1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

Given the history of slavery and racial discrimination in the United States, researching African-American genealogy can be a challenging puzzle.  Slave names were not often recorded.  Even after Emancipation, civil records of African-American citizens were often neglected. Further complicating matters,  most of the 1890 census records were lost in a fire and through a series of tragic missteps in the record handling. Fortunately, an 1894 record of the Poll Tax collection in the Rays Mill District (now Ray City, GA) helps to document early African-American residents of the town.    Many of these men were born in slavery and became “Freedmen” after the Civil War and Emancipation. A few were born in northern “Free” states.  After the War, they came  to south Georgia, primarily to work in the naval stores industry, collecting turpentine in the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. Some lived in turpentine camps, some rented farms or houses, a few became property owners, business men and employers in their own right.

Poll Taxes

After the Civil War, the poll tax evolved regionally to be a complex legal device to disenfranchise African-Americans. Georgia led the way in 1868 (effective in 1871), and by 1900 in every formerly-Confederate state had poll taxes aimed at preventing black citizens from voting.

According to Today in Georgia History,

The poll tax, a bulwark of the Jim Crow era, was one of many roadblocks thrown up to keep African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. Although the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1870, guaranteed former male slaves the right to vote, the poll tax, which all voters had to pay was designed to prevent voting. Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war. 

Georgia’s “grandfather clause” allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted  prior to the abolition of slavery to vote without paying the tax. Georgia created a cumulative poll tax requirement: men 21 to 60 years of age had to pay a sum of money for every year from the time they had turned 21, or from the time that the law took effect.

Tax Payers
Ray’s Mill District, Colored, 1894

William Adkinson
Dixie Alston

Peter Burges
Thomas Burges
Saul Brown
William Brown, Sr.
John Black
B. B. Brown
Joe Brown

Walter Curt
Jesse Coleman
Len Coleman

James Davis

David Ellison
S. M. Eady
Sam Eady

Brister Hufman

Henry Gowdine
Henry Gilliard
William Grayham
William Gerald

West Kelley

John Livind

Joe Medlay
Carter Moore
William Mathis
Alex McKnight
S. J. Myers
Sandy Murphy
William McGowin
Richard McGowin
Henry McCoy

Preston Richardson
E. L. Rias
Ebb Ross
Randolph Ried
William Smith
Mack Spights
Gilbert Sloan

Wiley Tarrell

A. Vandross

John Wamble
George Williams
Ed Wilson
John Wade
Alex White
James Whitfield
W. D. Williams


Dixie Alston was an African-American born during the Civil War, in March of 1862. He was born in South Carolina, as were both his parents.  In 1883 he married Amelia [unknown], also a native of South Carolina.  It appears that Dixie and Amelia moved to south Georgia sometime in the early 1890s.  In 1894, Dixie Alston registered to vote in the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA.  He subsequently appears in the census of 1900, enumerated as Dixie Aulston, in the 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County.  His household in 1900 included his wife Amelia (age 46), and children, Sarah (18), Lillie (17), Dixie (10), James A. (7), William (5), and Orie B (1).  The Alstons were living in a rented house, and Dixie was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Dixie Alston and family were enumerated in the 1157 Georgia Militia District where Dixie continued to work as a turpentine laborer.  Whereabouts of Dixie Alston after 1910 are unknown, but his son Dixie Alston, Jr. later lived in Nashville GA where he worked for the Keefe and Bulloch turpentine operation.

BB Brown was born in South Carolina about 1856 he married Corinna, a South Carolina woman, about 1875 and they made their home in South Carolina until some time after 1881. By October 1886, the Browns moved to Georgia. BB Brown paid the poll tax in 1894 to vote in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. The census of 1900 shows the Browns owned a farm in the Rays Mill District free and clear of mortgage. They were neighbors of Levi J. Clements, Alfred Hill, and Ben Knight. In 1910 their neighbors on nearby farms were John Miles Clements, Georgia Cooper, Jeff Williams and James W. Williams. The 1920 census shows the Brown farm was situated at Rays Mill on the Willacoochee Road. Their immediate neighbor was Robert E. Lee and his family. Corinna Brown died sometime before 1930. By this time the Brown farm had been cut into Lanier County. The widower Brown continued to work his farm with the assistance of his children.

Solomon Brown was born  about 1862 in South Carolina. He apparently came to the Rays Mill, GA area  some time before 1894. The 1910 census shows him in Rays Mill, widowed, living alone in a rented home and working as a farm laborer.

William L. Brown was a farmer from South Carolina. He was born in May of 1862. About 1882 he married Lessie. They were in Berrien County, GA by the 1890s where William paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District in 1894. The census of 1900 shows he was working a rented farm near the homes of Richard Eady, William Revell, and Frank Gallagher.

Peter Burges, or Burgess, was an African-American born in August of 1865 at the conclusion of the Civil War. He was a native of South Carolina, as were both his parents.  By 1894, Peter Burges made his way to  the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA where he was registered to vote. In the census of 1900, he was enumerated in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the “Ray’s Mill” District, Berrien County. He was single, living alone in a rented house, and working as a turpentine laborer. He subsequently appears in the 1144 G.M.D census of 1910 as a farm laborer, and in 1920 he was renting a farm on the Willacoochee Road.

Tom Burges was born about 1850 in Georgia. He was enumerated in 1910 in the 1300 Georgia Militia District. At age 60 he was widowed, living alone in a rented house, and working at a sawmill. He was a neighbor of African-American teacher William M. Clark, sawmill employee Burris Hall, turpentine teamster David Story, turpentine employee John Merritt, and washerwoman Sallie Sanders.

Jesse Coleman appears in the Berrien County tax records of 1884. His taxable property included $5 worth of livestock and $5 worth of furniture. In 1890 Jesse Coleman paid the poll tax in the 1329 Georgia Militia District, the Connells Mill District just west of Rays Mill. He had $57 in livestock, $15 in furniture, $10 in tools, and $2 in other property.

John L. Lavind was an African-American farmer from South Carolina. He was born in 1868. About 1886 he married Sarah Sloan, a woman from South Carolina. John and Sarah appear in the 1900 Census in Berrien County where they were neighbors of Arch Parrish. The Lavinds were working a rented farm in the 1145 Georgia Militia District, the Adel District. Living with the Lavinds and assisting with the farm labor were Sarah’s siblings, Alicia A Sloan and Davis Sloan. It appears that Sarah Sloan died sometime in the early 1900s. Census records indicate that John Lavind (enumerated as John Lavine) married a second time in 1908 to a widow woman named Kerene. In 1910, he was making payments on a farm at Adel and working as a self-employed farmer. His neighbors were sawmill workers Beacher Ward and Charlie Beland. In 1920, John and Karene were renting a farm on the Adel and Nashville Road which John was working on his own account. The were neighbors of Theresa Devane Hutchinson, widow of James Henry Hutchinson; her son, Vaude McIntyre Hutchinson was a school teacher.

Henry Melvin was born in North Carolina about 1863. He apparently came to live in the Rays Mill, GA district some time before 1894. In 1900, he was enumerated in the Mud Creek District of Clinch County, GA where he was renting a house and working as a turpentine laborer. On September 14, 1901 Henry Melvin and Delia Jenkins were joined in Holy Matrimony in Clinch County, GA in a ceremony performed by Joseph Powell, Justice of the Peace. The 1910 census shows Henry and Delia were renting a farm in the 586 Militia District of Clinch County, where they raised crops and children. Some time before 1920 Henry Melvin returned to Ray City, bringing his family to live on the Ray City & Willacoochee Road, on a rented farm which he worked on his own account. Henry Melvin died November 1, 1920 in Berrien County, GA. Anna remarried, probably about 1921, to Emanuel Smith. The Smiths rented a farm near Ray City, where they were neighbors of Walter H. Knight, John S. Fender, J. Mancil Ray and James F. Ray, James R. Johnson, and Lucian H. Grissett. Sometime before 1935 the Smiths moved to Lakeland, GA

Henry McCoy was born in October 1859 in North Carolina. About 1886 he married Anna. Some time before 1894 they came to Rays Mill, GA where Henry rented and worked a farm. Most of the McCoy’s neighbors were turpentine workers including Odum Wiley, D.D. Oxendine, Peter Burges, and Isham Hill. In 1910, Henry and Anna owned a home on North Street in Ray City. Henry worked as a drayman; Anna worked as washerwoman. Among their neighbors were hotelier Wilson W. Fender, merchant Louis Levin, telegraph operator Ralph E. Spear, blacksmith Rollie N. Warr, policeman Henry Hodges, carpenter Gordon J. Knight, and postmaster Charles H. Anderson. Henry McCoy died sometime after 1910. His widow married Sam B. Cooper on April 22, 1918 in Berrien County in a ceremony performed by Justice of the Peace J. W. Moore. Sam Cooper worked in a shop as a tailor and owned a home in Ray City, in the “Negro Quarters” according to 1920 Census records.

Richard “Dick” McGowan was born a slave in North Carolina in the 1840s. He was brought to Berrien County (then Lowndes) as a young man, and lived most his life near Ray City, GA.  Freed after the Civil War, he continued to live for a while on the plantation of his former owner, Hardeman Sirmans.

Joseph Medley was born about 1856 in the state of New York. In 1883, he married a Virginia woman named Jane. By 1885 The Medleys had moved from New York to South Carolina, and by 1888 they were in Georgia. Joseph paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA in 1894. The 1900 Census shows the Medley family in the neighboring Georgia Militia District 1300, the Milltown District, where Joseph owned a farm free and clear of mortgage. The census appears to show that the Medleys also rented a farm in addition to the farm they owned. Joseph farmed while Jane worked as a laundress. Both were enumerated as literate. They were neighbors of Joseph Dedge, Edwin Powell, and John Ed Thigpen brother of Robert Silas Thigpen. In 1910, the Medleys continued to farm in the 1300 GMD. Their son, William Medley, worked as a sawmill fireman, and son Aulie Medley assisted with the farm labor. Next door were Elmore Medley and Rainey Medley who were both employed in turpentine production. Other neighbors included John D. Patten and Matthew G. Patten. In 1920, Joe Medley, age 76, was no longer working. The Medleys rented a house at Milltown on the the Nashville Road. Their son William worked as a farm laborer and Henry worked as a truck driver at a cross tie camp.

Sam Julian “Jim” Myers was born October 1870 in South Carolina. By 1894 he came to Berrien County, GA to work as a turpentine chipper. He paid the 1894 poll tax in the Rays Mill District. In 1897 he married Rosa Sloan and they acquired a home on payments in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Rosa’s brother, Sydney Stone, lived with them and also worked as a turpentine chipper. Also boarding in the Myers household was Dr. Ervin Green; the 1900 Census taker added the notation “Quack” by Green’s occupation. By 1910 Jim Myers took up the ministry in the Methodist faith and moved his family to Adel, GA to a home on Maple Street. By 1920, Reverend Myers took his family to Fitzgerald, GA where they lived on Lemon Street.

Eliott Rias was an African-American citizen of Rays Mill, GA for 40 years. He was a son of Pompy and Clarender Rias, born about 1863 in South Carolina. After the Civil War and Emancipation, he and his brothers and sisters grew up helping his parents work their farm in Laws Township, near Kingstree, Williamsburg County, SC. Some time after 1880, Eliott left South Carolina and came to Georgia to work as a turpentine laborer. He appears in the property tax digest of Clinch County as a Freedman, paying the poll tax for 1887 in the 586 Georgia Militia District, the Mud Creek District. About 1892, Eliott married a South Carolina woman named Henrietta. By 1900, Eliott and Henrietta were living at Rays Mill with their four children. They were renting a house and Eliott was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Eliott Rias was renting a farm, which he was farming on his own account. Henrietta was keeping house and minding their seven children. Pauline Hodges, an African-American school teacher, was boarding with them. Among Rias’ neighbors were John L. and Cassie Hall, Babe Baldree, Barney Chism, John Whitfield, Tom Burgess and Mack Speights. By 1920, Eliott and Henrietta were working a rented farm at Rays Mill on their own account.  Some time before 1930, Henrietta Rias passed away. All of Eliott’s children were grown and moved away. Eliatt Rias was left alone, living in Rays Mill in a home he rented for $3.00 a month. He worked as a carpenter. He was a neighbor of Sherrod Fender, Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, Perry Guthrie, Herman Guthrie, and Ivory Wright.

Ebenezer “Ebb” Ross was an African-American farm laborer born in Georgia about 1857. The 1870 census shows Ebenezer, age 23, and his wife Fannie, age 17, living in Berrien County, Georgia Militia District 1144, the Rays Mill District. Ebenezer Ross had a net worth of $30. In the 1870s and 1880s the Rosses were neighbors of William and Frances Giddens, Mary and Richard Anthony, Jesse and Margaret Carroll, John T. and Catherine Carroll, Peter and Josephine Best, and Nancy Parker. The 1875 Berrien Property Tax Digest shows Ebenezer Ross paid the poll tax, and his entire taxable property was valued at $20.00. The following year the value of his estate had dropped to just $2.00. In 1880, the Rosses home enumerated in the 1300 GMD. Living next door with the Carrolls was mail rider Everet Roberts. The 1890 tax digest shows the Rosses were faring slightly better. Eb was working for J. H. Wright, one of 58 freedmen employed by Wright.

Mack Speights was an African-American turpentine laborer who lived for about 40 years at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA. According to family members, he was born June 14, 1867 in Ridge, Williamsburg County, South Carolina, a son of Elias McBride Speights and Norah Speights. He married Martha Ellen Cooper in South Carolina on August 14, 1889. He apparently brought his young family from South Carolina to Rays Mill about 1893 and appears on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. Like many young African-American men, he came to work in the naval stores industry, turpentining the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. By 1910, Mack Speights was renting a farm at Rays Mill where he and Martha were raising their eight children His oldest sons, Elias and William, worked as farm labor. The Speights were neighbors of Joseph S. Clements, Brodie Shaw, Bruner Shaw, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher. By 1930, Mack and Martha had moved to Gainesville, FL with several of their children and grandchildren.

Abraham L. Vandross , an African-American turpentine laborer, was born about 1867 in South Carolina. He was on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. About that same time he married a woman named Hannah. By 1900, Abraham and Hannah had moved to the Dry Lake District of Brooks County, GA where they lived in a rented home. By 1910 Hannah and Abraham returned to Berrien County to the 1300 Georgia Militia District, where they acquired a home which they owned free and clear of mortgage. Abraham continued to work for wages as a turpentine worker; Hannah worked as a washerwoman. They also took in a boarder, Albert Johnson, who was a sawmill employee. In 1910, the Vandrosses were neighbors of William M. Clark, an African-American school teacher. The 1920 Census shows Abraham and Hannah’s home was on Oak Street, Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. Their boarder in 1920 was Reverend Jordan R. Gay.

John Wamble was a widowed African-American farmer. He was born about 1850 in Georgia.  At the time of the 1900 Census, he was living near Rays Mill, GA with his two teenaged sons. The Wambles were neighbors of Richard Morehead, Benjamin Moorehead, David C. Clements and Rubin Knight.  His son, Horace, married about 1907 and made his home on the Nashville & Valdosta Road near Cat Creek.

John Wade was a Freedman living in Rays Mill, GA with his wife, Emma, and their large family. John Wade was born about 1824. The property tax digest of 1887 shows his taxable property consisted of $7 dollars worth of livestock and $20 in household and kitchen furniture. The 1880 census shows the Wades living and farming in Lowndes County, GA.

James Whitfield may have been an African-American farmer who later lived in Grooverville, Brooks County, GA.  He was born about 1868. This James Whitfield cannot be definitively placed in Rays Mill, however, his son, James Whitfield, Jr. lived in Nashville, GA in the 1920s.

The 1900 census shows George Williams  in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. He was working as a log turner at a sawmill.  He was born in North Carolina about 1858.  In 1900, he was living alone, apparently in housing at the sawmill.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 6

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 6: In Regular Service

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time on the tidewater, fighting boredom and disease…Finally, the 29th Regiment was reported ready for service.

On January 14, 1862, Brigadier General Alexander Robert Lawton informed Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper that the regiment had been properly mustered in as the 29th GA Volunteer Infantry.

Head Quarters, Dept of Geo

Savannah Jany 14th 1862

General S. Cooper
Adjt Inspector General
                                             I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a letter of the 10th inst from the Ajt General’s Office, inquiring if Col R Spalding’s 29th Geo Regiment has been properly mustered in or not.
                                            In reply I beg leave to say that it is a full regiment and has been for some months regularly in service
                                           I have the honor to be, very Respy
                                                                         Your Obdt Servt
                                                                          A R Lawton
                                                                         Brig Genl Comg

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 to Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry.  (In 1864, General Cooper stayed the execution of Confederate deserter Burrell Douglass. Cooper is credited for the preservation of Confederate service records after the war).

A Regimental Surgeon, William P. Clower, was finally appointed on January 18, 1862. Surgeon Clower’s brother, John T. Clower, would later serve as the doctor in Ray’s Mill (now Ray City, GA). The surgeon was a welcome addition, but the health conditions of the Regiment did not immediately improve.  James Madison Harrell was sent home sick.  Alfred B. Finley, who joined the Berrien Minute Men at Darien, contracted measles and lost an eye to complications; despite that disability he would continue to serve with the 29th Regiment.  Hiram F. Harrell contracted measles and died at Darien, GA.  Edward Morris contracted measles and “camp fever” and never recovered; he died a few weeks later at Savannah, GA.

The 29th Regiment’s tenure on Sapelo would soon be over.  Before the end of January, the 29th GA regiment would be called up to the coastal defenses at Savannah.  When the regiment finally left Darien, John Lindsey, William Hall, and James Newman and John R. Langdale were left behind, sick. William Anderson, who had been on sick leave in October, had a relapse and was also left in Darien.  Thomas J. Lindsey, David D. Mahon and Robert H. Goodman were detailed to Darien as  nurses. John W. McClellan was also detailed to remain at Darien. Malcolm McCranie died of measles at Darien on February 2, 1862 and Ellis H. Hogan  died February 25, 1862. In the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, George Harlan was disabled and discharged at Darien on February 17, 1862 and Francis M. Dixon died of typhoid pneumonia at Darien the following day.

The defense of Georgia’s sea islands quickly proved untenable against the strength of the Union Navy. By early December 1861 U.S. forces had occupied Tybee Island off the coast of Savannah, and were landing ordnance and constructing batteries there.  By the end of January, 1862 U.S. Navy vessel  were maneuvering to enter the Savannah River, and threatened to cut off Fort Pulaski from Savannah. On the South Carolina side, U.S. troops occupied Daufuskie Island and constructed batteries on Bird Island and at Venus Point on Jones Island.
General Lee was desperate to shore up Confederate artillery defending Savannah, Georgia’s chief seaport. To strengthen the Savannah defenses, General Lee instructed General Mercer at Brunswick to remove the  batteries on St. Simon’s and Jekyll islands if the defense of those positions became untenable, and to forward the artillery to Savannah.  By this time the sea island planters had moved their property inland, and the residents of Brunswick had abandoned the city. By February 16, 1862 General Mercer reported the guns had been removed from Jekyll and St. Simons and shipped to Savannah and Fernandina. At the retreat of the 4th Georgia Battalion and Colonel Cary W. Styles 26th Georgia Regiment from Brunswick, General Mercer wanted to burn the city as a show of determination not to be occupied by U.S. forces.
With the withdrawal of the 29th Georgia Regiment from Sapelo Island, the Confederates abandoned the defense of Darien altogether. Indeed, the Savannah Republican newspaper of June 27, 1862 reported “two Yankee gunboats had passed Darien some four or five miles up the river, seemingly to destroy the railroad bridges across the Altamaha… A gunboat had been up the river as far as Champion’s Island – Nightingale’s Plantation…she was seen lying at Barrett’s Island, about three miles from the town, having in charge a two mast schooner that had been hid up the river.”  The schooner was believed to have been loaded with rice. The coast around St. Simon’s, Doboy, Sapelo and St. Catherines was said to be infested with Yankee steamers. The coastal inhabitants feared that crops in fields bordering the rivers would be destroyed by the Union forces;  “They have already stolen a goodly number of our slaves, thus curtailing our provisions crops…” 
Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Company G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Companies G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.


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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 3

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 3: Berrien Minute Men at Camp Spalding

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived on Sapelo Island in early October.

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

Despite conditions of camp life that drove some men away, the sea islands held a strange beauty for the Wiregrass farmers turned soldiers. While stationed at Camp Spaulding, Pvt. William W. Knight wrote, “we are camp on as pretty a place as I have seen. it is a high live oak grove one side open to the Atlantic its never ceasing roar about three quarters of a mile from camp.”  William W. Knight was a son of  Levi J. Knight, Captain of the Berrien Minute Men and original settler of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

Private Robert Hamilton Harris of the Thomasville Guards, Company A, 29th Georgia Regiment, also found the island enchanting. These were the idyllic first days of Confederacy, when the Georgia volunteers still anticipated glorious battle and before they experienced “unholy war.”   Private Harris wrote to Martha (Mattie) Love, his girl back home,

Inside you will find a sort of map of our position and neighboring places. I think it is near enough correct to give you some idea of things about us. On the Atlantic side is a fine beach of firm white sand, with a good many shells scattered over it, not many of which are very fine however. When the winter gales begin to blow many nice ones will wash up, and then I will make a collection. Mattie, I wish you could stroll along our beach, or wander among the delightful groves of the Island, you would enjoy it so.
       If you would like to have some shells and other curiosities I can bring them to you when I go home, or send them to you if I do not go.

Harris’ correspondence is part of a collection of Civil War letters of Robert Hamilton Harris, housed in the Digital Library of Georgia.

1861 map of Confederate positions on and near Sapelo Island, GA including Sapelo Lighthouse, Sapelo gun batteries, encampment of the 29th Georgia Regiment (Camp Spaulding), Wolf Beacon, and the position of Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regiment on Blackbeard Island, GA

1861 map of Confederate positions on and near Sapelo Island, GA including Sapelo Lighthouse, Sapelo gun batteries, encampment of the 29th Georgia Regiment (Camp Spaulding), Wolf Beacon, and the position of Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regiment on Blackbeard Island, GA


Harris’ map shows the location of the camp of the 29th Georgia Regiment situated on the south end of Sapelo Island, on a bluff north of Lighthouse Creek.   The position of the Sapelo Island Lighthouse and the lighthouse causeway are shown, as well as the position of Spalding [Sapelo] Battery and masked batteries near Dean Creek.  Today, Sapelo Lighthouse is one of five remaining lighthouses in Georgia, and one of three open to the general public, advises Sherpa Guides.

Apparently represented but unlabeled on Harris’ map are Little Sapelo Island, Queens Island, and Wolf Island. Little Sapelo Island lies to the west of Sapelo, separated by the marshes around Duplin Creek. Doboy Island/Commodore Island, Queens Island, and Wolf Island lie to the south of Sapelo Island, across Doboy Sound.

The relative locations of the neighboring creeks and islands are somewhat distorted. Harris’ map identifies Dubois [Doboy] Island and Wolf Beacon. Wolf Beacon was a lighthouse at the northern end of Wolf Island. The Georgia Legislature had ceded jurisdiction of Wolf Island to the United States in 1819 for the purpose of building the 55-foot high beacon light to complement the lighthouse across Doboy Sound on Sapelo Island. The beacon was constructed by the U.S. Coast Guard  along with a keeper’s house and was in operation by summer 1822. Confederate forces eventually  blew up the Wolf Beacon light to eliminate its navigational aid to the Union Navy.

Harris’ map shows Captain Knight’s Company, the Berrien Minute Men, stationed at a battery defending the south end of Blackbeard. True enough, but it appears Harris mistakenly labeled St. Catherines Island to the north as Blackbeard Island.  His depiction of Sapelo Island is actually the combined Sapelo and Blackbeard islands. Harris’ combined Sapelo/Blackbeard clearly shows the prominent Northeast Point on Blackbeard Island, but failed to indicate the belt of marsh and the narrow Blackbeard Creek which diagonally separates Blackbeard from Sapelo. Captain Knight’s camp would have been at the inlet to Blackbeard Creek on the southernmost point of Blackbeard Island, on a dune and tree covered finger of land some 1400 yards wide lying between the seashore on the east and the creek on the west.

With their encampment established,  the companies on Sapelo turned their attention to the organization of the regimental command. By the first of November the Regiment held elections for  its officers.

About Robert Harris:

Robert Hamilton Harris (April 19, 1842-April 29, 1929) of Thomasville, Georgia, was the stepson of Rev. Robert Fleming. During the United States Civil War Harris served in Company A, 29th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, reaching the rank of captain. For nearly twelve years after the Civil War, he studied and practiced law. During this period he served as Solicitor of the County Court in Thomas county, railroad attorney, and Mayor of Thomasville. Harris became an ordained minister in 1878. He served as a circuit preacher in rural southern Georgia and as a pastor of Baptist churches in Columbus and Cairo, Georgia, as well as Troy, Alabama. In 1900, he accepted a professorship at Cox Seminary in College Park, Georgia, where he remained until his retirement in the 1920s. On October 13, 1863, Robert Harris married Martha (Mattie) Love (March 5, 1845-December 28, 1900). Martha Love was the daughter of Peter Early Love (1818-1866) of Thomasville (Love served in the U.S. Congress, 1859-1861).


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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History of Ray City School

In 1918, a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA was let out by the Board of Education. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. The contract for materials went to A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City.

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Construction on the brick school building, which has been preserved in Ray City and which now houses the Joe Sizemore Community Library, began in 1920.  The Ray City School opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927. In 1918, the Berrien County School Board put out a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. Materials were supplied by A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City. The school opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927.

The brick school building at Ray City, GA was designed by Valdosta architect Lloyd Greer.  Among other buildings designed by Greer were:  Federal Building and Post Office, Valdosta, GA; Carnegie  Library, Valdosta,GA; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Tallahassee, FL; James Price McRee House, Camilla, GA; Dasher High School, Valdosta, GA; Barney School, Barney, GA; Barber-Pitman House, Valdosta, GA; Lanier County Auditorium and Grammar School, Lakeland, GA; Ilex Theater, Quitman,GA; Moultrie Theater, Moultrie, GA; United Cigar Store Building, Jacksonville, GA; Quitman Library, Quitman, GA; Echols County High School, Statenville, GA; Barrow Hall, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA; Pine Grove School, Fitzgerald, GA; Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, GA; Douglas Negro High School and Douglas White High School, Douglas, GA; Nichols House,Valdosta, GA; Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. The Lyric Theater, Waycross,GA was designed by Greer.

Old Wooden School at Ray City, GA

The Ray City High School Class of 1949 wrote, “The school of our community was begun long before our town received its present name having been known as Rays Mill. “

Among those early teachers of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) was  Henry Harrison Knight (1840-1898).  These teachers   taught in the little one room log house schools  of Berrien county, and were often paid in “found” – bartered, homegrown commodities such as ham, chickens, eggs, or butter.

The first school building was located on the east side of town. This building was destroyed by fire. Then a log cabin called the Alliance Building was constructed in 1898, and was used for about two years.

In 1900 the interested people of the community decided to make an improvement in the school plant. Trees were cut from their lands and carried to Sutton’s Sawmill to be made into lumber, for the purpose of erecting a frame building. That stood where our present building is now standing. It consisted of one large room. Some of the interested patrons who helped with this building were: J. S. Swindle, W. E. Langford, Isaac Burkhalter, Redding Swindle, and W. M. Knight. With the aid of other patrons they completed the first Ray City School. -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The town experienced a boom period when the Georgia & Florida Railroad came to Ray City in 1909.The increased population made it necessary to make an addition of two more rooms to the school.” -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The January 19, 1911 edition of the Valdosta Times reported news of the school in Rays Mill (now Ray City).   Husband and wife team James Marcus Patten and Ida Lou Hall Patten were running the school. Professor J.M. Patten was college educated, having completed the teacher education program at North Georgia Agricultural College, and had twenty years experience teaching in the common schools of Berrien County.

In 1918,  the Reverend John W. Shoemate and Mrs. Harriet M. Shoemate came to Ray City to take charge of the school.   Reverend Shoemate was a native of Tennessee, and a Baptist minister.  Mrs. Shoemate was a native of South Dakota, and college educated. In Ray City, they were the neighbors of Professor and Mrs. J. M. Patten.  Mrs. Patten was also then occupied teaching public school.  The Ray City School was then still held in the three-room, wood frame building, and educated  students through the eighth grade. One student from this time period was Claudey Belle Hester, who wrote well enough for publication in Progressive Farmer.

According to the Annual Report of the Department of Education, in 1920 the public high school in Ray’s Mill was a 2-year Junior High School. Sankey Booth was Superintendent of the school and later served on the Berrien County Board of Education. One of the teachers in old Ray City was Louannie Eudell Webb (1902-1972), who started teaching by age 17.  She was a daughter of Luther Webb and Mary J. Albritton, and had only an 8th grade education herself. She married Leroy Lorenzo Carter on August 3, 1922. Another teacher at Ray City in 1920 was Lucile Fountain; she taught the fourth grade class. According to later census records, she herself had only attended school through the 4th grade.  It was the talk of the town when her beau, Calvin Simmons, came and got her out of class  and took her to get married on February 13, 1923. Maria Antoniette Poblete Knight worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School in the 1920s.

The Brick School

That [multi-room wood school house] was used until 1920 when work on the present building was started. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

In 1924, the Georgia Library Commission added the Ray City School as the only station in Berrien County for the Georgia Traveling Library.   the Georgia Library Commission had been created in 1919 by the General Assembly with and annual appropriation of $6,000, which included funds for the maintenance of traveling libraries.  These traveling libraries typically provided 50 or 100 books, which were available for a few months before being passed on to the next station.

Wilma Harper began her 60 year teaching career at the Ray City School in 1928 at the age of 18.  There she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City School. A year later they were married.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported  library service offered in Berrien only at Ray City, through the Ray City School and at the Kings Chapel School.

The Great Depression took a great toll on Berrien County, and Ray City struggled with funding to keep the school open. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term. In 1930, the school could not even afford to hold graduation exercises.

In the 1930s many schools in smaller communities were consolidated. In 1936, Pleasant Vale and Sappling Grove schools were closed and the students sent to Ray City.

The Ray City School held a junior high school rating until 1936, when it became an accredited senior high school. Another classroom building was added that year to the school plant. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

By the 1940-41 school term, New Lois High School was also consolidated with Ray City High School.

In the early days students at Ray City School brought their own lunches to school and ate outside on the school grounds, as there was no lunchroom or kitchen to prepare food.  David Miley recalled a sow that used to come into the playground, and snatch the lunch bags of unsuspecting kids. The school grounds were fenced and had a cattle gap to keep free ranging livestock from entering the schoolyard.  Even so, livestock could and did occasionally get into the school yard.  By 1941, the school had a lunch room serving 150 students a day.


Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

During WWII, Ray City School did its part.   Vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army. Graduates and former students left Ray City to go to war. Some never came back.  Hubert Comer (RCHS 1940) joined the Navy and was killed in the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. Harry Elmore Devane (RCHS 1938) also joined the Navy.  On D-Day Devane was a boat officer on a tank landing craft at Omaha Beach. He was killed in an accident aboard the aircraft carrier USS FDR after the war. James A. Swindle (RCHS 1936) captained a B-26 Marauder and flew 75 bombing missions; he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Maurice “Max” Johnson (RCHS 1940) served as a B-24 pilot during WWII from 1942 to 1945. Leland E Langford (RCHS 1939) enlisted on June 12, 1941, serving as an Army pilot until he was killed in a plane crash in 1949.   J.I. Clements (RCHS 1938) joined the Army and fought in Germany. Many other alumni of Ray City School served as well.

William R. “Mac” McClure was principal of the school in the mid 1940s. Charles Woodrow “Woody” Schmoe served as principal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His wife, Nancy Young Schmoe, taught 5th Grade.

In 1947 a fifteen thousand dollar gymnasium was constructed by the patrons, a building in which the whole community justly takes pride (1948-49 Yearbook).  The town dedicated the building with a big dance celebration and the crowning of the Queen of the Harvest.

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

It was in 1949 that veterans of World War II built  a “very modern and up-to-date lunchroom” for the school.

In 1954, Ray City High School and all other white high schools in the county were combined into Nashville High School.  The brick school building at Ray City continued to serve as an elementary and middle school until 1994, when all county schools were consolidated into facilities in Nashville.

Arthur Shaw and Shaw’s Still

In 1908, the opening of the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave Ray City, GA residents a transportation access to the world, and a convenient connection to towns on the G & F route. Among those with a Ray City – Willacoochee connection was Arthur Shaw, son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, of Ray City, GA.  Arthur Shaw, a native of Ray City, spent most of his life at Willacoochee, GA.

Francis Arthur Shaw (1866-1933), son of Francis Marion Shaw, Sr., was born and raised near Ray's Mill (now Ray City), GA. Husband of Victoria Giddens Knight (first wife) and Gertrude Albritton (second wife) Turpentine still operator. Though a native of Berrien county, and some of his turpentine operations were in Berrien county, he resided in Willacoochee most of his adult life. Was a mayor of Willacoochee. Courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Francis Arthur Shaw (1866-1933), son of Francis Marion Shaw, Sr., was born and raised near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA. Husband of Victoria Giddens Knight (first wife) and Gertrude Albritton (second wife). Turpentine still operator. Though a native of Berrien county, and some of his turpentine operations were in Berrien county, he resided in Willacoochee most of his adult life. Was a mayor of Willacoochee. Courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien County Historical Society, contributes the following:

Arthur Shaw, of Willacoochee, was business partners in the turpentine operations with his brothers, Chester and Lacy Shaw, and brother-in-law, William Clements.

The commissary at  Shaw’s Still was operated by Lacy Shaw. Lacy later ended his partnership with Arthur and farmed near the home place of his parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, in Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road. About 1917 he sold his home to Pleamon Sirmans and moved into Ray City and operated a hardware store there before moving to Valdosta about 1927 or so.

The location of the turpentine operation was actually about a mile or so south of Springhead Methodist Church in Atkinson County. The terminus of the Pinebloom railroad which ran through Willacoochee was at Shaws Still which is shown on the early 1900 railroad maps. The intent at one time was for the Pinebloom to terminus at DuPont, however the extension was determined to be financially unsound and it was given up. Very little is visible of the old Pinebloom railroad bed between Willacoochee and Shaws Still. The terminus of the railroad was about where the Henderson Lumber Company had its operation, near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road. The still site is no longer visible and is on a  private hunting preserve now.
—Bryan Shaw


The Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad, originally called the Fitzgerald, Pinebloom & Valdosta, was a logging road and occasional common carrier owned by the Gray Lumber Company. 

[Benjamin B. Gray, a principal of the Gray Lumber Company and the OP & V,  was a brother-in-law of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong.  Furlong committed his first murder while employed at Gray’s sawmill at Pinebloom, and thereafter wreaked mayhem up and down the line of the Brunswick & Western Railroad.]

The 52-mile Lax-Pinebloom-Nashville line was completed in 1901-03.

In 1906, the FP&V sold the section south of Pinebloom to the Douglas, Augusta, & Gulf Railway (which was controlled by the Georgia & Florida).  The FP&V continued to operate the tracks north of Pinebloom. (Pinebloom was a flag station on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad a mile east of Willacoochee with a 1896 population of about 200. The Gray Brothers saw mill was its largest enterprise.)

The line was renamed the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad in 1910, and in 1915 the Henderson Lumber Company gained control.

The 1918 Report of the Georgia Railroad Commission listed the OP&V as a 27-mile line between Gladys, a point on the Ocilla Southern Railroad, and Shaw’s Still, which was about nine miles southeast of Willacoochee. Two years later the Commission indicated that the OP&V had been dismantled and listed its successor road, the Willacoochee & DuPont, as a 9.5-mile line between Willacoochee and Shaws Still.

In 1915, when the Henderson Lumber Company acquired the Ocilla, Pinebloom, & Valdosta Railway, it ran from Gladys to Shaw’s Still. In 1918, the Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad purchased the line and reportedly abandoned the tracks between Gladys and Willacoochee the following year (or used them only for logging or hauling naval stores and turpentine). It continued to operate the eastern and southern section of track from Willacoochee to Shaws Still, but apparently was not able to extend the line past Shaws Still to DuPont, a town on the Atlantic Coast Line in Clinch County. In 1922, this track too was abandoned.
Source: http://www.RailGa.com

The Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Arthur Shaw’s life, loves, and business dealings:

Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933

Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933

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Thomas R. Cox and The Bank of Willacoochee

Thomas R. Cox grew up at Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City) and later returned as a resident. He was only educated through the 8th grade, but made a successful career in bookkeeping.  In the early 1900s he went to Willacoochee, GA to live with his uncle Gid Gasksins and to work  in Gaskin’s general merchandise store as a salesman.

Within a few years Thomas secured a situation as Bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. The Bank of Willacoochee was chartered in 1900 with $25,000 capital investment. The Cashier of the bank was George F. McCranie, son of Malcolm McCranie who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek.

All seemed well until the morning of Thursday, May 4, 1916 when Thomas R. Cox failed to show up for work at the bank.  With Cox’s unexplained disappearance Cashier George F. McCranie suspected the worst, and the bank was closed pending an investigation by the state bank examiner.

Over the next two months some details unfolded, not only in local newspapers, but in papers  as far away as Honolulu.


Tifton Gazette
May 12, 1916

Bank of Willacoochee

Closed Pending Examination of the Books by Authorities

    Willacoochee, Ga., May 9. –  The doors of the Bank of Willacoochee of this place were closed Monday and the institution is in the hands of the state bank examiner.
     T. R. Cox, who was bookkeeper, has been missing since last Thursday. Soon after his departure, it was reported that George F. McCranie, cashier, discovered that errors had been made in keeping the books, and immediately wired for experts to examin into the affairs of the bank. The examination has continued through yesterday and today.
     Later reports say the errors in the books are not as great as reported and that the bank is in good shape.



Thomas R. Cox of Willacoochee, GA sought by police. Atlanta Constitution, May 17, 1916


Atlanta Constitution
May 17, 1916

Police Asked to Find Missing Bookkeeper


    Police Chief W. M. Mayo was requested to have his men be on the lookout for Thomas R. Cox, former bookkeeper of the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., who was reported to have embezzled the bank of several thousand dollars.
    George F. McCranie, cashier of the institution, called at the police station and told Chief Mayo that the officials of the bank offered a reward of $500 for the former bookkeeper’s arrest.


Honolulu Star-Bulleting reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 19, 1916

Charged with the embezzlement of $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., Thomas R. Cox, aged 28, was recently arrested in New York.



Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette
May 26 1916


New York, May 25, — Thomas R. Cox, Age 28, was arrested here today charged with embezzling $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, of Willacoochee, Ga.

     The Bank of Willacoochee, considered one of the soundest financial institutions in that section of the state, was closed May 8th following the disappearance of the Bookkeeper, Thomas R. Cox.
    It was at first stated that the shortage amounted to $30,000 but later there were reports that the defalcation was not so great, an error of the adding machine being in part responsible.
    Cox’s home was formerly at Ray City, in Berrien County.


Atlanta Constitution
May 27, 1916

Coffee Sheriff Holds Thos. Cox in New York

Willacoochee, Ga., May 26. — (Special.) — A telegram was received from Sheriff David Ricketson, of this county, last night stating that Thomas R. Cox, who is charged with wrecking the Bank of Willacoochee, was held by him in New York city and requisition papers have been forwarded to the governor of Georgia for his signature. The state bank examiner is still in charge of the institution and the amount of shortage is not known, though it is estimated at several thousand dollars.


Tifton Gazette
June 23,1916


From the Willacoochee Record.
      At a meeting of the stockholders of the Bank of Willacoochee Tuesday, the stockholders present representing 231 of the 250 shares of the bank, voted unanimously in favor of an assessment sufficient to bring the impaired capital stock up to its par value and resume business.
      This will make the institution as sound as it ever was. Besides a plan has been proposed by depositors are to be insured and new officers for the institution will be elected if the plan of reorganization is successful. It is understood that the present depositors will co-operate with the stockholders for the payment of their claims as it will assure the reorganization and at the same time protect themselves as depositors.


Atlanta Constitution, July 7, 1916 reports that the Bank of Willacoochee has reopened for business

Despite all the reported allegations of embezzlement by Thomas R. Cox, the available newspapers never reported that the Bank Examiners had any findings against him or that he was ever charged with any crime. He later worked as a book keeper in Ray City, GA.


Gideon Gaskins and the Oak View Hotel

Gideon D. Gaskins

Gideon D. Gaskins was born September 15, 1859 and raised in the vicinity of Ray’s Mill, GA.  His father was William Gaskins and his mother was Elizabeth Clements.  The Berrien County tax digests of 1884-1886 show the twenty-something young Gideon Gaskins in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district, although he was not a land owner.

On October 17, 1886, Gideon D. Gaskins married Lourene “Lula” Clements in Berrien County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Lula was born September 5, 1866, a daughter of John C. Clements  and Mary Patten.

Some time before 1887,  Gideon Gaskins moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where he worked as a merchant.  The 1887 property tax digest show “Giddie” Gaskins owned property in the town of Willacoochee valued at $135, and $25 worth of household furnishings. His stock of merchandise was valued at $300. The 1890 property tax digests show Gaskins’ town property in Willacoochee valued at $200, as well as $50 in household furnishings and $20 in livestock.

An 1898 society item from offered a tongue-in-cheek critique of the Willacoochee merchant’s physique.  Gaskin’s fellow businessmen and neighbors were: Albert Padgett, merchant; William L. Moore, merchant; Joe Vickers, merchant; Henry Paulk, merchant.  Gid Gaskins was apparently leaner and cleaner shaven than his colleagues.

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

Tifton Gazette
June 17, 1898

Clever Joe Vickers is waxing fat, selling good goods and eating fish these days.  The same would be true of our friends Padgett and Moore, but Gid Gaskins is not quite keeping up with the boys in the matter of flesh.  Like Henry Paulk, however, he is better prepared to stand hot weather.

In the census of 1900, Gideon Gaskins gave his occupation as merchant and indicated he was working as a wage employee. By 1902, Willacoochee was a growing concern and Gideon was ready to run his own shop.  He built a brick store in Willacoochee on the south side of the tracks of the Brunswick and Western Railroad. The Brunswick & Western Railroad ran 171 miles from Brunswick, GA to Albany, GA passing through Waynesville, Waycross, Waresboro, Pearson, Sniff, Kirkland, Pinebloom, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma,  Brookfield, Vanceville, Tifton and other towns.  In the 1870s and 80s the Brunswick & Western had been the stomping grounds of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong; in the 1900s Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong,  son of Ben Furlong, was  residing at Willacoochee, GA in the household of his foster parents Benjamin B. Gray and Ellen Gray .


1902-mar-21-gideon-gaskins-in willacoochee-ga

Tifton Gazette
March 21, 1902

A Growing Town

    Tifton’s sister city Willacoochee is showing more evidence of thrift and interprise than any town along the Brunswick and Western.
    The Bank of Willacoochee has just finished two handsome brick store rooms on either side of the bank building, and these are occupied by D. E. Gaskins and by Carter & Ford.
   Mr. G. D. Gaskins is erecting a handsome brick store, 25×90 feet, as is also Mr. J. J. Vickers, the former on the south and the latter on the north side of the railroad, where his store was burned last Christmas.
   Both these buildings will soon be completed and occupied. Messrs. M. Corbitt and J. F. Shearer have also put a handsome line of groceries in the post office building.
    Several more improvements are contemplated.

Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula Clements had only one child, Mattie Mae Gaskins, born October 10, 1890. A 1904 news clipping from the Tifton Gazette suggests that Mattie Gaskins may have attended the Sparks Institute as a teen ager.


The 1910 census records show that Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had come to live with the Gaskins in Willacoochee by that time.  It was a banner year for Willacoochee in 1910.  The opening of the line of the Georgia & Florida on October 1, 1908 had brought a second railroad to the town and by 1910 the town was experiencing a boom in construction.  The Peoples Bank building went up, along with half a dozen still-existing brick and wood commercial buildings.  and the Willacoochee Electric Plant. And in 1910,  the Oak View Hotel was built in Willacoochee; Gideon Gaskins would be the proprietor.

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA, with its distinctive jerkinhead (clipped gable) roof line. The jerkinhead design roof was stronger, but more expensive than a conventional hip gable roof.

The former Oak View hotel still stands on the corner of McCranie Street and Gaskins Street in Willacoochee, GA.  The hotel was built in a prime location,  one block south of the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad and two blocks east of the depot of the recently opened Georgia & Florida Railroad.   After 1908, the route of the G&F was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles. The Gaskins were one of many south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

The costs of constructing the Oak View Hotel may have strained Gideon D. Gaskins’ finances.  In 1910 he received a judgment of bankruptcy, but later determined that he would be able to make good on all his debts.


Tifton Gazette
April 29, 1910

Does Not Appear Bankrupt

     Brunswick, Ga., April 23. – The case of G. D. Gaskins of Willacoochee, recently adjudged to be a bankrupt by the local refferee in bankruptcy, will come up for a hearing in this city on May 2.
    The schedule of liabilities and assets of the bankrupt were recently filed in the court for this district, and they show that he has assets of about $7,450, while his liabilities are only about $2,982.11.
    Some of the indebtedness has been paid off since the filing of the petition, and it is expected that when he comes to the hearing he will offer to pay dollar for dollar.

Despite earlier struggles, business was good in Willacoochee. By 1916 Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had secured a position as bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. When Cox disappeared in May, 1916 there were allegations of malfeasance.

Gideon D. Gaskins died at his home in Willacoochee, GA on October 23, 1916.

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

The Tifton Gazette

Oct 27, 1916

 G. D. Gaskins, Willacoochee.
Willacoochee, Ga., October 24.-(Special.)- G .D. Gaskins, proprietor of the Oak View hotel and a well-known citizen of this county, died at his home here last night about 6 o’clock. He is survived by a wife, one daughter, Miss Mattie Mae Gaskins, of Willacoochee; four brothers, Bart, Tom and John Gaskins of Ray City, and Bryan Gaskins, of Sparks, and three sisters, Mrs. Ida Sirmans, and Mrs. Catherine Roberts of Nashville, and Mrs. Mary Cox of Ray City. The funeral was held at 3 o’clock this afternoon, followed by the interment here.

The grave of Gideon D. Gaskins lies in the Willacoochee City Cemetery.

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

The information from the grave marker is somewhat problematic. First, the given name on the grave does not follow the expected spelling –  “Gidian” instead of “Gideon.” Second, the date of death on the grave -March 21, 1916 – does not match with obituaries published in local and state newspapers which clearly establish the date of death as October 23, 1916.  It appears that the marker on the grave of Gideon D. Gaskins was placed well after the time of his death, perhaps after the time of his wife’s death, and that the date of his passing or even the spelling of his name was not well known to those tending his grave.

After the death of Gideon D. Gaskins his widow, Lula Clements Gaskins, operated the Oak View Hotel for a few years, then returned to Ray City, GA with her daughter, Mattie Mae Gaskins.   They lived in a house on Main Street, Ray City, until Lula’s death in 1947.

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Robert O. Rouse Sought Confederate Pension

Robert O. Rouse (1842-1908)

In 1903, Confederate veteran Robert O. Rouse, of Ray’s Mill, GA, wrote to Pension Commissioner J. W. Lindsey, for help with his Confederate Pension application. In the Civil War, Rouse fought with the 50th Georgia Regiment, Company I, the Berrien Light Infantry. Rouse was horribly wounded in combat, captured by federal forces and held as a prisoner of war at Rock Island, MD.  Despite his service and sacrifice, his pension application was denied by Georgia authorities.



Rays Mill, Berrien County, GA
March 24, 1903
Hon J W Lindsy
will you plese let me now all about my pension. I weant of in war and stade till hit stopt in Macon Ga at Lee SoRender. i was shot and not abel to work.  plese help me in need i  have lade on  fros ind land til my life is short or me  excuse bad riten.

Robert Rouse
Rays Mill Ga

Robert O. Rouse, a son of Alfred Rouse and Elizabeth J. “Betty” Dixon, was born in Duplin County, NC and came to Berrien County, GA at a young age. His grave marker at Empire Cemetery, near Ray City, gives his birth date as November 1, 1842, but  his 1903 application for a Confederate Pension states he was born March 2, 1843.

Robert’s father, Alfred Rouse, died about 1848 or 1849; the estate of Alfred Rouse was probated in Duplin County, NC in 1849.  Nine-year-old Robert was enumerated on August 8, 1850 in his widowed mother’s household in the south district of Duplin County, NC. His siblings were enumerated as David W. Rouse (age 10), Mary S. Rouse (8), Bryan J. Rouse (7), Sarah J. Rouse (6), and Barbara C. Rouse (6).

1850 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse, Duplin County, NC.

1850 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse, Duplin County, NC. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0629unix#page/n110/mode/1up

In the 1850s, Robert O. Rouse came with some of his Dixon relatives to settle a few miles east of  present day Ray City GA. According to Wiregrass historian Folks Huxford , about that time a number of families “moved to what was then Lowndes County…from their home community in Duplin County, N. C. 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.”  In 1850, James Dobson moved his family and slaves from Duplin County, NC to Lowndes (now Berrien) County, GA, settling on land lot 333 of the 10th District, just west of Ten Mile Creek in what is now Lanier County; Peter McGowan and Richard McGowan are believed to be two of the slaves Dobson brought from North Carolina.  William Hill Boyett, John Bostick, Treasy Boyett Bostick and Mary C. Bostick came from Duplin to Berrien in the mid-century, and A few years later, Jessie Bostick also removed from Duplin County to the area. James M. and Martha Gordon Sloan made their way From Duplin, NC to Berrien in 1874, via Mississippi and Echols County, GA.

The census of 1860 places Robert Rouse, enumerated as “Robert Rose,” in Berrien County in the household of James W. Dixon. James Rouse was also residing in the Dixon household. James W. Dixon was a farmer and a neighbor of George A. Peeples, William J. Hill, James Patten and General Levi J. Knight.

1860 census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse in the household of James W. Dixon.

1860 census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse in the household of James W. Dixon. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n363/mode/1up

When the Civil War broke out Robert Rouse joined a local militia unit, the Berrien Light Infantry, enlisting on April 1, 1862.  He was officially mustered into Company I, 50th Georgia Volunteer Infantry on August 23, 1862  at Calhoun, GA.  William H. Boyett, James I. G. Connell, William Evander Connell, J.W.T. Crum were other Berrien County men who mustered in to Company I, 50th GA Regiment on August 22-23.

Rouse  and the other men were was sent to join the 50th Regiment which by then had been deployed to Richmond, VA.  Among the men from the Ray City area serving with this unit were Green Bullard, Fisher J. Gaskins, Lemuel Elam Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins,  John Jasper Cook and John Martin Griner.

Muster roles show Robert Rouse was present with his unit in Virginia by August 31, 1862.  As the last weeks of summer slipped into fall the 50th Georgia Regiment fought through some of the bloodiest battles of the war. At Fox’s Gap, South Mountain, MD on September 14, 1862 the 50th Georgia Regiment suffered a casualty rate of 86 percent. William Guthrie was one of six men of Company I (Berrien Light Infantry) killed that day. Another was mortally wounded and 4 more suffered non-fatal wounds. Lemuel Gaskins was wounded, captured and sent to Fort Delaware, MD as a POW. As terrible as the Confederate losses were at South Mountain, they were just a “bloody prelude” to the Battle of Antietam fought three days later September 17, 1862 at Sharpsburg,MD. Almost every surviving soldier in the 50th Regiment was wounded.  On October 2, 1862 Rouse was sent to Winchester Hospital where  thousands of Confederate wounded had been taken. Virtually the entire town of  Winchester, VA was a hospital, with wounded laid up in every home.

Muster Rolls for January and February 1863 show Robert Rouse was absent “at hospital.” On April 16, 1863 he was admitted to the General Hospital at Stanton, VA with pneumonia. In July, Rouse was at the 1st Division General Hospital, Camp Winder, Richmond VA.

By November 1863 Robert Rouse was recovered and was back fighting with the 50th Regiment in Tennessee when Confederate forces under the command of Major General James Longstreet attempted to dislodge the Union occupation of Knoxville. On the approach to Knoxville Rouse’s unit saw relatively little action.   But in the final days of November, the 50th Georgia participated in a disastrous assault on Fort Sanders, a part of the Union’s ring of earthwork defenses around Knoxville.  A week into the siege of Knoxville,  the Confederates determined Fort Sanders was the most vulnerable point of attack. In reality, Union engineers had employed supreme effort and ingenuity in fortifying Fort Sanders.

The Confederate assault on Fort Sanders, conducted on November 29, 1863, was poorly planned and executed. Longstreet discounted the difficulties of the physical obstacles his infantrymen would face. He had witnessed, through field glasses, a Union soldier walking across a 12 foot wide defensive ditch that surrounded the bastioned earthworks Fort Sanders  and, not realizing that the man had crossed on a plank, believed that the ditch was very shallow. Longstreet also believed that the steep walls of the earthworks could be negotiated by digging footholds, rather than requiring scaling ladders.

The Confederates moved to within 120-150 yards of the salient during the night of freezing rain and snow and waited for the order to attack. Their attack on the dawn of November 29th has been described as “cruel and gruesome by 19th century standards.” The advancing Confederate troops were initially confronted by telegraph wire that had been strung between tree stumps at knee height, possibly the first use of such wire entanglements in the Civil War, and many men were shot as they tried to disentangle themselves. When they reached the ditch, they found the vertical wall to be almost insurmountable, frozen and slippery. Union soldiers rained murderous fire into the masses of men, including musketry, canister, and artillery shells thrown as hand grenades. Unable to dig footholds, men climbed upon each other’s shoulders to attempt to reach the top. A succession of color bearers were shot down as they planted their flags on the fort.

For one brief moment the flag of the 50th Georgia Regiment flew atop Fort Sanders’ bastion, planted by Sergeant James S. Bailey, of Company B, before he was captured. Also among the captured was Private John Woods Smith, Company G, who would later become a resident of Ray’s Mill, GA.

In  James W. Parrish’s documentary on the history of 50th Georgia Regiment,  he wrote,

” Although the Southerners fought gallantly, devastating enemy fire forced them to retreat. The ditch trapped many soldiers who were killed, wounded or captured.”

Re-created depiction of Confederate dead at Fort Sanders. 2008 Photo by Wendell Decker http://www.battleoffortsanders.com/Site/Albums/Pages/Wendell_Decker.html#0

Re-enacted depiction of Confederate dead at Fort Sanders.  Photographed by Wendell Decker with Civil War period equipment, 2008.  http://www.battleoffortsanders.com/Site/Albums/Pages/Wendell_Decker.html#0

“After only twenty minutes, Longstreet mercifully called off the assault.”

“As the Rebel offensive collapsed, the retreat proved as deadly as the attack.  Enemy musketry and canister raked the men as they ran back across the open field toward the cover of the wooded ravine.  Lieutenant [William F. “Billie”] Pendleton reported on his narrow escape: ‘We jumped up and dashed down the hill, then cannon opened up on us.  I was caught up in the telegraph wire and forward down the hill.’ ” (Pendleton was eighteen years old).

“The Confederates suffered 813 casualties, including 129 killed, 458 wounded, and 226 captured. Federal losses in the fort were only 13. The attack had been an unmitigated disaster.”

In the bloodbath at Fort Sanders, Robert Rouse was horribly wounded in the face. Both cheek bones were broken and his vision was impaired. Captured by Union forces on January 5, 1864, he was sent to a hospital. He was held at Nashville, TN until January 17, then sent to a military prison at Louisville, KY. On January 23, 1864 he was transferred to Rock Island Prison, Illinois.

Rock Island Prison, Rock Island, IL. Federal guards stand in the foreground; in the background confederate POWs turn out for roll call, December 3, 1863.

Rock Island Prison, Rock Island, IL. Federal guards stand in the foreground; in the background confederate POWs turn out for roll call, December 3, 1863.

Construction of the Rock Island Prison Barracks began in August 1863, with the first 488 confederate POWs arriving on December 3, 1863 before construction was completed. Within weeks the prison population swelled to over 5000 confederate soldiers.

“The prison, rectangular in shape, covered  approximately twelve acres of land. Eighty four wooden-framed barracks, 22 x 100 feet in size, arranged in six rows of fourteen barracks each, comprised the containment area. Each barracks had a kitchen, with a stove and a forty gallon kettle for cooking, located at the west end of the building. Captain Reynolds built enough bunks in each barracks to accommodate 120 prisoners. A main avenue running east to west divided the camp and led to the two main gates. The barracks were enclosed by a twelve foot high rough board fence. A guard platform built four feet from the top of the stockade fence, on the exterior side, had a sentry box every 100 feet. Trenches maintained inside the fence served as a warning line. Sentries were ordered to fire at prisoners venturing beyond this point. The “dead line” supposedly deterred prisoners from tunneling under the stockade. In addition, the closeness of bedrock to the surface prevented tunneling near the southern side of the stockade”

The first few weeks of the camp’s operation were particularly hellish. It was bitterly cold weather, the southern soldiers were ill clothed, there was a shortage of blankets, and disease was rampant.  Some men died from the cold, others from small pox.

By the time of Rouse’s arrival at Rock Island Barracks in January, 1864, 329 prisoners and 4 guards had died of small pox.  The prison had no hospital and inadequate medical supplies or equipment. Prisoners with contagious diseases were housed among the general prison population. The prison grounds were a mudpit, as the site was situated on low ground near a marsh causing water to drain into the compound rather than out. Conditions were unsanitary with no provision for the disposal of garbage or wash water, which were dumped on the ground near the barracks. The water supply was inadequate and prisoners disposed of privy waste in the river that flowed through the camp. Cornbread fed to the prisoners was rancid and made men sick.

In Rouse’s first month at Rock Island, small pox killed another 350 confederates and 10 guards. On March 4, 1864 420 more small pox cases were reported and 644 were sick with undiagnosed diseases.   Although conditions at Rock Island significantly improved over time, 1,964 prisoners and 171 guards died there by the War’s end. Robert Rouse survived Rock Island Barracks and was released March 27, 1865.

Federal parole of Robert O. Rouse, Confederate Prisoner of War, March 27, 1865.

Federal parole of Robert O. Rouse, Confederate Prisoner of War, March 27, 1865.

Headquarters Department of Richmond
Richmond, Va. March 27th 1865

           In obedience to instructions from the Secretary of War, the following named men (paroled prisoners) are granted leaves of indulgence for 30 days (unless sooner exchanged ) at the expiration of which time, those belonging to commands serving north of the Southern boundary line  of North Carolina, and in East Tennessee, will report immediately to them, if exchanged; other wise they will report to Camp of Paroled Prisoners, Richmond, Va.  All other paroled prisoners, except those whose commands are serving  within the limits above mentioned, will also report, at expiration of their furloughs, to Camp of Paroled Prisoners, Richmond, Va.

Priv. R. Rouse Co. I 50 Ga Inf

Quartermaster will furnish Transportation

By order of Lt. General R. S. Ewell

After release from Rock Island Barracks, Robert Rouse was sent to Boulware and Cox’s Wharves, James River, VA for exchange. Bouleware’s Wharf  was described as “the Graveyard” by Colonel Robert Ould, Confederate Agent of Exchange in Richmond, in a letter to Ulysses S. Grant dated December 27, 1864.

Boulware’s Wharf was located on the James River, about 10 miles below Richmond, where Osborne Turnpike intersects Kingsland Road. Cox’s Wharf was located just down river.  By the time of Rouse’s parole, the James River up to and including Cox’s Wharf was under the control of federal forces.  Boulware’s Wharf was under the eye of Fort Brady held by Federal troops at Cox’s Wharf, and also in the shadow of the Confederate Fort Hoke located about two miles up stream.  Under a flag of truce Bouleware’s Wharf for a time became the point where Confederate prisoners were exchanged for Union POWs.

The Confederate POWs would be brought by steamboat to Aiken’s Landing, at the point where the Varina Road reaches the James River.

According to the testimony of Colonel Ould, “It is simply impossible, owing to the relative positions of the military lines, to the conditions of the roads, and the deficiency of transportation, to convey in vehicles even the sick (returning Confederates) from Varina (Aiken’s Landing) to Richmond, a distance by way of Boulware’s of some fourteen miles. The Federal steam-boats which bring our prisoners stop at Varina. This point is some four miles from our lines, and the prisoners are either marched or transported to Boulware’s Wharf, which is nearly on the dividing line of the opposing armies, and about four miles distant from Varina.”

With the war ended, Robert Rouse was furloughed. On April 10, 1865 his furlough was extended for 30 days at Macon, GA.  Rouse returned to Berrien County, GA to the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill District.  County tax records confirm his presence there in 1867.

On December 9, 1869 Robert O. Rouse married Nancy Kisiah Parrish in Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Robert O. Rouse and Mary K. Parrish

Marriage certificate of Robert O. Rouse and Nancy K. Parrish, Berrien County, GA.

Kisiah’s father, Matthew A. Parrish, had also enlisted with Company I, 50th GA Regiment during the Civil War, but had been detailed as a carpenter to help construct Guyton Hospital at Whitesville, GA three months before Rouse joined the unit. It appears that her father was furloughed home and died in Berrien County in October 1862.

Robert and Kiziah Rouse took up married life in the farm house of Robert’s uncle, William Dixon. Robert assisted his uncle with farm labor and Kisiah kept house.

1870 Census enumeration of Nancy Kisiah Parrish and Robert Rouse in the household of William Dixon, Berrien County, GA.

1870 Census enumeration of Nancy Kisiah Parrish and Robert Rouse in the household of William Dixon, Berrien County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n468/mode/1up

From Ray’s Mill, the William Dixon place  was out the road now known as the Sam I. Watson Highway, on the northeast bank of Ten Mile Creek (formerly known as Alapacoochee Creek).

About 1875 William Dixon  and the Rouses moved across Ten Mile Creek to Lot 333 which had been acquired by Dixon.  The 1880 census shows Robert Rouse enumerated next door to his uncle, William Dixon. It appears Robert had his own domicile, but still on his uncle’s property. By this time, Robert’s household included his wife and their children: Sally, age 7; Alfred, age 5; James, age 4; and William, age 2.  They were neighbors of Rhoda and George Washington Knight, and John C. Sirmans.

Robert O. Rouse 1880 Census

1880 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse, 1144 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n411/mode/1up

In 1883 a fifth child, Josie Rouse, was born to Robert and Nancy Kisiah Rouse.

On Sunday, October 19, 1884 tragedy struck the family, with the death of little James Rouse. The  boy was laid to rest at Empire Cemetery.

Grave of James Rouse (1874-1884), son of Robert O. Rouse. Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of James Rouse (1874-1884), son of Robert O. Rouse. Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Robert and Nancy Kisiah Rouse were enumerated in the Census of 1900 still on the farm on Ten Mile Creek near Empire Church, which they had acquired from Robert’s uncle William Dixon. In their household were sons William Rouse and Josie Rouse, who helped work the farm. Also boarding with the family was Will Dias, who was employed as a teamster. Their son, Alfred L. Rouse,  and his wife, Mary Jones Rouse, were living in an adjacent home; boarding with them was uncle William Dixon, now retired.  Daughter Sarah J. “Sallie” Rouse had married D. Edwin Griner and the couple owned a nearby farm. Still residing next door to the Rouses were George Washington Knight and Rhoda Futch Knight.

1900 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse and family, Berrien County, GA

1900 Census enumeration of Robert O. Rouse and family, Berrien County, GA  https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n769/mode/1up

From 1900 to 1903, Robert Rouse, now in his 60’s, tried in vain to qualify for a  Invalid Soldier Pension from the State of Georgia.

Georgia Invalid Soldier's Pension Application submitted by Robert O. Rouse, Berrien County, GA.

Georgia Invalid Soldier’s Pension Application submitted by Robert O. Rouse, Berrien County, GA.

Rouse’s pension application was supported by a letter from Alexander W. Patterson, Ordinary of Berrien County, GA.


Office of Ordinary
A. W. Patterson, Ordinary
Nashville,GA., Berrien County

This is to certify that R O Rouse is still in life and entitled to any benefits that may be due him as an Invalid Confederate Soldier.
    Given under my hand and Seal of the County Ordinary, This 22” day July 1902

A W Patterson

Rouse was examined by Dr. L. A. Carter and Dr. W. B. Goodman who attested, “We find applicant almost blind. We believe it was caused by a wound in the face, the missile entered on the left side behind the molar and came out in front of the right molar. Said wound is so near the eyes that it caused iritis which left the eyes permanently injured.”

Three witnesses confirmed Robert O. Rouse’s service with the 50th GA Regiment, that he was wounded in action and permanently disabled; John Page Bennett, John Woods Smith, and Timothy W. Stallings. John Page Bennett, a private in Company G, 50th GA Regiment was wounded by a shell fragment in the Battle of Fredricksburg and permanently lost the use of his left arm. He received a disability discharge on April 27, 1863. John Woods Smith, a corporal in 50th GA Regiment, Company G, the Clinch Volunteers was captured November 29th, 1863 at the battle of Fort Sanders, the same battle where Robert Rouse was shot in the face.  After the War, John Woods Smith married Mary Jane Whitehurst and moved to the Rays Mill District of Berrien County; In 1900 he was living in Rays Mill, GA. Timothy W. Stallings was a private in Company K, 50th GA Regiment; in 1900 he was living in Nashville, GA.

Rouse’s pension application was denied. In June 1901, the Office of the Commissioner of Pensions, State of Georgia, noted, “The statements and proofs submitted does not show blindness, and that his condition was result of service. Physician must state in what way injury could have injured the eyes.  It is probably that present condition of eyes is result of old age and not of the wound or service.”  In 1902 the further notation was added by J. W. Lindsey, Commissioner of Pensions, “No pension allowed from partial blinding. Disapprove file.”

Robert O. Rouse died March 22, 1908.  He was buried at Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of Robert O. Rouse, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Robert O. Rouse, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA


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George Washington Wood

George Washington Wood was a brother of John Rhoden Wood, who served as a U. S. Diplomat to France between WWI and WWII.  The two brothers grew up in Ray City GA.  Around 1913, after the death of his first wife, Creasey Brown, George Washington Wood moved to Savannah, GA. But some time in the early 1940s, George and his second wife, Fannie Lou Taylor, moved from Savannah back to Ray City, GA.

George Washington Wood and his second wife, Fannie Lou Taylor. Image courtesy of Katie Frost

George Washington Wood and his second wife, Fannie Lou Taylor. Image courtesy of Katie Frost

George Washington Wood was born July 9, 1884. A son of Milledge Dewey Wood (1862 – 1932) and Nancy Caroline Rhoden Wood (1860 – 1929).  George grew up at Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City).  As a young man, he was tall with medium build, grey eyes and brown hair.

At the age of 18, he married Creasy Brown of Dupont, GA and  the couple made their home on a rented farm in the Connells Mill District, the 1329 Georgia Militia District,  on the “Rays Mill and Cat Creek road” near the town of Rays Mill (now Ray City).  George worked the farm and Creasy assisted with the farm labor while raising four kids. Following the birth of her fifth child, Creasy fell sick in the fall of 1911 and died on October 10, 1911.

Children of Creasy Brown and George Washington Wood:

  1. Leon Wood, born August 30, 1901, Berrien County, GA;  died November 8, 1922; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  2. Hattie Wood, born about 1906, Berrien County, GA
  3. Gruvey Silas Wood, born March 24, 1908, Berrien County, GA; married Mary Pannal; died May 22, 1984, Savannah, GA; buried Hillcrest Abbey East Cemetery, Savannah, GA
  4. J. Remer Wood, born September 30, 1909, Berrien County, GA; married Jewel Prickett; died October 4, 1995; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  5. Henry C. Wood, born August 8, 1911, Berrien County, GA; died April 24, 1986; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

George was left to raise five children on his own. It appears that around 1915, he moved his young family to Savannah, GA where he secured a job as an electric street car conductor. About 1916 he married Fannie Lou Taylor  (1896 – 1981) and the couple made their home at 318 East 36th Street in Savannah.

Children of George Washington Wood and Fannie Lou Taylor:

  1. Thelma Wood, born August 10, 1918, Savannah, GA; married Jack Herlihy; died June 11, 2007; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.
  2. Georgia Wood, born August 18, 1921, Savannah, GA; Married first Robert Stanley Krinsky, second George Ruscup; died August 21, 2004; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  3. James Arthur Wood, born January 7, 1924; married Barbara Swindle, Berrien County, GA; died June 22, 1991 Savannah, GA; buried Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA.
  4.  Wallace Glenn Wood, born March 18, 1926; married Loretta Carver; died July 28, 2015; buried Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

In the early 1940s Fannie Lou Taylor and George Washington Wood moved to Ray City, Georgia.  They lived in a home on Main Street, just across the street from the residence of Henry Alexander Swindle and Ora Kathleen Knight Swindle in a house that was formerly the residence of Mr. and Mrs. P. M. Shultz.

Home of George Washington Wood and Fannie Lou Taylor Wood, Main Street, Ray City, GA

Home of George Washington Wood and Fannie Lou Taylor Wood, Main Street, Ray City, GA

George Washington Wood died on Monday, June 13, 1960. He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA, among others of the Wood family connection.

Grave of George Washington Wood and Fannie Lou Taylor Wood, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of George Washington Wood and Fannie Lou Taylor Wood, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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