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.

In 1950, half of the Ray City grammar school students appeared barefoot in the annual school photos.

In 1950, half of the Ray City grammar school students appeared barefoot in the annual school photos.

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.  Wilma G. Schultz was the draft Registrar for the Ray City School precinct.   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.

 

In 1940, Lelia McConnell was a cook in the WPA school lunch room. Allie Starling was lunchroom supervisor and Martha Burkhalter was lunchroom waitress.  Earl W. Deloach was a bus driver.  Prentiss M. Shultz was superintendent and his wife, Wilma G. Shultz was a teacher.  Mary Peele was a music teacher. Other teachers were Jessie Francis Webb, Hazel Tabor, James Gaskins Grady, Earnestine M. Zeigler, Eloise M. Williams, Josephine Collier,  and Dorothy Chisholm. Maurice “Max” Johnson (RCHS 1940) was assistant janitor.

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.  One of the teachers that year was Emily Britton Parker, wife of the Methodist Minister Pledger Parker.

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.

An old tintype of Walter Howard Knight

Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934)

Tintype photograph of Walter Howard Knight, Rays Mill, Berrien County, GA. Image Courtesy of Jimmie Mobley.

Tintype photograph of Walter Howard Knight, Rays Mill, Berrien County, GA.  Image Courtesy of Jimmie Mobley.

Walter Howard Knight, a son of  William Washington Knight (1829 – 1863) and  Mary Elizabeth Carroll (1839 – 1906) was born November 28, 1859 in Berrien County, GA.  The tintype photograph above depicts him  in his senior years, perhaps in the 1920s.

Tintype photographs  such as this were made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion.  Since the image is produced directly on the medium, tintype photographs normally appear as a mirror image, reversed left to right.  Each tintype is usually a camera original – one of a kind.   Compared to other early photographs, tintypes were very inexpensive and relatively easy to make. A photographer could prepare, expose, develop and varnish a tintype plate and have it ready for the customer in a few minutes.  Tintypes became very popular during the Civil War, and enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s. Although prints on paper soon displaced them as the most common type of photograph, the tintype process continued to enjoy considerable use throughout the 19th century and beyond, especially for casual portraiture by novelty and street photographers.

Historical records of Walter Howard Knight first appear in the Census of 1860 when he was enumerated in his father’s household in Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Walter Howard Knight in the household of his parents, Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 Census  https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n403/mode/1up

Walter Howard Knight had little chance to know his father who went off to fight in 1861 as a Sergeant in the company of Berrien Minute Men.  The Civil War letters of William Washington Knight spoke tenderly of his children as he wrote from the camps and  battlefields,  but he was not to see them grow to adulthood.  Illness was rampant among the Confederate regiments, and Knight was furloughed home sick in 1863.  He died of chronic diarrhea at Milltown, GA December 27, 1863, one month after Walter Howard Knight’s fourth birthday.

After the War, Walter’s mother married William Joseph Lamb who was also a veteran of the Berrien Minutemen (see  William J. Lamb ~ Confederate Veteran).   The census of 1870 shows  Walter Howard Knight was living with his mother, step-father and sisters (Mary Virginia and Lillian Melissa) in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, later known as the Ray’s Mill District. (A third sister, Margaret Ann, had died during the Civil War).

1870 census enumeration of the household of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Lamb, Berrien County, GA.

1870 census enumeration of the household of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Lamb, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n439/mode/1up

At age 19, Walter Howard Knight married Jimmie Gullett in Dougherty County, GA.  She was the 14 year old daughter of George M. Gullett and Julia Lindsey. Her father was an insurance agent in Daugherty County.

Marriage Certificate of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight

Marriage Certificate of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight

According to the Census of 1880, Walter and Jimmie Gullett Knight made their home in the Rays Mill District, near the farm of his step-father, William J. Lamb. Walter, like his neighbors, was engaged in farming.  Property tax records from 1884 show Walter H. Knight did not own the land he farmed, but did own $60 in livestock, $5 in tools and books, and $25 in household furnishings.

1880 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

1880 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

By 1890 Walter had acquired 490 acres consisting of lot 426 in the 10th Land District.  The land was valued at $1 per acre. At the time taxes were assessed he had the farm, $75 in household furnishings, and no other taxable property.  Among the property owners on adjacent land lots were James M Sloan,  Elizabeth E. Knight ( portions of Lot 450), Joseph E. Langford (portions of Lot 450),  and Barney B. Chism on Lot 427.

Partial map of the 10th Land District, showing location of Lot 426.

Partial map of the 10th Land District, showing location of Lot 426.

By 1900 Walter H. Knight was farming land on the Valdosta Road near Rays Mill, GA. The Census of 1900 shows Walter H. Knight owned a farm free and clear of debt, which he occupied with his wife Jimmie, and eight children.  His brother-in-law William E. Langford, husband of Mary Virginia Knight, was farming nearby. Among his other neighbors were Greene Bullard,  and Henry Bullard.

1900-walter-h-knight-enumerationhttps://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n776/mode/1up

 In October of 1900, Walter’s daughter Dollie  married “the boy next door,” Louis Malone Bullard , a son of Mary Ann and Green Bullard, and moved with her husband to Valdosta, GA.    In 1901 his daughter Julia married David Jackson Rigell, merchant of Ray’s Mill, GA.  (She later married W. D. Sloan, son of her parent’s neighbor, James M. Sloan).

Walter H. Knight and Jimmie Gullett Knight continued farming land near Ray City into the following decades.   In the spring of 1910, their daughter Ruby Texas Knight  was married to James Randall Johnson and the couple made their home next door to her father’s place on the Valdosta Road, Ray City, Georgia. Walter’s eldest son, Paul Knight, was farming nearby. The Langfords farmed neighboring land, but both Mary Ann and Green Bullard had passed away.

1910 census enumeration of the household of Walter Howard Knight and Jimmy Gullette, Berrien County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of the household of Walter Howard Knight and Jimmy Gullette, Berrien County, GA.

https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n635/mode/1up

It was a terrible blow to Walter and Jimmie Knight when their son Ralph was lost in the sinking of the HMS Otranto in the closing days of World War I. They carried on working their farm through the 1920s. Their daughter Laurie remained at the old home place, but the rest of their children had moved on to their own lives. In 1919, their daughter-in-law Marie “Toni” Poblete Knight, wife of Owen “Adrian” Knight, came to live with them on the farm with her two children Owen, Jr and Ralph. Toni had married Adrian while he was serving in the Army at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, TX.  But at the end of WWI, Adrian had abandoned his young family and disappeared (see Ray City Love Story Told by Betty M. Williams.)

1920 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

1920 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

http://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n319/mode/1up

Walter and Jimmie kept their daughter-in-law, Toni Poblete Knight and grandchildren with them on the farm for four years, until Toni lost any hope that  Adrian would return to his family.  Toni returned west and obtained a divorce.

Laurie Inez Knight,  the youngest Knight daughter married Horace Webb in 1928.  They made a home on Charlton Street in Valdosta, GA

Adrian Knight eventually did return to Ray City and his parent’s farm. He married his brother’s widow, Effie Guthrie Knight. In the census of 1930, the enumeration of Walter H. Knight’s place shows Owen A “Adrian” Knight and Mary E. “Effie” Knight had a home on the Knight farm.

 

Children of Jimmie Gardener Gullett and Walter Howard Knight:

  1. Julia Elizabeth Knight,  born August 9, 1880; died September 10, 1955
  2. Dollie Howard Knight,  born April 12, 1882;  died March 26, 1956
  3. Paul Knight,  born July 22, 1884; died 1949
  4. Walter Raleigh Knight,  born  November 14, 1886,
  5. Ralph Knight,  born 19 Apr 1889; died in the Otranto disaster  October 6, 1918
  6. Ruby Texas Knight,  born  October 11, 1891;  died June 17 1977
  7. Laurie Inez Knight,  born  April 9 1894; died April 1, 1974
  8. Owen Adrian Knight,  born  October 7, 1896; died  September 25, 1972

Walter Howard Knight  died June 13, 1934.


The Nashville Herald, 
June 21, 1934

MR. KNIGHT DIED AT RAY CITY HOME

	Many friends here of Mr. Raleigh Knight sympathize with him deeply in the death of his father, Mr. Walter Howard Knight, which occurred at his home 
in Ray City last Wednesday.  Mr. Knight was seventy-four years of age and was a well-known and highly respected citizen of his community.  He was a native of 
that section and had lived there all his life.
	He is survived by his wife, four daughters and three sons.  His wife was before her marriage Miss Jimmie Guelette of Albany.  The daughters are Mrs. 
W.D. Sloan of Stockton; Mrs. L.M. Bullard and Mrs. Horace Webb of Valdosta; and Mrs. J.R. Johnson of Ray City.  The sons are Paul Knight and Owen Knight of Ray 
City and Raleigh Knight of Adel.
	There are also 12 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren among the survivors.
	The funeral services were held at the Baptist church at Ray City Thursday afternoon. – Adel News.
Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Jimmie Gullett Knight died three years later, August 3, 1937.  Husband and wife are buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Graves of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Graves of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Related Posts:

Artistry of Maria Antoniette Poblete Knight

 As told in previous posts, Maria Antonieta  Poblete  (or Poblette) was the first wife of Owen Adrian Knight,  of Ray City, GA.  They were married on September 5, 1917 in El Paso, Texas while Owen Adrian Knight was serving in the Army at Ft. Bliss, El Paso TX during World War I.  (See Ray City Love Story Told by Betty M. Williams)

Marie Antoinette Poblette Knight, novelty postcard, 1917, El Paso, TX

Maria Antonietta Poblette, novelty postcard, 1917, El Paso, TX taken just days after her marriage to Owen Adrian Knight.

 In 1919 just before being discharged from the Army, Adrian Knight apparently told his wife that his unit was shipping out to France. Then he disappeared for parts unknown.

 When his parents,  Walter and Jimmie Knight, learned of Adrian’s abandonment of Maria Antonietta and his two young sons they sent her money to travel from her home in Mexico to Ray City, GA.  In Adrian’s absence, “Toni,” as she was known to the Knights, lived with the Knight family.   In the summer of 1922, she attended college at Georgia State Womans College, now known as Valdosta State University. In those days, married women were only allowed to attend during the summer session.

While in Georgia, Maria worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School. Family members say, “She was artistic in many ways, her voice was beautiful and she played the piano by ear as well as by reading music.”

After about four years of waiting for Adrian’s return, the abandoned and heartbroken  Maria returned to Mexico with her two sons.  She was divorced from Adrian Knight and later married Desmond Mangum.

Painting by Marie Antoinette Poblette

Painting by Marie Antoinette Poblette

Ray City Love Story Told by Betty M. Williams

Maria Antonieta  Poblete  (or Poblette) was the first wife of Owen Adrian Knight,  of Ray City, GA.  They were married on September 5, 1917 in El Paso, Texas while Owen Adrian Knight was in the Army.  Maria Antonieta  Poblete was born in Mexico and grew up with the Mormon Colonies in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Owen Adrian Knight, known as “Adrian”, was born and raised in Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City), the eighth child of Walter Howard Knight and Jimmie Gardener Gullette.

Maria and Adrian had two children, Owen Adrian, Jr., born April, 1918,  and Ralph H.,  born May 31, 1919.  Ralph was named after his uncle killed in the Otranto disaster in October, 1918. (See Ralph Knight ~ Ray City Soldier ~ WWI)

Following the end of WWI, apparently just before the birth of his second son, Adrian Knight left Texas for parts unknown.  Maria Antonieta came to Ray City with her two young children  to live with Adrian’s parents.  In Adrian’s absence, “Toni,” as she was then known, lived with the Knight family. She attended college in Valdosta and worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School.  After about four years of waiting for Adrian’s return, the abandoned and heartbroken  Toni returned to Mexico with her two sons.  She was divorced from Adrian Knight and later married Desmond Mangum.

Betty Williams has published a poignant biography of  Maria Antonieta  Poblete that weaves a narrative of her life in Mexico, Texas and Georgia, and world events involving the Mexican Revolution, the Mormon Church, and WWI. The eBook is available from Amazon.com

World War, Revolution and Religion from the Journals of Maria Antonieta Poblete

World War, Revolution and Religion from the Journals of Maria Antonieta Poblete

Williams, Betty (2011). World War, Revolution and Religion.

World War, Revolution and Religion from the Journals of Maria Antonieta Poblete By Betty M. Williams

The unlikely conjunction of a world war, a revolution and a religion may have given us a glimpse into the connecting principle of the Universe. Such a conjunction in the first decades of the 20th Century of WWI, the Mexican Revolution and the Mormon Church in Mexico brought about the meeting of Maria Antonieta Poblete and Owen Adrian Knight in the summer of 1917.

A love story is the result of that unlikely conjunction, but in order to tell the story, I must include the history that brought these people together in time and space. The story was set in motion by a revolution and a religion and tragically, for all three of the people eventually involved by love of Maria, interrupted by a World War.

Related Posts: