William C. Zeigler

William Charles Zeigler, a resident of Berrien County, GA, was among the victims of the Otranto tragedy in the closing days of World War I.

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William C. Zeigler grew up in Lowndes and Berrien county Georgia. It appears that he had a difficult boyhood. He was a son of Jesse William “Jake” Zeigler and Lula Tyson, born October 25, 1889 at Blanton, Lowndes County, GA.   His mother suffered from mental illness and allegedly mentally and physically abused his father before abandoning the family.

For the 1900 Census, the family was enumerated in Berrien County, GA in the 1487 Georgia Militia District, the Sparks district.  William was then ten years old .

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler.  https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu180unit#page/n190/mode/1up

Although court testimony later assert that Lula Tyson Zeigler was institutionalized about 1898,  it appears from the census records that she was still with her family in 1900 and was sent to the Georgia State Sanitarium at Milledgeville, GA shortly thereafter. 

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

After the institutionalization of his mother, William C. Zeigler continued to live with his father and siblings near Lenox in Berrien County. They were enumerated at Lenox, GA in the Census of 1910. Lenox is situated about 7 miles north of Sparks, GA on the route of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father's household at Lenox, GA.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father’s household at Lenox, GA. https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n774/mode/1up

At the time of the draft for World War I, William Charlie Zeigler  was 27 years old. He gave his home address as Sparks, GA,. He was still unmarried and listed his occupation as farming in the employment of his father. He registered for the draft for WWI on June 5, 1917.  His physical description was medium height, slender build, with grey eyes and light hair.

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

On  July 16, 1918 William Charlie Zeigler was inducted into the Army, along with other Berrien county men at Nashville, GA.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

The men boarded a train at Nashville, GA.  William C. Zeigler along with Early Stewart, Benjamin F. McCranie, Jim Melvin Boyett, John Guy Coppage, Shelley L. Webb, Hiram Marcus Bennett, Lafayett Gaskins, Ralph Knight, James Grady Wright, James M. Deloach and other men of Berrien County were bound for training camp at Fort Screven, GA.

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

Colonel Archibald Campbell confirmed the arrival of the men at Ft. Screven, GA on July 19, 1918.  Fort Screven, on Tybee Island, GA was a part of the U.S. Atlantic coastal defense system and served as a training camp. The fort’s six batteries of coastal artillery defended the port of Savannah, GA.

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven in 1917

Fort Screven in 1917

After training, the men were sent to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, N.J.  The Embarkation Service reported the steamship Otranto sailed for England from New York, N.Y. on September 25, 1918 at 12:40 P.M. with 699 military passengers, including the men and officers from Fort Screven, GA.

But the troop ship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918  off the coast of Islay, Scotland after a collision with the SS Kashmir. The Army could not immediately produce a list of the soldiers who were on board. It was not until October 18, that a passenger list for the Otranto was finally cabled to General Harbord in Europe.  The name of Zeigler, William C. 2595855 Pvt. was on the list.

Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll in the disaster. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead were dozens of soldiers from Berrien.  For weeks news of the disaster trickled into American newspapers. Facts were sketchy at best –  In some cases, soldiers who perished in the sinking were incorrectly reported as survivors. It would nearly two months before the names of the lost were known to the folks at home…

A number of soldiers, including James Deloach were rescued by the heroic efforts of the HMS Mounsey, first to arrive on the scene.  Many others went into the sea and were lost forever. Only a slim few who went into the water survived the swim to the Isle of Islay, Scotland. The bodies of 489 soldiers washed up on the coast  where the ship went down.

William C. Zeigler, of Berrien County, GA was among the dead recovered at Islay. He and the other American dead from the Otranto were buried in the little churchyard at Kilchoman in wide graves accommodating twenty bodies each.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims,Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occured October 6, 1918. Among the dead were two soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims, Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occurred October 6, 1918. Among the dead were soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight, and William C. Zeigler of Sparks, GA.

William C. Zeigler and the other Otranto victims lay in the Bivouac of the Dead at Islay for nearly two years.  In June 1920, the Graves Registration Service made the decision to bring the bodies home, and exhumation began on July 1, 1920.

William’s body was transported on the U.S.A.T. Antigone arriving at Hoboken, August 7, 1920, from Southhampton, Brest and Liverpool.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

According to the New York Times, Antigone carried the largest number of coffins brought home on one ship, 1,575 dead soldiers. “The dead were landed at Pier 4, Hoboken, where preparations were completed to forward the bodies to their last resting places in home cemeteries, as has been the custom with all returned dead soldiers.”  There was no ceremony or funeral observance at the pier, as that detail of honor was rendered when the bodies were consigned to their temporary graves in foreign lands.

William’s father elected to have his son’s final interment at Arlington National Cemetery.  The body was accompanied by a guard of honor on the final journey.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

The re-internment of William C. Zeigler occurred August 20, 1920 at Arlington National Cemetery.  In 1934, a headstone of marble from Tate, GA was ordered for his grave.

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as “O”) Image source: Paul Hays.


After William C. Zeigler died, his father finally filed for divorce from his mentally ill mother. By this time she had been institutionalized for nearly 20 years.  It was an unusual case; as a mental patient, Lula Zeigler was  deemed not responsible for her actions.  Therefore, any cause brought for divorce  could only be valid if it occurred prior to the time her mental capacity was diminished.

The divorce case was reported in the Valdosta Times:

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

Tifton Gazette
April 4, 1919

Unusual Divorce In Berrien.

Husband Asks Separation From Wife Who is Inmate of the State Sanitarium

        Most unusual grounds are given as a reason for securing a divorce in a suit which has been filed in Berrien county.  It is believed that no similar case has ever been filed in the state says the Valdosta Times.
        Mr. Jake Zeigler has filed papers asking for a total divorce from his wife,  Mrs. Lula Zeigler, charging that she treated him in a cruel manner some years ago.  The unusual part of it is that Mrs. Zeigler is now an inmate of the state sanitarium at Milledgeville and has been there for several years, with the prospect that she is a permanent inmate.  It is charged in the petition for divorce  that the cruel treatment occurred before she became an inmate of the sanitarium.
         When the case came before Judge Thomas last week, it being so unusual he passed it until this week.  Judge Thomas designated Solicitor C E Hay to act as attorney for the defendant in the case and also named Rev. L L Barr, pastor of the Nashville Methodist church, and Rev. Jackson H Harris, pastor of the Nashville Baptist church, to act as representatives of Mrs. Zeigler, who could not appear for herself in the hearing.  The designation of these representatives by the court is for the purpose of seeing that the defendant, unable to help herself, may have a fair and impartial consideration of the case from every standpoint.
        Later:  The demurrer prepared by Solicitor Hay in the divorce case of Zeigler vs. Zeigler was sustained, and the case will go to the Supreme Court, says the Nashville Herald.

The case of Zeigler v. Zeigler et al was referred to the Georgia Supreme Court:

Zeigler v. Zeigler et al. (No. 1384.)
(Supreme Court of Georgia. Nov. 14, 1919.)

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Divorce  27(18), 37(5) – Pleading; Cruel Treatment; Desertion.

In the petition for divorce it is alleged: Petitioner and defendant were married in 1889.  Defendant was adjudged to be insane, and was committed to the Georgia State Sanitarium for insane persons in 1898, where she has since been confined as an insane person. In September 1899, defendant struck petitioner, thereby inflicting a serious wound upon his person.  “From October 1, 1897, until May 1, 1898 defendant continued in a constant state of quarreling and cruelly treating petitioner until such conduct became unbearable; and defendant, without cause on the part of the petitioner, left him and remained away until she became insane.”  Petitioner was without fault during the time he and his wife lived together. “Petitioner did not directly or indirectly condone the treatment of his wife, nor did the relation of husband and wife ever exist after she became in the rage and left him without cause.”  Held, that no cause for a divorce was set forth in the petition, either on the grounds of cruel treatment (Ring v. Ring, 18 Ga. 183, 44 S. E. 861, 62 L.R.A. 878; Stoner v. Stoner, 134 Ga. 368, 67 S. E. 1030; Black v. Black, 101 S. E. 182, this day decided), or on the ground of desertion (Civil Code 1910, 2945), as it appears from the petition that defendant was adjudged to be insane within less time after the desertion than three years, and has since remained insane, and therefore not responsible for her acts during that time.  Accordingly, the court did not err in dismissing the petition on general demurrer.

Error from Superior Court, Berrien County; W. E. Thomas, Judge.

Suit for divorce by J. W. Zeigler against L. M. Zeigler. Petition dismissed on general demurrer, and plaintiff brings error. Affirmed.

J. D. Lovett and Story & Story, all of Nashville, of plaintiff in error.
Clifford E. Hay, Sol. Gen, of Thomasville, for defendant in error.

FISH, C.J. Judgement Affirmed, All the Justices concur, except ATKINSON, J., absent.

Jesse William Zeigler, father of William C. Zeigler, died June 6, 1924. He was buried at Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Lula Tyson Zeigler, mother of William C. Zeigler, died August 22, 1958 at Central State Hospital (Formerly Georgia State Sanitarium) at Milledgeville, GA.   During her time at Central State Hospital, the institution became known as the “world’s largest insane asylum,” housing some 13,000 patients with mental illness. According to an article in Atlanta Magazine, “Doctors wielded the psychiatric tools of the times—lobotomies, insulin shock, and early electroshock therapy—along with far less sophisticated techniques: Children were confined to metal cages; adults were forced to take steam baths and cold showers, confined in straitjackets, and treated with douches or ‘nauseants.‘ …The thousands of patients were served by only 48 doctors, none a psychiatrist. Indeed, some of the “doctors” had been hired off the mental wards.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the hospital grounds, including patient Lula Tyson Zeigler. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the Central State Hospital grounds, patient Lula Tyson Zeigler among them. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

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Jim Griner ~ Lawman

Deputy Jim Griner,  Berrien County Lawman

James Benjamin “Jim” Griner , who was Ray City, GA Police Chief in the 1940s, also served as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County from 1905 to 1915.  (In 1915,  Griner was elected Police Chief of Nashville, GA.)  Below are a few clippings from newspapers around the region  about his time as Deputy Sheriff .

Deputy Sheriff James B. "Jim" Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Deputy Sheriff James B. “Jim” Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Griner’s ten years of deputy work were filled with escorting prisoners, working the bloodhounds, trailing chain gang escapees,  tracking arsonists, raiding gambling dens and blind tigers, gunfights with desperadoes, and more. He began his law enforcement career as a deputy for Sheriff Marion J. Kinard.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Tifton Gazette
March 24, 1905

Mr. I. C. Avera, for a long time deputy sheriff, is now city marshal of Nashville, and makes a model officer.  Messrs. J. A. Lindsey and J. B. Griner are Sheriff Kinard’s deputies, and are making good officers.


Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907


Tifton Gazette
April 26, 1907

Deputy Sheriff Griner went to Homerville Sunday and brought Charlie Israel back to jail. He is the young white man who dug a hole in the brick wall of the county jail and made his escape a few weeks ago. Sheriff Screven Sweat of Clinch captured him. – Nashville Herald. Israel is the young man that burglarized the store of J. B. Gunn, at Enigma, several weeks ago.


Tifton Gazette
September 18, 1908


Ed Sutton, who was tried and adjudged insane here last week, got away from Deputy Sheriff Griner at Cordele, while enroute to the asylum. The county authorities offer a reward of $25 for him. – Nashville Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.


Waycross Journal
July 2, 1909

Nashville, Ga., July 2. – John A. Gaskins, living in the upper Tents [Tenth] district, six or eight miles east of Nashville, came here and got Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and his blood hounds to go to his place for the purpose of tracking incendiaries who set fire to his gin house Monday night. The dogs failed to track the offender, however, and Mr. Griner returned to Nashville without a prisoner. Mr. Gaskins thinks he has a clue, as threats have been made against him because he refused to let certain parties fish in his mill pond. The ginnery, which had just been completed was a total loss.


Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Tifton Gazette
December 17, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and John Bradford went down in Clinch county Monday night and captured Dick Studstill, a desperate negro who is wanted in this county for assault with intent to murder. He resisted arrest several months ago, near Sparks, and shot at Sheriff Avera and posse who were raiding a gambling and tiger den. – Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Vienna News
April 14, 1911

Sets Bullets Flying Wildly in Nashville

Adel, Ga., April 11. – News has reached this city of an affray at Nashville Saturday evening in which Beaty Gaskins, a well known and prominent young man, undertook to shoot up the town. He began by shooting at a young man named Knight, and continued to shoot until he had fired nine times. He came near hitting a clerk in Wein’s store and sent a bullet into the county school commissioner’s office in which were a number of teachers, it being the time of the monthly meeting of the teacher’s institute. He also sent a bullet into the office of J. P. Knight, ex-senator from this district. After shooting half a dozen times Gaskin directed his shots into the office of Judge W. D. Buie of the city court, hitting that official and Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, who was there.
Mr. Griner returned the fire and slightly wounded Gaskins, was then arrested. Later he was released under bond of $10,500. He is a son of John A. Gaskins, one of the wealthiest men in Berrien county.


Tifton Gazette
November 7, 1913

Nashville Herald: Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner left Friday for Belleville, Illinois, in response to a telegrram from the Prison Commission advising him to go after Oscar Jones, who escaped from the Berrien county chaingang two years ago.  He is a lifetime man sent here from Fulton county in 1911.


Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Tifton Gazette
June 12, 1914

Bob Luke, who shot and killed Calvin Lingo about three weeks go, was placed under arrest last week by Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, of Berrien.  Luke says he killed Lingo in self defense while Lingo was under the influence of whiskey.  He offered to surrender but the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of Justifiable homicide and he was turned loose.  Lingo’s brother had the warrant sworn out for Luke.  George Henderson, the only eye-witness to the tragedy, has also been placed under arrest.

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Atlanta Constitution
December 31, 1914

Two Prisoners Escape Berrien County Jail

Nashville, Ga., December 30. – (Special.) – J. C. Carter, a white man held in the Berrien county jail here for stealing hogs, and Capers Beach, colored, held for securing goods under false pretense, escaped late last night by sawing a bar in two and climbing to the ground on tied blankets. Love Vickers, colored, reported it to Deputy Sheriff J. B. Griner, but they had already successfully effected their escape. When last seen they were headed for Sparks on the Georgia and Florida track.

The Circus at Ray City

In small towns like Ray City,  the circus was a big event. In  the winter of 1952, the Don Robinson Circus came to town.

Don Robinson Circus at unknown location with a female elephant.   The elephant, called Laska, was given to Tift Park Zoo in Albany, Georgia after this 1952 season.  http://circustents.blogspot.com/

Don Robinson Circus at unknown location with a female elephant. The elephant, called Laska, was given to Tift Park Zoo in Albany, Georgia after this 1952 season. http://circustents.blogspot.com/

The Billboard magazine, and entertainment industry trade journal, published an announcement  about the Don Robinson Circus in the November 29, 1952 edition. The story, filed from Ray City, GA, described the line up of acts, and was probably written by circus advance man Charlie Campbell, who traveled a week ahead to make arrangements for the show.

The Billboard
November 29, 1952

Spiegle Opens Don Robinson for Ga. Trek

Ray City, Ga., Nov. 22. – James Spiegle, operator of the Diamond Jim Circus for the past several years, has acquired the Don Robinson Circus title and opened under the latter name at Sparks, Ga., November 10.
    The show will close at Dixie Union, Ga., December 15, and reopen about Jan 15 as a three-ring show, it was reported. The Diamond Jim Circus operated in the South as a one-ring show.  Don Robinson Circus was out in 1951 under Howard Ingram and Eddie Billetti and was built from the Ameri-Congo Animal Expedition.
    With the present Don Robinson show are Captain Forkum’s Lions, Minnie Spiegles Dogs, Billy Sheets, equestrian director and tight wire and Lou Walton, producing clown.
    Menagerie consists of four cages.  There are seven horses and two donkeys.  Boss canvas-man Shorty Rhine has a 70 with a 40 and two 20s.  Sound truck makes downtown bally.
    General Agent is Charlie Campbell and M. Bailey has the bill car a week ahead.  Most stands are sponsored by Parent-Teachers associations.

Circus tent of the Don Robinson Circus, circa 1952, at an unknown location.

Circus tent of the Don Robinson Circus, circa 1952, at an unknown location. http://circustents.blogspot.com/2010/07/don-robinsons-ameri-congo-circus_01.html

Don Robinson Circus at an unknown location, circa 1952.

Don Robinson Circus at an unknown location, circa 1952.


Oct 12, 1918 ~ 372 U.S. Soldiers Lost in Sinking of Otranto


October 12, 1918 details of the sinking of the troopship Otranto began reaching the U.S.  Out of 699 soldiers on board, 372 were lost. Berrien County and Ray City, Georgia would pay a heavy toll in the disaster.

The October 12, 1918   Atlanta Constitution carried the story.   Nashville, GA resident Early Steward was listed as one of the Otranto survivors.

372 U.S. Soldiers Lost As Result of Sinking Of Transport Otranto

Fort Screven Men Among the Rescued.
A Scottish Port, October 11. –The following American survivors of the Otranto, all of them privates, have been landed here: Charles E. Smithson, David R. Roberts, George S. Taylor, Earle Garver, Stewart Early [Early Steward], Noah Taylor, William Cooney, Robert F. Schaun, Thomas A. Kelly, Ben Smith, Robert Brown, Joseph S. Richards, William Richards, Emil Peterson, Joseph M. Tollock, Sergeant Charles MacDonald, all from Fort Screven automatic replacement draft, and John E. Wean, casual company, Camp Merritt, N.J.

A British Port, October 11. – A large number of American troops have been lost as the result of the sinking of the transport Otranto in the North channel Sunday night between the Scottish and Irish coasts in a collision with the steamer Kashmir.
The Otranto after the collision was dashed to pieces on the rocks off the south Scottish coast with a probable loss of 372 American soldiers.
Three hundred and one men were taken to Belfast by the British destroyer Mounsey, the only vessel which made an attempt at rescue in the terrific gale when the Kashmir, another vessel in the convoy with the Otranto, rammed the Otranto amidships.
Seventeen men were picked up alive on the Scottish coast.
Of the 699 American soldiers on board the Otranto, 310 were landed. Seventeen were rescued alive at Islay, leaving 372 unaccounted for.

Collision Occurred in Storm.
The Otranto and the other vessels of the convoy were battling with the heavy seas and high winds Sunday morning. The storm was so severe and the visibility so bad that the Kashmir, a former Peninsular and Oriental liner, crashed into the Otranto squarely amidships.
The Kashmir backed away badly damaged, but was able to make port.
As the bows of the Kashmir were pulled from the great hole in the side of the Otranto, the water rushed in, but for a time it did not serve to stop the engines. The Otranto tried to proceed, but made no headway against the gale in her crippled condition.
Within a short time the water put out her fires and the Otranto drifted helplessly toward the rock coast of Islay Island, where most of the Tuscania victims met their deaths.
Thirty minutes after the crash the British destroyer Mounsey, herself damaged by the heavy seas, appeared out of the haze in answer to the distress calls from the Otranto. When the destroyer maneuvered to get alongside Captain Davidson, of the Otranto, warned Lieutenant Craven, commanding the destroyer, not to make the attempt.
When it was seen that Craven would make the attempt anyway the men were ordered to remove their shoes and heavy clothing and try to save themselves as best they could.
The destroyer stood off about 100 feet and the gradually came nearer, against the great odds of high waves and the wind, which threatened momentarily to carry her entirely away from the Otranto or dash her to pieces against the side of the wounded vessel.

Struck Rocks Sunday Night.
The Otranto struck the rocks Sunday night south of Saligo bay, Islay Island, an uninhabited section where the coastline in many places rises straight out of the water to the rocky peaks many feet above.
As the destroyer neared the side of the Otranto the men began to jump from 30 to 40 feet from her decks.  The most experienced sailors of the sailors had better success than the soldiers, many of whom had never seen the sea until this trip.
As the destroyer steered toward the side of the steamer many of the men leaped too quickly and missed their reckoning and dropped between the boats. Some of these disappeared in the water, but others of them were caught and crushed between the boats and the lifeboats which had been lowered to act as buffers. The destroyer was badly shattered.
The captain of the destroyer, each time it was brushed away from the side of the Otranto, again would push near enough for many more men to jump to the deck of his vessel. He described  as a veritable rain the number of men landing on the destroyer.
Many of those who reached the decks of the vessel suffered broken bones or otherwise were hurt. Those who missed the deck of the destroyer went almost to instant death.
Four times the battered destroyer came alongside, and each time the previous scene was repeated. At the end of the fourth trip she had 310 Americans, 236 of the crew, 30 French sailors and one British officer on board. The boat was full and having done all possible, she started for port.
The survivors saw the Otranto drifting helplessly toward the rocks as they pulled away toward the Irish coast.  The destroyer barely had time to send a brief message when her wireless was carried away.  The little overloaded vessel had a rough trip to port.

Soldiers at Attention.
One of the American soldiers on board the Otranto pictured the scene when the vessels collided. Soldiers lined the decks as though on parade, and at the word of command stood at attention like statues. They never wavered, remaining there in military formation, exemplifying during the crisis the noblest traditions of the army for heroism and discipline. The same thing, said the soldier, applied to the seamen.
Numbers of bodies today were being washed up rapidly on the shore. It was reported that 175 had been counted at noon and nearly all of them had been identified.
A seaman on the Otranto described the most tragic moment of the disaster as that when the order came for the men to jump and save themselves. The destroyer looked a very small boat alongside the former Orient liner and many landsmen among the American troops thought themselves safer aboard the larger vessel. This was fatal to many of them.
The victims are to be collected at the most suitable place and buried there.  A boat left Liverpool today with material for coffins, fifty laborers and carpenters and chaplains to conduct the funeral. The grave of every man will be marked and charted.
There were few cases among the dead where identification was delayed. Every man had worn an identification tag on his wrist or neck, but in some instances these were torn off and it was necessary to take finger prints of the men.

Heavy “Y” Man Saved.
An instance of the many rescues by the Mounsey was that of T.L. Campbell, a Memphis lawyer and secretary of the Y.M.C.A. He weighs 220 pounds. He was perched on the Otranto’s rail awaiting a chance to spring upon the destroyer the third time the Mounsey came up. As he leaped the Mounsey lurched away and instead of landing in the middle of the deck, as he had hoped to do, one of his legs caught in the cable on the side of the destroyer. Campbell pulled himself aboard uninjured.

“Just when the destroyer was pulling away the last time,” said Campbell today, “the men lined the rails or stood on the afterdeck waving a farewell. A huge wave struck a crowd of about eighteen privates on the afterdeck and a dozen of them were swept into the sea to sure death, as it was impossible to save persons from waves running sixty to seventy feet high.”

London, October 11. -The news of the collision reached London Monday, but nothing was known of the fate of the Otranto until Thursday morning, when the first reports came from Italy. The storm continued to make further attempts at rescue impossible.  No ships pass close enough to that coast in rough weather to see a stricken vessel ashore.


Pvt. Hiram Marcus Bennett, Sparks, GA

Pvt. Jim Melvin Boyett, Milltown, GA

Pvt. John Guy Coppage, Cecil, GA

Pvt. Rufus Davis, Sparks, GA

Pvt. Mack Hilton Easters, Lenox, GA

Pvt. George Bruce Faircloth, Milltown, GA

Pvt. Lafayette Gaskins, Nashville, GA

Pvt. Bennie E. Griner, Nashville, GA

Pvt. Lester A. Hancock, Alapaha, GA

Pvt. Robert J. Hancock, Lenox, GA

Pvt. Arthur Harper, Enigma, GA

Pvt. William P. Hayes, Alapaha, GA

Thomas H. Holland, Adel, GA

Pvt. George H. Hutto, Adel, GA

Pvt. Ralph Knight, Ray City, GA

Pvt. Benjamin F. McCranie, Adel, GA

Pvt. James M. McMillan, Nashville, GA

Pvt. William McMillan, Enigma, GA

Pvt. John Franklin Moore, Adel, GA

Pvt. Charlie S. Railey, Alapaha, GA

Pvt. Tillman W. Robinson, Enigma, GA

Pvt. Thomas J. Sirmons, Nashville, GA

Pvt. Shellie Loyed Webb, Ray City, GA

Pvt. Joel Wheeler, Nashville, GA

Pvt. William C. Zeigler, Sparks, GA

A Brief History of the Ray City Methodist Church

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

Ray City Methodist Church

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

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

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

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

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Ray City/Adel Boys Wreck Automobile Near Sparks, GA

Rema Sirmans

Dr. H.W. Clements, subject of previous posts, treated other auto accident victims. When Rema Sirmans, a young man of Ray City, GA was injured in an automobile accident near Sparks, Ga.  The Jan 17, 1929 edition of the Nashville Herald reported the following:

 Boys Wreck Automobile Sunday Near Sparks

In an automobile wreck that occurred a few miles west of Sparks Sunday night about ten o’clock Mr. Rema Sirmans of Ray City received a broken nose and severe gashes about the face and Andrew Ellis owner of the car received a cut on his right arm. Both gentlemen required medical attention, which was furnished by Dr. Clements of Adel who was called to the scene of the  accident.

 The boys were said to be coming into Sparks and upon attempting to make a curve the car, a Ford roadster turned into the ditch and struck a pine tree and Mr. Sirmans was thrown out through the windshield, and his face struck the tree and for several minutes was rendered semi-conscious.  Dr. Clements was called to the scene of the accident and the boys were carried to Adel where their wounds were attended to. The car was badly damaged. 

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For more family history and the history of Ray City, GA see www.raycity.pbworks.com

Dr. H.W. Clements and the Doctor’s Roadster

Henry Warren Clements, M.D.  (1877-1952)

Henry W. Clements was a Physician who lived and practiced in Ray City, Georgia during the early days of the town.  He was one of the many Medical Men of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), who served the community over the years.

Henry W. Clements went into medical practice  for a short time in Rays Mill, GA after graduating from the Medical College of Georgia in 1900.  A clipping from the Tifton Gazette shows he soon moved to Hahira, and in 1901 he moved again to Lenox, GA

Dr. Henry W. Clements moves to Lenox, GA

Dr. Henry W. Clements moves to Lenox, GA. Tifton Gazette, Feb. 22, 1901

Advertisment of Dr. H. W. Clements, Physician and Surgeon. Tifton Gazette, Mar. 25, 1904.

Advertisment of Dr. H. W. Clements, Physician and Surgeon. Tifton Gazette, Mar. 25, 1904.

In 1908 Dr. Clements was admitted to the Medical Association of Georgia. The Census of 1910 places him in Lenox, GA, but newspaper mentions show he and his wife, Pauline Nelson Clements, were back in Ray City by early 1911.  Dr. Clements was a self-employed physician in general practice in Ray City.  His bookkeeper was Robert Tombs Harrell and he also employed Floyd Lafayette Blanton in farming. According to the 1920 Census, Dr. Clements owned a home in Ray City on North Street, next door to his father, Levi J. Clements.

 Dr. Clements practiced in Hahira, Lenox, and Ray City until the early 1920’s.  Transportation for these years was by horse and buggy and his stable full of horses is well known.  Prior to World War I, the second gas vehicle in Berrien County was a  Maxwell proudly owned by Dr. Clements.

The Maxwell Motor Company produced a model called the Doctor’s Roadster, marketed especially to medical men, as seen in this advertisement from The Medical World magazine.

W.P. Tittle & Co., a Nashville, GA firm from 1911 to around 1925, was the first automobile dealer in Berrien County and handled the Maxwell line of cars. The firm was owned by  W.P. Tittle, C.G. Starling, and D.D. Tittle.

With the growing popularity of the automobile, Dr. Clements found that in addition to treating the sick and delivering babies,  he was now treating accident victims.  In 1923 when his cousin, Homer Clements, broke an arm while hand cranking his car, Dr. Clements may have set the “Ford Fracture.”

Dr. H.W. Clements lived in Ray City, GA and kept his medical practice there until he moved to Adel, GA in 1922.  Adel is just 10 miles west of Ray City;  Homer could have made the trip in 1923 to get his arm treated.

On the night of January 17, 1929 Dr. Clements was called for an emergency response when Rema Sirmans was ejected from a Ford roadster in a one car accident near Sparks, Ga. No doubt, Dr. Clements treated many other automobile accident victims over the years.

Tragically, his own daughter, Hilda Clements, and son-in-law would be killed in an automobile accident at a bridge near Ray City, on December 21, 1941.

Children of Henry W. Clements and Mary Pauline Nelson (1881 – 1954):

  1. Henry G. Clements 1903 – 1948
  2. Harvey J Clements 1905 – 1927
  3. Jaunita P Clements 1913 –
  4. Fred Nelson Clements 1918 – 1987
  5. Hilda Clements 1921 – 1941

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Incendiaries in Berrien County

In 1884, The chronicle : a weekly journal, devoted to the interests of insurance, manufacturers and real estate reported:

Webster defines incendiarism to be the act of maliciously and wilfully setting buildings and other combustible property on Are, and this paper will discuss the subject in the light of that definition.

The ancients, in recognition of that famous medical maxim, “similia similibus curantur,” treated incendiaries with fire, that is, the incendiaries themselves were burned, to the complete vindication of the maxim just quoted. We regret that among the ” lost arts” we must number a mode of “fire prevention” so salutary and effectual.

Indeed, the 1876 Code of the State of Georgia required the death penalty as the punishment for arson, although it fell short of demanding burning at the stake.  The 1884 Chronicle continued:

According to statisticians one third of all our fires is the work of incendiaries; they who wilfully set buildings or other combustible property on fire, and presumably two-fifths of our entire fire waste is the fruit of crime. The number of fires of incendiary origin exceed those from the combined causes of accidents, carelessness, defective construction in all its bearings, including all defects of flues, furnaces, heating and lighting apparatus, friction in machinery, gasoline and coal oil stoves, ignition, spontaneous combustion, mischievous children, lightning and the much abused tramp.

Berrien County certainly knew its share of firebugs. By way of example,  The Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun, Dec 14, 1887 pg 3 include the following

 The corn crib and contents of Mr. J.J. Sirmans, of Berrien county were incendiarised. The house contained 400 bushels of corn which had just been housed, 35 bushels of oats, all his farming utensils, besides bridles, saddles and other property.

Every decade, probably every year, included accounts of arson. In March of 1915, A.E. Rampey and Virge Curry were arrested in connection with the burning of Rampey’s gin house. “both of these parties were convicted of arson in the burning of the said gin house and sentenced to terms in the penitentiary ”

The  Georgia Report of the Insurance Department of the Comptroller-General’s Office for the year ending 1916,

21. Sparks, Ga.
I went to Nashville, Ga., this week to appear before the Grand Jury of Berrien County in regard to the burning of the dormitory at Sparks, Ga., last December. I had already investigated this fire and turned over what evidence and affidavits I had secured to the solicitor-general and he had me to appear before the grand jury. The grand jury went thoroughly into this case and returned true bills against five of the boys who were attending this school. I am just informed by the solicitor that the sheriff had two of these boys in jail at Nashville and was close after the other three.

22. Milltown, Ga.
Leaving Nashville I stopped by Valdosta and learned of a fire that had occurred at Milltown, Ga., a short distance from Valdosta. I began an investigation and secured strong evidence against E. A. Rampey, owner of the gin that burned, and also against Verge Curry. I was satisfied that Rampey hired Curry to fire the gin, so I hurried back to Nashville where court was in session and took the cases before the grand jury, with the result that true bills were returned as follows: E. A. Rampey as accessory before the fact, and Verge Curry as principal. As soon as these bills were returned I had Sheriff Morris and his deputy to go at once to Milltown and arrest both parties. He succeeded in getting both. They were brought before Judge Thomas at Nashville, and he assessed a bond of $5,000 against each of them, in default of which they were put in jail.

27. Nashville, Ga.
.was acquitted and convicted and sentenced to serve five years on the Prison Farm at Milledgeville. Wright was tried at this term of court. Bridges were tried with the burning of the dormitory at Sparks, Ga. They were chargedPhilip Bridges and James Wright

and convicted and sentenced to serve five years each.were tried and Verge Curry RampeyI attended court M Nashville, Berrien County, for two weeks, trying four cases of arson that I had made on previous occasions. E. A.

The 1884 Chronicle also offered this wisdom:

Incendiarism In Georgia.

The Vindicator counts up several noteworthy instances of incendiarism in Georgia, and then comments as follows: “In the days when insurance was unknown, such fires would have caused the people to turn out and hunt up these ‘ fire bugs,’ and to deal out to them summary justice. Now, however, it is more convenient and saves much trouble, to collect from insurance companies the losses, and let the ‘ grand jury find the criminals.’

Expecting communities to deal with incendiaries themselves was perhaps not so wise advice for those who would a few years later face  some of the most notorious cases of arson in Wiregrass history.