Henry Elmo DeLaney, Survivor of the H.M.S. Otranto Disaster

Grave of Henry Elmo DeLaney, City Cemetery, Nashville, GA. Image source: Searcher

Henry Elmo DeLaney, of Berrien County, GA, was among the WWI soldiers aboard the troop transport HMS Otranto on October 6, 1918 when it was fatally damaged in a collision with the HMS Kashmir off the coast of Islay, Scotland. The transport had sailed from New York on September 25, 1918 carrying more than 1,025 American soldiers and crewmen as part of a convoy headed for the fight in Europe. Delaney and most of the Georgia soldiers aboard the Otranto had trained at Fort Screven on Tybee Island, GA.

Delaney was below decks, just finishing breakfast when the collision occurred.

The seriousness of the situation was not immediately apparent to the men, who were told to remain where they were.  But within 15 minutes, every was ordered to go up on deck. The  ship was beginning to list, and the lights went out. The men emerged into a gale force wind and the footing was treacherous on the wet decks. Henry Elmo DeLaney emerged on the “B” deck with other men of his company and took a seat on a bench near the hatch.  He was seated next to Joseph Eden Hewell, a soldier from Woodville, GA when they observed the British destroyer HMS Mounsey coming along side the Otranto,  the destroyer looking tiny in comparison to the huge troopship.

♦ ♦ ♦

When the destroyer maneuvered to get alongside, Capt. Davidson of the Otranto warned Lieut. Craven, commanding the destroyer, not to make the attempt. When it was seen that Craven would make the attempt anyway, The men were ordered to remove their shoes and heavy clothing…

♦ ♦ ♦

Captain Craven, standing on the Mounsey’s bridge as the two ships came within leaping distance, used his megaphone to encourage the men on the Otranto. He shouted over and again, as loudly as he could, “Jump men! Jump.”

♦ ♦ ♦

” As the Mounsey neared the side of the Otranto the men began to jump from thirty to forty feet from her decks…many of the men leaped too quickly and missed their reckoning and dropped between the boats. Some of these disappeared in the water, but others of them were caught and crushed to death between the boats and the lifeboats which had been lowered to act as buffers…Many of those who reached the decks of the vessel suffered broken bones or otherwise were hurt. Those who missed the deck of the destroyer went to almost instant death.

Delaney and Hewell stood at the rails of the doomed Otranto, and watched as their fellow soldiers leaped for their lives.

Delaney observed they had better jump, too. The rough seas were crashing the ships together and men who lept with ill-timing were crushed between the hulls or plunged through to the frigid waters below. First DeLaney then Hewell managed a safe landing on the deck of the destroyer, and were taken to Belfast, Ireland along with nearly 600 other survivors. Hundreds of others stayed behind with the Otranto and went down with the ship when she broke up on the rocks off the Isle of Islay.  Hewell later wrote a journal about the final voyage of the Otranto (see Hewell’s 1918 Journal.)

The overloaded Mounsey precariously made way with the survivors to Belfast, Ireland where the American Red Cross was  waiting for their arrival. Not knowing when or where the disaster would come, The American Red Cross had prepared in advance for disaster.  Of those who succeeded in leaping to the deck of Mounsey, some perished from injuries or exposure and were buried in Belfast, Ireland.

Many, many bodies washed ashore on Islay, Scotland and were buried in mass graves. Berrien men among the hundreds of Otranto dead  included  Benjamin F. McCranieJim Melvin BoyettJohn Guy CoppageHiram Marcus BennettLafayett Gaskins,  William C. Zeigler and other men.  Early Steward of Nashville, GA was among the very few who washed up on the rocky coast of Islay still living.   The lost Georgian soldiers would later be honored in the Georgia WWI Memorial Book, (SEE Also Ray City, GA Veterans of World War I), and Berrien County, GA would commission the first monument to commemorate American soldiers killed in the Great War.

After recuperation, Henry Elmo DeLaney was sent on to France where he was assigned on December 3, 1918 to Battery F, 57th Artillery, Coastal Artillery Corps.

WWI service record of Henry Elmo Delaney

WWI service record of Henry Elmo Delaney

Battery F, which had seen heavy fighting in the Meuse Argonne, had been “ordered back to Brest, France to prepare for embarkation back to America.

1st Lt. Charles J. Foley, of the 57th Artillery reflected :

All operations having ceased, we were assigned to Doulevant to prepare for our return home. Property affairs were settled and the regiment proceeded to the camp at Brest for Embarkation. It might be well to state that we knew of no other ports from which we would prefer to sail, but not desiring to disappoint the A.E.F. officials by selecting any other route, we accepted their invitation and submerged ourselves in the mud of camp Pontenazen.

Camp Pontanezen was most likely where Henry Elmo DeLaney caught up with the 57th Artillery CAC. Camp Pontanezen  at Brest, France, was the point from which American soldiers were returned to the United States. Sergeant James L. Grace, Battery D,  57th Artillery CAC called Pontanezen “ a camp of mud and water. We were put into tents; where we remained until the 29th of December; 1918.

WWI Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France

WWI Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France

CAMP AT BREST

        Here we have a great port of embarkation for American soldiers. At times 80,000 men were camped there, the harbor crowded with shipping. In the early months after we entered the war, when everything had to be done with a rush and we were new to the job, conditions were very bad at Brest. As we see, it is a dismal, unattractive spot, cluttered with buildings, railway spurs, and raw, stark barracks. It rains most of the year at Brest, and the roads, firm underneath, are coated with slippery, semi-fluid mud which endless lines of motor trucks whirl viciously to every side. There is nothing to see but dismal wet barracks or soaked the bedraggled tents. At first, thousands of our boys had to camp in these tents, sleep on the damp ground, wade interminably through thick, sticky mud. One who had the misfortune to be at Brest in those days will never forget the place.
       But American energy and enterprise transformed Brest before the war ended. Enough barracks were built to accommodate everybody, board walks were laid everywhere. The camp was made as comfortable as a camp could be in such a moist climate.
       Brest is at the head of a magnificent, landlocked bay on the northwest coast of France. For centuries it has been a great port, Richelieu, in 1631, constructed the first wharves that were built there. It is the capital of one of the five naval arrondissements of France. There are gun factories, great workshops, magazines, docks and yards, employing thousands of men.

From the docks at Brest, the men were ferried by lighters out to the waiting troop transport USS Huntington.

Troops on board the lighter Amackassin, waiting to board Huntington for their passage home from France, 1919.

Troops on board the lighter Amackassin, waiting to board Huntington for their passage home from France, 1919.

 

US Naval History photo of the USS Hunting underway, circa 1919. The cruiser USS Huntington was converted to a troop transport following the signing of the Amistice ending WWI.

US Naval History photo of the USS Hunting underway, circa 1919. The cruiser USS Huntington was converted to a troop transport following the signing of the Armistice ending WWI.

The regiment embarked from Brest for New York on January 2nd, 1919, on the United States Cruiser “Huntington.” The Huntington had served on escort duty to defend convoys of transports ferrying the dough boys to Europe.

After the Armistice was signed Huntington was converted into a troop transport and assigned to Transport Force, Atlantic Fleet.  Huntington next sailed for France to bring home veterans of the European fighting. She departed New York 17 December, arrived in the harbor at Brest, France on 29 December 1918. On 2 January 1919 she embarked over 1,700 passengers the bulk of which was the 57th Artillery who had seen much action while in France, to New York [arriving] 14 January.

 

Devine services on USS Huntington's quarterdeck, while transporting troops in 1919. Henry Elmo Delaney and the other soldiers of the 57th Artillery CAC were among the first contingent of troops to be transported home by the Huntington.

Divine services on USS Huntington’s quarterdeck, while transporting troops in 1919.

The cruiser USS Huntington was converted to a troop transport following the signing of the Amistice ending WWI. Henry Elmo DeLaney, of Berrien County, GA, was among the 1,700 passengers on her first voyage as a transport returning from France. The ship made five more voyages to France and return, bringing home nearly 12,000 troops, and terminated her last voyage at Boston 5 July 1919.

Henry Elmo DeLaney, of Berrien County, GA, was among the 1,700 passengers on Huntington‘s first voyage as a transport returning from France, January 1919. The ship made five more voyages to France and return, bringing home nearly 12,000 troops, and terminated her last voyage at Boston 5 July 1919.

Delaney’s voyage back from France was uneventful with only two days rough seas and the usual amount of seasickness among the troops of the 57th Artillery CAC. Lieutenant Foley observed, “As we caught the first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and heard the shouts from the Mayor’s Committee of Welcome we decided that there is but one country on the face of this earth-The United States Of America.”

Hoboken, NJ welcome committee greets WWI troops returning from France.

Sergeant Grace recalled,

 We arrived safely the morning of the 14th of January; 1919; docking at 9:35 A. M. at Pier 5 Hoboken, N. J. We immediately disembarked and entrained for Camp Merritt; N. J.;

Americans glad to be home - awaiting trains for demobilization camp, Hoboken. This is the WWI Port of Embarkation now serving as the Port of Debarkation. U.S. Army soldiers are waiting to board a train. The men are just east of the Headquarters, apparently between piers 3 and 4.

Americans glad to be home – awaiting trains for demobilization camp, Hoboken. This is the WWI Port of Embarkation now serving as the Port of Debarkation. U.S. Army soldiers are waiting to board a train. The men are just east of the Headquarters, apparently between piers 3 and 4.

These Americans, thousands of them, standing about holding aluminum drinking cups are waiting for their first meal on United States soil after a period of overseas service. Their packs are lying on the ground, all of them made up in the regulation fashion but for the present discarded until the much more “important” business of eating is over.

Behind that freight car which is being loaded with regimental baggage, you can see the Military Post Office of Hoboken and the low building next to it is the office of Headquarters, Port of Embarkation.

The building on the top of the hill is one of the Stevens Institute group, and beneath it you can see the side of the Hudson Hut, one of the Y.M.C.A. buildings that catered to the comfort and needs of the men just returned from overseas.

Before the Armistice only 15,000 men had been returned home, and a constant stream of men had been going overseas. The condition had to be reversed after the Armistice. This work of bringing back the men was carried on very expeditiously and in three months’ time more men had been brought back and mustered out of the service than the entire number mustered out after the Civil War.

 

WWI soldiers home from France arriving at Camp Merritt, NJ

WWI soldiers home from France arriving at Camp Merritt, NJ

Sergeant Grace continued,

Arriving there [Camp Merritt] at 2:30 P. M. and going into barracks for the time being. At 3:30 P. M. dinner was served and at 7:10 supper was served and at 8:50 P. M.  we went to the delousing station and all hands were deloused; and God knows we needed it. Delousing process completed about ten o’clock and we turned in for a much needed rest.

A few weeks later Battery “F” was demobilized at Fort Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

After discharge, Henry Elmo DeLaney returned to South Georgia.  In February, The Sparks Eagle reported he was taking up his previous position with the railroad.

The Sparks Eagle reports the homecoming of Henry Elmo Delaney.

The Sparks Eagle reports the homecoming of Henry Elmo Delaney.

By 1920, Henry Elmo DeLaney had relocated his family to Willacoochee where he continued to work as section foreman for the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The DeLaneys made their home on South Railroad Street.

By the 1930s, the DeLaneys moved to West Palm Beach, FL where Henry worked as a railroad inspector.

 

May 27, 1937 death certificate of Henry Elmo Delaney, survivor of the Otranto disaster of 1918.

May 27, 1937 death certificate of Henry Elmo Delaney, survivor of the Otranto disaster of 1918.

Henry Elmo Delaney died of a stroke on May 27, 1937 at age 43. In death he returned to Berrien County, GA. He was buried Sunday, May 30, 1937 in the City Cemetery at Nashville, GA.

Obituary of Henry Elmo Delaney, SFB, June 3, 1937

Impressive funeral services for Mr. Henry Elmo Delaney, 42, were held last Sunday afternoon from the Nashville Methodist Church, conducted by the Rev. J.A. Rountree in the presence of a large number of relatives and a number of local people. The speaker paid a nice tribute to the deceased and impressed those present. Interment followed in the City Cemetery, with the Giddens Funeral Home in charge of the arrangements. Pallbearers were legionnaires members of Otranto Post and were as follows: Messrs J.R. Bennett, O.L. Tyson, Gus C. Vining, Buren Griner, A.E. Alexander and Mark Sutton. Mr. Delaney passed away Thursday morning in the Veterans hospital in Augusta, where he had been confined for several months. The body arrived in Nashville Saturday afternoon and was carried to the home of Mr. & Mrs. S.J. McLendon, parents of his widow.

He was born and reared at Swainsboro, GA, the son of the late J.N. Delaney, who was an engineer on the Georgia and Florida Railroad for many years. His father was born and reared in Ireland and came to this country as a young man.

Twenty-three years ago he was married to Miss Rose McLendon, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. S.J. McLendon of Nashville. At that time the McLendons were residing at Swainsboro.

Surviving besides his widow are two sons, Elmo, Jr. and Jack, also a half sister, Gertrude Evans of Miami, Fla. There are also three cousins, Messrs John, Mark, and Tom Hall of Swainsboro. Out of town relatives attending the last sad rites included Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Dorsey of Augusta, Mr. & Mrs. J.A. McLendon, Mr. & Mrs. W.D. McLendon, Miss Mae McLendon and James Underwood of Swainsboro; Mr. & Mrs. A.H. Martin Vegue, Mr. & Mrs. Fred N. Tittle and Mr. & Mrs. Dave Hughes of Miami, Fl.; Mr. & Mrs. J.A. Coleman, Miss Frances Coleman, Mrs. Ben Gunner, Mr. Robert Moxley, Mr. & Mrs. Wade Moxley of Valdosta.

–Nashville Herald–

Related Posts:

Postmaster Hamilton W. Sharpe Takes Offense

Hamilton W. Sharpe

Hamilton W. Sharpe was a pioneer settler of Lowndes County and a contemporary of Levi J. Knight, who settled at the site of Ray City.  The two fought together in July, 1836 actions against Indians which occurred in this immediate area including the Battle of Brushy Creek and actions on Warrior Creek  in what was then Lowndes County (now Berrien and Cook counties,) Georgia.

Sharpe first came to Lowndes via the Coffee Road:

As has been discussed, one of the first roads of any kind to be constructed through south Georgia  was the Coffee Road, built by General John Coffee in 1823.  It was a “road” only in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.   

One of General Coffee’s overseers in the laying out of the road was Enoch Hall, a son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall.  The Halls were among the very first settlers in the area of Irwin County that became Lowndes county by an act of the Georgia Legislature, December 23, 1825. At July , 1824 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court July term, 1824, Sion Hall, James Allen, and Thomas Townsend were appointed to lay out a road from Ocmulgee River to Alapaha River.

Sion Hall established a tavern on the Coffee Road, about two miles north of present day town of Morven,GA and his brother, John Hall, operated a liquor bar there.

In 1826, Hamilton W. Sharpe, then a young man hardly in his twenties, came down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home and traveler’s inn of Sion Hall.  It was at Hall’s Inn that the first court in Lowndes County was held a few months afterwards.  Sharpe along with others expected that the permanent county-seat would be established there.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home.    Thus, Hall’s Inn and Sharpe’s Store  were situated approximately 25 miles southwest of present day  Ray City, GAthe site first settled by the Knight family in the winter of 1826.

In 1828, Hamilton W. Sharpe obtained the establishment of a U. S. Post Office at his store, for which he was appointed Postmaster.  The Sharpe’s Store Post Office served Wiregrass Pioneers for almost 25 years.

<strong>Post marked Sharpe's Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.</strong><br />The Sharpe's Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the

Post marked Sharpe’s Store, Geo., September 29, 1849.
The Sharpe’s Store Post Office in Lowndes County (now Brooks County) opened from 1828 to 1853 (In 1836 it was briefly known as Magnum Post Office). This letter written by Douglas Graham, was addressed to his cousin, Jno A Brooks Esq, PM in Rockford, Alabama. It was originally rated Free but rerated to 10 cents due. The contents of the letter mention that Graham is interested in information about his ancestors and says he will write a long letter containing what he knows. Graham comments on the “Whig Rascals” in Alabama, and on the politics of Georgia. Of the men running for Governor he wrote: “Judge [Edward] Hill probably drinks no more liquor than Towns though he has been called a horrid drunkard.” (George W. Towns won by aggressively endorsing “southern rights” and playing to fears about Congressional interference with slavery.)

 

In December of 1846, Hamilton Sharpe responded to a letter to the editor published in the Savannah Daily Republican, written by a subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes County, GA. Okapilco was on the mail route from Franklinville via Sharpe’s Store to Bainbridge, GA. Without naming names, this subscriber appeared to be complaining about the way Postmaster Sharpe charged postage due on the mail, the selection of mail routes, the infrequency and irregularity of the mail service, even the quality of the conveyance by which the mail was delivered. To these criticisms Hamilton Sharpe took great offense, and his written, point-by-point response was in turn published in the Republican, transcript below.

Sharpe's Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, December 28, 1846

Sharpe’s Store, Dec. 28, 1846.

Messrs. Editors. – My attention has been called by a friend, to a letter in the Republican of the 9th inst., from a correspondent of yours, writing from “Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” over the signature of a “Subscriber.”

I notice the letter, first; because therein is an evident intention to censure some Post Master in this vicinity and secondly, because the writer has made statements which are not facts.  The writer says, “we are now, (a recent thing,) charged ten cents on single letters from your city, and though these letters are originally stamped five vents, by the Post-Master at Savannah, &c., yet on their arrival in this county, an additional five cents is placed over the original by some little powers that be, &c.” Now if your “Subscriber” intends this as a charge against this office, I flatly deny the fact, and will appeal to the way-bills from Savannah, and the Post-Master at that place to sustain me.  If a letter is received from Savannah at this office, charged with five cents only, I feel myself bound, in the discharge of my official duty, to mark the letter “under charged,” and add an additional five cents, which I may have done, but as to “placing an additional five cents over the original,” it is not allowed by this “little power that be.”

Again, he says “there are two routes from Savannah, one via Darien not over two hundred miles.” He must be very ignorant of the rout over which the mail travels “via Darien,” or he would not risk his love of truth in such a glaring assertion.  It had not even been a doubt in my mind whether it is not more than three hundred miles from this to Savannah even by the route via Darien; but as I had no means of ascertaining the precise distance, I was disposed, if I erred at all, to err on the side of the public, and consequently charged five cents on all letters not exceeding half an ounce in weight, until by general consent (“Subscriber” exempted, I suppose,) the mail was changed on the other route, which every body knows to be four hundred miles and upwards.

In 1845, I corresponded with Mr. Schley, the Post-Master, in Savannah, on this subject – a gentleman whom I have ever considered as worthy of the confidence of the public – and I am persuaded that he has said in good faith in discharge of his duty, and will not deny but what his way-bills, are invariably, since the change was made in the rout, charged ten cents on all letters from his office to this.

This gentleman, the “Subscriber” from “Okapilco,” whoever he is, seems to be very censorious. He wants the mail oftener, &c., and who does not? But how are we to get it, by writing to you a letter of censure and compalints, embellished with a few of his little “cat’s paw” flourishes of wit, implicating the conduct of Post-Masters, in the discharge of their official duty?  If this is the way we are to get a change in our mail arrangements, it will present a new aspect to matters and things in the Post Office Department, and besides he will not get many to follow in his walks.  But let him go to work at the right place, instead of censuring the “little powers that be” – let him supplicate the law-making power, and his course will be considered by all to be more open and generous at least, and no doubt he will gain the co-operation and influence of the community at large.

Why arraign the Post-Master General in this matter – we have as many mails now as we had under former Administrations, and get them as regular, and there is as few complaints, and as few causes of complaints.  Perhaps “Subscriber” wants a mail route established for his own especial benefit, twice or thrice a week, and then he would be “blest by the light spreading influence emanating from Cave Johnson’s Express,” sure enough.

What does “Subscriber” means by the “news carrying quadruped” – is it the contractor, the old sulky, the old gray horse that draws the sulky, or little Barney who rides and drives?  I am sure little Barney is a faithful little soul to his business, and as often as the old gray has failed, he has as often obtained a substitute – and where is the cause for this notorious letter from “Subscriber.”

I am at a loss, Messrs. Editors, to know which looks the worst to a man “up a tree,” “little men in big places,” or big men in little places. If “Subscriber” is acquainted with “Euclyd,” perhaps he may solve the question himself. Does “Subscriber” know what the new Post Office law is, with regard to this matter? If he does not, he had better inform himself on the subject. It is found on the first page of the new “Post Office Laws and Regulations,” beginning with the first clause, and if he cannot understand its mystifications, let him employ a lawyer.

I will now take leave of your “Subscriber from Okapilco, Lowndes Co., Ga.,” who, it seems, would seek some notoriety at other men’s expense, but who is very careful to conceal his real name.

HAMILTON W. SHARPE.

Related Posts:

Magnum Post Office Briefly Served Pioneers of Old Berrien

Lowndes County, GA,  1839

After south Georgia was first opened to settlers in the 1820s, the federal government established post offices to serve the pioneers.  But for many years, the  Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers were few and far between.

As of 1836 there were only two post offices in all of Lowndes County, GA, an area which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties. These post offices are shown on the 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.

In 1836 area settlers traveled to post mail either at the county court house at Franklinville, GA, or at a post office on the Coffee Road which existed only briefly in Lowndes County. Contemporary accounts give the name of this post office as Mangum, although the 1839 Burr postal map, the official U. S. Postal Service Record of Appointment of Postmasters, and List of the Post-Offices in the United States give the name as Magnum.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes.

1839 map of Lowndes County, GA showing post offices and stagecoach routes. (Detail of 1839 Map of Georgia & Alabama exhibiting the post offices, post roads, canals, rail roads & c.; by David H. Burr (Late topographer to the Post Office), Geographer to the House of Representatives of the U.S.).

Actually, the Burr map was out of date by the time it was published in London in 1839.

In 1836, the Franklinville post office was located near  the Withlacoochee River about 10 miles southwest of the homestead of Levi J. Knight at Beaverdam Creek (now the site of Ray City, GA).  But in 1837 this post office was transferred another 12 miles farther southeast to Troupville, GA when the county seat was relocated to the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers.

The Magnum post office, as shown on the 1839 Burr map, was situated  another 15 miles to the west of Franklinville, GA.  Prior t0 1836 it was been known as the Sharpe’s Store post office, where Hamilton Sharpe served as postmaster and operated his country store on the Coffee Road. Sharpe, who had become busily engaged with politics and with the Indian Wars, stepped down as post master in 1836. The Sharpe’s Store post office was renamed Magnum post office, and John Hall, Sr. took over as postmaster effective April 1, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

Milledgeville Federal Union, Apr. 28, 1836.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
April 28, 1836

THE POST-OFFICE, at “Sharpe’s Store” Lowndes county, Georgia, has changed its name to that of Mangum and John Hall Esq. has been appointed postmaster.

Postmaster John Hall, Sr. was a brother of Sion Hall.  Sion Hall, one of the very earliest settlers of Lowndes (now Brooks) county, had established a tavern on the Coffee Road about 1823.   Sharpe’s Store had opened about four years later near Hall’s Inn, which served as the first site of Superior Court meetings in Lowndes County.

The Magnum, or Mangum, Post Office was short-lived, though. Postal records show that on January 28, 1837 the name reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton Sharpe resumed as post master. Sharpe served as postmaster until 1848, and the Sharpe’s Store Post Office continued under other postmasters until closing in 1853.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum  and Sharpe's Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

1836-37 Postmasters at Magnum and Sharpe’s Store Post Offices, from official Records of Appointment of U. S. Postmasters.

After the post office moved from Franklinville to Troupville in 1837, the Knight’s and other early settlers of the Ray City area had a round trip of about 44 miles to get their mail.  The round trip to  the post office at Sharpe’s Store was about 50 miles, although it was may have been on the better travel route via the Coffee Road. But for the Knights, the bustling town of Troupville, with its social happeningstravelers and ramblers, commerce and trade, religion and  politics, court proceedings, legal affairsamusements, hotels and inns, was undoubtedly the preferred destination. On the other hand, Hamilton W. Sharpe, like Levi J. Knight, was a political and military leader of Lowndes County, and the two are known to have had frequent associations.

Related Posts:

Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers

EARLY POSTAL SERVICE

In was not until after the Civil War that mail service  at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available.  But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back more than 185 years.

Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient.  When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier.   A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier.   Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.

But, in 1825  no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill  nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.

McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on  March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.  Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road”  in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.  Officially,    McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”

The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3

The McCranie Family

Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information.  It was at his home there that the first post office in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826.  The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’  which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster.  The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.

1830 Georgia map detail - original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

1830 Georgia map detail – original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

SHARPE’S STORE POST OFFICE
The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828 announced that Hamilton W. Sharpe had opened a post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe's Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 17, 1828

A Post Office has been recently established at Sharpe’s Store, in Lowndes county, Geo. on the route from Telfair Courthouse to Tallahassee – Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq. P.M.

Hamilton W. Sharpe served as Postmaster at Sharpe’s Store until 1836.  At that time the name of the post office was briefly changed to Magnum Post Office, with John Hall appointed as Postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, having been selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near  the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of  Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)

…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’  On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

Postmaster Smith’s annual salary in 1831 was $16.67.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

    There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house.  It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location.  The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River.  It was named ‘Lowndesville.”  The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”

Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there.  Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.

By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)

 CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:

***

In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.

***

Approved July 2, 1836

This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.

Detail of J.H. Young's 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of J.H. Young’s 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of Burr's 1839 map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

Detail of Burr’s 1839 postal map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat  yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel E. Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA and reporting Indian activity in the area. Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a militia leader in the 1836-1842 Indian Wars in Lowndes County, GA.

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA had franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA hand franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville inconvenienced many residents of north Lowndes county, possibly prompting the resumption of postal service at Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road.  The name of Magnum Post Office reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton W. Sharpe was again Postmaster.

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe's Store. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, Lowndes County, GA. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837.

Unfortunately,  Sharpe’s Store was even farther distant from Beaverdam Creek;  the Knights, Clements, and their neighbors were left with a forty mile round trip to Troupville fetch the mail.  Sharpe himself served as Postmaster 1837 to 1848.  James Perry took over as Postmaster at Sharpe’s store from 14 December, 1848 to 16 August, 1849, when Sharpe returned to the position. John G. Polhill took the position 5 July, 1850, and Norman Campbell took over 21 August, 1850 to 21 July 1853 when the post office was moved to Morven, GA.

By 1838, Postmaster William Smith at Troupville was receiving weekly mail via routes from Waresboro and Bainbridge, and from San Pedro, Madison County, FL. In 1847 weekly mail was coming and going from Irwinville and Bainbridge, GA, and from Madison, FL.  William Smith continued as the Troupville Postmaster until  October 30, 1848 when attorney Henry J. Stewart took over.  On  August 16, 1849 William Smith resumed as Postmaster at Troupville.

Weekly service extended in 1851 to Waresboro, Albany and Irwinville, and to Columbus, FL.

Travel in the South in the 1830s

Travel in the South in the 1830s

 ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.  Weekly mail service berween Waresboro or Waynesville and Troupville came by Allapaha.

Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)

Benjamin Sermons Postmaster 06/27/1838
Isaac D. Hutto Postmaster 05/03/1841
James S. Harris Postmaster 03/05/1842
Samuel H. Harris Postmaster 09/12/1846
Peter Munford Postmaster 01/28/1848
James S. Harris Postmaster 02/09/1849
Andrew J. Liles Postmaster 11/27/1849

While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.

FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early  Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves.  “At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…”   The J. H. Colton Map of Georgia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River now known as Ten Mile Creek. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).

HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.

STAR ROUTES
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.”   Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible  by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach.  On March 3, 1845 Congress  established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation.  These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.”  In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.

NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.”  In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.

CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.”  The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.

RAY CITY POST OFFICE

After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA.  The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.

Related Posts: