Notes on Sarah Malinda Clements

Sarah Malinda Clements (1862-1947)

Sarah Malinda Clements was born March 12, 1862 in Berrien County, GA. She was the youngest of 13 children born to David G. Clements and Gincey Sirmans.  She was a sister of Levi Jordan Clements, who was the patriarch of the Clements sawmill business at Ray City.

Sarah’s parents were pioneer settlers of the area. They were married in Lowndes County, GA on January 1, 1835.   Her father came with his parents to Lowndes County about 1832.  Her grandfather William Clements and William A. Knight had been neighbors in Wayne County, GA, and her aunt Anne Donald Clements had married Levi J. Knight in 1827. Her mother was  Gincey Sirmans, a daughter of Abner Sirmans and Bettie Kirkland. Abner Sirmans, his brothers, and father, Josiah Sirmans, were among the first permanent settlers of Clinch County, GA, having arrived there in 1822. Her aunt Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans married Etheldred Dryden Newbern, another pioneer settler of Berrien County.

Sarah’s father and both of her grandfathers, fought under the command of their friend and neighbor Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1836-1838.  David G. Clements, William Clements and Abner Sirmans all served with Captain Knight’s Independent Company. David Clements was among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Soon after marriage, David G. Clements acquired lot of land 406, 10th district, on which he lived and farmed until his death. He was cut into Berrien out of Lowndes County, 1856. In Berrien County, the Clements home place was in the 1144th Georgia Militia District just north of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

lot-470-471-maps-w-roads-ac

In 1854, Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Clements, married William Gaskins. The Clements were neighbors of William Gaskins, son of Fisher Gaskins.   The Gaskins were another of the early pioneer families of Berrien County.  William Gaskins came to the area with his father and brothers, John Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins, with their large herds of cattle,  about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek (site of present day Ray City, GA).

At the outset of the Civil War, Sarah’s father and brother, John C. Clements, answered the call of General Levi J. Knight to form a company of men for Confederate service; their names appear on an 1861 muster roll of the Berrien Minute Men.  John C. Clements served with Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment; David G. Clements later appears on the 1864 census of southern men who were excluded from the draft on account of age.

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

Sarah, born during the Civil War, grew up on her father’s farm during the Reconstruction period in Georgia.  She attended the local country schools and was educated through the 5th grade. It appears that she lived in her father’s home until his death in 1888.

Although  Sarah married twice, she was not lucky in love. She did not marry until the age of 36.

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

In the Census of 1880, 18-year-old Sarah Ann Clements was enumerated by Census taker Lacy Elias Lastinger in her father’s household. Also present was Sarah’s older sister Mary Ann, to whom she was devoted for life, and their siblings.  Next door were Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clements, and her husband William Gaskins. Also neighbors were William’s niece Mary Evelyn Gaskins and her husband George W. Fender.

On October 26, 1898 Sarah married William J. “Bill Jack” Knight.  He was born in 1860, but otherwise little is known of his history. The ceremony was performed by Albert Benjamin Surrency in Berrien County, GA.

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements and William J. Knight are enumerated together in the census of 1900 in their Rays Mill home. Sarah’s spinster sister, 59-year-old Mary Ann Clements, had also come to live in the Knight household.   Sarah’s brother, John C. Clements, and his family remained as neighbors, as did George W. Fender.

William and Sarah owned their farm near Ray’s Mill  free and clear of mortgage.  Only one offspring was born of this union, but the child died young.

William J. Knight died on January 22, 1909 at his home near Ray’s Mill, GA.

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

Information reached here Monday of the sudden death of Mr. “Bill Jack” Knight, a prominent resident of the Ray’s Mill district. Mr. Knight had been slightly indisposed for two or three days.  After eating a light supper Friday night as he was sitting at the fireside he suddenly fell over and died.  Mr. Knight was fifty years of age and was married about seven years ago to Miss Sarah Clements, of this place.  He was laid to rest at the Beaverdam burial grounds.  – Milltown News.

The widow Sarah Knight was enumerated (as Sarah Clements) in 1910 with her sister Mary Ann Clements in their home just east of Ray’s Mill.  They were neighbors of John B. Fountain and Frank Gallagher.

Some time before 1920 Sarah married for a second time, joining in matrimony with James W. Suggs.  He was from Dooly County, GA, a son of Malinda “Lynne” Proctor and Wright Suggs.

Sarah and James W. Suggs were enumerated together in the Census of 1920, at their farm on a settlement road near Ray’s Mill. Sarah’s sister and constant companion, Mary Ann Clements, resided with the Suggs.  On adjacent farms were Parnell Knight and Henry D. Bennett.

The 1926 Influenza epidemic reached its peach in Georgia in March;  1926 was the worst flu year since the pandemics of 1918-1919 which had claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 30 million worldwide. Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Clements, at the age of 86, succumbed to Influenza, dying  on March 26, 1926.  She was attended by her nephew, Dr. Henry W. Clements, who was a son of Rowena Patten and Levi J. Clements.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery.

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Sometime between 1920 and 1930 James W. Suggs died, leaving Sarah widowed for the second time. Sarah, now on her own, boarded in the farm home of Sherrod Winfield Fender and his wife, Lula Bell Smith. Sherrod was a son of George W. Fender, and a neighbor of Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, and Phil McGowan. Also lodging in the Fender household was Chester Nobles.

Sherrod W. Fender died in 1931, but Sarah continued to live with the widowed Lula Smith Fender. The 1940 census shows Sarah Suggs enumerated as a “companion” of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

Sarah Malinda Clements Suggs died April 8, 1947.   She was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City, GA. (Lula Fender was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church.)

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

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Henry Harrison Knight Among Earliest Teachers in Berrien County

Henry Harrison Knight,circa 1896, located at Ray’s Mill, holding Levi, Jr.

Henry Harrison Knight is a well documented historical figure of  Ray City, GA.  He was born on November 17, 1840 in that part of Lowndes County which was later cut into Berrien County.  His father was John Knight and his mother was Sarah “Sallie” Moore.  “His father, John Knight, had held various county offices during his lifetime and died in 1876. Henry’s education was limited to that of the common schools of the county.”  His uncle, General Levi J. Knight, organized the first Civil War unit to go forth from Berrien County, the Berrien Minute Men.

Henry Knight, himself, was a Confederate veteran, statesman, civil servant, and merchant.

A recently encountered news clipping from the 1956 Berrien County Centennial edition of the Nashville Herald, gives testimony that Henry Harrison Knight was also among the early educators in Berrien County.  In his day, however, the role of teacher may have been more of a community service than an occupation.

Although modern American usage of the word is restricted almost exclusively as a verb, the online dictionary gives a definition of the word “found” as a noun:

found -noun .

something that is provided or furnished without charge, esp. meals given a domestic: Maid wanted, good salary and found.
 
Consider then, this note from the Herald’s centennial history  about the early educators of Berrien County:

First Teachers in Berrien County Paid in “Found”
      In the early history of Berrien county education was eagerly sought by parents for their young, and making an impress upon the minds and hears of what are now, the older citizens, were the early teachers who taught the various schools around the county.
     Among these were Martin Miller, Jonathan D. Knight, Lacy E. Lastinger, W. H. Griffin, Henry H. Knight, Henry B. Peeples.
    These men taught in the little one room log house schools and were often paid in “found.”

Henry Berryman Peeples (1849-1909), son of Henry Thompson Peeples and nephew of Richard A. Peeples, was one of the early teachers in Berrien County, GA

Henry Berryman Peeples (1849-1909), son of Henry Thompson Peeples and nephew of Richard A. Peeples, was one of the early teachers in Berrien County, GA

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Organization and Command of the Berrien Minute Men

The following passages from L.E. Lastinger give his brief accounting of the roles of two Captains named Knight in the organization and leadership of the Berrien County Minute Men. L. E. Lastinger was the last surviving member of Company K,  Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment.

Levi J. Knight who was one of our leading citizens prominent in politics and a leader of the old Whig party, called for one hundred Volunteers to go with him to the front. Politics were adjourned and Mr. Knight was placed as Captain of one hundred of the best citizens of the County without a dissenting voice.

These men were lined up on the public square in Nashville, Georgia and the Captain made a statement, that if there was any member there who had changed his mind, or did not care to go with him, to step out. One member stepped out , but John Isom stepped into his place. These men were camped at different parts of the county, bought their uniforms or had them made and made every preparation necessary to go to the war.

“Captain Knight became very impatient that he could get no orders to go with his command to the front. However, in the latter part of July, 1861, he carried his Company to Savannah…”  “…under the name of the ‘Berrien County Minute Men.'”

“They were there mustered into the service and went from Savannah to Brunswick, from Brunswick to Blackbeard Island, from Blackbeard Island to Sapelo Island.”

“During this time recruiting officers had been sent back home from Captain Knight’s Company, and they gathered about eighty additional recurits who left for the front in the latter part of September and arrived at Savannah and went from there to Sapelo Island where the met the first Company above mentioned.  These eighty recruits proceeded to organize another company …”

“The first company was Company ‘G’ and the second company was company ‘K’, the first company being commanded by Captain Levi J. Knight, Sr. and the second company by John C. Lamb.” 

“Of course, it is known that this company [Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company] was not known as Company ‘G’ when it first went off, but got this letter when the Company was placed in the 29th Regiment.”

In his description of Company “G” of the 29th Georgia Regiment, L.E. Lastinger wrote, “The following will show the muster roll as it was when it first left the County, Aug 1 1861 – Both officers and privates,” including the two men he referred to as “Levi J. Knight, Sr.” and “Levi J. Knight, Jr.”

Levi J. Knight, Capt. — “He  was promoted to Maj. in the organization of the 29th G. Regt.  He resigned soon thereafter on account of his age and died about the close of the war.”

Levi J. Knight, Jr.,  4th Sergt. –Was made Capt. of Co. “G” and served through the war, was badly wounded but recovered and returned to his post of duty and was a prisoner of war at the surrender on Johnson’s Island. Captured at Nashville Tenn., 16th of Dec. 1864.

While clearly familiar with with both of these men,  no where does Lastinger refer to the two as father and son. It seems incredible that he would have failed to mention this family relationship, if it were true.

Instead, the relationship between the two men was that of uncle and nephew.  Levi J. Knight, the nephew, born 1833 in Lowndes County, GA was a son of Sarah and John Knight, who was a brother of Captain L. J. Knight.

But how to tell the tale of two men with the same name?  Could one be “Big Knight” and the other “Little Knight”?  Elder and Younger?  Or would Jr. and Sr. suffice?

On August 1, 1861 Levi J. Knight (b. 1833) joined the Berrien Minutemen, the company of men being raised by his uncle Levi J. Knight (b. 180?).  At first he served as 4th Sergeant of Company C, 29th Regiment. He was elected 1st Lieutenant October 22, 1861, and Captain on May 7, 1862 when the unit was reorganized as Co. G.  He was shot through the right lung at Atlanta, Ga. July 22, 1864.  He survived the injury and was captured with his unit near Nashville, Tenn.  on December 16, 1864.  He was released at Johnson’s Island, Ohio on June 16, 1865.

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L.E. Lastinger and Captain Knight’s Berrien Minutemen

Lacy Elias Lastinger was the son of William Lastinger who was a prominent citizen of Berrien County (later Lanier) and founder of Lastinger Mill in Milltown, GA (now Lakeland).  During the Civil War L.E. Lastinger was in the 29th Georgia Regiment along with General Levi J. Knight and the man referred to as Levi J. Knight, Jr., both whom were lifelong associates.

Lacy Elias Lastinger

Lacy Elias Lastinger. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

 After the war L.E. Lastinger became a sort of historian of the Berrien Minutemen (Companies G & K, 29th GA Regiment).  He served as the adjutant of the Dixie Camp, United Confederate Veterans, Nashville, Georgia.

L. E. Lastinger wrote about the good and the bad of the Berrien Minutemen. He wrote about the part he played in the execution of ‘Old Yaller’ whose death sentence was imposed as for the charge of desertion, an account of which was the subject of an earlier post (see Berrien Minute Men and Civil War Stories). Here is Lastinger’s account of the event, published March, 1909 in Watson’s Jeffersonian Magazine.

The Deserter

    In the January number of The Jeffersonian, under the head of “A Victim of Military Discipline,” the author gives an account of the execution of Elbert J. Chapman, who belonged to Co. K, 29th Ga. Regt. Chapman named himself “Old Yaller,” and by this name was generally known.
     His regiment was stationed at “Camp Young,” near Savannah.  Chapman was confined in the guard house, as a punishment for some misbehavior, from which he made his escape.
He went to his home, near Mill Town, in Berrien county.  He claimed he was sick and coud not get well in the guard house and went home to recuperate, intending to return to his command when he got able. This he failed to do.
Our brigade, under command of Col. Wilson, of the 25th Ga. Regt., went West to join the Army of the Mississippi.  When marching through Canton some of the boys saw Chapman and hollered at him, “Hello, ‘Yaller’,” then others commenced calling him, in the same way, when he very indignantly said to them, “You must be a set of darn fools,” but the boys continued, “We know you, ‘Yaller’.” “Yes, we would know your hide in a tan trough.”  “Yaller” was slow to acknowledge his identity – but did so, and good humoredly joined the company, saying, “Yes, boys, this is ‘Old Yaller’.” Then followed a general hand-shaking.  Subsequently “Old Yaller” was court-martialed, and suffered the extreme penalty of death for desertion. The writer assisted Geo. R. McKee, adjutant of the 29th Ga. Regt., in loading the guns – which were given to a squad of twelve men commanded by Lieut. A.P. Perham, of Waycross, who carried out the orders to execute him.  Of this Mr. M. P. Carroll gives a very correct account.
During  Governor Atkinson’s administration Hon. F. M. Shaw, who was a member of the  Legislature, saw in person the Governor and our Pension Commissioner, Mr. Lindsey, in regard to Mrs. Chapman drawing a pension, which had been rejected because her husband was a deserter.  The fact that he only quit one command and went to another, that he had, in fact, deserted neither his flag nor his country, but was serving both faithfully and well when found in Canton, did not change the conclusion reached by the Pension Commissioner, and Mr. Shaw’s efforts to secure her a pension were in vain.  She was an invalid and living in poverty.

L. E. LASTINGER

In 1929 L.E. Lastinger was the last surviving member of Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment.  He published a pamphlet entitled The Confederate War: A compilation of the Confederate Soldiers going forth from Berrien County, Georgia. When they enlisted — and whether or not they survived the war.  A reprint of this text is on file at the Ray City Community Library, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia. It is in this publication that he provides a brief account of the Berrien Minutemen, along with entries on General Levi J. Knight and Levi J. Knight, “Junior,”  who both did stints as Captain of Company “G”, 29th Georgia Regiment.

In the next post we examine Lastinger’s account of the Berrien Minutemen and the two Captains Knight.