Ray City Real Estate

The previous post, Ray City Land Passed Through Many Hands, discussed ownership of  the land where Ray City is situated going back into the 1870s. By 1895 150 acres of this land had come into the possession of James S. Swindle.

Dr. Charles X. Jones, First Mayor of Ray City

In 1903, James S. Swindle sold four acres of this land to Dr. Charles X. Jones“All that tract or parcel of land lying and being in the County of Berrien, containing four acres, more or less, at the north end of Card the Card dam, and running northward to the Rays Mill and Adel Public Road; thence westward to the southwest corner of Chas. A. Knight and J.J. Swindle land, thence southward to the corner of the lands of I.H. Sutton, M.S. Knight and J.S. Swindle, thence Eastward to the starting point.”

“…in the year 1908 the said tract was cut up into town lots, by the surveyor of Berrien County, T.I. Griffin, and platted for the Town of Raysmill, and that the said town of Rays mill, afterwards became incorporated as the town of Ray City, Ga.”  

The newly platted town of Ray City experienced a real estate boom. On March 9, 1909 the Atlanta Constitution ran an article that included the following account of the new town:

“Rays Mill, a very new town on the Georgia and Florida Railroad, ten miles south of Nashville, is in this section, and is proud of its location. Less than six months ago there was no town and no sign of it. Today there are at least a half a dozen new store houses completed or being built, and probably twenty-five new residence buildings completed or planned, to say nothing of a half a hundred new cabins for the colored laborer. A two story hotel building is near completion and will soon be occupied. M.E Studstill has a new sawmill here and J.H. Crenshaw has another. Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here. A.L. Bridges is another young merchant who will soon move his store to town. Louis Bullard is completing a two story house. And so on — all in five months. The truth is, Rays Mill, the town, has just about ‘arrived,’ or will soon.”

About Charles X. Jones, the article said, “It will not, I believe be improper to say that Dr. C. Jones, an older citizen here, is the leading spirit of this town. Dr. Jones has for years served these people, and has done business and owns considerable of the land around here, and he proposes to help his new town along. He is clever and generous and disposed to serve his community. “

Another Berrien County title document goes on to describe  specific Ray City lots owned by Dr. Jones, “That the said Chas. X. Jones sold off city lots and sold lot No I in block No. 2 to J.F. Buckholtz…”

Buckholtz sold this lot on March 18, 1910 to J.M. Deloach. Within a month J.M. DeLoach flipped the lot, selling it to Levi J. Clements on April 11, 1910.  Clements was a well-to-do planter who  owned a home on the town’s newly designated Main Street , and who later owned the Clements lumber mill at Ray City. Perhaps he purchased the lot intending it for one of his sons.

Clements held the lot for about a year and a half but then sold out to William Lawrence Swindle. W. L. Swindle was born and raised in the Rays Mill District, a son of pioneer settlers James Swindle and Nancy Parker. He served three terms as Sheriff of Berrien County.

W.L. Swindle quickly closed a deal conveying the land to Riley M. Green on Dec 19, 1911.  Riley M. Green was an investor and one of the incorporators of the Bank of Rays Mill.

Three years later Riley M. Green sold the lot to F.D. Clifton for $150 dollars.  In 1917, F.D. Clifton  doubled his money, selling the lot to Jasper Nobles for $295.00.

Jasper Nobles constructed a home on the site at a cost of $1200 dollars. In 1919, he mortgaged the house and property for a $1000 dollar loan from the Georgia Loan and Trust Company. In the 1930s the house and lot was sold at auction on the Berrien County courthouse steps for $100.

Jasper Nobles built this house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA on land that once belonged to Thomas M. Ray.

Jasper Nobles built this house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA on land that once belonged to Thomas M. Ray.

Ray City Land Passed Through Many Hands

According to early land title documents the land that now constitutes a significant portion of Ray City, GA was once owned in part by Thomas M. Ray.   T.M. Ray, along with his father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, founded Rays Mill.

Grave marker of Thomas M. Ray, Cemetery at Union Church (aka Burnt Church), Lakeland, GA.

Grave marker of Thomas M. Ray, Cemetery at Union Church (aka Burnt Church), Lakeland, GA.

The Last Will and Testament of Thomas M. Ray directed that ” all my property of every sort and kind be kept together and managed by executors upon the plan and fashion as nearly as possible that I have lately managed it for a term of  ten years, at the expiration of which time executors are hereby directed to expose every parcel of property that may then belong to the estate at public sale, and the proceeds from said sale be equally divided among my legal heirs that may then be living, or their representatives if any, and they be dead.”  “I hereby constitute and appoint my son in law H.H. Knight and my son Thos. M. Ray, to qualify and act when he becomes of age and my worth friend William  Roberts executors of this my last will and testament.  This May 31, st, 1876.”

Thomas M. Ray died just a few days later, June 14, 1876.  In accordance with his will, his land was tied up in the estate for the next 10 years, including Land Lots 422, 423, 451, and 452 in the 10th land district which were owned jointly by William Roberts and T.M. Ray.

Subsequent court documents show:

“At the April term 1879 Thos. M. Ray [Jr.] filed his petition to the Court oy Ordinary of Berrien County, Ga. showing that he had been duly appointed executor of the last will and testament of his father Tho’s M. Ray, and that he had reached the age of 21 years, and asking that he be appointed executor under the said will. Whereupon the Court directed that he be appointed executor as prayed.”

“H.H. Knight and Tho’s M. Ray [Jr.], as the duly and legally qualified Exrs. under the last will and testament of Tho’s M. Ray, applied to the Court of Ordinary of Berrien county, setting forth that under the terms of the said Will that all of the lands and property belonging to said estate should be sold, and praying that leave be granted to them to sell the said lands etc. Citation was ordered issued and published in terms of the law, Oct, term, 1886, of the Court of Ordinary of Berrien County.”

“At the November term 1886 of the Court of Ordinary of Berrien County an order was granted by said Court, reciting that it appearing to the Court that said citation had issued and been published as the law required that the said executors be granted leave  to sell the land etc.”

With the estate cleared to sell, William Roberts sold out his interest in Land Lots 422, 423, 451, and 452 to James Swindle on November 18th, 1886, receiving the amount of  $10,029. 70 in consideration.  In today’s dollars, this would have been about $12.1 million dollars.

Nine years later, in 1895, James Swindle transferred 150 acres of this land to his son, James S. Swindle.  The warranty deed stated that the value received in consideration was “Love and Affection,” and described the property   “to wit: One hundred and fifty (150) acres, more or less, being part of lot of land number 423, and bounded as follows; 10th Dist of Berrien County, Ga. Commencing at the North end of the Dam known as the Card Gin Dam and running North to a branch known as the Davis branch  thence down said branch to Cat creek, thence down said Cat creek to lands of H.H. Knight, thence running East along said H.H. Knight land to starting point.”

The Swindle land encompassed virtually all of  present day Ray City lying north of Beaver Dam Creek.  “That along in the 1880’s, it was owned and possessed by one James Swindle, and that James Swindle sold the same to his son James S. Swindle, and that James S. Swindle sold that part of the land…to Chas. X. Jones, with several other acres of the land, and that in the year 1908 the said tract was cut up into town lots, by the surveyor of Berrien County, T.I. Griffin, and platted for the Town of Raysmill, and that the said town of Rays mill, afterwards became incorporated as the town of Ray City, Ga.”

1919 title document showing chain of ownership of land at Ray City, GA.

1919 title document showing chain of ownership of land at Ray City, GA.