Perry Thomas Knight Attended Oaklawn Baptist Academy

Perry Thomas Knight, subject of previous posts, studied the ministry at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Perry T. Knight was the son of George Washington Knight and Rhoda (Futch) Knight, and the grandson of Aaron and Nancy (Sloan) Knight, and of John M. and Phoebe (Mathis) Futch.  Knight grew up in Ray City and became prominent in local and state government.

Perry Thomas Knight image detail. Original image courtesy of

Perry Thomas Knight image detail. Original image courtesy of

While a ministerial student at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in 1909, Perry Thomas Knight was already a popular preacher.

While a ministerial student at Oaklawn Baptist Academy in 1909, Perry Thomas Knight was already a popular preacher.

Young Preachers’ Good Work

Milltown, Ga., April 28 – Rev. P. T. Knight, one of the ministerial students of the Oaklawn Baptist college, who is pastor of Good Hope Baptist church, near Naylor, is having phenominal success in his church work, Rev. Knight at almost every service gets an accession to his church.  In addition to being pastor of Good Hope Baptist church, Rev. Knight is also pastor of Brushy Creek church, near Nashville, Lois church and Waresboro church, near Waycross.  H. D. Warnock, W. O. Young, Willie Chism, other ministerial students of the same college are doing great work as missionaries for the Baptist cause.

Oaklawn Academy

Oaklawn Academy

Work began on the school in 1905 and the construction progressed rapidly.

The Valdosta Times
June 23, 1906  pg 7

Work on Milltown School   

Work has been progressing bravely upon the Milltown college, a large force of hands being already at work.  The construction is being pushed as rapidly as possible on account of the desire to be ready to open the school as soon as possible.   The original plans called for the construction of three large buildings, though it is thought now that five buildings will be erected.    The building grounds are said to be the handsomest in the state and the college campus will be one of the prettiest in the south when it is completed.  It contains fifteen acres and a pretty creek runs through the groves making it easy to convert them into a beautiful park.

The Atlanta Constitution
August 20, 1907


The new buildings of the High school of the Valdosta Baptist association, at Milltown, Ga….are rapidly nearing completion and will soon be ready for occupancy.    The larger building in the center, in which the classrooms will be located, is practically finished.  It will easily accommodate four or five hundred students.  The smaller buildings on each side are the dormitories, one for boys and one for girls, each having accommodations for practically one hundred.    The large building and one of the dormitories have been erected on small subscriptions, not a single give of more than $1,000 having been received.  The other dormitory is the gift of one man, who agreed to furnish the money for it, if enough to completely pay the cost of the other two buildings was raised.  Of this amount only $10.000 is now lacking and strenuous efforts are being made by the Valdosta Baptist association to raise this sum.     Rev. Graham Forrester, formerly one of the most prominent lawyers of the state, but now missionary of the Valdosta Baptist association, which includes portions of Lowndes, Berrien, Echols, Coffee, Ware, and Clinch counties, with headquarters in Valdosta, has been put in charge of the work of raising this money and is now in Atlanta for that purpose.    Mr. Forrester, in speaking of the school, said that it was one of the most promising institutions in South  Georgia, ideally located, and with no other school of like character in its immediate section.  Its graduates are fitted for the sophomore classes of the large colleges.  The school is situated at Milltown, in Berrien county, owns 15 acres of land, through which a beautiful stream runs, and which is heavily wooded with water oaks.    The institution had last year, when it was run in connection with the Milltown public school, an attendance of 200 and an increase is looked for this term.    Mr. Forrester declared his intention of staying in north Georgia until he got his $10,000, “for,” said he, “south Georgia has been contributing to north Georgia educational institutions for years and it is now north Georgia’s time to help us.”

By fall of 1906 construction had progressed to the point where classes could begin. The school opened September 17, 1906.  A partial list of the administrators and faculty who served at the school has been gleaned from newspaper accounts.

Board of Trustees
Dr. John E. Barnard, President
Dr. W. S. Patten
S. K. Patten
J. H. Bostic
Lucius M. Stanfill
Ewell Brown
J. W. Garbutt
Reverend A. C. Pyle, 1909

1906-1911 James Cuthbert Wilkinson, Science and English Bible
1911 J. A. Lott
1911 Sidney J. Underwood
1916-1921 J.A. Lott, Jr.

Reverend L. R. Christie
M. W. Bargeron
Miss Annie Hall, A.B. – English and History
Miss Ossie H. Burruss, A.B.  – Latin and Greek
Miss Leila Connell, A.B. Mathematics
Miss Annie May Arnold, A.B., B.M. – Piano and Coronet
Miss Belle Brinson,  A.B., B.M. – Violin and Preparatory
Miss Elizabeth Morgan – Preparatory
Miss Davis, Oratory

Miss Lizzie Morgan
Miss Jessie Elliot, Elocution

Miss Lizzie T. Bennett, Latin and English
Miss Etna Shaw, Principal of 6th, 7th, and 8th grades
Miss Fannie Clements, Primary Grades
Miss Ethel Jones, Instrumental and Vocal Music
Miss Kitty Watson, Oratory
Miss Orrie Brown, Shorthand and Typewriting

Ruth Smith, Expression
Miss Addie Stansell
Miss Wells, Music


Construction on the school continued for years, sometimes in the face of financial challenges.  By spring of 1909 the main building was nearing completion.


The Atlanta Constitution
April 24, 1909

Big Time at Milltown

    Milltown, Ga., April 23.  – (Special.) –  The local Masonic Lodge is figuring on having a big time on the completion of the main building of the Oaklawn Baptist college situated at this place.  The Masons will lay the cornerstone with the usual Masonic ceremonies.  They expect to have Grand Master Jeffries and Grand Senior Warden Henry Banks and, possibly some other men who stand high in Masonry.  The Oaklawn school will also have, on the opening day, several prominent speakers, and together with the Masons, they expect to have a big time.    The date for this big occasion will be announced later, as the carpenters and painters are putting the finishing touches on the building now.

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Georgia Normal College and Business Institute

The Ray City History Blog has previously noted the Ray City Alumni of Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Abbeville, GA.

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute Abbeville GA

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute Abbeville GA

A number of the Clements family attended the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute including Lucius Jordan Clements, William Grover Clements, James Irwin Clements, Joe Clements, Chester Lee (son of Moses C. Lee and Amanda Clements),   Bessie Clements, and Hod P. Clements. D. C. Clements of Nashville, graduated from the business program in 1906.

Another alumnus from Ray City was Charlie Parham, who taught  in Ray City and Berrien County schools over a twenty year period, and served twelve years on the Berrien County School Board.

Samuel I. Watson attended the Institute in the year of its opening, and later served on the State Board of Education. When S. I. Watson arrived at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in the winter of 1899 he wrote back to the Editor of the Tifton Gazette:

Samuel Irvin Watson attended the inaugural session of the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in 1899.

Tifton Gazette
March 3, 1899

A Berrien Boy in Wilcox.

Abbeville, GA, Feb. 27. – As I have reached my destination, I take great pleasure in writing an article to your paper from this place, as I have found everything pleasant, both my traveling and place of stopping.
    While there is whiskey of almost every description sold here I have not seen an intoxicated person since I came to Wilcox county.
    I find the people of Abbeville and surrounding country to be intelligent, sober, whole-hearted, enthusiastic, sociable and enterprising, and who give a hearty welcome to those coming to their city.
   The enrollment of the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute is about 300, and it has been in session only about five months; the school ranks among the best in Georgia.  The principal is a plain, unassuming gentleman, whom we all, as students, love;  this however, applies to the entire faculty.
    There are students here from Georgia and Florida, and scarcely a vacant room for boarding students.  This town will surely have to make more arrangements for the accommodation of the latter, if they continue to increase as they have in the very short time the school has been in session.
    There is a great problem that should be carefully and accurately solved by each and every one of us that contemplates attending some high institution of learning.  A great meany of our boys and girls leave their state to obtain a higher education than can be accomplished in our common schools, but we ought to remember that it is an honor to us to recognize our own state, and that we have fully as good schools and colleges as any adjoining state.
    I hope to have some of my Berrien county friends come with me next time.

S. I. Watson.

P. S. Why not the teachers of Berrien have two days in the examination for license this year?

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Albany, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Foundation

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Albany, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Foundation

Here added is the 1902 commencement announcement:

The Atlanta Constitution
30 May 1902

Georgia Normal and Business School Ends Successful Year.

Abbeville, Ga., May 29. -(Special.)-The fourth annual commencement of the Georgia Normal College and Business institute closed here tonight. This was the most successful term in the history of the college and the number of graduates were greater than ever before.

The halls of the college were crowded to its utmost capacity at every exercise to hear the speeches of the graduates. Those graduating in the commercial class are Addie Laura Collins, Webster, Fla,; R. F. Dowdy, Vance, Ga; Florence E. Huss, Franklin, Ohio; D. F. Burnett, Jr., Madison, Fla.; Ashley C. Snow, Abbeville, Ga.; Gertrude Blow, Ashburn, Ga.; James C. Story, Abbeville, Ga; A. M. Sykes, Wright, Ga.; Elijah R. Simmons, T. J. Townsend, Lake Butler, Fla.; R. D. Howard, Patterson, Ga.; Lucius J. Clements, Millstown, Ga.; Alvin V. Sellers, Graham, Ga.; Ralph F. Collins, Bushnell, Fla.

Those graduating in the teachers’ class are Mollie Lee Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; S.S. Knight, Lake Butler, Fla.; Eunice McCullough, Melrose, Fla.; E. A. Rice, Dupont, Ga.; Myrtle Baker, Abbeville, Ga.; Ida Irene Vause, Edgar, Fla.; W. O. Young, Leland, Fla.; Henry P. Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Lillie May Maynard, Abbeville, Ga.; J. A. J. Pinholster, Brooks, Fla.; Bessie Clements, Milltown, Ga.; R. S. Johns, New River, Fla.; Theola Ruff, Fort White, Fla.; Lola Smith, Abbeville, Ga.; Murrel Futch, High Springs, Fla.; C. L. Cowart, Collins, Ga.; Joseph Coffin, Lake Butler, Fla.; H. D. Warnock, Leland, Fla.

Those graduating in the scientific classes are Carlotta L. Townsend, Lake Butler, Fla.; Sampie Smith, Shepperd, Ga.; M. L. Purcell, Glenville, Ga.; Maude Avant, Patterson, Ga.; E. F. Fender, Griggs, Ga; H. J. Dame, Homerville, Ga.; I. S. Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Louis Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Mary Lizzie Paxson, Abbeville, Ga.; W. E. Carter, Louis, Ga.; N. M. Patten, Milltown, Ga.; W. B. Cornelius, Homerville, Ga.; Mark L. Morrill, Atlanta, Ga.

The commercial graduates are Elijah R. Simmons, Citra, Fla.; John D. Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; Mark L. Morrill, Atlanta, Ga.; Helen S. Bomberg, Jasper, Fla.; S. F. Rogers, Abbeville, Ga.; L. M. Carter, Louis, Ga.; B. H. Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; B. B. Maynard, Newton, Ga.; J. Louis McLeod, Abbeville, Ga.

When William Grover “Bill” Clements attended Georgia Normal College and Business Institute,

“He stayed at the dormitory which was run by the President of the Commerce Department. The charge for living at the school, including meals, was $9.80 a month which his parents paid for in syrup and bacon from the farm. It was a co-educational school.

Bill said, ‘The ladies lived downstairs and the gents up. I had a Yankee sweetheart. She was the sister of the Principal’s wife. There wasn’t much time for social activities then but I did play on the baseball team. I played first base and sometimes I was the catcher.’  He modestly didn’t want to admit it, but was one of the star hitters on the team.

  …the total enrollment was about 200 students at that time. Bill was graduated with honors, the leader of his class, and he was offered a job on the faculty. He turned it down though, preferring to go back to the farm and help his parents send the twins through school.” – Madison County Carrier, April 16, 1981 

Transcription courtesy of Ron Yates,

The twins were Joe and Irwin Clements of Rays Mill, GA, students at the business institute in 1904:

A personal mention in the September 9, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette. Irwin and Joe Clements, and Chester L. Lee headed to college.

Commencement speaker Reverend John W. Domingos, of Tifton, reported this description after his visit to the college in 1905 :

I never had the pleasure of a visit to the delightful little town of Abbeville ’till last Saturday.  When I arrived on the grounds, and went into their school buildings, met the teachers, and examined a little into their fixtures and outfit, I was suprised to find a school of such proportions in the little city of Abbeville.
    There are on the grounds three spacious buildings, standing side by side all of them two-story buildings; two of these are built of wood, and the latest, a new building is of brick.  In the first of these, on the left as you approach them, phonograpy, or short hand, and type writing and telegraphy are taught on the first floor. On the second floor the intermediate classes are taught; and the museaum is also located on this floor.  In the middle and main building, on the first floor, are four class rooms; on the second floor are the auditorium, the music room and the laboratory. In the third, the new building, on the first floor, the work of the business department includes book keeping, banking, etc.  On the second floor is the principal’s recitation room.  This is a fine room, and can accommodate 100 pupils.  The library is also located on this floor.  It now contains between tow and three thousand volumes ans some of these are choice and costly works.  The books are very appropriately arranged, and are kept in splendid book cases.  There are twenty-two of these, four feet in length, with four shelves to the case.  In seventeen of these the books range in sections: Educational, fiction, literature, encyclopedias, language and mathematics, poetry, science, etc.  The other five are devoted to periodical literature, magazines, etc.
    Prof. W. A. Little is the principal of this school.  He is a man of rare gifts, push and energy, and is assisted by an able corps of teachers.  This is the listed course of study: Scientific course, teachers’ course, complete commercial course, accountants’ course, music course, shorthand, telegraphy, penmanship, post-graduate business course.
    They have had in the school this year, I was told, some 200 boarding pupils; but they have no dormitories; the pupils board in families in the town.  The principal told me that they have matriculated this year, in all, nearly 300 pupils…
    I give you these facts, Mr. Editor, for — people to think about a little.  The phenomenal success of this school is simply due to a few things.  First of all, of course, to the efficiency of the teachers, but very largely to two other things; first, they have good work-shops, or good buildings in which to do their work, and good material and implements with which to work; in the second place, they have the hearty co-operation of the people.  The school is the pride of the town.  Give a teacher or preacher your sympathy and co-operation and you can expect something of him;  withhold it, and you cannot get the best result.  Don’t put a man in an ice box, and then curse him for not sweating.
     We have a fine town; why may we not have one of the largest and best schools in all this country?

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