Reward Offered for Confederate Deserters

The first commercial activity at Ray City arose during the Civil War when Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray constructed  a millpond and grist mill on Beaverdam Creek in Berrien County, GA. Captain Levi J. Knight, an old Indian fighter, raised the first company of Confederate soldiers to go forth from Berrien County, the Berrien Minute Men.

After enlisting at Nashville, GA in 1861 the Berrien Minute Men mustered in near Savannah, GA as a company of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  Following this organization, Captain Knight resigned and the company came under the command of John C. Lamb.   In the first months after mustering in, the regiment trained and served picket duty on the Georgia coast.  They were stationed at a number of camps  on the coastal islands and marshes, first at Sapelo Battery, off the coast of Darien, GA, then in Chatham County, GA at Camp Tatnall, Camp Causton’s Bluff, Camp Debtford, Camp Mackey, and Camp Young.

At times the conditions in the Confederate camps of Chatham county were nearly intolerable. The weather was cold in the winter and hot and muggy in the summer.  Men were apt to become irritable. One soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment killed another over a game of marbles. Some men were bored with picket duty. Some were frustrated and longed for action. Others just longed to go home to their farms and families. At Camp Young the harsh realities of Army life in the field would test the commitment of volunteer soldiers in the 29th Georgia Regiment.

The likely location of Camp Young was on Wylly Island about eight miles southeast of Savannah , on a tract of 110 acres which had been acquired  by Judge  Levi Sheftall D’Lyon at some time prior to 1860.  Judge D’Lyon was a prominent citizen and city court judge of Savannah. He was also the father of Isaac Mordecai DeLyon and Leonorean DeLyon, who edited and published the South Georgia Watchman newspaper at Troupville, GA and later at Valdosta, GA.  Lenorean DeLyon is credited with giving Valdosta its name.    Judge D’Lyon himself was an enigma. He took great interest in supporting the Chatham Dispensary, “a free medical clinic and pharmacy for the poor.” He devoted much of his professional legal career to assisting free African-Americans in acquiring their own property, but he also profited from the business of buying and selling slaves.  In 1859 he called for a “vigilance committee for the better preservation of Southern Rights.” In 1861 he was acting as guardian for 48 “free persons of color” in Savannah, while at the same time working to establish a district court system in the new Confederate States of America.  In his will D’Lyon directed that five of his slaves be freed, but another 21 were sold in 1863 to liquidate his estate.

Wylly Island is a river island formed by a bifurcation of the Herb River.  According to a Civil War map of the defenses of Savannah,  Wylly Island was between Thunderbolt Battery, a Confederate artillery emplacement on St. Augustine Creek, and  Battery Daniels at Parkersburg on the Skidaway River.  Battery Daniels had several supporting batteries on the Herb River and Grimball’s Creek.

There is no remaining trace of these Confederate locations or of Camp Young. Some descriptions of Camp Young are found in the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight, son of Levi J. Knight.

At first, the Berrien Minute Men found fresh food was in short supply at Camp Young. Soldiers supplemented their camp diet either with food purchased in Savannah with their own money, or had food sent from home. William W. Knight’s  letter of January 4, 1863 written from Camp Young and addressed to his wife, Mary,  mentioned that fellow soldier J. P. Ponder had delivered a box of potatoes sent by her father. Knight wrote of being deployed without rations and of spoiled provisions – “blue beef that will stick to your hands equal to adhesive plaster.”  He asked her to send more potatoes, and pork if the weather was cold enough. Knight remarked on the high prices being gotten in Savannah for peanuts, corn, and bacon, and the shortage of bread. He also requested Mary send his mattress bed cover, iron shoe heels, “vial oil”, and carpet bag.

Deadly infectious diseases of all kinds were rampant in the crowded Confederate camps. The river delta land was low lying and prone to malaria. On February 28, 1862 Knight wrote, “We have a good many sick now with cold or pneumonia. Nineteen of our company on the sick list  this morning…” In early March, Knight himself was incapacitated by fever.

By mid-March soldiers’ letters home indicated that the supply of food at Camp Young was much improved.  But by the end of March Knight wrote of worsening weather conditions; “It is the worst time we have had this winter. The wind and rain from the North East. There is very little timber in that direct. It has all been cut down in front of the Batteries for over a mile.”

At Camp Young, the 29th Georgia Regiment  became part of a Brigade which also included the 25th and 30th Georgia Regiments, First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, and 4th Louisiana Battalion. In a Brief History of the Thirtieth Georgia Regiment, August Pitt Adamson, 1st Sergeant, Company E wrote about Camp Young:

Camp life at Savannah was far from being dull and was not at all monotonous.  Many little incident of a humorous nature occurred.  Sports of various kinds were engaged in, which were shared by both officers and men. Occasionally some of the boys would “run the blockade,” as it was called, and go to Savannah without leave, thus running the risk of being put upon double duty, or digging stumps, which were the usual punishments inflicted. One man of Company E [30th Regiment] could so well imitate the signature of the commanding officer, that he frequently gave himself and others leave to go to the city.  In such cases they always returned in time for drill, and but few knew of it. On one occasion at night, soon after we went to Savannah, a false alarm was given, the men were hastily aroused and called into line with their old flintlock guns; much confusion followed; some could not find their companies, some ran over stumps and against each other, and two or three of Company B fell into and old well, which was, however, very shallow, but they yelled loudly for help.  It was soon found to be a false alarm, gotten up by some of the officers to try the men and have some fun. We were provided good tents and, for the most part comfortably cared for, with plenty to eat, but some of the boys wanted a change of diet, and, discovering a flock of goats belonging to Judge De Lyon, a wealthy old gentleman who had a farm near the camps, the result was nearly all the goats disappeared, leaving the owner quite angry.  The boys would say the goats tried to run over them, and they had to act in self-defense.

While at Camp Young, William Knight reported the Berrien Minute Men  spent a great deal of the time in drill. They drilled in Company formation and as a Battalion and Brigade. When they weren’t drilling or on dress parade, they attended “Regimental School.” When they could get leave they went into Savannah to get personal provisions or to be entertained. When they couldn’t get leave some went absent without leave;  John W. Hagan wrote from Camp Young on March 19,  “I cannot get a pass to visit Savannah, and when I go I have to run the blockade and risk getting caught, but I will manage to slip the block.”

This is not to say the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th GA Regiment were idle.  Like the 30th Georgia Regiment and other units in their Brigade, they probably were engaged in the construction of fortifications, mounting artillery, and placing obstructions in the river channels.  They were certainly conducting picket duty, patrolling the islands below Savannah on the lookout for Federal scouts who might be probing the line of Confederate defenses around the city.  They made brief excursions by train into Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina to strengthen coastal defenses where Union forces threatened to attack.

The 29th Regiment remained at Camp Young through April; by May 12, 1863 they had rolled out to Jackson, MS in preparation for the Battle of Vicksburg. But before that departure, while stationed at Camp Young, twenty men of the 29th Georgia deserted the regiment. From the weeks and months the Special Order 15 was advertised, one can judge these were not men who just sneaked off to Savannah,  but were long gone.  Four of the deserters were from Company K, the Berrien Minute Men, including Elbert J. Chapman, Albert Douglas, Benjamin S. Garrett, and J. P. Ponder.

A reward of $30 was offered for each man  apprehended, $600 for the bunch.

Reward offered for capture of deserters from the 29th Georgia Regiment, Confederate States Army, including four deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, Company K. Advertised in the Savannah Republican newspaper.

Reward offered for capture of deserters from the 29th Georgia Regiment, Confederate States Army, including four deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, Company K. Advertised in the Savannah Republican newspaper.

$600 REWARD.
Headq’rs 29th Reg’t GA. Vols.,
Camp Young, near Savannah, March 12, 1863.
SPECIAL ORDERS,
No. 15.
Deserted from this Regiment at Camp near Savannah, the following named enlisted men:

      Private FREEMAN BRIDGES, Co. B, is 22 years of age, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches high, has dark complexion, black eyes and dark hair.   Enlisted in Franklin county, Ga.
      Private DAVID CLAY, Co. C, 28 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, has dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
Private JOSEPH W. SINGLETARY, Co. C., 38 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, sallow complexion, blue eyes, dark  hair. Enlisted at Thomas county, Ga.
Private PATRICK FITZGERALD, Co. E, 46 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair.  Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private EDWARD ROTCHFORD, Co. E, 45 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private JOHN MULLER, Co. E, 26 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, dark hair, dark complexion and dark eyes. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private DAVID WILLIAMS, Co, E, 40 years of age, 5 feet high, brown eyes, light brown hair, and reddish complexion. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.

     Private S. A. HALL, Co. F. 20 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  Enlisted at Thomasville, Ga.
     Private WM. HARVEY, Co. F, 45 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, gray hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     SYRE CHRISTIAN, Co. F, 40 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, light hair.  Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     JAMES M. TOHEL, Co. F, 85 years of age 5 feet 9 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, dark hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     Private C. R. OLIVER, Co. H, 29 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted at Stockton, Ga.
      Private J. R. JACOBS, Co. H. 22 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted at Stockton, Ga.
      Private F. F. F. GRIFFIN, Co. I, 40 years of age, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, black eyes, and dark hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
     Private N. P. GANDY, Co. I, 30 years of age, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
     Private WM. BARWICK, Co. I, 38 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, grey eyes.  Enlisted in Thomas County.
     Private ELBERT J. CHAPMAN, Co. K, 31 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, sandy hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private ALBERT DOUGLAS, Co. K, 32 years of age, 6 feet high, fair complexion, grey eyes, auburn hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private BENJAMIN S. GARRETT, Co. K, 25 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes, black hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private J. P. PONDER, Co. K, 31 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, sallow complexion, blue eyes, and sandy hair.  Enlisted at Savannah.

A reward of thirty dollars is offered for the apprehension of either of the above named men, delivered at these headquarters or confined in a safe jail.
By order of W. J. Young,
Col.Comd’g 29th Reg’t Ga. Vols.
Geo. P. McRee, AdjL

After deserting from the 29th Georgia Regiment:

  • Elbert J. Chapman fled to the west where he joined another unit and fought with determination. He was later charged with desertion from the 29th Georgia Regiment, court-martialed and executed by firing squad.  After the war, a pension for his indigent wife was denied.
  • Benjamin S. Garrett was later shot for being a spy.
  • Albert Douglas left the Berrien Minute Men “absent without leave” in December 1862 and was marked “deserted.”  There is no record that he ever returned to his unit.  In fact, there is no further record of him at all. He was not enumerated in the household of his wife and child in 1870, and in subsequent census records she is identified as a widow. There is no record she ever applied for a Confederate Widow’s Pension.  Although there is no record of his death or burial, it is presumed that Albert Douglas died while absent without leave.
  • J. P. Ponder left little historical record, other than the military muster rolls which document his enlistment and desertion. Even his name is confused, alternately given as Ponder or Powder  Both variations are listed in his Confederate military service records. The letters of William W. Knight indicate Ponder traveled back to Berrien county and returned to Camp Young in February 1863, and that Ponder was back in Berrien in March. In any case, it does not appear the man ever returned to the 29th Georgia Regiment.

Other Berrien County soldiers, such as N. M. McNabb who served with Company D, 12th Georgia Regiment, would be pressed into service to hunt fugitive deserters. According to a sworn statement by Mr. McNabb, “late in the year, perhaps September 1864, the Georgia Militia were  at Griffin, Ga Ordered by the Governor to stack arms and return home until further orders, which we did. After getting home, the Enrolling Officers here at home pressed us in to aid them in hunting Deserters.”

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A note on the Estate of William Anderson Knight

William Anderson Knight

William Anderson Knight, forefather of the large and influential Knight family of Wiregrass Georgia,  was among the earliest settlers of Lowndes County, GA and the first to settle at Grand Bay near the present day town of Ray City, GA. He and his wife, Sarah Cone Knight, were constituting members of the primitive baptist Union Church which became the mother church of all the primitive baptist congregations in this section of Georgia. He served as a state senator in the Georgia Assembly, and was the father of General Levi J. Knight. William Anderson Knight  died December 8, 1859, the settlement of his estate extending into the years of the Civil War.

Grave of William Anderson Knight, Union Church cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of William Anderson Knight, Union Church cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Allen Jones,  husband of Keziah Knight and son-in-law of William A. Knight,  secured a judgement against lands owned by Dr. John W. Turner to satisfy debts owed to the estate.

Savannah Daily Morning News, December 6, 1862. Transactions on the estate of William Anderson Knight.

Savannah Daily Morning News, December 6, 1862. Legal advertisement for property seizure to satisfy debts owed to the estate of William Anderson Knight.

Savannah Daily Morning News
December 6, 1862

Berrien Sheriff’s Sale

Will be sold, before the Court House door, in Nashville, Berrien county, on the first TUESDAY in January, within the legal hours of sale, the following property, to wit: Lots of Land No. 517, 496 and 497, in the Tenth District of said Berrien county, levied on as the property of John W. Turner, to satisfy a fi. fa. issued from the Superior Court of Clinch county, in favor of Allen Jones, who sues for the use of himself and the heirs of William A Knight, deceased. This November 12, 1862.  

nov 17         JOHN M. FUTCH, Sheriff

The land lots referenced in the legal advertisement were of 490 acres each.   Dr. Turner’s property was seized during the Civil War while he was serving as a private with the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.  At the time of the seizure, Turner was in Virginia in a hospital with smallpox.

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Sizemores’ First Teaching Job

Joe and Diane Sizemore
School-year 1952-53

Joe and Diane Sizemore, long time residents of Ray City, GA attended teachers college at Statesboro, GA and spent their first teaching in Irwin County.

Joe Sizemore, 1952, Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, GA

Joe Sizemore, 1952, Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, GA

 ~

Diane Sizemore, 1952, Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, GA

Diane Sizemore, 1952, Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, GA

Their first year out of Georgia Teachers College Joe and Diane went to Ocilla, GA where they taught school for the 1952-53 school year.  They moved into  a small, four unit apartment building located at 108 South Irwin Avenue, called the Teachers’ Building.  It was in downtown Ocilla where they could walk to shop. The hardware store was across the alley from their apartment.  They bought their first refrigerator there.

Joe and Diane Sizemore lived in this Ocilla, GA apartment building during their first year of teaching 1952-53.

Joe and Diane Sizemore lived in this Ocilla, GA apartment building during their first year of teaching 1952-53.

Joe got a job in the Ocilla city high  school; Diane was hired to teach  in one of the county schools.  The Ocilla position was highly recommended by Joe’s math professor at Statesboro, W. B. Moye, who knew the Irwin County School Superintendent.   Joe’s degree was in Exact Science. That first year he taught math and algebra and two study halls.

Joe Sizemore taught high school math at the Ocilla Public School, 1952-53

Joe Sizemore taught high school math at the Ocilla Public School, 1952-53. Image By Michael Rivera [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Diane taught 4th grade at the public school at Mystic, GA five miles west of Ocilla.  She rode to work every day with one of the other teachers. The Principal was Mr. Peavy; he had previously been pastor of the Baptist Church at Ray City, GA.

Mystic Public School, constructed 1928

Mystic Public School, constructed 1928. Diane Sizemore taught 4th grade at Mystic in 1952-53.

Even with two incomes, teaching didn’t pay enough for Joe & Diane to live on.  Joe took an extra job working on Saturdays at a grocery store so they could afford to eat. Still, they  saved enough of that money in the first semester to buy their first car at the end of the first semester.  One of the Ocilla teachers sold them a black Plymouth sedan, used but it looked like brand new.  When they went home to Nashville and Ray City for Christmas, both of their families were shocked to see them drive up in their own car.

But at Christmas, the Irwin County superintendent lost his bid for re-election and a new superintendent was elected. After that, their positions in Ocilla were uncertain and they decided to pursue other jobs.   When school closed for the summer, they moved to Quitman, GA and took teaching positions there.

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Georgia Prohibition – No Bottle in the House; No Soda at the Fount

Did Berrien’s own Jonathan P. Knight almost nix Coca Cola in Georgia? Knight grew up at Ray City, GA before moving to the Berrien county seat at Nashville. He was elected to Georgia Assembly first as state representative and later as state senator, and was known for his fiery activism against drinking. He was chairman of the Temperance Committee in the Georgia Senate and was outspoken about the prevalence of drinking in the very halls of the Georgia Assembly.

Jonathan Perry Knight, 1902.

Jonathan Perry Knight, 1902.

J. P. Knight, of Berrien was among the foremost champions for statewide prohibition on the sale of liquor, which was passed in Georgia in July 1907.  Knight didn’t think the law went far enough and was among the first to point out that the law contained very large loopholes, namely, that liquor could continue to be served in social clubs where members kept their own stock in private lockers.  Knight’s bill introduced July 17, 1907 was aimed at closing this loophole.

1907-jul-17-jp-knight-pushed-prohibition

Knight to Present Bill to Banish Club Lockers

Those of the clubmen of Georgia who boast a convivial liking for the cocktail, the highball, or the mint julep, as the particular taste may dictate, and have been consoling themselves with the fond belief that, after all, prohibition would not mean such a hardship forthem, as at the worst they would be able to keep their well-stocked lockers, where they would always be easy of access, have a rude jar coming to them, if Senator Knight of the sixth district, chairman of the temperance committee of the upper house, has his way.
     The former representative from Berrien has in his desk a bill the purpose of which is to declare that any place in which liquors are kept for sale or use, whether by individuals or corporations, is a tippling house, and consequently in violation of the prohibition bill which he expects to see entered on the statute books of Georgia.
     If this bill is passed, it will not only be illegal for clubs to supply their members with drinks, but it will be impossible for them to provide lockers in which members may keep their own liquors and mixing materials.  It will then be possible for a man to get a drink only within the confines of his own home.

But some thought the state prohibition laws were too tight – Prohibition could have ended the sales of soft drinks in Georgia as well as alcoholic beverages.

Ocala Star, July 17, 1907 reports J.P. Knight's bill for prohibition

Ocala Star, July 17, 1907 reports J.P. Knight’s bill for prohibition

Ocala Florida
Thursday July 18, 1907

GEORGIA WILL BE A GEM

———–

Of Purest Ray Serene in Prohibition’s Diadem

———-

No Bottle in the House; No Soda at the Fount – The People will be proper to Climb Zion’s Happy Mount

Atlanta, July 16. – Senator J. P. Knight, of the seventh, from Berrien county, chairman of the state temperance committee, says he will introduce a bill tomorrow, not only to prevent the sale of liquor in private clubs but to make it a misdemeanor for any member of any club to keep a bottle in his private locker.  He thinks there is no question about its going through along with state prohibition.


Soft Drinks Will be Scarce

Atlanta, July 16. – It is claimed if the state prohibition bill passes practically all the soft drinks manufactured Georgia will have to go out of business. A small quantity of alcohol is required for the purpose of preserving the syrups, which are the basis of them, and with state prohibition in effect it will be impossible to secure it. – Savannah News.

Georgia’s prohibition law went into effect in 1908, although Knight’s proposal to tighten the prohibition  was not adopted.  For a while at least, alcohol remained available in Georgia’s social clubs, and while the presence of alcohol in sodas became widely known, the demand for soft drinks soared under Prohibition and ever after.

1907-aug-1-bainbridge-dem-prohibition-and-soda

“SOFT DRINKS.”

     Apropos of prohibition, word comes from Washington that the Internal Revenue Bureau has discovered that in many of the so-called soft drinks dispensed from soda fountains there is present alcohol in larger percent than in the same sized drink of beer.
     If the man with the soft thirst could take a deep draught from the onyx covered receptables in which certain extracts and essences are concealed in soda fountains, he would consume a drink probably from 40 to 60 percent alcohol. With the addition of fizz and the other things that are artfully welded to make a soft drink the precentage is cut down considerably.
    Local druggists, it is said, may expect to hear that the internal revenue officers have determined that mixers of these extracts and essences with carbonated water shall pay taxes for the privilege of competing with the regular bars. The internal revenue laws says that before a man may mix a drink containing alcohol he must take out a rectifier’s license.
    Now the soda water man takes essences, extracts and syrups containing alcohol, and adds water to taste to produce a beverage, and is rumored that the internal revenue commissioners will be instructed to issue rules so worded to compel druggists who desire to use the alcoholic essences to become rectifiers and also retail dealers in spirits.
     It is claimed that in some soft drinks served from soda fountains there appears 4 percent of alcohol, while beer is claimed to contain less than 3 percent.  Most of the soda fountains in Bainbridge, however, use almost entirely the fruit juices, which contain not more than a fraction of 1 percent of alcohol.
     Druggists state, however, that some extracts are still used and that in some of them the “spike” is two-thirds of the entire fluid. A small drink of the pure extract would serve much the same purpose as several mint juleps and gin rickeys mixed in the regular bars.

The Georgia legislature turned its attention to taxing the “bring your own bottle” clubs,  thus preserving the revenue of the state, the privilege of the wealthy, the future of Coca Cola, and the appearance of temperance for the lower classes.

For a time the legislature offered the “wets” some loopholes—near-beer saloons serving low-alcohol drinks were permitted, as were alcoholic beverages in locker-clubs—but these were closed in 1915. Georgia ratified the Eighteenth Amendment for national prohibition three years later. It did not vote for repeal of national prohibition, but after that occurred, Georgia repealed its own statewide prohibition in 1935. –New Georgia Encyclopedia

Even after the passage of national Prohibition, the Demon Alcoholmoonshine liquor, the kind that simply makes a man forget himself and everything else – was widely available in south Georgia, and public drunkenness in Ray City led to “free fights and a good deal of threatening and a considerable amount of gun play.” It must have been a personal embarrassment to Jonathan Perry Knight that in his own home county of Berrien the consumption of alcohol remained so rampant.

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Old Ray’s Mill in 1978

Ray’s Mill Founders Day, November 7, 1863
Ray City, Berrien County, GA

The gristmill at Beaverdam Creek commenced operation on November 7, 1863.  Then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill, the construction was a collaboration between Thomas M. Ray and his father-in-law, Levi J. Knight.

1978 photograph of Ray's Mill, Ray City, GA

1978 photograph of Ray’s Mill, Ray City, GA. Kids used roof of Ray’s Mill to slide into pond.

 

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Boyette Sisters at Georgia State Womens College

Dorothy and Doris Boyette at Georgia State Womans College

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA. 1945

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA. 1945

 

In 1944, Doris Boyette was a senior at GSWC and her younger sister,  Dorothy “Dot” Boyette was a freshman.  Doris was born 27 Oct 1923; Dot was born May 14, 1926. The girls grew up just east of Ray City, GA, in the adjacent portion of Lanier County. Their parents were Eddie D. Boyette  and Mattie Deen Boyette.

At GSWC, Doris was living in Ashley Hall,  a dormitory for sophomores; her roommate was Clare Carson, who was president of the sophomore class.

October 4, 1944 GSWC Campus Canopy mentions petite blond Dorothy "Doris" Boyette, of Ray City, GA

October 4, 1944 GSWC Campus Canopy mentions petite blond Doris Boyette, of Ray City, GA

Among the Boyette’s 1945 classmates was Carolyn DeVane, also of Ray City, GA. There have been many other Ray City women of G.S.W.C. over the years.

Ashley Hall, Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA 1845

Ashley Hall, Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA 1845

 

The girls’ activities in 1944-45 included the Polio Drive, scrap paper salvage, planting the Camellia Trail, and dancing with those men from Moody Airfield.  The May 9, 1944 edition of the Campus Canopy student newspaper reported. “It’s boy trouble for Dot Boyette…which of the four do you intend dating Sunday night, Dot? – Gee, we wish we could get one date. ”

1945 women of GSWC at Saturday night dance with the men from Moody Airfield.

1945 women of GSWC at Saturday night dance with the men from Moody Airfield.

The October 4, 1944 school newspaper reported:

“There they were, standing all alone just waiting for us to ask them to dance…Men, men and more men and not one of them had a chance.
    To quote one Freshman, Ann Maddox, “It was wonderful just to look at a man.”
    The dance was swell, but that familiar tap on another’s shoulder could mean one of two things…height of ecstacy or depths of despair…’til the next girl broke. This from Lawanda McCellar, as if she were just tearing herself away from it all.
    “Course I wished my fella had been there,” sighed Mary Tharpe, but what chance would I have had with him if he had been.”
    Annes Jean NeSmith summed it all up in a few words…”Plenty of men, good dancers, nice plausible lines, and I can hardly wait ’til next Saturday night.”
    “I’m still overcome by the sight of those men, to express an honest opinion.” says Betsy Markert still in a daze.
    “All in all the opinion of Converse is that it was wonderful and everybody had a good time, but give us men. We see women all week, is the general idea.
    Favorable opinions were not limited to the college girls though. Several of the Moody Field boys were carefully eavesdropped on. Result: “I just can’t believe it, so many girls. If I were to write my mother and say 15 girls cut in on me she would say I was crazy drunk, or lying.”

The hit songs those college girls were swooning to in 1944-45?  The Campus Canopy mentioned:

In 1945, Dorothy Boyett was elected treasurer of the Baptist Student Union.  In the Winter Quarter, 1945 Dorothy “Dot” Boyette was elected to the Sophomore Council.  “Members of the house council check lights, cards and attend the simple cases of Student Government violation. They are elected at the beginning of each quarter to serve a term of three months.”  Dot Boyett also served on the advertising staff and the business staff of the Campus Canopy.

By late 1945 Dorothy Boyette left Georgia State Womans College and was working in Brunswick, GA.

Dot married Charles Gordon Howell. He was a grandson of Caswell Howell, pioneer settler and one of the first ministers of the First Baptist Church of Lakeland, GA. Dot and Charles raised crops and children in Lakeland, GA. Their son, Charles Howell, Jr. became Chief of Pediatric Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia. Their grandson, Charles Howell III, is a professional golfer.  Dorothy Boyette died June 2,1985. Interrment was at Lakeland City Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Doris Boyette married John Sears and moved to Atlanta, GA.

Obituary of Doris Boyette Sears

Doris Doris Boyett Sears age 87, of Atlanta, GA, passed on Sunday, June 26, 2011. She was predeceased by her husband, John Sears, daughter, Susan Elaine Sears, sisters, Irene B. Smith and Dorothy B. Howell. She is survived by her daughter, Pamela McKinney of Lawrenceville, sister, Louise Davidson of Bonaire, GA, brother, Earl Boyett of Lakeland, GA. 2 grandchildren, Robert Morris and Jennifer Shelton, 4 great grandchildren, Kayla Shelton, Savannah Shelton, Avri Shelton and Joshua Morris, numerous nieces and nephews, cousins and extended family also survive. Mrs. Sears was a charter member of the Johns Creek Baptist Church, a member of the Senior Choir, a Food Pantry Volunteer and an avid Gardner. A Funeral Service to Celebrate the Life of Mrs. Sears will be at 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, June 30, 2011 at Wages Lawrenceville Chapel. Interment will follow in the White Chapel Memorial Gardens, Duluth.

More Ray City Women of G.S.W.C

West Hall, Georgia State Womans College, 1945

West Hall, Georgia State Womans College, 1945

From 1922 to 1950 the state college in Valdosta, GA was known as Georgia State Womans College (now know as Valdosta State University”.  A number of Ray City women who attended the college during this period were featured in a previous post. Here are a few more who appeared in available yearbooks:

Doris and Dot Boyette were daughters of Eddie D. Boyette  and Mattie Deen Boyette. Their home was in Lanier County, just east of Ray City.

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Doris Boyett, of Ray City, GA, 1942 sophomore at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyette

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Dorothy Boyett, of Ray City, GA. 1945 sophomore at Georgia State Womans College, Valdosta, GA

Carolyn DeVane was a daughter of Caulie A Devane and Alma L. Albritton. She grew up in the Lois community just west of Ray City, GA.

Carolyn DeVane, 1945, Freshman

Carolyn DeVane, 1945, Freshman

Marian Hambrick, sister of Thera Hambrick, was a daughter of Ruth and John O. Hambrick. Her family’s place was in the Cat Creek community, just southwest of Ray City.

Marian Hambrick, 1941, Freshman

Marian Hambrick, 1941, Freshman

 

Louise Paulk was a daughter of  Gladys Daniels and James M. Paulk. Her father died when she was a toddler and her mother remarried Hun Knight. Her step-father was the owner of the Mayhaw Lake amusement park at Ray City.  Her half-brother was Jack Knight, who attended college at Valdosta after the school went co-educational.

Louise Paulk, 1939, GSWC

Louise Paulk, 1939, GSWC

Marilyn Faye Weaver was a daughter of John W. Weaver and Irene Guthrie. The Weaver farm was just east of Ray City in the 1300 Georgia Militia District in Lanier County, GA.

1949-marilyn-weaver-GSWC

Marilyn Weaver, 1949, freshman at Georgia State Womans College.

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Richard McGowen, Slave Boy of Ray City

Richard McGowen, Slave Boy of Ray City

Richard McGowan (or McGowen), an African-American resident of the Ray City area for nearly 80 years, was born into slavery in Duplin County, NC about 1845.

Research on the ancestry of Richard McGowan conducted by Bryan Shaw resulted in an outline which in large part formed the material of this blog post.  Special thanks to Bryan for his contributions. His sources were the Will of William M. McGowan, Jr. 1792; U.S. Census records from 1790 through 1920 from Duplin County, North Carolina, and Berrien County, Georgia; also the Slave Schedule of 1850, 1866 Duplin County Cohabitation Record, tax digests of Berrien County, Georgia, and the estate papers of Hardeman Sirmans. Additional sources for this post include the 1860 Census  Schedule of Slave Inhabitants of Berrien County, GA; 1866 Marriage of Freed People, Duplin County; 1867 Berrien County Loyalty Oath and Voter Registrations; 1894 Colored Voter Registration, Rays Mill, GA; Roots, rocks and recollections by Nell Patten Roquemore, and the 1930 U.S. Census records of Berrien County, GA.  Information which is stated as fact is documented, and presented as most likely or probably. That which is conjecture is presented as a possibility. The history is presented in chronological order.

The McGowan Family

The origins of the family of the slave boy, Richard McGowan had their roots in Duplin County, North Carolina. Richard McGowan is believed to be the descendant of slaves owned by the William M. McGowan, Jr. family of that county.  Willliam M. McGowan, Jr. was born about 1745, son of William McGowen, Sr. of New Hanover County, North Carolina. William Jr. married Mary Dickson in 1767, and by their union they had 10 children: David (c1770), John (c1772), William (c1773), Robert (c1775), Edward (c1777), Michael (c1779), James (c1781), Joseph (c1782), George (c1789), and Alexander (c1790).

William McGowan, Jr. purchased and settled on land in the Grove Creek Swamp area between today’s Kenansville, North Carolina and North East Cape Fear River, north of Highway 24. One biography suggests his land was south of the swamp, however the McGowen African-American cemetery with many unmarked graves is located on the north side of the swamp, between Highway 11 and Sarecta on the Sarecta Road (GPS Coordinates: 34.810733 N 77.996659 W ). The white McGowen family (sometimes spelled McGowan or McGowin) owned hundreds if not thousands of acres of land in Duplin and Hanover counties, NC.  Based on the small number of slaves owned, it does not appear that they had large tracts of land under cultivation.This was consistent with most North Carolina farmers at that time.

William McGowan, Jr.  died in 1792, leaving a will dated October 5, 1792. The will of William M. McGowan, Jr. divided his estate among his children, including the slaves he owned at the time. He willed that his estate be kept together including the slaves until his children were schooled, and all of his debts were satisfied. However he did specifically identify one of his slaves, Will, to be included in son John’s portion of the estate. He also left a “negro wench named Roze” to his wife Mary. He also “lent” her one negro boy named Dick and one negro girl named Nancy, both to be divided amongst the children upon Mary’s death. His will states all his slaves who were not otherwise identified should also go to Mary to work his estate until his affairs were settled, and to be sold off as his minor children reached the age of majority or were married. Was this boy named Dick the son of Will and the grandfather of Richard “Dick” McGowan?

Thus, following the death of William McGowan, Jr. his children and widow continued as landowners and slaveholders in Duplin County, NC. In the 1800 census, son John McGowen is shown  as the owner of 12 slaves.  Son William McGowen owned 5 slaves, son Robert McGowen owned 4 slaves, and widow Mary McGowan owned 11 slaves.

By 1810, John McGowen had 13 slaves, William McGowen had 8 slaves, Mary McGowan had 9 slaves, and James McGowen had 3 slaves.

In the 1820 census, James McGowen had no slaves, Robert McGowen had 13 slaves, and William McGowen had 3 slaves.

By 1850,  the only McGowen slave owners in Duplin County were the sons of William M. McGowan, Jr.: William McGowen, James P. McGowen, and Joseph McGowen.

On the 1850 Census Slave Schedule, Joseph McGowen owned 26 slaves enumerated  as: a female 65, female 58, male 45, male 44, female 39, male 37, male 26, female 24, female 22, male 19, male 18, male 17, male 16, male 15, female 14, female 14, male 14, male 11, female 7, male 6, female 5, male 5, female 3, female 2, male 2, and a female 9 months. James P. McGowen owned 3 slaves – female 50, male 7, and male 3, and William McGowen owned 1 slave, male 18.

In addition to the slaves enumerated in 1850 in the possession of the McGowens,  it appears that two slave boys, Richard and Peter, had been sold by James, Joseph or William McGowan to a Duplin County neighbor, James Dobson.  James Dobson could have purchased the slave boys from any of the three McGowens, but the most likely would be Joseph McGowen as he had the largest slave population.

Marriages of the McGowan Slaves and the Parents of Slave boy Richard McGowan

The parentage of the slave boys Peter and Richard McGowan cannot be stated with certainty.  Records of the Freedman’s Bureau in post-bellum Duplin County, NC provide evidence that their parents may have been McGowen slaves named Thomas and Malvina.

As an almost universal condition of slavery, the slaves of the William M. McGowan family were denied the civil and religious convention of marriage. According to Reginald Washington, African American genealogy specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration, “Slave marriages had neither legal standing nor protection from the abuses and restrictions imposed on them by slaveowners. Slave husbands and wives, without legal recourse, could be separated or sold at their master’s will. Couples who resided on different plantations were allowed to visit only with the consent of their owners. Slaves often married without the benefit of clergy, and as historian John Blassingame states, “the marriage ceremony in most cases consisted of the slaves simply getting the master’s permission and moving into a cabin together.”

Almost immediately after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, federal authorities decreed that marriages of enslaved African-Americans were legitimate and had legal standing.  In some areas the newly created Freedman’s Bureau began issuing marriage licenses to former slaves. Within a year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation providing for the recognition of the marriages of former slaves.  According to Learn NC“The North Carolina office of the Freedmen’s Bureau published announcements outlining the provisions of the law: Any couple who appeared before a Justice of the Peace or Clerk of the Court and stated when they began living together as husband and wife, would be issued a certificate and would be considered lawfully married. Bureau officers worked to make all freedmen in their districts aware of the new rules and of the deadlines for complying with them. In response, tens of thousands of freed couples reported their marriages to county courts.”

On August 18, 1866,  two former slaves giving their names as Thomas McGowen and Malvina McGowen went before the court of Duplin County, NC  for “Acknowledgement” of their marriage  and registered their date of “commencement” as 1826.

Records of Thomas McGowan in the 1866 Marriage of Freed People, Duplin County, NC

Records of Thomas McGowen in the 1866 Marriage of Freed People, Duplin County, NC

There was also another Thomas McGowen in Duplin County who, on August 11, 1866, registered his marriage to Malvina Pearsall.  For this couple, the date of “commencement” was 1855. This Thomas McGowen appears to be the possible son of Thomas and Malvina McGowen who “commenced” their marriage in 1826. An interesting note about this couple is that in the 1870 U.S. Census they are living on or near the farm of John Quincy McGowen and Alexander D. McGowen, sons of Joseph McGowen and grandsons of William M. McGowan.

Was the older Thomas McGowen actually the father of Richard “Dick” McGowan? It is certainly a possibility.

The Dobson Connection

The first slave owner who can be identified with a high degree of certainty as having owned the slave boy Richard McGowan is James Dobson, of Duplin County, NC.  James Dobson was a son of Hezekiah and Elizabeth Davis Dobson. The Dobson property was just to the southeast of the lands owned by the descendants of William M. McGowan, near Kenansville, NC.  In fact, the Dobson Family cemetery is east of Kenansville on the south side of Highway 24 just east of North Dobson Chapel Road.

The 1850 Slave Schedule for Duplin County enumerated the six slaves owned by James Dobson as: a  female 27, male 12, male 10, male 8 (probably Peter McGowan), male 6 (probably Richard “Dick” McGowan), and a male age 2.  That same year, James Dobson moved his family and slaves to that section of  Lowndes County, Georgia which was later cut into Berrien County.  About that same time, a number of families were relocating “from Duplin to Lowndes. Among these families were those of William J. Lamb, James Carroll, Jesse Carroll, William Godfrey, Andrew J. Liles, William Best, James W. Dixon and others. These all settled in or around the village then called Alapaha but now named Lakeland, Lanier County.”  Among others coming from Duplin to Berrien in the mid-century were Robert Rouse, William Hill Boyett, John Bostick, Treasy Boyett Bostick and Mary C. Bostick.

James Dobson settled his family and slaves on land lot 333 of the 10th District, just west of Ten Mile Creek in what is now Lanier County. The 1856 Berrien County Tax Digest shows James Dobson owning 7 slaves, with a total value of approximately $4500. That same year, November 11, 1856, Dobson sold two negro boys, Peter, about 13 years old, and Dick, about 11 years old, to Hardeman Sirmans who lived on the connecting land lot number 339 near present day Ray City, GA. In a bill of sale in possession of the Berrien Historical Foundation, James Dobson warrants that the two boys are of sound body and mind. The sale price was $1900.

1856 Slave Bill of Sale<br> Bill of Sale from James Dobson to Hardeman Sirmans for tw.o slave boys, Dick and Peter, dated November 11, 1856. Image courtesy of the Berrien County Historical Foundation.

1856 Slave Bill of Sale
Bill of Sale from James Dobson to Hardeman Sirmans for two slave boys, Dick and Peter, dated November 11, 1856. Image courtesy of the Berrien County Historical Foundation.

Received of Hardeman Sirmons One thousand nine hundred dollars in full payment for two negro boys, one named Peter about thirteen years old the other named Dick about eleven years old which negroes I warrant to be sound and healthy both in body and mind and I further warrant and  defend the right and titles from of the aforesaid negro boys from and against the claim or claims of myself my heirs executors administrators and assigns and from the claim of all and any other person in witness whereof I the said James Dobson have herewith set my hand and seal this 11th day of November 1856.

James Dobson

The Sirmans Connection

The slave boy Richard McGowan was purchased by Hardeman Sirmans on November 11, 1856.  This was just days before  Berrien county was created from lands cut out of Lowndes County, GA including the lands of Hardeman Sirmans which lay just north of present day Ray City, GA.  By the time Berrien County was created, Hardeman Sirmans was already a prominent citizen of the area.  According to historian 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. 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 was the brother of  Rachel Sirmans Mattox; she was the widow of Samuel Mattox who was hanged at Troupville in 1843. In 1847, Hardeman Sirmans married Elizabeth Knight,  eldest daughter of General Levi J. Knight.  General Knight was a neighbor of Mr. Sirmans and the original settler of Ray City.

The 1860 Census Schedule of Slave Inhabitants in Berrien County, GA shows Hardeman Sirmans owned three slaves: Male Mulatto, 25; Male Black, 16 (probably Peter McGowan); Male Black, 14 (probably Richard McGowan). The Slave schedule showed Sirmans provided one “slave house” for his slaves. None of his slaves had escaped and none had been freed.

1860 Census schedule of slave inhabitants of Berrien County, GA enumerating the slaves owned by Hardeman Sirmans.

1860 Census schedule of slave inhabitants of Berrien County, GA enumerating the slaves owned by Hardeman Sirmans.
https://archive.org/stream/acpl_slavecensus_01_reel01#page/n134/mode/1up

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Hardeman Sirmans, a State Militia veteran of the Indian Wars, enlisted in the Confederate Army with the Clinch County Greys. Sirmans spent most of the Civil War in South Georgia patrolling the southern counties in search of deserters. He probably had opportunities to visit his farm and oversee it to some degree. It appears that Richard McGowan remained with the Sirmans throughout the duration of the War.

Hardeman Sirmans Home just north of Ray City, about 1910. The photo was taken after the death of Hardeman, however his wife, Betsy Knight Sirmans is seated at the table, center. Photo courtesy of Patricia Sirmans Miller and the Berrien County Historical Foundation http://berriencountyga.com/

Hardeman Sirmans Home just north of Ray City, GA about 1910. The photo was taken after the death of Hardeman, however his wife, Betsy Knight Sirmans is seated at the table, center. Photo courtesy of Patricia Sirmans Miller and the Berrien County Historical Foundation http://berriencountyga.com/

Richard McGowan, Freedman

After the war, Richard McGowan remained on the Hardeman Sirmans place. The 1867 Berrien County tax digest shows the “Freedman” Richard McGowan was self-employed and that he paid the $1.00 poll tax.  The Reconstruction Act of 1867  allowed all freedmen the right to vote and required states to draft documents providing for black male suffrage. But the poll tax quickly became a device for disenfranchising black voters.  It was not until 1966 that Supreme Court rulings on the Twenty-fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964, outlawed the use of this tax (or any other tax) as a pre-condition for voting in federal or state elections.

It seems odd, but former slaves could exercise their civil right to vote they were also required to take the same Oath of Allegiance as former Confederate soldiers.   Among 0ther former slaves of Berrien County who took the Oath of Allegiance were Moses Riley, Edward Ross, William Adams, Joseph Wilcox, Timothy Wilcox, Edmund Jones, James A. Adams, Alexander Wright, Allen Lewis, Richard Lewis, John Smith, Seaborn Hubbard, Rolin Alexander, Edward Swain, Benjamin Neasmith, Thomas Udderback, Richard Morehead, Henry Brown, John Thomas, George Houston, Frank Head, Hilliard Armstead, Samuel Rose, Jacob Thomas, William Watts, Aaron Wright, Austin Freeman, Daniel Freeman, Madison Daniels, Sandy Thomas, Andrew Wilson, and Thomas Howard.

1867 Oath of Allegiance completed by Richard McGowen in Berrien County, GA.

1867 Oath of Allegiance completed by Richard McGowan in Berrien County, GA.

State of Georgia
County of Berrien

Personally appeared before me this 22nd day of July, 1867, Richard McGowan who states that he resides in the 3d Election Precinct of Berrien County, Georgia, and who makes oath as follows:

“I Richard McGowan do solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a citizen of the State of Georgia; that I have resided in said State for 19 years months next preceding this day, and now reside in the County of Berrien in said State; that I am 21 years old; that I have not been disfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States, nor for felony committed against the laws of any State or the United States; that I have never been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any executive or judicial office in any State, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof; that I have never taken an oath as a member of Congress of the United States, or as an officer of the United States, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof; that I will faithfully support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, encourage others so to do. So help me, God.”

The said Richard McGowan further swears that he has not been previously registered under the provisions of “An act supplementary to ‘an act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States’ – passed March 2, 1867 – and to facilitate restoration,” under this or any other name, in this or any other Election District; and further, that he was born in ______ and naturalized by ___________ on the day of ________________,18__ in the ___________

Richard McGowan

Sworn to and subscribed before me date precinct & county aforesaid

A. Marochetti
Register of the Sixth Registration District

The 1870 census shows Richard McGowan, 23, and another African-American man,  Tony Smith, 24, residing at the Sirmans residence.  Both men were working as farm laborers.

1870 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1870 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA
https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n453/mode/1up

About 1871, Richard had met and married Sally Thomas and they started their family with the birth of their son, Billy followed by Jesse, Henry, Aaron, and Minerva.

What became of the slave boy Peter is not known, however the 1870 census lists a Peter McGowen, age 80 and his wife Polly, age 60, living nearby.  Furthermore, an 1867 Oath of Allegiance and voter registration  completed by a Peter McGowan in Berrien County indicates he came from North Carolina to Georgia around 1849. This may be the father or relative of Peter and Richard McGowan, as he would have been about 55 at the time of Richard’s birth. The 1870 Census shows Polly was born in Georgia and the 1880 Census records her birthplace as South Carolina; either way she is most likely not kin to the boys.

By the 1880 census Richard, age 30 (probably 34) and Sally, 25 were still living near the Sirmans and Knight family farms, but in a separate household in Enumeration District 1144.

1880 Census enumeration of Richard McGowen and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1880 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA
https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n380/mode/1up

There is no 1890 census record of Richard McGowan; most of the 11th census records were lost after a 1921 fire, and a series of tragic missteps in the record handling left nothing. However, Richard McGowan is listed in the 1894  Colored Voter Registration for Ray’s Mill, GA, indicating that he  remained in the community.

The 1900 census lists the members of the Richard McGowan household as: Richard, age 66 born July, 1833 (probably 54 and born c1845); Sallie, age 55 born March, 1845 (probably 45 and born c1855); Minerva, age 25 born February, 1875; Barney age 9 born March, 1891; Maggie, age 7 born December, 1892; Charlie, age 5 born December, 1894; Fannie, age 3 born March, 1897; and Richard Jr., age 7 months born October, 1899. Sallie had given birth to 13 children, ten of whom survived. She probably lost three children sometime between the birth of Minerva and Barney. Richard and Sallie were living next door to their son Jessie and his wife and step children, still in the Rays Mill District. Other neighbors included Moses Lee,  J. J. and Catherine Beagles, Hiram Beagles, and Elizabeth Beagles.

https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n764/mode/1up

1900 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA
https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n764/mode/1up

 

In 1910 the McGowan household consisted of: Richard, age 62 (see note regarding ages); Sallie, age 52; Barney, age 20; Maggie, age 18; Charlie, age 16; and Fannie, age 14. The McGowans  were renting a home about 6 miles east of Ray City and just north of Highway 129, next door to Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Truett and James R. Johnson, Sr. Richard, Barney and Charlie were farm laborers working as wage employees.    The Beigles were still among the neighbors;  ex-convict Thomas J. Beigles and his wife Mary Elizabeth Pearson Beigles owned a nearby farm. It was reported that Richard and Sallie McGowan had been married 30 years (actually 40) and she had given birth to 16 children, only 8 surviving. Richard Jr. appears to be among those who did not survive.

https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n654/mode/1up

1910 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n654/mode/1up

In the 1920 census, Richard, enumerated as Dick McGowen, age 76, was still renting in the Ray City area, farming and living with Sallie, 64; Maggie, 25; Fannie, 23; and a granddaughter, Florrie, 4. They were living next door to Martha J. Baskin Clements, widow of David C. Clements, and her adult children Grover C. Clements, Albert B. Clements and his wife Connie, and Alma Clements. Nearby was the household of Elick Wright, brother of Moses Wright.

https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n322/mode/1up

1920 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n322/mode/1up

 

At the time of the 1930 Census, Richard and Sallie McGowan and several of their children and descendants were still living near Ray City, GA. The family was enumerated April 25, 1930 in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Lanier County, GA, which was cut out of Berrien County in 1920.  Richard, enumerated as age 99, was probably about 86 years old.  Sallie was reported as 76 years old. Residing with them was their daughter Fannie, reported as age 39, actually 33. The McGowans were renting a home near Ray City. Fannie was working as a farm laborer.  Among the nearby neighbors were Americus McGee, Floyd Green, Caulie Pevy, Lucius J. Knight, and John and Wealthy Lee.  Richard McGowan is enumerated as a veteran of the Civil War.

1930-richard-mcgowen-census

1930 Census enumeration of Richard McGowan and family, 1300 Georgia Militia District, Lanier County, GA.
https://archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel372#page/n520/mode/1up

On August 6, 1930, just a few months after the 15th census, the Atlanta Constitution reported the death of Richard McGowanThe article even further exaggerated the longevity of the former slave, giving his age as 106.  The article also unfortunately confuses Richard McGowen with his grandson, Philmore McGowan, who was the late husband of Molly Reddick McGowan Hall, a Ray City psychic of widespread fame.

It is understood that both Richard McGowan and Sallie Thomas McGowan are buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery at St John Baptist Church in the Barretts community, five miles south of Ray City, GA .

A Note on the Ages of Former Slaves as Reported in Census Records

Because slaves were deprived of civil and human rights  – education, literacy, personal property –  records of slave birth dates, marriage dates, family relations, genealogy or even place of residence may be very difficult to document. Remembering dates, and counting years  was not easily achieved. It was quite common over the course of eight or nine decades for those vital dates to be forgotten, mistaken or erroneously changed for no particular reason especially if not recorded in a family Bible.  Census enumeration of slaves was typically only a count of heads.  Furthermore, the ages and birth dates of any persons were not of particular consequence prior to the passage of the Social Security act in 1935.

Now regarding the age of Richard, Sallie and their children, It appears that the most definable age of Richard was when he was about 11 years of age in the 1856 bill of sale. He was certainly not born in 1833 as listed in the 1900 census. Probably 1845 is the more accurate birth date. He was listed as 24 in 1870, which appears to be about right. It is more probable that Richard was about 54 in 1900, and that he probably died about the age of 84 in 1930. Ages of Richard’s children are probably more accurate if figured from the date of their earliest recording in the census.

Related Posts

 

 

On the Home Front, Ray City, GA, 1918

WWI HOMEFRONT

As the late summer of 1918 wore on many young men of Ray City and Berrien County, GA were in training, preparing for overseas deployment in World War I. Others had already shipped out, among them Rossie O. KnightHod Clements, Dr. Francis Marion Burkhalter, Lorton W. Register, Private Carlie Lawson, Carlos Boggs, Joe Roberson, John W. Faison, Claudie Whitford and Gordon Williams of Ray City; and many other WWI soldiers and sailors of Ray City, GA.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

By mid- August, over one and half million and doughboys were overseas and another million and a half were in training.  The tragic sinking of the HMS Otranto and the drowning of 29 of Berrien County’s finest young men, along with hundreds of other soldiers, was still weeks away.

The headlines were full of war news, including casualty reports. But the tide had turned and the newspapers were focused on the string of Allied victories. The German offensive against  Paris had failed. The Germans were on the defensive, disorganized, demoralized and rapidly retreating.  As the Allies advanced, thousands of German troops were captured.

Atlanta Constitution August 22, 1918 reports route of German army as Georgia soldiers parade before King George.

Atlanta Constitution August 22, 1918 reports route of German army as soldiers from Camp Gordon, GA parade before King George.

In the Wiregrass, many people bowed their heads each day “for it is a [patriotic] duty which is being observed in many towns and cities throughout our grand United States of America; for when the whistle blows every afternoon at  at six o’clock, it is the duty of every citizen … who is able to walk, to uncover their heads and stop still wherever they may be and no matter what they may be doing to ask God’s guidance on our armies on land and sea and to give us a speedy victory.”

In many ways, life in Ray City, GA went on as usual. People tended their crops and worked at  their businesses, children went to school and families went to church.  Business was good; in Ray City, the Clements Lumber Company was experiencing a war boom, and,  other than the waste laid to the cotton by the dreaded Boll Weevil which had invaded the state three years earlier, the “hog and hominy” farming was good, too.

A letter from Ray City resident Josh Jones, published in the Walker County Messenger, August 23, 1918 reported on every day events of the home front.  Jones, apparently a native of Walker County, on the Tennessee-Georgia line, who had removed to Berrien County and was writing to the folks back home.

 

Walker County Messenger, August 23, 1918

A Ray City report in the Walker County Messenger, August 23, 1918

Walker County Messenger
LaFayette, GA
August 23, 1918

Ray City, GA

Mrs. A. L. Fowler is able to be up at present.

Ray City is a very promising little town, a good many useful industries being located here.
    Nashville is the county seat of Berrien county, and as Berrien was such a large county it was divided a few days ago, and Cook county was cut off the west side, Adel being made the county seat.  So I am still in Berrien. Valdosta is our nearest market.
    We have a bumper crop of corn, and a fine crop of peanuts. The boll weevil ruined all of the Long Island cotton, and the short staple will average about half a crop.  The melon crop was fine, several cars shipped from here.  This is a fine hog-raising section of the country. Moultrie and Tifton both have branch packing houses of Armour & Co.
    Rev. and Mrs. J. W. Shumate, of Cooper Heights, have the Ray City School, and we cordially welcome them into our midst.
    I received a long letter from Pat McClaskey, which I enjoyed very much.  The Messenger reaches here on Saturday.
     Best wishes to the correspondents and Messenger and staff.

JOSH JONES

Additional Notes:

  • Ray City School, 1918
    At the time Reverend John Wesley Shumate, Jr.and Mrs. Harriet “Hattie” Mudget Shumate came to Ray City, the Ray City School was a wood frame, three-room school, teaching students through the eighth grade. The brick school building, which has been preserved in Ray City and which now houses the Joe Sizemore Community Library, was constructed 1920-1922.
  • Creation of Cook County, GA
    An Act proposing the creation of Cook County from parts of Berrien County was passed by the Georgia General Assembly on July 30, 1918.
  • The Boll Weevil in Berrien County, GA
    The Boll Weevil had already reached Brooks and Thomas Counties by the summer of 1915. The following summer, 1916, Boll Weevils were found in Berrien  on the farms of Dr. Lovett and Jim Patterson at Sparks, GA. The arrival of the Boll Weevil ended the reign of cotton as the county’s main industry, and forced farmers to shift more to feed and sustenance, or “hog and hominy,” farming.
  • Armour & Co.
    In 1918, both Armour & Co. and Smith & Co. were expanding meat packing facilities in South Georgia, Smith & Co. at Moultrie and Armour & Co. at Tifton, GA.  As the prevailing chaos in the cotton market drove sharply increasing hog production, there was a rush to increase the local capacity of meat packing plants.

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Madge Sellers Guthrie

Madge Sellers Guthrie (1912-1998)

Madge Sellers, wife of John Elwood Guthrie, made her home in Ray City for more than 40 years. She met John in Florida while he was on tour with a band. After they married, they opened a feed store in Ray City and John taught music.

Madge Sellers Guthrie

Madge Sellers Guthrie

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