Fred Manning Cersey

Fred Manning Cersey

Fred Manning Cersey. Image source: Parkjoann1

Fred Manning Cersey. Image source: Parkjoann1

Fred Manning Cersey  was a son of Manning Andrew Cersey and  Lula M. Goodin, of Ray City, GA. He was born November 27, 1923, just three weeks after the death of his older brother Jewel Cersey (1916- November 7, 1923).  Fred M. Cersey was a grandson of Henry Thomas Cersey and Missouri “Louannie” Whitely.  His grandfather was a primitive Baptist and a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City, GA.

Fred’s father did not have a farm of his own.  As a young man, his father rented and worked as a farm laborer. In 1917, he was working as a farm laborer for Thomas Futch.   In the 1920s, Fred’s father was one of the sawmill fireman at the big Clements Sawmill at Ray City, GA on the line of the Georgia and Florida Railroad.  The Cersey family lived in the company settlement in a rented home.  Another fireman at the sawmill plant was J. D.  Melvin.

In the 1930 Census, Fred lived in Militia District 1157, Berrien County, GA with his father Manning Cersey (42), mother Lula Goodin Cersey (35), and siblings Clinton (17), Pauline (10), and Clifford (2 1/2).  His father was then self-employed as a farmer.

Fred Cersey was educated through the 4th grade, and afterwards went to work as a cook.  By 1835, the Cerseys were living in the lower 10th district of Berrien County, GA on the Lakeland and Willacoochee Road.  Fred was enumerated in his parents’ household there in 1940.

By 1941, Fred had moved to Jacksonville, FL where he was working for Swift & Co. as a “refiner.”  Swift and Co. was a long-running American meat processing company.  The company was a national brand emerging out of the Chicago meat packing industry.

Fred M. Cersey married Ruby E. Williams on March 7, 1942.

Ruby Estelle Williams and Fred Manning Cersery. Image Source: parkjoann1

Ruby Estelle Williams and Fred Manning Cersery. Image Source: parkjoann1

On May 19, 1943, Fred M. Cersey enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, FL.  Camp Blanding was the largest training base in Florida. Housing some 60,000, it was the fourth largest city in Florida; During World War II, approximately one million men received basic training here.

Soldiers at attention on Company Street at Camp Blanding - Starke, Florida. 1942. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31681>.

Soldiers at attention on Company Street at Camp Blanding – Starke, Florida. 1942. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31681&gt;.

After the war, the couple made their home in Jacksonville, FL.  The 1946 Polk’s City Directory for Jacksonville, FL shows they were living at 2371 McQuade street.  Fred and his brother, Clifford, worked for National Container Corp.

Later, Cersey worked for the Jefferson Smurfit Paper Company.

Fred Manning Cersey died April 7, 2002.  Burial: New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, Union County, Florida, USA

CERSEY – Fred Manning Cersey, a long time resident of Clay County passed away April 7, 2002 following a lengthy illness. He was born November 27, 1923 in Ray City, GA, the son of Manning Andrew Cersey and Lula Goodin Cersey. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army having served in WWII. He retired from Jefferson Smurfit Paper Company following 40 years of dedicated service. Fred was a happy and loving family man who enjoyed sports, music, singing, fishing and the outdoors. He was a High Priest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where he Served in many leadership roles. Surviving are his devoted and loving wife of 60 years, Ruby Williams Cersey; his daughters Patricia Ann Best (Michael), and Sheron Elaine Merrill (Roger); his son Fred DeWayne Cersey (Lana); 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren; his brothers Clinton and Clifford Cersey; half brother Thomas and half sisters Dorothy and Latrelle. He was predeceased by his first daughter Ruby Marlin Cersey. Funeral services in celebration of his life will be held 11:00 AM Wednesday April 10, 2002 at Middleburg Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 4342 Highway 218, Middleburg, FL with Elder James F. Wheeler officiating. Mr. Cersey will be laid to rest with his daughter in New Zion Cemetery following services. Family members and friends will gather on Tuesday evening (TONIGHT) from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM at JACKSONVILLE MEMORY GARDENS FUNERAL HOME, 111 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park.

Grave of Fred Manning Cersey and Ruby L. Williams. New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, FL

Grave of Fred Manning Cersey and Ruby L. Williams. New Zion Cemetery, Lake Butler, FL

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On the Home Front, Ray City, GA, 1918

WWI HOMEFRONT

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

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Walker County Messenger, August 23, 1918

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

Walker County Messenger
LaFayette, GA
August 23, 1918

Ray City, GA

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

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

JOSH JONES

Additional Notes:

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

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