History of Ray City School

In 1918, a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA was let out by the Board of Education. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. The contract for materials went to A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City.

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Construction on the brick school building, which has been preserved in Ray City and which now houses the Joe Sizemore Community Library, began in 1920.  The Ray City School opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927. In 1918, the Berrien County School Board put out a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. Materials were supplied by A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City. The school opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927.

The brick school building at Ray City, GA was designed by Valdosta architect Lloyd Greer.  Among other buildings designed by Greer were:  Federal Building and Post Office, Valdosta, GA; Carnegie  Library, Valdosta,GA; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Tallahassee, FL; James Price McRee House, Camilla, GA; Dasher High School, Valdosta, GA; Barney School, Barney, GA; Barber-Pitman House, Valdosta, GA; Lanier County Auditorium and Grammar School, Lakeland, GA; Ilex Theater, Quitman,GA; Moultrie Theater, Moultrie, GA; United Cigar Store Building, Jacksonville, GA; Quitman Library, Quitman, GA; Echols County High School, Statenville, GA; Barrow Hall, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA; Pine Grove School, Fitzgerald, GA; Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, GA; Douglas Negro High School and Douglas White High School, Douglas, GA; Nichols House,Valdosta, GA; Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. The Lyric Theater, Waycross,GA was designed by Greer.

Old Wooden School at Ray City, GA

The Ray City High School Class of 1949 wrote, “The school of our community was begun long before our town received its present name having been known as Rays Mill. “

Among those early teachers of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) was  Henry Harrison Knight (1840-1898).  These teachers   taught in the little one room log house schools  of Berrien county, and were often paid in “found” – bartered, homegrown commodities such as ham, chickens, eggs, or butter.

The first school building was located on the east side of town. This building was destroyed by fire. Then a log cabin called the Alliance Building was constructed in 1898, and was used for about two years.

In January 1898, the Tifton Gazette reported that Robert Crawford Woodard was the teacher at the Rays Mill academy.  He later went on to become a physician.

In 1900 the interested people of the community decided to make an improvement in the school plant. Trees were cut from their lands and carried to Sutton’s Sawmill to be made into lumber, for the purpose of erecting a frame building. That stood where our present building is now standing. It consisted of one large room. Some of the interested patrons who helped with this building were: J. S. Swindle, W. E. Langford, Isaac Burkhalter, Redding Swindle, and W. M. Knight. With the aid of other patrons they completed the first Ray City School. -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The town experienced a boom period when the Georgia & Florida Railroad came to Ray City in 1909.The increased population made it necessary to make an addition of two more rooms to the school.” -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The January 19, 1911 edition of the Valdosta Times reported news of the school in Rays Mill (now Ray City).   Husband and wife team James Marcus Patten and Ida Lou Hall Patten were running the school. Professor J.M. Patten was college educated, having completed the teacher education program at North Georgia Agricultural College, and had twenty years experience teaching in the common schools of Berrien County.

In 1918,  the Reverend John W. Shoemate and Mrs. Harriet M. Shoemate came to Ray City to take charge of the school.   Reverend Shoemate was a native of Tennessee, and a Baptist minister.  Mrs. Shoemate was a native of South Dakota, and college educated. In Ray City, they were the neighbors of Professor and Mrs. J. M. Patten.  Mrs. Patten was also then occupied teaching public school.  The Ray City School was then still held in the three-room, wood frame building, and educated  students through the eighth grade. One student from this time period was Claudey Belle Hester, who wrote well enough for publication in Progressive Farmer.

According to the Annual Report of the Department of Education, in 1920 the public high school in Ray’s Mill was a 2-year Junior High School. Sankey Booth was Superintendent of the school and later served on the Berrien County Board of Education. One of the teachers in old Ray City was Louannie Eudell Webb (1902-1972), who started teaching by age 17.  She was a daughter of Luther Webb and Mary J. Albritton, and had only an 8th grade education herself. She married Leroy Lorenzo Carter on August 3, 1922. Another teacher at Ray City in 1920 was Lucile Fountain; she taught the fourth grade class. According to later census records, she herself had only attended school through the 4th grade.  It was the talk of the town when her beau, Calvin Simmons, came and got her out of class  and took her to get married on February 13, 1923. Maria Antoniette Poblete Knight worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School in the 1920s.

The Brick School

That [multi-room wood school house] was used until 1920 when work on the present building was started. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

In 1924, the Georgia Library Commission added the Ray City School as the only station in Berrien County for the Georgia Traveling Library.   the Georgia Library Commission had been created in 1919 by the General Assembly with and annual appropriation of $6,000, which included funds for the maintenance of traveling libraries.  These traveling libraries typically provided 50 or 100 books, which were available for a few months before being passed on to the next station.

Wilma Harper began her 60 year teaching career at the Ray City School in 1928 at the age of 18.  There she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City School. A year later they were married.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported  library service offered in Berrien only at Ray City, through the Ray City School and at the Kings Chapel School.

The Great Depression took a great toll on Berrien County, and Ray City struggled with funding to keep the school open. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term. In 1930, the school could not even afford to hold graduation exercises.

In the 1930s many schools in smaller communities were consolidated. In 1936, Pleasant Vale and Sapling Grove schools were closed and the students sent to Ray City.

The Ray City School held a junior high school rating until 1936, when it became an accredited senior high school. Another classroom building was added that year to the school plant. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

By the 1940-41 school term, New Lois High School was also consolidated with Ray City High School.

In the early days students at Ray City School brought their own lunches to school and ate outside on the school grounds, as there was no lunchroom or kitchen to prepare food.  David Miley recalled a sow that used to come into the playground, and snatch the lunch bags of unsuspecting kids. The school grounds were fenced and had a cattle gap to keep free ranging livestock from entering the schoolyard.  Even so, livestock could and did occasionally get into the school yard.  By 1941, the school had a lunch room serving 150 students a day.

William E. “Bill” Griner (1902-1984) was the janitor at the Ray City School. He came to school very early every day and built a fire in the potbellied stove in every room. There were four classrooms and the soup kitchen in the old wooden building. In the brick building there were six classrooms, the principal’s office and the laboratory, each with their own stove.  At Christmas, every student brought Bill a gift. Bill had a nephew nicknamed Peanut, and although Bill himself had only two years of formal schooling, he worked hard to make sure that Peanut made it through high school. Peanut later became a policeman at Remerton, GA.

 

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

During WWII, Ray City School did its part.   Vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army. Graduates and former students left Ray City to go to war. Some never came back.  Hubert Comer (RCHS 1940) joined the Navy and was killed in the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. Harry Elmore Devane (RCHS 1938) also joined the Navy.  On D-Day Devane was a boat officer on a tank landing craft at Omaha Beach. He was killed in an accident aboard the aircraft carrier USS FDR after the war. James A. Swindle (RCHS 1936) captained a B-26 Marauder and flew 75 bombing missions; he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Maurice “Max” Johnson (RCHS 1940) served as a B-24 pilot during WWII from 1942 to 1945. Leland E Langford (RCHS 1939) enlisted on June 12, 1941, serving as an Army pilot until he was killed in a plane crash in 1949.   J.I. Clements (RCHS 1938) joined the Army and fought in Germany. Many other alumni of Ray City School served as well.

William R. “Mac” McClure was principal of the school in the mid 1940s. Charles Woodrow “Woody” Schmoe served as principal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His wife, Nancy Young Schmoe, taught 5th Grade.

 

In 1947 a fifteen thousand dollar gymnasium was constructed by the patrons, a building in which the whole community justly takes pride (1948-49 Yearbook).  The town dedicated the building with a big dance celebration and the crowning of the Queen of the Harvest.

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

It was in 1949 that veterans of World War II built  a “very modern and up-to-date lunchroom” for the school.

In 1954, Ray City High School and all other white high schools in the county were combined into Nashville High School.  The brick school building at Ray City continued to serve as an elementary and middle school until 1994, when all county schools were consolidated into facilities in Nashville.

Leland Etheldred Langford Died in Plane Crash

langford

Leland E. Langford grew up in Ray City, GA before joining the Army.

Leland E. Langford grew up in Ray City, GA before joining the Army.

 

Leland Etheldred Langford (1919-1949)

Leland E. Landford was born July 10, 1919 at Ray City, GA,  a son of  Luther and Amanda Langford.  The Langford family farm place was on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga, about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Leland attended the Ray City school  where he was a member of 4-H.  He graduated with the Ray City High School class of 1939.

After graduation, Leland had difficulty finding employment.  The Census of 1940 shows he continued to reside in his parents household and that he was doing government work as a carpenter on a school Works Program.  For this work he received $8 dollars per week.

On June 12, 1941 Leland Langford enlisted as a private in the Army at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia. Enlistment records show  he was 5’11” and 124 pounds.  Leland was trained as a pilot and commissioned as a Lieutenant.  Some time after he enlisted, Leland met and married a nurse.

Lt. Langford continued to serve  with the Army after WWII.  In 1949, he was working for the Army as a liaison pilot to the Air Force.

Atlanta Constitution
June 2, 1949

CAA Probes Union City Death Crash

Army officials and investigators of the Civil Aeronautics Administration yesterday launched a probe of the plane crash which Tuesday night killed two Army liaison pilots and injured an Air force officer near Union City.
Killed in the crash were Lt. Leland E. Langford, of Ray City, Ga., and Lt. Warren J. Ludwig, of New York City. Lt. Ludwig died en route to Grady Hospital.
Lt. Henry Matney, of Germantown, Md., flying with the two liaison pilots, parachuted to safety. He was treated at Fort McPherson Hospital for bruises.

Leland E. Langford killed in plane crash,  May 31, 1949.

Leland E. Langford killed in plane crash, May 31, 1949.

Leland’s body was returned to Ray City, GA.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery.

Leland Etheldred Langford

Leland Etheldred Langford

Billy McDonald at the University of Arizona

Billie McDonald, University of Arizona, 1952

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA at the University of Arizona, 1952

Billie McDonald, a son of Lacy Albert McDonald and Carrie Eugenia Langford, was born  November 10, 1920 at Ray City, GA.  He was a grandson of William C. McDonald and Jane Lastinger McDonald.

Billie and his sisters attended the Ray City School.  Mabel McDonald graduated from the Ray City  School (then a junior high school) with the class of 1930 and went on to graduate from Valdosta High School in 1932.   Eugenia McDonald graduated  from Ray City High School with the class of 1936, and Billie McDonald graduated with the RCHS class of 1938.  One of Billie’s classmates at Ray City was  J.I. Clements who went on to a long coaching career at Georgia Southern University.

Billie McDonald’s father, Lacy A. McDonald, (1881-1960) was born at Cat Creek, Lowndes County, GA and worked in the Cat Creek District as a rural mail carrier. Lacy McDonald was probably educated at Kings Chapel School near Ray City, as was his sister, Lillie McDonald, who attended the school in 1906.

Billie’s mother, Carrie Eugenia Langford (1894-1984), was born at Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) on August 31, 1894, a daughter of William E. Langford and Mary Virginia Knight, granddaughter of William Washington Knight, and great granddaughter of Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City, GA.  Her parents owned a place between the farms of her uncle Walter Howard Knight and cousin Paul Knight.

Lacy McDonald and Carrie E. Langford were married on January 3, 1915 in Berrien County, GA. The ceremony was performed by Perry Thomas Knight, Minister of God. Afterward,  they made their home at Ray City, on the farm of Carrie’s parents.  Lacy continued to work as a rural mail carrier.  His 1918 draft registration gives his physical description as short and slender with brown eyes and dark hair.

In the summer of 1931,  ten-year-old Billie McDonald, his sister Mabel and their mother all went to Camp Wilkins, the first 4-H camp in Georgia.  Camp Wilkins was a program at the Georgia State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts at Athens, GA, now known as the University of Georgia.  Billie and Mabel were there for the summer-long boys’ and girls camps. Their mother, Carrie McDonald, was there for a week long session for Farm Women.  Also attending from Ray City  that summer at Camp Wilkins were Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936), and girls Clyde Carter (RCHS 1936), Margaret Carter, Clyde Moore, Doris Swindle, and Grace Swindle.  Chloe Johnson was there also, attending the summer school for farm women.    The 4-H activities in Berrien County were coordinated by County Agricultural Agent Donald L. Branyon.

Billie Graduated with the RCHS class of 1938.  In 1950, he was enrolled at the University of Arizona.  While pursuing his degree there he was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA, attended the University of Arizona in 1950. Billie was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA, attended the University of Arizona in 1950. Billie was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

 The only prerequisite for membership in Ramblers,  Arizona’s hiking club, is an incurable wanderlust. Ramblers departed regularly each Sunday for many points of interest in the Southwest, including Miller Peak, Mt. Lemmon, and Baboquivari Peak. The Rambler pin identifies those who have tramped on a required number of hikes.

Billie McDonald married Lucile “Lucy” Ponsell (Lucy) McDonald (1921-2008). She was born near Waycross GA  and lived in Jacksonville, FL during her early life. She also lived in Arizona, Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi before settling in Ray City, GA. She was a volunteer at  the Ray City library. She was a member of the First Baptist Church in Ray City where she also worked in the church library.

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Family of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford

Luther and Amanda Langford made their lives in Berrien County, Georgia.  The Langford family farm place was on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga, about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Langford Family. (L to R) Lillian Alene Langford, Leland Langford, Luther Etheldred Langford, Merice Langford, Amanda Asbell Langford, Vasco Langford, Rudolph Langford.

Langford Family. (L to R) Lillian Alene Langford, Leland Langford, Luther Etheldred Langford, Merice Langford, Amanda Asbell Langford, Vasco Langford, Rudolph Langford.

Children of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford:

  1. Edwin Vasco Langford 1917 – 2005
  2. Leland Etheldred Langford 1919 – 1949
  3. Merle Elizabeth Langford 1922 – 1925
  4. Merice Lancing Langford 1926 – 1993
  5. Lillian Allene Langford 1930 –
  6. Clyde Rudolph Langford 1931 – 2006

Family of Luther and Amanda Langford

Luther E Langford

Luther Elthedred Langford, Ray City, GA native and descendant of General Levi J. Knight.

Luther Elthedred Langford, Ray City, GA native and descendant of General Levi J. Knight.

Luther Etheldred Langford (1879-1957)

Luther Etheldred Langford was born November 12, 1879 at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA, the firstborn child of William E. Langford (1854 – 1933) and Mary Virginia Knight (1856 – 1916). His paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Ray, the sister of Thomas M. Ray who co-founded Ray’s Mill. His paternal grandfather, Etheldred Langford, was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. On his mother’s side, he was a grandson of William Washington Knight, and a great grandson of Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City.

Luther E. Langford married Amanda Asbell October 23, 1910 in Colquitt County, GA.  She was born February 7, 1887.

Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell

Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell “Mandy” Langford, of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Johnnie Mobley.

Luther and Amanda Langford made their home in  Berrien County, Georgia.  On Sept 12, 1918 Luther reported to the Berrien county draft registration board, where his WWI draft card was completed by registrar D.A. Sapp. Luther’s occupation at the time he registered was farming, self-employed. At 39 years of age, he was tall and slender with gray eyes and light hair. His farm place on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga,  was located about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Luther and Amanda spent their lives in Berrien County raising crops and children.

Sadly, one child was taken from them while just a tot.  The September 4, 1925  Nashville Herald reported the tragic death: “Little Muriel Langford, the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Langford, who resides about a mile from Ray City on the Milltown-Ray City road died Tuesday morning from what was thought to be the bite of a rattle snake.”  (See Ray City Child Dies From Bite of Rattle Snake, 1925)
Children of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford:

  1. Edwin Vasco Langford, born August 2,  1917 ; died 2005  – Served in WWII; taught at Ray City School after the War.
  2. Leland Etheldred Langford, born July 10, 1919; died 1949
  3. Merle Elizabeth Langford  born May 31, 1922; died 1925
  4. Merice Lancing Langford  born June 22, 1926; died 1993
  5. Lillian Allene Langford born September 16, 1929 –
  6. Clyde Rudolph Langford born September 15, 1931; died 2006

Luther Etheldred Langford died 11 May 1957. He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia, USA

Gravemarker of Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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Ray City plays 4 H basketball

In 2006 during the remodeling of a house at 507 Jones street, Ray City, Georgia a small cache of sooty, crumbling documents were retrieved from where they had fallen behind the fireplace mantel. These documents included receipts, letters, postcards, playing cards and photographs, among other things.

One item was a 1931 letter from the county agricultural agent Donald L. Branyon to the boys of the 4-H Club.  The letter refers to a Nashville, GA basketball tournament featuring the team from Ray City.

1931  4-H letter.

Transcript added 12 July 2010:

Nashville, Georgia
March 17, 1931

Dear Club Boys:
Spring is here and it’s time for the acres of corn and cotton to be prepared and planted. The Club pigs should be fed and cared for religiously and the chicks hatched. In short, whatever your Club project is, get busy and do your best.

On Friday night, March 20th, there will be a 4-H basketball tournament at the Shell in Nashville.  Alapaha, Ray City, Nashville Grammar School and Enigma will play. You Club boys are cordially invited to attend these games, which are free.

Trusting that you are doing your best in Club work and asking you to call on me for any help you need, I am

Yours Sincerely,

D.L. Branyon,
County Agricultural Agent.

DLB
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In the summer of 1931, A number of Ray City youth and some adults attended the 4-H summer courses at Camp Wilkins, UGA. Among the boys attending from Ray City were Bernard Johnson (RCHS 1930), Brown King (RCHS 1930),  Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, Billy McDonald,  James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936).