Feb 22, 1905 Marriage of Mollie Bell Clements

Remember Mollie Bell Clements Lee?  She and her husband, Bill Lee, ordered their home from the Sears Catalog about 1917 (see Ray City’s Mail Order House).  Mollie Bell Clements and William David “Bill” Lee were married on Wednesday, February 22, 1905.   Presented here,  the wedding announcement that appeared in The Valdosta Times.

The bride was a daughter of Martha J. Baskin and David Clements. The groom was a son of Moses C. Lee and Amanda Clements.

1905 Wedding announcement of Mollie Bell Clements, of Ray City, and William David Lee, of Milltown.

1905 Wedding announcement of Mollie Bell Clements, of Ray City, and William David Lee, of Milltown. The announcement appeared in the Saturday, February 25, 1905 edition of The Valdosta Times.

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, February 25, 1905

A Wedding Near Ray’s Mill.

      The home of Mrs. Martha Clements, near Ray’s Mill, was the scene of a very pretty wedding Wednesday afternoon, the contracting parties being Miss Mollie Clements and Mr. William David Lee, of Milltown. The ceremony was performed by Rev. L. R. Christie and was witnessed by a large number of friends of the contracting parties. The bride is a very popular as well as pretty young woman, and is a daughter of the late David Clements. The groom is a prominent merchant and naval stores operator at Milltown.
      The couple received many handsome presents and are receiving many congratulations and good wishes from their host of friends.

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Smith and Jones Open Bank at Ray’s Mill

In 1911, B. P. Jones, President of the Valdosta Bank and Trust, and Clarence L. Smith, Vice President, came to Rays Mill, GA on business. Jones’ wife was a daughter of Jonathan Knight, and a granddaughter of Reverend William A. Knight.

Valdosta Times, May 23, 1911 news item,

Valdosta Times, May 23, 1911 news item, “Organized bank at Rays Mill”

The Valdosta Times
May 23, 1911

Organized Bank at Rays Mill

Messrs B. P. Jones and C. L. Smith went up to Rays Mill this morning for the purpose of organizing a Bank at that place to be known as the Bank of Rays Mill.  It will have a capital stock of $25,000.

The Ray City investors received a State Bank Charter and opened for business on August 14, 1911.  The other investors were: J.S. Swindle, J.H. Swindle, M.T. Bradford, W.H.E. Terry, Riley M. Green, and J. F. Sutton, all of Berrien county; and Charles Lee Jones and  J.B. Griffin, of Lowndes county. The Bank of Ray’s Mill  would later be known as the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

The principal banker, Benjamin Perry Jones, was a former resident of Berrien County, and had operated mercantile at Milltown where he also had a liquor dealer’s license.  In 1868, during Reconstruction, Benjamin Jones, along with H. T. Peeples and James E. Williams, represented Berrien County at the organization of the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District, convened at Blackshear, Pierce County, Georgia on September 16, 1868.

In 1913, a biographical sketch of Benjamin P. Jones was included in A history of Savannah and south Georgia:

Harden, William,. A history of Savannah and south Georgia. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913.

p. 747-749

   BENJAMIN P. JONES, the president of the Valdosta Bank and Trust Company has had a long career in business, has won prosperity and influence much above that of the average man, and yet began with little or nothing and for a number of years had a hard struggle with the obstacles of business life. Mr. Jones is one of the prominent citizens of south Georgia, and has been identified with Valdosta from the time it was a small village.

   Mr. Benjamin P. Jones was born, June 25, 1837, in that part of Camden now Charlton county, Georgia. His grandfather was James Jones, thought to have been a native of Georgia, who was a Camden county planter, having a number of slaves, and died there at the age of seventy-five, his remains now reposing in the Buffalo churchyard. He married a Miss Davis, who was upwards of eighty when she died, and they reared a large family of children. They were Primitive Baptists in religion.

   Burrell Jones, father of the Valdosta banker, was born in Wayne county, Georgia, April 29, 1803. About the time of his marriage he bought land near Folkston, living there a few years, and about 1840 returned to Wayne county and located on a farm near the present site of Lulaton, where he made his home until his death in 1877. He married Mary Margaret (known as Peggy) Mizell, who was born in Bulloch county, August 9, 1809. Her father, Jesse Mizell, of English stock and a native of North Carolina, was a soldier of the Revolution under Jasper at Savannah and with Marion during that leader’s valorous excursions against the British. He was with the command when it crossed the Peedee river, first lay blankets on the bridge to deaden the sound of the horses’ hoofs, and in this way surprised the enemy. Some years after the Revolution Jesse Mizell came to Georgia, living two years in Camden county, and then moved into the interior, settling near the present site of Folkston in Charlton county, where he bought land and was engaged in farming and stock raising until his death at the age of about sixty. He married a Miss Stallings, a native of North Carolina and of Dutch ancestry. Mary M. Mizell, the mother of Mr. Jones, spent her early life on the Georgia frontier, and for the lack of educational advantages she compensated by her great natural ability and force of character. Her husband was for many years an invalid, and the care of the children devolved entirely upon her. She reared them to habits of industry and honor, and they paid her all filial reverence. Her death occurred in 1885. Her nine children were named as follows: Harley, Joseph, Benjamin P., Margaret, James B., Nancy C., Harriet, Jasper N. and Newton J.   Harley and Joseph were Confederate soldiers and died during their service for the southern cause.

   Though in his youth he had little opportunity to obtain an education, Benjamin P. Jones managed to obtain an education largely through his own efforts at self-improvement and an ingrained habit of close observation. When he was seventeen he became a teacher, and while he did good service while in this occupation it may be remembered that qualifications for teaching were not very high at that period. Anyone could teach who could find others who knew less than himself, and there was no formality of examination. Intellectual curiosity was a passion with him from an early age, and the time most children give to play with their comrades he devoted to association in company with his elders, thus learning by listening. When he was twelve years old he once attended a court session, listening attentively to the evidence and the charge to the jury. At recess the judge asked why he was so absorbed in the proceedings. The boy replied that it was because he wanted to learn, and then asked the judge why he charged the jury as he did. That was equity, responded the judge, and after explaining the meaning of that word told the boy that if he ever had occasion to make out papers to make them out in accordance with equity and justice and he would sanction them if brought before his court. Chopping cotton at twenty-five cents a day and board was the means by which Mr. Jones earned his first money. A little later he became clerk in a general store at Lulaton, and after a time engaged in business for himself at Stockton, Georgia. Hardly had his trade started when a panic paralyzed all business, and he found himself in debt fifteen hundred dollars, which took him some time to pay off.

   Early in 1861 Mr. Jones enlisted in Company D of the Twenty-sixth Georgia Infantry, and was with that command in the coast defense until the regiment was ordered to Virginia, when he secured a substitute. Confederate money was then plentiful but away below par, and he bought a farm for three thousand dollars, at war-time prices, going in debt for the greater part of this amount. He was busily engaged in farming until 1864, when he enlisted with the Georgia Reserves, being commissioned first lieutenant and being in actual command of his company. The Reserves went to the defense of Atlanta, but from Griffin his company was sent back to recruit and apprehend deserters, and he was on detached duty until the close of the war. After making three crops on his farm he sold the land for four hundred dollars, and with that money and what he had realized from his crops engaged in the mercantile business at Milltown in Berrien county. Nine days after opening his store an epidemic of smallpox broke out, he was quarantined fifty-two days, and at the end of that time offered to sell his entire stock for three hundred dollars but could not find a buyer. Owing to this circumstance he went on with his business, at the same time buying cotton and dealing in live stock, and in four years had so reversed the current of his previous fortunes that he had cleared up fourteen thousand dollars. Then selling out at Milltown he went to southern Florida, where he opened two stores and established a grist and saw mill, and was engaged in business there until 1874, when ill health compelled him to make a change. He sacrificed eight thousand dollars by the move, and then came to Valdosta, which was then a village. Here he bought an established general store and a home for three thousand dollars, and was prosperously identified with the mercantile enterprise of this city for twenty years. In 1894 Mr. Jones organized the Valdosta Guano Company, and in 1906 the Valdosta Bank & Trust Company, of which he has since been president, with his son C. L. as cashier.

   On June 25, 1862, Mr. Jones married Miss Elizabeth Knight, who was born in Clinch county, October 18, 1843, representing an old family of southern Georgia. Her grandfather, Rev. William Knight, was a pioneer preacher in this part of the state. He married a Miss Cone. Jonathan Knight, the father of Mrs. Jones, was born in that part of Lowndes now Berrien county, and spent his life as a farmer in Clinch and Berrien counties. Mr. and Mrs. Jones reared thirteen children, named as follows: Jonathan H., Charles Lee, Frances M. McKenzie; Lillie Roberts, Samuel W., Elizabeth Fry, Benjamin U., Jimmie Staten Green, Eulah Norris, Pearl Mashburn, Lloyd E., Lotta and Audrey Terry.

   Mr. Jones has been identified with the Masonic order since he was twenty-seven years old. He is a member of the Economic League of Boston, Massachusetts, a society for the betterment of mankind. He has been one of the influential men in political life for many years. His first presidential vote was cast for John C. Breckenridge in 1860. He was opposed to secession, in a speech in which he said that if the sixteen southern states would all go out in a body, taking the constitution in one hand and the flag in the other, he would favor the movement with his vote, but not otherwise. In subsequent years he has served as delegate to many county and state conventions, was a delegate to the national conventions that nominated General Hancock and Grover Cleveland, and was also one of the sound-money Democratic delegates of 1896 who nominated Palmer and Buckner. Since 1898 he has not been allied with any party, and as a free lance has supported the individual who best represents his ideas of government.

Portrait of Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight , Berrien County, GA

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight , Berrien County, GA

Ray City History
Hardeman Sirmans (1821 – 1896)  Elizabeth Knight (1830 – 1912)

Hardeman Sirmans was born October 25, 1821 in Appling County, Georgia, the son of Jonathan Sirmans and Martha “Patsy” Rouse.

During the Indian War in 1838-39 Hardeman Sirmans and his father served as privates under Captain Levi J. Knight (later General Knight) in the Lowndes County militia. They both appear on the 1838 Muster Roll of Captain Knight’s Independent Company.

In 1847 Hardeman married Elizabeth Knight, daughter of General Levi J. Knight and Ann D. Herrin. She was born in 1830.

According to Folks Huxford,

“Mr. Sirmans served in the Indian War as a private in a volunteer company of Lowndes County militia commanded by his father-in-law, Capt. (afterwards General) Levi J. Knight, August 15th to Oct 15 1838. He was 1st Lieutenant of the 664th militia district, Lowndes County, 1845-46, then served as Captain in same district 1847-1851. For nearly twenty years Mr. Sirmans was a member of the Masonic order, receiving his degrees in Butler Lodge, No. 211, F. & A.M. at old Milltown (now Lakeland) in 1858. He withdrew and was granted a demit Dec. 8 1877, on account of his church’s attitude toward secret orders. He united in 1877 with Empire Primitive Baptist Church and was baptized. On Jan. 21, 1888 he withdrew from the church, but was restored Nov. 21, 1888. On Nov. 26, 1892, charges were preferred against him in his church for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election; however, the church minutes state he ‘satisfied’ the church, Dec. 24, 1892, and the charges were dropped. He remained a member until his death Sept. 21, 1896. His children seemed to have disagreed over the division of his estate, and it was finally divided by arbitration in Berrien Superior Court, March 8, 1897. Mrs. Sirmans died Sept. 6, 1912, and was buried by her husband in the cemetery at Empire Church.”

Before the Civil War, Hardeman Sirmans was a slave owner. One of his slaves was Richard McGowan. For a time after the war, Richard McGowan continued to live on the Sirmans farm, working as a farm laborer.

Children of Elizabeth Knight and Hardeman Sirmans:

  1. Levi Winfield Sirmans 1848 –  married Nancy R. Clements
  2. Jonathan D Sirmans 1850 – 1926 married Nancy Elizabeth Clements
  3. Sarah Malissa Sirmans 1852 – 1898
  4. Lott W. Sirmans 1854 – 1898 married Josephine Knight
  5. Thomas Hardyman Sirmans 1860 – 1931
  6. Martha Elizabeth Sirmans 1862 – 1935 married Joe S. Clements
  7. Joseph O Sirmans 1862 – 1848 married Olive Pearl Matheny
  8. Jay Sirmans 1864 – 1916 married Rachel Allifar Smith
  9. Clara Sirmans 1868 – 1928 married Frank Gallagher
  10. Christiana Sirmans 1869 – 1943 married Joseph Bartow Gaskins
  11. Annie B. Sirmans 1872 – 1963 married John Chilton Matheny
  12.  Valeria Sirmans 1874 – 1961 married James Isaac Lee

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Three Wives of George Washington Nix

George Washington Nix was born March 12, 1858 and lived all his life in Berrien  or Lanier County, GA. His mother was  Margaret Ann Mullis.  His father, William Varnell “Varn” Nix, fought in the Civil War, enlisting in Company E 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment on May 6, 1862 in Milltown (Now Lakeland), GA.

In the census of 1860, he appears in the household of William S. Allen, who was a Berrien County miller.

About 1881 George W. Nix married Piety Ann Rowe.  She was the daughter of Charlotte Williams and Joseph Josiah Rowe. Her father served as a Private in Company I, 50th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry and died of pneumonia during the war. Piety Anne was two years old when her father died.

After marriage George and Piety Ann raised crops and children in Berrien county, GA.  Between 1882 and 1902, Piety Ann gave birth nine times.

Children of George W. Nix and Piety Ann Rowe:

Joseph Varn Nix (1882-1963) – served as Sheriff of Berrien County, GA
Eli Lester Nix (1884-1927)
William Frank Nix (1886-1978)
Missouri Arzilla Nix (1888-1966)
Maggie Lee Nix(1891-1921)
Elbert James Nix(1893-1971)
Richard Miles Nix(1895-1978)
Thomas Calvin Nix(1897-1973)
Annie Belle  (1897–1973)
Charlie Columbus  Nix (1902-2002)

In the census of 1900,  the first eight of these children were still at home.  In addition, Piety Ann’s mother, Charlotte “Lottie” Williams Rowe was living with the family in 1900. At the time, she was drawing a Confederate Veterans Widow’s Pension of $100 annually from the State of Georgia. The Nix farm was located in the 1148th Georgia Militia District, in the community of “Hill.”

Piety Ann Nix died May 16, 1908.

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The widower George Washington Nix was left with a household still full of minor children and with his mother-in-law, Lottie Williams Rowe.

On July 20, 1909 G. W. Nix married Arkansas Cook Hughes in a ceremony performed by Noah Tyler, Minister of God.  Born Laura Arkansas Cook , she was  the 54 year-old widow of William Hansford Hughes, and her own children were already   grown.

Marriage Certificate of George W. Nix and Arkansas Hughes, July 4, 1909, Berrien County, GA. The marriage ceremony was performed by Noah Tyler, Minister of God. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

Marriage Certificate of George W. Nix and Arkansas Hughes, July 4, 1909, Berrien County, GA. The marriage ceremony was performed by Noah Tyler, Minister of God. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

Grave marker of Arkansas Cook, b. Nov. 13, 1853 d. Dec. 24, 1911. Born Laura Arkansas Cook, she was the second wife of George Washington Nix. She is buried next to her first husband, William Hansford Hughes, at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38845663

Grave marker of Arkansas Cook, b. Nov. 13, 1853 d. Dec. 24, 1911. Born Laura Arkansas Cook, she was the second wife of George Washington Nix. She is buried next to her first husband, William Hansford Hughes, at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38845663

G.W. and Arkansas made their home in the upper 10th district of Berrien county, where George and his sons continued to farm.  The census of 1910 enumerates the household of George and Arkansas,  with George’s children Elbert, Miles, Thomas, Belle, and Columbus.  Also still residing in the Nix home was Lottie Rowe, mother of his first wife.

The marriage of Arkansas and George Washington Nix was not to endure for long.  Arkansas died December 24, 1911.  The short union of Arkansas Cook Hughes and George Washington Nix was without issue.

Arkansas Cook was buried next to her first husband, William Hansford Hughes, a few miles northeast of Ray City, at Empire Primitive Baptist Church, Lanier County, GA. The two graves share a single white marble monument.

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G.W. Nix, the subject of this post, married a third time. On March 5, 1912, at age 53 he married Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill, believed to be the daughter of Noah and Lucindy Tyler.  She was the 30-year-old widow of  Walter W. Hill.  She had four children of her own; Bessie Lee Hill, Lewis Felton Hill, Agnes V. Hill, and Walter Hill all under age 10.

Marriage certificate of G.W. Nix and D.V. Hill, Berrien County, GA. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

Marriage certificate of G.W. Nix and D.V. Hill, Berrien County, GA. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives. http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189046

For at least a short time it is likely that the household of Valeria and George W. Nix  was a blended family that included children of his first marriage, his step children, and children by his third wife.  But there is little enough published evidence of this connection.

What is known is that Thomas Nix, son of G.W. Nix, married Bessie Hill, daughter of Dicy Valeria Hill on December 24, 1913 in Berrien County, GA.  Father and son married mother and daughter.

Marriage Certificate of Tom Nix and Bessie Hill, Berrien County,GA.

Marriage Certificate of Tom Nix and Bessie Hill, Berrien County,GA. Marriage Books, Berrien County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,189098

As further evidence of the blended Nix family , Lucius and his mother,Valeria, appear together with other children of George Washington Nix in a photograph taken about 1965.  Missouri Arzilla Nix, daughter of Piety Ann Rowe Nix, died in 1966.

Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Wife of George Washington Nix, and the Nix children,  photographed circa 1965. Front Row: Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Joe Varn Nix, William Franklin Nix, Missouri Arzilla Nix Ray. Back Row: Lucius Nix, Columbus Charles Nix, Thomas Calvin Nix, Elbert Nix. Lucius was the son of Valeria and G.W. Nix. All others were the children of Piety Ann Rowe and G.W. Nix. (image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/)

Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Wife of George Washington Nix, and the Nix children, photographed circa 1965. Front Row: Dicy Valeria Tyler Hill Nix, Joe Varn Nix, William Franklin Nix, Missouri Arzilla Nix Ray. Back Row: Lucius Nix, Columbus Charles Nix, Thomas Calvin Nix, Elbert Nix. Lucius was the son of Valeria and G.W. Nix. All others were the children of Piety Ann Rowe and G.W. Nix. (image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/)

By the time of the 1920 census, all of the children of George W. Nix and his first wife had left home. George and Valeria owned a home on Washington Street in Nashville, GA.  He was self-employed as the merchant of a “fish store.”  Enumerated in the Nix household are his step-children (Valeria’s previous children apparently took the Nix surname),  and the children of George and Valeria:

George W Nix 60
Velora Nix 40
Felton H Nix 16
Agnes Nix 12
Walter Nix 9
Lucius Nix 6
George W Nix 4
Lucindy Nix 2

Some time prior to 1930, George W. Nix moved his family to Ray City, GA. His son, Eli Lester Nix, resided at Ray City where he managed his own crosstie operation. Eli Lester Nix died in 1927, leaving behind his widow, Eliza Jane, and five small children.  Perhaps the loss of his son influenced George W. Nix’s decision to move to Ray City.

At the time of the 1930 census, George W. Nix owned a home in town at Ray City valued at $700, free and clear of mortgage. He was working for hire as a drayman. A drayman was historically the driver of a dray, a low, flat-bed wagon without sides, pulled generally by horses or mules, that were used for transport of all kinds of goods.

The 1930 census enumerated the following in the  Ray City household of George W. Nix:

George W Nix 72, Head of household
Velora Nix 48, wife
Gladys Nix 9, daughter
Noah Nix 5, son

As given in the previous post, George Washington Nix Killed by Automobile, G.W. Nix died on February 10, 1932.

After his death, his widow, Dicy Valeria Tyler Nix, continued to live in Ray City,  GA.  She  died there on 7 Oct 1967.  She is buried at Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, GA along with many others of the Nix family connection.

Grave marker of Valeria Tyler Nix, b. Dec. 29, 1881 d. Oct. 7, 1967, Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Valeria Tyler Nix, b. Dec. 29, 1881 d. Oct. 7, 1967, Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, Berrien County, GA.

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