Big Blaze of 1915

The big fire at Rays Mill broke out just a few minutes after sunrise on a Sunday morning, April 25, 1915.  The flames originated in the business district in a small store operated by Johnnie Clements, Jr. and soon spread to nearby buildings including the two story Rays Mill Hotel. The J.M. Parrish & Company store owned by Joseph Math Parrish was also damaged; bookkeeper at the store was Leon Lacy Parrish.  At that time there was no water system in the town, and no way to effectively fight the blaze.

The Nashville Herald
April 30, 1915

Destructive Fire Visits Rays Mill

      One of the most disastrous fires in the history of Rays Mill visited that place Sunday morning about 6 o’clock.  Several stores and considerable amount of goods were destroyed by the flames.

      The fire started in a store owned by John Clements of Milltown, in which building his son, Johnnie Clements, Jr., was operating a small store, and the store and contents were completely destroyed.  The loss in this instance was about $1,000 on the building and about the same amount on the stock.  There was insurance covering about half the loss.

      The flames leaped over a brick building and it was completely consumed [missing] & Co. and set fire to the Rays Mill hotel.  The hotel was a two-story building and it was completely consumed by the fire.  It was owned by Messrs. J.H. and Jas. S. Swindle and was valued at $5,000 or $6,000.  The hotel was destroyed with most of its contents.  Mr. J.F. Hineley, who operated the hotel, also had a small store which was entirely destroyed.

      The flames when the hotel was burning were so hot that the brick store of J.M. Parrish & Co. caught and was entirely destroyed.  The building was valued at about $4,000 and the stock of goods was valued at about $15,000.  The stock was largely the property of Mr. G.W. Varn, of Valdosta.  There was insurance for about half of this loss.

      Two other store buildings belonging to Mr. Will Studstill of Valdosta were destroyed by the flames.  These small buildings were valued at about $1,000, while the stocks of goods in them were small.

      It was impossible to control the flames as there was no water supply sufficient to cope with the fire and about all that could be done was to stand by and watch the different buildings burns and try to prevent any spreading.  The losses are heavy ones and will injure the town materially.

      The total loss is figured at $23,000, and the total amount of insurance carried was $14,000, according to Mr. J.S. Swindle, who was in Nashville yesterday.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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The Tifton Gazette
April 30, 1915

BAD FIRE AT RAY’S MILL

Flames Destroyed Hotel and Stores.  $30,000 Loss

Valdosta, April 26. – One-third of the business section of Rays Mill, a flourishing town fourteen miles from Valdosta, was destroyed by fire on Sunday.  A number of merchants lost their stores and stocks and the Rays Mill hotel, a large two-story building, was entirely destroyed with most of the furnishings.

The losses will amount to about $30,000, the property being partly covered by insurance.  J.F. Hinely, proprietor of the hotel; J.M. Parrish & Company, John J. Clements, Jr., J.H. and J.S. Swindle and W.M. Studstill are the principal losers.

The town has no water facilities and the block in which the flames started was burned before the fire could be checked.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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The Nashville Herald
May 21, 1915

Rays Mill, The Week’s Doings In and Around

      The debris has been cleared away and work on the new buildings which will replace those destroyed by the recent disastrous fire is progressing rapidly.  With the completion of these new brick buildings, we will have what appears from the depot, almost a solid brick block, which we trust will be a reality in the near future.  The J.M. Parrish Company’s store which was only partially destroyed, will be ready for occupancy again within a few days.  This should be good news to all their many customers and friends, as they will have a new and complete line of general merchandise.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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James Henry Swindle ~ Businessman and Public Servant

James Henry  “Jim” Swindle was a businessman and politician of Ray City, GA.  He was born near Ray City Aug 6, 1886, a son of Margaret Melvina Futch and George Emory Swindle.  A previous post gave his bio from the Georgia Official and Statistical Register.  He was involved in many civic organizations including the Baptist church, Masons, and Lions Club, and served in public offices from Mayor of Ray City to Representative in the Georgia Assembly.

James H. Swindle

James H. Swindle

Jim Swindle was a brother of Leonard Columbus Swindle, John N. Swindle, George Perry Swindle, Roy C. Swindle, and Leonidas A. Swindle.

In the Census of 1900 James H. Swindle was enumerated with his parents and brothers in his father’s household in the Connell’s Mill District near Rays Mill, GA. The Swindle family farm was located on the Rays Mill & Cat Creek Road. Jim and his younger brothers all attended school, while his older brother, Leonard, helped his father with the farm labor.

After the 1909 death of  his father, G.E. Swindle, at Buffalo Lithia Springs, VA , Jim became the head of the household and took over the family farm.

James Henry “Jim” Swindle became a prominent businessman of Berrien County. By 1908, he was involved in the organization of the Bank of  Rays Mill, which later became the Citizens Bank of Ray City.  It is said that the Swindle family owned much of the land where present day Ray City is located, and when the town was officially incorporated in 1909, he became one of the first residents.  In 1912 he married Sarah Ellen  “Stell” Daniel in Nashville, GA, and the couple made their home at Ray City.

J. H. Swindle of Rays Mill was a dealer for the Georgia Fertilizer & Oil Company. 1912 Advertisement.

J. H. Swindle of Rays Mill was a dealer for the Georgia Fertilizer & Oil Company. 1912 Advertisement.

Together with James S. Swindle, James Henry Swindle owned the Ray City Hotel, which stood on the location later occupied by the Clements Fountain. The Swindles employed J.F. Hineley to operate the hotel. The hotel and all of its contents were destroyed, along with several other buildings, in the Ray City fire of Sunday, April 25, 1915.

James Henry Swindle was 30 years old when he registered for the draft in WWI on June 5, 1917.  He gave his occupation as  a self-employed farmer  and merchant working in Ray City, Ga. He was described as medium height, medium build, black hair, and blue eyes.  His draft card was signed by D.A. Sapp.

By 1920 James H. Swindle had located his wife and family in a house on Main Street in Ray City, Georgia. They owned the home free and clear.  Their neighbors were C . Oscar Terry and Leon L. Parrish.  J.H. Swindle was a merchant, operating a grain and feed store on his own account.

Among other elected positions, Jim Swindle served 12 years on the Berrien County Board of Education, including four years as Chairman.

1925 Berrien County Board of Education
D. J. Gaskins, Ch. Ray City
A. L. Akins.. . .Nashville
J. H. Swindle …Ray City
C.B.Harris–. -Enigma
George P. Griffin Nashville

1927 Berrien County Board of Education
D. J. Gaskins, Chm., Ray City
J. R. McLamb
J. H. Swindle, Ray City
A. L. Akins, Nashville
W. K. Sikes

In the census of 1930, Swindle listed his principle occupation as operator of a gin. He owned cotton gins in Ray City, and at Barretts in Lowndes County, GA.

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

Another of his 1930s business concerns was the operation of a bank at Ray City.

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

Later, J.I. Clements worked for a while as cashier of the Peoples Banking Company.  Jim Swindle’s brother, L. C. Swindle also operated a bank at Ray City, the Farmers Bank.

In 1932 J. H. Swindle again served on the Berrien County Board of Education and in 1934 he was Mayor of Ray City.

On Jan 14, 1939 the Speaker of the House of the Georgia Assembly announced the Legislative Committee Chairmen. James H. Swindle of Berrien was named as chair of the General Agriculture Committee No. 1.   Just a few days later on January 31, 1939 the Atlanta Constitution reported that James Henry Swindle, of Ray City, was declaring as a candidate for State Commissioner of Agriculture.

J.H. Swindle, ‘Just a Small Farmer,’ Says Markets Aren’t Working.
January 31, 1939

By the Associated Press.

  Representative J.H. Swindle, of Berrien, who describes himself as “just a small farmer,” announced yesterday he would seek election as state commissioner of agriculture in 1940.

  Swindle, a veteran of three terms in the legislature, is chairman of the house committee on agriculture No. 1.

  Columbus Roberts, present commissioner of agriculture, concludes his present term in 1940. He has been mentioned as a likely candidate to succeed Governor Rivers.

  Swindle said he would favor revision of the state’s present agricultural policy to give greater assistance to the farmers in disposing of their products.

  “The farmer can dump his stuff anywhere,” he said. “The present system (of farmers’ markets) is not working any special good to the farmers.”

  Swindle urged that the state provide price reporting service as well as a place where farmers may bring their produce for sale. He also suggested that the state assist the farmers “to put his produce in proper shape for disposal” by grading and collecting individual shipments into single lots.

  “I would even be willing to try the auction system,” often results in the price for a commodity being set at an unfairly low level because one or more of the earliest sellers were unaware of the correct price and disposed of their produce below the market level.

  Swindle, a 52-year-old native of Berrien county, has served two years as mayor of Ray city, eight years on the city council, and 12 years on the county board of education, including four years as chairman. He is engaged in farming, operates a cotton gin, and purchases cotton and farm products for resale. He is married, and has two daughters and a son.

In 1941, James H. Swindle was appointed to serve again on the Berrien County Board of Education to replace Henry A. Swindle who had resigned from the Board in December 1940.  In October, the Board members elected J.H. Swindle as Chairman of the Board.

A 1941 mention in the Nashville Herald said:

Mr. J.H. Swindle is a prominent citizen of this city [Ray City].  He owns most of the business buildings in Ray City.  He is our past representative, having served four years.  He owns extensive farms and the gin.  He is a cotton buyer, a cottonseed buyer, and a corn buyer.

James H. Swindle continued his involvement in civic affairs. In the 1940s he worked to bring better roads to Ray City, and in 1947 served on the building committee for the new Ray City School gym.

In 1953 he was elected vice-president of the South Georgia Cattlemen’s Association.

Children of Stell Daniel and James Henry Swindle:

  1. Margaret Virginia Swindle  (Oct 28, 1914)
  2. Doris E. Swindle  (1916-1941)
  3. Grace E Swindle
  4. James Aaron Swindle (1920-1993)
Grave marker of James Henry "Jim" Swindle, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave marker of James Henry “Jim” Swindle, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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Ray’s Mill Hotel Burns, 1915

Jacob Fredrick Hinely operated the Ray’s Mill Hotel in a two story wooden building that was owned by James Henry Swindle and James S. Swindle. The hotel building stood in Ray City, GA where the Clements Fountain was later built. Hinely also had a small store located on the first floor right of the hotel.

Rays Mill Hotel, circa 1912, Rays Mill, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Rays Mill Hotel, circa 1912, Rays Mill, GA. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

On Sunday, April 25, 1915, Ray City was ravaged by a fire that destroyed several buildings.  A city block – nearly a third of the Ray City business district – was lost. The fire consumed the hotel and all of its contents, a loss of $6,000. The total damage from the fire amounted to about $30,000.

The Atlanta Constitution
April 27, 1915


$30,000 FIRE SWEEPS SOUTH GEORGIA TOWN

Third of the Business Section of Ray Mills [sic], Near Valdosta, Burns.

Valdosta, Ga., April 26 –(Special.) — A third of the business section of Ray Mllis [sic], a flourishing town fourteen miles from Valdosta was destroyed by fire on Sunday. A number of merchants lost their stores and stocks. And the Ray Mills hotel [sic], al large two-story building, was entirely destroyed, with most of the furnishings. The losses will amount to about $30,000. Partially covered by insurance.

J.F. Hinely, proprietor of the hotel: J. C. Parrish & Co., John J. Clements, Jr., J.H. and J.S. Swindle, and W. M. Studstill are the principal losers.

The town has no water facilities and the block in which the flames started was burned before the fire could be checked. 

 

After the hotel burned, Jacob Fredrick Hinely and his wife, Laura Frances Hinely, remained in Ray City.  Hinely took up farming.  He was also listed in the 1917 Rating Book for Wholesalers and Shippers of Fresh Fish, Fresh Oysters and Shell Fish of All Kinds ….

Hinely registered for the WWI draft at Ray City on September 12, 1918, his registration form being completed by C.O. Terry.   Hinely was 43 years old, medium height, medium build, brown eyes with light hair.

By the early 1920’s  a boom period arrived in Ray City, GA and J. Fred Hinely was proprietor and operator of a beef market, one of the thriving businesses in the new town. He and his family lived in a rented house on Jones Street. While Fred ran the butcher shop his wife Laura kept house and daughter Thelma attended school. His son Theodore Hinely worked on his own account as an automobile driver, one of the automotive entrepreneurs of Ray City. The widower James T. Philips was a boarder living with the Hinelys. Their neighbors were Fred and Laura Tyler, and Katherine Swindle and her family.

Later, by 1930,   Laura and Jacob Fredrick Hinely left Ray City and moved to Jacksonville, FL were Hinely worked as a salesman for the Jax Steam Laundry.

Carlos J. Boggs and the Buffalo Infantry of WWI

Carlos J. Boggs and the Buffalo Infantry

Carlos Jackson Boggs was a Georgia native, born Feb 26, 1893 in Glennville, Liberty County, GA.  He was the eldest son of John and Mary Boggs.  Some time prior to 1917 Carlos J. Boggs came to Berrien County, GA where he made his home in Ray City.

Along with other men of Berrien County, he registered for the draft on June 5th 1917.   His draft registration card gave his physical description as “African”, medium in height and build, with black eyes and black hair. At age 24, he was single and working as a cook for Jacob Fredrick Hinely, a merchant of Ray City, GA.

Carlos Boggs was called for the draft for WWI, along with Joe Roberson and John W. Faison, also of Ray City, and the three were inducted at Nashville, GA on April 2, 1918 along with  85 other African-American men and 14 white men  of Berrien County. The following day Boggs, Roberson, Faison and the others boarded a train on the Georgia & Florida Railroad bound for Camp Gordon near Atlanta, GA.

Boggs was assigned to the 157th Depot Brigade.  Later he was assigned to Company F, 367th Infantry,  known as the Buffalo Infantry.   He shipped out for overseas  duty on July 26, 1918 and served in France until March 1, 1919.

WWI Croix de Guerre

WWI Croix de Guerre

It was during this period that every man and officer in the 367th  Infantry earned the Croix de guerre. The Croix de guerre (English translation: Cross of War) is a French military decoration.  The Croix de guerre may either be bestowed as a unit award or to individuals who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces.  The unit award of the Croix de guerre was issued to military commands who performed heroic deeds in combat and were subsequently recognized by headquarters.

For the 367th Infantry, “This citation was made before the last engagement of the war, Sunday and Monday, November 10 and 11, in the drive to Metz. This battalion went into action though a valley commanded by the heavy German guns of Metz, and held the Germans at bay while the 56th Regiment retreated, but not until it had suffered heavy losses.”

At the end of WWI the 367th Infantry, the Buffaloes, returned to New York where they were honored in a parade.

Carlos J. Boggs was honorably discharged on March 27, 1919 at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA.  He died in Columbia County, Florida in 1971.

The Buffaloes, 367th Infantry, Victory Parade in New York.

The Buffaloes, 367th Infantry, Victory Parade in New York.

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Automotive Entrepreneurs in Ray City, GA

Cars began appearing in Ray City and Berrien County, Georgia for the first time in the early 1900’s.  Dr. H. W. Clements was one of the earliest car owners in Berrien County.  With increasing  automobile traffic, Ray City residents were soon turning to businesses that catered to this new locomotion.

Woco Pep was a gasoline brand featured at Fletch and Mac's Garage at Ray City in the 1940s

Woco Pep was a gasoline brand featured at Fletch and Mac’s Garage at Ray City in the 1940s

On June 5, 1917 when registering for the draft for WWI (WWI: Ray City Goes to WarGordon Vancie Hardie was living and working in Ray City, GA.  At that time he listed his occupation as a self-employed “Automobile Repairer”.   In 1920 he and his wife, Addie B. Hardy were living in a house on Jones Street in Ray City, Georgia.  By that time Gordon had expanded his trades. He was the proprietor of a “beef market” which he operated on his own account.  The Gordon meat market was one of two butcher shops among the historic businesses of Ray City appearing in the Census of 1920.

But other Ray City residents were quickly taking up the automotive service trade. Another going concern in 1917 was that of Sutton & Gaskins. Henry C. Sutton was one of the proprietors and also a mechanic; Barney Gordon Shaw was also employed as an automobile mechanic. Harvey Norvell Terry, son of merchant W.H.E. Terry, was also a mechanic. Jessie Everett Anderson was another young man running a garage in Ray City around that time. In the 1920 census Machiel Gallagher, son of Frank Gallagher, gave his occupation as a wage laborer in an automobile shop. Theodore Hinley, son of J.F. Hineley,  worked on his own account as an automobile driver.   Thad L. Lindsey, who resided with his uncle Jasper Nobles in a house on Jones Street,  was the proprietor of a garage. The garage was probably a good complement to his uncle’s livery business.  In fact, automotive service stations of that period were sometimes referred to as the “auto livery.”

Charles A. Cole was the proprietor of another garage in town.  His father, Jasper Cole, was a blacksmith. There was good sense in this business relationship; as cars became more popular, many blacksmiths became automobile mechanics.  The April 1913 issue of  American blacksmith and motor shop, Volume 13 included articles such as “Welding Automobile Springs” and “Three Emergency Automobile Repairs”, as well as “A Scientific Horseshoe.”

By 1925 Gordon V. Hardie had returned to the automotive service industry. He built the first gasoline station in Ray City, GA, a brick building which stood on the south side of Main Street just east of the tracks of the Georgia & Florida railroad and  southeast of the corner of  Main and Paralleled Streets.These automotive entrepreneurs were just a few of the Ray City businesses operating in the town’s boom period of the 1920’s.

By 1930 the Hardie Filling Station had competition in the service station business.  Moses L. Giddens was a garage and station owner, and  Carl F. Murry was  employed at a filling station.  Charlie J. Shaw was a self-employed automobile mechanic.  In the 1930s, the South Georgia Oil Company,  a gas and diesel dealership based out of Tifton, GA, had a location at Ray City.  Among other automotive business firms operated in Ray City in the 1930s were Ray City Service Station, Norton Service Station, Ray City Motor Company,  Colonial Oil Company,  Highway Service Station,  Standard Oil Station,  Shaw’s Garage,  and Swain Garage.   Wilbur Aultman owned a filling station and lunch stand that was destroyed by fire in 1937.

The census of 1940 shows  Levi J. Futch, Arthur A. Carlson, Willie Wright Ware, and J. B. McSwain all were working as  automobile mechanics.  Herman B. Guthrie was a gasoline station operator, and George Emory Swindle, a son of L.C. Swindle, was an automobile salesman.

In 1945, J. B. “Mac” McSwain went into partnership with D.L. Fletcher to open Fletch and Mac’s Garage in Ray City, GA. Among the products featured at the new service station were Woco Pep gasoline and Tiolene Motor Oil.

1949 Georgia Map, Standard Oil Company

1949 Georgia Map, Standard Oil Company, featured “Okefenokee Swamp Park, near Waycross, Georgia” on the cover.

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Fletch and Mac’s Garage Opens at Ray City

Dr. H.W. Clements and the Doctor’s Roadster