In 1934 Ray City was ‘Noted Section’ of Berrien County

Ray City began 1934 on an optimistic note.  A “booster” story from the Nashville Herald praised the farming, education, churches, municipal government, roads and businesses of Ray City.

The Nashville Herald, 
January 25, 1934, Pg 1

RAY CITY IS NOTED SECTION

Excellent Community of Berrien County and South Georgia – Fine Farming Section

In writing about different communities of Berrien County it is next to impossible to neglect the city of Ray City and the large farming territory surrounding it.  The Ray City section constitutes the southern portion of Berrien County, where extensive farm operations are carried on during every month of the year in all lines of endeavor.

The trading point is the city of Ray City, just ten miles south of Nashville, the county seat.  It has a population of around 500 people, all of whom are industrious and hospitable, with fine schools, churches and live wire merchants.  There is no better place in south Georgia to live than Ray City.

The farming population surrounding Ray City constitute an industrious and progressive people.  To a certain measure they are prosperous, because everything to be raised on a farm can be grown on their fertile lands, and each year their products find ready markets, returning to them cash in abundance.  The section is noted for its fine tobacco and cotton lands and is a hog and cattle raising territory of excellent possibilities.

The city of Ray City affords every convenience and comfort for the citizens of the community.  There is a fine school system, which is under the capable and efficient supervision of Prof. P. M. Shultz.  Prof. Ulmer Crosby is principal, and the other teachers are:  Mrs. P. M. Shultz, Miss Jessie Aycock, Mrs. A.B. Baskins, Miss Lillian Ford and Mrs. Eulalie Dickson.

The school has nine grades, with an enrollment of a few over the two hundred mark.  A number of fine students complete the school each year, advancing to higher institutions of learning.  The school system in Ray City is really a big asset, (illegible) a higher type of citizenry.

The school board is composed of the following gentlemen who handle their duties in a most admirable manner and of benefit to patrons and students combined.  H.A. Swindle, chairman, M.A. Studstill, sec.-treasl., C.H. Vickers, J.M. Studstill and W.M. Creech, members.

Ray City is not short either along the spiritual line, having four active churches as follows:  Baptist, Rev. Walter Branch, pastor; Methodist, Rev. F.A. Ratcliffe, pastor; Primitive Baptist, Elder C.H. Vickers, pastor; Christian, supply pastor.  The Baptist and Methodist churches conduct Sunday Schools, and young people’s organizations.

The affairs of the city of Ray City are in the hands of men who apparently have the united support of the people, as the entire body was recently re-elected to office.  J. H. Swindle is mayor, and the councilmen are:  G.V. Hardie, Y.F. Carter, H.P. Clements and W.M. Creech.

The standing committees for the year 1934 are:  Water and lights, G.V. Hardie and Y.F. Carter; Street, W.M. Creech and H.P. Clements; Sanitary, entire city council.

In questioning the mayor, Mr. J. H. Swindle, he stated that the city enjoyed a very good administration the past year, and that 1934 was begun with the city in much better financial condition than a year ago.

Ray City is soon to enjoy one of the best highway outlets of any small city in south Georgia.  It is located on Route No. 11, the short route into Florida from Atlanta.  This highway has been recently graded for paving and at some future date this work will be a reality.  Other good roads lead out in all directions as well.  It is located on the Georgia and Florida railroad, and is one of the railroad’s most important shipping points.  Mr. T.W. Thompson is the G. & F. Agent, having served in that capacity for a long number of years.

The postmistress is Mrs. J. F. Fountain, and the rural mail carriers are James Grissett and L.A. McDonald.

There are also several industries which add to the progressiveness of the town and community.

The Ray City Ice & Storage Company, of which Mr. D.T. Sharpe is manager, serves a wide territory.  At present this concern has on storage over 100,000 pounds of meat being cured for farmers.

The Y.F. Carter Naval Stores concern is the largest firm in the community, where approximately fifty men are given employment.  This firm operates over ten crops of boxes, the leases affording additional revenue for landowners.  It has been in operation for about eighteen years.

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.

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.

Mrs. R.N. Warr is owner of old Ray Pond, famous for its fishing for the past hundred years.  Mrs. Warr acquired the pond about two years ago, and since has created a good income out of the sale of minnows, pond plants, frogs, and tadpoles.  The pond covers an area of approximately 4,000 acres.

Among Ray City’s most enterprising merchants are:  Swindle & Clements, B. Ridgell Jones Drug Store, Purvis Grocery Store, Weeks Grocery Store, Hardie Filling Station, South Georgia Oil Company, Bradford Barber Shop, Putnell Barber Shop, Swain Garage, Woodward Blacksmith Shop, Griner Corn Mill and others.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Related posts:

James Henry Swindle ~ Businessman and Public Servant

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.

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Attack of the Yeggmen

In the first half of the 20th Century, stories of Yeggmen  and their explosive work abounded in the media, even in rural South Georgia.   The famous detective, William Pinkerton, was a expert on the “The Yeggman” and published professional articles on the subject.

The Yeggman, by William Pinkerton.

The Yeggman, by William Pinkerton.

On December 6, 1921 the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the attack in Ray City. Postmaster at the time was James “Joel” F. Fountain.

Ray City, GA post office wrecked by dynamite. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 6, 1921.

Ray City, GA post office wrecked by dynamite. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 6, 1921.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Dec 6, 1921

RAY CITY POST OFFICE
WRECKED BY DYNAMITE

As a result of dynamiting by yeggmen, the post office in Ray City, Ga., in Berrien County, was almost totally wrecked Sunday night, according to word received Monday morning. Immediately, inspectors were assigned to investigate the case by Louis A. Johnson, inspector in charge. No word was received as to the extent of the loot secured.

The followup on December 8th reported the safecrackers were still at large.

The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprised reported on the Ray City Post Office robbery, December 8, 1921

The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprised reported on the Ray City Post Office robbery, December 8, 1921

Thomasville Daily Times Enterprise
December 8, 1921

Live News From Towns in South Georgia

No Clue To Robbers Of Post Office At Ray City

Valdosta, Ga., Dec 8. – Although post office inspectors have been at work on the case continuously, no clue has been found in connection with the robbery of the post office at Ray City, when the safe was blown by a high explosive on Monday night.  Only a small amount of mony was secured, but several blank money order books and other records were taken.  These are only valuable to the post office and worthless to the robbers.  The building was entered by means of a crowbar and the high explosive used blew the door from the safe and broke all the windows in the building.

Attack of the Yeggmen

The Argot of the Vagabond,
by Charlie Samolar, published in American Speech, 1927, by the American Dialect Society, Duke University Press:

The bluebird sings by the lemonade springs in the rock-candy mountains …

From a Vagabond Ditty.

A few of the words used in the early days of vagabondage in this country have undoubtedly been handed down to the present, but it is difficult to segregate them, as the old-timers are surly or short-memoried and the vag leaves practically no literature. The word drill, a relic of the Civil War, is still in use; it means “to hike.” Counting ties and beating trains, now well-know phrases, probably originated in the days of young railroads.

Hobo gang-life in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century produced a great many terms, but most of them are now archaic, having passed out of use with the death of the gang-form. A few, however, should be mentioned. A yegg was a burglar who travelled by beating trains. The word is supposed to be derived from “John Yegg,” who is said to have been the first safe-cracker to use nitro-glycerine as an adjunct to the prosecution of his art. A gang of yeggs was generally known as the folks. Sometimes, they were called the Johnson Boys, from the “Johnson-bar,” the reverse lever of the locomotive of those days; yeggs used a tool somewhat similar to it. Any kind of a gang was known as a push, a word credited to Australia, but I think it is a sister of the mob of the city underworld. An obie, or O.B. was a post-office. O.B., I believe, is P.O. reversed with the P. made into a B. The yegg pushes specialized in obies for two reasons; they were easily broken into and Federal big-houses were more comfortable than state penal institutions. Handing the match was a custom practiced by pushes in their open-air hang-outs. The intruding stranger was handed a match, which signified: “Go and build your own fire.” This was always done when a job was being hatched or when one of the folks was making soup (nitro-glycerine). A uniformed officer, now termed a harness-bull, was called a finger, from his itching desire to get his fingers on one. A plainclothesman, now called a fly-dick, was an elbow, from his way of elbowing through a crowd when he saw someone he wished to keep in sight. A lighthouse was a vag who knew all the ropes in a particular territory and tipped off the visiting vag regarding rocks and shoals. A light-piece, still used, but rarely, was a piece of silver money; probably because of its color. Stamps was, at one time, a name for money, yeggs handled considerable quantities of stamps, part of the proceeds of obie jobs.

 

James F. Fountain ~ Postmaster & Pecan Planter

Earlier posts discussed the establishment of the post office in Ray City.  In the 1920s, the Ray City Postmaster was James F Fountain. Later his wife, Mamie E. Fountain, would serve as postmistress. (see Posting Mail at Ray City)James’ extended household included  his wife, as well as his parents, brother and sister, and nephew.  In 1920, James and Mamie did not have any children of their own.

In addition to serving as Postmaster, James F.  Fountain was a farmer, living on a farm he owned free and clear, and farming it on his own account.  His wife was a public school teacher.  All the men in the family were farmers.

James F. Fountain was  one of the first to engage in pecan farming in Berrien County. Pecan trees are known to have been introduced in Georgia as early as 1872, grown from pecans sent from Texas.  They may have been grown here a decade earlier, as pecans are mentioned in a Civil War letter written by John Hagan, of Berrien County, dated June 2, 1862.  Hagan wrote to his wife, Amanda Roberts:

 “Give my respects to your Uncle Bryant J. Reoberts…Tel him I would like to heare how his little cob corn is doing. Also letter me know if Capt Martin has paid his cotoe [quota] of the precans [pecans] for introductsion.”

By 1909, 10,000 acres of pecan trees were being cultivated in southwest Georgia, and by the 1920s, pecan farms  were spreading into south central Georgia.

The following appeared in the Oct 1, 1923 edition of the Atlanta Constitution:

 Plan Pecan Nursery

Milltown, Ga., September 30.– (Special) — Dr. W. D. Simmons, of Milltown, and Postmaster J. F. Fountain, of Ray City, are planning to begin a pecan nursery on Dr. Simmons’ farm just west of town. They have recently visited nurseries at Thomasville, Blackshear, and other points. The pecan growing has become a lucrative business.