Watson Grade News March 4, 1904

A continuation of a series of 1904 articles in the Tifton Gazette on the residents of “Watson Grade” by  anonymous author “Trixie.”  The Watson Grade community was just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA, near Empire Church where the Watson, Patten, Lee, Cook and Sirmans  families all farmed.   On March 4, 1904, the Watson Grade news included a report that Marcus Greene had seriously injured his hand.

Marcus Greene (1877-1935), farmer of Berrien County, GA. Image source: D. Jane Griffin

Marcus Greene (1877-1935), farmer of Berrien County, GA. Image source: D. Jane Griffin

1904-mar-4-watson-grade-news

Tifton Gazette
March 4, 1904

Watson Grade News.

         We are having some fine weather and the farmers are making good use of it.
         Last Sunday was regular service at Empire, and there was quite a crowd out.
         Mr. S. W. Watson, of Irwin was down last Friday to see his brother Mr. Jos. Watson, who has been suffering with cancer for sometime, but is fast improving.
         The advance on the price of guano seems to have nothing to do with the amount our farmers are buying, as many of them are failing to get their orders filled.
         Mr. Marcus Greene got one of his hands painfully hurt one day last week while riding on the Gray Lumber Co’s log-train. It is thought some of his fingers, if not his hand, will have to be amputated.
         Mr. Aaron Cook caught two trout in Ray’s mill pond last Thursday that weighed fifteen lbs.
         Mr. and Mrs. Joe Kirkland visited relatives in Clinch last Sunday.
         Mr. W. C. Patten has the nicest specimen of South Georgia stock raising to be seen in this section. He has two young colts in his lot that would be a credit to any stock raising country.
         A little girl arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. S.I. Watson a few days since.
         The school and Round Pond opened up last Monday under the management of Mr. Jno. Greene, of near Lois.

Trixie

Some notes on the personal mentions:

Mr. S.W. Watson
Samuel W. Watson (1863-1925), a son of Mark R Watson and Rachel Slaughter, was born and raised in the Rays Mill district (1144 Georgia Militia District).  S.W. Watson moved his family  to Irwin County some time before 1900, but returned to Berrien before 1910.

Marcus Greene
Marcus Greene, a farmer of Berrien County,  was a son of Marshall and Elizabeth Greene. He was a brother of Riley M. Greene, who would later be an investor in the Bank of Rays Mill.

Gray Lumber Company
The Gray Lumber Company had as a principal investor Benjamin B. Gray. Gray was a brother-in-law of the notorius outlaw Ben Furlong (c.1854-1886).

Aaron Cook
Aaron Cook
, a veteran of the Spanish American War, was a farmer and lifelong resident of the area.

Mr. & Mrs. Joe Kirkland
Joseph S. Kirkland and Glovie Ann Register were a young couple, married on January 21, 1903.  Their parents were residents of Clinch County.

William C. Patten
William C. Patten
(1849-1944) was a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register. He was a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace.

Watson Girl
Jentie Watson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel I Watson, was born February 9, 1904.

John Greene
John Greene was a teacher in Berrien county in the early 1900s and taught at Round Pond School in 1904. He was a son of Houston Green and Ann E. Futch, of Lois, GA.  Round Pond  School was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Round Pond School was consolidated with Possum Trot and Guthrie School.

Related Posts:

Charlie Parker was a Splendid Soldier

Charlie Parker (1919-1945)

In Lakeland, GA there is an official military headstone marking the grave of Charlie Parker, who was a resident of Ray City. Charlie Parker enlisted in the army days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He was in the first African American military unit to arrive in England, and he was the first African-American from Berrien County to die in WWII. Like the Army in which he served, the cemetery where he was buried was racially segregated  –  the Lakeland Colored Cemetery. Today this burial ground is known as the Charles Knight Cemetery.

Grave of Charlie Parker (1919-1945), Lakeland, GA <br> CPL 65 ORD AM CO <br> World War II

Grave of Charlie Parker (1919-1945), Lakeland, GA
CPL 65 ORD AM CO
World War II

Charlie Parker, a son of Will Parker and Girtrude “Trudie” Reddick, lived most of his short life at Ray City, GA. He was a nephew of Stella Reddick Wright and Mose Wright.

His father, Will Parker, was born August 8, 1884.  As a man, Will Parker  was medium height and build, with black eyes and black hair.  His mother was Girtrude Reddick; She was a daughter of Albert and Sylvia Reddick. His parents were married  in Coffee County, GA on November 4, 1916 in a ceremony performed by Reverend R. N. Thompson.

By 1918, Charlie’s parents were residing in Berrien County, GA. Will Parker,  was employed by Samuel I. Watson as a farmer, working Watson’s property on RFD #2 out of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. By 1920, Will  and Girtrude Parker had  relocated to Ray City, GA, renting a house in the “Negro Quarters” which were located between Hwy 129 and Cat Creek in the present day vicinity of the Ray City Senior Citizen Center. Will Parker had taken a job with the Georgia & Florida Railroad, and Gertrude was working as a laundress.  Will  and Gertrude had started a family, with their firstborn son Albert Parker born March 1917, and Charlie Parker born January 9, 1919.  Matthew Parker was born in 1921 and Mary Parker in 1922, followed by Stella, Mack, and the twins, Ethel Mae and Willie both of whom died young.  The Parkers neighbors were men like Charlie Palmer, Joe Davis, and Jerry Mullin, all of whom worked for the railroad, and their wives Henrietta Palmer and Essie Davis, who, like Gertrude, worked as laundresses, and Annie Mullin, who was employed as a domestic cook.

1920 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker and his family in Ray City, GA https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n293/mode/1up

1920 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker and his family in Ray City, GA
https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n293/mode/1up

Charlie Parker and his siblings attended grade school, Charlie completing the 5th grade according to his later military records. Of course, at the time schools were segregated. It wasn’t until 1954 that the supreme court ruled on segregation and the 1964 Civil Rights Act compelled the desegregation of schools. Yet segregated schools persisted in the South; In 1965, “In Berrien County, Georgia, 32 Negro parents chose white schools for their children, but the school Superintendent told the U.S. Office of Education that all 32 parents came to him before school opened and said that their names had been forged on the choice forms.”

Charlie’s mother, Girtrude Reddick Parker, died some time in the 1920s.  The 1930 census shows Will Parker, widower, raising Charlie and his siblings alone, although Girtrude’s sisters also mothered the children. Will was renting a house in Ray City for two dollars a month and  continued to work for the railroad. Charlie’s older brother, Albert, quit school and went to work as a farm laborer to help support the family.  The Parkers also took in boarders to help with family expenses; Census records show Eugene and Luvicy Thomas Campbell living in the Parker household. Their neighbors were the widow Nina Dowdy and Charlie Phillips.  Down the street was the residence of Henry Polite, who later married Queen Ester Wright.

1930 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker, his father and siblings in Ray City, GA

1930 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker, his father and siblings in Ray City, GA
https://archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel338#page/n354/mode/1up

In 1939, Charlie Parker was working on the Guthrie farm on Park Street extension. When the men were cropping tobacco in the summer of 1939, one of Charlie’s tasks was to go into town to get ice. The Guthries had a mule that pulled a sled which was used to haul the tobacco from the field to the tobacco barn for curing. At lunch time, when the tobacco croppers were taking a break, Charlie would take the mule and sled down the dirt road into Ray City to the ice house.  Ferris Moore kept a little ice house by the railroad track in front of Pleamon Sirman’s grocery store. The ice was shipped into Ray City from an ice plant in Nashville. Sometimes seven-year-old Diane Miley, one of the Guthrie grandchildren, would ride in the sled with Charlie for the trip into town and back.

Sometime in late 1939, Charlie Parker and his cousin, Dan Simpson,  left Ray City and went to Florida to try their hand at working for the Wilson Cypress Company. Dan was a son of Charlie’s aunt Luvicy Reddick and her first husband, John H. Simpson.

1940 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker at the Wilson Cypress Sawmill Camp, Crows Bluff, FL

1940 Census enumeration of Charlie Parker at the Wilson Cypress Sawmill Camp, Crows Bluff, FL

The 1940 census enumerated Charlie Parker and Dan Simpson in Lake County, FL, working  at the Crows Bluff Camp of the Wilson Cypress Sawmill. Each rented a place to live at the camp for $2.00 a month.

Crows Bluff on the St. Johns River, was about 65 miles up stream from the Wilson Sawmill at Palatka, FL. At one time, the Wilson sawmill was the largest cypress sawmill in the world.

Parker and Simpson worked as “rafting laborers.” The cypress trees were cut and hauled to the river. They were dumped into the water and assembled into rafts which were floated down the river to the sawmill.

Wilson Cypress Company dumping logs into the Saint Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38983

Wilson Cypress sawmill camp in Lake County, FL, dumping logs into the Saint Johns River.
Charlie Parker and Dan Simpson, of Ray City, GA found work with Wilson Cypress Company in the late 1930s as “rafting laborers.”
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38983

Wilson Cypress Company logging operation on a tributary of the St. Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38992

Wilson Cypress Company logging operation on a tributary of the St. Johns River. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/38992

Timber rafting on a tributary of the St. Johns River, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/27761

Timber rafting on a tributary of the St. Johns River, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/27761

Wilson Cypress Sawmill. Charlie Parker worked for the Wilson Cypress Sawmill prior to WWII. At the time, the sawmill was the largest producer of red-heart tidewater cypress lumber in the world.

Wilson Cypress Sawmill.
Charlie Parker worked for the Wilson Cypress Sawmill prior to WWII. At the time, the sawmill was the largest producer of red-heart tidewater cypress lumber in the world.

The Palatka sawmill operation of the Wilson Cypress Company was shut down December 5, 1945 during WWII.  Later, the chairman of the company board remarked, “There just was no more marketable timber. We had cut it all.”   Over the next 37 years,  the company’s assets were sold off piece by piece, including 100,000 acres of cut over cypress wetlands.

But the war drew Charlie Parker away before the end came for the sawmill.    His elder brother, Albert Parker, had joined the Army nearly a year before the U.S. entered the war, enlisting at Fort Benning, GA on January 21, 1941.

U.S. Army records show that Charlie Parker enlisted with the Army on November 26, 1941, eleven days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He entered the service at Camp Blanding, FL. His physical description at induction was 5’9″ tall and 151 pounds.  His cousin Dan Simpson would be inducted at Camp Blanding the following year.

Camp Blanding was established in 1939 and by 1941, the camp had grown to be the fourth largest city in Florida with more than 10,000 buildings to accommodate two divisions, about 60,000 trainees.  In addition to housing and mess halls, maintenance buildings, PXs, field artillery and rifle ranges, the camp had a 2,800-bed hospital, enlisted men’s and officer’s clubs, bowling alleys, four theaters, and five chapels… The camp had separate training and induction centers for soldiers of both races, although they remained in separate areas of the post…During World War II, approximately one million men received basic training here, the largest of Florida’s 142 military installations built in the 1940s.

Following training, Charlie Parker was initially assigned to the 60th Ordnance Ammunition Company and later transferred to the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company.

“The 65th Ordnance Company were the first Aviation ammunition Unit to arrive in the UK. They were set to immediate work establishing the first Aviation Ordnance Section in a General Service Depot, at Burtonwood. They were briefly transferred to Barnham before being moved to Wortley, Yorkshire to man the first depot to accept AF munitions in quantity from the US. This Unit was the first African American Unit to arrive in England!  Its arrival being the subject of an FBI document, relating to a press release, downplaying the arrival of ‘negro’ troops.”

“The all black 65th Ordnance Company who arrived from Fort Dix, New Jersey in the middle of July 1942 at the nearby small village of Wortley. They were joined the following month by a further 98 black GIs. They had come to service an aerial bomb depot in the vicinity, and were barracked at Wortley Hall, the home of Lord Wharncliffe. According to the detailed account of this by Graham Smith, the locals of Wortley and Sheffield got on very well with the black soldiers, apart from some young men who resented them having relations with local young women. They were resented too by Lord Wharncliffe, who didn’t like having them milling around his living quarters.”

When America entered the war, there were fewer than 4000 African Americans in the armed services; by the war’s end more than 1.2 million African Americans would serve in uniform. Like Charlie Parker, many black soldiers served in segregated units in support roles:

“While most African Americans serving at the beginning of WWII were assigned to non-combat units and relegated to service duties, such as supply, maintenance, and transportation, their work behind front lines was equally vital to the war effort, serving behind the front lines…By 1945, however, troop losses virtually forced the military to begin placing more African American troops into positions as infantrymen, pilots, tankers, medics, and officers in increasing numbers.  In all positions and ranks, they served with as much honor, distinction, and courage as any American soldier did.  Still, African American MPs stationed in the South often could not enter restaurants where their German prisoners were being served a meal. ”  

The 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company served in campaigns in Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, and Rome-Arno. By 1945, the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company (munitions supply) was assigned to Mondolfo Airfield, Italy.  USAAF units known to have been stationed at Mondolfo were:

307th; 308th; 309th Fighter Squadrons, P-51D/K Mustang
Primary mission was to escort B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers on missions into Northern Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia and Austria.
317th; 319th Fighter Squadrons, P-51D/K Mustang
Primary mission was to fly ground air support missions for advancing Allied ground forces in Italy.

Part of Charlie Parker’s job while serving in Italy as a corporal in the 65th Ordnance Ammunition Company was handling toxic bombs.  According to the textbook Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare published by the U.S. Army, the US Army Air Force in WWII:

had 100-lb mustard agent bombs; 500-lb phosgene or cyanogen chloride bombs; and 1,000-lb phosgene, cyanogen chloride, or hydrocyanic acid bombs… None of these chemical weapons was used on the battlefield during the war, but the prepositioning of chemical weapons in forward areas resulted in one major disaster and several near mishaps. The disaster occurred December 2, 1943, when the SS John Harvey, loaded with 2,000 M47A1 mustard agent bombs, was destroyed during a German air raid at Bari Harbor, Italy. The only members of the crew who were aware of the chemical munitions were killed in the raid. As a result of the ship’s destruction, mustard agent contaminated the water in the harbor and caused more than 600 casualties, in addition to those killed or injured in the actual attack.

Just days before the German surrender and the declaration of Victory in Europe, Parker suffered his own chemical weapons mishap, a fatal exposure to the toxic gas from a poison gas bomb . His death was reported in the Nashville Herald.

The Nashville Herald
May 31, 1945

Cpl. Parker, Negro, Passes In Italy

        Cpl. Charlie Parker, colored, of Ray City, died in Italy April 26, in a United States Army Station Hospital, located in Southern Italy, where he had been stationed nearly two years.
        While working with toxic bombs, Cpl. Parker inhaled a concentration of the gas. After reporting to the Medical Aid Station he was admitted to the Station Hospital for further treatment. Reports stated that everything possible was done to save his life but to no avail.
        His burial services were conducted on Sunday, April 29, attended by all officers and men of his company except those on duty. Burial was in an American cemetery in Southern Italy. The letter from his commanding officer stated that Parker was a splendid soldier and well liked by those of his company.
        The deceased volunteered in the U.S. Army about three years ago, having in Italy. He was the son of Will Parker and a nephew of Frances Goff, both of Ray City. So far as known at this time, he was the first Berrien county colored person to make the supreme sacrifice in World War II.

(transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker)

After the end of World War II, Charlie Parker’s body was returned to the United States.  The U.S. government mandated a program to return the bodies of servicemen who had been buried in temporary military cemeteries overseas. Following surveys to the population, the government decided that about three fifths of the 289,000 personnel involved would be returned in accordance with family wishes. Between 1946 and 1951, over 170,000 servicemen were returned.

After WWII, the body of Charlie Parker, of Ray City, GA was returned to Georgia aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson.

After WWII, the body of Charlie Parker, of Ray City, GA was returned to Georgia aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson.

The body of Charlie Parker was returned to America aboard the U.S. Army Transport Cpl. Eric G. Gibson, originally built as a Liberty Ship.  As a funeral ship, the USAT Eric G. Gibson was painted white with a large purple mourning band. The ship arrived at the Brooklyn Army Base, NY, in February, 1949, with the bodies of 92 Georgians along with the bodies of more than 5000 war dead from other states.

Ironically, in the 1960s, the Army loaded the S.S. Corporal Eric G. Gibson with chemical weapons of mass destruction- rockets armed with VX nerve gas – and sank it off the coast of  New Jersey to dispose of the deadly weapons. Today, the sunken ship and its deadly cargo remain one of the most dangerous chemical weapons dump sites  in U.S. waters.

In 1949, Francis Reddick Goff applied for a flat marble military headstone to mark the grave of her nephew.

Application for military headstone for Charlie Parker, WWII veteran.

Application for military headstone for Charlie Parker, WWII veteran.

 

Grave of Charlie Parker. Charles Knight Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Charlie Parker. Charles Knight Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

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Moses Lee ~ Exemplary Farmer

Moses C. Lee (1853-1926) was an outstanding farmer of Berrien County, GA.

He was a son of John Levy Lee and nephew of Moses Corby Lee (1808-1884), both pioneer settlers and prominent land owners of  old Berrien.  His father and uncle were veterans of the Indian Wars of 1838 and fought with Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company in the last Indian fight in Berrien County, GA.  His mother was Elender Wetherington (1813-1889).  He was the father-in-law of Lint Miller and one of the investors in the Miller Hardware & Furniture Company.

Born July 12, 1853,  Moses C. Lee (1853-1926) was sometimes referred to as M.C. Lee, Jr. to distinguish him from his uncle. Moses C. Lee, the subject, first appears at age six in Census records in the  1860 enumeration of his father’s household in Berrien County, GA.  His father’s real estate was valued at 3500 and personal estate at $3800.

On November 1879, Moses C. Lee married Amanda Clements in Berrien County, GA.   Born Sarah Amanda Clements, she was a daughter of  John F. Clements and Nancy Patten, and a sister of John Miles Clements.

The newlyweds made their home in a house on the farm of Moses’ father, John Levy (or Levi) Lee, where they were enumerated in the Census of 1880.

After the death of his father, John Levy Lee, in 1884, Moses Lee carried on working his Berrien County farm.  Moses Lee’s residence was known as “Stoney Hill,” according to William Green Avera.  The Lee place was situated on the road “from Milltown to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha.” This road passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County; Judge J. H. Rowan; and Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine Still.

By 1896 Moses Lee was recognized as one of the leading farmers in this section.

Tifton Gazette, March 7, 1896 praises the work of Berrien County, GA farmer Moses Lee.

Tifton Gazette, March 7, 1896 praises the work of Berrien County, GA farmer Moses Lee.

Well, I have the results of what Mr. Mose Lee, has stored away, for another specimen of what can be obtained in the wiregrass region.  Will take corn first.  On his farm he housed between 1500 and 2,000 bushels of “little cob” corn, and some where near 11,000 pounds of well cured fodder.  He dug and housed 12,000 bushels of sweet potatoes, and left enough in the patch to fatten 100 head of hogs. Cotton! cotton! He raised nineteen bales of cotton, averaging four hundred pounds each, which amounts to 7,600 pounds, and has jugged and barreled 750 gallons of syrup, of the finest that can be made.  He killed enough porkers to amount to 12,000 pounds and from them he obtained about 1,650 pounds of lard.  Hay he housed enough to winter 50 or 60 head of cows, beside old “Buck”.  As it was a bad year for oats and rice he only housed about 5,000 bundles of oats and 80 or 100 bushels of rice.
    He has enlarged his farm this year, by adding 40 acres of new land.  He is only going to use ten tons of guano this year.
    We hear some folks crying hard times, but all they have to do is to work with energy and vote for Hammond.  If anyone thinks that I have exaggerated in stating the above facts, I can only refer them to Mr. Lee, Milltown, Ga.

In 1917, M. C. Lee was employing Randolph Graham, John Thomas Brantley and Fletcher Turner to farm his land.

Children of Moses C. Lee and Amanda Clements Lee:

  1. William David Lee (1880 – 1967) married Mollie Clements
  2. Jennie L Lee (1882 – 1974)  married Sam I Watson, 1900
  3. Ellen D Lee (1883 – 1907) married William R. Smith; died of measles April 30, 1907
  4. John Vinson Lee (1885 – 1947) married Camilla Spence
  5. L. Chester Lee (1887 –1908) died of typhoid fever December 14, 1908
  6. Winnie Lee (1888-1891)
  7. Lena A Lee (1891 – 1971) married Willis Linton “Lint” Miller, 1913
  8. Remer E Lee (1893 – 1901) died of blood poisoning
  9. Mary Emma Lee (1895 –1986) married 1) Virgil Shingler; 2) J.Crawford Dasher
  10. Infant Lee – born and died July 22, 1897

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Watson Grade News Feb 12, 1904

“Trixie”  continued the reports on Watson Grade in the February 12, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette.  Watson Grade  was a small community near Empire Church just northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA.  It was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others. Like the January Watson Grade News   this February update included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten, as well as reports of marriages and social news.

Tifton Gazette
February 12, 1904

Watson Grade News

The farmers are making big preparations for another crop-buying mules and clearing new grounds.
    Mr. Editor, your solution of the fertilizer question in last week’s issue is the only one that the farmer of today is actually in touch with. The farmers, not being systematically organized, are dependent in selling their products and buying their general supplies, and the only way to surpass this stupid state is for each and every farmer to work to the end of not having “everything to buy.”  Raise it at home; we have all the necessities if we will only use a little energy.
    Mr. M. C. Lee killed a porker last week that weighed 486, net.
    Mrs W. C. Patten has been quite sick with pneumonia, but is improving.
    Mr. J. P. Patten and Miss Fannie Patten were united in marriage Sunday afternoon at the home of the bride’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Patten, near Milltown.  The bride is a sweet and lovable girl, and member of one of Berrien’s best families. The groom is an industrious young farmer of near this place.
    Inspector Tyler was in Milltown last week, looking after some rural routes from that place.  Of the three routes proposed, only two have the required number of families, the one passing through this place and the one through the Ray’s mill vicinity.
   Mr. Will Rouse and Miss Elsie Spell were united in marriage Wednesday afternoon, January 27th, at 3 o’clock, at the home of the bride’s parents, Judge J.  H. Rowan officiating. Both have many friends, who wish for them a long and prosperous journey through life.
    Mr. Jonah Register is quite sick with grippe at this writing.
    Mr. June Patten left last week to take charge of a school near Alapaha.
    Mr. Jos. Watson, who has been suffering with cancer for some time, is improving.
    Prof. W. G. Avera expects to move his family to Atlanta in a few days, his object being to educate his children.  Mr. Avera is one of Berrien’s oldest and best educators, and one of our best neighbors, and we see him go with much regret.

TRIXIE.

1904-feb-12-watson-grade-news

Additional Notes:

Moses C. Lee, a son of Elender Wetherington (1813-1889) and John Levy Lee, was one of the leading farmers of Berrien County.  His daughter, Jennie Lee, was the wife of Sam I. Watson. About 1917 his son, William David “Bill” Lee,  ordered a mail-0rder house from the Sears catalog, which he assembled just east of Ray’s Mill.

Mrs. William C. Patten in the article is Sarah E. Lee, a cousin of M.C. Lee mentioned above.  She was a daughter of Moses Corby Lee (1808-1884)   and  Jincy Register.

John P. Patten  was a son of James Patten (1832-1907) and Phoebe Mathis (1832-1898).  His bride was Fannie Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten  and Martha F. Williams (1847 – 1897). The Mrs. M. E. Patten mentioned in the article was Fannie’s  step-mother Minnie Archibald Patten.  John P. Patten died in 1911 and is buried at Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Will Rouse, of Rays Mill, and Elsie (or Elda?) Spells, of the 1300 Georgia Militia District, were married on January 27, 1904. The couple later made their home at Ray City for many years. The marriage ceremony was performed by Judge J. H. Rowan.  According to William Green Avera, the Judge’s place was on the road “from Milltown to Tyson Ferry on the Alapaha River just east of the present site of Alapaha.”  This road passed the residences of John Studstill, first Sheriff of Berrien County; Stony Hill, residence of Moses C. Lee; and, Keefe and Bullocks Turpentine Still.

Jonah Register, son of John Register, was a young farmer of Berrien County, GA. He was suffering from grippe, a historical reference to the flu.  He later married Jane Cook, sister of Laura Cook and daughter of William Jackson Cook.  In the 1920s Jonah and Jane Register made their home in Ray City, GA.

Mr. June Patten was a son of Leanna and Irwin Patten.

Joseph Watson was the father of Samuel I Watson.

Professor William Green Avera was one of the most distinguished educators in Berrien County.

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Watson Grade News, January 22, 1904

In 1904, a series of articles on the residents of “Watson Grade” began to appear monthly in the Tifton Gazette. Watson Grade, near Empire Church just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA , was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others.  The first issue of Watson Grade News, as reported by “Trixie,” included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten.

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com

Tifton Gazette
January 22, 1904

Killed by a Lumber Cart.   

Mr. W. C. Patten has been very sick for the past few days, but is improving.   

The school at Round Pond was to have opened up last Monday, but was suspended for two weeks, owing to the disagreeable weather.   

Mr. Mann Rouse is all smiles; he’s a girl.   

Mr. William Patten, aged 83 years, is very ill. He was stricken about a year ago with paralysis and it is supposed that he has the second attack.   

Mr. W. H. Watson has killed forty-nine porkers, of  very good average, this season. Mr. Watson is one of our hustling farmers.   

Mr. and  Mrs. J. I. Patten had a thrilling experience last Monday in a runaway scrape.  They were going to see Mr. Patten’s father, who is very sick, when their horse became frightened and ran away.  Mrs. Patten was thrown from the buggy at once while Mr. Patten remained until the shafts came loose, which left him in the buggy unhurt.  Mrs. Patten was bruised but not seriously injured.   

The young folks of this section enjoyed a nice pound party at Mr. D. P. Kent’s one night last week.   

One of our young men went to Valdosta a few days ago and came back with a new buggy and a lot of furnitures.   

Quite a crowd of our young folks enjoyed  nice dance at the beautiful home of Mr. Z. Spell last Saturday night.   

Miss Belle Patten is visiting relatives in Tampa, Fla.   

The many friends and schoolmates in this county of Miss Creasie Cook, of Coffee county, were shocked last Wednesday to hear of her death, which occurred near Willacoochee Tuesday.  Miss Cook was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Cook, who for years had lived near this place, but Mr. Cook had moved his family only a few days ago to superintend the logging of a saw mill near Willacoochee.  Miss Cook’s death was caused by falling from a timber cart and the log breaking her skull and severely bruising her body eight days before her death.  The remains were interred in Empire cemetery late Wednesday afternoon. Her bereaved parents and relatives have the sympathy of many friends in this, their time of sorrow.

TRIXIE

Watson Grade, Jan. 18.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904. The article included personal mentions of the Watson and Patten families with Rays Mill, GA (Ray City) connections.

Some additional notes on the personal mentions in this article.

W. C. Patten  referenced in the article was William C. “Babe” Patten (1849-1944), a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register.  William C. Patten was  a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace, He was married to Sarah Lee, who was the daughter of Moses Corby Lee and Jincy Register. When his wife’s niece, Jennie Lee, married Samuel I Watson in 1900, it was W. C.  Patten who performed the ceremony.  W.C. Patten, after the death of his first wife, married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.

Round Pond was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Round Pond School was consolidated with Possum Trot and Guthrie School.

Mr. William Patten, age 83, born Nov. 3, 1820, was the oldest son of James and Elizabeth (Lee) Patten.  He was the husband of Elizabeth Register, and father of William C. Patten and James Irwin Patten, also mentioned in the article.

William Henry Watson was a son of Mark R. Watson and Rachel Slaughter, and the husband of Dicey Guthrie.  Dicey and William Watson made their home on the Ray City and Mud Creek road northeast of Rays Mill in the Empire Church community, in that part of Berrien county that was later cut into Lanier County.

Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Patten were James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.  James Irwin Patten was the eldest son of  William and “Betsey” Patten. Leanna Patten was a daughter of Jethro Patten.

Daniel P. Kent, host of the “pound party” was a farmer raising a family in the 1300 Georgia Militia District.  The 1899 Young Folk’s Cyclopedia of Games and Sports provides the following definition:

POUND PARTY, an entertainment to which each guest is required to bring something weighing exactly a pound. These may be eatables, toys, useful articles, or whatever the giver pleases. Each package is numbered and laid aside as it is received. When the guests are ready for the distribution of the parcels, numbered cards, or slips of paper, are passed around and each draws one. Some one then takes the packages one by one, calling its number aloud; the holder of the corresponding number becomes its owner, and must open it in the presence of the company.

Belle Patten was  a daughter of James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.

Creasy  or Creasie Cook, 13-year-old daughter of William Jackson Cook and Annie Laura Mathis,  died as a result of a tragic accident that occurred on January 7, 1904 during logging operations supervised by her father at a Willacoochee sawmill.  He father, W. J. Cook, was a registered voter in at Rays Mill, GA in the 1890s, and others of the Cook family connection lived in the town and surrounding area.   Creasy Cook was buried at Empire Cemetery.

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Sam I. Watson Dies in Explosion

On March 7, 1939 Samuel Irvin Watson was killed in a tragic accident on his farm near Ray City, GA.  Watson served on the State Board of Education (see Sam I. Watson and the State Board of Education )  and route 64 out of Ray City was named in his honor (see The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway)  The March 8, 1939 Atlanta Constitution reported on Watson’s death with front page headline:

STATE SCHOOL OFFICIAL DIES IN EXPLOSION

2 Farm Tenants of Sam I. Watson  Are Also Killed

Another Tenant Escapes But Is Prevented by Flames From Attempting to Make Rescue

Bucket Brigade Conquers Fire

Lakeland Blast Occurs While Chemically Treating Corn for Weevil

Special to The Constitution.
LAKELAND, Ga., March 7.  Trapped by an explosion and flames which spread quickly through a barn on his plantation near here, Sam I. Watson, member of the Georgia Board of Education, perished early this afternoon with two farm tenants.
    The other victims were J. I. Parrish and Edmond Jones.
    Riley Stone, another tenant on the Watson farm, six miles from here, was standing near a door and fled to safety, prevented by roaring flames from attempting to rescue the others.
    Bodies of the three victims huddled in one of the sheds which surrounded the big structure, were found after the flames had been extinguished by a bucket brigade.
 
    Lint Miller’s Brother-in-Law.

    Watson, a brother-in-law of Lint Miller, chairman of the State Highway Board, was directing the treatment of corn for weevil infestation when the explosion occurred, Stone said.  The four men had treated several thousand bushels with a chemical preparation, and were leaving the barn when the blast came, apparently set off by a spark made by a nail as the door was opened.
    Neighbors reported the explosion was heard a few minutes after 2 o’clock, and that the barn was enveloped in flames almost immediately.  Volunteer fire fighters rushed to the scene and formed a bucket brigade to prevent further spread of the flames and to avert threatened cremation of the three trapped men.

    Well-known Farm.
 
    The main section of the barn was 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, with small sheds on all sides. Contents of the structure included several head of livestock and between 4,000 and 5,000 bushels of corn.
    Watson’s farm, which includes more than 2,000 acres, is one of the best known in south Georgia, largely because of the progressive farming methods the owner had inaugurated and followed in its development.
    Mr. Watson was the second member of the present State Board of Education to meet violent death within the last year.
    Several months ago, Lee Branch, of Quitman, vice chairman of the board, was shot and killed by a deranged member of his family.  Mrs.  Branch also was slain.
    In Atlanta, Governor Rivers expressed deep sorrow over the death of Mr. Watson, who was an old and personal friend.
    “The death of Mr. Watson and his two friends is a great shock to me,” the Governor said.  “I have had few friends closer to me than Mr. Watson. In addition he was an excellent public servant and an outstanding member of the board of education.  The school children of the state and the state itself have lost a fine public official, and I have lost a warm friend. I am deeply grieved.”
    Miss Levond Watson, an employee of the State Department of Public Welfare is a daughter of Mr. Watson.  Mrs. Rivers informed her of the tragedy and she left for home immediately accompanied by Mrs. Rivers.
    Chairman Miller, of the highway board, will leave Atlanta tomorrow morning to attend the Watson funeral.

Sam I. Watson and the State Board of Education

Governor Ed Rivers, Sam I. Watson and Mattie Lucille Lashley Rivers.

Governor Ed Rivers, Sam I. Watson and Mattie Lucille Lashley Rivers.

In his first term, Rivers brought a “Little New Deal” to Georgia and presided over a significant expansion of state services…. Probably the most expensive state reforms came in the area of education. In the four years before Rivers became governor, state spending on public education amounted to about $29 million. During his four years in office, the Rivers administration appropriated almost $49 million, including measures to raise teachers’ salaries and provide free textbooks. Rivers’s reforms did not eliminate racial disparities, but these measures benefited black schools as well as white.
-New Georgia Encyclopedia

In 1937, Rivers enacted legislation that created a new, eleven-member state board of education. Named among the members was Sam I. Watson, of Ray City.

The existing state board of education was abolished by an Act of Feb. 10, 1937 which became effective on July 1, 1937, and a new state board of education was created, composed of eleven members, the governor and one member from each of the ten congressional districts to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate for six year terms. The members shall be citizens who have lived in this state continuously for five years, and shall not be in any way connected with any educational institution nor school book concern; they shall elect one of their members as chairman, and shall hold regular quarterly meetings at the State Capitol, and the state superintendent of schools shall serve as executive secretary, with a salary to be fixed by the board members (Acts 1937, p. 864).

BOARD OF EDUCATION
July 20, 1937-date
Governor, Chairman, Ex-Officio
State Superintendent of Schools, Secretary, Ex-Officio
1st district: DR. R. J. KENNEDY, Statesboro
2d district: LEE W. BRANCH, Quitman
3d district: MRS. FRANK DAVID, Columbus
4th district: ALVIN H. FREEMAN, Newnan
5th district: Dr. W. A. SHELTON, Atlanta
6th district: H. C. WILLIAMS, Adrian
7th district: MRS. ELIZABETH McWATERS, Cedartown
8th district: S. I. WATSON, Ray City
9th district: W. W. McCAY, Eastonellee
10th district: W. C. CLARY JR., Harlem

The Clinch County News reported on the appointment:

The Clinch County News
July 23, 1937 Pg 1

Watson Is Named To State Board.

RAY CITY MAN NAMED TO STATE POST ON BOARD OF EDUCATION

S.I.Watson, named by Governor Rivers as a member of the State Board of Education under the 1937 legislative action which abolished the old board and created a new board of ten members is a well-known and prosperous farmer of Lanier county.
Mr. Watson, known to his friends as Sam Watson, was named as one of Georgia’s Master Farmers a few years ago. He is a brother-in-law to W. L. Miller, chairman of the State Highway Board.
Mr. Watson’s post office is Ray City.
Mr. Watson has not been active in politics and his appointment is considered by those who know him to have been an unusually good one. He represents the Eighth Congressional district on the Board.
L.C. Branch, well known Quitman attorney, is another South Georgian named to the State Board of Education. He represents the Second Congressional District.
The Board is meeting this week to consider matters in connection with the new state educational program. Naming of the members was delayed by Governor River’s illness. The old board went out of office on July first.
-Valdosta Times.

Sam Watson’s service on the State Board of Education ended in 1939 when he was killed in a tragic explosion on his farm near Ray City, GA.

The Samuel Irvin Watson Highway

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Samuel Irvin Watson Highway, near Ray City, GA.

Heading northeast on highway 64 out of Ray City, GA  in the direction of Empire Church, you will encounter a sign at the Lanier county line that identifies this route as the Sam I. Watson Highway.  Sam Watson was raised on the Watson family farm, located near Empire Church about 5 miles northeast of Rays Mill, originally settled by his grandparents about 180 years ago.

Born August 9, 1877 in Lowndes county, GA Samuel Irvin Watson  was a son of Mary and Joseph Watson.

By age 22, Sam Watson was occupied as a school teacher. Enumerated in the census of 1900 next to his father, Sam had by that time established an independent household on a part of the family land. As yet unmarried, he owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage. Perhaps the establishment of his homestead was in preparation for matrimony; later that year Sam married Jennie Lee, a daughter of Amanda Clements and Moses C. Lee. Jennie was born on January 5, 1882 in Berrien County and grew up on her father’s farm near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.  As a girl she attended the Green Bay School, along with her brother, Bill.

Sam and Jennie were married July 1, 1900 at the home of the bride’s parents. The ceremony was performed by  William C. Patten, Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace.  (W.C. Patten was the husband of Jennie’s aunt Sarah Lee, and he later married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.)

 

 

In September of 1918, Sam Watson registered for the draft for World War I.  At age 41 he was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and gray hair.

Perhaps Sam found the pay of a teacher was not sufficient to support his growing family. By 1920,  had returned to the occupation of farming, and was an employer in general farming.  One of his employees was John Kirkland. Sam’s eldest daughter, Gola Watson, was already a student in college. The census of 1920 shows the Watson farm was located on the Ray City & Mud Creek Road in the Milltown District of Berrien County, and area soon to be cut into the newly created Lanier county.

Sam Watson, a man of Berrien and Lanier county his entire life, and was again enumerated on his farm near Ray City in the census of 1930. That year the enumeration included a count of citizens who owned radio sets, which Sam Watson did.   In the enumeration of Ray City, there were only eight radio sets within the city limits, the owners being James A. Grissett, John D. Luke, Henry Swindle, Marvin Purvis, Walter Altman, John Simpkins, Joseph Johnson and Fannie Parks.  The average cost of a radio in 1929 was around $139 dollars. In terms of comparable “affordability” for an average person in today’s dollars (2010 index) this would be like making a $7,600 purchase (relative worth based on nominal GDP per capita index – see MeasuringWorth.com).

It is safe to say that Sam Watson was among the prominent citizens of Lanier County. He was a former educator and a successful farmer who could afford relative luxuries, like a radio.  He followed the politics of Ed Rivers, State Assemblyman from Lakeland, GA.

After Ed Rivers was elected Governor of Georgia in 1936 he appointed Sam Watson to the State Board of Education.

But more about that in the next post.

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