Arthur Shaw and Shaw’s Still

In 1908, the opening of the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave Ray City, GA residents a transportation access to the world, and a convenient connection to towns on the G & F route. Among those with a Ray City – Willacoochee connection was Arthur Shaw, son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, of Ray City, GA.  Arthur Shaw, a native of Ray City, spent most of his life at Willacoochee, GA.

Francis Arthur Shaw (1866-1933), son of Francis Marion Shaw, Sr., was born and raised near Ray's Mill (now Ray City), GA. Husband of Victoria Giddens Knight (first wife) and Gertrude Albritton (second wife) Turpentine still operator. Though a native of Berrien county, and some of his turpentine operations were in Berrien county, he resided in Willacoochee most of his adult life. Was a mayor of Willacoochee. Courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Francis Arthur Shaw (1866-1933), son of Francis Marion Shaw, Sr., was born and raised near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA. Husband of Victoria Giddens Knight (first wife) and Gertrude Albritton (second wife). Turpentine still operator. Though a native of Berrien county, and some of his turpentine operations were in Berrien county, he resided in Willacoochee most of his adult life. Was a mayor of Willacoochee. Courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien County Historical Society, contributes the following:

Arthur Shaw, of Willacoochee, was business partners in the turpentine operations with his brothers, Chester and Lacy Shaw, and brother-in-law, William Clements.

The commissary at  Shaw’s Still was operated by Lacy Shaw. Lacy later ended his partnership with Arthur and farmed near the home place of his parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, in Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road. About 1917 he sold his home to Pleamon Sirmans and moved into Ray City and operated a hardware store there before moving to Valdosta about 1927 or so.

The location of the turpentine operation was actually about a mile or so south of Springhead Methodist Church in Atkinson County. The terminus of the Pinebloom railroad which ran through Willacoochee was at Shaws Still which is shown on the early 1900 railroad maps. The intent at one time was for the Pinebloom to terminus at DuPont, however the extension was determined to be financially unsound and it was given up. Very little is visible of the old Pinebloom railroad bed between Willacoochee and Shaws Still. The terminus of the railroad was about where the Henderson Lumber Company had its operation, near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road. The still site is no longer visible and is on a  private hunting preserve now.
—Bryan Shaw

 

The Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad, originally called the Fitzgerald, Pinebloom & Valdosta, was a logging road and occasional common carrier owned by the Gray Lumber Company. 

[Benjamin B. Gray, a principal of the Gray Lumber Company and the OP & V,  was a brother-in-law of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong.  Furlong committed his first murder while employed at Gray’s sawmill at Pinebloom, and thereafter wreaked mayhem up and down the line of the Brunswick & Western Railroad.]

The 52-mile Lax-Pinebloom-Nashville line was completed in 1901-03.

In 1906, the FP&V sold the section south of Pinebloom to the Douglas, Augusta, & Gulf Railway (which was controlled by the Georgia & Florida).  The FP&V continued to operate the tracks north of Pinebloom. (Pinebloom was a flag station on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad a mile east of Willacoochee with a 1896 population of about 200. The Gray Brothers saw mill was its largest enterprise.)

The line was renamed the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad in 1910, and in 1915 the Henderson Lumber Company gained control.

The 1918 Report of the Georgia Railroad Commission listed the OP&V as a 27-mile line between Gladys, a point on the Ocilla Southern Railroad, and Shaw’s Still, which was about nine miles southeast of Willacoochee. Two years later the Commission indicated that the OP&V had been dismantled and listed its successor road, the Willacoochee & DuPont, as a 9.5-mile line between Willacoochee and Shaws Still.

In 1915, when the Henderson Lumber Company acquired the Ocilla, Pinebloom, & Valdosta Railway, it ran from Gladys to Shaw’s Still. In 1918, the Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad purchased the line and reportedly abandoned the tracks between Gladys and Willacoochee the following year (or used them only for logging or hauling naval stores and turpentine). It continued to operate the eastern and southern section of track from Willacoochee to Shaws Still, but apparently was not able to extend the line past Shaws Still to DuPont, a town on the Atlantic Coast Line in Clinch County. In 1922, this track too was abandoned.
Source: http://www.RailGa.com

The Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Arthur Shaw’s life, loves, and business dealings:

Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933

Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933

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The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

There were several south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

After 1908, the route of the Georgia & Florida Railroad was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles.

Matthew Hodge Albritton

matthew-hodge-albritton

Matthew Hodge Albritton was born  March 8, 1842 in Houston County, GA a son of Allen and Rebecca Albritton.  His parents were well off. By the time of the Civil War, Allen Albritton had amassed a net worth that would have made him a multi-millionaire by today’s standards. Allen Albritton, was a farmer and owned land in the 5th District of Houston County, number not known, and adjoining the land of Stephen Castellow and others.

Matthew’s siblings were Littleton L. Albritton, Mariah Albritton, Mary Jane Albritton, William M. B. Albritton, George A. Albritton, Wright M. Albritton and Joe L. Albritton.  About 1842, Matthew’s cousins,  McCuin A. “Mack” Albritton and Matthew R. B. Albritton, also came to live with the family after the death of their father,  McCuin Albritton, Sr.  The boys, Mack and Matthew R. B.,  became legal wards of Allen Albritton, and their father’s property was sold off.

Estate of McCuin Albritton

Administrator’s Sale on the Estate of McCuin Albritton, November 21, 1943.

Macon Georgia Telegraph
November 28, 1843

Administrator’s Sale.

Will be sold, on the first Tuesday in FEBRUARY next, before the Court-House door in Perry, Houston county, within the usual hours, one-half of Lot of Land No. 195, in the 5th District of Houston county,  containing 101 1/4 acres, more or less – belonging to the Estate of McCuin Albritton, deceased, late of Burke county.  Sold agreeable to an order of the Inferior Court of Burke county, when sitting for ordinary purposes.  Terms cash – purchasers to pay for titles.

James Grubbs, Admr.

Nov 21

On March 3, 1852 Matthew’s sister, Mary Jane, married Thomas M. Ray  in Houston County, GA and the newlyweds moved to an area of Lowndes County that was cut into Berrien County in 1856.  T. M. Ray founded a grist mill in 1863 in the southern part of Berrien County, in partnership with Levi J. Knight.  This mill became the nucleus of the community now known as Ray City, GA.

Some time in the 1850s, Allen Albritton moved his family to Pike County, Alabama, near the town of New Providence.  Matthew, William, George, and  Wright all made the move with their father, as well as their adopted cousins Matthew R.B. and Mack. At least by 1857,  Matthew’s brother Littleton L. Albritton and sister Mariah Albritton had followed their sister, Mary Jane, to Berrien County, GA where Mariah married Matthew R. Grace that year.

Allen Albritton established legal guardianship of Matthew R.B. and Mack Albritton in Alabama, and petitioned to be discharged from that responsibility in Georgia.

1860-allen-albritton-adopts-nephews

Georgia Weekly Telegraph, September 20, 1860

Georgia Weekly Telegraph
September 20, 1860

GEORGIA, HOUSTON COUNTY.

Ordinary’s Office, for said County.
Upon hearing the petition of Allen Albritton, Guardian of M.R.B. & M.A. Albritton, minors of McCuin Albritton, deceased, showing that he has recently removed beyond the limits of this State to the county of Pike, State of Alabam, and take with him his said wards, with their property, and has there been duly appointed Guardian of said minors.
 It is ordered that all persons concerned be and appear at the November Term of this Court, to show cause, it any they have, why said Albritton should not be discharged from his said trust.
Given under my hand and official signature, the Sept. 6th, 1860.

W. T. Swift, Ordinary

In the Census of 1860, Matthew Albritton and his family were enumerated in Pike County, Alabama. Matthew, his brother William, and adopted brothers and cousins Matthew R.B, and Mack were all  working the family farm.  Their father and guardian, Allen Albritton,  had $23,775 in his personal estate and another $9,000 in real estate.

1860-censusAllenAlbritton

About 1861, Matthew left the farm in Alabama and joined his brother and sister in Berrien County, GA.

In May of 1862, Matthew’s brother, Littleton Albritton, went to Nashville, GA where he enlisted as a sergeant in Company E, 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment,, the Berrien Light Infantry.  On October 22, Matthew Albritton followed Company E to their encampment at Coffee Bluff near Savannah, GA where he enlisted as a private. Jehu Patten, of the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA, served as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, and other soldiers in the unit included John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie,  William Henry Outlaw, and Benjamin Sirmans.

During the Civil War Matthew was wounded in the throat and later received a wound to the right side.  Following his injuries he was granted a furlough and returned home.  In early April of 1865 he was making his way back north to rejoin his unit when he learned that General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on April 7th.  He surrendered to Federal troops near Augusta, GA. He was paroled  and returned to Berrien County. Later, he would receive a pension for his service in the CSA.

Susan Catherine Byrd

Susan Catherine Byrd

On November 28, 1869 Matthew Albritton was wed to Susan Catherine Byrd, the 21-year-old daughter of Nathan W. Byrd.  Susan Byrd’s family had moved to Nashville, GA around the end of the Civil War. Her father was a farmer and also a mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

Matthew Hodge Albritton lived for many years at Nashville, GA, and later bought a farm home in the Lois Community, just west of Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Matthew and Susan were married for 13 years before her death on March 2, 1882.

Children of Susan Byrd and Matthew Albritton:

  1. Theophilus Theodorea Albritton, born January 07, 1871.
  2. Gertrude Albritton, born May 23, 1872; married Francis Arthur Shaw
  3. Tula Albritton, born 1874; married Lacy Lester Shaw.
  4. Mary Jane Albritton, born July 07, 1876; married Luther Americus Webb.
  5. Sophronia Albritton, born September 22, 1878; married William Guilford Devane.
  6. Matthew Allen Albritton, born January 28, 1881.

Three years later, on July 16, 1885 Matthew, now 43, married again, this time to 27 year old Laura A. Myers of Nashville, GA. This was her first marriage. The couple had five children.

Children of Laura A. Myers and Matthew Albritton are:

  1.      Rena Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA.
  2.      Sarah Nina Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA, married Robert C. Register
  3.      Rebecca L. Albritton, born September 17, 1888 in GA.
  4.      Nona Hortense Albritton, born May 6, 1891 in GA.
  5.      Lola Alma Albritton, born Dec 1, 1893 in GA; married Caulie Augustus DeVane

Matthew Albritton died September 20, 1915  and is buried at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Laura Myers Albritton died April 9, 1921. She was buried in Pleasant Cemetery.

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

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Milledge Dewey Wood and the First Cotton Blooms of 1912

On June 25, 1912, The Valdosta Times reported on some of the first cotton blooms of the season. The growers were G. W. Carter, of Lois, and Milledge Dewey Wood, of Ray City, GA.

Valdosta Times
June 25, 1912

Messrs. G. W. Carter of the Lois District and M. D. Wood of Rays Mill, were  among the first to send in cotton blooms to the Herald.  They are among the enterprising farmers of the county, and have their crops in fine condition.  We appreciate the favor of these friends in keeping us posted on their farming operations.

Milledge Dewey Wood  was the father of George W. Wood and father-in-law of Creasy Brown Wood, subject of previous posts (see Creasy Brown Wood buried at Dupont, GA).

M. D. Wood was a son of Josiah Wood and Caroline Meeks. His gravemarker gives his birth date April 28, 1862, but from census records it appears that he was actually born in 1860.

At the time of his birth, his father, Josiah Wood, was farming in Macon County, GA near the town of Lanier. But with the outbreak of the Civil War, his father joined Company E of the 4th Georgia Cavalry.  Josiah Wood did not serve long in the Confederate States Army. Due to a disability he was discharged after just one year of service.

Some time before 1870, young Milledge moved with his family to Coffee County, GA, where his father farmed a small place valued at $200.

The 1880 census record for M. D. Wood has not been located, but in 1883 he married Nancy Caroline Rhoden. In 1900, the couple made their home in Dupont, GA where Milledge owned  farm free and clear of mortgage.

By 1910 the Nancy and M. D. Wood had moved their family to Georgia Militia District 1329, the Connells Mill district, near Ray City, GA. Wood rented a farm on the Rays Mill-Cat Creek road, next door to farms of  Lacy Lester Shaw and Francis Marion Shaw.

In 1920, Wood was farming a place outside of Ray City,  on the Nashville Road.  On the farm next door was Gideon Gaskins.

Children of Nancy Caroline Rhoden and Milledge Dewey Wood:

  1. George Washington Wood 1884 – 1960, married Creasy Brown
  2. Joseph Bryant Wood 1885 – 1969
  3. Ely Benjamin Wood 1888 – 1978
  4. Willie Westberry Wood (1889 – 1974) – worked for E.M. “Hun” Knight, and later Clements Sawmill
  5. Laura Wood 1891 – 1973
  6. John Rhoden Wood 1894 – 1996
  7. Celia Caroline Wood 1896 – 1988
  8. Lulu Wood 1899 – 1974
  9. James Oliver Wood 1901 – 1975
  10. Dewey Franklin Wood 1906 – 1988
  11. Eliza Bell Wood 1909-1910

Milledge Dewey Wood died October 31, 1932.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery in Ray City, GA

Grave marker of Milledge Dewey Wood, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave marker of Milledge Dewey Wood, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Related Posts:

-30-

Constitution of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church

New Ramah Primitive Baptist  Church (1913 – 2010)

New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, Berrien County, GA was founded in 1913. The church building was dismantled in 2010.

New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City, Berrien County, GA was founded in 1913. The church building was dismantled in 2010.

New Ramah Church was located on the southwest side of Ray City, between Park Street and Cat Creek. The primitive baptist church was organized August 30,  1913, and built by four Knight brothers who were the descendants of William A. KnightAaron Anderson Knight was called as the first pastor and served until his death in 1925.

Upon the constitution of New Ramah Church, the minutes of the church recorded this initial entry:

State of Georgia, Berrien, Co.
August 30, 1913

By the Goodness of God, now when names are after written, having been Baptized upon a Profession of faith by the Lord Jesus Christ having here to fore been members of different Churches did consent on the propriety of becoming a Constituted body near Rays Mill, Ga.

Believing it to be expedient, finding a fellowship with each other, jointly chosen to set apart this day for Constitution.

Petitioning Salem, Empire, Unity & Pleasant Churches for Ministerial aid as a presbatry (Presbytery) which has granted Eld. I. A. Wetherington from Unity Church, Eld. H. W. Parrish from Salem Church, Eld. A. A. Knight from Pleasant Church, Eld. E. R. Blanton from Pleasant Hill Church and Eld. E. Lindsey from Ty Ty Church were clothed with church authority and gave theyr attenuance and letter of dismission being presented and no deficiency appearing, being sound in the facts and principals of the Gospel, that is to say believing that the scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are the Word of God and contains everything necessary for the faith and practice, Particular the existence of one true God, the fall of Man and his inability to recover himself, God’s savoring [sovereign] choices, of his people in Christ, theyr Covenant head from before the foundation of the world effectual calling purification by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone,  The final perseverance of the saints in grace, and eternal salvation in Glory, the duty of baptism by immersion, and the Lords Supper. Thus pronouncing to be upon above principals.
      And having this day being the 30th day of August, 1913, been pronounced a Church of Christ in order
        having united upon equal terms and here after be called and known by the name of New Ramah Church, and for this end deliberately solemly give our selves to the Lord, and to each other by the will of God, Independent of any religious body or congregation what ever, covenanting and promising each other to live to gether as becomes brethering in Gospel hands for the maintaining of Christian fellowship and gospel discipline agreeable to the holy scripture and as true yoke fellows agreed to stand or fall together in order, for which we do agree to receive, and adopt the following plan of or form of Decorum and Rule of practice.

Church Decorum
 New Ramah Church

1st   – – – –  —— —— or Conference shall be —– —– —- —– every member must —- —- —– —— —– —–

2nd  Church meetings shall begin and end with Divine worship.

3rd Church members failing to attend two Conferences in succession it shall be theyr duty to make known to the Church the reason of theyr absence at the next conference, and the Church judge of the same, but if the failure happen without the Church having knowledge of there being laudable reasons, she shall have him cited and Judge of such failure.

4th The Pastor of the Church shall preside as moderator when present unless some objections be made in which case the Church shall choose another

5th At the opening of every Conference it shall be the duty of the moderator to invite visiting brethering & Sisters of Sister Churches to seats with the Brethern of this Church, and then make known to the Congregation that a door of the Church is open for the reception of members the proceed to take up all Reference as they stand in order and all business that comes before the Church in order

6th  The moderator shall in his Power preserve order, Shall explain and put questions. He shall have an assistant (when present) if needed but in his absence a moderator protem shall be appointed.

7th The Moderator shall have the same right of speech as another member but shall not vote unless the body be equally divided.

8th The Church shall have a Clerk who shall keep a fair record of theyr proceedings and sign theyr order before the Conference rises.  Minutes taken by the Clerk shall be read and amended before the conference rises if necessary.

9th  In debate, only one person shall speak at the same time, who shall rise from his seat and address the Moderator in an orderly manner.

10th  The person speaking shall strictly attend to the subject in debate, shall not reflect on the person that spoke before him by making remarks on his slips, or imperfections, but convey his own ideas.

11th  The person speaking shall not be interrupted unless he breaks through these rules.  Then the moderator shall call to  order if dissatisfied he shall —- the voice of the conference.

12th No person shall speak more than twice to the same proposition till every one choosing to speak has spoken.

The Church minutes of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church provide the list of male and female members below.  Notations next to the names were updated by the Clerk with the status by which the member joined and departed the congregation. Many notations were too faint to be legible for transcription.

Males

B. H. Sirmans
C. H. Vickers
W. F. Rayaln  Exp
D. W. Townsend  dead
C. R. Herring Dead
J. T. Moore  Dead
J. W. Conner Dis By letter
H. T. Cercey
C. C. Smith Exp
L. L. Blanton
Gilford Stalvey
M. S. Pevy
Willie Green Dis by letter
A. M. Ray  By letter
O.W. Mikell by let
P.S. Skinner let
D. J. Skinner
Joe Spells
S. G. Gaskins
Robert Burkholtz
John Burkholtz
Jimmie Taylor
K. S. Bennett
Lacy Shaw

Females

Mary Sirmans Dead
Carrie Peters Dead
E. B. Clements
Ada Gaskins
Chloe Johnson
Cassie Hall Con X
Ola Mikell by let
Roena Clements Con
Lillie Spells bapt
Minnie Herrin bapt
Eva Moore bap X
Mary Cersey let
Elizabeth —- X
Nettie Skinner let
Lizzie Smith
Laura Chitty bapt
Mary? Skinner dead
Lila Allen
Fannie Gaskins
Kizzie Woodard
Eliza Knight let
Lula Kendrick bapt
Lula Fender bapt
Delia Bennett bapt
Mary Allen bapt
Della Spells bapt
Pearlie Peevy bapt
Orie Blanton ? bapt

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Ray City Masons Celebrated Saint John the Baptist Day In 1936

Masons Lodge 553, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

Masons Lodge 553, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

A 1936 newspaper clipping commented on the activities of the Ray City Masonic lodge No. 553,

Atlanta Daily World
July 8, 1936 Pg 2
Valdosta, Ga.

St. John’s Day was held at Ray City last Sunday. Prof. C.O. Davis was the speaker. Prof. Davis is the Deputy Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Georgia.

Masons have been a part of Ray City, GA history since the beginning of the town.   The lodge in Ray City was constituted in 1909. In 1910, as the Methodist church was being organized in Ray City, a revival was held in the Masonic hall.

Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray was a Mason, as were Perry Thomas Knight, A. J. Pert, James Henry Swindle, Caswell Yawn, Dr. Pierce Hubert, Hod Clements, D. Edwin Griner and Lucius Jordan Clements among others.   In 1909, Lacy Lester Shaw served treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553. From 1858 to 1878 Hardeman Sirmans was a member Butler Lodge, No. 211 in Milltown.

At the time of his death in 1907 Judge A. H. Hansell, of the Southern Circuit, was the oldest living Mason in the state of Georgia.

A marble stone set in the only remaining commercial brick building in Ray City, designates it as the “Masonic Building,” one time home of the Free & Accepted Masons Lodge No. 553.  At Brian Brown’s  Vanishing South Georgia blog, Ray City residents have commented on the history of this building, which once was home to the Ray City drugstore and later, the Victory Soda Shop.

Lucius Jordan Clements and Eugenia Watkins Clements in Masonic garb.

Lucius Jordan Clements and Eugenia Watkins Clements in Masonic garb. Image courtesy of http://www.yatesville.net/

The Free and Accepted Masons were active in the Wiregrass long before the formation of the lodge at Ray City in 1909.   Lodge No. 211 was incorporated 50 years earlier at Milltown (nka Lakeland, GA) in 1858.  Somewhat earlier, St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was constituted at Troupville on November 2, 1854.   Circuit riding Methodist reverend John Slade was a member there,  as were Norman Campbell, and William C. Newbern.   Andrew J. Liles,  postmaster of Milltown, was a member. The Masonic lodge at old Troupville met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.

According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the officers  of St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 were:

Reverend Thomas W. Ellis, Worshipful Master;
Ephriam H. Platt, Senior Warden;
Benjamin C. Clay, Junior Warden;
Charles H. Howell, Secretary;
John Brown, Treasurer;
William H. Dasher, Senior Deacon;
J. T. C. Adams, Junior Deacon;
John B. Cashan, Tyler.

Other founding members in addition to  those mentioned above were:

William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Adam Graham, Thomas Moore, William Dees, Daniel Mathis, Thomas D. Wilkes, S. D. Smith, James Harrell, J. N. Waddy. William J. Mabry, George Brown, William Jones, J. C. Pautelle, J. R. M. Smith, Reverend F. R. C. Ellis, Robert B. Hester, , William Godfrey, W. D. M. Howell, Hustice Moore, J. Harris, W. H. Carter,  William A. Sanford, Willis Allen, Jeremiah Williams, William A. Carter, John R. Walker, William D. Martin, J. E. Stephens, R. W. Leverett, L. M. Ayers, S. Manning, James Carter, Willis Roland, John W. Clark, James A. Darsey,  the Entered Apprentices Judge Richard A. Peeples, William Ashley, J. J. Goldwire, snd Fellowcrafts William T. Roberts and Moses Smith.

Troupville lodge member William J. Mabry, moved in 1856 to Nashville, GA, seat of the newly created Berrien County, where he built the first Berrien court house in 1857 and also became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3. Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

A post on the Masonic Traveler Blog by mason and artist, Greg Stewart explains the significance of Saint John the Baptist Day.

The Saint’s Johns appear to Freemasons in several places in our catechisms. Their proximity and use in our rituals have been questioned for many years as to their use and placement. Looked at together, saint John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist serve to represent the balance in Masonry between zeal for the fraternity and learned equilibrium. The Saints John, stand in perfect parallel harmony representing that balance.

From a historical approach, The Saint John’s festival is said to be a widely celebrated Masonic holiday. Traditionally June 24th (or the summer Solstice) is taken to be John the Baptist’s day, which is celebrated in many cultures around the world. According to McCoy’s Masonic Dictionary, the Festival of St. John in summer is a duty of every Mason to participate in, and should serve to be a renewal and strengthening of fraternal ties and a celebration of Masonry from “olden-times”. It functions as a connection between the past and the future.

More on St. John’s Day via Masonic Traveler: Saint John the Baptist Day, Duality in One. June 24th.

Other Ray City Masons:

  • Eddie D. Boyette
  • Philip Dewitt Carter
  • Lorenzo D. Carter
  • William I. Barker
  • Dr. B. F. Julian
  • William Lawrence Swindle

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Turpentine in Wiregrass Georgia

Turpentine and naval stores industry became an economic engine for Ray’s Mill, Berrien County and the other counties of Wiregrass Georgia.

Turpentine Still in Thomas County, GA circa 1895

Turpentine Still in Thomas County, GA circa 1895

An  1881 news item sums up the Wiregrass workman’s appraisal of the original growth pine forests.

Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun, Jan. 15, 1881. Pg 3

— In regard to “The Turpentine Industry,” the Berrien county News says: “This comparatively new industry is attracting much attention in our vicinity.  The people of this section, who in a great measure, own the timber, have allowed it to lie idle and undeveloped, notwithstanding the turpentine is a great source of revenue.  This timber has stood upon the earth for centuries, and it may stand there as much longer, and the owners will derive no more benefit from it than from an equivalent sum of money locked up in a safe for the same length of time.”

As in other Wiregrass communities, turpentine and naval stores became major industries in Ray City, GA.  Robert S. Thigpen, a wealthy resident of Berrien County, GA,  owned a turpentine plant in Ray’s Mill.  The plant, sold in 1898 for $13,000, would have valued at more than $10 million in 2008 dollars.

Among  other Ray City and Berrien County residents who prospered in the industry was Walter “W.D.” Brown, who had a turpentine operation near Ray’s Mill in 1904. Wilson W. Fender  was in the turpentine business, as was Lorenzo D. Carter.  Arthur Shaw and brother-in-law, William Clements,  operated a turpentine still at Willacoochee, Georgia, Brothers Chester Shaw and Lacy Lester Shaw were also involved in the turpentine business.

John Whitford worked for one of the turpentine and naval stores concerns in the area.  His neighbor, Brass McKnight, was employed as “stiller” in the turpentine industry.  Another area turpentine barrel maker was William Watson.  Men like Jessie Norris, Elbert Thomas, John Fox, Levey Jones, Jack Jackson, Harrison McClain, Jessie Williams, Tom Thompson, Jim Stripling, George Taylor, and Daniel Holden and others worked on turpentine farms.  Many of these men may have worked one time or another for Lorenzo D. Carter, a naval stores operator and employer in Ray’s Mill (aka Ray City), GA in the early 1900s.

The firm of Sapp & Fender also conducted turpentine operations in Ray City.  David Asa Sapp was the manager; among his employees in 1917 were Leiland Scott, Si Randolph, Elisha  Graham, George Greene, James Hodges, Ellis Jenkins, Barney Johnson, John Jones, Robert Jones, Ruther Golden Jones, Ira Little, Will Mitchell, John Sam Robinson, Ernest Singleton, Arthur Stripling, Anderson Walker, John Waters, James Wooten, Turner Wooten, Willie Barnes, Arlie Brown and Handy Simpson. The company chauffeur was Henry Groover Page.

The Y. F. Carter Naval Stores concern began operation in Ray City about 1916 and by the 1930s it was the largest firm in the community, where approximately fifty men were employed.  This firm operated over ten crops of boxes, a “crop” consisting of 10,000 trees.  The turpentine rights for these trees were typically leased from local land owners..

Disputes over valuable lumber and turpentine rights sometimes ended up in court.  One such case was that of Shaw v. W.L.  Fender et. al., where the timber on land owned by Francis Marion Shaw  was being worked for turpentine  operations. William Lon Fender was a local turpentine man and in 1905 was treasurer of the South Georgia Turpentine Operators’  Association.

Collecting the turpentine was hard and sometimes dangerous work. The working conditions could be grueling and the pay was  meager.  But the vast, untapped pine forests of the Wiregrass provided abundant employment opportunities for those who could take it.  African-Americans, many sons of former slaves, came to the area to find work in the turpentine and sawmill operations. Other turpentine woodsmen, like Benjamin F. Morehead and Lewis Hudson, were born and raised in the local area of Ray’s Mill, Georgia.

Fire was a constant threat where the highly combustible turpentine rosin was present.  The March 22, 1905 Pensacola Journal related the disparaging ruminations of a Valdosta turpentine man about the low paid laborers and their risky work.

…I sent a negro with a team into the wood some time ago to haul drippings and the negro let the  wagon burn up, even the tongue. He was ‘totin’ the rosin up in a bucket, and I guess threw a match down on a dead pine top. When he looked around the pine top was in a blaze and the rosin-smeared wagon was catching. The negro tried to put it out and finally started the team toward a cypress pond but the wheel became locked against a tree and it was all the darkey could do to save the mules.”

As in other industries, African-American turpentine workers at the turn of the 19th century were subject to poor treatment by their employers. Violence could be the result. One such case was that of Joe Willmont.  Willmont was arrested while working turpentine at Ray’s Mill in May of 1911, where he was hiding out under the alias Will Nelson. Willmont/Nelson had arrived in Ray’s Mill after fleeing an alleged double murder at the West Bay Naval Stores Company in West Bay, Florida.  The killings occurred when supervisors at the Florida company attempted to ‘whip’ Willmont for quitting the company.

According to A. P. Malone, author of Piney Woods Farmers 1850-1900: Jeffersonian Yeomen in an Age of Expanding Commercialism, most black laborers who came to the Wiregrass to work in the sawmill and turpentine operations did not acquire real estate here.  Many lived in turpentine or sawmill “camps,” and moved on to other areas after the available timberlands had been exhausted.  “However, some – perhaps as many as one-fourth – married locally and stayed in the area, often because they had some skills which enabled them to purchase town or farm property. Examples in Berrien County of such individuals are Neil Shipman, Cap Taylor, and Nathan Bridges.”

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Lacy Lester Shaw

Lacy Lester Shaw,1873-1944.

Lacy Lester Shaw. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Lacy Lester Shaw. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Family researcher Bryan Shaw published a newsletter on Lacy Lester Shaw in 1998.  (see http://www.fmshawfamily.com/)  A son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, Sr., Lacy Lester Shaw was involved in the turpentine industry with his brothers Arthur and Chester Shaw, primarily running the commissary at the still sites.

On June 7, 1896, at the age of 23, Lacy married Tula Albritton, daughter of Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd. She was the sister of Gertrude Albritton Shaw, wife of Lacy’s oldest brother.

 

Later, Lacy Lester Shaw was  involved in the hardware and grocery business in Ray City, GA and in Valdosta. He was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City. He was also a Mason and  served as treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553.  In 1917 he built a house on North Street and opened a hardware business as the Ray City Supply Company. But after only a few years Lacy Lester Shaw moved his family to Valdosta.

Lacy Lester Shaw - In Search of a Lost Brotherhood

Lacy Lester Shaw – In Search of a Lost Brotherhood

Lacy Lester Shaw, Tula Albritton Shaw gravemarker, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Georgia

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