History of Ray City School

In 1918, a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA was let out by the Board of Education. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. The contract for materials went to A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City.

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Construction on the brick school building, which has been preserved in Ray City and which now houses the Joe Sizemore Community Library, began in 1920.  The Ray City School opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927. In 1918, the Berrien County School Board put out a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. Materials were supplied by A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City. The school opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927.

The brick school building at Ray City, GA was designed by Valdosta architect Lloyd Greer.  Among other buildings designed by Greer were:  Federal Building and Post Office, Valdosta, GA; Carnegie  Library, Valdosta,GA; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Tallahassee, FL; James Price McRee House, Camilla, GA; Dasher High School, Valdosta, GA; Barney School, Barney, GA; Barber-Pitman House, Valdosta, GA; Lanier County Auditorium and Grammar School, Lakeland, GA; Ilex Theater, Quitman,GA; Moultrie Theater, Moultrie, GA; United Cigar Store Building, Jacksonville, GA; Quitman Library, Quitman, GA; Echols County High School, Statenville, GA; Barrow Hall, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA; Pine Grove School, Fitzgerald, GA; Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, GA; Douglas Negro High School and Douglas White High School, Douglas, GA; Nichols House,Valdosta, GA; Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. The Lyric Theater, Waycross,GA was designed by Greer.

Old Wooden School at Ray City, GA

The Ray City High School Class of 1949 wrote, “The school of our community was begun long before our town received its present name having been known as Rays Mill. “

Among those early teachers of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) was  Henry Harrison Knight (1840-1898).  These teachers   taught in the little one room log house schools  of Berrien county, and were often paid in “found” – bartered, homegrown commodities such as ham, chickens, eggs, or butter.

The first school building was located on the east side of town. This building was destroyed by fire. Then a log cabin called the Alliance Building was constructed in 1898, and was used for about two years.

In 1900 the interested people of the community decided to make an improvement in the school plant. Trees were cut from their lands and carried to Sutton’s Sawmill to be made into lumber, for the purpose of erecting a frame building. That stood where our present building is now standing. It consisted of one large room. Some of the interested patrons who helped with this building were: J. S. Swindle, W. E. Langford, Isaac Burkhalter, Redding Swindle, and W. M. Knight. With the aid of other patrons they completed the first Ray City School. -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The town experienced a boom period when the Georgia & Florida Railroad came to Ray City in 1909.The increased population made it necessary to make an addition of two more rooms to the school.” -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The January 19, 1911 edition of the Valdosta Times reported news of the school in Rays Mill (now Ray City).   Husband and wife team James Marcus Patten and Ida Lou Hall Patten were running the school. Professor J.M. Patten was college educated, having completed the teacher education program at North Georgia Agricultural College, and had twenty years experience teaching in the common schools of Berrien County.

In 1918,  the Reverend John W. Shoemate and Mrs. Harriet M. Shoemate came to Ray City to take charge of the school.   Reverend Shoemate was a native of Tennessee, and a Baptist minister.  Mrs. Shoemate was a native of South Dakota, and college educated. In Ray City, they were the neighbors of Professor and Mrs. J. M. Patten.  Mrs. Patten was also then occupied teaching public school.  The Ray City School was then still held in the three-room, wood frame building, and educated  students through the eighth grade. One student from this time period was Claudey Belle Hester, who wrote well enough for publication in Progressive Farmer.

According to the Annual Report of the Department of Education, in 1920 the public high school in Ray’s Mill was a 2-year Junior High School. Sankey Booth was Superintendent of the school and later served on the Berrien County Board of Education. One of the teachers in old Ray City was Louannie Eudell Webb (1902-1972), who started teaching by age 17.  She was a daughter of Luther Webb and Mary J. Albritton, and had only an 8th grade education herself. She married Leroy Lorenzo Carter on August 3, 1922. Another teacher at Ray City in 1920 was Lucile Fountain; she taught the fourth grade class. According to later census records, she herself had only attended school through the 4th grade.  It was the talk of the town when her beau, Calvin Simmons, came and got her out of class  and took her to get married on February 13, 1923. Maria Antoniette Poblete Knight worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School in the 1920s.

The Brick School

That [multi-room wood school house] was used until 1920 when work on the present building was started. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

In 1924, the Georgia Library Commission added the Ray City School as the only station in Berrien County for the Georgia Traveling Library.   the Georgia Library Commission had been created in 1919 by the General Assembly with and annual appropriation of $6,000, which included funds for the maintenance of traveling libraries.  These traveling libraries typically provided 50 or 100 books, which were available for a few months before being passed on to the next station.

Wilma Harper began her 60 year teaching career at the Ray City School in 1928 at the age of 18.  There she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City School. A year later they were married.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported  library service offered in Berrien only at Ray City, through the Ray City School and at the Kings Chapel School.

The Great Depression took a great toll on Berrien County, and Ray City struggled with funding to keep the school open. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term. In 1930, the school could not even afford to hold graduation exercises.

In the 1930s many schools in smaller communities were consolidated. In 1936, Pleasant Vale and Sappling Grove schools were closed and the students sent to Ray City.

The Ray City School held a junior high school rating until 1936, when it became an accredited senior high school. Another classroom building was added that year to the school plant. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

By the 1940-41 school term, New Lois High School was also consolidated with Ray City High School.

In the early days students at Ray City School brought their own lunches to school and ate outside on the school grounds, as there was no lunchroom or kitchen to prepare food.  David Miley recalled a sow that used to come into the playground, and snatch the lunch bags of unsuspecting kids. The school grounds were fenced and had a cattle gap to keep free ranging livestock from entering the schoolyard.  Even so, livestock could and did occasionally get into the school yard.  By 1941, the school had a lunch room serving 150 students a day.

 

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

During WWII, Ray City School did its part.   Vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army. Graduates and former students left Ray City to go to war. Some never came back.  Hubert Comer (RCHS 1940) joined the Navy and was killed in the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. Harry Elmore Devane (RCHS 1938) also joined the Navy.  On D-Day Devane was a boat officer on a tank landing craft at Omaha Beach. He was killed in an accident aboard the aircraft carrier USS FDR after the war. James A. Swindle (RCHS 1936) captained a B-26 Marauder and flew 75 bombing missions; he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Maurice “Max” Johnson (RCHS 1940) served as a B-24 pilot during WWII from 1942 to 1945. Leland E Langford (RCHS 1939) enlisted on June 12, 1941, serving as an Army pilot until he was killed in a plane crash in 1949.   J.I. Clements (RCHS 1938) joined the Army and fought in Germany. Many other alumni of Ray City School served as well.

William R. “Mac” McClure was principal of the school in the mid 1940s. Charles Woodrow “Woody” Schmoe served as principal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His wife, Nancy Young Schmoe, taught 5th Grade.

In 1947 a fifteen thousand dollar gymnasium was constructed by the patrons, a building in which the whole community justly takes pride (1948-49 Yearbook).  The town dedicated the building with a big dance celebration and the crowning of the Queen of the Harvest.

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

It was in 1949 that veterans of World War II built  a “very modern and up-to-date lunchroom” for the school.

In 1954, Ray City High School and all other white high schools in the county were combined into Nashville High School.  The brick school building at Ray City continued to serve as an elementary and middle school until 1994, when all county schools were consolidated into facilities in Nashville.

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Ray’s Mill Founder’s Day ~ November 7, 1863

About 1863, Thomas M. Ray  and Levi J. Knight observed that pioneers had settled southern Berrien County, GA to the extent that  the establishment of a grist mill to serve the local community was warranted.  With the assistance of slave labor, an earthen dam and concrete spillway was constructed to impound a millpond on the swampy headwaters of Beaverdam Creek. The mill house itself was constructed from the local timber; “The ceiling rafters were hand hewed and wood pegs were used instead of nails.” 

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

On November 7, 1863 Mr. Ray began operation of the mill, then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill. Powered by water from the pond, the mill could grind meal and hominy grits from corn.

The old mill hopper and mill rock at Ray's Mill.  Image source:  Colquitt Electric Membership Newsletter (full article available at www.southermatters.com

The old mill hopper and mill rock at Ray’s Mill. Image source: Colquitt Electric Membership Newsletter (full article available at http://www.southermatters.com

Ray’s Mill was the first commercial enterprise of historic Ray City. At one time the mill was the central gathering place of this part of Berrien County, as men would take their corn there to be ground. “People would travel for miles by horsedrawn wagons to have several months supply of meal or grits ground for their family. This generally resulted in a a outing for the whole family.”

As Ray’s Mill was the best known landmark of the immediate vicinity, the growing community became known by that name also.  The area’s first postal station was established as early as 1863. The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that AK Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill.

The location of the mill also became the site of the community’s first post office. In 1885,  The Official Register of the United States listed  H.H. Knight   as Post Master of “Ray’s Mills”, Berrien County, Georgia.  By 1886, The Atlanta Medical and Surgical Journal reported that the community had a doctor, serving a population of 150 people. During the decade of the 1890’s Berrien county was one of the top ten fastest growing counties in Georgia. In the late 1890s and early 1900s David Rigell operated a general merchandise store located near the old mill. Rigell’s merchantile may have been only the second retail establishment  at Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), although it is often incorrectly cited as the first.

The grist mill ceased operation in 1954 after 91 years of operation.  Even though the town was incorporated as Ray City in 1909, it was still being marked on maps as Rays Mill as late as 1952.

The millhouse has since been torn down, but Rays Millpond remains as one of the eduring landmarks of Ray City, GA.

An old news photo showing remants of original equipment at Ray's Mill.

An old news photo showing remants of original equipment at Ray’s Mill.

William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist

William Hamilton Griffin (1853-1917)

William Hamilton Griffin was born in that part of Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. He became a prominent public administrator and jurist of Wiregrass Georgia, and was involved in some of the most dramatic legal contests in Ray City history.

William H. Griffin

William H. Griffin

William Hamilton Griffin  was born July 18, 1853, on his father’s plantation, located in that portion of Lowndes county which is now included in Berrien county, GA. His honored parents, William D.and Nancy (Belote) Griffin, were also natives of Lowndes county.”

He was a cousin of Bessie Griffin, and Lester Griffin of the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA),

“The father, William D. Griffin, aided in effecting the organization of Berrien county and was its second treasurer, which office he held continuously until his death, in 1892, except one term, during the so-called -“Reconstruction” period, immediately succeeding the Civil War, when nearly all white voters were, under Federal statutes, practically disfranchised. The father was a soldier in the Confederate service during the latter part of the war and was with Johnston’s forces in the operations of the Atlanta Campaign.”

The paternal grandfather represented Brooks county in the state legislature, though his residence was on land now in Lowndes county. The great-grandfather, James Griffin, was a private soldier in the Revolutionary War.  James Griffin and Sarah Lodge Griffin were early settlers of Irwin County, GA.

William H. Griffin, the subject of this sketch, was afforded only the advantages of the common schools of his native county, the family fortunes, in common with those of most southern families, having been seriously affected by the war. He was educated in the public schools and academies at Nashville, GA. He soon developed traits of leadership and at twenty was elected clerk of the court for Berrien County, an office he held in 1874-5. From 1882 to 1885 he held of the office of Ordinary of Berrien County. While in this office he studied law, and in 1884 he was admitted to the Georgia bar. He at once began the practice of his profession at Nashville, but in 1885 he removed to Valdosta, GA.  There he formed a law partnership with Judge Benjamin F. Whittington, as Whittington & Griffin, this relation continuing for several years.

He was elected mayor of Valdosta in 1892, and served three consecutive terms. Governor William Yates Atkinson appointed him judge of the city court of Valdosta in 1897, for a term of four years, at the expiration of which he was reappointed for a like term, by Governor Allen D. Candler, and continued on the bench until 1905. During his eight years of service he tried 1,358 civil cases and 2008  criminal cases, a total of 3,866. His decisions were carried to the supreme court but 18 times and were reversed in only two cases.

In politics Judge Griffin was a Democrat, having always given that party his unqualified support. He served as mayor of Valdosta, judge of the city court, representative in the state legislature from Lowndes County, Chair of the Democratic Executive Committee of Lowndes County, and as referee in bankruptcy. His elevations to public office were a tribute to his worth and to the respect with which he was held by the community.

He was a member of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and held membership in various bar associations. His chief recreations were fishing and hunting.

William H. Griffin was twice married — first, on May 18, 1879, to Margaret “Maggie” MacDonald, daughter of Dougal P. and Anna (Peeples) MacDonald, of Nashville, Berrien county. Maggie McDonald was born in 1864. Her father was listed on the 1860 roster of Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men, but he was also enumerated in Berrien County on the 1864  Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. Maggie was apparently raised by Dr. Hamilton M. Talley, as she appears in his household in Berrien County in the census of 1870. She died in 1890.

William H. Griffin was second married to Miss Carrie Abbott, of Randolph, VT, September 28, 1892. He had two children of the latter marriage—William Abbott Griffin, born in 1896, and Margaret Griffin, born in 1902. William and Carrie Griffin were members of the Methodist Episcopal church South.

William H. Griffin served as attorney for the estate of prominent Rays Mill turpentine man Robert S. Thigpen, engineering some of the largest property deals in Ray City history in the disposal of the Thigpen estate.  Thigpen’s holdings at the time of his death in 1898 included his turpentine plants and naval stores stock at Rays Mill, Naylor and Lenox, GA.

In 1899, William H. Griffin represented James Thomas Beagles, defending him for the Killing of Madison G. Pearson at Henry Harrison Knight’s store at Rays Mill (now Ray City),GA some 12 years earlier. The Beagles case was tried before Judge Augustin H. Hansell. Attorney Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words. Beagles was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only two years incarceration.

In 1906, after his retirement from the bench Judge Griffin entered into a partnership with Hon. Elisha Peck Smith Denmark, and formed the law firm, Denmark & Griffin. It was said that “He enjoyed the confidence, esteem and patronage of the most prominent and important people and business interests of Lowndes and adjoining counties.”

In the matter of Green Bullard’s estate, William H. Griffin was retained by William B. Shaw to represent the interests of his wife, Fannie Bullard ShawGreen Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and  owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek. The Shaws wanted the estate to be administered by Fannies’ brother, Henry Needham Bullard, rather than her half-brother, William Malachi Jones.   The other side of the family was represented  by Buie & Knight in the dispute. Mallie Jones was the son of Mary Ann Knight Bullard by her first husband, William A. Jones.

Judge Griffin’s name was synonymous with integrity. He “walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and spoke the truth in his heart.” He exemplified the best ideals of the profession. He was generous-spirited, and gave liberally of praise and commendation where he thought it due.  When the first train to roll through Ray City on the Georgia & Florida Railroad arrived at Valdosta, it was Judge W. H. Griffin that gave the welcome address at the celebration.

His death occurred at his home in Valdosta, April 15, 1917, and the throng of people, including many lawyers from other counties, who attended his funeral attested strongly the esteem and love there was for him in the hearts
of those who knew him.

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Post-Search Light
Apr. 19, 1917

Judge Griffin Died Sunday

Prominent Valdosta Jurist Passed Suddenly Away From Heart Trouble – Well Known Here.

    The following account appearing under a Valdosta date line in the daily press Monday will be interest to Bainbridge friends of the deceased.
     Judge Griffin was well known here, and was related to Representative E. H. Griffin, of this city.
    “Judge William H. Griffin, one of Valdosta’s prominent men and a leading south Georgia lawyer, succumbed to attack of heart failure this afternoon at 1:45 o’clock after less than an hour’s illness.  He was alone at his home when the attack came on him, members of his family being at church.  Mrs. Griffin returned home soon after he was stricken and a physician reached his side in a few minutes but was powerless to relieve his patient.
    “Judge Griffin was sixty-four years of age, an active south Georgian, and for forty years a citizen of Valdosta. He was a member of the law firm of Denmark & Griffin, and controlled a large and lucrative practice.  He was a member of the two last general assemblies of Georgia and exerted a strong but conservative influence in that body.  He had been judge of the city court of Valdosta, mayor of the city, member of the school board and active in the public life of this city and section, which loses one of its best citizens in his death.
     “Judge Griffin is survived by his wife and two children, a son, Mr. Abbot Griffin, and daughter, Miss Margaret.
   “His son was in Macon, where an announcement of his father’s death reached him.
    “Judge Griffin’s funeral and interment will take place here probably on Monday.”

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery. Image source: Robert Strickland.

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Bessie Griffin Bazemore

Bessie Griffin (1883-1983)

Bessie Griffin Bazemore. Image source: P.C. Griffin

Bessie Griffin Bazemore. Image source: P.C. Griffin

 

Bessie was a daughter of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight,  a granddaughter of William Washington Knight, and a great granddaughter of Levi J. Knight, and of Jesse Carroll, both pioneer settlers of the Ray City, GA area.  Her parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District).

Bessie was born  August 11, 1883.  Tax records at that time show her father owned 175 acres on Lot #371, 10th Land District, Berrien County, GA, increased to 245 acres in 1884. The Griffin farm was in the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA), although at that time,  the community of Ray’s Mill consisted of little more than the grist mill built by Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight, and the store owned by Henry H. Knight.

Bessie’s early childhood, from 1883  through 1890,  was spent on her father’s farm on the same Lot #371.    Tax records of 1890 show  Guilford I. Parrish, Molcie Parrish – wife of Elder Ansel Parrish, James W. Parrish, John S. Carter, Joel J. Carter, James P. Devane, Millard F. Devane, Georgia R. Devane, William E. Fountain Jr, John Webb, Thomas W. Ray, William W. Knight, Sovin J. Knight, and Matthew H. Albritton were among their neighbors.

Apparently, the Griffin’s moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before the birth  of Bessie’s brother, Lester Griffin, in 1890.

Bessie Griffin married Joseph S. Bazemore   on December 20, 1899, in Lowndes County, GA.  The bride was sixteen; the groom was a 29-year-old farmer.  Joseph Salem Bazemore was born March 10, 1870 at Hazlehurst, GA. He was a son of James J. Bazemore (1853-1893)  and Mary Elizabeth McIntyre (1848-1924).

Marriage Certificate of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, December 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, December 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA.

Image source: http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,123494

Bessie and Joseph were married by William W. Wilkinson, Justice of the Peace.  In the 1850s, Wilkinson had been a neighbor of  Jesse Carroll and of William J. Lamb  (see (Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899.

Bazemore-Griffin Wedding, Dec 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

Bazemore-Griffin Wedding, Dec 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

In 1900, the newlyweds were renting a farm in Lowndes County, in the Lower Fork District No. 658, next to the farm of Bessie’s widowed mother. Boarding with them and working as a farm laborer was William J. Lamb, and his wife Mary Carrol Knight Lamb. Among the neighbors were David and Rachel Passmore and their children.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Lower Fork District, Lowndes County, GA.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Lower Fork District, Lowndes County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu209unit#page/n440/mode/1up

By the census of 1910, Bessie and Joe Bazemore had moved to the Hazlehurst, GA area, Georgia Militia District #1364.  Their place was on “Rural Route Road #1”  near where it intersected with Graham & Smith Landing Road. Joe’s brother, Captain Bazemore, and his wife Ida were living next door.

1910 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po198unit#page/n463/mode/1up

Joe and Bessie, as well as Cap and Ida, remained in Hazlehurst through the 1920 census.

1920 census enumeration og Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

1920 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu263unit#page/n466/mode/1up

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Confederate Letters of John William Hagan

In 1954, the Confederate letters of John W. Hagan were published by  Bell Irvin Wiley.  Hagan lived in the Cat Creek community near Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  In the Civil War, Hagan enlisted in  the “Berrien Minute Men,” a Confederate army unit organized by  Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City.  Hagan served in the 29th GA infantry in Company  D, (later reorganized as Company K, the Berrien Minutemen),  and was elected 3rd Sergeant.  By 1864, he was serving as 1st Sergeant, and at times was in command of the Company.

Confederate Letters of John W. Hagan

Confederate Letters of John W. Hagan

John W. Hagan wrote regularly from field camps and battle lines to his wife and family back in Berrien County. His letters were typically addressed to Amanda Hagan, his wife, or  Rueben Roberts, his father-in-law.  He frequently mentions relatives, colleagues in the Berrien Minute Men, and other Wiregrass Georgia residents including James Roberts, Ezekiel Roberts, Stephen Roberts, Sherard Roberts, Kiziah Roberts, Bryant J. Roberts, John J. Roberts, George Roberts, James Roberts, Levi J. Knight, Jonathan D. Knight, William Washington Knight, William Sirmans, John Herndon, Wiley E. Baxter, Barzilla Knight, John M. Griffin, Thomas Griffin, Asa Newsome, William Roberts, Benjamin S. Garrett, J. L. Robert, Elias Thomas, Harriet Newell Wilson, Ellen Groover Clifford,  John Moore, Nancy Moore, Isbin B. Giddens, William J. Beatty,  James L. O’Neil, William Giddens, Burrell H. Howell, Moses H. Giddens, James Turner, Edward Maloy, U.D. Knight, Henry Harrison Knight, Edwin Griffin, Wiley E. Baxter, William Cameron, Jonas Tomlinson, Thomas Clifford, Jasper Roberts, John C. Clements, Thomas W. Ballard, James W. Mathis, James D. Pounds, James Giddens, Elias Lastinger, James Fender, Aaron Mattox,  Moses F. Giddens, and  William Anderson.

John W. Hagan witnessed  and described the death of Major John C. Lamb, who commanded the 29th Georgia Regiment until he was killed during the retreat from Vicksburg, MS in 1863.  Hagan also wrote about the execution of “Old Yaller” Elbert J. Chapman, who was shot for desertion even though he had left the 29th Georgia Regiment to serve with another unit.

John W. Hagan was captured during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864 along with John Hearndon, Jonathan D. Knight, James D. Pounds, among others, and was sent to Camp Chase, OH for the remainder of the war .

The 43 letters he wrote home between 1861 and 1865 were published by Bell Irvin Wiley, and subsequently appeared in the Georgia Historical Quarterly.  The content of these letters may now be viewed online through JSTOR archives of the journal articles.

cover-georgia-historical-quarterlyTHE CONFEDERATE LETTERS OF JOHN W. HAGAN. Part I

Bell Irvin Wiley
The Georgia Historical Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 2  (June, 1954), pp. 170-200
Published by: Georgia Historical Society
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40577510

cover-georgia-historical-quarterlyTHE CONFEDERATE LETTERS OF JOHN W. HAGAN: Part II

Bell Irvin Wiley
The Georgia Historical Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 3  (September, 1954), pp. 268-290
Published by: Georgia Historical Society
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40577711
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Green Bullard

Green Bullard

William “Green” Bullard was born February 1, 1829 in Georgia,  son of Amos Bullard and Cynthia Lastinger.   He came with his parents from Waynesboro, Burke County, GA to Lowndes County, GA some time in the 1840s.

Enumeration of Green Bullard in the Census of 1850, Lowndes County, GA

Enumeration of Green Bullard in the Census of 1850, Lowndes County, GA

Green Bullard, age 21, was enumerated in 1850 in Lowndes County, GA in the household of his father, Amos Bullard, along with his minor siblings, Martha and Mary.  Also in the Bullard home was 14-year-old Candis Leaptrot.  Next door was John Knight, his wife Sarah, and children William J. Knight, Levi J. Knight (known as Jr. to avoid confusion with his uncle General Levi J. Knight), James A. Knight, Mary Ann Knight, Henry Harrison Knight, Sarah A. L. Knight, and Kiziah A. L. Knight.

According to Census agriculture schedules, Amos Bullard’s farm was valued in 1850 at $400, consisting of 490 acres of which 30 acres were improved. The Bullard farm inventory included $20 of farming implements and machinery, one horse, 15 hogs, 100 bushels of Indian corn, one 400 lb. bale of cotton, 60 bushels of peas and beans, 10 bushels of sweet potatoes, 200 pounds of butter, and $50 worth of butchered meat.

By 1860, Green Bullard had established a household of his own, a home that he shared with Milley Gardell and her daughter Elizabeth D. Gardell.  Milley, born Amelia Jones, was the widow of John Gardelle

1860 census record of Green Bullard in Berrien County, GA

1860 census record of Green Bullard in Berrien County, GA

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n401/mode/1up

Green’s dwelling was next door to the farm of his brother, James Bullard, who owned 490 acres with 32 under cultivation. Green had a personal estate of $500, but apparently no land as yet, for he does not appear in the  1850 Census non-population schedule for agriculture. It seems probable that he was helping his brother with farm labor.

After the Civil War commenced Green Bullard went to Nashville, GA  with his nephew Alfred Anderson and signed up on March 4, 1862 with the Berrien Light Infantry, which was being formed at that time.  Bullard  fought dysentery and Typhoid pneumonia while in the army (see Green Bullard Fought Sickness in the Civil War), but was also present with his unit for significant battles at The Wilderness (May 5–6, 1864), Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21, 1864), North Anna (May 23–26, 1864), Cold Harbor (June 1–3, 1864, Petersburg Siege (June 1864-April 1865, and Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864.) By January, 1865 Bullard was too weak to continue fighting. He was sent to the hospital with dysentery and was furloughed. Less than a month later the War ended.

With the end of the Civil War, Green Bullard returned to home and farm. Within a year, he married Mary Ann Knight in Berrien County, Georgia.  Mary Ann Knight was “the girl next door” from Green Bullard’s younger days.  As mentioned above, Mary Ann Knight was the daughter of John Knight and Sarah Sally Moore,  who were the neighbors of Amos Bullard, Green’s father. She was born  July 1, 1838 in Rays Mill, Lowndes (nka Berrien) County, Georgia.  She was also the widow of William A. Jones. Her husband served in the Berrien Minute Men in the war, and was among those who succumbed to ravaging illnesses of camp life;  he died of measles in Berrien County on January 18, 1862.  Mary had two children by William A. Jones, the youngest, Adam, apparently born after his father’s death.  Adam Jones was deaf and dumb, birth defects with a high probability for a baby whose mother is infected with measles in the early weeks of pregnancy.

Green Bullard and Mary Ann Knight were joined on March 25, 1866 in Berrien County, GA.  The ceremony was performed by William Patten, Justice of the Peace.

Marriage certificate of Green Bullard and Mary A. E. Knight, March 25, 1866, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Green Bullard and Mary A. E. Knight, March 25, 1866, Berrien County, GA.

In 1867 Green Bullard signed the standard loyalty oath required to restore voting rights of southerners during Reconstruction.

Loyalty Oath of Green Bullard,  signed July 23, 1867, Berrien County, GA

Loyalty Oath of Green Bullard, signed July 23, 1867, Berrien County, GA

The census of 1870 enumerated Green Bullard’s blended family in the 1144 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA, the Rays Mill District.  The Bullard household included Green and Mary, their three year old daughter, Sarah Bullard, Mary’s sons William Malachi Jones and Adam Jones, and Green’s widowed sister, Celia Bullard.  Mary and Celia kept house while Green and William worked the farm.

1870-enumeration-of-green-bullard

1870 census enumeration of Green Bullard

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n443/mode/1up

The records of appointments of U.S. Postmasters show that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

Berrien County Property Tax records of 1872 show Green Bullard owned 980 acres including all of lots 420 and 469 in the 10th land district.   The land was valued at $1300 total. The records show he owned “other property” valued at $379, for an aggregate estate of $1679. Green Bullard employed one “hand” to help with the work.

By the following year, Green Bullard had expanded his operation to 10 hands. The tax records also noted a ten year old   male in his household was deaf and dumb. He had $270 cash or liquid assets, and his total property was valued at $2742. By 1878 his personal estate also included $742 worth of livestock.

1880 census enumeration of Green Bullard, Berrien County, GA

1880 census enumeration of Green Bullard, Berrien County, GA

http://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n381/mode/1up

The Census of 1880 found Green Bullard still employing his step-son Malachi Jones to work on the farm.  Step-son Adam Jones was not enumerated in the Bullard household at this time but would appear in later census records.   The Census enumeration noted that three daughters of Green Bullard and Mary Ann Knight,  Sally (13), Susan (9), and Fannie (5) were all at school.  They attended the King’s Chapel School, located just across the county line, in Lowndes County.  Among the other students at King’s Chapel was Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw, who would later marry Susie Bullard.

The 1880 Census – Agricultural Production Schedule shows the Green Bullard farm consisted of 125 acres of land tilled, fallow, or grass (pasture or meadow), and 850 acres of unimproved woodland and forest. In 1879 Bullard had planted 17 acres in Indian corn which produced 200 bushels, 28 acres of oats produced 330 bushels, and 22 acres of cotton which produced about 8 or 9 bales. He had another 2 or 3 acres planted in sugar cane. Bullard owned one horse, one mule, and one ox. He had 16 milk cows and 54 other cattle. His stock dropped 13 calves and he purchased another 29. He sold 7 calves and two died. He had 45 sheep on hand and had 11 lambs dropped. Ten sheep died of disease. He sheared 36 fleeces for 100 pounds of wool. His other livestock included swine and poultry. The farm, land, fences and buildings were valued at $1,400, farming equipment and machinery at $15, and live stock at $694. In the previous year, Bullard had purchased about $350 dollars worth of fertilizer. His total farm production value was estimated at $600.

By 1881, the property tax appraisal of Bullard’s livestock grew to $1008 , and he was holding $500 of crops, probably cotton, for sale. His total estate was valued at $4368. Green Bullard continued to prosper through the 1880s, farming his land on lots 420 and 469:

1895-feb-15 Tifton Gazette green bullard

1895-feb-15 Tifton Gazette green bullard

Tifton Gazette
February 15, 1895

Mr. Green Bullard, of Berrien county, has thirty odd bales of Sea Island cotton stored away and has not sold a bale in four years, despite the fact that he raises some every year.  Mr. Bullard raises his provisions at home and sells other product necessary for expenses.  He makes money by making cotton entirely a surplus crop. — Valdosta Times.

Enumeration of Green Bullard in the Census of 1900,  Rays Mill District, Berrien County, GA

Enumeration of Green Bullard in the Census of 1900, Rays Mill District, Berrien County, GA

http://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n776/mode/1up

According to Bryan Shaw,  in December of 1901 Green Bullard deeded 132 acres of his property in Lots 500 and 501 of the 10th Land district near Cat Creek to his daughter [Susie] and son-in-law [Dock Shaw].  The farm home of Dock and Susie Shaw was located about 2 1/2 miles south west of Ray City, Georgia on the east side of Possum Branch Road, just south of the crossing over Possum Branch (See JESSE SHELBY “DOCK”
SHAW FARM HOME NEAR RAY CITY, GEORGIA)

By the fall of 1907, Green Bullard was in his 78th year and the health of the old veteran was failing.

November 2, 1907 Valdosta Times reports Green Bullard is very ill.

November 2, 1907 Valdosta Times reports Green Bullard is very ill.

Valdosta Times
November 2, 1907

Mr. Green Bullard of this section [Cat Creek] is very ill.  He has many friends who wish him an early recovery.

Green Bullard died on Friday, November 15, 1907.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Green Bullard, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Green Bullard, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Children of Mary A. Knight and William A. Jones (1835-1866)

  1. William Malachi Jones (1861-1925)
  2. Adam Allen Jones (1863-1922)

Children of Green Bullard and Mary A. Knight

  1. Sally Louise Bullard  1866 – 1919
  2. Susan Bullard 1871 – 1950
  3. Fannie Bullard 1874 – 1941
  4. Henry Needham Bullard 1878 – 1938  (married Mary Johnson, 26 May 1901 – Berrien Co., GA,  a daughter of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Isabelle Shaw)
  5. Louis Malone Bullard 1881 – 1945

Related Posts:

R. S. Thigpen ~ Turpentine Man of Ray’s Mill

Robert Silas Thigpen (1849-1898)

Robert S. Thigpen was a wealthy Naval Stores manufacturer and a resident of Berrien County, Ga.  In the 1890s he lived near Ray’s Mill where he owned and operated a turpentine still.

Born Robert Silas Thigpen, August 13, 1849 he was a son of Dennis Thigpen, of South Carolina. It appears that R.S. Thigpen came to Georgia with his family from South Carolina when he was a young man, probably in the 1860s.

In 1880, R. S. Thigpen and his younger brother John Thigpen were living in the 1125 Georgia Militia District in Worth County.  By that time, Robert was already a successful manufacturer of  Naval Stores, in the comparatively new turpentine industry. The 1880 census non-population schedules show R.S. Thigpen owned a Tar & Turpentine Naval Stores operation valued at $6000. This turpentine still was situated on the Ty Ty Creek near Isabella, GA. The enumeration sheet shows Thigpen generally employed about 60 hands, who worked 10 hour days, year-round. Skilled workers received $1.50 a day, and ordinary laborers 65 cents. Thigpen’s total annual payroll for the operation ran $5000 a year.

Georgia Property Tax Digests of  1890 show Robert S. Thigpen owned 843 acres in the Mud Creek district of Clinch county, Georgia Militia District 586, including all of lot 349 and parts of lots 486, 487, and 484. He was employing 70 workers in his operations there. He had $700 of merchandise on hand, $465 in household furnishings, $210 jewelry, $3200 in livestock, $225 in plantation and mechanical tools, $2810 in other property, all total valued at $13,800.

Early 1900s Turpentine Still in South Georgia. Image Source: Georgia Virtual Vault.

Early 1900s Turpentine Still in South Georgia. Image Source: Georgia Virtual Vault.

By 1894, Thigpen was manufacturing naval stores in Berrien County and had a turpentine still at Ray’s Mill.  One of the residents at the Thigpen property was Horace Cox.   As a young man Cox had worked in a carriage shop, and was the son of a Berrien County mechanic, Samuel D. Cox.

In the summer of 1894,  fire struck at Rays Mill.

Tifton Gazette
June 8, 1894 pg 1

The Thigpen mill near Rays Mill post office, Berrien county, was destroyed by fire one day last week.

On June 19, 1894 allegations of arson were made against Horace Cox by a committee of 110 citizens, who signed  and published a petition against Cox  in a paid advertisement in the Valdosta Times. Cox had been suspected of numerous arson cases in Berrien and Clinch counties.  The accusers asked R.S. Thigpen to turn Cox out, although Thigpen had not signed the petition.

That Fall, Thigpen suffered another setback when he was thrown from a horse.

Tifton Gazette
November 2, 1894  Pg 1

Mr. R. S. Thigpen was thrown from a horse near Ray’s mill last Sunday and two of his ribs were broken.  The girt to his saddle broke and the saddle turning threw him off.  He came to the city [Valdosta] in a carriage sent from here and is getting along well at present. – Valdosta Telescope.  Mr. Thigpen is a citizen of Berrien County and lives near Ray’s Mill.

Despite these hindrances, R.S. Thigpen continued with his operations at Ray’s Mill.

Tifton Gazette
Aug 16, 1895 Pg 3

Milltown Mention

L. D. Liles has sold his mercantile interests to R. S. Thigpen. The stock will be moved to the latter’s still near Ray’s Mill.

In February of 1896 incendiaries again struck in Berrien County, this time burning the landmark  Banks Mill at Milltown (now Lakeland).  This time, Horace Cox was formally charged with the arson. (see Horace Cox and the Burning of Bank’s Mill)  But he was acquitted  in the case, and afterwards he pursued a libel case against the Valdosta Times and the committee which had petitioned against him in 1894.  Cox’s lawsuit omitted any complaints against R.S. Thigpen.

Although the libel case Cox brought would continue to wind through the courts for another decade, Horace Cox’s connection with R.S. Thigpen was severed later that year by yet another fire.

Tifton Gazette
November 6, 1896 Pg 1

The residence of Mr. Horace Cox, near Thigpen’s still, was destroyed by fire, supposed to be of incendiary origin, last week.  But little of the furniture was saved. There was no insurance.

Thigpen continued his turpentine still at Rays Mill and worked for public improvements to support his operation.  The Tifton Gazette, Friday Sept 4, 1896 edition noted under “Green Bay Items:”

Mr. R.S. Thigpen is pushing to completion a bridge across Thigpen Bay, on the new public road running by way of Thigpen Still and H.H. Knight’s. He has contracted to build the bridge for $200. Those who oppose the opening of the new road said it would cost $500 to build that bridge.

Over his life, R. S. Thigpen amassed sizable holdings in naval stores, including his properties at Ray’s Mill, GA.  He  died on February 23,1898, and was buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.  The regional newspapers reported on the settlement of his estate:

Macon Telegraph,
April 17, 1898  Pg 1

VALDOSTA.

Valdosta, Ga., April 16.

Judge W.H. Griffin, counsel for the administrator of the estate of the late R.S. Thigpen, has closed a trade for $35,000 of property in the estate. The turpentine plant at Rays mill was sold to W.F. Powell & Co. of North Carolina for $13,000 and naval stores stock to other parties for about $13,500. The still in this county near Naylor was sold for about $6,500. These large sales comprise only a minor part of the estate, but the good prices that were gotten for the property assures not only the solvency of the estate, but that the heirs will get a good deal from it.

 

Tifton Gazette
May 6, 1898 pg 4

 Mr. W. F. Powell, of North Carolina, with his father has purchased the Thigpen turpentine plant at Ray’s Mill from the estate of the late R. S. Thigpen.   The deal was made last week and engineered by Judge W. H. Griffin, the attorney for the estate.  Besides the valuable Ray’s Mill property, the still at the Bamberg place was also sold.  Henson, Bros. & Co., are the buyers, and it is understood that the price paid was about $6,500. {text illegible} 13,500 in naval stores stock {text illegible} ld, making about $35,000 {text illegible} n’s property to change hands in the past few days. -Valdosta.

 After the death of R.S. Thigpen, his wife and children made their home in Valdosta in a large house on Patterson Street.

Children of Sarah and Robert S. Thigpen:

  1. Annie Thigpen, b. December 1882
  2. Percy Thigpen, b. July 1886
  3. Fred Thigpen, b. August 1888
  4. Robert Silas Thigpen, Jr., b. May 1892
Gravemarker of Robert Silas Thigpen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.

Gravemarker of Robert Silas Thigpen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.

Related Posts:

Posting Mail at Ray City

Post marked Ray's Mills, GA

Post marked Ray’s Mills, GA

 Levi J. Knight and the first Wiregrass Pioneers to settle on Beaverdam Creek in the area of present day Ray City, GA arrived here about 185 years ago, in the 1820s. At first  these settlers had no mail service at all, but within a year or two a post office was established at Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie’s place on the Coffee Road. That was a 50 mile round trip for the settlers at Beaverdam Creek to fetch their mail.  Other post offices sprang up to serve the pioneers of Old Berrien County, but no post office was established closer than 10 or 12 miles to Ray City until after the Civil War.

KNIGHT’S MILL POST OFFICE
After the end of the Civil War, the grist mill that General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray had established on Beaverdam Creek became the site of the first post station serving the present day area of Ray City, GA. This mill was originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” and in 1867 a post office established here was simply referred to as “Knight’s Mill.” In 1870 the United States Postal Service Guide indicated that the postmaster of Knight’s Mill received an annual salary of $12.   The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

RAY’S MILL POST STATION
In 1870, after the death of General Knight, Thomas M. Ray bought out complete ownership of the mill from his father-in-law’s estate. Thereafter the mill and the surrounding community became known as Ray’s Mill. Apparently from 1871 and 1875 there was no post office in operation at Ray’s Mill, and residents were again compelled to take their mail at Nashville or Milltown. In 1876 a local post office resumed operation and according to the Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters,  Henry Harrison Knight was appointed on June 6, 1876.  The United States Official Postal Guide of July, 1879 lists the post office at “Ray’s Mills,” Berrien County, Georgia, but the postmaster’s name is not given. The Georgia State Gazetteer, Business and Planter’s Directory for 1881-82 also lists the the Ray’s Mill post office. In the 1885 Official Register of the United States, H.H. Knight was again listed as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia. His compensation for this service was $36.25. Post Office Dept records appear to indicate  that H.H. Knight was reappointed as Postmaster on May 22, 1886.  His wife, Mary Susan Ray Knight, was officially appointed Postmaster on November 1, 1892.  Joseph O. Sirmans was appointed on October 2, 1899 and served for about a year.  On September 1, 1900 the appointment was given to William C. Johnson (Johnson married H.H. Knight’s daughter in 1907).  The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters documents that David J. Rigell was appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on March 8, 1901.  Ulysses A. Knight took over on August 12, 1902 and was later confirmed as postmaster. Josiah S. Rigell took the position on April 28, 1903.  Post office records seem to indicate that the post office at Ray’s Mill was discontinued effective March 31, 1904 and for a while the mail was sent to Milltown (now Lakeland).

Some local histories say David Rigell, a  merchant of Berrien County, was the first postmaster at Ray’s Mill.  The primary sources, timing and other factors indicate that this was not the case (see David Jackson Rigell ~ First Postmaster of Ray’s Mill? Maybe Not!), but that Rigell served as postmaster in the 1901. It is speculated that the death of General Knight left the position vacant until Henry H. Knight, son-in-law of Thomas M. Ray and nephew of General Knight took an interest in civil service.

In 1909, Eugene Ray reported that “Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman, young men, are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here,” in Ray City, GA. The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Charles Anderson was officially appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on February 6, 1909, and  the Official Register of the United States shows in 1909, Chas Anderson was earning, $82 a month or $984 a year as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill.  That sum might have been comparable to an annual salary of about $35,000 a year in 2007 dollars.

On April 1, 1920, James “Joel” F. Fountain  became the Acting Postmaster. His appointment as Postmaster was confirmed in the U.S. Senate on June 5th of that year. The following year the  Ray City Post Office made the state news when it was dynamited by “Yeggmen“.

The census of 1930  shows James F. Fountain continued as the Ray City postmaster.  James Arthur Grissett and Lacy Albert McDonald were employed as rural mail carriers at Ray City.

By 1934, Mamie E. Fountain, wife of J. F. Fountain, took over as Postmaster at Ray City.

In 1939, the Nashville Herald announced a vacancy in the postmaster position at Ray City:

The Nashville Herald,
February 2, 1939    Pg 1

Postmaster’s Exam Called for Ray City

      An open competitive examination will be held shortly to fill the position of postmaster of Ray City, according to an announcement from the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.
Applications for the examination will close on February 10th.  All who desire to take the examination for this place must file their application by that date.
The place and date of examination will be announced after the date for making applications is closed.
Complete information may be obtained by applying at the post office in Ray City.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

The U. S. Postal service and census records provide the following on subsequent Postal employees at Ray City.

Name Title Date Appointed
James Arthur Grissett Mail Carrier prior to 4/04/1940
Chloe Ann Johnson Asst Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
Garth L. Webb Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
William A. Garner Acting Postmaster 04/02/1955
William A. Garner Postmaster 08/06/1957
Mrs. Florence V. Garner Officer-In-Charge 05/08/1970
Timothy R. McLeod Postmaster 11/27/1971
Jeane U. Camp Officer-In-Charge 06/04/1987
Billy R. Cromer Officer-In-Charge 07/30/1987
Muriel S. Privett Officer-In-Charge 11/05/1987
Jeane U. Camp Postmaster 01/30/1988
Nancy Deloras Courson Officer-In-Charge 01/08/2003
Nancy D. Courson Postmaster 05/17/2003
Flora Parker Officer-In-Charge 07/26/2012
Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

-30-

Related Posts:

Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863

Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, came to the area in 1855 prior to the formation of Berrien County, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.
Epitaph of Thomas Marcus Ray
The pains of death are past.
Labor and sorrow cease.
and Life’s long warfare closed at last.
His soul is found in peace.

Thomas Marcus Ray was born on September 20, 1822,  in the area of Georgia that would later be known as Griffin, Monroe County, GA.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Ray.  Little is known of his early life.

The 1850 census  shows at age 28 Thomas M. Ray was working as a mechanic in Twiggs County, GA.  He  married Mary Jane Albritton on March 3, 1852  in Houston County, GA. She was the daughter of Allen and Rebecca Albritton, and the sister of Matthew H. Albritton.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

The newlyweds moved to the area of Lowndes County that was later cut into present day Berrien County, GA.  A little more than a year later, Mary Jane gave birth to a son, John William Allen Ray, on May 10, 1853.

Sadly, just six days later Mary Jane died and Thomas, a 31 year old widower,  was left to raise the infant on his own. Thomas buried Mary Jane in the cemetery at Union Primitive Baptist Church, which was the only church in the area. Union Church, now known as Burnt Church, is located on the Alapaha River in present day Lakeland, Lanier County, Georgia.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

In 1853 this section of the state was only sparsely populated, and most of the settlers in the area gathered at least once a month at Union Church for services.  Thomas Ray was among those who attended.  It may be there that he met the 17 year old Mary Adelaide Knight.   She was the daughter of Levi J. Knight, a renowned Indian fighter and prominent planter in the area.  She was also the granddaughter of the Reverend William A. Knight, one of the founders of the Union Church and the first state senator elected to represent Lowndes County.  The following year, on August 22, 1854 Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight were married.

Thomas and Mary established their homestead on lot #516 in the 10th district of Lowndes County near Grand Bay, on land that Thomas purchased from his wife’s grandfather, William A. Knight, in 1855.  This land was soon to be cut into Berrien County in 1856 (and later into Lanier county).  Thomas’ father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, was instrumental in laying out the boundaries of the newly formed Berrien county.

On this land, the newlywed couple settled down to raise a family. In 1855, a daughter was born,  whom they named Mary Susan Ray. In 1858 a son was born to the couple, Thomas M. Ray, Jr.  and in the spring of 1860 Mary A. delivered another son, Charles F. Ray.

The Census of 1860 shows that Thomas M. Ray was clearly a wealthy man in his day.  On the census form his occupation  is listed as merchant.  At that time owned $2000 in real estate, and held $10,400 in personal estate. If he had a comparable net worth in 2007, he would certainly have been a multimillionaire.

The 1860 Census indicates that, in addition to the Ray children, two other youngsters were living with the Ray’s.  John T. Ray, Thomas Ray’s 15 year old nephew, lived with the family and attended school along with his cousins.  John T. Ray would be killed in a train wreck in 1888 (see Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.) A young girl  nine-year-old Efare Hayes (aka Ellifare Hayes), who was also living in the Ray household did not attend school.  Later census forms show that she was a domestic servant for the Rays. The census records show Ray’s neighbors were John Gaskins and Louie M. Young. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules show in that year Thomas M. Ray also was a slave owner, with one black female slave and one slave house enumerated.

Together, Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight had nine more children between 1855 and 1876, their last son being born in the year of Thomas’ death.

In the early 1860’s Thomas Ray partnered with his father-in law Levi J. Knight to build a grist mill and mill pond (now known as Ray’s Millpond) on Beaverdam Creek on land owned by L. J. Knight.  Mr. Knight would provide the land for the project, Mr. Ray would be mechanic and operator.    With the assistance of slave labor, the Ray family began the work to construct the earthen dam that would create an impoundment on Beaverdam Creek. In her later years, Mary Susan Ray, daughter of Thomas and Mary A. Ray, recalled that she helped build the dam when she was young child. ” Each day the family would load all equipment into the wagon, go over and work all day on the dam.”  In the age before power equipment the construction of the earthen dam that created the millpond was a massive undertaking. The dam is 1200 feet long with an average height of 12 feet, 12 feet wide at the top and 20 feet wide at the base.  It took approximately 10,800 tons of earth, dug and moved by human muscle to construct the dam.

It was while the dam was under construction that the initial hostilities of the Civil War broke out. On  April 12, 1861 at 4:30 a.m. Confederate  forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.  During the Civil War, Thomas Ray’s father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, and his future son-in-law Henry H. Knight both served in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  Thomas himself, was a major in the 138th Battalion, 6th Military District, Lowndes, County, GA. There is no record that this unit saw active duty during the war.

Thomas M. Ray was apparently at his home near Grand Bay in the fall of 1861, for Mary delivered another daughter the following spring: Sarah Jane “Sallie” Ray was born May 23, 1862.  According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coast Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill, known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill”  on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Ray was still at home in the late summer to early fall of 1864, for in the spring of 1865 James David Ray was born on April 30, 1865, just days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

After the war, in 1866 Thomas Ray bought land from his partner and father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, where the Rays constructed a new home and moved their family. This land was 225 acres of  lot #424 in the 10th district of Berrien County,  on the west side of Beaver Dam Creek right next to the grist mill.  Nearby were the homes of his mother- and father-in-law, Levi J. and Ann Knight, and his wife’s cousin Henry H. Knight.  To the west of the Ray farm was the property of William Gaskins.

Even after the Civil War ended slavery, cotton was the major agricultural concern in the south.  In 1869, Thomas Ray and William Roberts set up a mill for ginning and carding cotton on Beaverdam Creek downstream from Ray’s Mill.  From that point on the creek came to be known as both Beaverdam Creek and Card Creek.   The cotton mill was situated on land purchased from the estate of William Washington Knight, deceased brother-in-law of T. M. Ray.   (W.W. Knight died of disease during the Civil War; see The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll.)  The mill site included 30 acres on lot #452 and the right to impound water on lot #451, just east of #452. “This operation was apparently taking advantage of a small pond and dam already put in place by John Knight whose property it adjoined…” The dam site was on Beaverdam Creek about 20 yards just east of present day Pauline Street in Ray City, GA..

In early August of 1870 when the census was enumerated for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the household of Thomas M. and Mary Ray  included  their children  William A.,  Mary  S., Thomas M. Jr., Charles F., Sarah J., James D., and one year old Elizabeth Texas Ray.  Also living with the family was Thomas Ray’s mother, Mary Ray, 78 years of age. Ellifare Hayes, the family maid was now a young woman of 19. Eight year old Ellin Jones  was an African-American domestic servant also living in the Ray household.  In 1870  Thomas M. Ray’s personal estate was valued at $5000 and his real estate at $2714.   His neighbors included  Robert A. Elliott and Annis Lastinger Elliott, and their children.  Robert A. Elliott was a mechanic and a hand at the wool mill. Another neighbor was Isaac J. Edmonsen.

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on  February 23, 1870 in the community where he lived (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  Afterwards, Thomas Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests  in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate.  Over time the mill became the focal point of a community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA.

Willis Allen Ray was born in 1871, and Robert Jackson Ray in 1873.

The 1874 tax digest show that Thomas M. Ray was an employer; working for him was Andrew Wilkins, a Freedman and farmhand who lived near Rays Mill.

In 1874 when Mercer Association missionary Reverend J. D. Evans came to Ray’s Mill, Thomas M. Ray was deeply moved by the baptist’s message.  Thomas M. Ray must have attended the church meetings in the old log school house and the big revivals that were held in May and July, for he became instrumental in the formation of a Baptist Church at Ray’s Mill (see Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.)  On September 20, 1874 a small group of followers met with Reverend J. D. Evans  at  the  home of Thomas and Mary Ray to organize the church.  Thomas M. Ray. and David  J. McGee were elected to represent the new church to the Mercer Baptist Association and were sent as messengers to the Valdosta Church. The Reverend J. D. Evans wrote a petitionary letter which they carried to the association. In November 1874 Thomas M. Ray was appointed to a church building committee along with James M. Baskin and D. J. McGee. He served on the committed that selected and procured the site for the construction of the church building. He continued to serve on the building committee until his death.

In 1876, Joseph Henry Ray was born.

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton (1836 – 1853)

  1.  John William Allen Ray (1853 – 1934)

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary A Knight (1836 – 1923)

  1. Mary Susan Ray (1855 – 1926)
  2. Thomas Marcus Ray, Jr (1858 – 1923)
  3. Charles Floyd Ray (1860 –
  4. Sarah Jane (Sally) Ray (1862 – 1938)
  5. James David Ray (1865 – 1937)
  6. Elizabeth Texas Ray (1869 – 1952)
  7. Willis Allen Ray (1871 – 1901)
  8. Robert Jackson Ray (1873 – 1954)
  9. Joseph Henry Ray (1876 – 1907)

Thomas M. Ray died June 14, 1876.  His death was announced in The Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 1, 1876
Thomas M. Ray

Maj. T.M. Ray, a prominent citizen of Berrien County, died last week, after a long spell of illness.

His lodge brothers in Butler Lodge No. 211 Free and Accepted Masons provided this tribute:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday Aug 26. 

     Tribute Of Respect , Butler Lodge No. 211 F.A.M.  Milltown, Ga., Aug. 12th, 1876. Whereas, it hath pleased the Grand Architect of the Universe, in His wise Providence, to remove from labor, in the lodge on earth, to refreshment (as we trust) in the Great Grand Lodge in Heaven, or brother Thomas M. Ray

Therefore be it

     Resolved, 1st. That, in his death Masonry has lost a worthy brother, the neighborhood an upright and honest citizen; his family a kind husband, and indulgent father and a good provider.

     Resolved, 2nd. That while we mourn his loss and miss his association, we bow with meek submission to the will of Him who doeth all things well.

     Resolved, 3rd. That we cherish his memory and recommend to the emulation of the Craft Iris virtues and the uprightness and integrity of his character.

     Resolved, 4th. That we extend to the family an relatives of our deceased brother our heartfelt sympathies, praying upon them the guidance and protection of our common Heavenly  Father.

     Resolved, 5th. That a blank page in our minute book be inscribed to his memory, and that a copy of this preamble and resolution be furnished the family of brother Ray, and a copy furnished the Berrien County News, for publication and the Valdosta Times requested to copy.

By order of Butler Lodge No. 211 F. &A.M.

Ogden H. Carroll, T.O. Norwood, Jesse Carroll,  Com.

Related Posts:

The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll

Mary Elizabeth Carroll was born May 9, 1839 a daughter of Margaret Chestnut and  Jesse Carroll. Before the Civil War, Mary Carroll’s father was one of the wealthiest men in Berrien County.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of 1) William Washington Knight, 2) William Joseph Lamb.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of 1) William Washington Knight, 2) William Joseph Lamb.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll married William Washington Knight in 1855, a union of two influential families in Lowndes and Berrien county histories (The Knights and the Carrolls were cut from Lowndes into Berrien County in 1856.) The bride was a petite dark-haired beauty of 16; the  groom, at 26, was 6 feet in height, with dark hair and blue eyes.   William was born 4 Mar 1829 in that part of Lowndes, Georgia that is now known as Berrien County, Ga.  He was the eldest son of Levi Knight and Ann Clements/Herrin, and a grandson of William Anderson Knight.

In 1860, before the start of the Civil War, Mary E. Carroll and her husband William Washington Knight were living in the vicinity of Beaver Dam Creek near the present site of Ray City, GA. William owned a farm there, situated next to the farm of his uncle, John Knight.

1860 Slave Schedule, Berrien County, GA.

1860 Slave Schedule, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu142unit#page/n140/mode/1up

William W. Knight’s real estate in 1860 was valued at $1100, and he had a personal estate of $700. William and Mary were raising their young children, Mary V. Knight (4), Margaret A. Knight(2) and Walter H. Knight (6 months).

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n403/mode/1up

In January 1861, William Washington Knight was elected Justice of the Peace in the 1144th Georgia Militia District. As an elected official he could have claimed exemption from military service during the Civil War.  But on October 1, 1861 Knight enlisted in  the “Berrien Minutemen,” a Confederate army unit then being organized by his father,  Levi J. Knight.  William served in the 29th GA infantry in Company K, the Berrien Minutemen, and was elected 2nd Sergeant.

It must have been difficult for young Mary E. Knight, left home to raise her children alone while William and many other young men of the county  marched off to war with the Berrien Minutemen.  Two years into the war, on August 6, 1863, she penned the following:

It is not that my lot is low

that bids this silent tear to flow,

It is not greaf that bids me mourn;

It is that I am All Alone.

In woods and glens I love to roam

When the tierd hedges hies him home

Or by the woodland poole to rest

When pale the stars looks on its breast

Yet when the silent evening sighs

with hallowed airs and symphonies

my spirit takes another tone

and sighs that it is All Alone.

The Autumn leaf is sear and dead

It floats upon the watery bead

It would not be a leaf to dye

Without recording sorrows sigh

The woods and winds with sudden wail

Tell the same unvaried tale

I ‘ve now to smile when I am free

And when I sigh to sigh with me

Yet in my dreams a form I view

that thinks on me and loves me too

I start, and when the visions flown

I weep, alas that Am All Alone.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll suffered not just the loneliness of a soldier’s wife, but the grief of a mother. It was during the war, in 1863, that she lost her little girl, Margaret Ann Knight, just five years old.

Supply requisition records for Company K show that William Washington Knight was in service in Dalton, Georgia on December 6, 1863.  Shortly after that, Knight was furloughed home because of illness. He died of chronic diarrhea at Milltown, GA December 27, 1863.

As the war dragged on, the widowed Mary E. Carroll Knight was left to raise their three surviving children :

  1. Mary Virginia Knight 1856 – 1916, married William E. Langford
  2. Margaret Ann Knight 1858 – 1863
  3. Walter Howard Knight 1859 – 1934
  4. Lillian Melissa “Pink” Knight March 22, 1862– 1947, married Noah Webster Griffin

But with the end of the war Mary re-married in 1865. Her second husband,William Joseph Lamb, was also her first cousin.  His mother, Margaret Carroll, was a sister of Jesse Carroll, Mary’s father. His father was William Lamb, who was one of the early settlers of Milltown.

William J. Lamb was a Civil War veteran who had been seriously wounded in battle (see  William J. Lamb ~ Confederate Veteran).   The census of 1870 shows  Mary Elizabeth Carroll was living with her husband, William J. Lamb, in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, later known as the Ray’s Mill District. With them were Mary’s children Mary V. Knight, Walter H. Knight, Lillian Knight.

1870 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

1870 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n439/mode/1up

Living with the Lambs was their cousin, Henry Harrison Knight, a son of John Graham Knight.  Henry was working as a country merchant at the time. Later he would open one of the first stores in the community of Rays Mill (nka Ray City), GA.

Also living at the Lamb farm were freedman Morris Wilkinson, his wife Charlott Wilkinson, and a three-year-old son, Henry Wilkinson. The Lambs employed Morris Wilkinson as a farm laborer and Charlotte Wilkinson worked as a domestic servant.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb, circa 1875, daughter of Margaret Chestnut and Jesse Carroll. Image detail from original courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb, circa 1875, daughter of Margaret Chestnut and Jesse Carroll. Image detail from original courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

The 1880 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb with husband, William J. Lamb, in Berrien County, GA.  Neighbors were William, Virginia and Luther Langford.  Nearby were Mary’s son, Walter Howard Knight, and his wife, Jimmie Gardener Gullette.

1880 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

1880 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n380/mode/1up

In 1900 the census records show Mary and William Lamb living in the Lower Fork District, No. 658 of Lowndes County. They were boarding with Bessie Griffin and Joseph S. Bazemore. (see Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899)

1900 census enumertion of William J. Lamb

1900 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb

http://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu209unit#page/n440/mode/1up

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb died December 29, 1906.  She was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Elizabeth Lamb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave marker of Mary Elizabeth Lamb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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