Berrien County Paid Terrible Toll on the Otranto

When the troopship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918 near the end of World War I,  Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead were dozens of soldiers from Berrien.  For weeks news of the disaster trickled into American newspapers. Facts were sketchy at best –  In some cases, soldiers who perished in the sinking were incorrectly reported as survivors. The article below incorrectly reported the Irish coast as the site of the sinking. In actuality, the ship went down off the coast of the Isle of Islay, Scotland.  It would nearly two months before the names of the lost were known to the folks at home…

Atlanta Constitution
November 28, 1918

Berrien County Paid Big Toll On The Otranto

Nashville, Ga., November 27.- (Special.) – Berrien county paid a terrible toll in the loss of her young men when the ill-fated Otranto went down off the Irish coast a few weeks ago [October 6, 1918];  in today’s list seven new names of dead from here were added the to already heavy toll.  The names of the dead in today’s list include:

Joe Wheeler, son of John Wheeler, of this city; Lester Handcock, son of Joe Handcock, of Enigma;
William P. Hays, father unknown [George Robert Hayes, died 1914], of Enigma; James M. McMillen, son of Jake McMillen, of Alapaha; Ben F. McCranie, son of Neil McCranie, of Adel. Mr. McCranie had heretofore lost his son-in-law, Gordon Flowers, killed in action some weeks ago. Shelby [Shellie] L. Webb, son of Thomas Webb, of Ray City; Arthur Harper, son of Peter Harper, of Alapaha.
     Those Berrien county boys reported lost prior to this report include Jim Boyett, son of Jack Boyett, of Milltown; Guy Coppage, son of Guy G. Coppage, of Cecil; Lafayette Gaskins, son of Bart Gaskins, of Ray City; Bennie E. Griner, son of Ben Griner, of this city; Robert J. Hancock, son of J. J. Hancock, of Lenox, George H. Hutto, son of Luke Hutto, of Adel; Mack Easters, son of Benjamin Easters, of Lenox; George B. Faircloth, son of Colon Easters, of Milltown; Thomas H. Holland, son of K. H. Holland, of Adel; Ralph Knight, son of Walt Knight, of Ray City; William McMillen, son of B. [Burrell] McMillen of Enigma; John F. Moor, son of Frank Moor, of Adel; Charley Railey, son of John Railey, of Alapaha; William C. Zeigler, son of J. W. [Jesse] Zeigler, of Sparks; Thomas J. Sirmans, son of Mose Sirmans, of this city; Richard [Rufus] Davis, father unknown [Elisha E. Davis].
     The dead from this accident bring Berrien county’s total to about 45 fatalities from all causes during the war. Based upon population, this county has undoubtedly suffered greater loss in men dead than any other county in this state, because of so many of her boys on board the Otranto.  The people here will take steps to preserve the memory of these boys by appropriate construction on the public square, it is said.

Atlanta Constitution, November 28, 1918 - Berrien County Paid Big Toll on the Otranto

Atlanta Constitution, November 28, 1918 – Berrien County Paid Big Toll on the Otranto

 

Otranto Stories in Ray City History

Big Thumb McCranie was First Postmaster of Lowndes

On this date, one hundred and eighty-five years ago, March 27, 1827, the first post office in Lowndes County was established at the home of Daniel McCranie on the Coffee Road. The McCranie post office, situated on the only real “road” in the county, was perhaps a fifty mile round trip  from the point to the east where Levi J. Knight settled, at present day Ray City, GA.

Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie had come to this area of south Georgia in the winter of 1824 or 1825. This was before Lowndes County was created out of parts of Irwin County, and about the same time that William Anderson Knight brought his family from Wayne County. Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie, ‘of full Scottish blood and fiery temper,’ was known to still wear a kilt on certain occasions.

Did Daniel McCranie have Brachydactyly?
His nickname, ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie, might indicate that Daniel McCranie had brachydactyly type D, a genetic condition that affects 1 out of a 1000 people, commonly known as clubbed thumb or toe thumb. Brachdactyly captivated the attention of the entertainment media in 2009-10, when movie star and superbowl headliner Megan Fox was identified with this condition. The word brachydactyly comes from the Greek terms brachy and daktylos. “Literally, what it means is short finger,” says Dr. Steven Beldner, a hand surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center.  “The nail of the thumb in this condition is often very short and wide.”  “It is usually hereditary,” Beldner explains. “Although it could also have been caused by frostbite, or it could have been an injury to the growth plate in childhood.” Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/brace-megan-fox-imperfection-actress-thumbs-article-1.196125#ixzz1qGndhWsv

McCranie, Daniel 1772-1854

Daniel ‘Big Thumb’ McCranie was born in North Carolina in 1772, a son of Catherine Shaw and Daniel McCranie, R.S.  His father had immigrated to North Carolina from Scotland and fought with the Cumberland County Militia during the American Revolution.

About 1793, young Daniel McCranie married  Sarah McMillan, daughter of Malcolm McMillan of Robeson County, N. C.

To Daniel and Sarah were born:

  1. Neil E. McCranie, born 1794, married Rebecca Monroe. Moved to Florida.
  2. Mary McCranie, born 1795, married John Lindsey, son of Thomas Lindsey.
  3. John McCranie, born 1797, married Christiana Morrison, daughter of John Morrison.
  4. Daniel McCranie, born 1800, married Winnie Lindsey, daughter of Thomas Lindsey.
  5. Malcolm McCranie, born 1802, married Elizabeth Parrish, daughter of Henry Parrish.
  6. Duncan McCranie, born 1805, married (unknown). Lived in Liberty Co.
  7. Nancy McCranie, born 1808, married Robert N. Parrish.
  8. Archibald McCranie, born 1810, married a cousin, Nancy McMillan.
  9. William McCranie born 1812, married Melvina Beasley, daughter of Elijah Beasley.
  10. Elizabeth McCranie, born 1815, married Sampson G. Williams

Daniel McCranie’s parents moved from Robeson County, North Carolina, to Bulloch County, GA about 1800 and shortly thereafter, Daniel and Sarah also brought their family to Georgia, moving to Montgomery county sometime before 1802.   He was a Justice of the Inferior Court of Montgomery County and was commissioned Jan. 17, 1822.

It was on December 23 of that year, 1822, that the Georgia General Assembly appropriated $1500.00 for construction of  a frontier road to run from a point on the Alapaha river to the Florida Line.  General John E. Coffee and Thomas Swain were appointed “to superintend the opening of the road,  to commence on the Alapaha at or near Cunningham’s Ford” and running to the Florida line near the “Oclockney”  river. The route, which became known as Coffee’s Road, was an important for supply line to the Florida Territory for military actions against Indians in the Creek Wars, but also quickly became a path for settlers moving into the south Georgia area.

In a previous post (see Pennywell Folsom fell at Brushy Creek), historian Montgomery M. Folsom’s  described General Coffee’s ‘road cutters’, his hunters Isham Jordan and Kenneth Swain, and the Wiregrass pioneers that honored them with song.  Isham Jordan, along with Burrell Henry Bailey and others had worked to survey and mark the first public roads in Irwin County.

About Coffee’s Road,

“This road was a great thoroughfare and many a hardy settler has packed his traps in a cart drawn by a tough pony, and driving his flocks and herds before him has traversed the lonely pine barrens in search of a more generous soil and greener pastures.”

About 1824,  Daniel and Sarah McCranie moved their family from Montgomery County and settled on Coffee’s Road in the lower section of Irwin County .  The place where they settled was Lot of Land No 416 in the 9th district of Irwin County. In 1825 this section of Irwin was cut off into the new county of Lowndes.  (In 1856, this property was cut into Berrien, and in 1918 into Cook County.)

The McCranie’s home served as the first post office in original Lowndes County. Known simply as  “Lowndes,”  the post office was established March 27,1827, with Daniel McCranie as the first postmaster. That arrangement lasted only a year, as the following year the Lowndes county seat was established in the new town of Franklinville, GA. The post office was moved to Franklinville and William Smith became the new postmaster (see Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers).

In the Indian War in 1836,  Daniel McCranie provided forage for the local militia. It is said that five of McCranie’s sons fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek, serving in Captain Hamilton W. Sharpe’s Company, of the Georgia Militia. The Battle of Brushy Creek, was among the last military actions against Native Americans in this area.

Sarah McCranie died about 1842. Her grave is the earliest known burial in Wilkes Cemetery.  Following her death, Daniel McCranie  married Mrs. Kittie  Holmes Paige in 1844. She was the widow of James Paige of Jefferson County, GA.  Kitty Holmes was born Jan. 2, 1802, in Duplin County, N. C., and moved with her parents to Washington County, GA, in 1812.  In 1818 she married Silas Godwin and by him had one son, S. B. Godwin, who became a resident of Berrien County. After divorcing  Silas Godwin she had  married James Paige of Jefferson County, Ga., and lived with him twenty years until his death. By James Paige she had two children, one of whom, Allen Paige, became a resident of Lowndes County.

Kitty joined Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church, Lowndes (now (Berrien) County on October 17, 1850.  A month later Daniel joined, on November 16, 1850.

Daniel McCranie died in 1854 and was buried in the Wilkes Cemetery in present Cook County. After his death, Kittie left Pleasant Church for New Salem Church, Adel, Georgia.  Kittie McCranie died in 1889 and was buried beside Daniel at Wilkes Cemetery.

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