Grand Rally at Milltown

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, May 1861

Special thanks to Jim Griffin for sharing contributions and illustration for this post.

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

About the Illustration

The illustration above, commissioned and contributed by reader Jim Griffin, depicts the scene of the Grand Military Rally held in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA in mid-May, 1861 to honor the Berrien Minute Men.  The illustration is based on reports published in Savannah, GA newspapers, transcribed below. Illustration by Alan H. Archambault.

Setting and Attendees Described in Newspaper Accounts

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA, received the ceremonial flag presented at the Grand Rally. He was a “large, raw-boned man,” and a social, political and military leader of Berrien County, which then included Milltown (now Lakeland),  GA and all of present day Lanier County, GA. A veteran of the Indian Wars, he organized the Berrien Minute Men in 1860, and  served as their first Captain. He took his company to Brunswick, GA where they first served with the 13th Georgia Regiment. After reorganization they were mustered into the 29th GA Regiment of Volunteer Infantry; L.J. Knight served as Major of this  Regiment before retiring on account of age and health.

The Baptist Church at Milltown, depicted in the background, was where the association of the ladies of Milltown convened prior to the Grand Military Rally of May, 1861. The Baptist Church was constructed about 1857.  Its organization was instigated by the families of James and Jesse Carroll, brothers who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County, GA.

“In 1857 Daniel B. Carroll (James’ son) and James S. Harris (James Carroll’s son-in-law) deeded land for a Missionary Baptist Church. Trustees to whom the deed was made were James Carroll, James Dobson, James’ sons John T. and James H., and James S. Harris.  Rev. Caswell Howell, who had recently settled here, is said to have been its first pastor. [Rev. Howell was a brother of Barney Howell, who was a mail carrier on the Troupville route.] The church, directly north of today’s courthouse [present day site of Mathis Law office, 64 W. Church Street Lakeland, GA], was built of hand-split lumber with hand-hewn sills, and put together with wooden pegs. The ten-inch-wide ceiling boards were planed by hand.” – Nell Roquemore, in Roots, Rocks and Recollections

The Methodist Episcopal Church, shown on the right,  was organized by the Talley family and built in 1856 on the present day site of the Lakeland City Cemetery, on  E. Church Street.  The pastor of this church, Reverend Nathan Talley,  led the invocation and hymns for the convening of the ladies association at the Baptist Church.

Not depicted is a school that sat in between the Baptist and Methodist churches.  The school supposedly sat back off Church Street.

Mrs. Jas. S. Harris, who made the motion for a chair to be called, was Elizabeth Ann Carroll Harris, wife of Milltown merchant and postmaster James Simpson Harris. As a civil servant, the 48 year-old Mr. Harris was exempt from Confederate military service.   The Harrises were neighbors of Milltown merchant Abraham Leffler and of Dr. James W. Talley, son of Reverend Nathan Talley.

Mrs. Susan A. Dawson served as Chair of the Ladies Association.

Miss E. Brannon,  appointed secretary of the Ladies Association, was Emily Elizabeth Brandon. She was a daughter of William R. Brandon.  She would marry Jonathan D. Knight, of the Berrien Minute Men, on August 10, 1862 in South Carolina.

Mrs. E .J. G. Crawford, who was selected to present the flag to the Berrien Minute Men, was Ellen Jeane Grey Lee, wife of Cornelius Whitfield Crawford. The Crawfords were residents of Magnolia, GA and later moved to Texas.

Mr. Wiley E. Baxter was  a school teacher for John T. Carroll, a neighbor of Captain Levi J. Knight.  Baxter was one of Captain L. J. Knight’s company of men; He appeared on the 1860 roster of Berrien Minute Men.  He would go with Captain Knight’s Company to Savannah, GA to enlist in the Georgia volunteer infantry. He eventually served in the 29th Georgia Regiment with both Company A (C & G) and Company B (D & K) of the Berrien Minute Men, and would achieve the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before being killed at the Battle of Atlanta, 1864.

Daniel B. McDonald, who also took up the collection from the men, was the twin brother of Dougal P. McDonald of the Berrien Minute Men.  The twins married sisters Elizabeth and Ann Lamb, who were siblings of William J. Lamb and John Carroll Lamb.  Dougal P. McDonald was excused from military duty to serve in the Confederate Georgia legislature.  Daniel McDonald later served as a Captain with the Georgia reserve Coast Guard at Jonesville near Riceboro, GA.

Elizabeth Lastinger was a daughter of William Lastinger, who owned Lastinger Mill. Her brother, Pvt. Seaborn L. Lastinger of the Berrien Minute Men, was killed September 15, 1863 in a magazine explosion at James Island, SC.

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 17, 1861

A Grand Military Rally in Mill Town, Berrien County.

A mass meeting of the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity convened in the Baptist Church in the above mentioned village.
   The Rev. Mr. Talley, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the meeting with singing and prayer, after which on motion of Mrs. JAS. S. HARRIS, Mrs. SUSAN A DAWSON was called to the Chair, and Miss E. BRANNON requested to act as Secretary.
     The object of the meeting was then explained from the Chair, which was —
     1st. The presentation of a beautiful flag representing the flag of the Confederate States.
     2d. The forming of themselves into an association of ladies for the purpose of preparing necessary articles of clothing, bandages, lints, &c., for the volunteer company, the Berrien Minute Men, while in camp or battle field.
     3d. For the purpose of taking up contributions for the benefit of the company, and for other purposes.
     The association being formed, on motion of Mrs. C. W. CRAWFORD, the Chair was requested to appoint two ladies and two gentlemen to take up a collection.  Miss E. LASTINGER and Mrs. HARRIS were appointed to take up a collection among the ladies; Mr WILEY E. BAXTER and Mr. DANIEL B. McDONALD to take collection from the gentlemen.
      It was, on motion, suggested that the Chair appoint some lady to present the flag to the company in behalf of the ladies of Berrien.
      The Chair suggested the name of Mrs. E. J. G. CRAWFORD, who accepted the appointment.
      Upon motion, the meeting adjourned; and a messenger despatched to the company (who were on parade in the streets) to inform the Captain that the ladies were ready to present the flag.  The Captain marched his company up in front of the Church. Capt. KNIGHT and his officers formed six paces in front, and announced themselves ready; when Mrs. CRAWFORD advanced with flag-staff in hand, at the top of which floated to the breeze the beautiful flag of the Confederate States, and addressed the Captain as follows:
        Captain Levi J. Knight and Gentlemen of the Berrien Minute Men: We, the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity, present you this flag, wishing you to present it to your ensign in our behalf. Brave volunteers! may you march forth under its stars to defend your country’s cause. The tocsin of war is resounding through our land.  From James’ and Sullivan’s Islands its first peals were heard, saying “We no longer submit to Northern aggression.”  Numbers of our brave countrymen are already in the field, firmly and proudly bearing arms defensive of our rights and our soil against the hostile invaders. Others are rushing on to the rescue.  For freedom they fight – for freedom will die.  Brothers! go join them. Rally for truth, for liberty, and our own happy South.
        This bright sunny land of our birth, and our homes inherited from our fathers, the brave old patriots of ’76, let their spirits inspire your souls to preserve that freedom for which they fought and bled.  Spread this fair flag to the breeze of Heaven; long and proudly may it float to the gaze.
       In every conflict with the foe, remember this flag waves over you. Those bars and seven stars represent our Southern Confederate flag, recently formed for our protection. Guard them with distinguished care, and never, oh! never let them fall to the dust in dishonor.
       Your trial, your toils, your hardships in this warfare may be many, very many; but be firm and unyielding, courageous and brave, true be each man to his post, dealing out death to foe, fighting for freedom, our rights, our homes, and the South.  Each heart will grow bolder, each arm will grow stronger, each eye will be brightened in view of success. Think not of those you leave behind you, but press onward to the glory in battle.  Our hearts, though riven with anguish, will ever be with you, and our prayers continually ascending to Him who defendeth our cause.  Then, brave soldiers, with God on your side and our prayers in your behalf, be sure you will conquer at last. Let your watch-word be triumph, or die in the ranks of the foe.
        Many were the tears that trickled down thousands of fair cheeks that composed the vast assembly that surrounded the fair and eloquent speaker. She advanced silently and presented the flag to Capt. Knight.  Upon receiving it he advanced two paces and replied as follows:
Fair lady accept our thanks for yourself and those you represent, for this beautiful and highly appreciated banner. When the aggressions of the North became so oppressive, we no longer could bear them without degradation; we withdrew from the old Confederacy, and assumed the right which the God of Nature has bestowed on every free and patriotic people – the formation of a government that will best accure to them the blessings and protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; but we are now threatened with subjugation; yea, the fiat has gone forth from the Black Republic President, that we must be subjugated, and is now arming his minions to force us to submit.  That the fair of our land should feel indignant, is but natural; but for you, fair Lady, and your associates, have been prompted by a nobler and loftier patriotism, felt only by the virtuous and intelligent.

        This beautiful flag, to which you have so happily allude and so delicately presented, will, I trust, stimulate every member of this Company to do his whole duty to his country and to you. May your generosity, confidence, labors, and anticipations be not in vain. May we ever merit that confidence; and should we meet the enemy, which there is now every possibility we will, I trust this beautiful flag will be the beacon that will guide this Company to noble deeds. – Though its beauty may be tarnished and soiled with the hardships of the camp; through its beautiful folds may be purforated with the enemy’s bullets, I trust it will never trail in disgrace. – While you fair lady, and the fair of this community, manifest such a noble spirit of patriotism, you can never want stout hearts and strong arms to defend and protect you.
        In behalf of the members of this Company, I tender to you our grateful acknowledgements.
        Notice was then given to the Captain, that a sumptuous dinner had been prepared at the Hotel by the ladies. The Company was then marched up in the front of the Hotel; orders were given to stack arms, which was done in beautiful order, and orders given to repair to the table – about 100 feet in length, and weighted down with many, very many, of the goodly things of our sunny South.
        Permit me, further, to state, Mr. Editor, that the Company numbers 80 as brave, patriotic and fine looking men as the Southern Confederacy can produce – well uniformed, with the first quality of muskets and sword bayonets. There is another volunteer company being bade up in our county, which I think will be complete in a few days – all brave as Sparters.

Soon Captain Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men would be bound for Brunswick, GA.  There, they would join the Thomasville Guards, Ocklochnee Light Infantry, Seaboard Guards, Piscola Volunteers, Wiregrass Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles in the defense of the port of Brunswick. In August, 1861, these companies and others would be mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment. (In a later reorganization, the Berrien Minute Men would be transferred to Savannah and mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.)

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Rice Production in Wiregrass Georgia

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

Rice production efforts by settlers  and rice plantations in coastal Georgia are well known, but rice was also grown by pioneer settlers of Lowndes, Berrien and other Wiregrass counties.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

“Rice, Georgia’s first staple crop, was the most important commercial agricultural commodity in the Low country from the middle of the eighteenth century until the early twentieth century. Rice arrived in America with European and African migrants as part of the so-called Columbian Exchange of plants, animals, and germs. Over time, profits from the production and sale of the cereal formed the basis of many great fortunes in coastal Georgia.”

The cultivation of rice on coastal plantations played a significant role in the introduction of slavery in Georgia, which was forbidden by the state’s original charter.

At least by the mid 1800’s settlers further inland,  in the Old Lowndes County region were growing small amounts of rice locally, along with other farming and agriculture efforts.   The total rice production in Lowndes County for the year ending June 1, 1850 was 66,300 pounds.  With the total state production reaching about 39 million pounds of rice that year, Lowndes county was hardly among the chief producers. Still, the rice crop was important to the local farmers  who had settled in the Rays Mill, Georgia (nka Ray City) area.  The Reverend George White in 1855 listed rice, cotton and corn as Lowndes county’s major agricultural crops. The following year, 1856, Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes. One early Berrien county rice grower was Aden Boyd. The Berrien County agricultural and manufacturing records  for 1860 show his farm produced 80 pounds of rice, along with 50 bushels of corn, 10 bushels of oats and 5 bushels of peas and beans. By 1879, Berrien County farmer Wiley Chambless  “gathered 21 bushels of clean, ruff rice from half an acre” and “plan[ned] to plant 50 or 75 acres in rice” for 1880.

Equipment for producing rice was manufactured right here in Georgia. In the 1850’s Nesbet & Levy’s Ocmulgee Foundry and Machine shop in Macon, GA. was manufacturing rice thrashers, among many other agricultural and industrial machines.

In Milltown (now Lakeland, GA.) there was a rice cleaning machine at the Lastinger Mill. Later on, Berrien county residents could take their rice to the Avera mill, built in 1880 near Nashville.   In fact, by 1880 the Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun reported that, “The farmers of Berrien county say that rice pays them better than  cotton.”

1910 – A FEW INDUSTRIAL FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA

Rice – Rice is an important product which can be easily produced in Georgia of very superior quality. The average yield is about 12 barrels per acre and in favorable seasons a second crop of 8 to 10 barrels may be obtained. This product sells for about $3.50 a barrel.