J., May 10, 1954.

House of Congress, Washington, DC

The following matters were referred to the director of the Washington Bureau NAACP, Mr. Clarence Mitchell, who advised me that hearing would begin in the House very soon and that you are chairman of the committee covering such matters.

On or about April 22, 1954, Mrs. A. Cherry who lives at 251 Halsted Street, East Orange, N. J., and Mrs. Gertrude Williams who lives at 17 Winthrop Terrace, East Orange, N. J., traveled to Savannah, Ga., on train named Champion of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co. Not knowing their return date no reservations were made for returning.

At the railroad station in Savannah, reservation were made for returning on April 28, 1954, on train named Champion of the Coast Line, car No. 39, seats Nos. 13 and 14.

After getting in this car they found it to be completely segregated, no heat, no water, dirty, being half baggage and a large sign reading “Colored,” which sign was still on the car when they left the train in Newark, N. J.

This we believe to be in violation of Federal laws and we are sure are in violation of the laws of the sovereign State of New Jersey.

Names and addresses of witnesses gladly furnished on request.



P. S. This letter may be used in evidence if desired. D.T.D

A restored Jim Crow car is now on exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The car belonged to the Southern Railway, parent company of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad which ran from Macon through Valdosta, GA to Palatka, FL.

Despite the institutionalized racism of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling,

the decision itself was never explicitly overruled.[4] However, a series of subsequent decisions, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, severely weakened it to the point that it is usually considered to have been de facto overruled.[1] In Brown, the Supreme Court ruled that Plessys “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional in the context of schools and educational facilities.

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. - New Georgia Encyclopedia

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962. The passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ended legal segregation across the nation. – New Georgia Encyclopedia

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The “Valdosta Special” opened Georgia & Florida Railroad, October 1, 1908

Georgia & Florida Railroad

The Section Foreman in Ray City was Cauley May.

EXCURSION TO OPEN RAILROAD - The "Valdosta Special" came through Ray City October 1, 1908 to open the main line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The picture was made in Nashville, GA, showing passengers to first ride the new line.

EXCURSION TO OPEN RAILROAD – The “Valdosta Special” came through Ray City October 1, 1908 to open the main line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The picture was made in Nashville, GA, showing passengers to first ride the new line.


Georgia & Florida Railroad No. 100 passenger car

Georgia & Florida Railroad No. 100 passenger car

Georgia and Florida Railroad, January, 1955. Wendell and Necie Rogers with Engine 507 at the Nashville, GA depot. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Georgia and Florida Railroad, January, 1955. Wendell and Necie Rogers with Engine 507 at the Nashville, GA depot. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com


T.J. Sutton and Ed Benton with Georgia and Florida Railroad Engine No. 507 at the depot in Nashville, GA, March 24, 1955. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

T.J. Sutton and Ed Benton with Georgia and Florida Railroad Engine No. 507 at the depot in Nashville, GA, March 24, 1955. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Nashville Herald
Thursday, February 16, 1956

Main Line of Ga. & Fla. Railroad Opened in 1908.

          The Georgia & Florida Railroad (now Railway) is a part of the rich history of this section of Georgia, and in a large measure has contributed to the growth and expansion of Berrien County, and the counties adjacent.
      This railroad furnished a more stable means of transportation than was available in the early days, despite the multiplicity of small log lines.

Organized in 1906
         The Georgia & Florida was organized by Mr. John Skelton Williams in 1906 and at that time consisted of the following roads:
         The Augusta and Florida Railroad, 49 miles in length from Keysville to Swainsboro.
         The Millen & Southwestern Railroad of 42 miles between Millen and Vidalia.
         The Douglas, Augusta & Gulf Railroad, 76 miles between Hazlehurst and Nashville, via Broxton.
         The Nashville & Sparks Railroad twelve miles from Nashville to Sparks, GA.
         The Sparks Western twenty miles of log road between Sparks and Kingwood.

No Shops

         None of the roads had any shops except the Millen & Southwestern, other than a pair of heavy jacks and such hand tools as were needed in doing the general repair work in the operation of trains.
         The rolling stock was an odd assortment of all sorts of engines, a few log cars, a few box cars and two to four passengers cars.
         Out of this hodge podge assortment of rail lines and equipment the work of creating a going railroad business was started.
         Financial conditions of the railway became critical in 1913 and on March 27, 1915, receivers were appointed, which receivership continued until January 1, 1927 when the Georgia & Florida Railway was sold and deeded to The Georgia & Florida Railroad. Due to disastrous floods and heavy costs the Railroad again was ordered into receivership by the District Court of the United States.
         Despite it’s financial troubles the receivers have done a good job of increasing the rolling stock, installing Diesel engines, etc. and the road now ships the largest percentage of tobacco, turpentine and watermelons than any other road of it’s size.

Nashville Proud of G. & F.

         The Georgia & Florida Railroad continues to be well thought of in Berrien county and Nashville. For Nashville it is the only surviving rail link to the outside world, though passenger and mail service have long since been discontinued.
        The road serves as the principal freight hauler of merchandise and manufactured goods. Since the coming of the Tobacco Market it has to be especially valuable, and goes all out to give service to it’s patrons.
        It’s contributions to the growth of the section through which it traverses have been great, and though at times the railroad itself was in financial jam, there has been no movement that would develop this part of Georgia but the Georgia & Florida railroad could be depended upon to do it’s part.
         The first tobacco market in Georgia was on the Georgia & Florida railroad in 1917, when the farmers as well as railroads were asking for a market. A meeting of business men was held at Douglas and in just one hour the capital was subscribed. When the season opened in the late summer, the Red Warehouse with a floor space of 90×140 was doing business on the Georgia & Florida. The first tobacco was sold for 20 cents per pound, but today tobacco is gold in Georgia.

Georgia and Florida Railroad

Georgia and Florida Railroad

Ray City, GA ~ Town is Smaller Now

A sign on the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad indicates the town of Ray City, GA to passing trains. The trains no longer stop at Ray City, although the town once had a bustling depot.


Times Union

Ray City
The town is smaller now, but folks are coming back home

RAY CITY, Ga. – Before the turn of the century there were more than 27 businesses, five doctors, a pharmacy, corn mill, sawmill and several thousand people.

Ray City has changed.

The town now has a population of 725. What remains are a few stores and churches, the remnants of the corn mill – now a restaurant and fish camp – and Victory Soda Shop and General Store, where people meet to exchange news and gossip.

Billy Clements, owner of The Victory and long-time Ray City resident, said the closing of the sawmill and the Depression drove most of the people away, but old residents are “gradually creeping back.”

People come from all over to listen to John Guthrie play his guitar or just talk.
“I could talk all day about music, Guthrie said.

Guthrie teaches music to anyone who wants to learn, and musicians from all over the country meet in Ray City for jam sessions.

Lamar Booth, who runs the fish camp, points out that the Old Mill Pond draws a number of out-of-town fishermen during the summer. The lake is more than a mile wide but only 5 to 7 feet deep.

Booth’s mother, Mrs. Ann Campbell, owns a cafe, which is the main attraction at the pond. People say she serves the best fish dinners in the area.

The original post office and general store were at the lake during the late 1800s, and the corn mill (it opened in 1863) was once the heart of Ray City’s economy.

The town limits form a one-mile circle, located on Highway 37, 15 miles east of Adel between Nashville and Valdosta.

Farming is the main occupation in Ray City now, though many of the town’s people travel to Valdosta, Adel, Lakeland and Nashville for work, according to Mrs. Don Wilson, the town clerk said. Many residents also own or work in local businesses, she said.

Clements said there is not much for people to do after work except hunt or fish and many young people go to other places for entertainment.

He said he likes it there, because “people care for each other and pitch in and help each other when they need it, like a big family.”

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.

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
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

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

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.

Related Posts:

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.


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.


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.


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.”

Related Posts:

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


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.


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

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.



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