The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Heading northeast on highway 64 out of Ray City, GA  in the direction of Empire Church, you will encounter a sign at the Lanier county line that identifies this route as the Sam I. Watson Highway.  Sam Watson was raised on the Watson family farm, located near Empire Church about 5 miles northeast of Rays Mill, originally settled by his grandparents about 180 years ago.

Born August 9, 1877 in Lowndes county, GA Samuel Irvin Watson  was a son of Mary and Joseph Watson.

By age 22, Sam Watson was occupied as a school teacher. Enumerated in the census of 1900 next to his father, Sam had by that time established an independent household on a part of the family land. As yet unmarried, he owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage. Perhaps the establishment of his homestead was in preparation for matrimony; later that year Sam married Jennie Lee, a daughter of Amanda Clements and Moses C. Lee. Jennie was born on January 5, 1882 in Berrien County and grew up on her father’s farm near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.  As a girl she attended the Green Bay School, along with her brother, Bill.

Sam and Jennie were married July 1, 1900 at the home of the bride’s parents. The ceremony was performed by  William C. Patten, Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace.  (W.C. Patten was the husband of Jennie’s aunt Sarah Lee, and he later married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.)

 

 

In September of 1918, Sam Watson registered for the draft for World War I.  At age 41 he was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and gray hair.

Perhaps Sam found the pay of a teacher was not sufficient to support his growing family. By 1920,  had returned to the occupation of farming, and was an employer in general farming.  One of his employees was John Kirkland. Sam’s eldest daughter, Gola Watson, was already a student in college. The census of 1920 shows the Watson farm was located on the Ray City & Mud Creek Road in the Milltown District of Berrien County, and area soon to be cut into the newly created Lanier county.

Sam Watson, a man of Berrien and Lanier county his entire life, and was again enumerated on his farm near Ray City in the census of 1930. That year the enumeration included a count of citizens who owned radio sets, which Sam Watson did.   In the enumeration of Ray City, there were only eight radio sets within the city limits, the owners being James A. Grissett, John D. Luke, Henry Swindle, Marvin Purvis, Walter Altman, John Simpkins, Joseph Johnson and Fannie Parks.  The average cost of a radio in 1929 was around $139 dollars. In terms of comparable “affordability” for an average person in today’s dollars (2010 index) this would be like making a $7,600 purchase (relative worth based on nominal GDP per capita index – see MeasuringWorth.com).

It is safe to say that Sam Watson was among the prominent citizens of Lanier County. He was a former educator and a successful farmer who could afford relative luxuries, like a radio.  He followed the politics of Ed Rivers, State Assemblyman from Lakeland, GA.

After Ed Rivers was elected Governor of Georgia in 1936 he appointed Sam Watson to the State Board of Education.

But more about that in the next post.

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Mayhaw Lake Resort at Ray City, GA

A previous post on this blog included the transcript of a 1914 advertisement for Mayhaw Lake  amusement park and attractions operated by Elias Moore “Hun” Knight at Ray’s Mill, GA (now known as Ray City), and other posts have provided some backstory on the park’s significance in the community (1914 Box Ball Alley ,   Ray City Baseball).

A Berrien County Historical Foundation newsletter features more information on  Mayhaw Lake and other historic resorts of Berrien County, GA.  The Foundation is a great resource for researching family history in Berrien County. Visit the website for newsletters, historical photos, and workshops:  http://www.freewebs.com/berrienhistorical/

Among the Mayhaw Lake patrons mentioned in the article you will find Bruner and Charlie Ruth Shaw, Bryant and Henry Swindle, Jessie and Shellie Ziegler, Burton and Rachel Shaw, Marshal Sirmans, Manson Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, Tom Parrish, Viola Smith Davis, Elmer Shaw, Hollis Williams, Charlie Shaw, Nannie Kate Moore, Thelma Moore, Paul Knight, Lonnie Smith, J. H. Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Juanita Shaw, Roy Carter and Rossie Swindle.

Berrien Historical Foundation Newsletter front page depicting the swimming pool at Mayhaw Lake, Ray City, GA.

Berrien Historical Foundation Newsletter front page depicting the swimming pool at Mayhaw Lake, Ray City, GA.

A 1922 report from the Georgia State Board of Health listed the swimming pool at Ray City as one of only 63 pools in the entire state.  The report found that a very large majority of these were in a very unsanitary condition and dangerous to be used for bathing purposes.

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Baseball in the Wiregrass

1914 Box Ball Alley ~ Mayhaw Lake at Rays Mill, GA

Ray City Baseball

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Obituary of Catherine Knight Swindle (1872-1928), Ray City, GA

Another news clipping from the Ray City News,  Jan 3, 1929 edition

Mrs. J. S. Swindle was born Catherine Knight, a daughter of John W. Knight and Candacy Leaptrot.   She was a sister of  Primitive Baptist minister Aaron Anderson Knight, Sullivan Jordan Knight, and sister-in-law of George Emory Swindle.

Catherine Swindle (1872-1928) obituary, Ray City News, Ray City, GA

Clipping from the Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929 edition.

 

Ray City News. Jan 3, 1929.
Mrs. J.S. Swindle Passed Away on Christmas Day

    Mrs. Catherine Swindle, widow of the late J. S. Swindle passed away at  her home here on Christmas morning following a stroke which attacked her Saturday night.
    Mrs. Swindle, known to hundreds of friends and relatives as “Aunt Kit” was 57 years of age and had spent all her life here. She and her husband were truly pioneer citizens of Ray City as the town was built upon a part of their lands. She was preceded to her brave by her husband by about nine years.
    She was a daughter of the late John W. Knight and had a large and prominent family connection. She was the last one of this family of children.  For many years she had been a faithful member of the Primitive Baptist Church and was laid to rest at the Pleasant Church cemetery. Her pastor, Elder William Tomlinson of Douglas preached the funeral.
    The pallbearers were: Messrs. L. W. Sirmon, G. P. Swindle, H. A. Swindle, Ivey Moore, L C. Swindle and Homer Clements. A.D. Wiseman undertaker.
     Mrs. Swindle leaves behind a large host of friends and near relatives to mourn their loss, three children as follows, Bryan Swindle, Bartow, Fla, Mrs. Truby Gray, and L.J. Swindle of Ray City, Ga.
    The bereaved ones have the heartfelt sympathy of the people of this section in their loss.

  

Children of Catherine Knight and James S. Swindle:

  1. Eva Nancy Swindle – born 1889; married Elias Moore Knight, February 14, 1907; died November 15, 1925; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  2. James Bryan Swindle – born September 7, 1897; married Myrtle Patterson, September 20, 1920; died October 7, 1949; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  3. Trubie Inez Swindle – born November 9, 1901; married Clarence Jones Gray, October 17, 1917; Divorced 1941; Died Lake City, FL
  4. O.K. Swindle – born January 4, 1894; died September 2, 1905; buried Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA
  5. Leonard James Swindle – born November 7, 1904; married Cleo Tempy; divorced 1941; died 1966; buried Salt Springs, FL.
Catherine Knight Swindle, (1872-1928) Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Wife of James S. Swindle and daughter of John W. Knight.

Catherine Knight Swindle, (1872-1928) Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Wife of James S. Swindle and daughter of John W. Knight.

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A Brief History of the Ray City Methodist Church

A brief history of the Methodist Church in  Ray City, GA is excerpted from a  document composed about 1988. (See also Fifty Years of Methodist Ministers ~ Ray City, GA).

Ray City Methodist Church

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.  Among the first members were Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, Will Terry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Turner, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley.

Shortly after the Church was organized, Rev. Ratcliff held a revival in the Masonic Hall. Five Church members were present and twenty-one new members joined.  This made the total membership twenty-nine persons.  During the time Brother Hightower served as pastor, he was originally on the Remerton Charge. He was later transferred to the Milltown Charge.  At this time Brother Langston was the presiding elder and lived at Sparks, Georgia.

The church services were held in the Masonic Hall until it burned. Since the faithful Methodists helped the members of the Christian Church to erect their building, the Methodist were invited to hold their services in the new Christian Church building each second Sunday.

Land for a Church was donated in 1912 by R.D. Swindle, father of Henry A. and R.P. Swindle. In 1917, a tent meeting was held on the site of the present Church and plans were formulated to construct a new Church. Brother Barr was pastor and leader of the movement. A committee consisting Lucious Clements, W.M. Creech, Will Terry, J.M. Tyler and Mr. Patterson drew up the plans for and constructed a wooden building which was used until replaced by the existing block building in 1954.  The new block building consisted of an auditorium, three Sunday school rooms and a kitchen.  William Guthrie, a cabinet maker from Nashville, Georgia, made the pews for the new sanctuary.  The social hall was added in 1964 and bears the name “Swindle Hall” in honor of Mr. Henry A. Swindle who was a long-standing, faithful member of the Church.

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Ray City Baseball

 

Just found the following in the sports page of the Atlanta Georgian and News, July 1, 1909 edition:

MILLTOWN WINS SERIES.
Milltown, Ga., July 1. – in a hotly contested bame [sic] of baseball Milltown won its second victory from Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 4. The game was played on Milltown’s new diamond. Schucker and Shaw did the
battery work for the home team, while Sellman and Shaw did the same duties for the visitors. Schucker, for the home team, only gave up three hits, struck out fifteen men and did on walk but one man. Sellman, of the visitors, gave up seven hits, walked two men and struck out nine men. Milltown has played three games with Rays Mill, winning the first , 16 to 2, and the second game went to Rays Mill by the score of 5 to 6 in ten innings. The milltown team was composed of all home players.

A hundred years ago, every small town had its baseball team.   Ray City sported a baseball team that played match games with Nashville, Milltown, Willacoochee, and other communities in the area.  As above, reports of the home team’s prowess occasionally even reached the Atlanta newspapers.

Later on, games were played on the baseball diamond at Mayhaw Lake.  After the small Ray City resort closed, the local team played on a field located near the tracks of the Georgia & Florida Railroad and Jones Street.

Ray City Baseball Team circa 1920

 

Top row far left to right, Elmer Shaw, James Swindle, Henry Swindle, unknown, unknown. Bottom row left to right, unknown, Charlie Shaw, unknown, unknown.

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