Elder Orville Augustus Knight (1874-1950)

Elder Orville Augustus Knight (1874-1950)

Orvil A. Knight with his first wife, Ellen Cook, and daughters Callie (middle) and Cordia (right.)  Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Orvil A. Knight with his first wife, Ellen Cook, and daughters Callie (middle) and Cordia (right.) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Orville Augustus Knight was a son Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight.  He was born and raised in Berrien County in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Rays Mill District.  For twenty years or more O. A. Knight made his home near Ray City, GA, and most of his life he  was engaged in farming on his own account.  He became a member of Empire Church, a few miles northeast of Ray City,  and in 1915 at the age of 41 was ordained as an Elder of the Primitive Baptist faith.   In 1925, Orville A. Knight became pastor of Union Church near Lakeland, GA. His great grandfather, William Anderson Knight, had served 100 years earlier as the original pastor of Union Church. That year he also served as pastor at his home church, Empire.

Orville A. Knight was first married in 1892 to Mary Ellen Cook (1876-1939). She was a daughter of John Jasper Cook and Lucretia Sirmans, and sibling of Aaron Cook and Charlotte Cook. Following her death, Knight was married a second time in 1939 to Mrs. Margaret Texas “Maggie” Overstreet. She was the widow of James Willis Overstreet, and a daughter of Elbert Mathis and Martha Susan “Mattie” Pounds.

Children of Orville Augustus Knight and Mary Ellen Cook:

  1. Callie R Knight (1893 – 1914)
  2. Cordie B Knight (1895 – 1965)
  3. Dollie Knight (1898 – 1899)
  4. Lonnie Alvin Knight (1900 – 1978)
  5. Lola E Knight (1905 – )
  6. Willie Ernest Knight (1906 – 1969)
  7. George Selman Knight (1909 – 1917)
  8. Myrtle Knight (1913 – 1980)

From “Gospel Appeal:”  Elder Orville A. Knight was born February 28, 1874, in Berrien County, Georgia, and passed away at his home in Valdosta, Ga., Dec 27, 1950.

Orville A. Knight united with Empire Church, Berrien County, Ga., on July 22, 1909.  He was baptized by Elder W. H. Parrish.  On Nov. 27, 1915, he was ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry.  Elders forming the presbytery for his ordination were I. A. Wetherington, H. W. Parrish, B. L. Starling, and A. A. Knight.

Elder Knight was called to serve his home church, Empire, in 1925 and over the years of his ministry also served as pastor of Ramah, Prospect, Olive Leaf, Bethany (Arabia), Unity, Cat Creek, Wayfare (Cow Creek),  Ben James, Union (Burnt Church), Providence and other churches.

In 1903, Elder T. R. Crawford wrote in the Goodwill of his impressions of Elder Knight and described him as “one of the most loved, esteemed, honored and respected servants of the most High God that has ever graced the pulpit of the churches of the deep south.”

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Year of the Tiger

In Wiregrass Georgia, 1849 may have been the Year of the Tiger.  Several previous posts have related the story of the Berrien Tiger, a large panther which attacked Jim Hightower (aka James Stewart, step-son of Thomas B. Stewart) near the Alapaha River in 1849 (see Eyewitness Accounts of the Berrien Tiger).

Here is a family story shared by reader Lloyd Harris, of another “Tiger”  encounter which occurred that same year near Argyle, GA, about 35 miles east of Ray City.

When I was young my grandfather related a long ago memory of his grandfather’s encounter with a panther or panthers in the south Georgia wilderness. Our family story coincides with the Berrien Tiger accounts as they happened at approximately the same time. My great great grandfather, James Harris, told this story of his own childhood to my grandad when he was young.

James Harris, 1880s

James Harris, 1880s. Image courtesy of Lloyd Harris.

The  incident happened when James Harris was about five years old, and coincides with the 1849 date of the Berrien Tiger.

Family of James Harris

James Harris was the first of eleven children born to George Harris and Julia Ann Westberry. He was born near Quitman, Georgia, February 16, 1844. 

His father, George Harris, was the son of Thompson Harris (1784-1870) and Nancy Ursery (1784-  )   A Confederate Widow’s Indigent Pension application for Julia Ann (Westberry) Harris in 1908 reflects George Harris’ birth in 1817 in South Carolina. Another source relates that he was born in Appling County, Georgia between 1817 and 1822, after which the family lived in Clinch County.  George was a blacksmith and in addition assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges. His father’s work was known throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. A trademark of their bridges was the integrated use of iron and bored wooden pegs to hold the timbers together.

George was a blacksmith and wheelwright. Family tradition relates that he assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

The church records of Union Church show that George and Julia Harris were received and baptized into its membership August 7, 1841, and were dismissed by letter March 12,1842. They became members of Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844. Their subsequent records cannot be traced due to the loss of church records.

The Harris home and farm in Clinch County, Georgia was on lot 325 in the 7th District which lot was traversed by the county line between Clinch and Ware Counties when Clinch was created in 1850 from Ware County. This property is situated about three miles north of the present village of Argyle. George Harris was granted this lot from the state on June 3, 1849; also granted the adjoining lot 324 on October 3, 1848. He sold lot 324 to his brother, William Harris, November 2, 1849, and then lived on lot 325 until he sold that parcel of land to Richard Bennett on August 12, 1852.

Tale of the Panthers

There is a family tale handed down through many generations relating to frontier life. The event happened in 1849 during the time the Harris family was residing in Clinch County. George Harris was away leaving his wife Julia and the children home alone in a pioneer homestead. Speculation would be that he was away with his father building bridges or hunting. During one night panthers roaming from the nearby Okefenokee swamp menaced the home ranging closer and closer to the cabin. To keep the predators from entering the home the frantic family prayed through the night and burned their beds, and chairs keeping a large fire going. The tactic flushed the space with light and served to repel an attack by the curious cats.

The Harris family story of a young pioneer family praying, hanging blankets over windows, and burning the bed, tables and chairs was passed down serving to entertain several generations with a true historical drama of frontier Georgia living in the nineteenth century.

George and James Harris in the Civil War

George Harris  and his son James both served in the War Between the States. George  Harris enlisted as a Private in the fall of 1862 as a member of the 3rd Cavalry Battalion which was formed during the winter of 1861-1862 with six companies. He along with his unit served on the Georgia coast, scouting and patrolling, until a reorganization of troops occurred on January 1, 1863.  George Harris’ unit was merged into the 4th (Clinch’s) Georgia Cavalry Regiment , and he was placed in Company I. Lieutenant Colonel Duncan L. Clinch and Major John L. Harris were in command.

At the reorganization,  James Harris joined his father’s unit, Company I, 4th Georgia Cavalry as a private.  He participated in the Battle of Olustee, Florida and in the battles around Atlanta. Family tradition relates he contracted measles during the siege of Atlanta and was in the city when it fell to the Union armies under General William T. Sherman. His unit apparently left him outside of the city but in the line of the advancing enemy soldiers. James was convalescing on a farm (place unknown) when “Yankees” were seen approaching. He was hidden by the host family in the stump of a huge oak tree that had “bushed” up. James remained concealed in the oak bush throughout the hot summer day until the Yankees left. Though suffering from sickness, and within a stones throw of the Union soldiers, he remained quite and motionless evading capture! Records also indicate he participated in battle at John’s Island, South Carolina. He surrendered at Thomasville, Georgia and was paroled at Tallahassee, Florida on May 15, 1865.

After the war James Harris married Mary Alice Stone.  She was born February 16, 1842, the daughter of George W. R. Stone and Nancy Howell. The Harris and Stone families are listed in the 1850 Census of Ware County.  James and Alice raised a family and engaged in farming near Adel, GA in present Cook County. He was a skilled blacksmith and wheelwright, as well. James Harris is listed in the 1880 and 1900 census of Berrien County, Georgia.

For James Harris, 1897 was a particularly trying year.  That summer a hailstorm hit the Harris farm, damaging his house and property.

James Harris' plantation hit by storm, 1897.

James Harris’ plantation hit by storm, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
June 18, 1897

Storm Near Cecil.

Cicil, Ga., June 12. – A heavy and damaging hail storm passed three miles north of Cecil late yesterday afternoon.  The cloud traveled in a southeasterly direction, touching the plantation of Mr. James Harris, three miles northeast of this place.  The storm was accompanied by a terrific wind, which destroyed a large amount of Mr. Harris’ fencing and a portion of the roof of his dwelling.  No deaths or personal injuries have been reported.

In November, 1897,  Harris took another blow when his gin was burned down.

James Harris' gin house hit by fire, 1897.

James Harris’ gin house hit by fire, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1897

Gin House Burned

Cecil, Ga., Nov. 17 – At a late hour last night the gin house and contents of Mr. James Harris living two miles northeast of this place, was destroyed by fire. The origin of which is unknown, but is thought to be an incendiary’s work. The amount of the damage could not be learned to-day, but it is thought that it may exceed $1,000. SHEBA.

James’ father, George Harris,  died between 1892 and 1894 in Echols County, Georgia. His mother, Julia Ann Harris, applied for a Confederate Widows pension in 1908 and 1909 in Berrien County, Georgia. George Harris and his wife are buried in Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Lanier County, Georgia in unmarked graves.

In 1919, James Harris sold his farm near Cecil, GA.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

 

Tifton Gazette
August 29, 1919

    Adel News.  There has been a good deal of activity in the sale of farm lands in Cook county this week.  Mr. W. S. Kirkland sold his farm to Mr. Jim Buck Whiddon and later bought Mr. John Taylor’s place which he also sold.  It is understood that the first brought $15,00.  Both of the places are in the Brushy creek neighborhood.  Mr. James Harris sold his place in the Cecil district to Mr. General Taylor for $15,000 also.

James Harris was a resident of Cecil, Georgia in Berrien/Cook County until his death. He died in Adel, Georgia December 12, 1928.   Alice died October 28, 1928, in Adel Georgia.  They are both buried at the Fellowship Baptist Church Cemetery in Cook County near Cecil, Georgia.

Rjames-harris-gravesite

Special thanks to Lloyd Harris for the contribution of images and content for this post.

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Knights Come to Lowndes County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 a group of Revolutionary War “Baby Boomers” came west from Wayne County, Georgia to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the area that would one day become known as Ray City, Georgia.  They were  politically connected and probably had full knowledge that the huge area of Irwin county, occupying the central third of the southern Georgia, was about to be divided into smaller counties.

Among the leaders of this small band of settlers were William Anderson Knight and wife Sarah Cone Knight, his brother Samuel Knight, and his son-in-law Isben Giddens. They brought with them their families, children, livestock, and their possessions to make a new home in the new county of Lowndes, which was created from parts of Irwin County in 1826. These pioneers were experienced at opening up a new county. They were frontiersmen with militia experience, and also experienced at carving farms and plantations from the wilderness of the Wiregrass. In a sense, they were the first ‘Americans’, born between the time of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. They were raised in a time of war; their fathers served as Revolutionary Soldiers. Like the baby boomers of later wars, they grew up in a sort of post-war boom period, where Americans were celebrating their new-found independence and freedom.

The Knights were true Wiregrass pioneers. They came to this section from Wayne County, where William A. Knight had been among the very first settlers, arriving there about 1803. The Knight’s Wayne County place was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the earliest roads in Georgia. On the land adjacent to Knight’s, another Wiregrass pioneer, William Clements, had settled his family.  The Knights and the Clements became steadfast friends with many family and business dealings; William Knight and William Clements served together on the Wayne county Grand Jury of 1813 and worked together in other civic capacities.

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

The Old Post Road…was originally an Indian trail extending from St. Augustine, Florida, northward through south Georgia into the rolling country known as the Sand Hill section. Mitchell’s map of 1756, now in the Library of Congress in Washington, shows this trail. During the Revolutionary War the American forces marched along it on their way to attack a British contingent at Fort Tonyn, which was somewhere south of [U.S. Hwy 84]. Historians have not been able to determine the exact site. The road continued to be used as a stagecoach route and post road between Savannah and Florida until the War between the States.

When Wayne County had been created in 1803, William A. Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The Wayne county seat became known as Tuckersville, after resident John Tucker who served as the first postmaster there. (Waynesville was not officially designated as the county seat until 1829.) William A. Knight served as a post master after John Tucker, and William Clements served as a Wayne County road commissioner. Tuckersville  was located  somewhere north of Waynesville on the Post Road near the Buffalo Swamp, once the home and feeding grounds of herds of Georgia buffalo. The town disappeared from maps after 1850 and its exact location remains a mystery. wayne-historic-marker In its first twenty years, Wayne County was slow in developing.  William A. Knight served as the tax collector for 1806 and 1807, but no monies were returned to the state Comptroller General’s office for those years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia “The area contained hundreds of acres of pine barrens and wiregrass country. Much of the land was undesirable for settlement… Many of the early white settlers were families who, having lost their bids to win richer land in Baldwin or Wilkinson counties in the 1805 land lottery, settled for the isolation and less desirable land offered by Wayne County.”   Perhaps the lack of economic development in Wayne County finally discouraged the Knights. For whatever reason, it appears they decided there were better opportunities in opening up a new county than remaining behind in Wayne County.

As a member of the state Legislature, William A. Knight undoubtedly knew of the impending division of the vast Irwin County into smaller counties. The military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 had opened up the south central Georgia territory to pioneer settlers (see Daniel McCranie). Coffee’s road, as it was soon known, passed from Jacksonville, GA through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line.

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

When the Knights left their farms and came to south central Georgia to build their “log cabin in the wilds of the Wiregrass”, this area of Georgia was all part of the huge Irwin county. Lowndes was created from 2080 square miles carved out of Irwin, which had been plotted into Land Districts. Located on the center of Georgia’s southern border with Florida, Lowndes was still a quite large county. It would later be further divided into six present day counties; Lowndes, Brooks, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Lanier, and Berrien counties.

William Anderson Knight chose a home site on the northwest edge of Grand Bay in what was soon to be Lowndes County. This area, in the 10th land district of Irwin County, had good water and better soil than the typical pine barrens of Wayne County. It was situated between the Alapaha River to the east and the Withlacoochee and its tributaries to the west.

Children of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone:

  1. Thomas Knight, born February 6, 1799
  2. Kezia Knight, born November 20, 1801
  3. Levi J. Knight, born September 1, 1803
  4. William Cone “Big Billie” Knight, born October 8, 1805, married Rachel Carter, daughter of Jessie Carter.
  5. John Knight, born July 7, 1807
  6. Sarah Knight, born October 10, 1809
  7. Elizabeth Knight, born September 23, 1811
  8. Aaron Knight, born July 17, 1813
  9. Jonathan Knight, born January 16, 1817

William A. Knight’s place was near the route, such as it was, from Waynesville to Thomasville, GA. About nine miles to the west was Coffee’s Road; equidistant to the east was the site of Union Church, the Primitive Baptist church organized in 1825 by Reverend Fleming Bates and Reverend Matthew Albritton with the Knights, Pattens, Lees and Sirmans as founding members.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Knight and Union Church played a significant role in the rapid growth of Primitive Baptist churches throughout the Wiregrass region.  Union Church was at the head of the local organization of these churches into a Primitive Baptist Association, then known as the Ochlocknee Association. In 1833, Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association.  On July 13, 1833, William A. Knight along with Fleming Bates and John Tucker formed the presbytery to constitute Providence Church in “East Florida, Columbia County on Olustee,” according to the original minutes of that church.

By 1835,& when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee Primitive Baptist Association.

The Knight’s were influential in the development of Lowndes county from the very beginning, from the  convening of the first superior court to the representation in state politics. William A. Knight became the first state senator elected from Lowndes county to serve in the Georgia Assembly, and his son Jonathan Knight became the first state representative.

Following his parents , Levi J. Knight  brought his new bride, Ann Clements Herrin Knight, to homestead in Lowndes County in 1827. Anne was the daughter of the Knights’ Wayne County neighbors,  William and Elizabeth Clements.  L. J. Knight chose a spot not far from Grand Bay, on Beaverdam Creek,   where he established his  home site.  Perhaps even then he saw that the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek could some day be impounded to provide water power for a settlement.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community, first known simply as Knight, GA that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

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