M. W. Henderson and the Wreck of the G & F

Manassah W. Henderson

Manassah W. Henderson, Ray City, GA resident and husband of the evangelist Rebecca J. Henderson ( seeArson and Evangelism in Rays Mill, GA), was injured in a Valdosta train wreck in the summer of 1910.  He was traveling on the Georgia and Florida train, the new railroad built through Ray City in 1909.

 The train was wrecked when an engine of the Georgia Southern & Florida railroad collided with the passenger car of the Georgia & Florida  (see 1910 Train Wreck in Valdosta, GA).

Many of the injured were taken to the Halcyon Sanitarium. The Halcyon was the second hospital in Valdosta, and was said to have the finest operating facilities.

The Halcyon Sanitorium, Valdosta, GA ca. 1906.  The Halcyon, located at Troupe and Rogers Streets ,was the second hospital to open in Valdosta. Built as the home of W.B. Johnson in 1898, it was converted into a hospital by Doctor J.B.S. Holmes in 1906. In 1911 it was sold to another group of physicians and was known as Bellevue. It operated until 1915.

The Halcyon Sanitorium, Valdosta, GA ca. 1906. The Halcyon, located at Troupe and Rogers Streets ,was the second hospital to open in Valdosta. Built as the home of W.B. Johnson in 1898, it was converted into a hospital by Doctor J.B.S. Holmes in 1906. In 1911 it was sold to another group of physicians and was known as Bellevue. It operated until 1915.

The Valdosta Times
July 2, 1910  Page 2


A Georgia Southern and Florida  Engine Ran Into a Georgia and Florida Passenger Coach,  Knocking it Fifty Feet and Bruising Up Many Of The Passengers, This Morning

   A serious wreck occurred at the crossing of the Georgia Southern and Florida and the Georgia and Florida railroads shortly before eleven o’clock this morning, injuring ten or twelve passengers more or less severely, almost demolishing the rear coach on the Georgia and Florida train which was pulling out for Madison, and badly damaging the front part of a Georgia Southern and Florida locomotive, which ran into the passenger train.

     Among those hurt in the collision were Mrs. F. R. Daniels and her little daughter, Juanita, of this city [Valdosta], Mrs. W. F. Martin, of Madison, Messrs.  J. W. West, W. T. Lane, G. M. Boyd, W. T. Staten, and Dan Thompson, of Valdosta, M. W. Henderson, of Ray’s Mill and Conductor, R. L. Lofton.  There were a few others who were slightly injured but whose names it was impossible to get in the excitement attending the wreck.

   The first news of the collision received up town came in a telephone message from the Valdosta Foundry and Machine Co.’s plant to Ham Brothers’ stables, asking them to send all the carriages in their place to the crossing of the two roads.  It was stated that a wreck had occurred there and that several people had been killed. 

     Intense excitement was created on the streets, the first rumors indicating that the wreck was much more serious than it really was.   A number of physicians were rushed to the scene and a great crowd soon gathered around the overturned coach and the big locomotive which lay with its wheels on one side buried in the earth.

     It is stated that the passenger train on the Georgia and Florida the Valdosta, Moultrie and Western train both reached the crossing about the same time, and both stopped as required by the rules.  The Madison train the pulled across the crossing, all of the train except the last coach —————–overturned ————- passengers in every direction, and was hurled or slided about sixty feet down the track, the coupling to the train then breaking and leaving one end of the coach lying across the Georgia Southern and Florida tracks, while the other end rested on the track of the Georgia and Florida.

     Many of the passengers were thrown through the windows of the overturned coach, while others made their way or were assisted from the ends of the car.  Practically every window and ventilator in the car  was smashed and a shower of flying glass struck the passengers in their faces.

     Many carriages were on the scene in a few minutes, and those passengers who were unable to walk were hastily taken to the carriages and were carried to their homes and to the hospitals for medical attention.

     The passengers sitting on the north side of the car saw the Georgia Southern and Florida engine as it bore down upon the train, and realized that a collision was inevitable, but they had barely time to clutch their seats or to more than move across the car when the impact came.

    Some of the witnesses state that apparently Engineer Burch, in charge of the G. S. and F. engine made every effort to stop, but that he had on sand in his box and that the wheels slid when he threw on the brakes.  The tracks were wet and the locomotive was going down grade, rendering it impossible, according to them, for the locomotive to be stopped in time.  Other persons state that apparently Engineer Burch did not see the train at all and that no effort was made to stop his engine.  As to which of these theories is correct The Times has no way now of knowing.

     There seems to be a wide difference of opinion as to the speed the locomotive was making.  In the opinion of some of those who saw the collision, the locomotive was moving only about six or eight miles an hour, while others think it was moving  at a much faster rate.

     The wreck occurred in an rather dangerous locality, owing to the fact that the shops of the Valdosta Foundry and Machine Company, obstructs from  the view of the trains coming from the north, a view of the tracks around the curve immediately east of the crossing.  Owing to this fact it may be that Engineer Burch did not see the Georgia and Florida train until it was on the crossing.

      The drawhead on the locomotive fastened in the car, and the pull exerted on it by the Madison train, is said to be the cause of the derailment of the engine.  The force of the collision itself was hardly sufficient to have thrown it from the track.  The tracks of both roads for a distance of a hundred feet or more, were torn and twisted, and both lines effectually blocked for several hours.

     Mr. W. T. Staten’s injuries are said to be very serious, but it is impossible at the hour The Times goes to press for the physicians to determine fully their extent.  His shoulder and left side are badly hurt, and it is feared that he has sustained internal injuries.

     Mrs. F. R. Daniel was bruised and severely shocked, while her little daughter’s face was cut and bruised in several places.  Their injuries are not believed to be serious.

     Mrs. F. L. Martin, of Madison, suffered injuries to her side and shoulder, and is suffering from the shock.

     Mr. Andrew Leslie, of Pinetta, Fla., had one bone in his left leg broken.

     Mr. Whittington, of Boston, Ga., had his left ear severely cut and was hurt in the left side.

     Capt. Lofton, Georgia and Florida conductor, was cut in the face and larynx.

     Rev. Mr. Funk of Ohio, shocked and bruised, injuries not serious.

     Mr. M. W. Henderson, of Ray’s Mill, hurt on the head, side and hip.

     Mr. J. W. West, was cut on the face, and severely bruised in the side.

     Mr. G. M. Boyd was severely bruised in one shoulder and side.  His injuries are not thought to be serious.

     Mr. W. T. Lane was cut in the face and neck, and one of his shoulders and hips badly hurt.

     A few of the passengers came out of the overturned car without a scratch, but the experience was one that none of them ———— of Mr. —————-and——————W. Sinclair from instant death was almost miraculous.  They were sitting together on the north side of the train, and started to rise as they saw the locomotive bearing down on them.  Both of them were thrown across the car and through the window to the ground, as the car turned over on them.  Fortunately they fell in an excavation, and this prevented the car from crushing them to death.

      Mr. West lost his pocket book in the wreck, containing some money and many valuable papers, the latter of no value except to himself, however.

      Most of the injured were carried to the Halcyon sanitorium [sic] for treatment,  Dr. Holmes being surgeon at this point for both the Georgia Southern and Florida and the Georgia and Florida.

                Freight Wrecked at Chula.

      The Georgia Southern passenger train due here [Valdosta] about five o’clock this morning was delayed about five hours at Chula by the wreck of a freight train, south bound.  It is said that two or three miles of trains were tied up there by the wreck.   The passenger train reached this city about half past ten o’clock and the loose engine which ran into the Georgia and Florida train was on its way to the coal chute, having run back from the depot to the main line and was rolling slowly down the main line towards the coal chute when it struck the Georgia and Florida train on the crossing.

Love Story of Rebecca J. Fox

Rebecca J. Henderson ~ Traveling Evangelist
Rebecca J. Fox

Traveling evangelists were a prominent part of the religious life in Ray’s Mill.  In November of 1909 evangelist Rebecca J. Fox came to Ray’s Mill, Georgia to preach to gospel.  It was here that Fox’s gospel tent was burned by vandals (see Arson and Evangelism in Rays Mill, GA.) Here also, she met the widower Manassah Henderson and within a month the two were married.

Mrs. Henderson later published the story of her evangelical work. Excerpts of her experiences in Ray’s Mill are related below. (see the entire text at http://www.archive.org/details/mrsrebeccajhende00hendiala)

Manassah W. Henderson met evangelist Rebecca J. Fox while attending a 1909 revival at Ray City, GA

Manassah W. Henderson met evangelist Rebecca J. Fox while attending a 1909 revival at Ray City, GA

Mrs. Rebecca J. Henderson’s Experience In Twenty-Six Years of Christian Work.

After I received the Baptism the Lord would not allow me to make any solicitation or to take up an offering in meetings for months, that He might lead me by His Spirit and providence. After holding tent meetings about ten weeks in Jacksonville, Fla., Brother R. T. Waldrup came after me on the 29th of September, 1909, and escorted me to his home in Valdosta, Georgia, where I had been invited to rest and work with them in the Pentecostal Mission as long as I would.

After spending some weeks in their delightful home at 913 Patterson street, Brother M. C. Griffin, a cousin of Mr. Henderson’s, came and invited me to come to his home, Ray’s Mill, Georgia, and hold a tent meeting.

During this time I received my letters back from Mr. Fox, and at the same time I received a letter from Mr. Henderson written in a spirit of great tenderness thanking me for the spiritual help I had been to him. He was converted in my meeting at Ray’s Mill.

In this letter he spoke of the desolations of his home, since the death of his dear wife, and two precious children some years ago by typhoid fever. And said, his young lady daughter and his two young sons were all that were at home now, and they were very lonely, and they all desired that I should spend the Christmas holidays with them. He attended the meetings often, and we carried on a correspondence for a few weeks.

One morning the Lord gave me a vision of Mr. Henderson’s and Brother Crosby’s faces. They both came to Ray’s Mill that morning to services. As they approached the house Mr. Henderson said, “Get ready to go back with us we have come after you. We want you to make us a visit and rest a while before your meeting begins at Willacoochee.” I went with them, “doubting nothing, for He had sent them.” Acts 10:20. We left the meeting with Brother Griffin…

The following is extracts from my adopted daughter’s letter written at this time.

Mist, Arkansas,
December 22, 1909.
Dear Mama:I received your letter last night and was pleased and surprised also as I read through its contents; and then took a long breath and read it the second time.I do hope and pray if you and Mr. Henderson marry that you will be happy for you deserve to be. I would not be surprised if you aren’t Mrs. Henderson by now. I do hope he will be better to you than Fox.Now, won’t you look, step-mother of nine children. Ha, Ha, you are about to get ahead of me. My two, though they are so small they nearly get the best of me.******I am not going to write much for I know you won’t have time to read much.

Miss Maggie Henderson is right sweet looking, I do hope they will treat you O. K., and you will be as “snug as a bug in a rug.”

We have had such a cold spell, snow is six inches deep. It certainly has been cold. I have been hugging the fire ever since the snow.

I am sending you a sofa pillow cover for your new home.

Well, dear, wishing you many merry Christmases and many many Happy Years, bye-bye now. With lots of love and congratulations.


When Mr. Henderson told me as soon as there was a guardian appointed for his minor children, and his two youngest placed in school he would be ready and glad to go with me any where the Lord lead in this country or to the islands of the sea and assist me in every way possible in spreading the Gospel if I would be his wife The Lord made me know that he was the one He intended to go with me.

After fasting and praying, I told him if it really was His will that Mr. Henderson and I should marry to let it be known by having it so that Pastor Mahon could come from Jacksonville, Fla., to my dear, sweet friend, Sister Waldup’s house, in Valdosta, Ga., to unite us in marriage. I wrote him and received the following telegram:

Jacksonville, Fla.,
December 18, 1909.

Mrs. R. J. Fox,
913 N. Patterson St.,
Valdosta, Ga.

Expect me on Georgia Southern tonight at 11:30.




We were united in marriage by my beloved pastor, W. L. C. Mahon, pastor of the Main Street Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., at Brother and Sister R. T. Waldrup’s Pentecostal Home, 913 North Patterson street, Valdosta, Ga., Dec. 19, 1909. In the midst of a Pentecostal service, Brother Frank Denny the sweet singer and Pentecostal evangelist, delivered the message much of which was set to music. My husband is a member of the Missionary Baptist Church at Willacoochee, Coffee County, Georgia.

A few days after we were married we closed up the house and we all took a pleasant trip.

Mr. Henderson took me to Jacksonville, Fla., and went in person and thanked those who had shown me kindness. We visited his children who are settled in homes of their own, and his old friends and relatives, who showed us every kindness that affection could suggest, until we were made to say: “The Lord has dealt by us, as He did by His servant Job, rendering us double for all He had taken from us.” We have four sturdy sons, and six beautiful daughters living and five sons-in-law.

The following is extracts from my adopted daughter’s letter written during this time:

Mist, Arkansas,
January 3, 1910.

My Dear Mama:

I will have to begin my letter with an apology, for not answering your letter announcing your marriage sooner, which,of course, calls for congratulations. I have a “iti bitsie” excuse, however, that is I have been almost run to death with company during the Christmas holidays. I had a nice Christmas but with a house full of company one can’t find much time for letter writing. I started this letter New Year’s day or I got as far as the date written down, but Ethel was so fretful I had to give it up and take her. You will have to consider that blot a “big, old” kiss and maybe it will not look so ugly. I wrote you last New Year’s day, for I remember I said in my letter, “I will start the year right by writing to you.” But, mama dear, I feel so much better over your welfare this year than I did last for I think you have a good husband to be with you now, and I truly hope and pray so, and last year you were just a lonely little woman out by yourself away from those you love. I am certainly thankful you are prospering so well. 

Mama, if I have been slow in answering your letter announcing your marriage, you have my sincerest wishes for your happiness; and if my congratulation is late in reaching you be assured it is none the less heartfelt and earnest. As I have not the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with my “new papa” I can not say so many pleasant things about him as I am certain he deserves, but I know you well enough to unhesitatingly say that the man of your choice must be one of honor and courage. Now, mama, you must not get the “big head” you are dressing so fine and having such a trip I am afraid your head will get to swimming.

Well, mama, I would love to see you and talk to you, but Iam glad you are so happy and getting along O. K. Now, as Iwant to write to Mr. Henderson I will close for now, with lots of love from your daughter,


P. S. The presents were beautiful. I was very pleased with my pretty waist, and Norma and Ethel thought their dolls fine.

Mr . Henderson is a member of a prominent family of Irwin county and lived at Willacoochee. He had spent most fifty years in great wickedness. He attended a tent meeting I was holding at Ray’s Mill, before the tent was burned by the enemies of this Gospel. He came to the meeting to investigate this doctrine, and came under its power at once, and the appetite for liquor and tobacco was taken from him. “And God who knoweth the hearts bear him witness, giving him the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us, purifying his heart by faith.” And now he is devoting his means and life to the spread of this Gospel.

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Arson and Evangelism in Rays Mill, GA

Continuing with this weeks theme of fire in the Wiregrass, a  hundred year old tale of arson and evangelism in Rays Mill, GA.

Valdosta Times, Dec 1, 1909, Vol 4, No.41, Pg 8

Miscreant Did Dirty Piece of Work at Rays Mill
    News of the burning of a gospel tent in which a woman evangelist has been preaching at
Ray’s Mill was received here yesterday afternoon.
    Mrs. Rebecca J. Fox, who has traveled extensively over the United States doing rescue  and evangelistic work for a number of years, went to Ray’s Mill about ten days ago and began a series of services. Good crowds attended the meeting, but apparently certain parties in that section who are unknown, were opposed to the meetings and began to harass the woman preacher. First the ropes to the tent were cut to pieces, but repairs were made and the services continued. Between midnight Sunday night and daylight on Monday the tent was set on fire, presumably by the same parties who had cut the ropes before. The tent, seats, and an organ used in the services were all burned.
    The people there are said to be greatly incensed over the affair, and we understand a reward of $200 has been offered for the detection of the guilty parties, with evidence sufficient to convict.
    A letter which The Times has received from the evangelist states that land has been donated on which to build a church or assembly hall. Mrs. Fox is undaunted by the burning of the tent and proposes to continue the  meetings. She writes that a shack of some kind will be built at once and that she will continue to preach.
    It is understood that Mrs. Fox is a member of the Holliness [sic] or “Unknown tongue” faith.

While the gospel tent of Rebecca J. Fox was burned in Ray City, GA, there also was her passion kindled. Before the year was out she married Ray City resident Manassah W. Henderson. (See 1910 Valdosta Train Wreck for more on Henderson)