Counterfeit Coins in Berrien County

The first bank in Ray’s Mill, GA [Ray City] was not established until 1909. In the earliest days of Berrien County there were no local financial establishments. The nearest bank was 120 miles away at Saint Mary’s, GA, in Camden County. It had a capital of $30,000.00. In the 1840s the cashier was George Washington Winter and the bank’s president was John.G. Winter (see THE LETTERS OF A GEORGIA UNIONIST: JOHN G. WINTER AND SECESSION).

John G. Winters, a prominent citizen of Columbus GA, was president of the Bank of St. Mary's in the 1840s.

John G. Winter was a prominent citizen of Columbus, GA who purchased controlling interest of the Bank of St. Mary’s in 1841. In 1844, he was elected mayor of Columbus. During the Civil War he remained a Unionist.

Due to the remoteness, conducting commerce from the region of present day Berrien county was daunting.  Early Berrien settlers traded at Centerville, GA  near St. Marys and its trading port.  Although the Bank of St. Mary’s issued currency as early as 1840, the pioneer farmers and stockmen of Berrien [then Lowndes county] were not wont to exchange their products for paper money.

1840 ten dollar note, Bank of St. Mary's

1840 ten dollar note, Bank of St. Mary’s.  John G. Winter, President.

The oldtimers may have had reason not to trust paper bank notes, as this clipping from the April 28, 1852 New York Daily Times indicated:

April 28, 1852  New York Daily Times reports the Bank of St. Mary's is broke.

April 28, 1852 New York Daily Times reports the Bank of St. Mary’s is broke.

But large payments received in gold or silver coin could be difficult to carry. According to a Berrien County Centennial article written in 1956,  “It was often transported in ‘saddlebags,’ a kind of leather wallet swung across the saddle, containing a spacious wallet on each side. The cattle raisers of this territory often brought home as much as a half bushel of specie in this manner, obtained from the sale of beef steers driven to Savannah or Jacksonville and sold.”

coronet-quarter-eagle-gold

Berrien County, GA pioneers knew that even commerce transacted in gold coin did not always protect the seller.

The following item appeared in the Atlanta Constitution Tuesday, October 31, 1882.

From the Berrien County News.
 Counterfeit two dollar and a half gold pieces are in circulation in this vicinity. They are not hard to detect. A half a day’s carrying them in the pocket rubs off the (?) gold and exposes to view a white looking metal.”

In 1910 counterfeiters were caught operating in Berrien, Coffee, and Appling counties.

Atlanta Constitution
February 25, 1910

PHONEY GOLD COINS CAUSE TWO ARRESTS

Dr. J. Dedge of Coffee County is Held to Await Trial for Counterfeiting

    Valdosta, Ga. Feb 24 – Dr. J.R. Dedge, a dentist at Nicholls, Coffee county, Ga. and his brother. E. E. Dedge of Milltown, Berrien county, were arrested by United States secret service men and  brought to Valdosta to-day, charged with being implicated in the disposal of counterfeiting $10 gold pieces.
    The former was given a perliminary hearing before United States Commissioner Roy E. Powell and bound over under a bond of $4,000. The warrant against the latter was dismissed.
    Dr. J. R. Dedge was arrested by Special Treasury Agent J. M. Wright and Postoffice Inspector Brittain, at the home of his father in Appling county at a late hour last night, while E. E. Dedge was taken into custody by Deputy Marshals J. M. Sutton and D. H. Riley at Milltown.
    When the former was arrested the officers said a small box containing ten spurious  $10 gold pieces was found in his overcoat pocket and these coins were exhibited as evidence against the accused at the hearing in the afternoon. Their workmanship is pronounced by the officers as about the best they saw. The coins apparently are made of a white metal plated with gold and could be readily passed as genuine on a person who happened not to notice them carefully. Their greatest defect is their light weight, two of them weighing but little more than our genuine coin weighs.
    The case against D. Dedge was worked up by Inspector Brittain. On the stand he stated that the box of coins, which he has received through the mails addressed to the  accused at Douglas, Ga. had been ordered forwarded to Nicholls. The inspector’s attention was called to it by the post-master and his assistants, whose suspicions had been aroused in some manner. The inspector opened the box and carried it to the deputy collector’s office at Macon, where it was exhibited to Collector Storrs.

The Dedge brothers were from a family of dentists who figured prominently Wiregrass history.  They were involved in a number of currency schemes or other frauds, not the least of which was the Wild Man of the Wiregrass.

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Mayor Lyman F. Giddens Brings Electric Plant to Ray City ~ 1922

Ray City Light Plant - September 18, 1923

Ray City Light Plant – September 18, 1923

On July 21, 1922 the Atlanta Journal Constitution;

Ray City to Install Electric Light Plant

Milltown, Ga., July 21. –(Special.)  Ray City is soon to have electric lights and waterworks.

Mayor L. F. Giddens has closed the contract with McGraw & Co., of Thomasville, to put in the plant. All material is bought and expected any day. Work has begun on wiring the homes, and this part of the work will be completed by August 1.

The contract also has been let for boring a well near the dam, and the city will be piped as soon as possible, to give the people both electric lights and waterworks. They will own their own hydro-electric plant.

Bonds have been sold to take care of the expense. 

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Rhoda Futch Knight

News item in the previous post referred to S.J. Knight’s attendance at the funeral of Mrs. George Washington Knight.  Census data and family records show that  George W. Knight was the uncle of  Sullivan Jordan Knight, so Mrs. Geo. W. Knight  was S. J. Knight’s aunt.  Her maiden name was Rhoda Futch, she was a daughter of John Malcom Futch and  Phoebe Mathis. The Valdosta Daily Times provided the following obituary:

Valdosta Daily Times  Jan 6, 1909
Mrs. Knight Dead
Prominent and Aged Lady Dies in Berrien County

     Milltown, Ga.,  Jan 5 — Mrs. Rhoda Knight died at her home in Ray’s Mill district on Monday morning shortly after one o’clock from a choking in her breast.

Mrs. Knight was as well as usual until Sunday morning when the pain came in her breast. Dr. Talley was sent for and remained at her bedside until she died, doing every thing possible to relieve her.

    Mrs. Knight was sixty-three years of age, and was a devout member of the Primitive Baptist church at Empire. Before her marriage to Mr. Knight she was Miss Rhoda Futch, and leaves the following sisters: Mrs. Polly Webb, Mrs. Bettie Green, Mrs. Margarette Swindle, and Mrs. Rachel Allen.  She leaves a husband besides the following children: Mrs. Nancy Sirmans, Mrs. Phoebe Rowan, Mrs. Fannie Rowan, Mrs. Cora Cook, Mrs. Miza Watson and Messrs. L.J., D.A, and P.T. Knight.

Grave of Rhoda Futch Knight, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Rhoda Futch Knight, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Children of Rhoda Futch  and George Washington Knight:

  1. Nancy Elizabeth Knight 1866 – 1938
  2. Phoebe America Knight 1868 – 1953; married James Henry Rowan June 17, 1886
  3. Lucius John Knight 1871 – 1933
  4. Orville A. Knight 1874 – 1950
  5. Perry Thomas Knight 1877 – 1955
  6. Fannie A. Knight 1879 – 1941
  7. Cora Malissa Knight 1882 – 1941
  8. Mary Luannie Knight 1885 – 1887
  9. Miza Ellen Knight 1887 – 1945

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Nathan W. Byrd (1808 – 1881)

Ray City History
Current research subject: Nathan W. Byrd (1808 – 1881)

According to the histories of Folks Huxford, Nathan W. Byrd was a mail carrier on the postal route serving Ray’s Mill, GA in the peoriod after the civil war. The 1876 records of the U.S. Congress show that Nathan W. Byrd put in a bid to carry the mail on the route from Nashville, GA to Allapaha, GA that year. The route was awarded to William J. Nelson of Allapaha, who was contracted to provide the mail service for $190 per year. That sum would equate to about $49,300 in 2009 dollars.

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