Mary Swindle Won $10 in Contest to Choose Name of Ray City

In a 1971 newspaper article, Henry A. Swindle, who was a lifelong resident of Ray City, GA, recalled  how the town got its name. Henry  was  a boy when the town became incorporated in 1909.  His father, Redding D. Swindle,  served as the appointed mayor until the first elections could be held.

Henry Alexander Swindle, son of R. D. and Mary Etta Swindle, orn September 15, 1897. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation

Henry Alexander Swindle, son of R. D. and Mary Etta Swindle, orn September 15, 1897. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and the Berrien Historical Foundation

The first residents  decided to hold a contest to select a new name for the town.  Henry’s mother, Mary Etta Swindle, came up with the winning entry.

She won $10,” he said, “for naming the town. There were many families around here named Ray, and since this was a thriving community, bigger then than Nashville or Lakeland, she thought  Ray City would be a good name. It was formerly Ray’s Mill.

“There was a sawmill and lumber mill here that employed about 300 people and a big cotton gin that baled lost of cotton.  Ray City was growing fast then, I was a good, big boy then and I’m 74 now. But Nashville was the county seat, and that town outgrew Ray City finally.”

Children of Mary Etta and Redding D. Swindle:

  1. Eula Swindle, born 1887; married Lawrence Cauley Hall
  2. Rozzie P Swindle, born 1889–
  3. Matie Swindle, born 1890–
  4. Daisy Swindle, born 1894–
  5. Henry Alexander Swindle, born 1897; married Ora Kathleen Knight
  6. Myrtle J Swindle, born 1900–
  7. Dewey L Swindle, born 1903–

Henry A. Swindle took a job as bookkeeper for J.J. Parks, who operated a grist mill and ginnery in Ray City and a farm in Alapaha. Henry married Ora Kathleen Knight, daughter of Sullivan J. Knight and Eliza Allen. He became a strong supporter of the Ray City Methodist Church and served on the Ray City School board.

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Lawson Rentz Serves Country and Ray City, GA

According to his WWI draft card Lawson Rentz entered the service as a tall and slender young man with grey eyes and dark hair. He listed a wife and two children as dependents. (see also Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz) During World War I Lieutenant Rentz, of Ray City, GA, served in the Embarkation Service at Hoboken, New Jersey.

Among the hundreds of names reported in “Army Orders and Assignments” for March 28, 1918,  The New York Times listed L.S. Rentz, First lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corp, as assigned to Camp Wheeler, GA. The same was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, April 6, 1918, Volume 70, Number 14, pg 1010:


To Camp Wheeler, Macon, Ga.. base hospital, Lieuts. JAMES H. NICHOLSON, Madison; LAWSON S. RENTZ, Ray City.

He was listed on the Roster of Officers of the Office of the Surgeon, Port of Embarkation, at Midnight, October 31, 1918:  Rentz, Lawson S.- first lieutenant, Medical Corp.

 The men of the Embarkation Service, from Major Gen. Shanks and Brigadier Gen. McManus down to the soldiers who guard the gates to the piers, are slow to admit that they have played a great part in the war, but they cheerfully admit that they got no nearer the fighting front than the gangway of a transport.

“The work had to be done by somebody, I suppose,” said Captain King W. Snell, aide to Gen. McManus, who is troop movement officer. “Otherwise the 1.795.411 officers, men and nurses shipped to France by the Embarkation Service might still be waiting for transportation. But hell, who wants to be interned in Hoboken when the main show is three or four thousand miles away? It was like standing outside the big tent and punching tickets to a three-ringed circus. We worked like dogs and never got a chance to see the main performance.”

 The war record of the Embarkation Service is something one seldom hears about. The names of its members seldom got into the papers, they never killed Germans, no brilliant war medals dangled from their obscure bosoms and they wore silver chevrons.

The silver chevrons denoted service on American soil. Gold chevrons were for men who served overseas, worn on the left cuff to denote overseas service, or on the right to indicate a wound or gassing received in combat.  For many who did stateside service the silver chevrons became a badge of shame.

Captain Albert L. Stillman expressed the diffidence in a poem published in the New York Times on January 2, 1919:

 “Darling, here’s your warrior bold!
Silver stripes instead of gold
Shine upon his sleeve today
‘Cause he couldn’t sail away.”

“But, my darling, don’t you bleat-
No one thinks you have cold feet!
Y’ had to do as you were told-
Silver stripes instead of gold”

Silver stripes notwithstanding,  after the war Lieutentant Rentz returned home to Ray City, Georgia to become Doctor Rentz. According to the 1920 census, Dr. Lawson S. Rentz purchased a home on Main Street, Ray City, GA  and joined the Medical Men of Ray’s Mill. His neighbors were Carlos C. Allen and G. Perry Swindle. Lawson’s brother, Dr. William Carl Rentz had a medical practice in Nashville, GA.

Lawson Rentz put his hat in the ring to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Ray City School, but was not elected to the position.

The Nashville Herald,
January 9, 1920

Local News

      The election for school trustees at Ray City occurred Monday, and resulted as follows:  R.D. Swindle, 71; Dr. H.W. Clements, 71; J.J. Parks, 69.  W.M. Creech holds over, and together with the foregoing gentlemen, will compose the Board of Trustees for the ensuing year.  Joe Parrish received 5 votes, J.H. Swindle 13 and Dr. Rentz 18.  This election probably settles the school fight in that growing little city.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

In 1923, Dr. Rentz was still practicing medicine in Ray City and his brother, Dr. W.C. Rentz was still in Nashville.

News Items from Ray City

Nashville Herald, Feb 8, 1923

Mrs. J.H. Swindle and Mrs. L. S. Rentz have been constantly at the bedside of their little niece, Hilca Sykes of Nashville who has been very ill for the past week. However, we are glad to say she is much improved.

Dr. Lawson Rentz and his brother Dr. William Carl Rentz  later relocated their families to  Dade County, Florida.

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