Bessie Johnson: Lady in Red

Bessie G. Johnson (1911-2005), a daughter of Chloe Gardner and James Howard Pascal Johnson, came to Ray City, GA with her parents some time before 1918. She grew to womanhood in Ray City and on August 15, 1932 married Robert Lawton LeSueur from Americus, Georgia.

There is a family story concerning Bessie as a young bride,  “about a red dress she once had when she first married Robert Lawton LeSueur from Americus, Georgia.  Gramma Bess bought a red dress from the local clothier back in the day. Granddaddy Lawton made her return it because ‘she was too beautiful in it.’ He meant it. She never wore a red dress again.”

In a nod to the “lady in red”  an old photo of Bessie Johnson holding her brother, Maurice, was colorized to illustrate a family cookbook compiled few years ago.

Bessie Gardner Johnson with brother, Maurice Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Colorized photo of Bessie Gardner Johnson with brother, Maurice Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

From Julie Hutson’s Waiting on the Bread cookbook, comes a personal recipe of Bessie Gardner Johnson:

Bessie’s Squirrel Stew
Bess Johnson LeSueur’s infamous recipes! Not for the faint of heart!

ingredients

Squirrel Preparation:Dress three young squirrels and let soak for several hours in water with one tsp. salt. Transfer to pot, cover with water (add red pepper pod, if you have one) and bring to a boil. Simmer until meat is tender. Pull meat from bones. Strain liquid to avoid small bones. Put all together in pot.

Add:
2 cans of tomatoes
2 large onions (chopped fine)

DIRECTIONS
Cook Slowly for one hour, covered.
Add:
1.   Juice of one lemon

2.   dash of hot sauce

3.   1/2 stick oleo

4.   2-3 tblsp. Worcestershire sauce

5.   1 cup ketchup

6.   salt and pepper to taste

Let simmer 30 minutes. Add 1 can yellow creamed corn. Simmer a few minutes longer (about 10 minutes), stirring all the time to keep it from sticking. You may add more seasons, if you like. The longer it simmers, the better. If it is too thin, add some bread cubes. Serve with bread, pickles. slaw and potato chips.

Bessie Gardner Johnson LeSeur died on January 31, 2005.  Her obituary appeared in the Cordele Dispatch.

Bess Johnson

Bess Johnson

 

Cordele Dispatch
February 1, 2005
Cordele, GA

AMERICUS, GA.  Mrs. Bess Johnson LeSueur, 93, died Monday Jan. 31, 2005, at Magnolia Manor Nursing Center.  Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the chapel of Hancock Funeral Home with the Rev. Rusty Mauldin officiating.  Internment will follow in Oak Grove Cemetery.  The deacons of the First Baptist Church are requested to serve as honorary pallbearers.

Mrs. LeSueur, a native of Dupont, was born Aug. 1, 1911, a daughter of the late Joseph Henry Paschal Johnson and Chloe Ann Gardner Johnson.

Mrs. LeSueur, a loving mother and grandmother, was a member of the First Baptist Church, the Junior Service League and the Day Lily Garden Club. She was a member and past regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Council of Safety Chapter.

The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. today, Feb. 1, at Hancock Funeral Home.  Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society c/o Mrs. Ann Harris, 1801 Rose Ave., Americus GA 31709 or to First Baptist Church, 211 S. Lee St., Americus GA 31709

Survivors include a daughter, JoAnn LeSueur Chappell of Americus; a son Ronald Carey LeSueur of Florida; a daughter-in-law, Claudia Sims LeSueur of Americus; two brother and sisters-in-law, Bruce and Myrtle Johnson of Callahan, Fla., and Maurice and Frances Johnson of Carrollton; grandchildren, Michele and Tommy Holman of Canton, Camille Swain of Woodstock, Robert Lawton LeSueur III, William McCall Calhoun Jr., Anne Davis and Mary Calhoun, all of Americus and Virginia and James Morton of Athens.

30

Chloe Johnson’s Bible and Census Records

Chloe Gardner Johnson, long time resident of Ray City and member of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, GA kept a record of birth dates in her family bible.

Chloe Johnson's Family Bible page showing birth dates. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Chloe Johnson’s Family Bible page showing birth dates. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Joseph H. P. Johnson
and
Cloe A Johnson
was married Dec. 17th 1899

JHP Johnson
was born Feb. 22 – 1869

Cloe A. Johnson
was born Nove. 17 – 1879

Roan Glenn Johnson
was born Nove 17 – 1901

Joseph Wallace Johnson
was born April 23 – 1903

Mildred Lee Johnson
was born Jan. 12, 1905

Floyd Bennett Johnson
was born Sept 16 – 1906

E. Lawton Walker Johnson
was born June 14 – 190

James Howard Pascal Johnson
was born July 31 – 1918

Robert Bruce Johnson
was born Aug – 14 – 1919

Maurice Johnson
was born May 28 – 1922

Bat Johnson
Born Jan 5, 1914

Bess Johnson
Born Aug 1 1912

 Cloe and Joe

In the summer of 1900, the newlyweds Chloe Gardner and Joseph Henry Pascal  “Joe” Johnson were enumerated in DuPont, GA where they were renting a house.  J.H.P Johnson was working as a merchant while Chloe kept house. Six months earlier they had been married at the Methodist church there in DuPont  (see Family of Chloe Gardner Johnson.)   Note the spelling of the bride’s name in the census enumeration,  “Cloe”.   Family members report, “Chloe didn’t pronounce her name like the traditional way, she pronounced it ‘Chlo’. And apparently was pretty insistent on it being pronounced that way!” 

1900 census enumeration of Joseph and Chloe Johnson, DuPont District, Clinch County, GA.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph and Chloe Johnson, DuPont District, Clinch County, GA.

http://www.archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu188unit#page/n480/mode/1up

The 1910 census enumeration found Chloe and Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson in the town of DuPont, Georgia Militia District 128o, Clinch County, GA. The census taker’s notations are somewhat confusing, but appear to indicate that JHP Johnson was a farmer and that Chloe and their young sons, Rowan “Glenn” Johnson and Joseph “Wallace” Johnson, assisted with the farm labor. By 1910, other children in the Johnson household included Floyd Johnson, Lawton “Walker” Johnson and Mildred Johnson.

1910 census enumeration of J.H.P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Dupont Town, Clinch County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of J.H.P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Dupont Town, Clinch County, GA.

http://www.archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po176unit#page/n1140/mode/1up

 Before the 14th Census, 1920, Chloe and “Joe” H. P. Johnson had moved near Ray City, GA arriving there some time before 1918.  It was around this time that JHP’s stepmother, Caroline “Carrie” Daye Johnson, passed away, his father had died in 1904.  The Johnsons owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage, located on one of the “settlement roads” near Ray City.  Rowan Glenn Johnson, their eldest son, was employed as a salesman in retail drugs. Local histories say  son Wallace Johnson was working for the Bank of Rays Mill by age 14, which would have been circa 1917. But the 1920 census does not document his employment. In the later 1920s, Wallace Johnson worked as an assistant cashier at the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

1920 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Berrien County, GA.

1920 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Berrien County, GA.

http://www.archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n323/mode/1up

By  1930, Chloe and  “Joe” H. P. Johnson had one of the finest homesteads in the Ray City, GA area, owning a home was valued at $6000. In all of Ray City and the Rays Mill District, only E.M. Hun Knight had a place of equal value.  Although they lived in town, Chloe was still a “farm woman” and attended the 1931 summer course for Farm Women at Camp Wilkins, UGA in 1931.

1930 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson in the Rays Mill Precinct, Berrien County, GA.

1930 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson in the Rays Mill Precinct, Berrien County, GA.

Ray City School 1934

Ray City School, 1934

The Ray City School held a junior high school rating until 1936, when it became an accredited senior high school.

Ray City School class photos from 1934. Identifications needed.

Ray City School 4th Grade Class Photo, Believed to be Spring 1934. Photo was inscribed on back " Mildred's 4th Grade Class, Ray City School." The reference may be to Mildred Clements, who graduated in 1939.

Ray City School 4th Grade Class Photo, Believed to be Spring 1934. Photo was inscribed on back ” Mildred’s 4th Grade Class, Ray City School.” The reference may be to Mildred Clements, who graduated in 1939.  Image courtesy of Edith Mayo.

A 1934 newspaper article on Ray City included the following information about the school.

The city of Ray City affords every convenience and comfort for the citizens of the community.  There is a fine school system, which is under the capable and efficient supervision of Prof. P. M. Shultz.  Prof. Ulmer Crosby is principal, and the other teachers are:  Mrs. P. M. Shultz, Miss Jessie Aycock, Mrs. A.B. Baskins, Miss Lillian Ford and Mrs. Eulalie Dickson.

The school has nine grades, with an enrollment of a few over the two hundred mark.  A number of fine students complete the school each year, advancing to higher institutions of learning.  The school system in Ray City is really a big asset, (illegible) a higher type of citizenry.

The school board is composed of the following gentlemen who handle their duties in a most admirable manner and of benefit to patrons and students combined.  H.A. Swindle, chairman, M.A. Studstill, sec.-treasl., C.H. Vickers, J.M. Studstill and W.M. Creech, members.

Ray City School, 1934, Grades 4 and 5. Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of Edith Mayo.

Ray City School, 1934, Grades 4 and 5. Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Teacher, Jessie Aycock. Image courtesy of Edith Mayo.

Ray City School, Ray City, GA. 1934 6th Grade Class. Lillian Ford, Teacher. (Top Row, L to R) Belle Garner, Thelma Sirmans, Velma Wood, Frances Sirmans, Geraldine Brown, Lounelle Futch. (2nd Row) Sarah Hunter, Monafaye Swindle, Hazel Futch, Helen Dubose, D'Ree Yawn. (Bottom Row) H. Cox, Lawson Fountain, Dan St?, Robert Hunter, James "Skinny" Holliday, Morris Johnson.

Ray City School, Ray City, GA. 1934 6th Grade Class. Lillian Ford, Teacher. (Top Row, L to R) Belle Garner, Thelma Sirmans, Velma Wood, Frances Sirmans, Geraldine Brown, Lounelle Futch. (2nd Row) Sarah Hunter, Monafaye Swindle, Hazel Futch, Helen Dubose, D’Ree Yawn. (Bottom Row) H. Cox, Lawson Fountain, Dan St?, Robert Hunter, James “Skinny” Holliday, Morris Johnson.

Ray City School, 1934, Grades 7 and 8. Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Ray City School, 1934, Grades 7 and 8. Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Boy at top left, Earl Pafford Swindle. Front row, second from right is believed to be Robert Bruce Johnson.

1934 Ray City School, Girls Basketball Team. (Left to Right) Front Row: Johnnie Sirmans, Grace Clements, Louise Paulk, Winona Holiday. Back Row: Helen DuBose, Clyde Carter, Jinnie Johnson, Helen Swindle, Virginia Studstill.

1934 Ray City School, Girls Basketball Team. (Left to Right) Front Row: Johnnie Sirmans, Grace Clements, Louise Paulk, Winona Holiday. Back Row: Helen DuBose, Clyde Carter, Jimmie Johnson, Helen Swindle, Virginia Studstill.

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Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata

In 1939 the Ray City School Glee Club gave a Christmas Cantata with many students and teachers participating.

Ray City School, circa 1949. The school building was originally constructed in 1922.

Ray City School, circa 1949. The school building was originally constructed in 1922.

The Nashville Herald, December 14, 1939

Ray City School Glee Club to Give Christmas Cantata

      Ray City High School Glee Club will present a Christmas Cantata, “Memories of Bethlehem,” (Holton), on Wednesday evening, December 20, at 8 o’clock in the high school auditorium.  The glee club will be assisted by Miss Josephine Collier, pianist; contralto, Mrs. Rudolph Zeigler (Martha Ernestine Cantrell Ziegler); soprano, Mrs. Garth Webb, and Miss Hazel Tabor.

      Members of the club appearing on the program will be:

      Sopranos and altos:

      Peggy Carter, Annie Ruth Clements, Juanelle Clements, Marjorie Garner, Frencholyn Guthrie, Myrtle Hendry, Alma Luke, Evelyn Moore, Victoria Sirmans, Pauline Skinner, Juanelle Starling, Carolyn Swindle, Allen Yaun.

      Baritones and basses:

      Roy Carter, Hugh Clements, Hubert Comer, Billy Guthrie, Morris Johnson, Bruce Knight, Harold Moore, Ronald Parrish, Hubert Starling, Jack Vickers, Lamar Weaver.

      The Symphonet Band, which has been organized since October, will play for the processional.  They are: 

      Lamar Hardy, Fain Guthrie, Ferrell Herring, Barbara Swindle, Annie Martha Grisset, Lois Burkhalter, Kenneth Cameron, Billy Creech, Casswell Yaun, Bob Starling, Sadie Griner, Wylda Starling.

      Ushers for the occasion will be Helen Scarboro and Betty Garner.  Candle lighters will be Robert Martin, Rudolph Scarboro, Bill Gray, Harvey Wood.

      Wise men will be Hilda Sirmans and Doris Mobley.

1939 Class Seniors, Ray City School. Miss Tabor, Teacher. Pictured are Annie Ruth Clements, Elizabeth Weaver, Mona Faye Swindle, D'Ree Yawn, Hazel Sirmans, Doris Forehand, and J.D. Carter.

1939 Class Seniors, Ray City School. Miss Tabor, Teacher. Pictured are Annie Ruth Clements, Elizabeth Weaver, Mona Faye Swindle, D’Ree Yawn, Hazel Sirmans, Doris Forehand, and J.D. Carter.

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