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. 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.  Fleming Bates and Matthew Albritton, of  Union Church, were appointe to lead the local organization of  “seven Baptist churches situated between the Alapaha and Flint River” into the new Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association.  The Ochlocknee Association grew rapidly and by 1833 included 35 churches and 1,010 members.   William A. Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association. By 1835,  when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida again sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee  Primitive Baptist Association.

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:

  • 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, October1, 1825
  • Martha Ford Lee – constituting member, October1, 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
  • William Patten – baptized September 9, 1848, dismissed by letter March 11, 1854 to organize Empire Church

 

Related Articles:

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.

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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.

Ruth Boyette Married Dillard Markham During WWII

On New Year’s  Day, 1943 the Clinch County News announced the marriage of Ruth Boyette and Sergeant Dillard Maurice Markham.  She was from Ray City, GA, a daughter of Hattie Mae Dean  and Grover Gordon Boyette.    She was born September 7, 1920 near Ray City, in that part of Berrien County, GA that  two months later would be cut into the newly created Lanier County.  Her grandfather, John Boyette, was among those who fought the creation of the new county (Ray City Citizens Fought Creation of Lanier County). Sergeant Markham was a WWII soldier stationed at Moody Air Field near Ray City.

Ruth Boyette and Dillard Markham marriage announcement, 1943.

Ruth Boyette and Dillard Markham marriage announcement, 1943.

Clinch County News
January 1, 1943

Miss Boyette Weds Sgt. Markham

    Miss Ruth Boyette of Homerville and Ray City, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. G. Boyette of Ray City, became the bride of Sgt. Dilliard M. Markham of Moody Field, Valdosta, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Markham of Goodes, Va., on December 19 at an impressive ceremony solemnized at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Wooten of Homerville.
    White gladioli and graceful ferns were used for the living room decorations and formed a beautiful background for the ceremony. Rev. L. C. Harvard, Methodist minister, officiated.

The Markhams made their home in Lynchburg, VA where they operated a successful produce business.  Ruth Boyette Markham died November 2, 2008.  Dillard Markham died March 18, 2010.

 The News & Advance 
November 4, 2008

Ruth Boyette Markham

    Ruth Boyette Markham, of Lynchburg, died Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008. She was the loving wife of Dillard Maurice Markham for 66 years.
    Mrs. Markham was born in Lanier County, Ga., on Sept. 7, 1920, to the late Grover Gordon Boyette and the late Hattie Mae Dean Boyette. Ruth was devoted to raising her family and helping in the family business, Markham Produce.
    In addition to her husband, she is survived by her son, Dillard A. Markham of Columbia, S.C.; her daughter, Sally M. Tinsley of Lynchburg; one brother, Hansel Lincoln Boyette and his wife, Connie, of Lakeland, Ga.; and two grandchildren, Robert E. Tinsley III and Whitney S. Tinsley, both of Lynchburg. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by one sister, Mary Boyette Mercier.
    The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008, at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008, in the chapel of Tharp Funeral Home. Interment will follow in Virginia Memorial Park.
    Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of the Hills, 3300 Rivermont Ave., Lynchburg, VA 24503.
Tharp Funeral Home and Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family, (434) 237-9424. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.tharpfuneralhome.com.

Obituary
Dillard Maurice Markham,  March 18, 2010

Dillard Maurice Markham passed away Thursday, March 18 at his residence.  Born April 2, 1920, in Bedford County, a son of the late Elmor Dove Markham and the late Gracie Markham.

In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth Boyette Markham, his daughter Sally Markham Tinsley, four brothers and three sisters.

In 1949 Mr. Markham opened Markham Wholesale Produce.  After 50 years of serving the community he became known as Grand Daddy Markham to all the stores, restaurants, friends in Virginia and all the South Eastern states.  He proudly served his country during WWII as a member of the US Air Force. He was loved by all.

Dillard is survived by a son, Dillard A. Markham, Columbia, SC, two grandchildren: Whitney S. Tinsley and Robert E. Tinsley, III, of Lynchburg, a brother, Stuart Markham of Lynchburg, a sister, Dorothy Markham Garrett, and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends today from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg. A funeral service will be held Monday, March 22, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. at Keystone Baptist Church with Dr. Monty Fox officiating. Burial will follow in Virginia Memorial Park with military honors provided by American Legion Post 16.
Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of the Hills, 3300 Rivermont Ave. Lynchburg, VA 24503.

The family would like to thank Marva Henderson, who was Dillard’s friend and care giver for four years.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family, 434-237-9424.

Ray City Citizens Fought Creation of Lanier County

In August 1919, the General Assembly of Georgia passed an act to place an amendment to the Georgia Constitution creating Lanier County on the ballot  for the November 1920 general elections.  But in 1920,  as the election approached, there was strenuous objection from the Ray City area.  Many citizens who were well associated with the history of Ray City found that their property would be on the Lanier side of the new county line, including such family  names as Giddens, Clements, Swindle, Sirmans and others.  Desiring to remain in Berrien county, these land owners, led by A.W. Gaskins, filed a motion with the courts to stop the vote on the constitutional amendment that would create the new county.

Atlanta Constitution
Sep 2, 1920

COURT IS ASKED TO BAR CREATION OF LANIER COUNTY

     Hearing on a permanent injunction brought by citizens of Berrien county to restrain Governor Dorsey from advertizing, as required by law, the proposed constitutional amendment creating the new county of Lanier, was set for September 11, in the Fulton superior court, by Judge John D. Humphries, following a short hearing on a temporary injunction on the same petition, which was denied by Judge Humphries.
     The bill was filed by Attorneys R.A. Hendricks, James A. Alexander and W.D. Biue, of Berrien county, and Bryan and Middlebrooks, of Atlanta. The petitioning citizens are as follows:
     A.U. Gaskins, A.H. Giddens, H.C. Clements, R.D. Swindle, John Sirmans, Raygood Lankford, S.S. Watson, L.S. Sirmans, Mrs. Rachel Postick, W.L. Rouse, John C. Sirmans, J.B. Baskins, J.W. Bloodworth, J.J. Porke, Leo Griner, J.H.Patten. S.H. Winderweedles, W.C. Johnson, Mrs. Martha Clements, A.J. Clements, Levi J. Clements, L. J. Clements, Jr., Bud Watson, Bryant Avers, J. L. Lee, Jasper J. Cook, L.S. Simms, J.H. Clements, J. P. Watson, D. Harrell, R.S. Johnson and John Boyett.
     This action was taken to prevent the submission to the voters in the general election in November of the question of the creation of Lanier county, and the petition asks that Governor Dorsey be enjoined from issuing a proclamation authorizing the vote, and that Secretary of State S. Guyt McLendon be restrained from announcing the result of any vote on the question; and that the state superintendent of printing be restrained from printing a proclamation by the governor.
     The petitioners claim that the promoters of Lanier county made a written and signed agreement with the affected property owners of Berrien county as to the part of Berrien county that would be in Lanier county; that the agreement was violated without their knowledge and consent, so that 9,540 additional acres of land, valued at $150,000, was taken into the county. The petitioning citizens represent this extra land, and declare that they did not want to be taken into the new county.

The petitioners request for an injunction was denied. They appealed all the way to the Georgia Supreme court where they lost in the case of  GASKINS et al v. DORSEY, Governor, et al.  The  Amendment issue went ahead in November, and the constitutional amendment to create Lanier county was passed by the voters.

The petitioners, this time led by Dr. H.W. Clements,  then filed  for an injunction to stop the first election of officers in the newly created county, but that too, failed.   While Clements and others appealed to a higher court, the election was held as scheduled on  the first Wednesday in December 1920.

Not to be deterred, Dr. Clements and others again pursued the appeal of two cases all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, CLEMENTS el al v. WILKERSON et al  and CLEMEMENTS et al v. ANDERSON et al, in an attempt to nullify the creation of the new county.

But in the end the Georgia Supreme court ruled that any decision was moot since the election  of  county officers had already been held and the case was dismissed.

All challenges aside, Georgia voters approved the constitutional amendment on Nov. 2, 1920, which marks the official date of the creation of Lanier County.

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