Nathan Byrd

Nathan W. Byrd

Nathan W. Byrd was one of the mail carriers for the post offices of Old Berrien County, GA. He carried mail on  the postal route between Nashville, GA and Milltown (now Lakeland, GA) in the period after the Civil War.  This road from Lastinger Mills at Milltown to the county seat at Nashville was one of the first public roads built in Berrien County. The route passed by the residences of Isben Giddens, Levi J. Knight, and John M. Futch, among others residing in the vicinity of Ray’s Mill, GA.

In 1875 Nathan W. Byrd was awarded the contract  to carry mail between Nashville, GA and Alapaha, GA, 13 miles and back, three times a week. The trip was a four hour ride each way.

The 1876 records of the U.S. Congress show in that year Nathan W. Byrd also put in a bid to carry the mail on  the route from Nashville, GA to Allapaha, GA.

1876 mail routes, Berrien County, GA

1876 mail routes, Berrien County, GA

The route was awarded to William J. Nelson of Allapaha, who was contracted to provide the mail service, three round trips a week, for $190 per year.   That sum would equate to about $49,300 in comparative 2013 dollars.

Nathan W. Byrd was born October 6, 1808 and raised in Sampson County, North Carolina.  He was the only child of Robert Byrd and his second wife, Elizabeth Gulley.   Nathan’s father, Robert Byrd, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War who served with the North Carolina militia from about 1777 to 1780. Nathan’s maternal grandfather, William S. Gulley was also a soldier of the Revolutionary War.

As a young man, Nathan Byrd came to Georgia where he met Ellen Gay, of Alabama. On January 24, 1834  the 25 year-old Nathan W. Byrd married Ellen Gay, age 16 and the couple made their home in Stewart County, GA.

Marriage license of Nathan W. Byrd and Eleanor L. B. Gay. August 14, 1834, Stewart County, GA.

Marriage license of Nathan W. Byrd and Eleanor L. B. Gay. August 14, 1834, Stewart County, GA.

Georgia, Stewart County
I do certify that Nathan W. Byrd and Eleanor L. B. Gay were duly joined in Matrimony by me this 14th day of August 1834
James S. Lunsford, M.G.
Recorded this 22nd day of August 1834
Thomas M. Dennis, Clk

 

The following year their first child was born, James Byrd, but the child died in infancy.   A daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was born to the couple in 1837,  and in 1839 a second daughter, Martha, was delivered. The following year their son, William Byrd, was born.   By 1840, the Byrds had moved to Houston County, GA where they appear in the census of that year, along with their three children.

Over the next decade, the couple added three more daughters to their growing family; Sarah (1843), Ellen (1846), and Susan Catherine (b. 1848). The Census of 1850 found them still living in Houston County. Nathan was a farmer with $2000 in real estate. At age 40, with four daughters and only one son, William, age 9, to help with farm labor, Nathan would have found it tough going. But the Slave Inhabitant Schedule in the 1850 Census shows that he owned three slaves.

Also enumerated in 1850 living in the Byrd household was 22-year-old William Gay, farmer. A search of the available records has failed to disclose the exact relation of William Gay, but it seems most likely that he is the younger brother of Ellen Gay Byrd. The parents of Ellen or William Gay are not known, the only clue to their origins being Huxford’s assertion that Ellen Gay was “of Alabama.”

In 1850, Nathan W. Byrd was a member of the Southern Rights Party of Houston County, a party dedicated to repelling “the efforts of the North…to interfere with [Southern men’s] rights in slave property.”  At that time there was grave sectional contention  over the future of slavery in this country.  In September of that year, the United States Congress passed the Compromise of 1850,  a package of five separate bills which defused the political confrontation between slave and free states on the status of territories acquired in the Mexican–American War.

Joseph E. Brown, Governor of Georgia from 1857 to 1865.

Joseph E. Brown, Governor of Georgia from 1857 to 1865.

In Georgia, the Legislature directed Governor Joseph E. Brown to convene a State Convention to consider the impact of the Compromise of 1850 on the state’s federal relations.

Each county was to select delegates to this convention. In Houston County,  Nathan W. Byrd was appointed as an elector to nominate four Houston county delegates to the convention.  In Berrien County, one of the candidates for convention delegates was Levi J. Knight, original settler at Ray City, GA. Levi J. Knight was a pro-Union man and lost out to candidates who favored secession.

The State Convention met at Milledgeville, on the 10th of December, 1850 “for the purpose of taking into consideration the many aggressive measures persisted in by the North upon the institutions of the Southern States, and as far as possible and consistent with the provisions of the Federal Constitution, to redress past wrongs and insure sufficient protection for the future.

The Compromise of 1850, dealing with territory acquired during the Mexican War, had numerous critics despite its passage by Congress. Southerners were upset by the admittance of California as a free state, which gave free states a majority of votes in the U.S. Senate. Northerners protested the inclusion of a tough Fugitive Slave Act, designed to appease Southerners. Several Southern states, including Georgia, had highly vocal secessionist movements calling for immediate secession. The Georgia General Assembly authorized a call for a state convention to determine the state’s course. Howell Cobb, Alexander H. Stephens, and Robert Toombs, who represented Georgia in Congress, wielded their influence in Georgia in support of the Compromise. Of the 264 delegates elected to the special convention in November 1850, 240 were Unionists. A Committee of Thirty-three drafted a response, pages 14-26, adopted by a vote of 237 to 19. In it, Georgia gave a qualified endorsement to the Compromise so long as the North complied with the Fugitive Slave Act and ceased to attempt to ban the expansion of slavery into new territories and states. – Georgia Archives

The outcome of this 1850 Georgia Convention was a statement known as the Georgia Platform.

 Supported by Unionists, the Georgia Platform affirmed the acceptance of the Compromise as a final resolution of the sectional slavery issues while declaring that no further assaults on Southern rights by the North would be acceptable. The Platform had political significance throughout the South. In the short term it was an effective antidote to secession, but in the long run it contributed to sectional solidarity and the demise of the Second Party System in the South.

 

Nathan W. Byrd served as a Grand Juror on the November 1853 term of the Houston County Superior Court.

Up to about 1854, the Byrds continued in Houston County with two more daughters added to the family; Caroline (1851), and Annie (1854). In February, 1854 the Georgia General Assembly passed an Act creating Coffee County from portions of Clinch, Irwin, Telfair, and Ware counties. Seeking opportunity in the newly created county, Nathan Byrd relocated his family. Records show he served as a Grand Juror in Coffee County for the June term, 1854.  Sometime before the 1860 census, William Gay left the Byrd household, or perhaps he remained behind when the family moved from Houston County. In Coffee county, a final child was born to Nathan and Ellen Byrd, a daughter, Eliza, born 1857.

When Douglas, GA was founded in 1855 as the seat of Coffee County, the Byrds were one of the first families in the new town. For a few years they operated a boarding house at Douglas.  Perhaps the location was not conducive, or perhaps the looming war held back development, but the town was slow to develop.  “From 1854, when Coffee County was created, until the 1880s, only a white frame courthouse, a hotel, a store or two, and a few houses occupied the site in the middle of the piney woods.”

National Archive records of Appointments of Postmasters show on October 34, 1856 Nathan W. Byrd was appointed postmaster at Byrd’s Mills, GA. In those days shortly after the creation of Coffee county, the  only other post offices in the county were at Douglas, Ocmulgeeville, and Red Bluff.  Nathan Byrd was succeeded as postmaster by James W. Overstreet on October 13, 1857.

On January 8, 1857 Nathan and Ellen’s eldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth Byrd, then 19, married Littleton L. Albritton  in Berrien County, GA. He was a brother of Matthew H. Albritton.  It was her second marriage; her first husband was a man named Mobley. Mary Elizabeth and Littleton Albritton  were enumerated in Nashville, Berrien County, GA in the Census of 1860.  Nathan Byrd and family were enumerated still living in Coffee county, in the vicinity of Bird’s Mill, GA.

The 1860 Gazetteer of Georgia describes Bird’s Mill as a post office and small village, one of only five towns in all of Coffee county.  By this time daughter Martha had also left home. Their son, William Byrd, now 19, was working as a school teacher.  Nathan Byrd owned $2000 in real estate and $3490 in personal estate. The Slave Inhabitant schedule in the Census of 1860 shows he owned three enslaved people, a 24-year-old black woman, a 3 year old mixed-race boy, and a 3 month old girl. In 2009 dollars his comparative net worth would have been about $1.85 million dollars.

According to Huxford,  the Byrd  family moved to Clinch County in 1861 and made their home at the community of Guest Mill.  Little information is available about the historic community of Guest Mill.  The location of “Guest” is shown on the U.S. Coast Survey Map of 1865,  about nine or ten miles due east of Homerville, GA.  The Guest Millpond Dam is drawn on the modern United States Geological Service (USGS) Sandy Bottom Topo map. Guest Millpond Dam is located in northern Clinch County, GA in the 1061st Georgia Militia District. The dam is located at the latitude and longitude coordinates of 31.1949275 and -82.8606999.

Nathan W Byrd was enrolled in the militia of the 1061st GMD in 1861, and in 1864 he was enumerated there in the Census for Reorganization of the Georgia Militia. He was 55 years old and occupied in farming.  Among his neighbors enumerated in the 1864 census was Miles J. Guest.

Around the end of the war, Nathan Byrd moved his family across the Alapaha River about 25 miles southwest to Nashville, GA where his  daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, Littleton Albritton, were residing. Huxford’s sketch details, “there Mr. Byrd bought a tract of land within the present limits of the town but at that time outside of town. He farmed there and also carried the mails between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland) for some years.”

On November 28, 1869 Byrd’s daughter, Susan Catherine Byrd, married Confederate veteran Matthew Hodge Albritton,  the brother of her sister’s husband, Littleton Albritton. Matthew and Susan Catherine Albritton  lived first in Nashville, GA, but later made their home near Ray’s Mill in southern Berrien County. Matthew’s sister, Mary Jane Albritton, was the first wife of Thomas M. Ray, of Ray’s Mill.

In the Census of 1870, Nathan and Ellen Byrd, were living in the 1157th Georgia Militia District, centered on Nashville, GA.   Like other men of antebellum wealth in Berrien county, Nathan Byrd had lost most of his net worth after the war. By 1870 Byrd’s assets amounted to just 12 percent of their pre-war value, but he still had a farm.  The 1870 Agriculture Census shows the Byrds were living on 30 acres of land, with three acres improved and the rest in woodlands. The farm was valued at $250 with $10 worth of farm equipment. Byrd owned one horse, two dairy cows and five other cattle, 15 sheep and 15 hogs. All together his livestock was valued at $273. He had 50 bushels of corn, 75 bushels of oats, and 150 bushels of sweet potatoes on hand. He had 60 pound of butter, 110 pounds of honey and 10 pounds of wax. His farm products included two bales of cotton, 400 pounds each, and 34 pounds of wool. The value of “home manufactures” was $106 and the value of animals slaughtered or sold for slaughter was $114. The total value of all farm production including betterments and addition to stock was $682. Nathan Byrd was now 61 years old, still supporting his wife and two minor children.

The 1878 Berrien County tax records show Nathan W. Byrd owned 30 acres of land on Lot 190 in the tenth land district. This lot was on the east of Nashville.

The 1879 records show his neighbors included: John D. Calhoun on Lot 189; Daniel McCranie on parts of 190 and 225; and Levi Sapp on Lot 191; Thomas Asa Baker and his wife Nancy Griner Baker on parts of 191 and 192.  Jane Ivey held an additional 90 acres of Lot 190.

This land was valued at $165 in land and $25 in “town property”. He owned $50 in household furnishings, $47 in livestock, and $15 in other property.

Nathan W. Byrd died at his home January 5, 1881. Mrs. Byrd died March 17, 1901.

 

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Benjamin Thomas Allen

Benjamin Thomas Allen  was born February 23, 1852 at the Metcalfe community, near Thomasville, GA. He grew up during the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1861 his father enlisted in a company from Thomasville known as the “Dixie Boys,” Company A, 57th GA Regiment and was sent to Savannah, GA but was discharged with pneumonia and came home sick in 1862.  His father then secured a job as railroad section master which, as work essential to the war effort, exempted him from further military service.

In 1864, the family was at Johnson Station, now Ludowici, GA,  where the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad had a stop referred to as “Four and a Half.”  General Levi J. Knight, of Ray City, GA had been one of the original board members of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.

By the late 1860s,  Benjamin Thomas Allen and his family were residing in Berrien County on the Nashville & Milltown road about a mile east of Nashville, where he was likely attending the McPherson Academy.  His older brother, Samuel D. Allen, was attending the Valdosta Institute in Valdosta, GA where he may have been a classmate of Matthew F. Giddens and John Henry “Doc” Holiday, who attended the Valdosta Institute during the same general time period.  Some time before 1870, the Allen family moved to Valdosta, and B. T. Allen, called “Bee Tree” by his friends, followed his brother in attending the Valdosta Institute.

He also attended the Fletcher Institute of Thomasville, GA, a  Methodist boarding school and then one of the most prestigious high schools in Wiregrass Georgia. Hamilton W. Sharpe was one of the Lay Trustees for the school, which offered a “Course of Study [in] Orthography, Reading, writing, and Arithmetic,… with the higher branches of an English Education, embracing Natural, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric Logic, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Bookkeeping, and Political Economy,…Latin, Greek, French, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, etc —the object of which is to accommodate young men, who do not wish to go through College, with such a course as will enable them to enter upon any of the learned professions of this country.”

In Valdosta, B.T.’s father and brother worked for the Railroad, James Allen working as a Railroad overseer and Sam Allen working as a clerk. B. T. Allen was employed as a type setter, probably for the South Georgia Times newspaper owned by Philip Coleman Pendleton.  The Lowndes Historical Society notes, “In later writings B.T. Allen mentions his experience with the Pendleton’s and the Valdosta newspaper. In 1875 he played on Valdosta’s first baseball team.

In August of 1877, B. T. Allen was appointed City Clerk of Valdosta,  Joseph J. Goldwire having resigned the position.

In the 1880 census [B.T. Allen] is living in Quitman and is listed as a printer.

In the 1890’s B. T. Allen was editor of the Tifton Gazette.

In the 1900 and after censuses he is living Pearson, Georgia with the occupation showing lawyer or lawyer/editor.”

As editor of the Pearson Tribune in the 1920’s Benjamin Thomas Allen wrote a series of stories about growing up in Wiregrass Georgia. He published a memoir of the Reconstruction in Berrien County, GA on May 21, 1920.

PEARSON, GEORGIA, FRIDAY, MAY 21,1920
MEMORIES OF THE LONG AGO.
Nashville Young People Attend Milltown School Closing.

Monday the editor goes to the Press meeting at Nashville and Tuesday to the fish dinner at Milltown. These events, so near at hand, awakens in his memory afresh events of more than half a century ago. To be precise, it was in the Spring of 1867. In these events both Nashville and Milltown had a part.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr was principal of the Milltown School, (Lakeland, GA) in 1867.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr was principal of the Milltown School, (Lakeland, GA) in 1867.

At that time Milltown had a most excellent educational institution presided over by Elder O. C. Pope, who came to Milltown from Sandersville, Washington county, to be the pastor of the Baptist church and also principal of the School. He was a young benedict, of polished manner and thoroughly educated. He was a most competent instructor and created quite an admirable reputation for the Milltown school. His sister, Miss Virginia, was his capable assistant.

It was in the springtime, the latter part of May, the school was to have special closing exercises. The people of Milltown were putting forth every effort to make it, an event to be long remembered — I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Invitations had been sent to the young people of Nashville to attend this school closing. So arrangements were made whereby a number of Nashville’s girls and boys could go, among them my brother, Sam, [and] myself. My brother was just home from school at Valdosta and ready for an outing. But there was a dark obstacle in the way of brother and I going. Mother was practically an invalid at that time/a laundress could not be secured to put our underwear in condition for us to wear, and brother had about given up the trip and made his supposed disappointment known by his ill humor. This editor confesses he wasn’t as sweet as a peach over the prospects.

It was Wednesday morning prior to the eventful day, mother called me to her and said: “Son, I am sad over your apparent disappointment and want to suggest a way to overcome the obstacles. You’ve played the part of cook and housemaid all the year, suppose you try your hand at laundering. I believe you, with my instructions, can do the laundering all right.”

That afternoon I got busy; selected all the necessary pieces for brother and I, gave them a thorough washing and rinsing. The next morning, under the direction of mother I prepared the starch and starched the clothes and put them out to dry. That afternoon I dampened and ironed them. Mother all the while, was near at hand to explain every detail of the task. [Boys, never for get your mothers; they are your dearest friends on earth.]

To the average boy laundering does not appeal as a manly task, but I was proud of my first experience. Mother approved it as a real neat job. I was proud of it because it drove away disappointment and would please brother Sam, who was not wise to the effort I was making to overcome the obstacle in the way of the Milltown trip. Early Friday morning we were ready, looking just as trim and neat as any of the boys who made the trip.

Our home was about a mile east of Nashville and on the then Milltown road, and we were to be picked up on the way. There was three two horse wagons, furnished by Judges James F. Goodman, H. T. Peeples and E. J. Lamb, and when brother and I got aboard there was no room to spare. As I remember the party, the ladies were Mrs. McDonald, the widowed daughter of Judge Peeples, and her step daughter, Miss Virginia McDonald, Misses Helen, Carrie and Annie Byrd, Poena Goodman, Victoria Dobson, Lula and Mary Morgan, and Miss Simpson whose given name have escaped me; the gentlemen were Dr. H. M. Talley, Silas Tygart, John Goodman, Henry Peeples, W. H. Griffin, William Slater, Arthur and John Luke, brother and myself. It, was a jolly party, sure enough!

The party reached Milltown about 10 o’clock. The way we had to go it was seventeen miles from Nashville to Milltown. The school was housed in a large two story frame building, erected conjointly for a Masonic Lodge and School. The exercises had begun and the building or school room crowded to its utmost capacity.

At noon, a bountiful and splendid basket dinner was served on a lawn under some wide spreading oaks.

Very few of the country folks who lived closed by remained for the exhibition at night, so there was plenty of room in the auditorium and everybody got a seat. It was too far for the Nashville party to go home, they remained for the exhibition and were entertained for the night in the hospitable homes of Milltown. Brother and myself spent the night at the home of Elder Pope. Milltown, at that time, was an important trading point and had been for years. The people of the town and adjacent country were well to-do—-some of them wealthy —refined and cultured, and it was a delight to mingle with them. It was on this, my first visit to Milltown, I formed the acquaintance of Judge Lacy E. Lastinger, who has just celebrated his golden wedding anniversary; he was single then. Judge Lastinger’s father, William Lastinger, built the original Banks’ mill and created the mill pond from the waters of which the fish for the Editors’ dinner is to be caught. At the time of which I write he had already sold the property to Henry Banks, a wealthy North Georgian, and it is still the property of his estate according to my best information.

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Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Lowndes Immigration Society, 1867

Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts

Matthew F. Giddens ~ Teacher, Businessman, Public Administrator

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

General Levi J. Knight ~ Railroad Tycoon

Joshua Berrien Lastinger

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Reconstruction Teaching and Preaching

Owen Clinton Pope (1842-1901) came to Berrien County, GA during Reconstruction. He was a Confederate veteran who before the War was a rising pastor in the Baptist ministry. He may have come to Berrien County because of his acquaintance with Philip Coleman Pendleton or with Mercer University classmate Edwin B. Carroll. A graduate of Mercer, Pope was highly qualified to teach in country schools of Wiregrass Georgia and took jobs at the schools at Milltown, GA and Ocean Pond, GA.

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr.

Owen Clinton Pope was born February 15, 1842, in Washington County, Georgia.

His father, Owen Clinton Pope, Sr.,  was a farmer and newspaper man for 30 years associated with the Milledgeville Southern Recorder.   O.C. Pope Sr. became a business associate of Philip Coleman Pendleton and together they purchased and operated the Central Georgian newspaper at Sandersville, GA. Census records show Pope, Sr had a three-horse farm, with 300 acres of improved land in addition to large tracts of undeveloped land.  In 1860 O. C. Pope, Sr owned 20 enslaved African-Americans ranging from infants to 25 years in age. The age and gender distribution of the people enslaved by O. C. Pope, Sr. from 1850 to 1860 suggests that he may have been raising slaves for the slave market.

His mother, Sarah Sinquefield Pope, died in 1843 when Owen Jr was but one year old. His father remarried on Owen’s second birthday, February 15, 1844, to Nancy Miller Hunt in Washington County, GA.

At the age of 16, O. C. Pope, Jr. entered Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, graduating in 1860 with a bachelor of divinity degree.

Shortly after graduation from Mercer, at barely 18 years of age, he married Mollie Sinquefield of Jefferson County, Georgia, and was also called to pastor the Baptist church of Linville, Georgia. He was ordained to the ministry in 1861.

He was married December 18, 1860 to Miss Mollie W. Sinquefield, daughter of Hon. William Sinquefield, of Jefferson County, GA, a young lady who was educated at Monroe Female College, and who, as a wife, like ‘the holy women in the old time’ has always been ‘a crown to her husband'”

Marriage Certificate of Owen Clinton Pope, December 18, 1860

Marriage Certificate of Owen Clinton Pope and Mary “Mollie” Sinquefield. The ceremony was performed by Asa Duggan, Minister of God, December 18, 1860 in Washington County, GA

In January 1861, the newlyweds O. C. and Mollie Pope took charge of the Railroad Academy at Sandersville, GA.

When O.C.’s father died of paralysis on September 10, 1861 leaving an estate of nearly 1,500 acres, O. C. Pope, Jr. was still regarded by law as a minor. A bill was introduced in the Georgia Legislature, “to authorize Owen C. Pope, a minor, of the county of Washington, to probate and qualify as Executor of the last will and testament of Owen C. Pope, senior,” passing in the house of representatives but failing in the senate. His step mother, Nancy Miller Pope was appointed Adminstratrix.

In December 1861, O.C. Pope became principal of  the newly incorporated Mount Vernon Institute at Riddleville, GA, a co-educational high school of the Mount Vernon Association of Churches. While teaching, he continued to preach in local churches.

These positions as pastor and teacher he resigned at the call of his country, enlisted as a private in the Confederate army.

He enlisted on May 16, 1862 at Washington County, GA for twelve months service as a private in Company E, 1st Regiment of Florida Cavalry. He provided his own horse and uniform. Pope wrote that he was “attached to first regiment of Florida Cavalry; not because he was ashamed of his native state, for the valor of her sons and the hospitality of her inhabitants are proverbial throughout the confederacy,”

He rendered military service on the staff of Gen. W.G.M. Davis in the Tennessee and Kentucky campaigns.

In June of 1862, Pope left his bride and work behind and made his way “by personal conveyance” to the camp of the 1st Florida Cavalry regiment on the banks of the Tennessee River, some 265 miles northeast of his home at Sandersville, GA.

¦¦¦¦¦¦¦

ARMY CORRESPONDENCE
Of the Central Georgian.

Camp Kerby Smith, 22 Miles West of
Chattanooga, June 28, 1862

Dear Georgian – As war is the all absorbing topic which occupies every mans thoughts, I have have concluded that it would not be amiss to give a few items of its progress in East Tennessee, through your columns to old friends in Washington. I am at present attached to first regiment of Florida Cavalry; not because I was ashamed of my native state, for the valor of her sons and the hospitality of her inhabitants are proverbial throughout the Confederacy, but having some intimate friends in it, and on account of its destination to a healthy climate and active field I was induced to cast my humble lot as a soldier with it.
Having traveled by private conveyance through Georgia to Chattanooga, I had ample opportunity to inform myself with reference to the wheat crops. I regret to say that I have seen but few fields which promised anything like an average crop, and in this portion of Tennessee, wheat is almost an entire failure. Corn however, looks very fine and if seasons continue, we have reason to hope that we will make bread enough to feed our army until a peace is conquered or another crop comes on. Considerable damage has been wrought upon the farming interest on the opposite side of the river, by the predatory habits of our would be conquerors. The Tennessee river, upon the banks of which we are now stationed, appears to be the dividing line between us, but we occasionally cross over in scouting parties and bring over a few prisoners.
The position which we have is one of natural strength, consisting as the country does of mountains with only here and there a narrow pass. There is quite a contrast between the level piny woods of Washington, and the mountainous rocky regions around here. Near our encampment is Knickajack cave [Nickajack Cave], is almost two hundred feet in width, with an altitude of about one hundred feet, the walls being composed of massive rock in regular strata, varying from six to ten feet in thickness. From it emerges a beautiful stream navigable with canoes for many miles underground. This place is rendered important by the manufacture of Saltpetre, carried on by the government. The work was suspended about six weeks ago by the appearance of a band of Yankees who frightened away the laborers and destroyed the utensils; it has, however, been renewed since the appearance of our force in this vicinity.
The mountains around contain coal, considerable quantities of which are excavated and sold to the government for foundry purposes. I was favorably impressed with the novelty of a coal mine, and should renew my visits often were it not for the high position of the miners, which requires considerable effort for one not accustomed to their ways to attain.
It is important therefore to the Confederacy that the enemy should not obtain possession of this side of the river while the blockade is closed against saltpeter and coal. But it is much more important in a military view, as their occupation of this part of ——— would place Chattanooga in a more critical position, and subject Georgia to invasion, as we are now only four or five miles from the line. Some Georgians may be surprised to hear, that I, with a detachment of twenty-six others, withstood the enemies shell from two pieces for six hours within 1 1/2 miles of Georgia soil. Georgians must rally to the rescue, strengthen our forces, and beat back the enemy, or the time may soon come when her farms shall be desolated and her citizens carried away prisoners by the ruthless invader who is attempting to crush us beneath the iron heel of tyranny. I have seen those who were compelled to forsake their homes, even gray haired fathers, and as they recounted the bitter wrongs they had suffered, I’ve heard them swear deep and eternal vengeance against the foe. May high heaven grant that such may not be the lot of any who call themselves Georgians.
The skirmish I alluded to above, took place at a little place called Shellmound, a railroad depot. Myself, Charlie and Lawson G. Davis, were detailed with a few others of our regiment, to accompany a detachment of Artillery of two pieces from Macon, to take position on the river that we might prevent an armed steamboat from passing up the river to set troops across near Chattanooga. Our pieces were arranged on the bank of the river during the night, but on the morning our position being discovered, we were opened upon by a regiment of infantry, and two pieces of artillery from the opposite bank of the river. As we were unsupported by infantry, we were compelled to fall back behind the railroad embankment, a few yards off, which answered as a breastwork of protection. We could not use our pieces but few times before the successive volleys of minnie balls rendered it prudent for us to use only a few Enfields and Manards, which we happened to have along, with which we returned the fire in regular guerrilla style. If they had been aware of our force, (only 27) they might easily have crossed the river and captured our pieces. We remained with them however, until night, carrying them off, having killed three and wounded five, without having a single man hurt on our side.
We have made several excursions across the river capturing several prisoners. Last Saturday our regiment killed a Captain and Lieutenant, and wounding several, bringing off four prisoners without any injury to our party.
It is rumored in camp that the Confederacy is recognized by France. Many a stout heart would rejoice if the invader could be checked and driven back. I know not how long we remain here. I would be well please if you will send the Georgian, direct to Chattanooga, care of Capt. Cone. 1st Florida Cavalry. As I may be irksome I will close promising that if anything of interest transpires to write again and commending of country and her cause to the God of Sabbath.
Respectfully
O. C. Pope

Harpers Weekly illustration of Nickajack Cave, Feb 6. 1864. Owen C. Pope's regiment was encamped near the cave in 1861. <br>  <em>The "Nick-a-Jack" Cave near Chattanooga is one of the main sources from which the Confederates have derived the saltpeter required for the manufacture of powder.</em> <em>The cave is situated at the base of Raccoon Mountain, which rises abruptly to the height of twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the low grounds. In the face of a perpendicular cliff appeared the yawning mouth of Nick-a-Jack Cave. It is not arched as these caves usually are, but spanned by horizontal strata resting on square abutments at the sides, like the massive entablature of an Egyptian or Etruscan temple. From the opening issues a considerable stream, of bright green color, and of sufficient volume to turn a saw-mill near at hand. The height of the cliff is about 70 feet, that of the opening 40 feet, and about 100 in width immediately at the entrance, and of this the stream occupies about one-third. The roof of the cave is square and smooth, like the ceiling of a room, but below, the passage is rough and irregular, with heaps of earth and huge angular masses of rock, making exploration both difficult and dangerous.</em>

Harpers Weekly illustration of Nickajack Cave, Feb 6. 1864. Owen C. Pope’s regiment was encamped near the cave in 1861.
  The “Nick-a-Jack” Cave near Chattanooga is one of the main sources from which the Confederates have derived the saltpeter required for the manufacture of powder. The cave is situated at the base of Raccoon Mountain, which rises abruptly to the height of twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the low grounds. In the face of a perpendicular cliff appeared the yawning mouth of Nick-a-Jack Cave. It is not arched as these caves usually are, but spanned by horizontal strata resting on square abutments at the sides, like the massive entablature of an Egyptian or Etruscan temple. From the opening issues a considerable stream, of bright green color, and of sufficient volume to turn a saw-mill near at hand. The height of the cliff is about 70 feet, that of the opening 40 feet, and about 100 in width immediately at the entrance, and of this the stream occupies about one-third. The roof of the cave is square and smooth, like the ceiling of a room, but below, the passage is rough and irregular, with heaps of earth and huge angular masses of rock, making exploration both difficult and dangerous.

During Pope’s service in the Confederate Army, he preached nightly to the troops. He was discharged November 15, 1862 “by reason of the Conscript Act approved April 21st, 1862.” Pope suffered ill health throughout the balance of his life due to his time of service in the Civil War.

At the the expiration of his term of service, he returned home… he found few churches could support a full-time minister, 

He moved to Lee County, GA, taught at Smithville and Sumterville, and preached to country churches till the close of the war… When peace was restored, disorganized churches and the desolate country made extreme poverty the inevitable lot of those who, previous to the war, had depended upon ministerial charges for support…Pope found his property swept away and his health impaired.

Virginia Rhodes Pope, sister of Owen Clinton Pope, assisted him with teaching at Milltown School (Lakeland, GA) in 1867. She later returned to Washington County, GA and married James Berrien Stephens.

Virginia Rhodes Pope, half-sister of Owen Clinton Pope, assisted him with teaching at Milltown School (Lakeland, GA) in 1867. She later returned to Washington County, GA and married James Berrien Stephens.

About 1866, Pope relocated to south Georgia, perhaps because his father’s old business partner, Philip Coleman Pendleton, had opened the South Georgia Times newspaper at Valdosta, GA.  Or perhaps Pope was influenced by former Mercer classmate Edwin Benajah Carroll who was preaching and teaching at Milltown. Like Pope, Carroll was a Confederate veteran, having served as Captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Regiment.

In any case, Pope found work in Berrien and Lowndes County, “giving the week to the school-room at Ocean Pond [Lake Park, GA] and Milltown [Lakeland, GA], and the Sabbath to the pulpits of Milltown, Stockton and Cat Creek churches.

O. C. Pope with the assistance of his 13-year old sister, Virginia R. Pope, took charge of the Milltown School. “He was a most competent instructor and created quite an admirable reputation for the Milltown school.”   The prestige of the school grew during these years. At the close of the school year in 1867, students from all the surrounding country schools were invited to the commencement ceremony to view the accomplishments that had been made that year.

By 1870, O.C. Pope had moved to Jefferson County, GA to preach and to teach at academies there. He moved to churches in Tennessee and took up publication of several Baptist periodicals. He moved to Texas and added missionary and fundraising to his interests. He moved to New York to work for the Church Edifice Fund for the American Baptist Home Mission Society. In 1898, at age 55, Pope accepted the position as president of Simmons College, Abilene, TX.

 

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr. taught at the Milltown , GA (now Lakeland) school in 1867.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr. taught at the Milltown, GA (now Lakeland) school in 1867.  Owen Clinton Pope later went on to become president of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), a Baptist college in Abilene, Texas.

O. C. Pope biographical material compiled in part from The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography., Hardin-Simmons University Website, History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia, and The Portal to Texas History

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Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

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Judge Carleton Bicknell Cole

William Patten Drew Lots for Inheritance

William Patten (1820-1907) and his brothers, John Jehu Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within the vicinity of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) and  Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). They were sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee Patten, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland), GA. Their sister, Nancy Patten, married John F. Clements in Lowndes County in 1840.

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William, the oldest of the Patten brothers, married Elizabeth Register on May 4, 1845. She was a daughter of Samuel Register, of Registerville, GA (now Stockton, GA), born in Lowndes, now Lanier County, August 31, 1828. The couple made their home near Ten Mile Creek in the area later known as Watson Grade where they raised 12 children.  William Patten was Justice of Peace in the 664th district, Lowndes County, 1845-1848, and 1849-1856.

It is widely reported that William’s father, James M. Patten, died in 1846. His grave marker bears that date, but legal  notices published in the period newspapers clearly indicate he died prior to March 4, 1845. On that date William Patten applied for letters of administration on the estate.

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father's estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father’s estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
March 25, 1845

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas William Patten applies for letters of administration on the estate of James M. Patten, late of said county, deceased-
These are therefore to cite and admonish all and singular, the kindred and creditors of said deceased, to be and appear at my office within the time prescribed by law, to shew cause, if any exists, why said letters should not be granted.
Given under my hand at office, this 4th day of March 1845. 
William Smith, c.c.o.

William Patten  was appointed the administrator of his father’s estate. Since the legal rights of women were severely abridged in those days, William Patten also acted as legal guardian for his minor siblings, Sarah Patten, James Patten, Elizabeth Patten, John Jehu Patten, Mathew Elihu Patten and Mary Patten.

Altogether there were 11 heirs to the James M. Patten estate, and a distribution of the deceased’ livestock was conducted at the March 1849 Term of the Lowndes Court of the Ordinary, with Levi J. Knight, Justice of the Peace, presiding and Thomas B. Griffin, Clerk of the Court. The livestock was divided into 11 lots. According to the court records, the lots were “numbred 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and were assnged to the distributees in the fowollowing maner to wit the names of the distributees were writen on another piece of paper and put into another hat. The hats were both well shaken. A name was then drawn from the hat containing the names then a number was drawn from the hat containing the number and in that manner continued till all were drawn.

William drew Lot number 5, consisting of “29 head cattle marked crop & split in one eare and under l— in the other, branded VV, approved to $4 per head” and took possession of similar lots on behalf of his six wards. William also purchased from his father’s estate a crosscut saw at $7.00, one bed & furniture at $11.00, one grub hoe at $.50, one desk, powder canister & trunk at $2.75, and five bee hives at $5.37.

William Patten was baptized into Union Primitive Baptist Church on September 9, 1848.  The church was constituted in 1825 on the banks of the Alapaha River by his parents, Elizabeth and James Patten, and maternal grandparents, Martha and Joshua Lee, along with William A. Knight, Sarah Knight, Jonathan Knight, Elizabeth Knight, Mary Knight, Josiah Sirmans, and Matthew Albritton.  William Patten served as clerk of Union church from May 10, 1851 to 1854 when he was dismissed by letter March 11, 1854, to unite with Jethro Patten, Aden Boyd, Nancy Boyd and others in organizing Empire Church. The Boyds gave the land for the church, located near Five Mile Creek  about six miles northeast of present day Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway, on Empire Road. Jethro Patten served as first deacon to the church.

William Patten remained a member of Empire church until his death.  William and Jethro were ordained to the ministry by Empire Church and served as pastors to several churches in Clinch and Berrien Counties.

In 1856, William Patten’s place was cut out of Lowndes into Berrien County and he was immediately elected to the office of Justice of the Peace in the newly formed 1144th district, an office he held from 1856 to 1869.  In 1862 he was Captain of the militia district.

There is nothing in the 1850 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants of Lowndes County or 1860 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants Berrien County to indicate that the Pattens were slave owners.  But like many other southern white men, both slave owners and non-slaveholders, the Pattens went off to fight for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Historian Gordon Rhea attributes non-slaveholders’ commitment in the Southern cause to deep held belief in white supremacy, increasing isolation and alienation from the North, and the southern theological interpretation of biblical support for slavery.  Near universal messaging from Southern religious, political and community leaders  reinforced the fears in white southerners of slave rebellion, collapse of the southern economy, loss of status and privilege, and the alleged criminal desires of freedmen.

It is said that William Patten, John Jehu Patten, James Patten, Matthew Elihu Patten and Jethro Patten all fought for the Confederacy. It appears that Jethro Patten served in the 12th Georgia Militia. Jehu and James served with Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment. William served with Company I, 54th Georgia Regiment. Other Berrien Countians in Company I included John Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins, William Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Lemuel Elam Gaskins.  Matthew E. Patten’s Civil War service is not known.

Children of William Patten and Elizabeth Register Patten:

  1. James Irwin Patten born February 15, 1846; married 1st cousin Leanna Patten, daughter of Jethro Patten and Nancy Brown; died 1934
  2. Lewis C. Patten born October 11, 1847; never married; died September 18, 1890.
  3. William C “Babe” Patten born December 28, 1849; married (1) Sarah Lee (2) Laura Watson.
  4. George W. L. Patten born April 21, 1852; died August 8, 1864.
  5. Henry R. Patten born April 17, 1854; died single, November 23, 1873.
  6. Sylvester M. Patten born May 15, 1856; married Eliza Watson; died 1940
  7. Elizabeth Roena Patten born June 27, 1858; married Levi J. Clements; died 1951
  8. Samuel Register Patten born July 8, 1860; married (1) Laura Curry, daughter of Charles W. Curry (2) Matilda Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten; died 1938
  9. Marcus Sheridan Patten born 1861; married January 1, 1901 to Mittie Walker, daughter of Edgar D. Walker; died 1950
  10. Catherine Matilda Patten born December 20, 1864; died single July 2, 1893.
  11. Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten born November 30, 1866; married John Thomas “J.T.” Webb (1863-1924); died 1955.
  12. Edward Levi Patten born March 31, 1869; died single July 7, 1928.

In 1865 William Patten joined the Masonic fraternity, receiving his degrees in the old Butler Lodge No. 211 at Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). Other members of Butler Lodge included Thomas M. Ray , Hardeman Sirmans and Jesse Carroll.  William Patten was demitted September 18, 1880, and on account of the attitude of his church towards Masonry, never affiliated with a lodge thereafter.

In 1867 William Patten owned all 490 acres of Lot 385 in the 1144th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Lot 385 was north of Milltown (now Lakeland) between the forks of the Alapaha River and Ten Mile Creek. To the west, on Lot 384 his brother James Patten also had some property and the rest of that lot was owned by J. C. Clements. Lot 353 to the northwest was but a small part of the holdings of M. C. Lee.  By 1874, William Patten acquired an additional 490 acres on the adjacent Lot 351 which straddled the Alapaha River.

In 1880, William Patten’s place consisted of 60 acres of tilled land and 920 acres of woodland. He put in 17 acres of corn producing 60 bushels, 20 acres of oats producing 300 bushels, 20 acres of cotton producing 8 bales, 1 acre of cane producing 300 gallons of molasses. He produced well over 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. His orchards included over 100 apple trees and 100 peach trees. His real estate was valued at $800. He owned $50 worth of farming implements and machinery, and $450 in livestock. For the year 1879, he spent $20 on building and repairs, $70 on fertilizer, and $30 on labor. He had one ox, 28 milk cows, and 37 head of other livestock. His herd dropped 16 calves that year and he slaughtered only one animal. On June 1, 1880 he had 75 sheep. His flock dropped 35 lambs that year and he slaughtered three animals. Five sheep were killed by dogs, and ten animals died of stress of weather. He sheared 50 fleeces for 120 pounds of wool. He had 17 hogs, about 20 barnyard chickens and about 50 other poultry. The estimated value of all farm production was $530.

When the 1300th Georgia Militia District was formed in 1889, William Patten was elected Justice of the Peace in that district serving in the office until 1893.

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Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts

Richard Augustus Peeples

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples was the seventh son of Henry Peeples. He was born in Hall county, Georgia, September 24th, 1829

His father “Henry Peeples (1786-1854), a descendant of pure Scotch stock, was a native of South Carolina. Henry Peeples, born in Camden District, South Carolina, January 14, 1786, was possessed of a princely fortune which, by an unfortunate fire and by an equally unfortunate speculation in cotton, he lost soon after the war of 1812. Gathering up the wreck of his large estate, Henry Peoples moved to Hall county, Georgia, about the year 1821 or 1822, and settled where Gillsville, on the Northeastern railroad, now stands. Henry Peeples’ household and  and one slave were enumerated in Hall County, GA  in the 1830 census.  There he engaged in merchandising and a farming, but failed again.

By 1840, Henry Peeples moved his residence some 20 or 30 miles to the south. With his own wagons and teams he then brought his family and household goods… to Jackson county, Georgia [where he was enumerated in the 1840 census].

Richard Augustus Peeples had seven siblings, six brothers and one sister. His oldest brother was W. Jasper Peeples, for years a prominent lawyer in the Western Circuit of Georgia, and Solicitor-General for four years. Cincinnatus Peeples, a lawyer of prominence, at one time Clerk of the House of Representatives and afterwards State Senator from Clark county and Judge of the Superior Court of the Atlanta Circuit, was his second oldest brother. Henry Thompson Peeples, the third brother, married Melissa Camp on January 14, 1843 in Jackson County; he later became a lawyer, relocated to Berrien county, became a planter, served as Judge of the Inferior Court of Berrien County,  and for several times a member of the Legislature. Two brothers became substantial farmers in Florida. One died young. His sister Josephine Peeples Carroll died July 9, 1854 at Alapaha, GA.

…Owing to the financial embarrassments of his father, Richard A. Peeples obtained but limited country school education. He made the best of his school opportunities and eventually became well educated man and one of the prominent men of south Georgia. In 1842, when quite boy, he joined the Methodists, but the following year united with the Baptist church at Cabin Creek.

Before the decade was out, Henry Peeples moved his family yet again to the south, apparently leaving behind some debts.  He acquired all 490 acres of Lot #8 in the 10th land district of Lowndes County, but an 1847 legal announcement shows that this land and a slave, “one negro man by the name of Denis, about 45 years of age,” were sold at auction on the steps of the Troupville courthouse to satisfy debts owed to  Fennel Hendrix, E.D. Cook and Nelson Carter of Jackson County, GA.  But in early 1848, he managed to force collect on a debt owed to him by Dennis Duncan, said Duncan forfeiting  all 490 acres of Lot #34, 16th District of Lowndes County, to be sold at auction in Troupville to satisfy the debt.

In 1848 he [Henry Peeples]  came to Lowndes county, settling on Flat creek about two and a half miles from where Allapaha now stands, and there established a store, the locality hence taking the name of “Peeple’s Store.” He continued in active business until his death at the age of sixty years. – A History of Savannah and South Georgia

Richard A. Peeples at age 20, came with his father to Alapaha, then in Lowndes County but which in 1856 would be cut into Berrien county. In addition to Peeples’ Store,  his father acquired some 1530 acres of land and was enumerated as the owner of three slaves in the Census of 1850.

During his youth Richard began helping his father in the store and continued until, up on the latter’s death October 30, 1854, Richard assumed management of the mercantile affairs.  His brothers, W. Jasper Peeples and Cincinnatus Peeples, were by this time practicing law together in Athens, GA.  His brother and sister-in-law, Henry Thompson Peeples  and Melissa Camp Peeples, had by this time relocated to Atlanta where they also operated a mercantile store.

In 1850, Richard A. Peeples made a trip back to north Georgia, but not to visit his brothers in Athens or Atlanta. Instead, he went back to Jackson County, GA to take a wife. She was Sarah J. K. Camp ,born July 30, 1830, the younger sister of his brother’s wife.  They were married November 7, 1850 in Jackson County in a ceremony performed by John Pendergrass, Justice of the Peace. The bride’s father, Berryman Camp, was born in Jackson county in 1800, followed farming there many years, and later settled near Cedartown in Polk county, where he died. Her mother was Elizabeth Lyle Camp.

Marriage of Richard Augustus Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp, November 7, 1850.

Marriage of Richard Augustus Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp, November 7, 1850.

After marriage Richard A.  and Sarah Jane Peeples located at Milltown where he was engaged in saw-milling for time.

In the summer of 1853, discussion arose among the people of northern Lowndes County and southern Irwin county who were remote from their respective sites of county government. There was a general feeling of need for a more convenient and satisfactory location for the people to conduct their business and governmental affairs.

A meeting on this subject was convened June 18, 1853 at the Flat Creek Post Office,  Richard A. Peeples served as secretary:

Richard A. Peeples worked on creation of Berrien County, GA. Albany Patriot, July 1, 1853

Richard A. Peeples worked on creation of Berrien County, GA. Albany Patriot, July 1, 1853

The Albany Patriot
July 1, 1853

Flat Creek, June 18, 1853

        Agreeable to previous notice, a portion of the citizens of Lowndes and Irwin Counties, met this day at Flat Creek P. O., for the purpose of taking preliminary measures in regard to the formation of a new county out of a portion of the above counties.
On motion of Jordan Tucker, Esq., Mr. Jas. Griffin, Sen., was called to the Chair and R. A. Peeples, requested to act as secretary. The object of the meeting being explained, the Chairman appointed a committee of twelve to report through their Chairman, Wm. D. Griffin, which was unanimously adopted:
        Whereas, a portion of the citizens of the counties of Lowndes and Irwin labor under manifest inconvenience on account of the distance of their respective county sites:
        Resolved, therefore, That we, a portion of citizens of the 5th and 6th districts of Irwin, and the 9th and 10th districts of Lowndes counties, will use all the means in our power to secure the formation of a new county out of a part of said districts.
        Resolved, further, That we earnestly solicit the aid of our fellow citizens of the two counties, to assist us in choosing                        Representatives to the next Legislature, who will use their influence to have an act passed organizing and laying out said county.
        Resolved, further, That the citizens of Irwin and Lowndes be notified of these proceedings by publication of the same in the Albany Patriot and Georgia Watchman.
        On motion the meeting adjourned.
        JAS GRIFFIN, Sr., Pres’t
        R. A. Peeples, Sec’y.

Upon the organization of Berrien county in 1856 Richard A. Peeples was elected to serve as the first Clerk of the Inferior and Superior courts of Berrien county.  He promptly moved his residence to Nashville,  the county-site of Berrien county which was then but mere hamlet far from railroads.   According to William Green Avera, “the first session of the Superior Court held in Berrien County, was held November, 1856, at the residence of Mrs. Amy Kirby, on the Coffee Road, one mile northeast of the present site of Nashville. Judge P. E. Love was the judge and R. A. Peeples was the clerk.

Peeples then served on the county committee to draw plans and specifications for the construction of the first Courthouse in Berrien County.

Richard A. Peeples was a Mason and had served as Entered Apprentice at St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184, constituted  at Troupville on November 2, 1854. According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the lodge met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.  Among other members of this lodge were Reverend John Slade,  Norman CampbellWilliam C. Newbern, William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Andrew J. Liles, and J. J. Goldwire.  Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

Another of Peeples’ fellow lodge members was William J. Mabry, who in 1856 moved to Nashville, GA, to build the first Berrien court house in 1857.

The academy in Nashville was built through the personal efforts of Richard A. Peeples in 1857, large part of the funds coming from his own purse. William G. Avera described the academy, the first school house in Nashville, GA, built with the cooperative effort of local citizens and the Masons, Richard A. Peeples being a Master Mason in the fraternal order. “They constructed an up-to-date two-story edifice, the upper chamber of which, they named the Duncan Masonic Lodge in honor of the venerable Duncan O’Quin…The lower chamber was named the McPherson Academy in honor of John McPherson Berrien for whom Berrien County was named. The street running north and south in front of the building was named McPherson Street. William J. Mabry became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3.

 

McPherson Academy, Nashville, GA which was also home of Duncan Masonic Lodge; it was at intersection of W. McPherson Avenue and S. Berrien Street, and faced eastwardly. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

McPherson Academy, Nashville, GA which was also home of Duncan Masonic Lodge; it was at intersection of W. McPherson Avenue and S. Berrien Street, and faced eastwardly. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Two years later, Richard A. Peeples furnished half the money for the construction of Baptist church in Nashville. This church was across the street from McPherson Academy.

C. W. "Shine" Anderson, facing McPherson Academy, with Nashville First Baptist Church building in background. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

C. W. “Shine” Anderson, facing McPherson Academy, with Nashville First Baptist Church building in background. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

While serving as Clerk of the Berrien courts, R. A. Peeples undertook the study of law. In 1860,  he moved to the new town of Valdosta.

Continued….Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

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Charles Bruner Shaw

Charles Bruner Shaw (1888-1950)

Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for sharing photos and content for this post. Portions reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletter: Charles Bruner Shaw

Born in 1888 in a corn crib on the John Allen farm just outside Ray City, GA, Bruner Shaw would later serve as a police officer for the town. He was a son of Francis Arthur Shaw and Victoria Giddens Knight.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

After Bruner’s mother died of scarlet fever in 1889, he and his brother Brodie Shaw were raised by their grand parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw.  The home place of  Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw was just west of Ray City, at Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road.  Bruner attended school  through the eighth grade at the two-room Pine Grove School. The Pine Grove and Kings Chapel schools were filled at various times with the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Rachel and Francis Marion Shaw. 

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

At a young age, Bruner Shaw married Mollie Register, daughter of William M. Register (1852-1926) and  Sarah Laura Parrish Register (1854-1933), and granddaughter of Elder Ancil Parrish the old Primitive Baptist preacher of Berrien County.  The Registers were a prominent family of Nashville, GA.  Bruner and Mollie were married on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1905, in a ceremony performed by Bruner’s uncle  Aaron Anderson Knight,  of Ray City, GA. Reverend Knight was  then primitive baptist minister of  Pleasant Church, just west of Ray City, GA.  The bride was one month shy of her 20th birthday; the  groom had just turned 17.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

 

 

Bruner farmed for a while at Ray City, GA near his brother, Brodie Shaw. The census of 1910 shows other neighbors included Mack SpeightsJoseph S. Clements, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher.

A Year of Tragedy

In January, 1911, when his aunt and uncle, Eliza Allen and Sovin J. Knight, moved to Brooks County to a farm on the Little River near Barney, GA, Bruner went along, moving his young family to an adjacent farm. But shortly after their move to Barney, “on April 16, 1911, just 26 days after the purchase of the new farm, Sovin suffered a severe heart attack and died in his new home.

After this family loss  coupled with the death of his infant daughter, Pecola, Bruner Shaw sold his Brooks County farm and returned to Berrien County.  Just six weeks after the sale, his wife, Mollie Register Shaw, died of Scarlet Fever.  She was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Bruner’s widowed aunt Eliza later moved  her daughters, Kathleen and Rachel, back to Berrien County to live in the farm home of her parents  (Bruner’s grandparents) , Rachel Moore Allen Shaw and Francis Marion Shaw, just outside of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

The young widower soon enlisted the help of a teen-age girl to help take care of his children. Fifteen-year-old Charlie Ruth Griffin was the youngest child of William Harrison “Hass” Griffin and Rebecca Jane Parrish, born June 25, 1897 in her family’s cabin on South Old Coffee Road in Berrien County.  Her siblings were Sarah Rebecca, Georgia Lavinia, Mary Ellen, Margaret Frances “Fannie”, Willie Henrietta, William Franklin, and Robert Bruce Griffin.

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

As Charlie took care of Bruner’s children they grew very close to their nursemaid. After a very brief courtship, Bruner and Charlie were  married November 23, 1913 at the home of the Reverend Aaron Anderson Knight in Ray City.  Reverend Knight was then serving as the first pastor of the newly organized New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City.

 

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

 

Charlie gave Bruner three more children,  Francis Marion Shaw, Lynette Narcissis Shaw, and Charles Bruner Shaw, Jr.,  and raised Bruner’s two children, Juanita and William Arthur, as if they were her own.

Bruner and Charlie Shaw were a part of society and leisure at Ray City, GA and Berrien County.  In February, 1914 Bruner was among the people from Ray City attending the carnival at Nashville.  Others from Ray City included  Annie Mae Carter, Margie Dasher, Pearl Hardie Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Harvie, W. H. Luckie, George Norton, J. J. and J. S. Clements.

In 1914, Charlie Ruth and her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw, were also seen at the Mayhaw Lake Resort on Park Street near Ray City. Mayhaw Lake was “The Place” in Berrien County for more than a decade. It was built in 1914 by Elias Moore “Hun”  Knight, of Ray City. The amusement park was such a popular spot that the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave special rates for picnic parties from all points on their line. People from all over the area would journey to Mayhaw Lake, especially on holidays such as the 4th of July and Labor Day. A boarding house [later the home of Effie Guthrie Knight] up the road towards Ray City was opened up by the Paul Knight family   specifically to provide lodging for the Mayhaw crowd. 

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

It was about this time that Bruner began his life-long pursuit of the law enforcement profession.  Bruner entered police work through occasional employment as a deputy at Ray City.  At that time the Police Chief at Ray City was Bruner’s cousin, Cauley Shaw.

An incident report in the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here [Nashville, GA] went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

The Tifton Gazette also reported the incident:

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette
October 16, 1914

C. B. Shaw, C.H. Jones and Charley Thomas were shot by a negro named John Williams, near Rays Mill Oct. 6, says the Milltown Advocate. Thomas has some trouble with the negro about hauling some cotton and the negro fired at him. He went to Rays Mill, secured a warrant and returned for the negro. The negro opened fire and slightly wounded three of the party who returned from Rays Mill with Thomas. The negro escaped.

Over the next few years, Bruner did stints in the police departments of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA and at Willacoochee.  By early 1919, Bruner had been hired by Berrien County Sheriff J. V. Nix as a deputy at Nashville, GA.

Until 1919, most of the activities of a peace officer involved chasing down petty thieves, and raiding an occasional “skins” (gambling) game…

Production and consumption of moonshine – illegal liquor – was also a problem for law officers. State-wide prohibition in Georgia had passed in 1907, with Ray City’s own representative Jonathan Perry Knight among those leading the charge.

However, with the passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution (prohibition), a whole new illicit business was the target of he county sheriff and his deputies. “Blind tigers”, as they were commonly referred, brewed alcohol in what was known as a “lard can” still, using syrup and meal processed through a copper worm. The product was a high explosive liquor with enough alcohol in it to burn like gasoline. Drinking of such had been known to cause blindness, if not death. Thus the name “blind tiger.”

By 1919,  reports of drunkenness and lawlessness in Ray City were making newspapers throughout the section. There were plenty of “blind tigers” running stills and selling bootleg liquor in Berrien County and Ray City, and gambling, too, despite the efforts of lawmen like Bruner Shaw, Cauley Shaw,  Gus Clements, Frank Allen, Marcus Allen, Jim Griner, Wesley Griner, and W.W. Griner.

In April, 1919, part-time deputy Bruner Shaw was again shot by an assailant.

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

Tifton Gazette
May 2, 1919

Shaw Shot by Negro

Nashville, Ga., April 23- Bruner Shaw, a well known young farmer who has served as special deputy sheriff a numbWer of times, was shot from ambush Saturday at the home of Will McSwain, a negro farmer living near Lois, this county. Shaw recognized his assailant as John Harris, a young negro whom he had arrested at Adel several months ago on a misdemeanor charge. The wouldbe murderer used a 23-calibre Winchester rifle, and the bullet entered the left side of Shaw’s head. He was able to come to Nashville today and swear out warrants against the negro, who is in jail here, having been captured by Sheriff Nix.

 

While pursuing his law enforcement career in other towns, Bruner Shaw maintained his Ray City connections. In 1920 Census records show Bruner and Charlie were residing in Ray City. According to Bryan Shaw,  Bruner’s last child, Charles Bruner, Jr., was born on February 6, 1920, in a home on Trixie Street behind the Marion Shaw home in Ray City. Bruner and Charlie resided in the home for three more years, participating regularly in the events of the community, especially dances and song fests.

Nashville Herald
March 15, 1923

News from Ray City—Everybody that wants to laugh as they haven’t since the war, come out on “Dad’s Night” . . . Last but not least will be some very fine singing by several of our gentlemen singers. They alone will be worth your time, should we have no other attraction. Mr. Bruner Shaw has promised us they will give at least four selections.

Later that year, Bruner Shaw was present at the startup of Ray City’s first power plant.

Sometime that fall Bruner, Charlie Ruth, and their five children moved to Polk County, Florida, where Bruner was hired as a deputy.  There was steady work tracking down bootleggers and their moonshine stills. Details of  big raids appeared in the papers:

The Polk County Recorder
March 2, 1924

“With drawn guns and expecting a battle to the death, sixteen deputies from Sheriff Logan’s force [and two federal agents] surrounded an abandoned sawmill camp in Eastern Polk County. Deputies Hatcher and Shaw volunteered to be a party to call for the surrender of the men sought.”

•∏•

Tampa Tribune
March 31, 1924

Lakeland Deputies Catch Moonshiners

Still of 100-Gallon Capacity Is Haul; Several Arrests Are Made

(Special to the Tribune)
Lakeland, March 30. – Lying in the woods near Bowling Green, Deputies [Newt] Hatcher and Shaw of the sheriff’s office Friday night watched a suspected bootlegger uncover two gallons of moonshie near the hiding place. Floyd Douglas, it is alleged, was getting the liquor to sell to Federal Officer Standau, unaware of the officer’s identity. Five gallons more were found in a search, and Douglas and the liquor were taken into custody. This is said to be Douglas’ second offense.
Just before the Bowling Green visit, the three officials made a big haul at Mulberry, here a 100-gallon copper still, 18 barrels of mash and six gallons of ‘shine were found in a swamp a mile from town. A negro man and woman were arrested as operators of the still.

•∏•

The Tampa Times
April 19, 1924

Raids Discourage Makers of ‘Shine

(Special to The Times.)
Bartow, April 19. – When the home of a Mrs. Beaumont, just over the Polk county line in Hillsborough county, was raided Wednesday the officers making the raid captured 244 bottles of 4 1/2 percent beer and three half pint bottles of shine. The arrest was made by Polk county Deputy Sheriffs Hatcher and Shaw with Federal prohibition Officers Standau and Dugan, who took the prisoner and evident to Tampa.
The recent series of captures of “shine” outfits conducted by Sheriff Logan and his deputies seems to have discouraged the moonshining industry in Polk county, according to reports from the sheriff’s office and judging from the record of convictions of violators of the prohibition laws in the criminal court combined with the sentences imposed by Judge Olliphant it seems highly probably that bootleggers of Polk county will decided that business isn’t so good in these parts.

In July, 1924 Bruner served as Night Police Chief in Haines City, FL. His friend and colleague, Newt Hatcher, was the Day Police Chief.

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

The exploits of Officer Shaw were occasionally reported in the Tampa Tribune.  On December 21, 1925, the paper reported C. B. Shaw was involved in a gun battle with a murder suspect.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

Later, Bruner Shaw served as chief of police at Frostproof, FL.  A high profile case while Bruner Shaw as chief of police at Frostproof Florida was the kidnapping of  E. L. Mercer, well-to-do citrus grower.

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

In the fall of 1929, the Shaw family returned to Berrien County, GA where Bruner sharecropped the John Strickland property on the old Valdosta highway. While the family went about bringing in crops of corn, tobacco and cotton, and the children [Marion, Lynette, and Charles, Jr.] were attending school at Kings Chapel, Bruner found temporary employment with the Berrien County Sheriff and the Ray City Police.

By November, 1930 Bruner Shaw was named Chief of Police in Alapaha, GA and moved the family there. He was once again again in pursuit of “blind tigers.”

Nashville Herald,
December 18 , 1930

Last Wednesday afternoon Chief C. B. Shaw and Deputy Sheriff Wesley Griner and W. W. Griner went over near Glory and went down in the river swamp about one mile west of Glory and found 180 gallons of corn mash. There was no still found with this buck. The officers poured out the contents and busted up the barrels. The people of Alapaha are pleased with the work of Mr. C. B. Shaw since he has been Chief of Police. We all hope that Mr. Shaw will stay on here as he is doing such good work and helping to clean up the community by catching blind tigers.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River . Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River. Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

It was the midst of the Great Depression, and though his work was appreciated, the pay was meager.  In the summer of 1931,  Bruner removed his family from Berrien County for last time and the Shaw family moved back to Frostproof.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: CHARLES BRUNER SHAW, SR: Have Badge, Will Travel, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Bruner Shaw’s life, law, business, and family.

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Joshua Berrien Lastinger

Joshua Berrien Lastinger

Joshua Berrien Lastinger. Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Joshua Berrien Lastinger. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

 

Joshua Berrien Lastinger was born February 22, 1847 at the community then known as Allapaha, but later renamed Milltown and today known as Lakeland, GA. He was  a son of William Lastinger and Louisa English. In 1848 his father made a deal with Joshua Lee to acquire approximately 2225 acres of land to the west of the town with a large millpond partly on the lands, gin and gristmills operated by water power, and several farms and dwellings. To these William Lastinger added a sawmill, also powered by water. The mills became know as Lastinger’s Mills.

Joshua and his siblings grew up in a life of privilege at Stony Hill, the plantation his father established about six miles from the town. It is said that William Lastinger was the largest land owner, largest taxpayer and largest slaveholder in Berrien and Lowndes counties, owning over 100 slaves who worked on the Stony Hill plantation. The plantation house was a big two-story affair, and there was also an office building where Joshua’s father managed his agricultural interests.

According to William Green Avera, Stony Hill was on the road from Milltown [now Lakeland] to Tyson Ferry  where Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River.  This road, one of the earliest in the county, passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County. Stony Hill was later the residence of Moses C. Lee.

In 1862, Joshua’s father traded the Lastinger holdings to Henry Banks, of Atlanta, in exchange for 252 bales of cotton, 100 of which he sold for Confederate currency. Acquiring a new farm at Cat Creek, his father purchased more slaves to raise cotton. Thus, with their assets in slaves, cotton and Confederate currency, the Lastingers were fully invested in the future of the Confederate States of America. At the outbreak of the Civil War, all five of Joshua’s brothers joined the Berrien Minute Men and became enlisted in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Joshua, being the youngest, joined the 5th Georgia Reserves. His sister, Elizabeth Lastinger, took up a collection for the Berrien Minute Men at a Grand Military Rally held at Milltown (now Lakeland) in May, 1861.

According to an article in the Highland County News-Sun:

Joshua Berrien Lastinger moved his family to Florida after the War Between the States. Their covered wagon, pulled by a team of oxen, carried Lastinger’s wife, Louisa, six daughters and necessities along with a few nursery trees to plant. After camping in tents a few nights along the way they stayed temporarily in the small settlement of Owens near Arcadia. Their stove was unloaded from the wagon and set up with the stovepipe tied to a tree.
Lastinger traveled inland on a hunting trip to an area near present Lake Placid. Upon his return to his family in Owens, he announced to his wife that he had found the garden spot of the world. So they packed up the girls and the wagon and headed out.
As they made their way through Henscratch en route to their new homesite, Lastinger noticed a sawmill. This sawmill would later provide the lumber for him to build a raft that he would use to float lumber across the lake for the construction of the family home. Before the home was completed they fought off mosquitoes by draping netting from tree to tree over their bedding.
By 1891, they were homesteading 160 acres in the area of the northeast shore of Lake Stearns, now called Lake June. This homesite is still known as Lastinger Cove and some of the trees he planted are still living near the lake.He was able to donate a sizable strip of land for the railroad right of way in 1916 when the Atlantic Coast Line was extended from Sebring, FL. Lastinger was born February 27, 1847, in Ware County, GA. He served in the 5th Georgia Infantry Reserves and was discharged in May 1865.
Joshua Berrien Lastinger died in Arcadia, FL October 15, 1931. He is buried in Mt Ephram Baptist Cemetery  [also known as Owen Cemetery] in Arcadia.

 

Marsh’s Ferry, the Lopahaw Bridge and Tyson Ferry

One of the early roads in Berrien County described by William Green Avera was, “the road from Milltown northward to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha. This road pass[ed] by the residence of the late John Studstill, first sheriff of Berrien County, later the home of Joe Studstill, his son; Stony Hill, the old residence of the late Moses C. Lee; Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine still; the residence of the late J. H. Rowan [and] the residence of his widow, Mrs. Phoebe Rowan; the residence of the late William Gaskins — the grandfather of the late Alvah W. Gaskins of Nashville, GA.”    At  Tyson Ferry,  the Milltown road intersected the Coffee Road.

Alapaha River was crossed by the Coffee Road at this site.

Monday, June 19, 2017, Julian Fields led a field trip to the site where the ferry on the old Coffee Road crossed the Alapaha River. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7_-0AzgKgw

It was the 1823 opening of the Coffee Road that led to the creation of Lowndes County, which then covered a vast area of Wiregrass Georgia including present day Berrien County, GA.   When  John Coffee first cut his road through the wilderness, there were no ferries or bridges over the creeks and rivers.  Early travelers forded water crossings as best they could. The WWALS Watershed Coalition documents a number of waypoints, creek and river crossings on the route of the old Coffee Road.  The route of the Coffee entering present day Berrien County from the north first crossed the Willacoochee River, then traversed the Alapaha river  at Cunningham’s Ford. With seasonally high water, these rivers were no doubt difficult if not impossible to cross. 

Within a few years ferries were established over the Willacoochee and the Alapaha for the convenience of Coffee Road travelers.

According to Huxford’s “Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia” Vol. 2, Reuben Marsh moved to Irwin County about 1828 and settled in the 5th district on land Lot 381 which straddles the Willacoochee River.  There he established a farm and ferry apparently to serve travelers on the Coffee Road. 

Enhanced detail of Irwin County survey plat District 5 showing location of land lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek. Reuben Marsh established a ferry over the Willacoochee in 1828.

Enhanced detail of Irwin County survey plat District 5 showing location of land lot 381 on Willacoochee Creek. Reuben Marsh established a ferry over the Willacoochee in 1828.

Marsh, an early settler of Irwin County,  was one of the Commissioners appointed by the legislature to fix the location of the county seat, Irwinville.

It appears that sometime prior to 1836, Reuben Marsh acquired land Lot 424.

At January term, 1836 [Irwin County Inferior Court], Daniel Luke, Hezekiah Walker and Mathew Merritt, appointed commissioners on road leading from courthouse to Widow Mobley’s and intersect there with Coffee Road, also Frederick Merritt, Andrew McCelland and Micajah Paulk, appointed commissioners on Coffee road leading from Thomas L. Swain’s ferry to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha.

 

At January adjourned term, 1836, commissioners were authorized to turn the road leading from [Irwin County] courthouse to Ruebin Marsh’s ferry on Alapaha to near John Benefield’s on to Elisha Grantham’s ferry and strike Coffee Road nearest and best way.

THE LOPAHAW BRIDGE

In 1836 the Georgia Assembly provided partial funding for the construction of a public bridge over the Alapaha River. Later records of the Inferior Court of Irwin County indicate  Tyson Ferry was put into service to replace this bridge .

1836 Georgia Act to construct a bridge across the Lopahaw River

1836 Georgia Act to construct a bridge across the Lopahaw River

 

       AN ACT, To appropriate the sum of eight hundred dollars, to build a Bridge across the Lopahaw.
      Whereas, it is all important that a Bridge should be built across the Lopahaw, at or near Coffee’s Road, and whereas, the citizens are unable to build the said Bridge, and whereas, a subscription is on foot to raise or contribute eight hundred dollars which is thought will be about one half of the amount necessary and requisite to build and erect a substantial Bridge, for remedy whereof:
       Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is enacted by the authority of the same, That Jacob Polk of the county of Irwin, Daniel Grantham, Sen’r. John McMillon, be and they are hereby authorized to draw and appropriate the sum of eight hundred dollars, for the purpose of building a Bridge over and across the Lopahaw, at or near where the Coffee Road crosses the said river, and for the repair of Coffee’s Road.
       Sec. 2. Be it enacted by the authority of the same, That the said Commissioners shall give bond and sufficient security for the faithful discharge of their duty, and properly to expend the aforesaid sum for the erection of said Bridge.
        Sec. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That His Excellency the Governor, be, and he is hereby authorized and required, on the receipt of said bond as before required, to pay the amount of eight hundred dollars to the said Commissioners aforesaid, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.

JOSEPH DAY,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
ROBERT M. ECHOLS,

President of the Senate.
Assented to, Dec. 26, 1836.
WILLIAM SCHLEY, Governor.

It appears that the Lopahaw bridge was not constructed on the direct path of Coffee Road over the Alapaha, for at the February 1838 term of the Inferior Court of Irwin County marking commissioners were appointed to lay out a route which bypassed the ford and proceeded over the public bridge, rejoining Coffee road after the crossing.

At February term, 1838, Jacob A. Bradford, John Harper and Leonard Jackson, appointed commissioners to lay out and mark road, leaving Coffee road near Cornelius Tyson’s to public bridge on Alapaha, thence to intersect Coffee road
at or near Micajah Paulk’s, Sr. 

The  Irwin County Tax records of 1831 and 1832 show Cornelius Tyson’s Irwin County property included Lots 422 and 424 in the 5th Land District of Irwin County. 

1831-1832-Cornelius-Tison-tax-records-Irwin-County-GA

1831 – 1832 Irwin County, GA property tax records of Cornelius Tyson

 

 

When the  Inferior Court of Irwin County next met road commissioners were appointed for Coffee Road, to include the new routing over the public bridge.

At July term, 1838, Leonard G. Jackson, Shaderick Griffin and Andrew McClelland, appointed commissioners on road, commencing at C. Tyson’s to public bridge on Alapaha, then to intersect Coffee road near Micajah Paulk’s, they to commence at county line and ending at district line.

There is reason to question just how long this bridge remained in service, for in 1841, Georgia experienced a severe, wide-spread flood known as the Harrison Freshet:

In the early part of March, 1841, after President Harrison’s inauguration, the big fresh occurred west of the Oconee, and the Ocmulgee, Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, and all other smaller streams, contained more water and produced greater damage than ever known. In this section the last inundation was also called the Harrison freshet; hence the confusion that arose many years afterwards in distinguishing which was the proper Harrison fresh. The discrimination was, however, distinctly recorded at the time of the occurrences. The fresh of May and June, 1840, while the convention was held at Milledgeville, was named by the Democrats, “The Nomination Freshet,” and the fresh of March, 1841, was also named by the same “unterrified” authority “The Harrison Inauguration Freshet.” An iron spike was driven into the western abutment of the [Macon] city bridge by Mr. Albert G. Butts, denoting the highest water ever in the river down to that time, March, 1841. The spike still remains, and is inspected at every freshet in the Ocmulgee. – Historical Record of Macon and Central Georgia

The flood of the 1841 Harrison Freshet is known to have washed away bridges on the Alapaha River.   “Few bridges on the common streams … stood the shock.” The Milledgeville Federal Union declared it a 100 year flood.  The “extraordinary flood…caused awful damage in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina” with major erosion, land slides, “roads rendered almost impassable, and plantations disfigured with enormous gullies.”  At Troupville, GA, then the county seat of Lowndes County, the town was inundated, the flood setting a high water mark on the old cypress tree there which set a record , according to the March 28, 1897 New Orleans Times-Democrat, which was not surpassed for 56 years.

Whether or not the Lopahaw Bridge weathered the 1841 storm is not known, but  James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County states,

        “At the January term, 1842, an order was passed by the Inferior Court [Irwin County] an order was passed establishing a ferry across the Alapaha River at a place known as Marshes Ferry. The rates were fixed as follows: man and horse, twelve and one-half cents; man, horse and cart, twenty-five cents; two-horse wagon, fifty cents; four-horse wagon, one dollar; pleasure carriages, one dollar; gigs, fifty cents; jersey wagons, thirty-seven and one-half cents; mules and horses, 3 cents per head; cattle, 3 cents per head, sheep and hogs, one and one-half cents per head; foot  persons, free. Rates to be advertised at ferry.
At same term of court a ferry was established across the Willacoochee where Coffee Road crosses said creek and the above rates shall govern said ferry.

 

Clement’s History of Irwin County relates that “the public bridge” over the Alapaha was condemned at the January 1856 term of the Irwin County Inferior Court.

TYSON FERRY

At the same 1856 term of court according to James Bagley Clements’ History of Irwin County“Cornelious Tyson was granted authority to erect a ferry on Alapaha River on the Coffee road at the location of the condemned bridge and he is allowed to charge the following rates: man and horse, six and one-fourth cents; horse and cart, twenty-five cents; four-horse wagon, fifty cents; horse and buggy, thirty-seven and one-half cents.” 

Cornelius Tyson was one of the five marking commissioners appointed by the state legislature in 1856 to fix the boundary lines of the newly created Berrien County.  Cornelius Tyson is enumerated in Berrien County, GA as Cornelius Tison in the Census 1860.

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Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick ~ July, 1861

Berrien County in the Civil War
Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick, July, 1861

Civil War letter of Robert Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Civil War letter of Robert Hamilton Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Even before the secession of Georgia, Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, had gathered a company of men, styled the Berrien Minute Men, to serve as volunteer infantry.   Knight, an old Indian fighter, politicianrailroad investor, developer and social leader of south Georgia, anticipated of the formation of the Confederate States Army.  In the winter of 1860, he convened a meeting at Nashville, GA, seat of Berrien County which then included present day Lanier, Atkinson, Cook and Tift counties, as well as present day Berrien, where the company endorsed the Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men.  In the spring of 1861, the Berrien Minute Men encamped and drilled at Nashville, GA.  On May 17, a Grand Military Rally was held at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA on behalf of the Berrien Minute Men.

The following month, Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men was ordered to  report for muster into the Thirteenth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers.

 

<em>Savannah Daily Morning News</em>, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

Savannah Daily Morning News, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

 

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 24, 1861
        The following named companies will compose the Thirteenth Regiment Georgia Volunteers, which will take the place of Colonel Semmes’ regiment, now under orders for Virginia, viz:
        Wiregrass Minute Men, Capt. C. W. Styles,
        Brunswick Riflemen, Captain B. F. Harris, Brunswick.
        Lowndes Volunteers, Capt. G. T. Hammond, Valdosta.
        Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Captain W. J. Young, Thomasville.
        St. Mary’s Volunteers, Capt. A. B. Dufour, Darien.
        Seaboard Guards, Captain John C. Nichols, Waynesville.
        Berrien Minute Men, Captain Levi J. Knight, Nashville.
        Piscola Volunteers, Captain William A. Lane, Quitman. –Atlanta Intelligencer, July 21st.

Per orders,  Captain L. J. Knight took his company of Berrien Minute Men to the Georgia coast where  they and other volunteer companies from south Georgia counties were garrisoned at Camp Semmes for the defense of the port at Brunswick, GA.  Camp Semmes, south of the city, had been established by Colonel Paul J. Semmes, commanding officer of  the 2nd Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The defense of Brunswick had been the responsibility of the 2nd Regiment until that unit was ordered to Virginia.

Around mid-June, General Lafayette McLaws, Brigadier General A. R. Lawton, and Captain William W. Echols  had visited Brunswick to inspect the troops at Camp Semmes.  Colonel Semmes and the 2nd Regiment had established security checkpoints for all vessels entering the port of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

Savannah Republican
July 8, 1861
CAMP SEMMES.
Brunswick, GA., 4th July, 1861.
Public attention is respectfully directed to the annexed circular, and notice given that all boats are expected to conform to its requirements.  Passengers are ordered not to take passage in any boat until assured by its master of his intention not to disregard the same; and in order to avoid accidents or detention to themselves, to compel, if need be, his compliance therewith.
PAUL J. SEMMES,
Col. 2d Reg’t G.V., comd’g Camp Semmes
and the adjacent coast.
Circular.
HEAD-QUARTERS 2D REG’T G.V.,
CAMP SEMMES, BRUNSWICK, GA., June 25, 1861.
         I. On and after this day, all boats or vessels of any description, passing up or down the river, will be required to set their colors, or, if they have none, to heave to and report themselves to the officer of the day, at Camp Semmes, during the day.
        After sun-down every vessel will heave to and reply to the questions of the sentinel or officer of the day.  One shot will be fired across the bow of any vessel attempting to pass without heaving to, when ordered, and if, after one shot, she attempts to proceed, she will be fired into.
         II. The sentinels on the posts facing the river will be instructed to hail all vessels passing up or down the river which do not set their colors, during the day, and to hail all vessels or boats after sun-down as follows: Steamer, or schooner, or boat, ahoy! (as the case may be,) heave to! The sentinel will then call for the corporal of the guard, who will in turn call for the officer of the day or officer of the guard. The officer of the day will inquire, “What boat (or other craft) is that? – where are you from? – Where are you bound? -have you anything to communicate?” &c.  If the replies be satisfactory, the officer of the day will permit the vessel to pass on.  If any vessel, after a fair challenge attempt to pass, the sentinel will fire across her bow, and call – “The Guard:”
By order of
Col. Paul J. Semmes
W. G. Clemons, 2d Lieut. Co. G.,
Acting Adjutant.

Among the companies replacing the 2nd Regiment at Brunswick   were the Berrien Minute Men with the Thomasville Guards,  Piscola Volunteers, Seaboard Guards, Brunswick Rifles,  Glynn Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men.

It is a noble thing to fight for our country, and glorious to die in her cause…O, who wants not be a soldier! ~ Robert Hamilton Harris, Thomasville Guards, July, 1861

While encamped there, Robert Hamilton Harris, of the  Thomasville Guards, described the camp and his experiences in a letter to Martha (Mattie) Love, his girl back home in Thomas County, GA. She was a daughter of Peter Early Love,  U. S. Congressman and  former Solicitor General serving old Lowndes County, GA.

A portion of this correspondence has been preserved and scanned in the collection of Civil War letters of Robert Hamilton Harris, housed in the Digital Library of Georgia. Unfortunately, the extant portion of  this letter is not dated. However, we can surmise from contemporaneous events described by Harris that it was written about mid-July 1861.

The partial letter begins in mid-sentence with the description of a ship:

the prize (a boat) before she reaches Savannah. Our men will probably blow her up should any U. S. vessel attack them. She is laden with near $40000 worth of sugar, and was captured by the Jeff Davis on the coast of Newfoundland.

This “prize” was the Yankee brig John Welsh which was captured by the Confederate privateer C.S.S. Jeff Davis  at about 6:00 A. M. on Saturday, July 6, 1861.  This event was widely reported in Confederate and Union newspapers. According the Civil War Naval Encyclopedia, privateers were privately owned vessels sailing under special commissions from their governments in time of war that authorized them to capture ships of an enemy power, be they warships or merchant vessels.  The privateer Jeff Davis was reconnoitering off Delaware when she discovered the  merchantman John Welsh. The John Welsh had departed Trinidad, Cuba, on the 22nd of June for Falmouth, England, having on board a cargo of 300 hogsheads  and 475 boxes of sugar.  She was owned by John Welsh, esq., of Philadelphia. The value of the ship and cargo was estimated at $75,000.  The officers and crew of the John Welsh were taken aboard the Jeff Davis as prisoners and a prize crew was installed. They sailed the John Welsh to Savannah where she was to be condemned as a prize and sold at auction.  Although Robert Harris’s letter made no mention of it, the following day, July 7,  the privateer Jeff Davis captured the schooner S. J. Waring and detailed a prize master and crew  to take her to Beaufort, SC. Three of the original crew, two seamen and the African-American cook, William Tillman, were left on board. Tillman, however, managed to retake command of the ship, killing the Confederate prize master, first mate and second mate.  For his successful action in retaking the ship and sailing her back to New York, William Tillman became the first African-American hero of the Civil War, and received a reward of $6000.00

Harris’ letter goes on to describe  the volunteer infantry companies at the Brunswick rendezvous, and the camp life of the men. This gathering of the companies was prior to their official mustering in to the Confederate States Army:

There are seven companies now encamped in Brunswick, viz. the Thomasville companies, the Berrien Minute Men, Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Riflemen, Seaboard Guards, and the Wiregrass Minute Men, all of them very fine companies. We will soon be ready for double our number of Federals, and then we will feel easier.
    Our boys seem to enjoy themselves, and I know I do.  We have very hard fare, and have to endure a great many hardships, but we are healthy and have fine bathing facilities. Some of us are in the water nearly all the time. I plunge in regularly every morning at daylight, and spend half an hour or so in the delightful exercise of swimming, after which I don’t go in again during the day. I think this is the best plan.  A very large shark showed himself in our bathing place this morning, but we all went in as soon as he left, for we can’t forego this healthful pleasure because we happen to see a shark in the neighborhood.

Four of these companies, the Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Rifles, Seaboard Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men, would later be reorganized into the 26th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, along with companies from Lowndes, Ware, Clinch, McIntosh, Pierce and Twiggs  counties.

Harris’ letter mentions that one man of his company, John Bernard, had attempted suicide by cutting his throat. But Dr. [Edwin A.] Jelks of the Piscola Volunteers [Brooks County, GA] was able to suture the wound and keep the man alive, at least temporarily. Jelks, who was a relative of  Harris’ intended, went on to become Surgeon of the 26th GA Regiment.  The 26th Georgia was also the regiment Albert Douglass would join after deserting the Berrien Minute Men in 1862.

Harris also included with his letter a sketch of Brunswick, showing the position of the regimental camp south of the city.

1861 map of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight's company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

Robert Hamilton Harris’ 1861 sketch of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight’s company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

The camp was situated south of the city on the bank of the Turtle River, with  the river front on the west, cedar groves to the north and south, and woods to the east. The Berrien Minute Men (marked B.M.M.) were positioned on the northeast corner of the regimental grounds with the rest of the companies on the north side and on the riverfront. The regiment kept a picket guard on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The marsh on the east side of the peninsula Harris incorrectly labeled “Bloody Marsh” -the actual Bloody Marsh is on the east side of St. Simons Island. Brunswick’s wharves on the Turtle River are shown, as well as Oak Grove Cemetery, the Darien Road, the Waynesville Road.

Harris’ map also depicts a “prize” ship anchored off the Brunswick wharf.  This may have been a U.S. vessel captured by the privateer schooner Triton, of Brunswick, GA.  The Triton was the very first privateer to be commissioned by the Confederate government.  Confederate president Jefferson Davis had authorized privateers on April 17, 1861 and the Triton was commissioned on May 10, 1861, the  day the orders were published. The Triton was a small, 30-ton schooner, armed with a single six-pounder gun.

The railroad shown on Harris’ map would have been the shortline Brunswick & Florida Railroad, which connected at Glenmore, GA with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The Atlantic & Gulf was intended to serve as a “Main Trunk” for the two coastal railroads, and it was planned to stretch across south Georgia to steamboat docks on the Flint River at Bainbridge , creating a passenger and freight connection to the Gulf of Mexico.  By 1860, the Atlantic and Gulf had reached the site of Valdosta, GA, bypassing the Lowndes County seat at Troupville, GA.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running from Yankee Town (now Waycross), GA to Brunswick, GA - Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running to Brunswick, GA – Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

The captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Levi J. Knight,  was an investor in both the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The state of Georgia had also invested half a million dollars in Brunswick & Florida stock because of the railroad’s perceived strategic value.  An advantage of  these connections, it was said, was that the railroad could move men and materials from ports on the Gulf of Mexico to the Brunswick port on the Atlantic in 24 hours “in case of war between this country and a foreign nation.”   The B&F connection to the Savannah, Albany & Gulf also provided convenient transportation between Brunswick and Savannah, GA.

The Savannah newspapers noted that the Berrien Minute Men and the rest of the 13th Regiment arrived in Savannah on July 30, 1861 via railroad. At that time, they received equipment issued by the Confederate army.

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 31, 1861

Arrival of Troops
The Berrien Minute Men and Piscola Volunteers (Brooks county) arrived yesterday afternoon by the Albany and Gulf Railroad, and are encamped, together with the other companies belonging to the 13th Georgia regiment, on the parade ground. The following is a list of the officers of the former:
Captain – Levy J. Knight
1st Lieutenant – Thomas S. Wylly
2nd Lieutenant – Wm. Giddens
3rd Lieutenant – John C. Lamb
Ensign – Wm. Y. Hill
They number some eighty-five men, rank and file.
Those of the latter are:
Captain – Wm. A. Lane
1st Lieutenant – J. D. Morton
2nd Lieutenant – M. J. Culpepper
3rd Lieutenant – J. M. Rushin
This corps numbers some seventy men.

In August, the seven companies Harris noted at Camp Semmes were joined by the Camden Rifles and the Glynn Guards. On Saturday, August 19, 1861 these nine companies were formally mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment, under the command of Colonel Cary W. Styles, of Ware county.

It appears that the Lowndes Volunteers and St. Mary’s Volunteers were late for reporting at Camp Semmes, and were not mustered into the 13th GA Regiment. The Lowndes Volunteers later mustered into the 26th GA Regiment.  Another Lowndes company (Company I, 12th Georgia Regiment) under the command of Captain James W. Patterson was already in Virginia.  General McLaws encountered them June 21, 1861 at Branchville, VA.

In a letter written from Petersburg, VA McLaws described traveling with the Captain Patterson’s company of Lowndes company over the period from about June 21 to June 24.

We succeeded in starting [from Weldon, NC] about 8 P.M. in an extra train consisting of twenty freight cars and one passenger car. I have said we, because on arriving at Branchville, from Augusta a company of 116 Volunteers from Lowndes County Ga got into the train, and from that time, there was an end to all individuality. I managed to preserve my seat entire, by piling my overcoat, pillow & carpet bag beside me. But they were all around me, in all various attitudes conceivable, and dressed and undressed as suited their humor or degree of heat, artificial or natural, they had steamed up to at the time – one person, the wit of the party, said that if any body would give him a dollar he would sit in his shirt tail, and for an additional half would then pull off his shirt. Most of them pulled off their shoes, some had socks and others none and many were only partially provided. As the heat increased the fetid odor was tremendous – which added to the insane idea peculiar to volunteers that it was the patriotic duty of each and every one to hurrah and yell on passing through any settlement,made the time pass remarkably slow. And whenever we stopped a moment there was a general rush out in search of water, and then when the conductor shouted “get aboard” various fellows would say “I cant find a board but can get a shingle if you want one!” – all of which added to the general hilarity and made the night rather a sleepless one. When the crowd was put into the baggage cars, the noise was none the less but it was further off, so that second night passed more quiet. But today the passenger car was crowded with them again, and the odors and the singing and the patriotic yelling was truly remarkable. The Lowndes company, however, are a very fine looking body of men and in fact are remarkably well behaved, and have a Captain who has them under complete control by the mere force of his personal influence, his name is Patterson and I have no doubt he will do credit to his state.

Unfortunately, through a lack of coordination there was some duplication in the numbering of the Georgia regiments, and as it happened, there was already a 13th GA Regiment in service in Virginia.  In a short time Col. Styles regiment was reorganized, with the majority of the companies remaining at Brunswick to form the nucleus of the 26th GA Regiment while the Berrien Minute Men, Thomasville Guards, and Ocklocknee Light Infantry were ordered on to Savannah, GA to be mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.

About Robert Hamilton Harris:

Robert Hamilton Harris (April 19, 1842-April 29, 1929) of Thomasville, Georgia, was the stepson of Rev. Robert Fleming. During the United States Civil War Harris served in Company A, 29th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, reaching the rank of captain. For nearly twelve years after the Civil War, he studied and practiced law. During this period he served as Solicitor of the County Court in Thomas county, railroad attorney, and Mayor of Thomasville. Harris became an ordained minister in 1878. He served as a circuit preacher in rural southern Georgia and as a pastor of Baptist churches in Columbus and Cairo, Georgia, as well as Troy, Alabama. In 1900, he accepted a professorship at Cox Seminary in College Park, Georgia, where he remained until his retirement in the 1920s. On October 13, 1863, Robert Harris married Martha (Mattie) Love (March 5, 1845-December 28, 1900). Martha Love was the daughter of Peter Early Love (1818-1866) of Thomasville (Love served in the U.S. Congress, 1859-1861) [In the 1840s, Love was Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit of Georgia, and served at the Lowndes Superior Court of 1845 which convened in Troupville, GA.]

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Grand Rally at Milltown

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, May 1861

Special thanks to Jim Griffin for sharing contributions and illustration for this post.

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

Grand Military Rally at Milltown, GA, May, 1861 in honor of the Berrien Minute Men

About the Illustration

The illustration above, commissioned and contributed by reader Jim Griffin, depicts the scene of the Grand Military Rally held in Milltown (now Lakeland), GA in mid-May, 1861 to honor the Berrien Minute Men.  The illustration is based on reports published in Savannah, GA newspapers, transcribed below. Illustration by Alan H. Archambault.

Setting and Attendees Described in Newspaper Accounts

Captain Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City, GA, received the ceremonial flag presented at the Grand Rally. He was a “large, raw-boned man,” and a social, political and military leader of Berrien County, which then included Milltown (now Lakeland),  GA and all of present day Lanier County, GA. A veteran of the Indian Wars, he organized the Berrien Minute Men in 1860, and  served as their first Captain. He took his company to Brunswick, GA where the Berrien Minute Men first served with the 13th Georgia Regiment. After reorganization they were mustered into the 29th GA Regiment of Volunteer Infantry; L.J. Knight served as Major of this  Regiment before retiring on account of age and health.

The Baptist Church at Milltown, depicted in the background, was where the association of the ladies of Milltown convened prior to the Grand Military Rally of May, 1861. The Baptist Church was constructed about 1857.  Its organization was instigated by the families of James and Jesse Carroll, brothers who were pioneer settlers of present day Lanier County, GA.

“In 1857 Daniel B. Carroll (James’ son) and James S. Harris (James Carroll’s son-in-law) deeded land for a Missionary Baptist Church. Trustees to whom the deed was made were James Carroll, James Dobson, James’ sons John T. and James H., and James S. Harris.  Rev. Caswell Howell, who had recently settled here, is said to have been its first pastor. [Rev. Howell was a brother of Barney Howell, who was a mail carrier on the Troupville route.] The church, directly north of today’s courthouse [present day site of Mathis Law office, 64 W. Church Street Lakeland, GA], was built of hand-split lumber with hand-hewn sills, and put together with wooden pegs. The ten-inch-wide ceiling boards were planed by hand.” – Nell Roquemore, in Roots, Rocks and Recollections

The Methodist Episcopal Church, shown on the right,  was organized by the Talley family and built in 1856 on the present day site of the Lakeland City Cemetery, on  E. Church Street.  The pastor of this church, Reverend Nathan Talley,  led the invocation and hymns for the convening of the ladies association at the Baptist Church.

Not depicted is a school that sat in between the Baptist and Methodist churches.  The school supposedly sat back off Church Street.

Mrs. Jas. S. Harris, who made the motion for a chair to be called, was Elizabeth Ann Carroll Harris, wife of Milltown merchant and postmaster James Simpson Harris. As a civil servant, the 48 year-old Mr. Harris was exempt from Confederate military service.   The Harrises were neighbors of Milltown merchant Abraham Leffler and of Dr. James W. Talley, son of Reverend Nathan Talley.

Mrs. Susan A. Dawson served as Chair of the Ladies Association.

Miss E. Brannon,  appointed secretary of the Ladies Association, was Emily Elizabeth Brandon. She was a daughter of William R. Brandon.  She would marry Jonathan D. Knight, of the Berrien Minute Men, on August 10, 1862 in South Carolina.

Mrs. E. J. G. Crawford, who was selected to present the flag to the Berrien Minute Men, was Ellen Jeane Grey Lee, wife of Cornelius Whitfield Crawford. The Crawfords were residents of Magnolia, GA and later moved to Texas.

Mr. Wiley E. Baxter was  a school teacher for John T. Carroll, a neighbor of Captain Levi J. Knight.  Baxter was one of Captain L. J. Knight’s company of men; He appeared on the 1860 roster of Berrien Minute Men.  He would go with Captain Knight’s Company to Savannah, GA to enlist in the Georgia volunteer infantry. He eventually served in the 29th Georgia Regiment with both Company A (C & G) and Company B (D & K) of the Berrien Minute Men, and would achieve the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before being killed at the Battle of Atlanta, 1864.

Daniel B. McDonald, who also took up the collection from the men, was the twin brother of Dougal P. McDonald of the Berrien Minute Men.  The twins married sisters Elizabeth and Ann Lamb, who were siblings of William J. Lamb and John Carroll Lamb.  Dougal P. McDonald was excused from military duty to serve in the Confederate Georgia legislature.  Daniel McDonald later served as a Captain with the Georgia reserve Coast Guard at Jonesville near Riceboro, GA.

Elizabeth Lastinger was a daughter of William Lastinger, who owned Lastinger Mill. On May 12, 1861 Elizabeth Lastinger married William J. Wilkerson, son of William D. Wilkerson (or Wilkinson). Five of her brothers served in the Berrien Minute Men. One brother, Pvt. Seaborn J. Lastinger, was killed September 15, 1863 in a magazine explosion at James Island, SC. Her youngest brother, Joshua Berrien Lastinger, served with the 4th Georgia Reserves.

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Military Rally at Milltown, GA. May 17, 1861 Savannah Daily Morning News

Savannah Daily Morning News
May 17, 1861

A Grand Military Rally in Mill Town, Berrien County.

A mass meeting of the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity convened in the Baptist Church in the above mentioned village.
   The Rev. Mr. Talley, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened the meeting with singing and prayer, after which on motion of Mrs. JAS. S. HARRIS, Mrs. SUSAN A DAWSON was called to the Chair, and Miss E. BRANNON requested to act as Secretary.
     The object of the meeting was then explained from the Chair, which was —
     1st. The presentation of a beautiful flag representing the flag of the Confederate States.
     2d. The forming of themselves into an association of ladies for the purpose of preparing necessary articles of clothing, bandages, lints, &c., for the volunteer company, the Berrien Minute Men, while in camp or battle field.
     3d. For the purpose of taking up contributions for the benefit of the company, and for other purposes.
     The association being formed, on motion of Mrs. C. W. CRAWFORD, the Chair was requested to appoint two ladies and two gentlemen to take up a collection.  Miss E. LASTINGER and Mrs. HARRIS were appointed to take up a collection among the ladies; Mr WILEY E. BAXTER and Mr. DANIEL B. McDONALD to take collection from the gentlemen.
      It was, on motion, suggested that the Chair appoint some lady to present the flag to the company in behalf of the ladies of Berrien.
      The Chair suggested the name of Mrs. E. J. G. CRAWFORD, who accepted the appointment.
      Upon motion, the meeting adjourned; and a messenger despatched to the company (who were on parade in the streets) to inform the Captain that the ladies were ready to present the flag.  The Captain marched his company up in front of the Church. Capt. KNIGHT and his officers formed six paces in front, and announced themselves ready; when Mrs. CRAWFORD advanced with flag-staff in hand, at the top of which floated to the breeze the beautiful flag of the Confederate States, and addressed the Captain as follows:
        Captain Levi J. Knight and Gentlemen of the Berrien Minute Men: We, the ladies of Mill Town and vicinity, present you this flag, wishing you to present it to your ensign in our behalf. Brave volunteers! may you march forth under its stars to defend your country’s cause. The tocsin of war is resounding through our land.  From James’ and Sullivan’s Islands its first peals were heard, saying “We no longer submit to Northern aggression.”  Numbers of our brave countrymen are already in the field, firmly and proudly bearing arms defensive of our rights and our soil against the hostile invaders. Others are rushing on to the rescue.  For freedom they fight – for freedom will die.  Brothers! go join them. Rally for truth, for liberty, and our own happy South.
        This bright sunny land of our birth, and our homes inherited from our fathers, the brave old patriots of ’76, let their spirits inspire your souls to preserve that freedom for which they fought and bled.  Spread this fair flag to the breeze of Heaven; long and proudly may it float to the gaze.
       In every conflict with the foe, remember this flag waves over you. Those bars and seven stars represent our Southern Confederate flag, recently formed for our protection. Guard them with distinguished care, and never, oh! never let them fall to the dust in dishonor.
       Your trial, your toils, your hardships in this warfare may be many, very many; but be firm and unyielding, courageous and brave, true be each man to his post, dealing out death to foe, fighting for freedom, our rights, our homes, and the South.  Each heart will grow bolder, each arm will grow stronger, each eye will be brightened in view of success. Think not of those you leave behind you, but press onward to the glory in battle.  Our hearts, though riven with anguish, will ever be with you, and our prayers continually ascending to Him who defendeth our cause.  Then, brave soldiers, with God on your side and our prayers in your behalf, be sure you will conquer at last. Let your watch-word be triumph, or die in the ranks of the foe.
        Many were the tears that trickled down thousands of fair cheeks that composed the vast assembly that surrounded the fair and eloquent speaker. She advanced silently and presented the flag to Capt. Knight.  Upon receiving it he advanced two paces and replied as follows:
Fair lady accept our thanks for yourself and those you represent, for this beautiful and highly appreciated banner. When the aggressions of the North became so oppressive, we no longer could bear them without degradation; we withdrew from the old Confederacy, and assumed the right which the God of Nature has bestowed on every free and patriotic people – the formation of a government that will best accure to them the blessings and protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; but we are now threatened with subjugation; yea, the fiat has gone forth from the Black Republic President, that we must be subjugated, and is now arming his minions to force us to submit.  That the fair of our land should feel indignant, is but natural; but for you, fair Lady, and your associates, have been prompted by a nobler and loftier patriotism, felt only by the virtuous and intelligent.

        This beautiful flag, to which you have so happily allude and so delicately presented, will, I trust, stimulate every member of this Company to do his whole duty to his country and to you. May your generosity, confidence, labors, and anticipations be not in vain. May we ever merit that confidence; and should we meet the enemy, which there is now every possibility we will, I trust this beautiful flag will be the beacon that will guide this Company to noble deeds. – Though its beauty may be tarnished and soiled with the hardships of the camp; through its beautiful folds may be purforated with the enemy’s bullets, I trust it will never trail in disgrace. – While you fair lady, and the fair of this community, manifest such a noble spirit of patriotism, you can never want stout hearts and strong arms to defend and protect you.
        In behalf of the members of this Company, I tender to you our grateful acknowledgements.
        Notice was then given to the Captain, that a sumptuous dinner had been prepared at the Hotel by the ladies. The Company was then marched up in the front of the Hotel; orders were given to stack arms, which was done in beautiful order, and orders given to repair to the table – about 100 feet in length, and weighted down with many, very many, of the goodly things of our sunny South.
        Permit me, further, to state, Mr. Editor, that the Company numbers 80 as brave, patriotic and fine looking men as the Southern Confederacy can produce – well uniformed, with the first quality of muskets and sword bayonets. There is another volunteer company being bade up in our county, which I think will be complete in a few days – all brave as Sparters.

Soon Captain Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men would be bound for Brunswick, GA.  There, they would join the Thomasville Guards, Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Seaboard Guards, Piscola Volunteers, Wiregrass Minute Men and Brunswick Rifles in the defense of the port of Brunswick. In August, 1861, these companies and others would be mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment. (In a later reorganization, the Berrien Minute Men would be transferred to Savannah and mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.)

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