History of Ray City School

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

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

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

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

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

Ray City School, March 11, 1927.

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

Old Wooden School at Ray City, GA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brick School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Moses Lee ~ Exemplary Farmer

Moses C. Lee (1853-1926) was an outstanding farmer of Berrien County, GA.

He was a son of John Levy Lee and nephew of Moses Corby Lee (1808-1884), both pioneer settlers and prominent land owners of  old Berrien.  His father and uncle were veterans of the Indian Wars of 1838 and fought with Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company in the last Indian fight in Berrien County, GA.  His mother was Elender Wetherington (1813-1889).  He was the father-in-law of Lint Miller and one of the investors in the Miller Hardware & Furniture Company.

Born July 12, 1853,  Moses C. Lee (1853-1926) was sometimes referred to as M.C. Lee, Jr. to distinguish him from his uncle. Moses C. Lee, the subject, first appears at age six in Census records in the  1860 enumeration of his father’s household in Berrien County, GA.  His father’s real estate was valued at 3500 and personal estate at $3800.

On November 1879, Moses C. Lee married Amanda Clements in Berrien County, GA.   Born Sarah Amanda Clements, she was a daughter of  John F. Clements and Nancy Patten, and a sister of John Miles Clements.

The newlyweds made their home in a house on the farm of Moses’ father, John Levy (or Levi) Lee, where they were enumerated in the Census of 1880.

After the death of his father, John Levy Lee, in 1884, Moses Lee carried on working his Berrien County farm.  Moses Lee’s residence was known as “Stoney Hill,” according to William Green Avera.  The Lee place was situated on the road “from Milltown to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha.” This road passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County; Judge J. H. Rowan; and Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine Still.

By 1896 Moses Lee was recognized as one of the leading farmers in this section.

Tifton Gazette, March 7, 1896 praises the work of Berrien County, GA farmer Moses Lee.

Tifton Gazette, March 7, 1896 praises the work of Berrien County, GA farmer Moses Lee.

Well, I have the results of what Mr. Mose Lee, has stored away, for another specimen of what can be obtained in the wiregrass region.  Will take corn first.  On his farm he housed between 1500 and 2,000 bushels of “little cob” corn, and some where near 11,000 pounds of well cured fodder.  He dug and housed 12,000 bushels of sweet potatoes, and left enough in the patch to fatten 100 head of hogs. Cotton! cotton! He raised nineteen bales of cotton, averaging four hundred pounds each, which amounts to 7,600 pounds, and has jugged and barreled 750 gallons of syrup, of the finest that can be made.  He killed enough porkers to amount to 12,000 pounds and from them he obtained about 1,650 pounds of lard.  Hay he housed enough to winter 50 or 60 head of cows, beside old “Buck”.  As it was a bad year for oats and rice he only housed about 5,000 bundles of oats and 80 or 100 bushels of rice.
    He has enlarged his farm this year, by adding 40 acres of new land.  He is only going to use ten tons of guano this year.
    We hear some folks crying hard times, but all they have to do is to work with energy and vote for Hammond.  If anyone thinks that I have exaggerated in stating the above facts, I can only refer them to Mr. Lee, Milltown, Ga.

In 1917, M. C. Lee was employing Randolph Graham, John Thomas Brantley and Fletcher Turner to farm his land.

Children of Moses C. Lee and Amanda Clements Lee:

  1. William David Lee (1880 – 1967) married Mollie Clements
  2. Jennie L Lee (1882 – 1974)  married Sam I Watson, 1900
  3. Ellen D Lee (1883 – 1907) married William R. Smith; died of measles April 30, 1907
  4. John Vinson Lee (1885 – 1947) married Camilla Spence
  5. L. Chester Lee (1887 –1908) died of typhoid fever December 14, 1908
  6. Winnie Lee (1888-1891)
  7. Lena A Lee (1891 – 1971) married Willis Linton “Lint” Miller, 1913
  8. Remer E Lee (1893 – 1901) died of blood poisoning
  9. Mary Emma Lee (1895 –1986) married 1) Virgil Shingler; 2) J.Crawford Dasher
  10. Infant Lee – born and died July 22, 1897

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Two Fires Strike Ray City

On this day May 5, 1925  two fires struck in Ray City, GA.  The Lanier County News reported the story:

The Lanier County News
May 7, 1925, front page,

Two Fires Ray City

     Ray City suffered loss by two fires Tuesday night, one directly after the other.  First Mr. J.M. Tyler’s garage, back of his residence, burned down and his car with it.  About the time they were through working on this fire, Altman’s warehouse, 150 yards distant, by the railroad, was discovered on fire, and it burned down.
      The warehouse was quite a large building built by the Miller Hardware & Furniture Co. and used by that firm as a warehouse for a time but afterwards sold to Altman Bros. who have used it for a fertilizer warehouse the past two seasons.  They carried some insurance.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker.

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Charles S. Parham ~ A “Sandlapper” Comes to Rays Mill

According to sciway.com, the term Sandlapper is a friendly nickname for South Carolinians. Charles S. “Charlie” Parham was a  transplant to Berrien County,  a “Sandlapper” originally hailing from South Carolina, and at other times living in Alabama , Florida, or Georgia.  He came to live  in Rays Mill, GA (nka Ray City) around 1898, when he was about  25 years old. Although he had just completed a program of study at the Georgia-Alabama Business College, he occupied himself in farming upon his arrival in Berrien county.  His brother,  Edwin P. Parham,  had previously settled in Berrien County and  was living at Rays Mill when enumerated in the census of 1900 and again in 1910.  Charlie Parham  farmed at Rays Mill for a couple of years and continued his studies.  He does not appear in Rays Mill in the Census of 1900, perhaps being away at school at the time the census was taken.  Around 1901 he spent a year in Abbeville, Ga attending Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. He taught many years in Berrien schools and served on the county school board.

By 1902 Charlie Parham was living in Nashville, Ga  and on February 8, 1903  he married Lola Lee Giddens of Rays Mill, GA.  She was a daughter of  Fannie Baskins and  William Knight Giddens.

Marriage Certificate of Charles S. Parham and Lola Lee Giddens,  February 8 1903, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Charles S. Parham and Lola Lee Giddens, February 8 1903, Berrien County, GA. Image Src: http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,187825

In Nashville, Charlie Parham found employment clerking in the local stores. He also found time for public office and taught in local schools.

1926 Poplar Springs Consolidated School opening. Inscription on building reads "Poplar Springs School District, Minerva Academy. Trustees: A. J. Guthrie, Chairman, J. L. Hughes, Secretary and Treasurer, N. L. Singletary; Originators of Consolidation, Moses G. Sirmons, S. M. Green, Dr. J. R. Lasseter; William G. Avera, Designer of Building, W. E. Register, Builder 1926." Teachers, Annie Lee Nix Maddox, Golie Spells, _____Sike, Charlie E. Parham, Alice Knight. (It is thought that many of the above-named persons are in this photo; Wm (Bill) G. Avera, School Superintendent, is the man with left hand against his chest, near middle of 2nd row.) Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

1926 Poplar Springs Consolidated School opening. Inscription on building reads “Poplar Springs School District, Minerva Academy. Trustees: A. J. Guthrie, Chairman, J. L. Hughes, Secretary and Treasurer, N. L. Singletary; Originators of Consolidation, Moses G. Sirmons, S. M. Green, Dr. J. R. Lasseter; William G. Avera, Designer of Building, W. E. Register, Builder 1926.” Teachers, Annie Lee Nix Maddox, Golie Spells, _____Sike, Charlie E. Parham, Alice Knight. (It is thought that many of the above-named persons are in this photo; Wm (Bill) G. Avera, School Superintendent, is the man with left hand against his chest, near middle of 2nd row.) Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

In the 1920s, C.S. Parham was situated with Miller Hardware & Furniture Company, his name appearing on the company letterhead.  At that time the firm had stores in Ray City, Nashville, and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.   

  
C.S. Parham appeared on the letterhead of Miller Hardware & Furniture Company in the 1920s.

C.S. Parham appeared on the letterhead of Miller Hardware & Furniture Company in the 1920s.

In 1937, the Nashville Herald ran a biographical sketch of Charles S. Parham that included additional details.

Nashville Herald
May 6, 1937
Flowers for the Living: CHARLES S. PARHAM

The subject this week is a South Carolina “Sandlaper” [sic] by birth, but a Georgian by preference.  Mr. C.S. Parham, known locally as Charlie, was born and reared in Malboro county, S.C. in 1873, making him 64 years old at this writing.  His father was the late C. J. Parham, who died in 1914 at 75 years of age, and his mother passed away in 1887 at 40 years of age.  Both were natives of South Carolina and lived all of their lives in that state.
       At the age of ten years Mr. Parham moved to Florida where he lived for the next ten years.  At twenty years of age he came to Georgia, enrolling at the Georgia-Alabama Business College in Macon.  The following year he was graduated.  It is strange to learn that prior to his business college education he had attended school only three weeks.  The education he had acquired was soaked up through his teens of his own accord.  He applied himself well for the chance he had.
In 1897 he left for Montgomery, Ala. where he worked for a year.  From there he came to Ray City, (old Rays Mill), his first time in Berrien county, where he farmed two years, and at the same time attending school at Lakeland (then Milltown). After that he took a teacher’s course at Abbeville for one year.  Since that course he taught school off and on for twenty years.
       He came to Nashville to live in 1902, and here he has resided ever since.  He first clerked for A. E. Bullard, General Merchandise, later taking a job in the store of S. T. Tygart, hardware dealer, which he held for over six years. During his time with Mr. Tygart he was elected Clerk of the Berrien Superior Court. This was in 1910.  He served two successful terms, four years, then offered and was elected county treasurer.  Before he could take over his duties, the office was abolished. This was his last time offering for public office.
       However, he has over the years served twelve years on the Nashville school board, and one term as city councilman. He is a member of the Nashville Baptist church and for years has been church clerk.
In 1903 he was married to Miss Lola Giddens, sister of Rev. A. H. Giddens of Nashville. There are two children, Mr. C. V. Parham of Atlanta, and Mrs. Charles Norwood of Nashville.  There is only one brother, Mr. E. P. Parham of Brooks county.
Mr. Parham is strictly a business man, and does not have much time for foolishness.  He does, however, like to go fishing when they bite, but does not care for hunting, explaining that there is always too much walking.  He likes to see a good basketball game.
      He is known to be one of the county’s most able business men, attending to his duties, which practice has brought him success and financial stability. He is honest, clear-cut in his views and frank to say what he thinks and believes.  No one can accuse Charlie Parham of being two-faced, the worst feature of so many.  He will certainly call his shots as he sees them. This is one of his most admirable traits. At present he operates a number of farms near Nashville, and   each year makes money.
      Mr. Parham is a good citizen, and Berrien county people are glad to know they have a “sandlaper” in their midst. He is highly regarded and for a very good reason.

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Miller Hardware started at Ray City

Miller Hardware was one of the historic businesses of Ray City, GA. The Ray City store was managed by  Arthur Harvel Miller, brother of Lint Miller. Leon Clyde Miller clerked in the store.  Charlie Parham  and M. C. Lee were among the investors.

According to the Annual Report of the Secretary of State, the Miller Hardware & Furniture store located at Milltown, GA was incorporated in 1913 with a capital of $25,000. The trade journal Southern Hardware, Volumes 79-80, June 1918, W.R.C. Smith Pub. Co., 1918 pg 66 announced the incorporation of  a Miller Hardware & Furniture Company store at Ray City.

Image Right:  W. L. Miller and Lena Lee circa 1908. The couple were married in 1913 (see larger images at Berrien County Historical Foundation).

Willis Linton “Lint” Miller was the President and General Manager of the company. Later he served as Chairman of the State Highway Department.  James Thomas Phillips was a salesman for the company. Leon Earl Thigpen was a clerk at the Milltown location.

By 1923, the company letterhead boasted the capital stock had grown to $35,000. The letter head pictured below was from a document included in the death papers of Francis Marion Shaw.