W. E. Hightower, Methodist Minister

William Edward Hightower

The Reverend W.E. Hightower of Remerton, Georgia served as the first pastor of the Ray City Methodist Church. He served at Ray City during 1910-1911. According to the history of the Ray City Methodist church, there was no church building in the town during his appointment.  Originally the services were held in a tent on the north side of town near the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Will Clements.  Among the first members were Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, Will Terry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Turner, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley. Later Reverend Hightower held church services in the Masonic Hall.
In 1914, Hightower served as pastor of the Methodist Church at Warwick when a church building was being constructed there. A story is told that Rev. W. E. Hightower walked from the parsonage to the W.D. Etheridge place to pick cotton to pay his part on the new building
Obituary

Butler Herald
December 7, 1950

Rev. W. E. Hightower Claimed By Death Friday Afternoon

Had Made His Home in Butler Since His Retirement Several Years Ago.

Following a long period of declining health, altho confined to his bed at short intervals, laid down to final rest and permanent dwelling place in Heaven, Rev. William E. Hightower breathed his last at his home in Butler Friday afternoon, Dec. 2, the hour of his passing given as 4:05 o’clock.

Rev. Hightower was born April 3, 1879 at Mountville, Ga., the son of the late Mr. Hillard Jones Hightower and Mrs. Frances Elizabeth Hightower. He united with the South Georgia Methodist Conference at its regular annual session December, 1912 from which time until his retirement, due to declining health in December, 1945. During his ministry he served many very fine charges in the conference including two separate appointments at Butler of 2 to 4 years each and six of the nine Methodist churches in Taylor county. His last year with the active ministry in the conference was served at Doerun. Appointments he served included the following: Oakfeld, 1912-13; Nichols, 1914; Valdosta Circuit, 1915; Pineview, 1916; Hamilton Circuit, 1917-18, Howard Circuit, 1919-22; Bronwood, 1923-26; Butler, 1927; Glenville, 1928-29; Uvalda, 1930-31; Butler, 1932-35; Attapulgus, 1936-38; Byronville, 1939-40; Doerun, 1943-44; Retired, 1945. His schooling included, besides grammar and high school in Harris county graduation at Young Harris with the class of 1909 and one year at Vanderbilt.

Upon his retirement from the South Georgia Conference Rev. Hightower purchased and with his lovely and faithful wife, occupying one of the most comfortable homes in Butler. On land adjacent the home he established, more for physical exercise for himself than otherwise, a nursery for the cultivation and sale of floral plants of the highest type and greatest in demand. He loved flowers to the greatest extent as he worked with them as his strength permitted. –t now that he is gone the many fine examples he set by his Godly living and energetic spirit are to be appreciated.

At the Butler Methodist Church Sunday, December 3rd, 1 p. m. was held the funeral services for the departed muchly be loved one followed by interment of the body in the family lot, Hamilton cemetery. Rev. C. W. Hancock, pastor of the local church was in charge of the funeral service and was assisted by the following ministers: Rev. J. Ed Fain, District Superintendent, Columbus District; Rev. T. O. Lambert, assistant pastor, St. Luke church, Columbus, and who joined the conference at the same time as did the deceased, and with whom he has been closely associated ever since; Rev. J. W. M. Stipe Soperton, pastor Butler charge four years previous to 1949; Rev William Childres, Butler. Others occupying the pulpit at the same time were: Rev. W. S. Johnson. Macon County; Rev. W. E. Scott, District Superintendent, Macon D. District; Rev. W. W. Taylor, pastor Reynolds Methodist church; Rev. Ralph Brown, Waverly Hall, Ga.: Rev. Fred Vanlandingham, Smyrna, Ga.

Speaking on behalf of the deceased Rev. C. W. Hancock, pastor of the local church and officiating minister made the following remarks from the pulpit:

“Once again we are in the still and silent presence of death. Yet I am more convinced than ever that for those who love the Lord, death is but the call of God to a larger and fuller life where the limitations of mortal flesh are known no more and the soul rejoices in its liberation. “Did I not already believe in ‘immortality—I would believe today. For a God of infinite power and merciful goodness could do none other than to grant life immortal as the reward for the earthly life of W. E. Hightower. He was blameless in life; devoted to His God; faithful in the ministering of the word; diligent in his service to his fellowman. Many live and pass on—and the world is none the worse off for their going—but not so with our beloved friend. Life will miss him for his usefulness and for the high quality he gave it.

“Immortality is real because already we are beginning to feel the immortality of his earthly life. There are his deeds done that will never be undone. There is the influence shed that will never lose its alluring charm; there is his spoken word that will ever echo in our memory; there are sinners saved who will know sin no more; there are Christians advanced through his inspiration who are attaining unto the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; there are churches with wider visions and larger service that will not fail.

“There is this town and this county. Who among us has done more to bring the Kingdom of God into full fruition in this place than has he° Across a number of years as active pastor of six out of nine Methodist churches in this county and through a number of years as an active superannuate minister he has touched the hearts of men with the healing presence of Christ.

“Many will never forget that he led them to Christ through the illumination of the way. Many will never forget those loving attempts he made to introduce them to Christ and to bring them into the service of Christ’s Church.

“This church will never forget his persistent loyalty, his wise counsel. You men of his Sunday School class will not forget his immortal words from Sunday to Sunday.

“We of the ministry will live in the influence of his moral and spiritual nature and of the consecration to his calling of God. More—God has not forgotten. We are here in the blessed assurance that God has called and issued a welcome summons to this His noble servant. And it can be said of him as it was said of one long ago—‘And he walked with God—and God took him.’ It is the testimony of his life that he pleased both God and man. “As he gave honor to life, he has given dignity to death. In life he testified to the power of religious experience; in death, he declares the church triumphant unto life eternal.

“So may the God of his life be the God of our life that we, like him, can come to the end of the way as one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

The floral offering was one of the largest and most elaborate ever witnessed in this section of the state besides a number of memorials in the form of large contributions to the S. S. Annex of the local church and for which Rev. Hightower had been teacher of the Men’s Bible class during the past four years.

The deceased is survived by his widow; one brother, Mr. Claude Hightower of Blairsville, Ga.; two sister, Mrs. Edgar Vandiver, Atlanta; and Miss Aldora Hightower of Mountville. Following funeral service at the local church the body was transferred to Hamilton for interment in the family lot Union cemetery Mr. J. W. Edwards II, of Edwards Bros. Funeral Home was in charge of funeral arrangements.

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Ray City Masons Celebrated Saint John the Baptist Day In 1936

Masons Lodge 553, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

Masons Lodge 553, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia

A 1936 newspaper clipping commented on the activities of the Ray City Masonic lodge No. 553,

Atlanta Daily World
July 8, 1936 Pg 2
Valdosta, Ga.

St. John’s Day was held at Ray City last Sunday. Prof. C.O. Davis was the speaker. Prof. Davis is the Deputy Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Georgia.

Masons have been a part of Ray City, GA history since the beginning of the town.   The lodge in Ray City was constituted in 1909. In 1910, as the Methodist church was being organized in Ray City, a revival was held in the Masonic hall.

Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray was a Mason, as were Perry Thomas Knight, A. J. Pert, James Henry Swindle, Caswell Yawn, Dr. Pierce Hubert, Hod Clements, D. Edwin Griner and Lucius Jordan Clements among others.   In 1909, Lacy Lester Shaw served treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553. From 1858 to 1878 Hardeman Sirmans was a member Butler Lodge, No. 211 in Milltown.

At the time of his death in 1907 Judge A. H. Hansell, of the Southern Circuit, was the oldest living Mason in the state of Georgia.

A marble stone set in the only remaining commercial brick building in Ray City, designates it as the “Masonic Building,” one time home of the Free & Accepted Masons Lodge No. 553.  At Brian Brown’s  Vanishing South Georgia blog, Ray City residents have commented on the history of this building, which once was home to the Ray City drugstore and later, the Victory Soda Shop.

Lucius Jordan Clements and Eugenia Watkins Clements in Masonic garb.

Lucius Jordan Clements and Eugenia Watkins Clements in Masonic garb. Image courtesy of http://www.yatesville.net/

The Free and Accepted Masons were active in the Wiregrass long before the formation of the lodge at Ray City in 1909.   Lodge No. 211 was incorporated 50 years earlier at Milltown (nka Lakeland, GA) in 1858.  Somewhat earlier, St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was constituted at Troupville on November 2, 1854.   Circuit riding Methodist reverend John Slade was a member there,  as were Norman Campbell, and William C. Newbern.   Andrew J. Liles,  postmaster of Milltown, was a member. The Masonic lodge at old Troupville met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.

According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the officers  of St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 were:

Reverend Thomas W. Ellis, Worshipful Master;
Ephriam H. Platt, Senior Warden;
Benjamin C. Clay, Junior Warden;
Charles H. Howell, Secretary;
John Brown, Treasurer;
William H. Dasher, Senior Deacon;
J. T. C. Adams, Junior Deacon;
John B. Cashan, Tyler.

Other founding members in addition to  those mentioned above were:

William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Adam Graham, Thomas Moore, William Dees, Daniel Mathis, Thomas D. Wilkes, S. D. Smith, James Harrell, J. N. Waddy. William J. Mabry, George Brown, William Jones, J. C. Pautelle, J. R. M. Smith, Reverend F. R. C. Ellis, Robert B. Hester, , William Godfrey, W. D. M. Howell, Hustice Moore, J. Harris, W. H. Carter,  William A. Sanford, Willis Allen, Jeremiah Williams, William A. Carter, John R. Walker, William D. Martin, J. E. Stephens, R. W. Leverett, L. M. Ayers, S. Manning, James Carter, Willis Roland, John W. Clark, James A. Darsey,  the Entered Apprentices Judge Richard A. Peeples, William Ashley, J. J. Goldwire, snd Fellowcrafts William T. Roberts and Moses Smith.

Troupville lodge member William J. Mabry, moved in 1856 to Nashville, GA, seat of the newly created Berrien County, where he built the first Berrien court house in 1857 and also became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3. Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

A post on the Masonic Traveler Blog by mason and artist, Greg Stewart explains the significance of Saint John the Baptist Day.

The Saint’s Johns appear to Freemasons in several places in our catechisms. Their proximity and use in our rituals have been questioned for many years as to their use and placement. Looked at together, saint John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist serve to represent the balance in Masonry between zeal for the fraternity and learned equilibrium. The Saints John, stand in perfect parallel harmony representing that balance.

From a historical approach, The Saint John’s festival is said to be a widely celebrated Masonic holiday. Traditionally June 24th (or the summer Solstice) is taken to be John the Baptist’s day, which is celebrated in many cultures around the world. According to McCoy’s Masonic Dictionary, the Festival of St. John in summer is a duty of every Mason to participate in, and should serve to be a renewal and strengthening of fraternal ties and a celebration of Masonry from “olden-times”. It functions as a connection between the past and the future.

More on St. John’s Day via Masonic Traveler: Saint John the Baptist Day, Duality in One. June 24th.

Other Ray City Masons:

  • Eddie D. Boyette
  • Philip Dewitt Carter
  • Lorenzo D. Carter
  • William I. Barker
  • Dr. B. F. Julian
  • William Lawrence Swindle

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A Brief History of the Ray City Methodist Church

A brief history of the Methodist Church in  Ray City, GA is excerpted from a  document composed about 1988. (See also Fifty Years of Methodist Ministers ~ Ray City, GA).

Ray City Methodist Church

The Church was organized by brother F.D. Ratcliff on October 29, 1910.  The Rev. W.E. Hightower of Remerton, Georgia served as the first pastor. Originally the services were held in a tent on the north side of town near the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Will Clements.  Among the first members were Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, Will Terry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Turner, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley.

Shortly after the Church was organized, Rev. Ratcliff held a revival in the Masonic Hall. Five Church members were present and twenty-one new members joined.  This made the total membership twenty-nine persons.  During the time Brother Hightower served as pastor, he was originally on the Remerton Charge. He was later transferred to the Milltown Charge.  At this time Brother Langston was the presiding elder and lived at Sparks, Georgia.

The church services were held in the Masonic Hall until it burned. Since the faithful Methodists helped the members of the Christian Church to erect their building, the Methodist were invited to hold their services in the new Christian Church building each second Sunday.

Land for a Church was donated in 1912 by R.D. Swindle, father of Henry A. and R.P. Swindle. In 1917, a tent meeting was held on the site of the present Church and plans were formulated to construct a new Church. Brother Barr was pastor and leader of the movement. A committee consisting Lucious Clements, W.M. Creech, Will Terry, J.M. Tyler and Mr. Patterson drew up the plans for and constructed a wooden building which was used until replaced by the existing block building in 1954.  The new block building consisted of an auditorium, three Sunday school rooms and a kitchen.  William Guthrie, a cabinet maker from Nashville, Georgia, made the pews for the new sanctuary.  The social hall was added in 1964 and bears the name “Swindle Hall” in honor of Mr. Henry A. Swindle who was a long-standing, faithful member of the Church.

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Lacy Lester Shaw

Lacy Lester Shaw,1873-1944.

Lacy Lester Shaw. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Lacy Lester Shaw. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Family researcher Bryan Shaw published a newsletter on Lacy Lester Shaw in 1998.  (see http://www.fmshawfamily.com/)  A son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, Sr., Lacy Lester Shaw was involved in the turpentine industry with his brothers Arthur and Chester Shaw, primarily running the commissary at the still sites.

On June 7, 1896, at the age of 23, Lacy married Tula Albritton, daughter of Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd. She was the sister of Gertrude Albritton Shaw, wife of Lacy’s oldest brother.

 

Later, Lacy Lester Shaw was  involved in the hardware and grocery business in Ray City, GA and in Valdosta. He was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City. He was also a Mason and  served as treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553.  In 1917 he built a house on North Street and opened a hardware business as the Ray City Supply Company. But after only a few years Lacy Lester Shaw moved his family to Valdosta.

Lacy Lester Shaw - In Search of a Lost Brotherhood

Lacy Lester Shaw – In Search of a Lost Brotherhood

Lacy Lester Shaw, Tula Albritton Shaw gravemarker, New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, Georgia

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