Harry Kenneth Cornelius (1935-2013)

Harry Kenneth Cornelius (1935-2013)

Harry Kenneth Cornelius, Class of 1953, Ray City High School, Ray City, GA

Harry Kenneth Cornelius, Class of 1953, Ray City High School, Ray City, GA

 

Harry Kenneth Cornelius was born at home in Ray City, GA on March 22, 1935.  His father, Shellie Wade Cornelius, was a farmer from Dupont, GA. His mother, Pearl Williams, was from Ray City.   It appears his parents were married about 1922 and owned a home in Lanier County, 586th Georgia Militia District, on the Sirmans and Lakeland Road.  The census of 1930 shows his parents at this location. His mother was a school teacher and his father farmed on his own account, along with his grandfather and uncle.

Sometime in the early 1930s his parents went to Ray City, GA where Harry was born.  By 1935, the family was living at New River, Berrien County, GA. The 1940 census shows by that time they had rented a home near New River, GA on the Nashville Tifton Road, where his father continued to work a farm on his own account.

Sometime after 1940, the family came back to Ray City, where their home was on Possum Creek Road just west of town. Harry, his sister Frankie Cornelius, brothers Junior Cornelius, Shellie Cornelius, Jr., Robert Cornelius,  and their siblings attended the Ray City School.

Harry Cornelius, 1952 Ray City High School junior class photo.

Harry Cornelius, 1951 Ray City High School sophomore class photo.

Harry’s brother Junior Cornelius played for the Ray City Boy’s Basketball team. His mother, Pearl Williams Cornelius was a teacher at the school and his father, Shellie Wade Cornelius, was a bus driver.

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Obituary of Harry Kenneth Cornelius

Harry Kenneth Cornelius, 77 of Nashville, Ga, passed away Monday morning, March 18, 2013 in the Langdale Hospice House in Valdosta, Ga. He was born in Ray City, Ga. at home, March 22, 1935 to the late Shellie W. Sr. and Pearl Williams Cornelius. He was employed as a marketing sales manager with Unisys in Tampa, Fla. Following his retirement, he moved back to the Berrien County, Ga. area-the home of his birth that he loved all his life. He enjoyed golfing and running as often as he could, and working on the family farm with his brother Junior Cornelius. He also served faithfully in the United States Army for two years, and was a member of the Ray City United Methodist Church. Along with his parents he was also preceded in death by a brother Robert Cornelius.. Survivors Include his wife, Joanna Cornelius of Nashville, Ga.; son and daughter-in-law, Ken and Carol A. Cornelius, New Port Richie, Fla.; daughter and son-in-law, Karla and Ted Hale, Bradenton, Fla.; granddaughter, Amanda Legorete, New Port Richie, Fla.; granddaughter, Wendy Legorete, New Port Richie, Fla.; granddaughter, Kasey Hale, Bradenton, Fla.; grandson, Sean Hale, Bradenton, Fla.; brother, Shellie W. Cornelius Jr., Nashville, Ga.; sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Herman Carner, Tampa, Fla.. Funeral services will be held Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 11 a.m. in the Ray City United Methodist Church with burial to follow in Beaver Dam Cemetery in Ray City, Ga. The family will receive friends at the funeral home between 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in the Lakeland Funeral Home. Sympathy may be expressed online at http://www.musicfuneralservices.com . Mr. Cornelius will be placed in the Church one hour prior to services on Thursday. – Music Funeral Services of Lakeland, Ga.

Grave of Harry Kenneth Cornelius, Beaver Dam Cemetery Ray City, GA. Image source: Ed Hightower

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Isbin Giddens (1788-1853), Pioneer Settler of Old Berrien

Isbin Giddens (1788-1853)

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Isbin Giddens, Burnt Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 Isbin (or Isben) Giddens brought his wife, Keziah Knight Giddens, and their two young children,  William and Moses Giddens from Wayne County, GA to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the present day Ray City, GA. They came along with Keziah’s brother William Cone Knight, her parents, and their minor children John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Aaron, and Jonathan Knight. Also making the move to Lowndes was Keziah’s uncle Samuel Knight, his wife Fannie, and their children Fatima, Moses, Aaron, Jesse, Thomas, and Joel.

Isbin Giddens was born in Blounts Creek, Beaufort County, North Carolina on November 4, 1788 just a few months after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the son of Moses Giddens and Catherine Jones.

Some time before 1816, “when he was about grown,” Isbin  Giddens moved from North Carolina to Wayne County, Georgia .  He served as lieutenant of the 334th District Militia, Wayne County, from 1816 to 1820. It was probably during that time period that he became acquainted with the family of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone Knight. William A. Knight was then serving as a Justice of Peace in the 334th District. William’s son, Jonathan Knight, was a captain in the Wayne County militia; another son, Levi J. Knight, served as a private.

Giddens became good friends with the Knights, and on Wednesday, April 7, 1819 just before Easter, Isbin married William A. Knight’s 17-year-old daughter, Keziah Knight (born November 25, 1801).

Isbin Giddens served as a grand juror the October, 1822  term of the Superior Court of Wayne County, and at other times also served on both petit and grand juries in the county.

About 1823 Isbin and Keziah Giddens were baptised into Kettle Creek Church in present day Ware County. Fannie Knight, wife of Samuel Knight, was a member of this church, as were Keziah’s parents, William and Sarah Knight.

Over the winter of 1824-25 Isbin and Keziah departed Wayne county along with her parents and brothers to settle in parts of present day Lanier County.  Isben Giddens made his farm along what is now the Ray City-Lakeland public road. The following year, his brother-in-law, Levi J. Knight, joined the family and became the first to settle on land along  Beaverdam creek at the present day location of Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

On February 10, 1827 Isbin and Keziah moved their letters from Kettle Creek Church to Union Primitive Baptist Church.  Keziah’s father had been instrumental in the organization of Union Church, it being the first Baptist Church in this section. The church organization took place October 1, 1825, at Carter’s Meeting house,  located on the west bank of the Alapaha River.  Mr. Knight was the first clerk of the new church and later became its pastor.

For the 1827 Georgia Land Lottery, Isbin Giddens registered in the 10th District of Lowndes County.  On the 33rd Day’s Drawing – April 13, 1827, he was the fortunate drawer of Lot 248 in the 13th District of of the newly formed Lee County.

In the Census of 1830, Isbin Giddens is enumerated along with early Berrien County settlers like Joshua Lee, William A. Knight and John Knight. He served on the Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833 which was convened at Franklinville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County.

In the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, Isbin Giddens and his sons, William and  Moses served under the command of  now  Captain Levi J. Knight,  in the Lowndes County Militia.  The Giddens were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Spouse & Children

Keziah Knight 1801 – 1861

  1. William Moses Giddens 1820 – 1899
  2. Moses H Giddens 1821 – 1906
  3. Matilda Giddens 1826 – 1887
  4. Sarah Giddens 1828 – 1918
  5. Aaron L. Giddens 1831 – 1862, married Mary Smith
  6. Keziah Ann Giddens 1836 – 1904
  7. Mary M Giddens 1838 – 1901
  8. Isbin T. Giddens 1840 – July 17, 1862
  9. Matthew O Giddens 1844 – 1865
Isben Giddens died on his farm October 21, 1853. He was buried at  Union Church Cemetery, in present day Lanier County, GA. He died with a legally valid will, and his three sons WilliamMoses, and Aaron served as executors of his estate.

In 1855 Kizziah Knight Giddens married the widower Allen Jones.  She died in 1861 and was buried at Union Church, Lanier County GA.

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GAGrave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Keziah Knight Giddens Jones, Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Isben Giddens’ sons, Isbin T. Giddens and Matthew O. Giddens, served in the Civil War.  On August 1, 1861 they joined the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Infantry at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.  Neither would survive the war.  Mathew O. Giddens was taken prisoner on December 16, 1864 near Nashville, TN. He was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio where three months later, on Feb 8, 1865, he died of pneumonia. His brother, Isbin T. Giddens, died of brain fever at Guyton Hospital in Georgia.

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More Ray City Women of G.S.W.C

West Hall, Georgia State Womans College, 1945

West Hall, Georgia State Womans College, 1945

From 1922 to 1950 the state college in Valdosta, GA was known as Georgia State Womans College (now know as Valdosta State University”.  A number of Ray City women who attended the college during this period were featured in a previous post. Here are a few more who appeared in available yearbooks:

Doris and Dot Boyette were daughters of Eddie D. Boyette  and Mattie Deen Boyette. Their home was in Lanier County, just east of Ray City.

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA, 1942 sophomore at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyette

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA. 1945 sophomore at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Carolyn DeVane was a daughter of Caulie A Devane and Alma L. Albritton, and sister of Harold Elmore DeVane who was serving in the Navy. She grew up in the Lois community just west of Ray City, GA.

Carolyn DeVane, 1945, Freshman

Carolyn DeVane, 1945, Freshman

Marian Hambrick, sister of Thera Hambrick, was a daughter of Ruth and John O. Hambrick. Her family’s place was in the Cat Creek community, just southwest of Ray City.

Marian Hambrick, 1941, Freshman

Marian Hambrick, 1941, Freshman

 

Louise Paulk was a daughter of  Gladys Daniels and James M. Paulk. Her father died when she was a toddler and her mother remarried Hun Knight. Her step-father was the owner of the Mayhaw Lake amusement park at Ray City.  Her half-brother was Jack Knight, who attended college at Valdosta after the school went co-educational.

Louise Paulk, 1939, GSWC

Louise Paulk, 1939, GSWC

Marilyn Faye Weaver was a daughter of John W. Weaver and Irene Guthrie. The Weaver farm was just east of Ray City in the 1300 Georgia Militia District in Lanier County, GA.

1949-marilyn-weaver-GSWC

Marilyn Weaver, 1949, freshman at Georgia State Womans College.

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Mrs. Elizabeth Patten dies at Ray City

Elizabeth Register Patten (1828-1916)

Elizabeth Register Patten. Image Source: Terri Hoye

Elizabeth Register Patten. Image Source: Terri Hoye

According to Nell Patten Roquemore’s Roots, Rocks, and Recollections,  Elizabeth Register was a daughter of Samuel Register, of Registerville, GA (now Stockton, GA).  On May 4, 1845, she   married William Patten, son of James and Elizabeth Patten who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County (then Lowndes County).  The bride was  17-years-old and the 25-year-old groom was a Justice of the Peace in Lowndes County. The couple made their home near Ten Mile Creek in the area later known as Watson Grade.   In 1854, William Patten was a constituting member of Empire Church in that section. For 72 years Mr. & Mrs. William Patten together raised crops, livestock, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren until William’s death in 1907.

Children of Elizabeth Register and William Patten:

  1. James Irvin Patten  (1846 – 1935)
  2. Lewis C Patten (1847 – 1890)
  3. William C “Babe” Patten (1849 – 1944)
  4. George W L Patten (1852 – 1864)
  5. Henry R Patten (1854 – 1873)
  6. Sylvester M Patten (1856 – 1940)
  7. Elizabeth Roena Patten (1858 – 1951) married Levi J. Clements
  8. Samuel Register Patten (1860 – 1938)
  9. Marcus Sheridan Patten (1861 – 1950)
  10. C. Matilda Patten (1864 – 1893)
  11. Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten (1867 – 1955 ) married John Thomas “J.T.” Webb (1863-1924)
  12. Edward L. “Mack” Patten (1869 – 1928)

 

It was March 2, 1916 that Marcus Sheridan Patten and his wife, Mittie C. Walker, received word that his mother was on her deathbed in Ray City, GA.

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 3, 1916 -- page 6

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 3, 1916 — page 6

Tifton Gazette
March 3, 1916 — page 6

Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Patten left this morning for Ray City, where they were called to the bedside of Mr. Patten’s mother, who is very ill.

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten died March 2, 1916 at the home of her daughter Mary J. “Mollie” Patten Webb.

 

1916-mar-3-tifton-gaz-elizabeth-patten-obit

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten, mother of Hon. M. S. Patten, of Tifton, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. T. Webb, at Ray City, in Berrien county, Thursday morning at 4 o’clock. 
     Mrs. Patten was 87 years old and the widow of one of South Georgia’s pioneers.  She leaves eight children, six sons and two daughters; Mack Sam, Babe Bess, Marcus and Irvin, Mrs. J. T. Webb, and Mrs. L. J. Clements, Sr.
    She was a saintly woman and goes to her reward with ripe years behind her full of usefulness to family and community.  Her husband died several years ago and since then she has made her home with her children, spending some time here [Tifton] a few weeks ago.
    Mr. Patten left Thursday morning for Ray City upon receipt of news of her death.  She will probably be buried at Old Union church, near Milltown, Friday.

 

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 10, 1916 -- page 8

Tifton Gazette, Mar. 10, 1916 — page 8

Tifton Gazette
Mar. 10, 1916 — page 8

Mrs. Elizabeth Patten

From the Ray City Courier.
   Mrs. Elizabeth Patten, 88 years of age, passed away Thursday morning at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J. T. Webb. Mrs. Patten has been a long resident of Berrien county, and at the time of her death was the oldest known woman in South Georgia. 
   She was the head of a great family, representing the fourth generation, having great grand children.  She was a member of the Primitive Baptist church from her childhood and lived a faithful Christian life.  She leaves eight children, S.R., E.L., M.S., J.I., S.M., and W. C. Patten; Mrs. Levi Clements, Mrs. J.T. Webb and a host of relatives and friends.
Services were held Friday morning.  The remains were laid to rest in the old Union church cemetery.

Grave of Elizabeth Register Patten, Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

Grave of Elizabeth Register Patten, Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA

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Old Union Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Burnt Church

   Located in present day Lanier County, GA, the old Union Church lies about 10 miles east of where Levi J. Knight settled on Beaver Dam Creek (now Ray City, GA).  It was the first church to serve the pioneer settlers of this region.  L. J. Knight’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight , were among the organizing members of the church.  Built on land provided by Jesse Carter, the church was originally referred to as Carter’s Meeting House, and later designated Union Church.

The church and cemetery  were on a trail used by the Creek Indians traveling between the Chattahoochee River and the Okefenokee Swamp.  During the Indian Wars, 1836-1838,  the church building was partially burned.  The fire-damaged timbers were used in the reconstruction, and since that time Union Church has also been known as Burnt Church.

  “Union Baptist Church, on the Alapaha River ….was constituted October 21, 1825, the first church in the old area of Irwin County.  The original members William A. Knight; his wife, Sarah; Jonathan Knight; his wife, Elizabeth; Joshua Lee; his wife, Martha; James Patten; his wife, Elizabeth; Mary Knight; Josiah Sirmans, deacon.  The Rev. Matthew Albritton served the church as its first minister.”

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

In Pines and pioneers: A history of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1825-1900,  author J. T. Shelton gave the following description described a Big Meeting at Union church:

“The old church had a door on every side for easy access, a rostrum along one wall with seats facing it from three directions. The arrangement allowed the seating of slaves on one side. With feet planted firmly on the wide floor boards, the congregation sat on the pews, each a single plank. The women of the church had scrubbed down with potash and homemade soap both pews and flooring, and the wood had a soft, silvery sheen. The pulpit was seven feet long, twelve inches wide and two inches thick; three to five preachers sat on a long bench behind the  pulpit until each had his turn to address the assembly. The exhorter then paced up and down the generous space provided, and he held forth for two hours before the next preacher had his chance. Listeners came and went; mothers carried out crying babies; little boys believed that they would starve to death before they could get outside to the loaded dinner tables that were as much a part of Big Meeting as the preaching.”

In 1928-30, The Clinch County News published a series of articles on the history of Union Church, portions of which are excerpted below:

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter I

Union Primitive Baptist Church, the mother of all the churches of this faith in this immediate section of Georgia, was organized or constituted October 1st, 1825.  The presbytery consisted of Elders Fleming Bates and Mathew Albritton.

As is well known, the church is located on the banks of the Alapaha River about 1 1/2 miles south of Lakeland formerly old Milltown.  It stands to-day where it has always stood for the past 108 years (1933). The cemetery close by contains the graves of many pioneers and old citizens of east Lowndes, southeast Berrien and western Clinch counties.  Baptisms have always taken place in the nearby river, it not being over one hundred yards from the church to the river.  A high bluff with a sharp bend in the river’s course is the visitor’s introduction after he has passed the church.  Several steady-flowing springs of fine drinking water are to be found on the banks, and eminating from the walls of the bluff.  Part of the bluff slopes off to the river’s edge at the river bend thus making an ideal place for baptism purposes.

The little log-house which was the first building on the site of the present church, had come to be known as Carter’s Meeting House prior to the organization of the church.  For some months prior it had been the scene of monthly meetings or services, and it was the expression of the desire of the settlers to have some kind of divine services in their midst, for there was not a church to be found of any denomination from the Altamaha River to the Florida and Alabama lines.  The settlers in this immediate vicinity were more numerous than in most of the settlements, and many of them Carters.  The meeting-house took its name from old man Jesse Carter and he probably gave the land and his boys had a hand in building the original log house to hold services in.   The earliest settlers had only been living here four years at the time, while the most of them had not living here hardly a year.  Knights, Carters, Giddens and Lees made up most of the settlers west of the river while on the east side of the river were to be found Tomlinsons, Sirmans and Fenders, Corbitts and Mathises.  Further down the river could be found the Wetheringtons, Swilleys, Peters, Walkers, and Roberts.

Elder William A. Knight, at that time a layman, was one of the leading spirits in the formation of the church.  As already stated it was Elders Bates and Albritton who presided at the organization of the church, but to “Old Father Knight” as many people called him in his lifetime, may be attribute more than anyone else the religious activities of the community in those days when the first settlers were moving in.  He led in prayer and in song, and when the preacher failed to keep an appointment because of lurking Indians, high waters or other providential hindrances it was Bro. Knight who took charge and carried on the service. Five years after the church was organized he was licensed to preach the Gospel and two years later (1832) he was ordained to the full Gospel ministry.

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 Union Church had been constituted under the auspices of the Piedmont Primitive Baptist Association, but by 1827 the establishment of a number of new churches prompted a desire to divide the association.  According to a history thesis by Michael Otis Holt,

On August 24, 1827, a council met in Thomas County, Georgia to determine the feasibility of forming a new association in the region. The council arranged for another meeting at Mt. Gilead Church in September and requested that all interested churches send messengers with a statement of faith and the date of their constitution together with names of the ministers taking part in it. The careful attention to detail was necessary, because many churches in the area had cut corners in their organization. An example is Shiloh Church in Ware County. In 1833, the Ochlocknee Association would not accept Shiloh Church because it was constituted “illegally.” However, the association did offer instruction on how to craft a new constitution, which Shiloh did. The council decided to go ahead with the plans for a new association. In October, 1827, the Piedmont Association, “received and read a petition from seven Baptist churches situated between the Alapaha and Flint River praying ministerial aid to constitute them into a new association.” The Piedmont set Matthew Albritton and Fleming Bates to oversee the organization of the Association. Both were members of Union Church, near present day Lakeland, Georgia, which requested and received dismission from the Piedmont to join the new association.

The association held an organizational meeting at Bethel Church in what is now Brooks County, Georgia, in November, 1827. Six churches took part in the constitution of the Association. Union Church, was almost certainly the church that joined at the first session of the new association, which called itself Ochlocknee. In the first year of its existence, the Ochlocknee Association claimed 138 members among its seven churches. The initial meeting went well and Bates and Albritton reported to Union Church that, ‘much harmony and love abounded.’ 

The new association grew quickly. By 1833, the Ochlocknee had thirty-­five churches with 1,010 members. Though migration to the region was steadily increasing during this time, it did not account for all of the increase. In 1833, 179 were baptized into the association’s churches. Fourteen new churches applied for membership during the same year. So many neophytes comprised the new churches that the association appointed William Knight to instruct them on the proper duties of churches to the association. The rapid expansion expanded the Ochlocknee’s borders to extend from the Piedmont Association to the St. John’s Association. The expansive size of the association prompted a proposal to divide at the 1833 meeting.

In 1834, Friendship, Union, and Elizabeth churches in Georgia, and Providence, New Zion, Concord, Newington, and New River in Florida, were dismissed from the Ochlocknee Association to form a new association.  In a reflection of the intense territorialism of the associations of the period, the new body was given a boundary that extended up the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Little River. The association took the name Suwannee River and scheduled a constitutional meeting at Concord Church for December, 1834.  The delegates duly arrived at the meeting, but the ministers failed to show. At a  rescheduled meeting held in September, 1835, only one appointed minister showed, so the delegates co­opted William A. Knight as the other member of the presbytery and proceeded to formally organize the association.

The Suwannee River Association did not experience rapid growth like the Ochlocknee. The Second Seminole War was the primary cause for the association’s slow growth and sparse representation. The 1838 session recommended that the churches increase their days of fasting and prayer, ‘that the Lord might divert the judgments which seem to hang over us.’ They also suggested they put off any general business of the association, “by reason of the unsettled affairs of our country.”  The 1839 session met in the safer Georgia territory and again suggested more prayer and fasting, “so that the warwhoop of a savage foe, might not be heard any longer in our land to the great disturbance of our fellow citizens, while numbers of our women and infant children are falling victims to their relentless hands.”  Nearby associations “lamented the situation of the Suwannee Association, on account of the Indian War in that vicinity.” 

By the beginning of the 1840s, tensions in the region had eased and the Suwannee was experiencing growth. The 1840 minutes of the Suwannee Association speak of a revival that was strongest among its congregations in Georgia. However, this period of growth and expansion would eventually produce discord and division among the Baptists of South Georgia.

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In 1856 the Union Association was constituted with twelve churches formerly belonging to the Suwannee Associationmost of whose churches were in Florida.  A division was agreed to, making the State line the dividing line between the two Associations The constituting presbytery  was composed of Elders J. E. W. Smith, William A. Knight and J. B. Smith met at Union Church. Her ministers were Elders William A. Knight, Moses Westberry, Ansel Parrish, J. D. Hutto and E. J. Williams, with perhaps two licentiates. Harmony prevailed for a number of years, and the progress of the Association was upward and onward.

Clinch County News
September 20, 1929

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter XIII.

As has been stated before, the minutes of the church from the beginning in 1825 to 1832 have been lost.  We understand, however, that Rev. William A. Knight was the first pastor as well as the guiding hand of the church during these early years.  It is certain that he was one of the charter members and the only ordained minister holding his membership with the church during that time. Assuming that he was pastor during those seven years, the list of pastors up to recently [1929], is as follows:

  • William A. Knight                          1825-1832
  • Matthew Albritton (died)              1832-1850
  • William A. Knight (died)               1850-1860
  • Ansel Parrish                                1860-1865
  •                               (No record, 1865 to 1873)
  • Timothy William Stallings            1873-1888
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                       1888-1900
  • Timothy William Stallings           1900-1902
  • A. A. Knight                                     1902-1907
  • J. A. Chitty                                       1907-1911
  • Aaron A. Knight                                1911-1913
  • Isham Albert Wetherington                        1913-1915
  • Orville A. Knight                          1915-1916
  • E. R. Rhoden                                1916-1918
  • I. A. Wetherington (died)         1918-1923
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                    1923-1925
  • Orville A. Knight                        1925-1927

If the writer could properly write the life of these earnest consecrated servants of the Lord, it would be equal to writing an account of the religious life of this section in the Primitive Baptist denomination.  Fearless in fighting sin and bold in preaching Christ and faithful in contending for the Faith, they have served nobly and well and unborn generations will bear witness to the fruits of their work.  With few exceptions the writer has not sufficient biographical data at hand now to write of their individual lives, but we know of their godly records.  We hope to write later of the lives of these great preachers.

Church Clerks

The clerks of the church likewise contain a list of fine men, known throughout their communities and  counties for their good, upright lives, and their staunch Christian characters. We do not know who the first clerk was.

Elected

  • Owen Smith              September 7, 1832
  • Joshua Sykes              January 12, 1839
  • Isaac D. Hutto                  April 13, 1845
  • William Patten                  May 10, 1851
  • William Lastinger              July 8, 1854
  • John Studstill                       Jan 9, 1858
  • William Giddens                May 7, 1863
  • E. R. Rhoden                 October 8, 1891
  • W. R. Rhoden         November 10, 1894
  • J. L. Robertson        February 12, 1898
  • Wm. J. Knight                  May 12, 1900
  • J. A. Weaver                 August 10, 1901
  • G. L. Robinson      September 12, 1924
  • J. A. Weaver          September 12, 1925
  • J. S. Shaw                     October 8, 1926

A good portion of the minutes is in the handwriting of assistant clerks.  These assistant clerks were generally elected by the church, but of late years there have been no assistants.  The list of assistant clerks is as follows:

  • William A. Knight          1834-1837
  • Levi Drawdy                  1837-1848
  • James Walker                1853-1854
  • Richard H. Burkhalter 1861-1862
  • John P. Tomlinson       1887-1900
  • John T. Watson            1900-1902

Deacons

The church has had but few deacons during its 105 years [as of 1929] of existence.  There were apparently never over two at the time, and when elected they served for life unless sooner dismissed by letter or otherwise.  The list given below is full of as fine men as ever lived in this section.  We do not in the list make any attempt to show how long they served except in those cases where they died members of the church.  We do not know who the first deacons of the church were.  List follows:

Bro. Edmund Mathis, one of the deacons, having removed his membership, Bro. Joshua Lee was elected in his place March 10, 1833, and ordained April 13, 1833 by Elders Peacock, Friar and Knight.

September 6, 1839, Bro. Edmund Mathis was received back into the membership by letter from Concord church, Hamilton County, Fla., and acted as a deacon until dismissed again by letter April 10, 1841.

On June 13, 1841, brethren Jacob Hughes and John Lee were ordained deacons.  Members of the presbytery not shown by minutes.

March 13, 1852, brethren Richard H. Burkhalter and J. D. Peters were elected deacons.  They were ordained June 12, 1852 but the minutes do not show who constituted the presbytery.  Bro. Burkhalter died in 1862 and Bro. Peters also died a member but we do not know when.

The minutes do not show any further ordination of deacons until 1891 when Bro. John P. Tomlinson was elected on May 9th.  On June 13, 1891 he was ordained by Elders J. A. O’steen and T. W. Stallings.

On December 9, 1899, Bro. James L. Robinson was elected a deacon but was never ordained.

On November 10, 1906 Bro. Israel G. Carter was elected a deacon and ordained January 12, 1907 by Elders B.P. Lovett from Salem Church, I. A. Wetherington from Unity church,  A. A. Knight , the pastor.

On October 9, 1909, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected deacon, and ordained February 12, 1910 by Elders Wetherington, Chitty and A. A. Knight .

Treasurers

The minutes do not disclose that the church ever had any treasurer until 1909 whem on October 9th, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected as such.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Some other members of Union Church:

  • George Harris – received August 7, 1841, dismissed by letter March 12, 1842; joined Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844
  • Julia Ann Westberry Harris – received August 7, 1841, dismissed by letter March 12, 1842; joined Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844
  • William Hughes  – joined by letter, December 8, 1838
  • William Wesley Johnson – baptized August 10, 1839
  • Amelia Sherley Johnson – baptized June 13, 1840
  • John Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1839
  • Elender Wetherington Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1838
  • Joshua Lee – constituting member, October 1, 1825
  • Martha Ford Lee – constituting member, October 1, 1825
  • Moses C. Lee – baptized September 11, 1841
  • Jincey Register Lee – baptized September 10, 1854
  • Thomas Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Eady Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Tyre Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Nancy Lee Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Mehala Rice Monk – joined by letter 1838
  • Elizabeth Skinner Register – received by letter into Union Church, September 13, 1828, from Fellowship Baptist Church, Appling County, and dismissed by letter April 10, 1841 from Union to participate in constituting Wayfare Church
  • William Patten – baptized September 9, 1848, dismissed by letter March 11, 1854 to organize Empire Church

 

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Minnie Gordon Sloan Married Meritt E. Johnson

Minnie Gordon Sloan was a daughter of  Ray’s Mill farmer James M. Sloan and Martha Gordon Sloan, born July 17, 1876. She married Meritt (or Merritt) E. Johnson on January 17, 1904 in Berrien County, GA.  Meritt Johnson was born January 22, 1878 in Berrien County, GA and raised in Rays Mill (later Ray City), GA.  He was a son of James R. Johnson (born February 1, 1858 in Johnson County, NC; died May 17, 1928 in Lakeland, Lanier County, GA) and Mary Elizabeth (Truett) Johnson (born July 7, 1848 in Jackson County, MS; married April 1, 1874 in Berrien County, GA; died June 6, 1915 in Lakeland, GA); he  was a brother of James Randall Johnson, subject of previous posts.

Marriage certificate of Merritt E. Johnson and Minnie Gordon Sloan, January 17, 1904, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Merritt E. Johnson and Minnie Gordon Sloan, January 17, 1904, Berrien County, GA.

After marriage, Minnie and Meritt made their home on Main Street in Lakeland, GA, where they maintained their residence for many years.

According to  Georgia’s Official Register, 1937, Meritt E. Johnson was a product of local Berrien County schools and studied law on his own at home.  He taught school for five years before being admitted to the bar. He was a Baptists, Mason, Odd Fellow, Knight of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, and member of the Farmers’ Union. From 1901 to 1908 he served as Justice of the Peace. From  1904-1908 he was on the Berrien County Board of Education, and from 1910 to 1916 he was a school trustee in the Knight school district. In politics he was a democrat; he served as city councilman in Lakeland from 1919 to 1926 and as city recorder form 1929-1931.  He was solicitor in the Lanier County Court from August 15, 1929 to August 15, 1933 , and again from August 15, 1935  to August 15, 1937.

Census records attest that  Meritt wasn’t always so bookish.  In 1910 census of Milltown, GA, he was working as a carpenter, building houses. In 1920, he was a barber, working on his own account in his own shop.  Some time before 1930, son Julian A. Johnson took over the barbershop, and Meritt Johnson entered legal practice in Lakeland.

Children of Minnie Gordon Sloan and Merritt E. Johnson:

  • Blanche Estelle Johnson, born November 4, 1904, attended Georgia State Womens College –
  • Julian Aubrey Johnson, born October 15, 1907
  • Hoke Smith Johnson, born May 28, 1910

Related Posts:

 

William Greene Avera Is Laid To Rest

William Green Avera (1855-1944) and Benjamin Gaskins (left) photographed at Irene Church, Lanier County, GA.  Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Green Avera (1855-1944) and Benjamin Gaskins (left) photographed at Irene Church, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William Green Avera was a local educator who received national attention for his innovative teaching methods.

Professor Avera died January 10, 1944. His obituary ran on the front page of the Clinch County News:

Obituary of William Green Avera, Clinch County News, Jan 14, 1944.

Obituary of William Green Avera, Clinch County News, Jan 14, 1944.

The Clinch County News
January 14, 1944 Pg 1

William Avera is Laid to Rest

    Funeral services were held this morning at 11 o’clock (Wednesday) at the Irene Primitive Baptist church in Lanier county [see map] for William Greene Avera, pioneer educator of South Georgia who died at his rural home East of Nashville on Monday afternoon.  He was 88 years of age.
    As a mark of respect all the schools of Berrien county were closed for the funeral services.  Mr. Avera served as superintendent of the Berrien county schools for twenty years and form more than half a century he taught in the schools of Berrien and other counties in south Georgia.
    His second wife, Mrs. Margaret Avera. and one son, Bryant Avera, both of Berrien county and 13 grandchildren and a number of great grandchildren survive.
    Mr. Avera’s first wife was Miss Eliza Jane Sirmans.  There were 11 children from this union.  Mrs. Avera died in 1905 and in 1911 he was married to Miss Margaret McMillan.
    Pallbeareres at the funeral this morning were grandsons of Mr. Avera.  They were: Waldo Avera and W. R. Roberts, of Jacksonville, Fla., Albert Griner, Phiniza Avera and Saron Parr, of Nashville.
    The funeral services were conducted by Elder Orvill Knight.
    Mr. Avera was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Steven Willis Avera of Clinch county.  When he was a young child the family moved to Berrien county. 
    Mr. Avera died in the home in which he lived for 60 years.

Irene Church, 2011, Lanier County, GA

Irene Church, 2011, Lanier County, GA

For additional views of Irene Church see Irene Primitive Baptist Church

Grave of William Green Avera, Avera Cemetery, near Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Avera Cemetery map on Find-a-Grave

Sam I. Watson Dies in Explosion

On March 7, 1939 Samuel Irvin Watson was killed in a tragic accident on his farm near Ray City, GA.  Watson served on the State Board of Education (see Sam I. Watson and the State Board of Education )  and route 64 out of Ray City was named in his honor (see The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway)  The March 8, 1939 Atlanta Constitution reported on Watson’s death with front page headline:

STATE SCHOOL OFFICIAL DIES IN EXPLOSION

2 Farm Tenants of Sam I. Watson  Are Also Killed

Another Tenant Escapes But Is Prevented by Flames From Attempting to Make Rescue

Bucket Brigade Conquers Fire

Lakeland Blast Occurs While Chemically Treating Corn for Weevil

Special to The Constitution.
LAKELAND, Ga., March 7.  Trapped by an explosion and flames which spread quickly through a barn on his plantation near here, Sam I. Watson, member of the Georgia Board of Education, perished early this afternoon with two farm tenants.
    The other victims were J. I. Parrish and Edmond Jones.
    Riley Stone, another tenant on the Watson farm, six miles from here, was standing near a door and fled to safety, prevented by roaring flames from attempting to rescue the others.
    Bodies of the three victims huddled in one of the sheds which surrounded the big structure, were found after the flames had been extinguished by a bucket brigade.
 
    Lint Miller’s Brother-in-Law.

    Watson, a brother-in-law of Lint Miller, chairman of the State Highway Board, was directing the treatment of corn for weevil infestation when the explosion occurred, Stone said.  The four men had treated several thousand bushels with a chemical preparation, and were leaving the barn when the blast came, apparently set off by a spark made by a nail as the door was opened.
    Neighbors reported the explosion was heard a few minutes after 2 o’clock, and that the barn was enveloped in flames almost immediately.  Volunteer fire fighters rushed to the scene and formed a bucket brigade to prevent further spread of the flames and to avert threatened cremation of the three trapped men.

    Well-known Farm.
 
    The main section of the barn was 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, with small sheds on all sides. Contents of the structure included several head of livestock and between 4,000 and 5,000 bushels of corn.
    Watson’s farm, which includes more than 2,000 acres, is one of the best known in south Georgia, largely because of the progressive farming methods the owner had inaugurated and followed in its development.
    Mr. Watson was the second member of the present State Board of Education to meet violent death within the last year.
    Several months ago, Lee Branch, of Quitman, vice chairman of the board, was shot and killed by a deranged member of his family.  Mrs.  Branch also was slain.
    In Atlanta, Governor Rivers expressed deep sorrow over the death of Mr. Watson, who was an old and personal friend.
    “The death of Mr. Watson and his two friends is a great shock to me,” the Governor said.  “I have had few friends closer to me than Mr. Watson. In addition he was an excellent public servant and an outstanding member of the board of education.  The school children of the state and the state itself have lost a fine public official, and I have lost a warm friend. I am deeply grieved.”
    Miss Levond Watson, an employee of the State Department of Public Welfare is a daughter of Mr. Watson.  Mrs. Rivers informed her of the tragedy and she left for home immediately accompanied by Mrs. Rivers.
    Chairman Miller, of the highway board, will leave Atlanta tomorrow morning to attend the Watson funeral.

The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Heading northeast on highway 64 out of Ray City, GA  in the direction of Empire Church, you will encounter a sign at the Lanier county line that identifies this route as the Sam I. Watson Highway.  Sam Watson was raised on the Watson family farm, located near Empire Church about 5 miles northeast of Rays Mill, originally settled by his grandparents about 180 years ago.

Born August 9, 1877 in Lowndes county, GA Samuel Irvin Watson  was a son of Mary and Joseph Watson.

By age 22, Sam Watson was occupied as a school teacher. Enumerated in the census of 1900 next to his father, Sam had by that time established an independent household on a part of the family land. As yet unmarried, he owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage. Perhaps the establishment of his homestead was in preparation for matrimony; later that year Sam married Jennie Lee, a daughter of Amanda Clements and Moses C. Lee. Jennie was born on January 5, 1882 in Berrien County and grew up on her father’s farm near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.  As a girl she attended the Green Bay School, along with her brother, Bill.

Sam and Jennie were married July 1, 1900 at the home of the bride’s parents. The ceremony was performed by  William C. Patten, Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace.  (W.C. Patten was the husband of Jennie’s aunt Sarah Lee, and he later married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.)

 

 

In September of 1918, Sam Watson registered for the draft for World War I.  At age 41 he was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and gray hair.

Perhaps Sam found the pay of a teacher was not sufficient to support his growing family. By 1920,  had returned to the occupation of farming, and was an employer in general farming.  One of his employees was John Kirkland. Sam’s eldest daughter, Gola Watson, was already a student in college. The census of 1920 shows the Watson farm was located on the Ray City & Mud Creek Road in the Milltown District of Berrien County, and area soon to be cut into the newly created Lanier county.

Sam Watson, a man of Berrien and Lanier county his entire life, and was again enumerated on his farm near Ray City in the census of 1930. That year the enumeration included a count of citizens who owned radio sets, which Sam Watson did.   In the enumeration of Ray City, there were only eight radio sets within the city limits, the owners being James A. Grissett, John D. Luke, Henry Swindle, Marvin Purvis, Walter Altman, John Simpkins, Joseph Johnson and Fannie Parks.  The average cost of a radio in 1929 was around $139 dollars. In terms of comparable “affordability” for an average person in today’s dollars (2010 index) this would be like making a $7,600 purchase (relative worth based on nominal GDP per capita index – see MeasuringWorth.com).

It is safe to say that Sam Watson was among the prominent citizens of Lanier County. He was a former educator and a successful farmer who could afford relative luxuries, like a radio.  He followed the politics of Ed Rivers, State Assemblyman from Lakeland, GA.

After Ed Rivers was elected Governor of Georgia in 1936 he appointed Sam Watson to the State Board of Education.

But more about that in the next post.

-30-

Related Posts:

Wilmont Pierce and the Valdosta Baptist Association

Wilmont Pierce (1922-2009) An old newspaper clipping tells of the service of  Wilmont Pierce, of Ray City, as clerk of the Valdosta Baptist Association during the 1950s. Pierce was a graduate of Lanier County Schools, and in 1938 was a member of the 8th District high school championship basketball team.  He joined the First Baptist Church, Ray City, Ga., in the early 1940s and served as a deacon, teacher and in various other capacities. In 1943 he married  Helen D. Baskin, daughter of Armstrong B. “Bee” Baskin.    Pierce served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in France and Germany, as well as Fort Dix, N.J.  Following the War he enlisted in the regular Army for service in the Panama Canal Department. After discharge from the service Wilmont Pierce farmed at Ray City with his father-in-law. In the late 1960s, the Pierces moved to Valdosta, GA and later moved to Axson, in Coffee County, GA.

Wilmont Pierce, of Ray City, GA, Clerk of the Valdosta Baptist Association, 1953

Wilmont Pierce, of Ray City, GA, Clerk of the Valdosta Baptist Association, 1953

Clinch County News
November 6, 1953

Rev. Marvin Stedham, Lakeland, retiring moderator of the Valdosta Baptist Association, congratulates the newly elected moderator, Rev. Edgar Davis (center), Homerville pastor, who was named to the association’s highest office at sessions of the annual meeting in Valdosta Thursday.  Wilmont Pierce, Ray City layman (right), was re-elected as clerk of the organization for his third term.  Rev. Omer Graves, Nashville, who was named vice moderator was unable to attend.

Obituary of Wilmont Pierce

Wilmont Pierce, of Axon, Ga., passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, at his home following an extended illness. Mr. Pierce was born on Jan. 17, 1922, in the Mud Creek/Crisp area of Lanier County, the son of the late Joseph Candler Pierce and Nancy Richardson Pierce. Preceding him in death were his wife of 61 years, Helen D. Baskin Pierce, Axson, Ga., and his brothers and sister, Billy Pierce, Dilmus Pierce and Beatrice Pierce Everett, all of Lakeland, Ga. He was a graduate of Lanier County Schools. Mr. Pierce has served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in France and Germany, as well as Fort Dix, N.J. After his discharge he farmed with his father-in-law, the late A. B. Baskin of Lanier County. He was instrumental in re-organizing the Lanier County Farm Bureau and became the first insurance agent for the Georgia Farm Bureau Insurance Company in that county. He also opened the first Farm Bureau supply store that became a pilot project for Farm Bureau stores state-wide. He retired in the late 1990’s while residing in Valdosta, Ga. After moving there in the late 1960’s, he worked with the Grant’s retail stores, later managing hospitality properties for Jolly Inn. The King of the Road, Club House Inn and the Elks Club. He also managed properties in Thomasville, Ga. and Jacksonville Beach, Fla.  In his early years, Mr. Pierce had been a member of Unity United Methodist Church in Lanier County. He became a member of First Baptist Church, Ray City, Ga., in the early 1940’s where he served as a deacon, teacher and in various other capacities. After moving to Valdosta he was a member of First Baptist Church there. He and his wife moved to Coffee County in 2000, and was a member of Stokesville Baptist Church where he served as a teacher of senior adults until a few months ago. He is survived by his sons, Michael J. Pierce (Lou), Axson, Ga., W. Candler Pierce (Mary Ann), Wyoming, R.I., Bobby L. Pierce (Kay), Axson, Ga.; his grandchildren, M. Andrew Pierce (Robin), Olathe, Kan., Holly Smith, Axson, Ga., Wade C. Pierce (Jennifer), Keith H. Pierce, Clearwater, Fla., Jessica and Andrea Pierce, Boston, Mass., Justin Pierce, Wyoming, R.I., K. Lynn Eslinger (Jason), Cleveland, Tenn., Kimberly L. Hunter (Tim), Valdosta, Krista L. Pierce, Valdosta; as well as seven great-grandchildren. Surviving in his extended family are J.C. and Evelyn Pierce, Crawfordville, Ga., Howard and Dorothy Faye Pierce Ray, Ray City, Ga., Jessie Pierce Hudson, Valdosta, McDonald (Jabo) and Betty Pierce and Burma Pierce, Lakeland Ga., Vanelle Baskin, Valdosta, Gloria Baskin, Groves, Texas, Hagan and Shirley Baskin, Atlanta; and 16 nieces and nephews.

Memorial services for Mr. Pierce were held at First Baptist Church, Ray City, Ga., on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009, at 2:30 p.m. with the Rev. John Patten and the Rev. Bob Pierce officiating. Interment, with the Rev. Edgar Musgrove officiating followed in the Unity United Methodist Church cemetery near Lakeland, Ga., with military honors.

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