Farm Home of Matthew Hodge Albritton

Farm Home of Matthew Hodge Albritton
Reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletters courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Farm Home of Matthew Hodge Albritton,  Lois, GA near Ray City

Farm Home of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Lois, GA near Ray City

“The old farm home is located just south of the Old Lois town site, and west up a dirt lane. The deserted home was poorly remodeled in later years and it is now hard to imagine it’s original charm and dignity.

Two of the sons of Francis Marion Shaw married daughters of M. Hodge Albritton. Francis Arthur Shaw’s second wife was Gertrude Albritton, and Lacy Lester Shaw married her sister, Tula.

Hodge Albritton, a wounded Confederate veteran, was married twice; first to Susan Catherine Byrd, who was the mother of Gertrude, Tula, and four other children. His second wife, Laura A. Myers, bore him five more children. He lived several years in Nashville, but later bought this farm in the Old Lois community. In later years he sectioned off pieces of the -property to his children. Many of these children in turn, sold their shares to Gertrude and her husband, Francis Arthur Shaw. Hodge, however, lived in the home until his death, 20 September, 1915. The property is no longer in the Shaw or Albritton family.”

In the Lois community, Matthew Hodge Albritton was a neighbor of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight,   Molcie Parrish – wife of Elder Ansel Parrish, and  Sovin J. Knight, among others.

 

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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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Matthew Hodge Albritton

matthew-hodge-albritton

Matthew Hodge Albritton was born  March 8, 1842 in Houston County, GA a son of Allen and Rebecca Albritton.  His parents were well off. By the time of the Civil War, Allen Albritton had amassed a net worth that would have made him a multi-millionaire by today’s standards. Allen Albritton, was a farmer and owned land in the 5th District of Houston County, number not known, and adjoining the land of Stephen Castellow and others.

Matthew’s siblings were Littleton L. Albritton, Mariah Albritton, Mary Jane Albritton, William M. B. Albritton, George A. Albritton, Wright M. Albritton and Joe L. Albritton.  About 1842, Matthew’s cousins,  McCuin A. “Mack” Albritton and Matthew R. B. Albritton, also came to live with the family after the death of their father,  McCuin Albritton, Sr.  The boys, Mack and Matthew R. B.,  became legal wards of Allen Albritton, and their father’s property was sold off.

Estate of McCuin Albritton

Administrator’s Sale on the Estate of McCuin Albritton, November 21, 1943.

Macon Georgia Telegraph
November 28, 1843

Administrator’s Sale.

Will be sold, on the first Tuesday in FEBRUARY next, before the Court-House door in Perry, Houston county, within the usual hours, one-half of Lot of Land No. 195, in the 5th District of Houston county,  containing 101 1/4 acres, more or less – belonging to the Estate of McCuin Albritton, deceased, late of Burke county.  Sold agreeable to an order of the Inferior Court of Burke county, when sitting for ordinary purposes.  Terms cash – purchasers to pay for titles.

James Grubbs, Admr.

Nov 21

On March 3, 1852 Matthew’s sister, Mary Jane, married Thomas M. Ray  in Houston County, GA and the newlyweds moved to an area of Lowndes County that was cut into Berrien County in 1856.  T. M. Ray founded a grist mill in 1863 in the southern part of Berrien County, in partnership with Levi J. Knight.  This mill became the nucleus of the community now known as Ray City, GA.

Some time in the 1850s, Allen Albritton moved his family to Pike County, Alabama, near the town of New Providence.  Matthew, William, George, and  Wright all made the move with their father, as well as their adopted cousins Matthew R.B. and Mack. At least by 1857,  Matthew’s brother Littleton L. Albritton and sister Mariah Albritton had followed their sister, Mary Jane, to Berrien County, GA where Mariah married Matthew R. Grace that year.

Allen Albritton established legal guardianship of Matthew R.B. and Mack Albritton in Alabama, and petitioned to be discharged from that responsibility in Georgia.

1860-allen-albritton-adopts-nephews

Georgia Weekly Telegraph, September 20, 1860

Georgia Weekly Telegraph
September 20, 1860

GEORGIA, HOUSTON COUNTY.

Ordinary’s Office, for said County.
Upon hearing the petition of Allen Albritton, Guardian of M.R.B. & M.A. Albritton, minors of McCuin Albritton, deceased, showing that he has recently removed beyond the limits of this State to the county of Pike, State of Alabam, and take with him his said wards, with their property, and has there been duly appointed Guardian of said minors.
 It is ordered that all persons concerned be and appear at the November Term of this Court, to show cause, it any they have, why said Albritton should not be discharged from his said trust.
Given under my hand and official signature, the Sept. 6th, 1860.

W. T. Swift, Ordinary

In the Census of 1860, Matthew Albritton and his family were enumerated in Pike County, Alabama. Matthew, his brother William, and adopted brothers and cousins Matthew R.B, and Mack were all  working the family farm.  Their father and guardian, Allen Albritton,  had $23,775 in his personal estate and another $9,000 in real estate.

1860-censusAllenAlbritton

About 1861, Matthew left the farm in Alabama and joined his brother and sister in Berrien County, GA.

In May of 1862, Matthew’s brother, Littleton Albritton, went to Nashville, GA where he enlisted as a sergeant in Company E, 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment,, the Berrien Light Infantry.  On October 22, Matthew Albritton followed Company E to their encampment at Coffee Bluff near Savannah, GA where he enlisted as a private. Jehu Patten, of the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA, served as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, and other soldiers in the unit included John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie,  William Henry Outlaw, and Benjamin Sirmans.

During the Civil War Matthew was wounded in the throat and later received a wound to the right side.  Following his injuries he was granted a furlough and returned home.  In early April of 1865 he was making his way back north to rejoin his unit when he learned that General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on April 7th.  He surrendered to Federal troops near Augusta, GA. He was paroled  and returned to Berrien County. Later, he would receive a pension for his service in the CSA.

Susan Catherine Byrd

Susan Catherine Byrd

On November 28, 1869 Matthew Albritton was wed to Susan Catherine Byrd, the 21-year-old daughter of Nathan W. Byrd.  Susan Byrd’s family had moved to Nashville, GA around the end of the Civil War. Her father was a farmer and also a mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

Matthew Hodge Albritton lived for many years at Nashville, GA, and later bought a farm home in the Lois Community, just west of Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Matthew and Susan were married for 13 years before her death on March 2, 1882.

Children of Susan Byrd and Matthew Albritton:

  1. Theophilus Theodorea Albritton, born January 07, 1871.
  2. Gertrude Albritton, born May 23, 1872; married Francis Arthur Shaw
  3. Tula Albritton, born 1874; married Lacy Lester Shaw.
  4. Mary Jane Albritton, born July 07, 1876; married Luther Americus Webb.
  5. Sophronia Albritton, born September 22, 1878; married William Guilford Devane.
  6. Matthew Allen Albritton, born January 28, 1881.

Three years later, on July 16, 1885 Matthew, now 43, married again, this time to 27 year old Laura A. Myers of Nashville, GA. This was her first marriage. The couple had five children.

Children of Laura A. Myers and Matthew Albritton are:

  1.      Rena Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA.
  2.      Sarah Nina Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA, married Robert C. Register
  3.      Rebecca L. Albritton, born September 17, 1888 in GA.
  4.      Nona Hortense Albritton, born May 6, 1891 in GA.
  5.      Lola Alma Albritton, born Dec 1, 1893 in GA; married Caulie Augustus DeVane

Matthew Albritton died September 20, 1915  and is buried at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Laura Myers Albritton died April 9, 1921. She was buried in Pleasant Cemetery.

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

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Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers

EARLY POSTAL SERVICE

In was not until after the Civil War that mail service  at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available.  But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back more than 185 years.

Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient.  When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier.   A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier.   Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.

But, in 1825  no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill  nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.

McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on  March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.  Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road”  in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.  Officially,    McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”

The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3

The McCranie Family

Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information.  It was at his home there that the first post office in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826.  The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’  which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster.  The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.

1830 Georgia map detail - original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

1830 Georgia map detail – original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

SHARPE’S STORE POST OFFICE
The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828 announced that Hamilton W. Sharpe had opened a post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe's Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 17, 1828

A Post Office has been recently established at Sharpe’s Store, in Lowndes county, Geo. on the route from Telfair Courthouse to Tallahassee – Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq. P.M.

Hamilton W. Sharpe served as Postmaster at Sharpe’s Store until 1836.  At that time the name of the post office was briefly changed to Magnum Post Office, with John Hall appointed as Postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, having been selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near  the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of  Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)

…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’  On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

Postmaster Smith’s annual salary in 1831 was $16.67.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

    There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house.  It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location.  The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River.  It was named ‘Lowndesville.”  The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”

Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there.  Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.

By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)

 CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:

***

In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.

***

Approved July 2, 1836

This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.

Detail of J.H. Young's 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of J.H. Young’s 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of Burr's 1839 map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

Detail of Burr’s 1839 postal map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat  yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel E. Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA and reporting Indian activity in the area. Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a militia leader in the 1836-1842 Indian Wars in Lowndes County, GA.

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA had franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA hand franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville inconvenienced many residents of north Lowndes county, possibly prompting the resumption of postal service at Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road.  The name of Magnum Post Office reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton W. Sharpe was again Postmaster.

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe's Store. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, Lowndes County, GA. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837.

Unfortunately,  Sharpe’s Store was even farther distant from Beaverdam Creek;  the Knights, Clements, and their neighbors were left with a forty mile round trip to Troupville fetch the mail.  Sharpe himself served as Postmaster 1837 to 1848.  James Perry took over as Postmaster at Sharpe’s store from 14 December, 1848 to 16 August, 1849, when Sharpe returned to the position. John G. Polhill took the position 5 July, 1850, and Norman Campbell took over 21 August, 1850 to 21 July 1853 when the post office was moved to Morven, GA.

By 1838, Postmaster William Smith at Troupville was receiving weekly mail via routes from Waresboro and Bainbridge, and from San Pedro, Madison County, FL. In 1847 weekly mail was coming and going from Irwinville and Bainbridge, GA, and from Madison, FL.  William Smith continued as the Troupville Postmaster until  October 30, 1848 when attorney Henry J. Stewart took over.  On  August 16, 1849 William Smith resumed as Postmaster at Troupville.

Weekly service extended in 1851 to Waresboro, Albany and Irwinville, and to Columbus, FL.

Travel in the South in the 1830s

Travel in the South in the 1830s

 ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.  Weekly mail service berween Waresboro or Waynesville and Troupville came by Allapaha.

Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)

Benjamin Sermons Postmaster 06/27/1838
Isaac D. Hutto Postmaster 05/03/1841
James S. Harris Postmaster 03/05/1842
Samuel H. Harris Postmaster 09/12/1846
Peter Munford Postmaster 01/28/1848
James S. Harris Postmaster 02/09/1849
Andrew J. Liles Postmaster 11/27/1849

While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.

FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early  Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves.  “At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…”   The J. H. Colton Map of Georgia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River now known as Ten Mile Creek. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).

HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.

STAR ROUTES
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.”   Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible  by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach.  On March 3, 1845 Congress  established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation.  These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.”  In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.

NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.”  In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.

CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.”  The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.

RAY CITY POST OFFICE

After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA.  The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.

Related Posts:

Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863

Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, came to the area in 1855 prior to the formation of Berrien County, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.
Epitaph of Thomas Marcus Ray
The pains of death are past.
Labor and sorrow cease.
and Life’s long warfare closed at last.
His soul is found in peace.

Thomas Marcus Ray was born on September 20, 1822,  in the area of Georgia that would later be known as Griffin, Monroe County, GA.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Ray.  Little is known of his early life.

The 1850 census  shows at age 28 Thomas M. Ray was working as a mechanic in Twiggs County, GA.  He  married Mary Jane Albritton on March 3, 1852  in Houston County, GA. She was the daughter of Allen and Rebecca Albritton, and the sister of Matthew H. Albritton.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

The newlyweds moved to the area of Lowndes County that was later cut into present day Berrien County, GA.  A little more than a year later, Mary Jane gave birth to a son, John William Allen Ray, on May 10, 1853.

Sadly, just six days later Mary Jane died and Thomas, a 31 year old widower,  was left to raise the infant on his own. Thomas buried Mary Jane in the cemetery at Union Primitive Baptist Church, which was the only church in the area. Union Church, now known as Burnt Church, is located on the Alapaha River in present day Lakeland, Lanier County, Georgia.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

In 1853 this section of the state was only sparsely populated, and most of the settlers in the area gathered at least once a month at Union Church for services.  Thomas Ray was among those who attended.  It may be there that he met the 17 year old Mary Adelaide Knight.   She was the daughter of Levi J. Knight, a renowned Indian fighter and prominent planter in the area.  She was also the granddaughter of the Reverend William A. Knight, one of the founders of the Union Church and the first state senator elected to represent Lowndes County.  The following year, on August 22, 1854 Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight were married.

Thomas and Mary established their homestead on lot #516 in the 10th district of Lowndes County near Grand Bay, on land that Thomas purchased from his wife’s grandfather, William A. Knight, in 1855.  This land was soon to be cut into Berrien County in 1856 (and later into Lanier county).  Thomas’ father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, was instrumental in laying out the boundaries of the newly formed Berrien county.

On this land, the newlywed couple settled down to raise a family. In 1855, a daughter was born,  whom they named Mary Susan Ray. In 1858 a son was born to the couple, Thomas M. Ray, Jr.  and in the spring of 1860 Mary A. delivered another son, Charles F. Ray.

The Census of 1860 shows that Thomas M. Ray was clearly a wealthy man in his day.  On the census form his occupation  is listed as merchant.  At that time owned $2000 in real estate, and held $10,400 in personal estate. If he had a comparable net worth in 2007, he would certainly have been a multimillionaire.

The 1860 Census indicates that, in addition to the Ray children, two other youngsters were living with the Ray’s.  John T. Ray, Thomas Ray’s 15 year old nephew, lived with the family and attended school along with his cousins.  John T. Ray would be killed in a train wreck in 1888 (see Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.) A young girl  nine-year-old Efare Hayes (aka Ellifare Hayes), who was also living in the Ray household did not attend school.  Later census forms show that she was a domestic servant for the Rays. The census records show Ray’s neighbors were John Gaskins and Louie M. Young. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules show in that year Thomas M. Ray also was a slave owner, with one black female slave and one slave house enumerated.

Together, Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight had nine more children between 1855 and 1876, their last son being born in the year of Thomas’ death.

In the early 1860’s Thomas Ray partnered with his father-in law Levi J. Knight to build a grist mill and mill pond (now known as Ray’s Millpond) on Beaverdam Creek on land owned by L. J. Knight.  Mr. Knight would provide the land for the project, Mr. Ray would be mechanic and operator.    With the assistance of slave labor, the Ray family began the work to construct the earthen dam that would create an impoundment on Beaverdam Creek. In her later years, Mary Susan Ray, daughter of Thomas and Mary A. Ray, recalled that she helped build the dam when she was young child. ” Each day the family would load all equipment into the wagon, go over and work all day on the dam.”  In the age before power equipment the construction of the earthen dam that created the millpond was a massive undertaking. The dam is 1200 feet long with an average height of 12 feet, 12 feet wide at the top and 20 feet wide at the base.  It took approximately 10,800 tons of earth, dug and moved by human muscle to construct the dam.

It was while the dam was under construction that the initial hostilities of the Civil War broke out. On  April 12, 1861 at 4:30 a.m. Confederate  forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.  During the Civil War, Thomas Ray’s father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, and his future son-in-law Henry H. Knight both served in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  Thomas himself, was a major in the 138th Battalion, 6th Military District, Lowndes, County, GA. There is no record that this unit saw active duty during the war.

Thomas M. Ray was apparently at his home near Grand Bay in the fall of 1861, for Mary delivered another daughter the following spring: Sarah Jane “Sallie” Ray was born May 23, 1862.  According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coast Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill, known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill”  on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Ray was still at home in the late summer to early fall of 1864, for in the spring of 1865 James David Ray was born on April 30, 1865, just days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

After the war, in 1866 Thomas Ray bought land from his partner and father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, where the Rays constructed a new home and moved their family. This land was 225 acres of  lot #424 in the 10th district of Berrien County,  on the west side of Beaver Dam Creek right next to the grist mill.  Nearby were the homes of his mother- and father-in-law, Levi J. and Ann Knight, and his wife’s cousin Henry H. Knight.  To the west of the Ray farm was the property of William Gaskins.

Even after the Civil War ended slavery, cotton was the major agricultural concern in the south.  In 1869, Thomas Ray and William Roberts set up a mill for ginning and carding cotton on Beaverdam Creek downstream from Ray’s Mill.  From that point on the creek came to be known as both Beaverdam Creek and Card Creek.   The cotton mill was situated on land purchased from the estate of William Washington Knight, deceased brother-in-law of T. M. Ray.   (W.W. Knight died of disease during the Civil War; see The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll.)  The mill site included 30 acres on lot #452 and the right to impound water on lot #451, just east of #452. “This operation was apparently taking advantage of a small pond and dam already put in place by John Knight whose property it adjoined…” The dam site was on Beaverdam Creek about 20 yards just east of present day Pauline Street in Ray City, GA..

In early August of 1870 when the census was enumerated for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the household of Thomas M. and Mary Ray  included  their children  William A.,  Mary  S., Thomas M. Jr., Charles F., Sarah J., James D., and one year old Elizabeth Texas Ray.  Also living with the family was Thomas Ray’s mother, Mary Ray, 78 years of age. Ellifare Hayes, the family maid was now a young woman of 19. Eight year old Ellin Jones  was an African-American domestic servant also living in the Ray household.  In 1870  Thomas M. Ray’s personal estate was valued at $5000 and his real estate at $2714.   His neighbors included  Robert A. Elliott and Annis Lastinger Elliott, and their children.  Robert A. Elliott was a mechanic and a hand at the wool mill. Another neighbor was Isaac J. Edmonsen.

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on  February 23, 1870 in the community where he lived (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  Afterwards, Thomas Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests  in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate.  Over time the mill became the focal point of a community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA.

Willis Allen Ray was born in 1871, and Robert Jackson Ray in 1873.

The 1874 tax digest show that Thomas M. Ray was an employer; working for him was Andrew Wilkins, a Freedman and farmhand who lived near Rays Mill.

In 1874 when Mercer Association missionary Reverend J. D. Evans came to Ray’s Mill, Thomas M. Ray was deeply moved by the baptist’s message.  Thomas M. Ray must have attended the church meetings in the old log school house and the big revivals that were held in May and July, for he became instrumental in the formation of a Baptist Church at Ray’s Mill (see Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.)  On September 20, 1874 a small group of followers met with Reverend J. D. Evans  at  the  home of Thomas and Mary Ray to organize the church.  Thomas M. Ray. and David  J. McGee were elected to represent the new church to the Mercer Baptist Association and were sent as messengers to the Valdosta Church. The Reverend J. D. Evans wrote a petitionary letter which they carried to the association. In November 1874 Thomas M. Ray was appointed to a church building committee along with James M. Baskin and D. J. McGee. He served on the committed that selected and procured the site for the construction of the church building. He continued to serve on the building committee until his death.

In 1876, Joseph Henry Ray was born.

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton (1836 – 1853)

  1.  John William Allen Ray (1853 – 1934)

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary A Knight (1836 – 1923)

  1. Mary Susan Ray (1855 – 1926)
  2. Thomas Marcus Ray, Jr (1858 – 1923)
  3. Charles Floyd Ray (1860 –
  4. Sarah Jane (Sally) Ray (1862 – 1938)
  5. James David Ray (1865 – 1937)
  6. Elizabeth Texas Ray (1869 – 1952)
  7. Willis Allen Ray (1871 – 1901)
  8. Robert Jackson Ray (1873 – 1954)
  9. Joseph Henry Ray (1876 – 1907)

Thomas M. Ray died June 14, 1876.  His death was announced in The Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 1, 1876
Thomas M. Ray

Maj. T.M. Ray, a prominent citizen of Berrien County, died last week, after a long spell of illness.

His lodge brothers in Butler Lodge No. 211 Free and Accepted Masons provided this tribute:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday Aug 26. 

     Tribute Of Respect , Butler Lodge No. 211 F.A.M.  Milltown, Ga., Aug. 12th, 1876. Whereas, it hath pleased the Grand Architect of the Universe, in His wise Providence, to remove from labor, in the lodge on earth, to refreshment (as we trust) in the Great Grand Lodge in Heaven, or brother Thomas M. Ray

Therefore be it

     Resolved, 1st. That, in his death Masonry has lost a worthy brother, the neighborhood an upright and honest citizen; his family a kind husband, and indulgent father and a good provider.

     Resolved, 2nd. That while we mourn his loss and miss his association, we bow with meek submission to the will of Him who doeth all things well.

     Resolved, 3rd. That we cherish his memory and recommend to the emulation of the Craft Iris virtues and the uprightness and integrity of his character.

     Resolved, 4th. That we extend to the family an relatives of our deceased brother our heartfelt sympathies, praying upon them the guidance and protection of our common Heavenly  Father.

     Resolved, 5th. That a blank page in our minute book be inscribed to his memory, and that a copy of this preamble and resolution be furnished the family of brother Ray, and a copy furnished the Berrien County News, for publication and the Valdosta Times requested to copy.

By order of Butler Lodge No. 211 F. &A.M.

Ogden H. Carroll, T.O. Norwood, Jesse Carroll,  Com.

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George Washington Knight and the Populist Party

George Washington Knight was born September 8, 1845 in Lowndes County, GA.  His parents were Ann Sloan and Aaron Knight (1813-1887), brother of Levi J. Knight.

At age 16, on  July 3, 1862, George W. Knight enlisted as a Private  in Company E, 54th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  His  unit fought all over Georgia; at Dug Gap, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, and other battle locales.  Matthew Hodge Albritton, James Baskin, William Gaskins, Samuel Guthrie, William J. Lamb, Jeremiah May, Rufus Ray, and Samuel Sanders, among other Berrien countians, also served in this Company.  On April 20-21, 1865, two weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the 54th Georgia Volunteers, under the command of General Howell Cobb, joined in the last defense of Macon.

George Washington Knight surrendered as a corporal with Company E, 54th Infantry Regiment Georgia on May 10,  1865 at Tallahassee, FL.

On Sept 20, 1865 George W. Knight married Rhoda Futch, a daughter of John M. Futch. She was born October 31, 1846; died January 4, 1909.  At first, the newlyweds made their home on a farm owned by George’s father.  But within a few months George bought a farm on Ten Mile Bay near Empire Church, about five miles northeast of the site of Ray’s Mill. George and Rhoda resided on this farm the rest of their lives.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

“In 1892 Georgia politics was shaken by the arrival of the Populist Party. Led by the brilliant orator Thomas E. Watson this  new party mainly appealed to white farmers, many of whom had been impoverished by debt and low cotton prices in the 1880s and 1890s.”   Georgia farmers were being driven into ruin by the combination of falling cotton prices and rising railroad freight taxes .  Populism attracted followers in all of the southern states, but it was especially strong in Georgia.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons.  Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons. Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

The Populist Party ran a candidate for president, as well as candidates for Congress, Governor of Georgia, and the Georgia Assembly.

George Washington Knight was the Populist party’s candidate for Georgia state senator of the Sixth District in 1894, but was defeated.

The platform of the Populist movement called for financial policies to drive up the price of cotton, banking reform, government ownership of the railroads, direct election of senators, and an agricultural loan program, known as the Sub-Treasury Plan,  which would help farmers get the best prices for their crops.

“Realizing that the white vote would probably split between the Populist and Democratic parties, the Populists—and Tom Watson in particular—tried to gain the support of African Americans. Although never calling for social equality, they invited two black delegates to their state convention in 1892 and appointed a black man to the state campaign committee in 1894. They also demanded an end to the convict lease system, a program by which the state leased its prisoners to private mining companies. Work in the mines was dangerous, conditions were brutal, and most of the prisoners were black. Democrats quickly accused the Populists of allying with former slaves. Such racist claims drove many whites from the People’s Party movement, and the contest was marked by fistfights, shootings, and several murders.”

On election day, the Democratic party triumphed over the Populists in the races for the top offices. But the Georgia elections of 1892 and 1894 that kept the Populists out of state offices were marked by blatant corruption.  In 1894 ballot boxes in many Georgia counties were stuffed with more votes than there were voters.

When the Populist ran a presidential candidate in the election of 1896, it split the democratic vote giving the national election to the William McKinley and the Republicans. At the state level, the Populists lost the gubernatorial race to the Democrats. After the defeat of 1896, white Populists slowly drifted back to the Democratic Party, although many of the Populist issues continued in Georgia politics. The Populist Party had never convincingly embraced African-American voters,  who quickly returned to the Republican party.  The Populist party was not always acceptable to the Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass, either.  In November, 1892, for instance, in Empire Church near Rays Mill (Now Ray City), GA charges were preferred against Hardeman Sirmans “for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election.” 

In later years, George Washington Knight returned to the Democratic party.

He died 8 Feb 1913 in Lakeland, Berrien, Georgia. Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight are buried at Empire Church, Lanier county, GA.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

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Samuel Guthrie and the Capitulation of Macon

Samuel Guthrie,  whose Ray City, GA family connections have been the discussion of earlier posts, was a Confederate veteran.  His  unit, Company E, 54th Georgia Volunteers, fought all over Georgia; at Dug Gap, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, and other battle locales.  Matthew Hodge Albritton, James Baskin, William Gaskins, George W. Knight, William Lamb, Jeremiah May, Rufus Ray, and Samuel Sanders among other Berrien countians also served in this Company.  On April 20-21, 1865, two weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox the 54th Georgia Volunteers, under the command of General Howell Cobb, joined in the last, futile defense of Macon.

After the war, the Federal records reported the circumstances:

Macon, Ga.,
April 20, 1865.

2nd Cavalry Division, Military Division of Mississippi.

This affair was the last engagement of Wilson’s raid through Alabama and Georgia. When within 20 miles of Macon the advance division encountered a Confederate cavalry command of 400 men. By a series of brilliant charges by the 17th Ind. the enemy was driven from behind every barricade where he took refuge and was completely routed, throwing away arms and ammunition in the haste of his flight.

When nine miles out of the city a Confederate flag of truce was met announcing an armistice between Sherman and Johnston, but Col. Robt. H. G. Minty, commanding the advance, refused to honor it and gave it five minutes to get out of the way. The Federals then continued the charge and dashed over the works into the city, which was surrendered by Gen. Howell Cobb.

The results of the capture were 350 commissioned officers, 1,995 enlisted men, 60 pieces of artillery, a large amount of small arms, and all public works.

The casualties were not reported.

Source: The Union Army, Vol.,6 p.,580

In his memoirs, General James Harrison Wilson wrote

“It is a matter of history that Cobb was not only one of the largest slaveholders, but an original secessionist, whose proudest boast was that his state followed him, not he his state. Nor is there any doubt that from the first he threw his whole heart and fortune into the Confederate cause, but he was sagacious enough to know when Lee and Johnston surrendered and Davis became a fugitive that the end had come and from that moment he did all in his power to restore order and confidence and to help earnestly in the work which pressed upon me at Macon.”

Samuel Guthrie lived through the War  and mustered out on 10 May 1865 at Tallahassee, FL.  He returned to his home in Berrien County where he lived out the rest of his days.

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Lacy Lester Shaw

Lacy Lester Shaw,1873-1944.

Lacy Lester Shaw. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Lacy Lester Shaw. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Family researcher Bryan Shaw published a newsletter on Lacy Lester Shaw in 1998.  (see http://www.fmshawfamily.com/)  A son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, Sr., Lacy Lester Shaw was involved in the turpentine industry with his brothers Arthur and Chester Shaw, primarily running the commissary at the still sites.

On June 7, 1896, at the age of 23, Lacy married Tula Albritton, daughter of Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd. She was the sister of Gertrude Albritton Shaw, wife of Lacy’s oldest brother.

 

Later, Lacy Lester Shaw was  involved in the hardware and grocery business in Ray City, GA and in Valdosta. He was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City. He was also a Mason and  served as treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553.  In 1917 he built a house on North Street and opened a hardware business as the Ray City Supply Company. But after only a few years Lacy Lester Shaw moved his family to Valdosta.

Lacy Lester Shaw - In Search of a Lost Brotherhood

Lacy Lester Shaw – In Search of a Lost Brotherhood

Lacy Lester Shaw, Tula Albritton Shaw gravemarker, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Georgia

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Nathan Byrd and Bird’s Mill, GA

Continuing with research on Nathan W. Byrd, we find his daughter, Susan Catherine Byrd, married Mathew H. Albritton and lived in the vicinity of Ray’s Mill, GA.  In 1860, prior to coming to Berrien County, Nathan Byrd and his family were enumerated in Coffee County, living near the village of Bird’s Mill.  What is the Byrd/Bird connection?  Bird’s Mill has become a ghost town, with virtually no modern reference to its former location.  The census records of 1860 tell us a post office was located there.  The 1860 Gazetteer of Georgia identifies Bird’s Mill as one of five communities then extant in Coffee county.  Mark V. Wetherington gives additional details in his work, Plain folk’s fight: the Civil War and Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia.

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