Smiths of Ray City

Thomas Jefferson Smith (1864-1946)

Ray City home of Thomas Jefferson Smith and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sirmans Smith, formerly located on the southeast corner of Main Street and Swindle Street, Ray City, GA

Ray City home of Thomas Jefferson Smith and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sirmans Smith, formerly located on the southeast corner of Main Street and Swindle Street, Ray City, GA

 

Ray City Home of Tom and Lizzie Smith, front elevation faced Swindle Street. This home was demolished about 2010 to make way for the construction of the Ray City Church of God, and Swindle Street has since been abandoned.

Ray City Home of Tom and Lizzie Smith, front elevation faced Swindle Street. This home was demolished about 2010 to make way for the construction of the Ray City Church of God, and Swindle Street has since been abandoned.

Thomas Jefferson Smith and his second wife, Elizabeth Mahaley “Lizzie” Smith lived in this house in Ray City, GA in the 1940s. Before its demolition in 2010, this house was sometimes called the “Murder House” by local residents. It was the home of an elderly woman who was murdered in a home invasion. She was killed with a cast iron skillet. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

 

Thomas Jefferson Smith grew up in the 1157 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA. He was a son of George and Amanda Smith. He married Jennette P. Shaw on August 17, 1884 in a ceremony performed by Lott W. Sirmans, Notary Public. She was born in 1869, a daughter of Elizabeth Parker and Richard James Shaw, and sister of Rachel J. Shaw. The Smiths lived for a while in the Connell’s Mill District west of Ray City, on the Cecil & Milltown Road where they were neighbors of Botie Peters, Caulie Augustus DeVane, Arren Fountain, and Remer Albritton.

  1. Caulie Columbus Smith, 1885–1968, married Marietta Bass, daughter of Joe Bass
  2. James Mansfield Smith, born September 19, 1887; attended Kings Chapel School; married Zonie L. Wooten, December 1, 1911; died October 18, 1957; burial Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  3. Verdie Belle Smith, born October 13, 1889; married Alvin Lee Ray, January 25, 1908; died October 29, 1981; buried New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  4. Viola Anne Smith, born 1892; married William U. Davis, January 10, 1915.
  5. Lonnie William Smith, born 1895; WWI Service in SC; married Sudie Green about 1920; relocated to South Carolina; died September 25, 1949; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  6. Leila Smith, born about 1897; married Charlie Lamar Ray; died 1924; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  7. Georgia Edna Smith, born December 28, 1898;  first wife of Rossie Futch, married December 22, 1918;  died December 17, 1942; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  8. Charlie Thomas Smith, born January 7, 1901; married Thelma ?; died October 21, 1945; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  9. Owen Newton Smith, born October 16, 1904; died July 29, 1975
  10.  Pauline Smith, born about 1908
  11. Margaret Myrtle Smith, born about 1911

The Smith children attended King’s Chapel School.  Some time before 1920 the family moved to the Cat Creek District, to a farm on the “Ray City & Valdosta Road by Cat Creek.”

Jeanette P. Shaw died July 8, 1922 at the age of 53. She was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, west of Ray City, GA.

On May 3, 1924 Tom Smith married Elizabeth Mahaley “Lizzie” Sirmans in a ceremony performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens.  She was the 32 year-old daughter of Shabatha Fender and Frank John Sirmans,

In 1930, Lizzie and Tom Smith lived in a house on Pauline Street across from Beaver Dam cemetery. This house was the residence of William Creech and family in the 1940s. By the time of the 1940 census the Smiths had moved up the block to a small house on the corner of Swindle and Main Street.

Ray City, GA map detail showing location of 1930-1940s residences of Thomas and Lizzie Smith.

Ray City, GA map detail showing location of 1930-1940s residences of Thomas and Lizzie Smith.

 

Thomas J. Smith died in 1946. He was buried at Pleasant Cemetery next to his first wife.

Graves of Jeanette P. Shaw and Thomas J. Smith, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Graves of Jeanette P. Shaw and Thomas J. Smith, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Searcher

Elizabeth S. “Lizzie” Smith died December 30, 1967. She was buried at Fender Cemetery, near Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Elizabeth S. Smith. Fender Cemetery, near Lakeland, GA

Grave of Elizabeth S. Smith. Fender Cemetery, near Lakeland, GA. Image source: Hether Pearson Pillman Belusky

 

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Ray City Class of 1930 Didn’t Walk

It is that time of year when communities and schools everywhere celebrate the graduation of their students with the presentation diplomas in graduation exercises.   Sadly, financial exigencies 0f 1930 precluded graduation exercises for the Ray City School Class of 1930.

At that time, the operation of the Ray City school was governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees which also operated under the Berrien County School Board. The local school trustees were elected on the calendar year,  not the school year, and served a two year term.  Thus, the Ray City school trustees elected in January of 1929, Joseph Henry Pascal “Joe” Johnson, Rozzie P. Swindle and Moses Albert Studstill, along with three returning members, Dr. George Hill Folsom, Elias Moore “Hun” Knight, and William Henry Edward Terry, were responsible for the spring semester of the 1928-1929 academic year and the  fall semester of the 1929-1930 academic year.

The Nashville Herald
Jan 24, 1929

Ray City School Trustees named for the year 1929.

The Ray City School Trustee election  was held last Saturday, Jan. 12., and the following citizens will guide the destinies of the school for the year 1929: Mr. W. H. E. TerryDr. G. H. Folsom, Mr. E. M. Knight, Mr. M. A. Studstill, Mr. R. P. Swindle, and Mr. J. H. P. Johnson.

    Both Mr. Studstill and Mr. Swindle offered for re-election, with Mr. J. H. P. Johnson the only new candidate in the race, Messrs. Terry, Knight, and Folsom were held from the last term. Mr. Studstill lead the list with 40 votes, Mr. Johnson 38 and Mr. Knight 6.

    The Ray City school is reported as having had a very fine fall term of school and with the fine corps of teachers and their board of education, on of the best years in the history of Ray City Schools we be completed in June.

The 1928-29 academic year had been quite full of accomplishments for the Ray City School, despite a flu outbreak in January.  But the 1929-30 academic year was a financial challenge, and the school struggled to remain open for the entire nine month school year. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term.

The Nashville Herald
May 22, 1930, front page

Ray City School Closes May 25th

COMMENCEMENT BEGINS TONIGHT AND ENDS SATURDAY EVENING WITH THE USUAL CLASS PLAY

      The Ray City School will come to a close Saturday night when the Senior Class play, entitled “A Hen-Pecked Hero,” will be given.  The commencement will begin tonight with the grammar school program, activities being postponed from Friday night on account of the Nashville Senior Class play.  Due to the school being run on a tuition basis, the commencement sermon and the graduation exercises will not be held.

      The Senior Class has been practicing daily for the past several weeks in preparing for the class play to be held Saturday night.  It is said to be very good and should draw a large attendance on that night.

Cast of Characters

Helen Hallmark, a college senior, Mable McDonald.
Doris Dartless, another senior, Doris Swindle.
Botzky, a rushing Russian, J.T. Smith.
Lilly, Russia’s fairest lily, Edra Byrd.
Barker, a defective detective, W.H. Knight.
Ted Slocum, the football coach, Bernard Johnson.
Mrs. Holden, why son-in-law left home, Beth Terry.
Iantha Brown, the romantic bride, Margaret Carter.
Prof. William Brown, her lesser half, Brown King.
Bud Cedman, with good intentions, J.R. Knight.
Countess Kalmanoff, the cause of it all, Virginia Knight.

      The Ray City school has enjoyed a very successful year and 225 students were enrolled.  At the end of the seventh month, it was feared that the school would be compelled to close down on account of finances, but public spirited citizens and patrons made the nine months term possible by contributions and placing the school on a tuition basis, which furnished the necessary money to continue operations.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Additional notes:

Mabel V. McDonald was a daughter of Carrie Eugenia Langford and Lacy Albert McDonald. She was a sister of Billie McDonald and Lillie McDonald.  Her father was a rural mail carrier at Ray City,GA serving the Cat Creek area.  Mabel attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia in the summer of 1931.

Doris E. Swindle was a daughter of Sarah Ellen “Stell” Daniel and James Henry Swindle. Her father was a farmer and merchant of Ray City, and served in the Georgia House of Representatives in the 1930s. Doris attended Camp Wilkins at UGA in the summer of 1931, and went on to attend Georgia State Womens College (now Valdosta State University). She was killed in an automobile accident in 1941.

J. T. Smith was  John Thomas Smith, son of Leila Terry and Grandson of Zack Terry.  J. T. Smith and brother, Edwin, later operated a dairy farm near Ray City, GA.

Edra Byrd was a daughter of Mattie Swindle Byrd, and a granddaughter of Mary Etta and Redding D. Swindle. In 1930, Edra was living with her grandparents. Her grandfather, Redding Swindle, served as Ray City’s first mayor and was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Ray City School.

W. H. Knight was a son of Josie Langdale and Paul Knight.  His father was a farmer of Berrien County.  W. H. Knight was a grandson of Jimmie Gullet and Walter Howard Knight.

Bernard Lamar Johnson was a son of James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight. In 1930 his father was a farmer near Rays Mill, GA. Bernard attended Camp Wilkins at UGA in the summer of 1931

Beth Terry was a daughter of Charles Oscar Terry and Esther E Russell.  Her father was a pharmacist and prominent businessman of Ray City. In the summer of 1931, Beth attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia.

Margaret Carter was born and raised in Ray City, GA. She was the daughter of Cora and Yancy F. Carter. Her father was a Ray City Councilman, board member of the Bank of Rays Mill, and operator of the Y.F. Carter Naval Stores, which in the 1930s was the largest firm in the community.  After completing school at Ray City, Margaret attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia in the summer of 1931. She went on to attend  Georgia State Womens College (now Valdosta State University).

Franklin Brown King was a son of Ida Guthrie and Jim King.  He went on to a long career as a merchant marine.

John R. Knight was a son of Walton and Mildred Knight. He later lived in Lanier County.

Virginia Florence Knight was a daughter of  Carl Herbert Knight and Mattie Julia Hadsock.  In 1934, she married William A. “Bill” Garner. The Garners would later run the Ray City Post Office.

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Charles Otis Ray Freed From Nazi POW Camp

Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996)

Charles Otis Ray was born June 5, 1922, a son of Charlie Lamar Ray and Leila Smith. He was a grandson of Jeanette P. Shaw and Thomas Jefferson Smith. As a young man, Charles O. Ray lived with his family near Ray City, GA in Georgia Militia District 1329.

Charles O. Ray enlisted in the Army on November 4, 1942 at Fort McPherson Atlanta, GA. His enlistment records show he was 22 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, weighed 138 pounds and was working as a farm hand in Berrien County.  He entered the services as a private.

On October 3, 1944 the War Department reported that Charles O. Ray was missing in action in Europe.  The Jan 13, 1945 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported that PFC Charles O. Ray, son of Charlie L. Ray, of Ray City, was a prisoner of Germany.

On June 14, 1945 the Atlanta Constitution announced that PFC Ray had been liberated from a German POW camp, along with 41 other Georgians.  The following article appeared in The Valdosta Times

Charles Otis Ray, of Ray City, GA, liberated from a German Pow Camp.

Charles Otis Ray, of Ray City, GA, liberated from a German Pow Camp.

Charles O. Ray Freed From Nazi Prisoners Camp

     Charlie L. Ray, of Ray City, Ga., Route 1, received a V-mail letter this week from his son, Pfc. Charles O. Ray, stating that he is now a free man again, having been liberated after spending 11 months in a German prisoner of war camp.
     Telling of how happy he is to be free once more, Pfc. Ray wrote that he is expecting to return home in the near future.
His relatives and many friends were overjoyed to learn that he was among the many Allied prisoners of war liberated from the Nazis, and that he expects to return to the States soon.
     Pfc. Ray failed to give any details of his imprisonment, preferring to use the limited V-mail space to describe his happiness upon being released from the camp.

After the war, Charles O. Ray married Quilla Taylor.  They lived in Fitzgerald, GA where Charles worked in home construction as a carpenter.

Charles Otis Ray

Charles Otis Ray

Charles O. Ray died Feb 2, 1996  in Lowndes County, GA. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA.

Gravemarker of Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996), Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA

Gravemarker of Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996), Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA

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