Old Ray’s Mill in 1978

Ray’s Mill Founders Day, November 7, 1863
Ray City, Berrien County, GA

The gristmill at Beaverdam Creek commenced operation on November 7, 1863.  Then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill, the construction was a collaboration between Thomas M. Ray and his father-in-law, Levi J. Knight.

1978 photograph of Ray's Mill, Ray City, GA

1978 photograph of Ray’s Mill, Ray City, GA. Kids used roof of Ray’s Mill to slide into pond.

 

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Ray’s Mill Founder’s Day ~ November 7, 1863

About 1863, Thomas M. Ray  and Levi J. Knight observed that pioneers had settled southern Berrien County, GA to the extent that  the establishment of a grist mill to serve the local community was warranted.  With the assistance of slave labor, an earthen dam and concrete spillway was constructed to impound a millpond on the swampy headwaters of Beaverdam Creek. The mill house itself was constructed from the local timber; “The ceiling rafters were hand hewed and wood pegs were used instead of nails.” 

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

On November 7, 1863 Mr. Ray began operation of the mill, then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill. Powered by water from the pond, the mill could grind meal and hominy grits from corn.

The old mill hopper and mill rock at Ray's Mill.  Image source:  Colquitt Electric Membership Newsletter (full article available at www.southermatters.com

The old mill hopper and mill rock at Ray’s Mill. Image source: Colquitt Electric Membership Newsletter (full article available at http://www.southermatters.com

Ray’s Mill was the first commercial enterprise of historic Ray City. At one time the mill was the central gathering place of this part of Berrien County, as men would take their corn there to be ground. “People would travel for miles by horsedrawn wagons to have several months supply of meal or grits ground for their family. This generally resulted in a a outing for the whole family.”

As Ray’s Mill was the best known landmark of the immediate vicinity, the growing community became known by that name also.  The area’s first postal station was established as early as 1863. The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that AK Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill.

The location of the mill also became the site of the community’s first post office. In 1885,  The Official Register of the United States listed  H.H. Knight   as Post Master of “Ray’s Mills”, Berrien County, Georgia.  By 1886, The Atlanta Medical and Surgical Journal reported that the community had a doctor, serving a population of 150 people. During the decade of the 1890’s Berrien county was one of the top ten fastest growing counties in Georgia. In the late 1890s and early 1900s David Rigell operated a general merchandise store located near the old mill. Rigell’s merchantile may have been only the second retail establishment  at Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), although it is often incorrectly cited as the first.

The grist mill ceased operation in 1954 after 91 years of operation.  Even though the town was incorporated as Ray City in 1909, it was still being marked on maps as Rays Mill as late as 1952.

The millhouse has since been torn down, but Rays Millpond remains as one of the eduring landmarks of Ray City, GA.

An old news photo showing remants of original equipment at Ray's Mill.

An old news photo showing remants of original equipment at Ray’s Mill.

Bessie Griffin Bazemore

Bessie Griffin (1883-1983)

Bessie Griffin Bazemore. Image source: P.C. Griffin

Bessie Griffin Bazemore. Image source: P.C. Griffin

 

Bessie was a daughter of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight,  a granddaughter of William Washington Knight, and a great granddaughter of Levi J. Knight, and of Jesse Carroll, both pioneer settlers of the Ray City, GA area.  Her parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District).

Bessie was born  August 11, 1883.  Tax records at that time show her father owned 175 acres on Lot #371, 10th Land District, Berrien County, GA, increased to 245 acres in 1884. The Griffin farm was in the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA), although at that time,  the community of Ray’s Mill consisted of little more than the grist mill built by Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight, and the store owned by Henry H. Knight.

Bessie’s early childhood, from 1883  through 1890,  was spent on her father’s farm on the same Lot #371.    Tax records of 1890 show  Guilford I. Parrish, Molcie Parrish – wife of Elder Ansel Parrish, James W. Parrish, John S. Carter, Joel J. Carter, James P. Devane, Millard F. Devane, Georgia R. Devane, William E. Fountain Jr, John Webb, Thomas W. Ray, William W. Knight, Sovin J. Knight, and Matthew H. Albritton were among their neighbors.

Apparently, the Griffin’s moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before the birth  of Bessie’s brother, Lester Griffin, in 1890.

Bessie Griffin married Joseph S. Bazemore   on December 20, 1899, in Lowndes County, GA.  The bride was sixteen; the groom was a 29-year-old farmer.  Joseph Salem Bazemore was born March 10, 1870 at Hazlehurst, GA. He was a son of James J. Bazemore (1853-1893)  and Mary Elizabeth McIntyre (1848-1924).

Marriage Certificate of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, December 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, December 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA.

Image source: http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/u?/countyfilm,123494

Bessie and Joseph were married by William W. Wilkinson, Justice of the Peace.  In the 1850s, Wilkinson had been a neighbor of  Jesse Carroll and of William J. Lamb  (see (Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899.

Bazemore-Griffin Wedding, Dec 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

Bazemore-Griffin Wedding, Dec 20, 1899, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

In 1900, the newlyweds were renting a farm in Lowndes County, in the Lower Fork District No. 658, next to the farm of Bessie’s widowed mother. Boarding with them and working as a farm laborer was William J. Lamb, and his wife Mary Carrol Knight Lamb. Among the neighbors were David and Rachel Passmore and their children.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Lower Fork District, Lowndes County, GA.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Lower Fork District, Lowndes County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu209unit#page/n440/mode/1up

By the census of 1910, Bessie and Joe Bazemore had moved to the Hazlehurst, GA area, Georgia Militia District #1364.  Their place was on “Rural Route Road #1”  near where it intersected with Graham & Smith Landing Road. Joe’s brother, Captain Bazemore, and his wife Ida were living next door.

1910 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po198unit#page/n463/mode/1up

Joe and Bessie, as well as Cap and Ida, remained in Hazlehurst through the 1920 census.

1920 census enumeration og Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

1920 census enumeration of Joseph S. Bazemore and Bessie Griffin, Hazlehurst, Jeff Davis County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu263unit#page/n466/mode/1up

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John Gaskins, Pioneer of Old Berrien

John Gaskins (1802 – 1865)

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

 John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distant from today’s Ray City, GA location, settling there about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek.

John Gaskins was born June 29, 1802 in Warren County, GA. He was the eldest child of Fisher Gaskins and Rhoda Rowe, and a grandson of Thomas Gaskins, Revolutionary Soldier.  When John was around four or five years old, his parents  and grandparents  moved  the family back to Beaufort District, South Carolina, from whence they had originated.  The family appears there in Beaufort District in the Census of 1810. By the time of the 1810 enumeration, John Gaskins’ parents had given him four siblings – two brothers and two sisters.

But immediately following the birth of her fifth child, John’s mother died.  He was eight years old at the time.  His widowed father packed up the five young children and moved the family back to Warren County, GA.  There, on January 17, 1811 his father married Mary Lacy. Her father, Archibald Lacy, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and her brother was the Reverend John B. Lacy, who would later become a prominent  Primitive Baptist Minister.  Around this time John’s father was expanding his livestock business and began looking for good grazing land for his growing herds of cattle.

By 1812, John Gaskins’ father moved the family to Telfair County, GA where he acquired good grazing land for his cattle. His father and his uncle, David Gaskins, were very successful in the cattle business and soon had large herds, not only in Telfair County where they were enumerated in 1820, but also in Walton and other surrounding counties where good natural pasturage could be had.

Around 1821, the Gaskins again moved their families and cattle herds to the south, crossing the Ocmulgee River at Mobley’s Bluff and pushing into the new frontier of Appling County,GA.  John, now a young man of 17 or 18 years old, made the move with his family.  His uncle, David Gaskins, halted in an area of Appling County known as “The Roundabout”, situated in present day Atkinson County, where he found good range land for his cattle. John’s father took his herd across the Alapaha River into then Irwin County at a location that for many years was known as the John Ford.

The Fisher Gaskins clan, John’s father and his brothers, settled west of the Alapaha River a little south of present day Bannockburn, GA near the site of Riverside Church. On April 14, 1825  John Gaskins married Mary Pollie Barrow in Irwin County, GA.      This was about 15 miles north of the area where the Knights and Clements were settling their families above Grand Bay, near present day Ray City, GA.  John and Mary Gaskins established their homestead just to the north of his father’s place. By the end of 1825, the Georgia Legislature divided Irwin County and from the southern portion formed the new county of Lowndes.

On August 11, 1826 Mary Gaskins delivered to John his first son, Gideon Gaskins. A second son arrived on February 16, 1828, whom they named Fisher Jackson Gaskins; Fisher – after his paternal grandfather, and Jackson perhaps after Andrew Jackson, the Hero of New Orleans who would be elected President that year.

John Gaskins appeared as a head of household in Lowndes County in the Census of 1830, as did his father, Fisher Gaskins.  About 1829 or 1830, John’s father moved his cattle across the county and settled on Lot 91 of the 9th Land District, which was subsequently known as the Chambliss place, and later became the home of George D. Griffin.

About 1831 a contagious disease struck Fisher Gaskins’ herd, killing off several hundred head of cattle and inciting the elder Gaskins to seek new pastures yet again. With the help of hired hands, he drove his remaining cattle into North Florida to settle in the area of Alachua County, FL.   John and Mary stayed behind in Lowndes County (now Berrien), as well as John’s brothers,  William and Harmon.

“When he moved to Florida, he [Fisher Gaskins] left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

Cattlemen like John Gaskins sold their Berrien County livestock at points like Savannah, GA or  Centerville on the St. Mary’s River, or Jacksonville, Florida.

John Gaskins fought in the Indian War 1836-1838, serving in Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company.   Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote,  “His home was visited  by the savages on one occasion while the family was absent, and a good deal of vandalism and theft was committed.”   John Gaskins and his brother William were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

At age 38, John Gaskins and family were enumerated in the Census of 1840, still living in the northeast area of old Lowndes county now known as Berrien County. His brother, William, was living next door, and nearby were the homesteads of David Clements and William Clements, and other early settlers.

In 1850 the Gaskins remained in  Lowndes County.  Enumerated nearby the Gaskins home place were the residences of General Levi J. Knight, William Patten, Hardeman Sirmans, David Clements, Moses C. Lee, and other early settlers. John Gaskins was a farmer, with $600 in real estate.

Around 1855 the Gaskins were involved in some sort of public disturbance in Lowndes county.  Hardeman Sirmons, Benjamin S. Garrett, Drewry Garrett, Will Garrett, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Gideon Gaskins, and Lemuel Gaskins were all brought before the Lowndes Superior Court for their involvement in a riot.  In 1856, however, the Gaskins and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and placed in the new county of Berrien. The defendants were able to have their case  transferred to Berrien County in June of 1856, and apparently escaped serious consequences.

In the Census of 1860 John Gaskins appeared on the enumeration sheets listed next to Thomas M. Ray, who would begin construction of Ray’s Millpond just a few years later.

From 1858 to 1861, John Gaskins served as a Justice of the Peace in Berrien County.

During the Civil War five of his sons joined Georgia Volunteer Infantry regiments: Fisher J. Gaskins, William Gaskins, Lemuel Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Harris Gaskins, .

Children of John Gaskins and Mary Pollie Barrow:

  1. Gideon Gaskins, born 1826, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Knight (July 17, 1831 – February 03, 1902); buried Riverside Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.
  2. Fisher J. Gaskins, Sr., born February 16, 1828, Berrien County, GA; married Elizabeth Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died November 14, 1908, Berrien County, GA; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  3. John Gaskins, Jr., born January 16, 1830, Berrien County, GA; married Catherine Calder; died May 6, 1886.
  4. Emily Gaskins, born 1832, Berrien County, GA; married Joseph Newbern.
  5. William Gaskins, born March 5, 1833; married Elizabeth Clements, daughter of David G. Clements; served in Company I, 54th GA Regiment; died August 27, 1910; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  6. Lemuel Elam Gaskins, born 1836, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Ann Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment;  died October 26, 1862, Richmond, VA; buried Richmond VA, memorial marker at Riverside Baptist Church.
  7. Joseph Gaskins, born April 28, 1840, Berrien County, GA; married Harriet Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died February 4, 1911; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  8. Harmon Gaskins, born 1842, Berrien County, GA; died young.
  9. Harrison  “Harris” Gaskins, born April 5, 1842, Berrien County, GA.; married Roxanna “Roxie” Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans, on April 17, 1862; served in Company K, 29th GA Regiment; died January 7, 1926; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church
  10. Bryant Gaskins, born 1846, Berrien County, GA

Clinch County News
April 23, 1937

John Gaskins – 1802-1865

Oldest son of Fisher Gaskins by his first wife. Came to Berrien while a youth, grew to manhood here. His wife was a daughter of Joseph Barrow… Immediately after their marriage John Gaskins and his wife settled on the Alapaha River a short distance north of the old home of his father and near where Bannockburn now is, and there they spent their entire married life together.   The death of John Gaskins occurred at this home July 18, 1865; and 23 years later, January 6, 1888 his widow joined her husband in the spirit-land, at the age of 83.  Both are buried at Riverside Cemetery and their graves are substantially marked. They were the parents of a large family of sons and daughters and their living descendants in this county to-day are very numerous.

John Gaskins was a man who spent his life at home and gave his time and attention to his avocation.  The farm was made self-sustaining; work was the rule and grim want never came to stare the inmates of this farm-home in the face.  Food for family and stock was well and abundantly supplied and the excellence of the range went a long way in helping him to provide meat for family and lay up money from the sales of beef-cattle.  Deer and turkeys were plentiful and could be taken at any time. Fish abounded in the river and with all of these good things around life on the frontier was not so bad after all.  Hogs grew almost wild in the hammocks and only required a few weeks’ finishing off with corn or field crops to be ready for slaughter. Cattle were let to go at large all the time except they were penned regularly for about six weeks during the months of April and May so that they may be marked and branded and kept under control; and the annual sale of these beef-cattle brought the gold in their homes against the rainy-day and old age.

John Gaskins took part in driving the last of the wandering bands of Indians from Georgia soil, and one of the last engagements with the redskins fought on Berrien county soil took place near the home of this old pioneer.  His home suffered from Indian predations to the extent that the feather beds were taken out, the ticks ripped open, the feathers emptied and scattered and the ticks carried away with some other articles of the household.  Some of these articles were recovered, among which was a beautiful pitcher which had been treasured as an heirloom for many years.  The place where the pitcher was recovered after it had been cast aside by the Indians in their flight across the Alapaha River, is known to this day among the local inhabitants as “Pitcher Slough.”

Following the death of John Gaskins in 1865 his sons Fisher J. and John, Jr. served as the administrators of his estate.

Milledgeville Federal Union
August 21, 1866 — page 4

Georgia, Berrien County.
Two months after date application will be made to the Court of Ordinary of said county for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John Gaskins, Sen., deceased, for the benefit of the heirs and creditors of said deceased.
F. J. Gaskins,
John Gaskins, Jr.   Adm’r’s.
July 2d, 1866.        WEC       50 9c

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Sesquicentennial of Ray’s Mill, 1863 – 2013

150 years ago…

According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coastal Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on February 23, 1870 in the community he founded.   Afterwards, Thomas M. Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate. Over time the mill became the focal point of the community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA, now known as Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Matthew Hodge Albritton

matthew-hodge-albritton

Matthew Hodge Albritton was born  March 8, 1842 in Houston County, GA a son of Allen and Rebecca Albritton.  His parents were well off. By the time of the Civil War, Allen Albritton had amassed a net worth that would have made him a multi-millionaire by today’s standards. Allen Albritton, was a farmer and owned land in the 5th District of Houston County, number not known, and adjoining the land of Stephen Castellow and others.

Matthew’s siblings were Littleton L. Albritton, Mariah Albritton, Mary Jane Albritton, William M. B. Albritton, George A. Albritton, Wright M. Albritton and Joe L. Albritton.  About 1842, Matthew’s cousins,  McCuin A. “Mack” Albritton and Matthew R. B. Albritton, also came to live with the family after the death of their father,  McCuin Albritton, Sr.  The boys, Mack and Matthew R. B.,  became legal wards of Allen Albritton, and their father’s property was sold off.

Estate of McCuin Albritton

Administrator’s Sale on the Estate of McCuin Albritton, November 21, 1943.

Macon Georgia Telegraph
November 28, 1843

Administrator’s Sale.

Will be sold, on the first Tuesday in FEBRUARY next, before the Court-House door in Perry, Houston county, within the usual hours, one-half of Lot of Land No. 195, in the 5th District of Houston county,  containing 101 1/4 acres, more or less – belonging to the Estate of McCuin Albritton, deceased, late of Burke county.  Sold agreeable to an order of the Inferior Court of Burke county, when sitting for ordinary purposes.  Terms cash – purchasers to pay for titles.

James Grubbs, Admr.

Nov 21

On March 3, 1852 Matthew’s sister, Mary Jane, married Thomas M. Ray  in Houston County, GA and the newlyweds moved to an area of Lowndes County that was cut into Berrien County in 1856.  T. M. Ray founded a grist mill in 1863 in the southern part of Berrien County, in partnership with Levi J. Knight.  This mill became the nucleus of the community now known as Ray City, GA.

Some time in the 1850s, Allen Albritton moved his family to Pike County, Alabama, near the town of New Providence.  Matthew, William, George, and  Wright all made the move with their father, as well as their adopted cousins Matthew R.B. and Mack. At least by 1857,  Matthew’s brother Littleton L. Albritton and sister Mariah Albritton had followed their sister, Mary Jane, to Berrien County, GA where Mariah married Matthew R. Grace that year.

Allen Albritton established legal guardianship of Matthew R.B. and Mack Albritton in Alabama, and petitioned to be discharged from that responsibility in Georgia.

1860-allen-albritton-adopts-nephews

Georgia Weekly Telegraph, September 20, 1860

Georgia Weekly Telegraph
September 20, 1860

GEORGIA, HOUSTON COUNTY.

Ordinary’s Office, for said County.
Upon hearing the petition of Allen Albritton, Guardian of M.R.B. & M.A. Albritton, minors of McCuin Albritton, deceased, showing that he has recently removed beyond the limits of this State to the county of Pike, State of Alabam, and take with him his said wards, with their property, and has there been duly appointed Guardian of said minors.
 It is ordered that all persons concerned be and appear at the November Term of this Court, to show cause, it any they have, why said Albritton should not be discharged from his said trust.
Given under my hand and official signature, the Sept. 6th, 1860.

W. T. Swift, Ordinary

In the Census of 1860, Matthew Albritton and his family were enumerated in Pike County, Alabama. Matthew, his brother William, and adopted brothers and cousins Matthew R.B, and Mack were all  working the family farm.  Their father and guardian, Allen Albritton,  had $23,775 in his personal estate and another $9,000 in real estate.

1860-censusAllenAlbritton

About 1861, Matthew left the farm in Alabama and joined his brother and sister in Berrien County, GA.

In May of 1862, Matthew’s brother, Littleton Albritton, went to Nashville, GA where he enlisted as a sergeant in Company E, 54th Georgia Infantry Regiment,, the Berrien Light Infantry.  On October 22, Matthew Albritton followed Company E to their encampment at Coffee Bluff near Savannah, GA where he enlisted as a private. Jehu Patten, of the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA, served as 4th Sergeant of  Company E, and other soldiers in the unit included John Lee, George Washington Knight, James Madison BaskinWilliam Varnell Nix, Stephen Willis Avera, William J. Lamb, Samuel Guthrie,  William Henry Outlaw, and Benjamin Sirmans.

During the Civil War Matthew was wounded in the throat and later received a wound to the right side.  Following his injuries he was granted a furlough and returned home.  In early April of 1865 he was making his way back north to rejoin his unit when he learned that General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on April 7th.  He surrendered to Federal troops near Augusta, GA. He was paroled  and returned to Berrien County. Later, he would receive a pension for his service in the CSA.

Susan Catherine Byrd

Susan Catherine Byrd

On November 28, 1869 Matthew Albritton was wed to Susan Catherine Byrd, the 21-year-old daughter of Nathan W. Byrd.  Susan Byrd’s family had moved to Nashville, GA around the end of the Civil War. Her father was a farmer and also a mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

Matthew Hodge Albritton lived for many years at Nashville, GA, and later bought a farm home in the Lois Community, just west of Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Marriage certificate of Matthew Hodge Albritton and Susan Catherine Byrd.

Matthew and Susan were married for 13 years before her death on March 2, 1882.

Children of Susan Byrd and Matthew Albritton:

  1. Theophilus Theodorea Albritton, born January 07, 1871.
  2. Gertrude Albritton, born May 23, 1872; married Francis Arthur Shaw
  3. Tula Albritton, born 1874; married Lacy Lester Shaw.
  4. Mary Jane Albritton, born July 07, 1876; married Luther Americus Webb.
  5. Sophronia Albritton, born September 22, 1878; married William Guilford Devane.
  6. Matthew Allen Albritton, born January 28, 1881.

Three years later, on July 16, 1885 Matthew, now 43, married again, this time to 27 year old Laura A. Myers of Nashville, GA. This was her first marriage. The couple had five children.

Children of Laura A. Myers and Matthew Albritton are:

  1.      Rena Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA.
  2.      Sarah Nina Albritton, born March 20, 1886 in GA, married Robert C. Register
  3.      Rebecca L. Albritton, born September 17, 1888 in GA.
  4.      Nona Hortense Albritton, born May 6, 1891 in GA.
  5.      Lola Alma Albritton, born Dec 1, 1893 in GA; married Caulie Augustus DeVane

Matthew Albritton died September 20, 1915  and is buried at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Laura Myers Albritton died April 9, 1921. She was buried in Pleasant Cemetery.

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

Grave of Matthew Hodge Albritton, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: Charles T. Zeigler

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Post Offices of the Old Berrien Pioneers

EARLY POSTAL SERVICE

In was not until after the Civil War that mail service  at Rays Mill (Ray City, GA) became available.  But the mail was one of the earliest public services provided in the Wiregrass frontier of Georgia and the postal service for the region of present day Ray City stretches back 185 years.

Access to this early postal service was hardly convenient.  When pioneers like Levi J. Knight brought their families to Beaverdam Creek in the 1820s, this area of what was then Lowndes County was on the remote southern frontier.   A small frontier community was beginning to grow about ten miles to the east, near the Alapaha River where Lakeland now is, where a settler named Joshua Lee had established a grist mill a few years earlier.   Joshua Lee and his brother Jesse had come to the area in 1820 , and in 1821 began using slave labor and free labor to construct a dam to impound Banks Lake for a mill pond.

But, in 1825  no postal service had been established at the Lee Mill  nor anywhere else in the region. In 1827, when an official post office finally was established, it was situated on the Coffee Road, some 25 miles from where the Knights homesteaded on Beaverdam Creek.

McCRANIE’S POST OFFICE
The first post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was established on  March 27, 1827, at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.  Coffee’s Road was the first road in Lowndes County, but it was only a “road”  in the sense that it was a path cleared through the forest with tree stumps cut low enough for wagon axles to clear them.  Officially,    McCranie’s Post Office was designated simply as “Lowndes.”

The Waycross Journal-Herald
April 8, 1952 Pg 3

The McCranie Family

Daniel McCranie settled on the Coffee Road on lot of land No. 416, 9th District of present Cook County, according to the writer’s information.  It was at his home there that the first post office in Lowndes County was established March 27, 1827, and he became the first postmaster; was also there that the first term of Lowndes Superior Court was held in 1826.  The next year 1828, the post office was moved down Little River to a new place called ‘Franklinville’  which had been designated the county seat, and there William Smith became the postmaster.  The mail in those days was carried by the stage coach except to those offices off the main lines of travel when it was carried in saddlebags on horseback.

1830 Georgia map detail - original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

1830 Georgia map detail – original Lowndes County, showing only a conceptual location of Coffee Road, Franklinville, Withlacoochee River, and Alapaha River.

SHARPE’S STORE POST OFFICE
The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828 announced that Hamilton W. Sharpe had opened a post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe's Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Hamilton W. Sharpe announces post office at Sharpe’s Store, Lowndes County, GA. The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, May 17, 1828.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
May 17, 1828

A Post Office has been recently established at Sharpe’s Store, in Lowndes county, Geo. on the route from Telfair Courthouse to Tallahassee – Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq. P.M.

Hamilton W. Sharpe served as Postmaster at Sharpe’s Store until 1836.  At that time the name of the post office was briefly changed to Magnum Post Office, with John Hall appointed as Postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE POST OFFICE
Franklinville, having been selected in 1827 as the public site new county of Lowndes, was situated near  the Withlacoochee River at a location about 10 miles southwest of  Levi J. Knight’s homestead (see Reverend William A. Knight at old Troupville, GA; More About Troupville, GA and the Withlacoochee River.)

…the post office was moved down the Withlacoochee River to the home of William Smith on lot of land No. 50, 11th district of present Lowndes where the court house commissioners had only recently decided to locate the first court house and name the place ‘Franklinville.’  On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department changed the name of the post office to ‘Franklinville’ and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

Postmaster Smith’s annual salary in 1831 was $16.67.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

    There began to be dissatisfaction about the location of the court house.  It was off the Coffee Road which was the main artery of traffic and communication, and from the beginning was not an auspicious location.  The legislature in 1833 changed the county-site to lot of land No. 109 in the 12th district, about three miles below the confluence of Little River and the Withlacoochee River.  It was named ‘Lowndesville.”  The post office however was not moved there, but the little court house was torn down and moved there.”

Newspaper accounts of the time indicate the courthouse remained at Franklinville at least as late as 1835, when a big Fourth of July celebration was held there.  Among the speakers celebrating the “Declaration of American Independence” at Franklinville that day were Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, William Smith, John Blackshear, James Williams and John Dees.

By 1836, the federal government acted to ensure reliable postal routes to the post office at Franklinville to serve the residents of Lowndes County (although the county seat had been removed to Lowndesville.)

 CHAP. CCLXXI.- An Act to establish certain post roads, and to alter and discontinue others, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following be established as post roads:

***

In Georgia—From Franklinville, Lowndes county, Georgia, via Warner’s Ferry, to Townsend post office, in Madison county, Territory of` Florida.From Jacksonville, Telfair county, via Holmesville, in Appling county, and Wearesboro, in Weare county, to Franklinville, in Lowndes county.

***

Approved July 2, 1836

This post road, built with slave labor, ran through Allapaha (now Lakeland), passed just south of L. J. Knight’s place, and continued west to Franklinville. With a public road established, a stagecoach route went into service from Thomasville, via Frankinville, to Waycross.

Detail of J.H. Young's 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of J.H. Young’s 1838 Tourist Pocket Map of the State of Georgia showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville, GA.

Detail of Burr's 1839 map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

Detail of Burr’s 1839 postal map showing the route from Waresboro to Thomasville via Franklinville and Magnum, Lowndes County, GA

TROUPVILLE POST OFFICE
Only a year after the clearing of the post roads to Franklinville, it was decided to move the Lowndes county seat  yet again, this time from Lowndesville to a new site, named Troupville, at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and the Little River  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA

November 10, 1841 letter from Samuel E. Swilley to Charles J. McDonald, Governor of Georgia, posted at Troupville, GA and reporting Indian activity in the area. Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a militia leader in the 1836-1842 Indian Wars in Lowndes County, GA.

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA had franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

1845 letter sent from Troupville, GA hand franked by Postmaster William Smith. Image source: http://www.cortlandcovers.com/

In 1837, the transfer of the post office and Postmaster William Smith from Franklinville to Troupville inconvenienced many residents of north Lowndes county, possibly prompting the resumption of postal service at Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road.  The name of Magnum Post Office reverted to Sharpe’s Store Post Office, and Hamilton W. Sharpe was again Postmaster.

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe's Store. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837

H. W. Sharpe re-opened the post office at Sharpe’s Store on the Coffee Road, Lowndes County, GA. Southern Recorder, April 18, 1837.

Unfortunately,  Sharpe’s Store was even further distant from Beaverdam Creek;  the Knights, Clements, and their neighbors were left with a forty mile round trip to Troupville fetch the mail.  Sharpe himself served as Postmaster 1837 to 1848.  James Perry took over as Postmaster at Sharpe’s store from 14 December, 1848 to 16 August, 1849, when Sharpe returned to the position. John G. Polhill took the position 5 July, 1850, and Norman Campbell took over 21 August, 1850 to 21 July 1853 when the post office was moved to Morven, GA.

By 1838, Postmaster William Smith at Troupville was receiving weekly mail via routes from  Waresboro and Bainbridge, and from San Pedro, Madison County, FL. In 1847 weekly mail was coming and going from Irwinville and Bainbridge, GA, and from Madison, FL.  William Smith continued as the Troupville Postmaster until 30 October, 1848 when attorney Henry J. Stewart took over.  On 16 August, 1849 William Smith resumed as Postmaster at Troupville.

Weekly service extended in 1851 to Waresboro, Albany and Irwinville, and to Columbus, FL.

Travel in the South in the 1830s

Travel in the South in the 1830s

 ALLAPAHA POST OFFICE
By the late 1830s, Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA), had grown into a bustling trade center with several mills and businesses. Ten miles east of Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. In 1838 a post office was established there , and Benjamin Sirmans was the first postmaster.  Weekly mail service berween Waresboro or Waynesville and Troupville came by Allapaha.

Early Postmasters of Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA)

Benjamin Sermons Postmaster 06/27/1838
Isaac D. Hutto Postmaster 05/03/1841
James S. Harris Postmaster 03/05/1842
Samuel H. Harris Postmaster 09/12/1846
Peter Munford Postmaster 01/28/1848
James S. Harris Postmaster 02/09/1849
Andrew J. Liles Postmaster 11/27/1849

While Andrew J. Liles was Postmaster, the name of the town was changed from Allapaha to Milltown, GA.

FLAT CREEK POST OFFICE
Another early  Berrien post office was located at Flat Creek, about 15 miles north of present day Ray City, GA. This post office was established on August 9th, 1847. At that time, Flat Creek was a growing community located on one of the first roads in Berrien County, and warranted the establishment of a post office. The community center was built largely by Noah Griffin with the aid of his sons and African-American slaves.  “At the time of the establishment of the post office there was a saw mill, grist mill, cotton gin, a country store and farm, all owned and run by Noah Griffin and his sons…”   The J. H. Colton Map of Georgia, 1855 shows the Flat Creek community situated on Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Alapaha River now known as Ten Mile Creek. The store at Flat Creek was located on a road that connected Irwinville and points north to the town then known as Allapaha (now known as Lakeland, GA).

HAHIRA POST OFFICE
On May 7, 1852, a post office was opened at Hahira, GA and Barry J. Folsom was appointed as the first postmaster. Randal Folsom took over as postmaster in 1858. The post office at Hahira was closed in 1866, and postal service did not resume there until 1873.

STAR ROUTES
When Berrien County was created in 1856, there were still very few post offices in the area. “These were supplied by star routes, the carrier rode horseback.”   Prior to 1845, in areas inaccessible  by rail or water transportation delivery of inland mail was let out to bid by contractors who carried mail by stagecoach.  On March 3, 1845 Congress  established an Act which provided that the Postmaster General should grant contracts to the lowest bidder who could provide sufficient guarantee of faithful performance, without any conditions, except to provide for due celerity, certainty and security of transportation.  These bids became known as “celerity, certainty and security bids” and were designated on the route registers by three stars (***), thus becoming known as “star routes.”  In rural areas, a bidder who could provide delivery by wagon, or even horseback, could win a Star Route mail contract.

NASHVILLE POST OFFICE
With the creation of the new county of Berrien in 1856, a public site was selected and Nashville was established as the county seat. The site was near the geographic center of the county and located on the Coffee Road, one of the earliest public roads in Georgia. “Previous to the creation of Berrien County there had been for many years a farm and public inn located at this point on the Coffee Road.” “The new county site had been laid out and christened and stores, shops and eating houses and other industries had been launched, where only a few months before there had been a farm and cow pens.”  In 1857 a post office was established at Nashville to serve the new town and the county residents. The early road from Nashville to Milltown passed through the Rays Mill community by way of the residences of General Levi J. Knight, Isben Giddens, and John M. Futch. Although Levi J. Knight’s farm was situated at the midpoint on the Nashville – Milltown(Lakeland) road, it probably became a matter of convenience to post mail at Nashville as that was where the business of the county was conducted.

CONFEDERATE POSTAL SERVICE
With Secession, the services of the U.S. Post Office were lost to the South and to Berrien County. The Southern Recorder, Dec 29, 1863 reported on Acts passed by the [Confederate] Legislature and signed by the Governor, Joseph E. Brown, which included an act, “Requesting the establishment of a mail route between Milltown and Nashville in Berrien county.”  The 1864 Census for the Reorganization of the Georgia Militia shows that A. K. Harmon was then serving as a postmaster for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, which was centered on Ray’s Mill. After the war, Nathan W. Byrd, a Nashville farmer and father-in-law of Matthew H. Albritton, served as the mail carrier on the route between Nashville and Milltown (Lakeland), GA.

RAY CITY POST OFFICE

After the Civil War postal service was established at the present site of Ray City, GA.  The previous post, Posting Mail at Ray City, describes how the grist mill built by General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray on Beaverdam Creek became the first post station here.

Related Posts:

Posting Mail at Ray City

Post marked Ray's Mills, GA

Post marked Ray’s Mills, GA

 Levi J. Knight and the first Wiregrass Pioneers to settle on Beaverdam Creek in the area of present day Ray City, GA arrived here about 185 years ago, in the 1820s. At first  these settlers had no mail service at all, but within a year or two a post office was established at Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie’s place on the Coffee Road. That was a 50 mile round trip for the settlers at Beaverdam Creek to fetch their mail.  Other post offices sprang up to serve the pioneers of Old Berrien County, but no post office was established closer than 10 or 12 miles to Ray City until after the Civil War.

KNIGHT’S MILL POST OFFICE
After the end of the Civil War, the grist mill that General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray had established on Beaverdam Creek became the site of the first post station serving the present day area of Ray City, GA. This mill was originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” and in 1867 a post office established here was simply referred to as “Knight’s Mill.” In 1870 the United States Postal Service Guide indicated that the postmaster of Knight’s Mill received an annual salary of $12.   The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

RAY’S MILL POST STATION
In 1870, after the death of General Knight, Thomas M. Ray bought out complete ownership of the mill from his father-in-law’s estate. Thereafter the mill and the surrounding community became known as Ray’s Mill. Apparently from 1871 and 1875 there was no post office in operation at Ray’s Mill, and residents were again compelled to take their mail at Nashville or Milltown. In 1876 a local post office resumed operation and according to the Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters,  Henry Harrison Knight was appointed on June 6, 1876.  The United States Official Postal Guide of July, 1879 lists the post office at “Ray’s Mills,” Berrien County, Georgia, but the postmaster’s name is not given. The Georgia State Gazetteer, Business and Planter’s Directory for 1881-82 also lists the the Ray’s Mill post office. In the 1885 Official Register of the United States, H.H. Knight was again listed as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia. His compensation for this service was $36.25. Post Office Dept records appear to indicate  that H.H. Knight was reappointed as Postmaster on May 22, 1886.  His wife, Mary Susan Ray Knight, was officially appointed Postmaster on November 1, 1892.  Joseph O. Sirmans was appointed on October 2, 1899 and served for about a year.  On September 1, 1900 the appointment was given to William C. Johnson (Johnson married H.H. Knight’s daughter in 1907).  The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters documents that David J. Rigell was appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on March 8, 1901.  Ulysses A. Knight took over on August 12, 1902 and was later confirmed as postmaster. Josiah S. Rigell took the position on April 28, 1903.  Post office records seem to indicate that the post office at Ray’s Mill was discontinued effective March 31, 1904 and for a while the mail was sent to Milltown (now Lakeland).

Some local histories say David Rigell, a  merchant of Berrien County, was the first postmaster at Ray’s Mill.  The primary sources, timing and other factors indicate that this was not the case (see David Jackson Rigell ~ First Postmaster of Ray’s Mill? Maybe Not!), but that Rigell served as postmaster in the 1901. It is speculated that the death of General Knight left the position vacant until Henry H. Knight, son-in-law of Thomas M. Ray and nephew of General Knight took an interest in civil service.

In 1909, Eugene Ray reported that “Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman, young men, are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here,” in Ray City, GA. The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Charles Anderson was officially appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on February 6, 1909, and  the Official Register of the United States shows in 1909, Chas Anderson was earning, $82 a month or $984 a year as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill.  That sum might have been comparable to an annual salary of about $35,000 a year in 2007 dollars.

On April 1, 1920, James “Joel” F. Fountain  became the Acting Postmaster. His appointment as Postmaster was confirmed in the U.S. Senate on June 5th of that year. The following year the  Ray City Post Office made the state news when it was dynamited by “Yeggmen“.

The census of 1930  shows James F. Fountain continued as the Ray City postmaster.  James Arthur Grissett and Lacy Albert McDonald were employed as rural mail carriers at Ray City.

By 1934, Mamie E. Fountain, wife of J. F. Fountain, took over as Postmaster at Ray City.

In 1939, the Nashville Herald announced a vacancy in the postmaster position at Ray City:

The Nashville Herald,
February 2, 1939    Pg 1

Postmaster’s Exam Called for Ray City

      An open competitive examination will be held shortly to fill the position of postmaster of Ray City, according to an announcement from the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.
Applications for the examination will close on February 10th.  All who desire to take the examination for this place must file their application by that date.
The place and date of examination will be announced after the date for making applications is closed.
Complete information may be obtained by applying at the post office in Ray City.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

The U. S. Postal service and census records provide the following on subsequent Postal employees at Ray City.

Name Title Date Appointed
James Arthur Grissett Mail Carrier prior to 4/04/1940
Chloe Ann Johnson Asst Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
Garth L. Webb Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
William A. Garner Acting Postmaster 04/02/1955
William A. Garner Postmaster 08/06/1957
Mrs. Florence V. Garner Officer-In-Charge 05/08/1970
Timothy R. McLeod Postmaster 11/27/1971
Jeane U. Camp Officer-In-Charge 06/04/1987
Billy R. Cromer Officer-In-Charge 07/30/1987
Muriel S. Privett Officer-In-Charge 11/05/1987
Jeane U. Camp Postmaster 01/30/1988
Nancy Deloras Courson Officer-In-Charge 01/08/2003
Nancy D. Courson Postmaster 05/17/2003
Flora Parker Officer-In-Charge 07/26/2012
Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

-30-

Related Posts:

Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863

Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, came to the area in 1855 prior to the formation of Berrien County, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.
Epitaph of Thomas Marcus Ray
The pains of death are past.
Labor and sorrow cease.
and Life’s long warfare closed at last.
His soul is found in peace.

Thomas Marcus Ray was born on September 20, 1822,  in the area of Georgia that would later be known as Griffin, Monroe County, GA.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Ray.  Little is known of his early life.

The 1850 census  shows at age 28 Thomas M. Ray was working as a mechanic in Twiggs County, GA.  He  married Mary Jane Albritton on March 3, 1852  in Houston County, GA. She was the daughter of Allen and Rebecca Albritton, and the sister of Matthew H. Albritton.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

The newlyweds moved to the area of Lowndes County that was later cut into present day Berrien County, GA.  A little more than a year later, Mary Jane gave birth to a son, John William Allen Ray, on May 10, 1853.

Sadly, just six days later Mary Jane died and Thomas, a 31 year old widower,  was left to raise the infant on his own. Thomas buried Mary Jane in the cemetery at Union Primitive Baptist Church, which was the only church in the area. Union Church, now known as Burnt Church, is located on the Alapaha River in present day Lakeland, Lanier County, Georgia.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

In 1853 this section of the state was only sparsely populated, and most of the settlers in the area gathered at least once a month at Union Church for services.  Thomas Ray was among those who attended.  It may be there that he met the 17 year old Mary Adelaide Knight.   She was the daughter of Levi J. Knight, a renowned Indian fighter and prominent planter in the area.  She was also the granddaughter of the Reverend William A. Knight, one of the founders of the Union Church and the first state senator elected to represent Lowndes County.  The following year, on August 22, 1854 Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight were married.

Thomas and Mary established their homestead on lot #516 in the 10th district of Lowndes County near Grand Bay, on land that Thomas purchased from his wife’s grandfather, William A. Knight, in 1855.  This land was soon to be cut into Berrien County in 1856 (and later into Lanier county).  Thomas’ father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, was instrumental in laying out the boundaries of the newly formed Berrien county.

On this land, the newlywed couple settled down to raise a family. In 1855, a daughter was born,  whom they named Mary Susan Ray. In 1858 a son was born to the couple, Thomas M. Ray, Jr.  and in the spring of 1860 Mary A. delivered another son, Charles F. Ray.

The Census of 1860 shows that Thomas M. Ray was clearly a wealthy man in his day.  On the census form his occupation  is listed as merchant.  At that time owned $2000 in real estate, and held $10,400 in personal estate. If he had a comparable net worth in 2007, he would certainly have been a multimillionaire.

The 1860 Census indicates that, in addition to the Ray children, two other youngsters were living with the Ray’s.  John T. Ray, Thomas Ray’s 15 year old nephew, lived with the family and attended school along with his cousins.  John T. Ray would be killed in a train wreck in 1888 (see Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.) A young girl  nine-year-old Efare Hayes (aka Ellifare Hayes), who was also living in the Ray household did not attend school.  Later census forms show that she was a domestic servant for the Rays. The census records show Ray’s neighbors were John Gaskins and Louie M. Young. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules show in that year Thomas M. Ray also was a slave owner, with one black female slave and one slave house enumerated.

Together, Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight had nine more children between 1855 and 1876, their last son being born in the year of Thomas’ death.

In the early 1860’s Thomas Ray partnered with his father-in law Levi J. Knight to build a grist mill and mill pond (now known as Ray’s Millpond) on Beaverdam Creek on land owned by L. J. Knight.  Mr. Knight would provide the land for the project, Mr. Ray would be mechanic and operator.    With the assistance of slave labor, the Ray family began the work to construct the earthen dam that would create an impoundment on Beaverdam Creek. In her later years, Mary Susan Ray, daughter of Thomas and Mary A. Ray, recalled that she helped build the dam when she was young child. ” Each day the family would load all equipment into the wagon, go over and work all day on the dam.”  In the age before power equipment the construction of the earthen dam that created the millpond was a massive undertaking. The dam is 1200 feet long with an average height of 12 feet, 12 feet wide at the top and 20 feet wide at the base.  It took approximately 10,800 tons of earth, dug and moved by human muscle to construct the dam.

It was while the dam was under construction that the initial hostilities of the Civil War broke out. On  April 12, 1861 at 4:30 a.m. Confederate  forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.  During the Civil War, Thomas Ray’s father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, and his future son-in-law Henry H. Knight both served in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  Thomas himself, was a major in the 138th Battalion, 6th Military District, Lowndes, County, GA. There is no record that this unit saw active duty during the war.

Thomas M. Ray was apparently at his home near Grand Bay in the fall of 1861, for Mary delivered another daughter the following spring: Sarah Jane “Sallie” Ray was born May 23, 1862.  According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coast Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill, known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill”  on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Ray was still at home in the late summer to early fall of 1864, for in the spring of 1865 James David Ray was born on April 30, 1865, just days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

After the war, in 1866 Thomas Ray bought land from his partner and father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, where the Rays constructed a new home and moved their family. This land was 225 acres of  lot #424 in the 10th district of Berrien County,  on the west side of Beaver Dam Creek right next to the grist mill.  Nearby were the homes of his mother- and father-in-law, Levi J. and Ann Knight, and his wife’s cousin Henry H. Knight.  To the west of the Ray farm was the property of William Gaskins.

Even after the Civil War ended slavery, cotton was the major agricultural concern in the south.  In 1869, Thomas Ray and William Roberts set up a mill for ginning and carding cotton on Beaverdam Creek downstream from Ray’s Mill.  From that point on the creek came to be known as both Beaverdam Creek and Card Creek.   The cotton mill was situated on land purchased from the estate of William Washington Knight, deceased brother-in-law of T. M. Ray.   (W.W. Knight died of disease during the Civil War; see The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll.)  The mill site included 30 acres on lot #452 and the right to impound water on lot #451, just east of #452. “This operation was apparently taking advantage of a small pond and dam already put in place by John Knight whose property it adjoined…” The dam site was on Beaverdam Creek about 20 yards just east of present day Pauline Street in Ray City, GA..

In early August of 1870 when the census was enumerated for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the household of Thomas M. and Mary Ray  included  their children  William A.,  Mary  S., Thomas M. Jr., Charles F., Sarah J., James D., and one year old Elizabeth Texas Ray.  Also living with the family was Thomas Ray’s mother, Mary Ray, 78 years of age. Ellifare Hayes, the family maid was now a young woman of 19. Eight year old Ellin Jones  was an African-American domestic servant also living in the Ray household.  In 1870  Thomas M. Ray’s personal estate was valued at $5000 and his real estate at $2714.   His neighbors included  Robert A. Elliott and Annis Lastinger Elliott, and their children.  Robert A. Elliott was a mechanic and a hand at the wool mill. Another neighbor was Isaac J. Edmonsen.

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on  February 23, 1870 in the community where he lived (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  Afterwards, Thomas Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests  in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate.  Over time the mill became the focal point of a community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA.

Willis Allen Ray was born in 1871, and Robert Jackson Ray in 1873.

The 1874 tax digest show that Thomas M. Ray was an employer; working for him was Andrew Wilkins, a Freedman and farmhand who lived near Rays Mill.

In 1874 when Mercer Association missionary Reverend J. D. Evans came to Ray’s Mill, Thomas M. Ray was deeply moved by the baptist’s message.  Thomas M. Ray must have attended the church meetings in the old log school house and the big revivals that were held in May and July, for he became instrumental in the formation of a Baptist Church at Ray’s Mill (see Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.)  On September 20, 1874 a small group of followers met with Reverend J. D. Evans  at  the  home of Thomas and Mary Ray to organize the church.  Thomas M. Ray. and David  J. McGee were elected to represent the new church to the Mercer Baptist Association and were sent as messengers to the Valdosta Church. The Reverend J. D. Evans wrote a petitionary letter which they carried to the association. In November 1874 Thomas M. Ray was appointed to a church building committee along with James M. Baskin and D. J. McGee. He served on the committed that selected and procured the site for the construction of the church building. He continued to serve on the building committee until his death.

In 1876, Joseph Henry Ray was born.

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton (1836 – 1853)

  1.  John William Allen Ray (1853 – 1934)

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary A Knight (1836 – 1923)

  1. Mary Susan Ray (1855 – 1926)
  2. Thomas Marcus Ray, Jr (1858 – 1923)
  3. Charles Floyd Ray (1860 –
  4. Sarah Jane (Sally) Ray (1862 – 1938)
  5. James David Ray (1865 – 1937)
  6. Elizabeth Texas Ray (1869 – 1952)
  7. Willis Allen Ray (1871 – 1901)
  8. Robert Jackson Ray (1873 – 1954)
  9. Joseph Henry Ray (1876 – 1907)

Thomas M. Ray died June 14, 1876.  His death was announced in The Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 1, 1876
Thomas M. Ray

Maj. T.M. Ray, a prominent citizen of Berrien County, died last week, after a long spell of illness.

His lodge brothers in Butler Lodge No. 211 Free and Accepted Masons provided this tribute:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday Aug 26. 

     Tribute Of Respect , Butler Lodge No. 211 F.A.M.  Milltown, Ga., Aug. 12th, 1876. Whereas, it hath pleased the Grand Architect of the Universe, in His wise Providence, to remove from labor, in the lodge on earth, to refreshment (as we trust) in the Great Grand Lodge in Heaven, or brother Thomas M. Ray

Therefore be it

     Resolved, 1st. That, in his death Masonry has lost a worthy brother, the neighborhood an upright and honest citizen; his family a kind husband, and indulgent father and a good provider.

     Resolved, 2nd. That while we mourn his loss and miss his association, we bow with meek submission to the will of Him who doeth all things well.

     Resolved, 3rd. That we cherish his memory and recommend to the emulation of the Craft Iris virtues and the uprightness and integrity of his character.

     Resolved, 4th. That we extend to the family an relatives of our deceased brother our heartfelt sympathies, praying upon them the guidance and protection of our common Heavenly  Father.

     Resolved, 5th. That a blank page in our minute book be inscribed to his memory, and that a copy of this preamble and resolution be furnished the family of brother Ray, and a copy furnished the Berrien County News, for publication and the Valdosta Times requested to copy.

By order of Butler Lodge No. 211 F. &A.M.

Ogden H. Carroll, T.O. Norwood, Jesse Carroll,  Com.

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Luther E Langford

Luther Elthedred Langford, Ray City, GA native and descendant of General Levi J. Knight.

Luther Elthedred Langford, Ray City, GA native and descendant of General Levi J. Knight.

Luther Etheldred Langford (1879-1957)

Luther Etheldred Langford was born November 12, 1879 at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA, the firstborn child of William E. Langford (1854 – 1933) and Mary Virginia Knight (1856 – 1916). His paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Ray, the sister of Thomas M. Ray who co-founded Ray’s Mill. His paternal grandfather, Etheldred Langford, was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. On his mother’s side, he was a grandson of William Washington Knight, and a great grandson of Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City.

Luther E. Langford married Amanda Asbell October 23, 1910 in Colquitt County, GA.  She was born February 7, 1887.

Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell

Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell “Mandy” Langford, of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Johnnie Mobley.

Luther and Amanda Langford made their home in  Berrien County, Georgia.  On Sept 12, 1918 Luther reported to the Berrien county draft registration board, where his WWI draft card was completed by registrar D.A. Sapp. Luther’s occupation at the time he registered was farming, self-employed. At 39 years of age, he was tall and slender with gray eyes and light hair. His farm place on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga,  was located about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Luther and Amanda spent their lives in Berrien County raising crops and children.

Sadly, one child was taken from them while just a tot.  The September 4, 1925  Nashville Herald reported the tragic death: “Little Muriel Langford, the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Langford, who resides about a mile from Ray City on the Milltown-Ray City road died Tuesday morning from what was thought to be the bite of a rattle snake.”  (See Ray City Child Dies From Bite of Rattle Snake, 1925)
Children of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford:

  1. Edwin Vasco Langford, born August 2,  1917 ; died 2005  – Served in WWII; taught at Ray City School after the War.
  2. Leland Etheldred Langford, born July 10, 1919; died 1949
  3. Merle Elizabeth Langford  born May 31, 1922; died 1925
  4. Merice Lancing Langford  born June 22, 1926; died 1993
  5. Lillian Allene Langford born September 16, 1929 –
  6. Clyde Rudolph Langford born September 15, 1931; died 2006

Luther Etheldred Langford died 11 May 1957. He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia, USA

Gravemarker of Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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