Bessie Griffin Bazemore

Bessie Griffin (1883-1983)

Bessie Griffin Bazemore. Image source: P.C. Griffin

Bessie Griffin Bazemore. Image source: P.C. Griffin

 

Bessie was a daughter of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight,  a granddaughter of William Washington Knight, and a great granddaughter of Levi J. Knight, and of Jesse Carroll, both pioneer settlers of the Ray City, GA area.  Her parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District).

Bessie was born  August 11, 1883.  Tax records at that time show her father owned 175 acres on Lot #371, 10th Land District, Berrien County, GA, increased to 245 acres in 1884. The Griffin farm was in the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA), although at that time,  the community of Ray’s Mill consisted of little more than the grist mill built by Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight, and the store owned by Henry H. Knight.

Bessie’s early childhood, from 1883  through 1890,  was spent on her father’s farm on the same Lot #371.    Tax records of 1890 show  Guilford I. Parrish, Molcie Parrish – wife of Elder Ansel Parrish, James W. Parrish, John S. Carter, Joel J. Carter, James P. Devane, Millard F. Devane, Georgia R. Devane, William E. Fountain Jr, John Webb, Thomas W. Ray, William W. Knight, Sovin J. Knight, and Matthew H. Albritton were among their neighbors.

Apparently, the Griffin’s moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before the birth  of Bessie’s brother, Lester Griffin, in 1890.

Bessie Griffin married Joseph S. Bazemore   on December 20, 1899, in Lowndes County, GA.  The bride was sixteen; the groom was a 29-year-old farmer.  Joseph Salem Bazemore was born March 10, 1870 at Hazlehurst, GA. He was a son of James J. Bazemore (1853-1893)  and Mary Elizabeth McIntyre (1848-1924).

Marriage Certificate of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, December 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, December 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA.

Image source: http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,123494

Bessie and Joseph were married by William W. Wilkinson, Justice of the Peace.  In the 1850s, Wilkinson had been a neighbor of  Jesse Carroll and of William J. Lamb  (see (Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899.

Bazemore-Griffin Wedding, Dec 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

Bazemore-Griffin Wedding, Dec 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

In 1900, the newlyweds were renting a farm in Lowndes County, in the Lower Fork District No. 658, next to the farm of Bessie’s widowed mother. Boarding with them and working as a farm laborer was William J. Lamb, and his wife Mary Carrol Knight Lamb. Among the neighbors were David and Rachel Passmore and their children.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Lower Fork District, Lowndes County, GA.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Lower Fork District, Lowndes County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu209unit#page/n440/mode/1up

By the census of 1910, Bessie and Joe Bazemore had moved to the Hazlehurst, GA area, Georgia Militia District #1364.  Their place was on “Rural Route Road #1”  near where it intersected with Graham & Smith Landing Road. Joe’s brother, Captain Bazemore, and his wife Ida were living next door.

1910 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po198unit#page/n463/mode/1up

Joe and Bessie, as well as Cap and Ida, remained in Hazlehurst through the 1920 census.

1920 census enumeration og Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

1920 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu263unit#page/n466/mode/1up

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Family of Lester Griffin

Lester Griffin, born July 30, 1890, was a son of Lillian Melissa Knight and Noah Webster Griffin, grandson of  Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, and great grandson of Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA. He was a brother of Bessie Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester’s parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District) but moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before his birth in 1890.   There, Lester Griffin grew to manhood and took up farming on his own account on rented land.

Sometime before 1917, Lester Griffin moved to Irwin County, where he took a wage job farming for James O. Sutton, who owned a farm on the Ocilla-Lax Road. Sutton’s mother was a Griffin.

On August 12, 1917 in Irwin County, GA, Lester Griffin married Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin.   She was a daughter of Rachel McMillan and Bartow B. Griffin, keeping it all in the family. The blushing bride was 18 years old; the 26-year old groom was of medium height, slender, with dark hair and blue eyes.

According to Griffin family members, “Lester Griffin and Margaret Elizabeth (Lizzie) Griffin were distant cousins.  Lester’s Great-Grandfather Thomas Griffin and Lizzie’s Great-Grandfather Joshua Griffin were sons of James Griffin, Revolutionary Soldier, and Sarah Lodge Griffin, early settlers of that part of Irwin County.”

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin had five children:

  1. Bonita Griffin
  2. Noah Webster Griffin
  3. Audrey Griffin
  4. Ommie  Griffin
  5. Cecil Lester Griffin

Descendant Alan K. Griffin shares the following:

From what we were told, mostly by Daddy’s oldest sister, Bonita, Lester Griffin took a job in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a carpenter/builder when she was a child.  This corresponds to the South Florida real estate boom of that time (see Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz).  She vividly recalled travelling by wagon and walking on their move to that area and coming home.”

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster "Webb" Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster “Webb” Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

“There was a violent hurricane that hit the Miami area on September 18, 1926, with winds estimated between 131 and 155 MPH  (see Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane).  Because there was little warning or understanding of hurricanes at that time, more than 370 lives were lost and 35,000 were made homeless in Southern Florida.   Some thought the storm was over when the eye passed over and were outside when the second part of the storm hit (the eye reached the coast at Coral Gables about 6AM and lasted 35 minutes).  The highest winds and storm surge (up to 10 feet) was in the second part of the hurricane.  Fort Lauderdale, just to the North also had severe storm surge from the Hurricane.  Prior to the hurricane, Grandmamma Lizzie and the children had travelled home, apparently for a visit.  Both of Lizzie’s parents had birthdays in August, Bartow Beauregard Griffin (August 18, 1861 – August 12, 1929) and Rachel McMillan Griffin (August 12, 1860 – October 29, 1938) so perhaps the visit home was to celebrate their 65th and 66th birthdays, respectively.  In any event, they were fortunate not to have been in Ft. Lauderdale.  As Bonita related, Lester remained  and rode out the storm in their house, which overturned in the storm (similar to photo below), nearly taking his life.  Whether they would have all survived is doubtful, had they remained with him. 

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

“They never returned to live in South Florida, instead buying a house on 5th Street in Ocilla, GA near the home of Lizzie’s brother, John Griffin.  Lester  became a night watchman, or deputy policeman in Ocilla sometime after returning.  He became sick with flu and pneumonia sometime in late 1928 and was under the care of Dr. G. L. McElroy and Dr. G. W. Willis from December 17 till he died on News Years Eve, December 31, 1928.    The information on the death certificate was provided by Lizzie’s brother, John. 

 

Lester Griffin (left) and friend.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin (left) with ‘a friend’ (as noted on the back of photo).  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 “Lester Griffin died December 31, 1928 at the age of 38.  He died of pneumonia leaving his widow and children at a tough time with the depression and all they faced.

“Bonita was 10 years old at his death, Webb 9, Audrey 7, Ommie 5, and Cecil was 1 year and 8 months old. So, here was Lizzie at 30 years old, with five young children to raise on her own, and a house with a mortgage.  By the Grace of God, the Woodmen of the World covered Lester’s mortgage, so the home became Lizzie’s outright.  She had many of her family nearby, but being a proud lady, went to work as a seamstress to support them, and worked her whole life.  (She still worked at A. S. Harris Department Store in Ocilla when my brothers and I would spend weeks there during summers in the 1960’s.) Bonita helped with the younger children and home chores, and Webb worked to support the family as well.

“Odd thing is, Lester’s Father, Noah Webster Griffin,  similarly died in 1897 at the age of 41 , leaving his widow, Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin, to raise 8 children (one, William Howard Griffin, that she was about 6  months pregnant with at Noah’s death).   Noah Webster Griffin actually died from Typhoid fever, possible due to contaminated well water at the farm they had moved to about a year earlier.

“I recently found the only photo I know of Lillian at about age 80, still looking very strong with daughter-in-law, Lizzie Griffin (Lester’s widow), Lizzie’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher with baby daughter, Faye, Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of WH and Carrie Griffin),  Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of Lillian’s son, William Howard Griffin), Charles Harold Griffin (son of WH and Carrie Griffin), and Ommie Griffin (daughter of Lizzie) .

“Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin (1862-1947) as you may know, was the sister of Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934) and Mary Virginia Knight Langford (1856-1916).  Another sister, Margaret Ann Knight, b. 1858 died in 1863 at the tender age of 5 years.  This is documented in one of the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Carroll Knight.”

Family of Lester Griffin

Family of Lester Griffin
Left to Right: Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin at about age 80, still looking very strong; Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin (Lester Griffin’s widow); Lester’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher  (in rear) with baby daughter, Faye Fletcher; Lester’s daughter Ommie Griffin (front, center); Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of Lester’s brother, William Howard Griffin); Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of WH Griffin); Charles Harold Griffin, son of WH and Carrie Griffin (front, right). Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester and Lizzie Griffin are buried at Brushy Creek Cemetery, Ocilla, GA with many others of the Griffin family connection.

 

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