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.

 

Related:

 

Bound by a Band of Steel

By 1908, Valdosta already had railroads and so did Nashville. Now The Douglas Enterprise reported the Georgia & Florida Railroad would lay track to close the 26 mile gap between them, “Two of the brightest stars of the group of South Georgia’s cities bound by a band of steel.”

The citizens of Ray’s Mill had secured the routing of the tracks to pass through the small community, over a competing route that would have passed through Cat Creek (see Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad).

At that time Mr. J.S. Swindle owned much of the land around the present site of the town.  It is said that he bargained with the railroad company to give them the right of way if they would give him a station.  This agreement was made and thus started the town [of Ray City].

It was projected that regular passenger service on the new G & F line would begin on October 1, 1908.     Two trains a day would stop at the station in Rays Mill.   The train depot and local offices of the Georgia & Florida Railroad were to be among the first businesses in the newly incorporated town of Ray City.  In addition to the depot, the railroad would build a number of section houses at Ray’s Mill to house railroad employees and their families. The new line, it was said, “opens up a splendid territory in this [Lowndes] and Berrien County.”  Ultimately the G & F Railroad would connect Augusta, Georgia and Madison, Florida.

By March, 1908 surveying was underway for the final segment of the Georgia and Florida railroad connecting Nashville and Valdosta, GA.

Surveying the route of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. Valdosta Daily Times, March 7, 1908

Surveying the route of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. Valdosta Daily Times, March 7, 1908

Valdosta Daily Times
March 7, 1908

ROAD SOON TO BE COMPLETED.

Work on the Line to Nashville to Start in Short While.

The Georgia and Florida Road Secures Additional Offices Here to be Used During the Period of Constructing the Line – The New Outlets at Augusta.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.

     The links that will complete the Georgia and Florida Railroad are to be built at once and the big road for which Valdostans have hoped and wised so long will soon pass from a dream to reality.
     Mr. G. M. Jones, assistant chief engineer of the road, arrived in Valdosta yesterday.  He has located an office in this city from where he will supervise the construction of the road between Valdosta and Nashville. It is learned on good authority that work will begin right away and be pushed to completion as early as possible.  This is the only line of much length between Madison and Hazlehurst, unless a new one from Douglas is built which would straighten the main road considerably between that city and Hazlehurst.
     It is thought that by the end of the year the whole road will be finished and that through trains will be running from Augusta to Madison.
     It is hard to estimate the benefit this road will be to Valdosta, as it will give the city direct passage into a rich and fast developing territory that it has been hard to reach heretofore.
     It will give her another big trunk line which, it is claimed will be the equal of any one of the lines she now has, which is a pretty big claim.
     With the completion of this road new enterprises are bound to spring up which will add greatly to the city’s material prosperity and growth.
     There is now a road being built from  Augusta to Elberton the Southern has a road from Elberton  to Toccoa, and when the Georgia and Florida is completed a direct route into North-east Georgia will be had which will add greatly to the travel and trade from that part of the state.
      It will open up a field in Georgia for the early melons and truck and field products of this section that has hardly been touched heretofore.
    With the Georgia and Florida road in operation Valdosta should become one of the biggest truck and melon centers in the South.
      It will open up a new territory for the foundries and machine shops, buggy and harness factories and for the production of every factory and field of this section.
     It will be a glad day for Valdosta when train begin to move between here and Augusta.

CONTRACT IS LET
On March 18, 1908, Engineering and Contracting magazine announced that a contract had been let for construction of the railroad line that would pass through Rays Mill, GA:

“Valdosta, Ga.—Georgia & Florida Ry., J. M. Turner, General Manager, Augusta. Ga., is to construct a line from Valdosta to Nashville, Ga., about 30 miles, to link two of the properties of the company.   A. & F. Wright have been awarded the contract. The Georgia & Florida Ry. controls a number of small roads which it is proposed to connect. Much of this work has already been done.” –  Engineering and contracting. (March 18, 1908). New York: The Myron C. Clark Pub. Co. Pg 25

Related:

 

In 1934 Ray City was ‘Noted Section’ of Berrien County

Ray City began 1934 on an optimistic note.  A “booster” story from the Nashville Herald praised the farming, education, churches, municipal government, roads and businesses of Ray City.

The Nashville Herald, 
January 25, 1934, Pg 1

RAY CITY IS NOTED SECTION

Excellent Community of Berrien County and South Georgia – Fine Farming Section

In writing about different communities of Berrien County it is next to impossible to neglect the city of Ray City and the large farming territory surrounding it.  The Ray City section constitutes the southern portion of Berrien County, where extensive farm operations are carried on during every month of the year in all lines of endeavor.

The trading point is the city of Ray City, just ten miles south of Nashville, the county seat.  It has a population of around 500 people, all of whom are industrious and hospitable, with fine schools, churches and live wire merchants.  There is no better place in south Georgia to live than Ray City.

The farming population surrounding Ray City constitute an industrious and progressive people.  To a certain measure they are prosperous, because everything to be raised on a farm can be grown on their fertile lands, and each year their products find ready markets, returning to them cash in abundance.  The section is noted for its fine tobacco and cotton lands and is a hog and cattle raising territory of excellent possibilities.

The city of Ray City affords every convenience and comfort for the citizens of the community.  There is a fine school system, which is under the capable and efficient supervision of Prof. P. M. Shultz.  Prof. Ulmer Crosby is principal, and the other teachers are:  Mrs. P. M. Shultz, Miss Jessie Aycock, Mrs. A.B. Baskins, Miss Lillian Ford and Mrs. Eulalie Dickson.

The school has nine grades, with an enrollment of a few over the two hundred mark.  A number of fine students complete the school each year, advancing to higher institutions of learning.  The school system in Ray City is really a big asset, (illegible) a higher type of citizenry.

The school board is composed of the following gentlemen who handle their duties in a most admirable manner and of benefit to patrons and students combined.  H.A. Swindle, chairman, M.A. Studstill, sec.-treasl., C.H. Vickers, J.M. Studstill and W.M. Creech, members.

Ray City is not short either along the spiritual line, having four active churches as follows:  Baptist, Rev. Walter Branch, pastor; Methodist, Rev. F.A. Ratcliffe, pastor; Primitive Baptist, Elder C.H. Vickers, pastor; Christian, supply pastor.  The Baptist and Methodist churches conduct Sunday Schools, and young people’s organizations.

The affairs of the city of Ray City are in the hands of men who apparently have the united support of the people, as the entire body was recently re-elected to office.  J. H. Swindle is mayor, and the councilmen are:  G.V. Hardie, Y.F. Carter, H.P. Clements and W.M. Creech.

The standing committees for the year 1934 are:  Water and lights, G.V. Hardie and Y.F. Carter; Street, W.M. Creech and H.P. Clements; Sanitary, entire city council.

In questioning the mayor, Mr. J. H. Swindle, he stated that the city enjoyed a very good administration the past year, and that 1934 was begun with the city in much better financial condition than a year ago.

Ray City is soon to enjoy one of the best highway outlets of any small city in south Georgia.  It is located on Route No. 11, the short route into Florida from Atlanta.  This highway has been recently graded for paving and at some future date this work will be a reality.  Other good roads lead out in all directions as well.  It is located on the Georgia and Florida railroad, and is one of the railroad’s most important shipping points.  Mr. T.W. Thompson is the G. & F. Agent, having served in that capacity for a long number of years.

The postmistress is Mrs. J. F. Fountain, and the rural mail carriers are James Grissett and L.A. McDonald.

There are also several industries which add to the progressiveness of the town and community.

The Ray City Ice & Storage Company, of which Mr. D.T. Sharpe is manager, serves a wide territory.  At present this concern has on storage over 100,000 pounds of meat being cured for farmers.

The Y.F. Carter Naval Stores concern is the largest firm in the community, where approximately fifty men are given employment.  This firm operates over ten crops of boxes, the leases affording additional revenue for landowners.  It has been in operation for about eighteen years.

The J.H. Swindle Gins and Warehouse is another concern of benefit to the entire section.  Plants are located at Ray City and Barrett, being among the most up to date in south Georgia.  Mr. Swindle buys cotton and cotton seed, corn, peanuts, hay and other country produce.  Besides gin and warehouse activities he operates a twelve horse farm.

The Peoples Banking Company, a private institution, is owned by Mr. J. H. Swindle, with Mr. E. J. Patten as cashier.  This bank was organized several years ago by Mr. Swindle when Ray City lost its regular bank, so as to carry on the business operations locally and without interruptions.

Mrs. R.N. Warr is owner of old Ray Pond, famous for its fishing for the past hundred years.  Mrs. Warr acquired the pond about two years ago, and since has created a good income out of the sale of minnows, pond plants, frogs, and tadpoles.  The pond covers an area of approximately 4,000 acres.

Among Ray City’s most enterprising merchants are:  Swindle & Clements, B. Ridgell Jones Drug Store, Purvis Grocery Store, Weeks Grocery Store, Hardie Filling Station, South Georgia Oil Company, Bradford Barber Shop, Putnell Barber Shop, Swain Garage, Woodward Blacksmith Shop, Griner Corn Mill and others.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Related posts:

James Henry Swindle ~ Businessman and Public Servant

Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad

In 1907 when things began to firm up for the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railway line that would connect Nashville, GA and Valdosta, GA, railroad engineer J. W. Webster  came through the area to lay out the route and to secure the right-of-way for the tracks.  Webster was assisted by Dr. W. B. Goodman, who was the husband of Texas Ray Goodman and son-in-law of Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray. (see Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863)

September 6, 1907 Engineers Secure Rights-of-Way for Georgia and Florida Railroad

The Atlanta Georgian and News, September 6, 1907 Engineers Secure Rights-of-Way for Georgia and Florida Railroad

The Atlanta Georgian and News
September 6, 1907

ENGINEERS SECURE ROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY

Special to The Georgian.

    Valdosta, Ga., Sept. 6. – Assistant Engineer J. W. Webster, of the Georgia and Florida railroad, and Dr. W. B. Goodman, of Nashville, Ga., were in the city yesterday arranging for the right of way for the railroad into this city. They drove through the country, following the proposed line, and closed up options for a considerable portion of the right of way.  The road will likely enter the city on the eastern border, with a sharp curve to the south, where a junction will be effected with the Valdosta Southern to Madison, Fla.
    Engineer Webster states that work on the gap from this city to Nashville will begin in a short while, but owning to the fact that nearly all the railway contractors in the country have about all the work they can handle now with their present equipment, and a disposition not to invest money in increased facilities, it is impossible to state exactly when active work will begin.

The call for proposals to build the Georgia and Florida line drew the attention of some of the largest railroad contractors in the country (see previous post Whangdoodled on Panama Canal Contract, Billy Oliver put in a Bid to Construct G & F Railroad Through Ray City).  With railroad construction underway all over the country in 1907, the original bids had  come in too high for G & F’s liking.  But by late August of 1907 it was settled that Schofield & Sons, of Philadelphia would do the grading as soon as their equipment was available to do the work.

In the final consideration, there were two possible routes for the G & F line from Nashville to Valdosta, one by way of Cat Creek and the other to run past Rays Mill.

The Valdosta Times, January 29, 1908 reported that two routes were surveyed for the Georgia and Florida line from Nashville, GA to Valdosta, GA. One route would pass through Rays Mill, the other by way of Cat Creek.

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, January 25, 1908, page 10
,

Two Routes Surveyed for Road

The work of making the surveys on the road from here to Nashville will probably be completed this week, or within a very few days. Two routes have been surveyed. One of them comes in by way of Cat Creek and the other by Rays Mill. The route by Cat Creek also comes within a short distance of Mr. W.T. Staten’s place on the east, he having been assisting in securing rights of way through that section.

(missing line(s) of print)

routes will be accepted, as the costs of the road is to be considered and then some consideration will probably be taken of the concessions that are given by people along the route. It has not been announced when the work on the road will be undertaken again, but it will probably be when the present warfare on railroads and corporations generally is stopped.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

William Tomlinson Staten (1866-1920), who was assisting the railroad in securing rights-of-way was well known as the  Lowndes County tax collector, president of the Lowndes County Farmers’ Club,  and committee member on the state finance committee of the Southern Cotton Association.  He owned  much property including town lots and plantations.  It was Staten who sold lots to the government for the construction of the federal courthouse and post office in Valdosta, GA.  He owned a big plantation called  “Alue” near Valdosta.   He was a big produce shipper so securing a rail route by his Cat Creek plantation  would have been  in his interest.

But despite the influence of Staten, the support of local citizens of Rays Mill were able to secure the route for the new railroad:

At that time Mr. J.S. Swindle owned much of the land around the present site of the town. It is said that he bargained with the railroad company to give them the right of way if they would give him a station. This agreement was made and thus started the town [of Ray City].

W. T. Staten would later be among those seriously injured in the 1910 wreck of the G & F  train in Valdosta, GA.

The Georgia and Florida Construction Company

If any one man can be credited for the creation of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, it  was John Skelton Williams.  From inception it was intended that the G & F would run from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL, with plans to extend the line all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. But when Williams organized the railroad in 1906 it was far from clear to the citizens of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) that they would ever get a connection.

John Skelton Williams, organizer of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, was the first president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and later became U. S. Comptroller of the Currency.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

John Skelton Williams, organizer of the Georgia and Florida Railroad, was the first president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and later became U. S. Comptroller of the Currency. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1906, John Skelton Williams was already a great power among the railroad men.  He was a leading ‘southern financier’ and the ex-president of the Seaboard Air Line railway.

He became a partner with his father in the banking and brokerage business and later engaged actively in the material development of the South. He organized and consolidated the Seaboard Air Line and was elected the first president of this company in 1900. He also served as president of other railroad companies of less mileage and was president of the Bank of Richmond and of the Southern Investment Company. He was director of several other trust companies, banks and other corporations, and was recognized as one of the leading financiers of the South. – Biography-Of-John-Skelton-Williams

One of the “other railroad companies of less mileage” Williams organized was the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  In the spring of 1906, The Valdosta Times reported with cautious optimism on Williams’ interest in Valdosta for his new line.  At the time,  Williams was occupied with consolidating a precursor to the G & F, referred to in the article as the Augusta & Gulf.

March 10, 1906 The Valdosta Times reports on the organization of the Georgia and Florida Construction Company by John Skelton Williams.

March 10, 1906 The Valdosta Times reports on the organization of the Georgia and Florida Construction Company by John Skelton Williams.

DETAILS OF RAILROAD DEALS.

Official Statement in Regard to the Augusta & Gulf Railroad.

Messrs. Williams and Middendorf Give Out a Statement of Their Recent Deals and Also Give Some Intimation of Their Plans – Valdosta’s Name is Frequently Used in the Deal, But That is All.

(From Tuesday’s Daily.)

    The following official announcement from the Manufacturers’ Record relative to the proposed Augusta and Gulf railroad which will be one of the biggest trunk lines in the south, will prove of great interest locally as shown in the scope and certainty of this project.
    The Georgia and Florida Construction Company, incorporated has been organized at Richmond, Va., for the purpose of uniting and forming a trunk line out of the several Georgia railroads purchased by the syndicate organized by John Skelton Williams of Richmond, J. William Middendorff of Baltimore and their associates.  Information from Richmond received by the Manufacturers’ Record says that the Construction Company, with an authorized capital of 50,000 to $90,000, has the following directors Douglas H. Gordon of Baltimore, president, and representing the International Trust Company of Baltimore, which is a member of the syndicate:  E. L. Bemiss, vice president, and F. E. Nolting, treasurer, both of Richmond; A. H. Rutherford, of Baltimore, secretary; Albert H. Carroll, of Baltimore, Lewis C. Williams and L. M. Williams, both of Richmond.

Buys Six Roads.

The syndicate has thus far purchased six railroads in Georgia with a total length of 227 miles.  They are the Augusta and Florida 30 miles long, from Keysville to Midville; the Midville, Swainsboro and Red Bluff railway, 20 miles long from Midville to Swainsboro; the Millen and Southwestern railroad, 53 miles line, from Millen via Stillmore to Vidalia; the Ocilla and Valdosta railroad, 55 miles long, from Hazelhurst via Broxton and Ocilla to Irwinville; the Douglas Augusta and Gulf railway, 57 miles long, from Barrows Bluff via Broxton, Douglas and Pinebloom to Nashville, and the Nashville and Sparks railroad, 12 miles long, from Nashville to Sparks.  The Millen and Southwestern has a small branch of four miles from Durdenville to Monte. It will be necessary to use only part of some of these roads to form the proposed trunk line.

The Connecting Links.

To connect these various properties and make the proposed continuous railroad from Augusta to Valdosta it will be necessary to build links as follows:  Augusta to Keysville, about 20 miles, connection between the Midville, Swainsboro and Red Bluff railway and the Millen and Southwestern railroad, about 10 miles; Vidalia to Hazelhurst about 25 miles: total, 80 or 90 miles of new construction.
The proposed extension from Valdosta southeward is not yet definitely decided upon.  The object is to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and this may be done by building to Tallahassee to connect with the Georgia, Florida, and Alabama railway, which would take it to the port of Carabelle or a direct line south might be chosen.  From 50 to 60 miles of new line might be required.

Come summertime, Williams had his railroad chartered and  funded with a million dollars in capital. By this time it was clear that Nashville, Berrien County and the Wiregrass stood to benefit from the new railroad.

July 13, 1906, The Americus Times-Recorder reports that John Skelton Williams has received a charter for the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

July 13, 1906, The Americus Times-Recorder reports that John Skelton Williams has received a charter for the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

By September, 1906 surveying was underway to determine the route  the Georgia & Florida would follow from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL.  But it appeared that the main trunk line of the G & F might pass east of Berrien County.

The Valdosta Times, September 15, 1906 reports Georgia and Florida Railroad has surveyors in the field.

The Valdosta Times, September 15, 1906 reports Georgia and Florida Railroad has surveyors in the field.

But by the following summer, July 1907 it began to look like the trunk line of the Georgia & Florida would include construction of a connecting line from Nashville to Valdosta.  No doubt the residents of Rays Mill began to contemplate the possibilities. Next up, Rays Mill Wins Route for the Georgia & Florida Railroad.

routes surveyed | Search Results | Ray City History Blog

Whangdoodled on Panama Canal Contract, Billy Oliver put in a Bid to Construct G & F Railroad Through Ray City

The  contract to build the railroad line connecting Nashville, GA by way of Rays Mill (now Ray City) to Valdosta, GA,  might  not seem like a project that would attract one of the largest construction companies in America,  but the 1907 call for bids for construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad did just that. To be fair, the total contract concerned not just the 30 mile stretch of railroad from Berrien to Lowndes county, but about 70 additional miles of track to connect the various shortlines that comprised the Georgia and Florida railroad.

Perhaps the most prominent bidder  for constructing the connecting lines of the G & F was William J. Oliver, the Tennessee contractor who earlier that year had submitted the lowest bid for the immensely huge task of constructing the Panama Canal.  Oliver expected that the South Georgia cotton shipped over the Georgia and Florida Railroad would eventually find its way through the Panama Canal to  meet the demand in Asian markets. When completed, the G & F line would certainly open the way for economic development in Berrien County, GA and fuel the growth of firms such as the Luckie Lumber Company at Ray City, GA.

William Jesse Oliver (1867-1925) was a prominent bidder for the contract to construct the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

William Jesse Oliver (1867-1925) was a prominent bidder for the contract to construct the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

In 1907, the early accounts indicated Oliver had a lock on the canal contract.

January 28, 1907, William J. Oliver to build the Panama Canal.

January 28, 1907, William J. Oliver to build the Panama Canal.

The first week of  February, 1907, Harper’s Weekly Magazine gave a short sketch on  William J. Oliver and his bid for the Panama Canal.

William J. Oliver, Harper's Weekly, Feb 2, 1907

William J. Oliver, Harper’s Weekly, Feb 2, 1907

Harpers Weekly
Feb 2, 1907

THE MAN WHO BID LOWEST FOR THE PANAMA CANAL CONTRACT

      William J. Oliver, in association with Anson J. Bangs, has made a proposition to build the Panama Canal for 6.75 percent, of total cost, and this bid, at the time of writing, is under favorable consideration by the government.  In the combination which made this bid, Mr. Oliver has the dominant interest.  Other bids were for 7.19, 12.50, and 28 per cent.
      Mr. Oliver is thirty nine years of age.  He was born in Mishawauka, a suburb of South Bend, Indiana.  When he was sisteen years of age he started out on the Cotton Belt railroad with s fifteen team outfit as a railroad contractor.  He has gradually progressed from one branch of railroad contracting to another, and owns one of the largest manufacturing plants in the United States for the building of contractors’ machinery.
       Mr. Oliver has also made a specialty of what contractors call “concrete work,” and has built a number of concrete buildings, viaducts, and river bridges for railroads.  He has over $30,000,000 of contracts now under way including the tunnelling of Lookout Mountain for the Southern Railway company, concrete buildings in Louisville and Nashville, a concrete dam at Chattanooga, sixty five feet high,in which there will be 50,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete work.  He is also laying double tracks and building extensions for various railroads.
      In view of the announcement that Mr. Oliver purposes to use negroes from the West Indies as laborers on the canal, under the superintendence of white men from the South, it is interesting to recall the report that Governor Swettenham of Jamaica is opposed to the use of negroes from that island as foreign laborers, and has imposed a prohibitive emigration head tax to prevent the natives from leaving the island for America or Panama.
      In the case of an award, Mr.Oliver will go to the isthmus to superintend personally the work of construction; he will take over the entire plant owned by the government, and will at once proceed to ship additional materials to the Zone.

Ultimately, the contract for construction of the Panama Canal went to the Army Corps of Engineers.  Oliver said he had been “whangdoodled” by President Teddy Roosevelt, but his manufacturing company did end up supplying some of the construction equipment.  The completed canal is still regarded as one of the greatest engineering achievements of the modern world.

May of 1907 found Oliver not in the Canal Zone but in Augusta, GA to bid on the G & F construction project. In the May 20, 1907 edition of The Atlanta Georgian and News,  he was still protesting the politicized award of the Panama Canal contract,  but the paper also reported his comments on the global impact of the opening of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. “When this line is completed,”he said, “it will largely solve the problem involved in the big suits now before the interstate commerce commission in the matter of rates from the South to Oriental ports.  All the cotton goods and other freight that must cross the Pacific will go over this line and through the Panama Canal when it is finished,” he said.

The Atlanta Georgian and News reports William J. Oliver will bid on the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

The Atlanta Georgian and News reports William J. Oliver will bid on the construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.

Within a few weeks, The Atlanta Georgian and News reported that The Georgia and Florida Railroad  was ready to select a contractor.

By June of 1907, the selection of a contractor for construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad was imminent.

By June of 1907, the selection of a contractor for construction of the Georgia and Florida Railroad was imminent.

But the bids came in too high and on June 22,1907 the railroad announced it would hold off on awarding a contract.

June 22, 1907 The Atlanta Georgian and News announcemed that the Georgia and Florida Railroad would not be letting a constrruction contract for some time.

June 22, 1907 The Atlanta Georgian and News announced that the Georgia and Florida Railroad would not be letting a construction contract for some time.

On August 24 the contract was finally awarded, but went to Schofield & Sons of Philadelphia.

August 24, 1907, the Georgia and Florida Railroad contracts for construction of new line.

August 24, 1907, the Georgia and Florida Railroad contracts for construction of new line.

-So in the end, the man who famously did not get the Panama Canal contract, also did not get the Georgia & Florida railroad contract.

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Luckie Stop at Ray City

Luckie Lumber Company

In the early 1900s there were  at least 86 lumber mills situated on the line of the Georgia & Florida Railroad running from Augusta, GA to Madison, FL, some 250 odd miles.   A big sawmill was situated on the railroad just  above Ray City, at a stop known as Luckie.  First operated under the name Luckie Lumber Company, it was owned by William F. Luckie.  About 1911, W.F. Luckie sold out to Levi J. Clements and his sons.  It appears that the Clements may have continued to operate under the name Luckie Lumber Company for several years, for the business was still listed under this name in the March 15, 1915 edition of the Lumber Trade Journal.  (see also Clements Lumber Company and the Company Town;  November 6, 1923 ~ Big Fire Loss at the Ray City Sawmill)

William Floyd Luckie, 1858-1937, operated the Luckie Lumber Company at Ray City, GA

William Floyd Luckie, 1858-1937, operated the Luckie Lumber Company at Ray City, GA

William Floyd Luckie

William Floyd Luckie, Jr.  was born on October 15, 1858 in  Greene County, Georgia. He was a son of William F. Luckie and Delaney Sayers, but was orphaned at an early age.  His father was killed in 1859.

“In 1859, a runaway slave of William Luckey’s was captured. While attempting to punish him, the slave grabbed a knife and stabbed Luckey to death.”  http://www.inheritage.org/almanack/c_greene_03.html

In 1861, his mother followed in death.

Afterward, William Floyd Luckie and his sisters, Falby and Mary were raised by their grandfather, James Martin Sayers, on his farm near Penfield, GA.  William Floyd Luckie was enumerated there in 1870 as William Sayers. At the time, he was assisting his grandfather with farm labor.

On March 20, 1887 William Floyd Luckie married Anita Inez Parks in Dodge County, GA. She was born in 1863 in Georgia.

Anita Inez Parks, first wife of William Floyd Luckie.

Anita Inez Parks, first wife of William Floyd Luckie.

By the census of 1900 the couple had seven children and made their home in Hortense, GA  in Wayne County, GA (now Brantley Co.) William was working as a merchant. Hortense is situated on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which ran the fast mail train through the town, from New York to Jacksonville. But the town generated such little traffic that it wasn’t even a flag stop for the railroad.

Children of Anita “Nida” Inez Parks and William Floyd Luckie:

  1. Fulton Woodard Luckie (1880-)
  2. Annie Mae Luckie (1891-1971)
  3. Nebbie I or J Luckie (1892-1977)
  4. Willis Heard Luckie (1894- abt 1984)
  5. Fannie C Luckie (1895- )
  6. Rosa Kate Luckie (1897- )
  7. Candler C Luckie (1899)
  8. William M Luckie (1902-1931)
  9. John Parks Luckie (November 14, 1903 –  October 23, 1996)

It appears that the Luckies moved about 85 miles from Hortense to McRae, GA  sometime before 1903.  Anita Inez Parks died May 5, 1906 and was buried there at Oak Grove Cemetery. William was left a widower with eight minor children to raise.

About 1907 William F. Luckie married a second time.  In 1908 a son was born to this union, James Luckie (1908-1974). Elizabeth Susan and William Floyd Luckie were enumerated in McRae, GA with their children in 1910. William was working as a sawmill superintendent; Elizabeth was keeping house.  In McRae, the Luckies owned a home on Huckabee Street,  named in honor of William Allen Huckabee. Huckabee was first president of  South Georgia College, a  school which had been founded at McRae about 1885.

Shortly after the 1910 census William F. Luckie came to the newly incorporated town of Ray City, GA.  Mr. Luckie founded the Luckie Lumber Company, a business that within a decade would grow to be one of the largest employers in the area. The big sawmill was located on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida about a mile north of town.

Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Luckie were among the first members of the Ray City Methodist Church, along with Will Terry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Turner, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley. The Church was organized by brother F.D. Ratcliff on October 29, 1910. The Rev. W.E. Hightower of Remerton, Georgia served as the first pastor. Originally the services were held in a tent on the north side of town near the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Will Clements.

The business and social activities of the newcomers were newsworthy. The Valdosta Times, Saturday, November 26, 1910,  noted:

Mrs. B.W. Boyd and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, of Ray’s Mill came down yesterday and spent the day in this city on a shopping trip.

and in  January 19, 1911 The Valdosta Times reported from Rays Mill:

Mr. W. F. Luckie made a business trip to McRae last Saturday returning Monday.

In time, the Luckie children were on the social scene in Berrien county.   The Atlanta Constitution noted Willis Heard Luckie among the Ray City young people at the Nashville, GA carnival in 1914.

Atlanta Constitution, Feb 8, 1914, pg 8 M

Nashville (news items)

Rays Mill was well represented at the carnival last week. Misses Annie Mae Carter, Margie Dasher, Pearl Hardie Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Harvie, W. H. Luckie, George Norton, J. J. and J. S. Clements and C.B . Shaw were among the visitors.

Some time between 1914 and 1920, William F. Luckie had moved his family to Spence, GA in Grady County where he was operating a sawmill at the time of the 1920 census. But by 1921, the Luckies moved to Cairo, GA.

By the time of the 1930 census, William and Elizabeth Luckie had returned to Ray City.  They lived in town in a rented house; William Luckie engaged in truck farming.

William Floyd Luckie died on 16 Aug 1937 in Quitman, Brooks, Georgia. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, Georgia.

William Floid Luckie (1858-1937), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

William Floid Luckie (1858-1937), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

After his death,  Elizabeth S. Luckie went to live in the home of her daughter Nebbie and son-in-law William H. Terry, on South Broad Street in Quitman, GA. She died on May 1, 1953 and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

Elizabeth Susan Luckie, (1876-1953), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

Elizabeth Susan Luckie, (1876-1953), Oak Hill Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

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