John C. Sirmons, Big Man On Campus

JOHN CHESTER SIRMONS (1883-1953)

John C. Sirmons, a native of Berrien County, GA, served as a school teacher, principal, county superintendent, college professor, dean, and president.  He culminated his career with two decades of tenure at North Georgia College, Dahlonega, GA.

john-c-sirmons-1952

john-c-sirmons-1952

John C. Sirmons was born November 30, 1883 in Berrien County, GA.  He was a son of Moses G & Nancy E Knight, grand son of George W & Rhoda Futch Knight, great grandson of  Aaron & Nancy Ann Sloan Knight, and great great grandson of William A & Sarah Cone Knight.  d. 13 Aug 1953). He was a nephew of Perry Thomas Knight, and a brother of Thomas Jefferson Sirmons who would perish in the sinking of the H.M.S. Otranto in World War One.

Image detail believed to be John C. Sirmons, about 13 years old, circa 1897.

Image detail believed to be John C. Sirmons, about 13 years old, circa 1897.

The M.G. Sirmons place was about eight miles east of Nashville, GA. His father owned a farm of 260 acres on Land Lots 241 and 242 in the 10th Land District of Berrien County.

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In 1900, sixteen-year-old John C. Sirmans was enumerated in his parent’s household in the 1148 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County.

After high school John C. Sirmons attended Sparks Collegiate Institute at Sparks, GA, about 12 miles west of Ray City. He took up teaching as his occupation and was also ordained as a minister.

In 1906 John Sirmons attended the combined Teacher’s Institute held in Tifton, GA for the public school teachers of Tift and Berrien counties. Other teachers attending from Berrien included J. S. Kirton, A. B. Conger, Miss Bertha McKinney, Miss Mary Ellington, John Smith, M. L. Webb, W.M. Tyson, Miss Mamie Shaw, Miss Della Shaw, Aaron Sirmons, Wm. Rhodes, T. W. Price, J. S. Parr, N. E. Patterson, E. C. Patterson, J. D. Overstreet, Mrs. J. D. Overstreet, Dan McPhaul, Miss Carrie McCranie, Mark McCranie and Miss Fannie Norris.

By 1908 Reverend John Chester Sirmons returned to his alma mater in Sparks where he  joined the faculty of Sparks Collegiate Institute. There he taught in the Grammar School Department.

After a short stint at the Sparks Institute, John decided he needed more education if he was going to pursue a career in higher education. In 1909 he enrolled in Emory College to pursue a bachelors degree. There, he was accompanied by fellow Nashville, GA resident John Dixon Smith.  Smith was born near Ray City, a son of Mary Jane Whitehurst and John Woodard Smith.

At the end of the freshman year John C. Sirmons returned to Berrien County for the summer;  John Sirmans, age 26, was there on April 25,1910 on his father’s farm when enumerated for the 1910 census. He gave his occupation as School Teacher.

John continued his studies at Emory and in 1912 he was awarded the Bachelor of Philosophy degree with a major in English.

 

John C. Sirmans senior photo, Emory University, Class of 1912.

John C. Sirmans senior photo, Emory University, Class of 1912.

Emory University, 1912

John C. Sirmons, Jr., PH.B.
Nashville, GA.

Entered College Fall 1909

Member of Few Literary Society; Ministerial Association; President of Emory Student Volunteer Band; Special Gym, ’10, ’11; Memorial Day Orator for Few, ’11; Fall-Term Debater, ’09; Impromptu Debater, ’11; Second Vice President of Y.M.C.A.; Speaker Senior Banquet; Track Team, ’11, All-Emory Track Team, ’11.

    It is hard to explain “Cy” Sirmons’ popularity on any other ground except “all the world loves a lover.” Soon after “Cy” entered in ’09 the boys found out that his heart was in the keeping of a damsel fair.  For if asked, and if not asked, he would tell all about her and how she looked when he asked her.  When Dr. Walker Lewis took up a collection for LaGrange “Cy” made the largest contribution of any student declaring that he expected to get the best returns on that investment of any that he had ever made.

For John C. Sirmons, the 1912 Emory University yearbook noted “Coming events cast their shadow before them.  The expected announcement came July 21, 1912.

The July 21, 1912 Atlanta Constitution announced the engagement of Sarah Estella Moore to John C. Sirmons, of Nashville, GA.

The July 21, 1912 Atlanta Constitution announced the engagement of Sarah Estella Moore to John C. Sirmons, of Nashville, GA.

Atlanta Constitution
July 21, 1912
MOORE-SIRMONS
Mr. and Mrs. George W. Moore, of Sparks, Ga., announce the engagement of their daughter, Sarah Estella, to Mr. John C. Sirmons, of Nashville, Ga., the wedding to take place August 20.

John C. Sirmons married Sarah Estelle Moore in Berrien County, GA on August 20, 1912.  She was a graduate of Lagrange College, Class of 1911, with a Bachelors degree in Expression.

Marriage certificate of John C. Sirmans and Sarah Estelle Moore, August 12, 1912, Berrien County, GA

Marriage certificate of John C. Sirmans and Sarah Estelle Moore, August 12, 1912, Berrien County, GA

In the latter part of 1912, John C. Sirmans was involved in the production of the south Georgia Methodist conference at Waycross, GA.

Around early 1913, John and Estella moved from Georgia to Cherokee, San Saba County, Texas.  John took a position as principal of the preparatory program at Cherokee Junior College.  Their first child, Mary Helen Sirmons was born in San Saba County on July 1, 1913.

Cherokee Junior College, Cherokee, TX. John C. Sirmons served as principal of the preparatory program in 1913 and later was president of the institution.

Cherokee Junior College, Cherokee, TX. John C. Sirmons served as principal of the preparatory program in 1913 and later was president of the institution. Image source: Texas GenWeb

CHEROKEE JUNIOR COLLEGE. Cherokee Junior College, in Cherokee, San Saba County, was operated by the Llano, and later by the Lampasas District conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The college was housed in a building that had originally belonged to West Texas Normal and Business College. The Llano District conference bought the building from Francis Marion Behrns on April 4, 1911, for $20,000. C. A. Lehmberg served as the first president of Cherokee Junior College.

After only a year or two at Cherokee Junior College, John accepted the position of President of Pierce Collegiate Institute, Blackshear, Georgia. According to the text Pierce County, GA, Pierce Collegiate Institute was a military academy,  formerly known as the Presbyterial Institute,  which was acquired by the Waycross District Methodist Conference about 1913.    The institute’s male students who participated in the program of military instruction were known as the Georgia Cadets, but the institution was also co-educational.  The campus consisted of the main building, Williams Hall and Gordon Hall. There was a dining hall and a girl’s dormitory.

Pierce Collegiate Institute, Main building and girls dormitory (formerly the Presbyterial Institute). Pierce Institute became Blackshear High School in 1917. Image source: Pierce County, GA

Pierce Collegiate Institute, Main building and girls dormitory (formerly the Presbyterial Institute). Pierce Institute became Blackshear High School in 1917. Image source: Pierce County, GA

President Sirmons, of Pierce Collegiate Institute, was invited to address the graduates of Sparks Collegiate Institute during the commencement ceremonies held there on Tuesday, March 23, 1916. An interesting event at the commencement was the wedding of Miss Clifford Hendry to Reverend J. J. Ansley, pastor of the Methodist church at Nashville, GA. The bride was matron of the girls dormitory, which served as the setting for the wedding.

Officially, Sirmons continued to served as president of Pierce Collegiate Institute through December 5, 1916. In September 1916, he relocated to Atlanta and joined the faculty of Tech High School.  This school was on Marietta Street from 1909 to 1924. Tech High offered a college preparatory curriculum that also included training in technical subjects.  His teacher salary that year was $1350.00.

While teaching in Atlanta, John Sirmons suffered the indignity of having his car  stolen. The car was recovered by Atlanta police and in attempting to claim his property, John encountered some difficulty which sparked an investigation into municipal graft.

After the 1916-1917 academic year at Tech High School, John C. Sirmons sought a chance to return to higher education. An opening at his former institution, Cherokee Junior College, provided the opportunity. The  June 21, 1917 edition of The San Saba Star reported his return to Cherokee, TX to discuss a position as president of the institution:

Professor John C. Sirmons visited Cherokee, TX in June, 1917 regarding the presidency of Cherokee Junior College.

Professor John C. Sirmons visited Cherokee, TX in June, 1917 regarding the presidency of Cherokee Junior College, reported The San Saba Star.

The San Saba Star
June 21, 1917

Cherokee Locals.

Prof. J. C. Sirmons came in Wednesday from Georgia to see about accepting a position as president of the college, as Rev. McDonald had resigned.  Prof. Sirmons was formerly a principal of the C.J.C. and has many warm friends here who welcome him back.  While we are glad Prof. Sirmons is with us again, we sincerely regret that Rev. McDonald must leave us,for it is largely by his untiring efforts that the school has become what it is.  He has succeeded in raising the standard of the college, adding on the Freshman course in a University.  But his influence will ever be felt by his students, and the best wishes of a host of friends go with him.

The same edition of The San Saba Star, June 21, 1917 also reported J. C. Sirmons preaching at the Methodist Episcopal church of Cherokee, TX.

Cherokee Locals - Professor John C. Sirmons preached at the Methodist Episcopal Church, Cherokee, TX, June 21, 1917.

Cherokee Locals – Professor John C. Sirmons preached at the Methodist Episcopal Church, Cherokee, TX, June 21, 1917.

San Saba Star
June 21, 1917

Cherokee Locals.

     Prof. J. C. Sirmons preached Sunday morning at the M. E. church.
     Sunday night was Children’s Day exercises at the M. E. church. The little folks had been ably trained by their teachers, Misses Jessie Mae Ottinger, Stella Gay, and Ada Sims, and each one carried out their part well.

Cherokee Junior College entered it seventh year with President John C. Sirmons, of Berrien County, GA, at the helm, and his wife, Estella Moore Sirmons on the faculty. The September 17, 1918 issue of the San Saba Star entreated everyone to support the institution under its new president.

August 30, 1917, President John C. Sirmons and his wife Estella Moore Sirmans, of Berrien County, GA, led Cherokee Junior College, Cherokee, TX into the new academic year.

August 30, 1917, President John C. Sirmons and his wife Estella Moore Sirmans, of Berrien County, GA, led Cherokee Junior College, Cherokee, TX into the new academic year.

San Saba Star
August 30, 1917

Cherokee Locals.

     Lest you forget that September 4 next Tuesday, is the opening day of the seventh year of the C. J. C. we kindly remind you, Let everyone prepare to help and make this a better year than any. We realize that conditions are unfavorable but let us not forget that now, in the adolesence period, is the time to train the boys and girls’ minds in the right way, and nowhere else can this be done so well as in the denominational schools, where under the supervision of Christian instructors they  will be carefully trained.  The faculty, with Prof. J. C. Sirmons as president, will be a strong one.  One special feature is that Mrs. J. C. Sirmons will be the Expression teacher.  She is most excellent in her line of work. Prof. W. Jeff Wilcox still continues as head of the music department: Let every one do his or her part for a better C. J. C.

President Sirmon’s inaugural year was bookended by a senior celebration for the class of 1918. The San Saba Star May 16, 1918 reported the event:

May 16, 1918 San Saba Star reported that the family of John C. Sirmons was in Cherokee.

May 16, 1918 San Saba Star reported that the family of John C. Sirmons had returned to Cherokee, TX and the Cherokee Junior College.

San Saba Star
May 16, 1818

Cherokee Locals
(By Daffodil.)

     Last Monday April the 6th the Senior Class of the C.J.C. had their Class Day exercises.  About ten-thirty the students assembled in the Auditorium.  The Seniors had charge of the Chapel exercises, and from that they succeeded to the Class Day Program.  The class history, class prophecy, class will were read, then the class Giftorian presented the gifts, and the class musicians played the class song and the class sang it.
     After the program the Seniors went up to Grays Mill pond to spend the afternoon. They were accompanied by Mrs. Sirmons and small son,  Derrel. A happy time was spent on the creek kodaking, and in various other ways. The day will long be remembered in the annals of the C. J. C. by the following Seniors:  Missess Flay Farmsworth, Rosalie Bragg, Sallie May Burke, Melba Wilcox, Marie Barber, Julia Hart, Lydia Keese, Jessie Allison, and Messrs. Tom Nelson Gay, and Ralph Thompson.

But the hope of John C. Sirmons presidency of Cherokee Junior College was not to endure. The institution, which had accepted students since 1911, reported a small enrollment in the fall of 1918. On July 21, 1921, the property would be sold  to the school trustees of San Saba County for $20,000. “The building was used as a public school until it burned on January 30, 1945. In 1978 Cherokee High School stood on the site, the entrance to the old college having been incorporated in the new structure.”

From personal notices in The San Saba Star it appears that by January 1919, John C. Sirmons departed Cherokee Junior College and was working in Fort Worth, although Estella and the children remained in Cherokee, TX.

The January 16, 1919 edition of the San Saba Star, San Saba, TX reported that John C. Sirmans was commuting between Forth Worth and Cherokee, TX where his family was still residing.

The January 16, 1919 edition of the San Saba Star, San Saba, TX reported that John C. Sirmans was commuting between Forth Worth and Cherokee, TX where his family was still residing.

The San Saba Star
January 16, 1919

Cherokee

“Rev. J. C. Sirmons of Fort Worth spent the week with his family.”

The 1920 Census found John C. Sirmons, his wife Sarah Estella Moore Sirmons, daughter Mary Helen and son John Derrell back in San Saba County, TX renting a home near Cherokee. The occupation of both John and Estella was recorded as teaching public school.

It appears that shortly thereafter, John C. Sirmons and his family returned to Berrien County, GA.  He was there in time to join Ray City citizens who fought the creation of Lanier County, GA.

In 1922, John C. Sirmons was himself back in school. He returned to Emory University, Atlanta, GA where he registered in the Graduate School. For his graduate studies he was awarded a Master of Arts in Education.

In 1924, John C. Sirmons was serving as principal of Tifton High School, Tifton, GA.  In the summer of 1924 he attended the UGA summer school for county superintendents and in 1925 he was Superintendent of Tift County schools.

In 1927 he joined the faculty of  what was then the South Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical College at Tifton, GA. The College was formerly the Second District A&M School, a “college preparatory boarding school” for students from 14-21 years of age, which had offered two and four-year programs with a study of agriculture for boys and a study of home economics for girls. In 1927, the  school was transitioning from a high school to college curriculum. Beginning  in the fall of 1928 only college-level classes were offered. In 1929, the name of the institution was changed to the Georgia State College for Men (GSCM), and in 1933 it was renamed Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

Second District Agricultural College, Tifton,GA, now known as Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

Second District Agricultural College, Tifton,GA, now known as Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

John Continued to work at the college through 1931. In 1928 he was president of the Tifton Kiwanis Club and in 1930 he a member of the “Flying Squadron,” a group of four Kiwanian singers (H. D. Webb, J. C. Sirmons, Otis Woodard, and A. F. Darden) in the club.

The 1930 Census shows John, Estella and son Derrell residing in Tifton, Georgia. John’s occupation was “college professor; Estella was working as a public school teacher They were renting a home at 810 Love Avenue. Their next door neighbor was Orion Mitchell, head football coach at the college. In 1931, Mitchell would lead the fledgling GSCM team to a 14-13 victory over the University of Miami.

By 1932 John C. Sirmons accepted a position at North Georgia College, Dahlonega, GA. He served as Registrar and was also a faculty member in Education.

North Georgia College administration building, 1934. John C. Sirmons, native of Berrien County, GA, served as registrar and dean for over twenty years.

North Georgia College administration building, 1934.

John C. Sirmons, native of Berrien County, GA, served as Registrar and Dean of North Georgia College for over twenty years.  A number of young men and women of Berrien County attended North Georgia College during his time of service, including Jimmy Grissett, Jamie Connell, Joe Donald Clements, Wilson Connell, Marie Sirmans, John Franklin Miller, Walter Buddie Dickson, James Donald Rowan, Donald Willis, William Henry Mathis,John David Luke, Eddie Brogdon, George W. Chism, Jack Rutherford, Donald Keefe, William Luke, W.D. Alexander, Bill Roquemore, and Donald Keefe.

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Portrait of John C. Sirmons, 1934, North Georgia College.

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John C. Sirmons, Dean of Men and Professor of Education, 1938, North Georgia College.

John C. Sirmons, Dean of Men and Professor of Education, 1938, North Georgia College.

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John C. Sirmons, 1939, North Georgia College.

John C. Sirmons, 1939, North Georgia College.

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John C. Sirmons, 1940, North Georgia College.

John C. Sirmons, 1940, North Georgia College.

In 1940 John C. Sirmons was admitted to Duke University as a graduate student pursuing an advanced degree. Duke University was some 470 miles from Dahlonega, but Sirmons continued in his position as Dean at NGC; hemust have been enrolled in a correspondence program or low residency program that did not require regular attendance in Durham, NC.

The Census of 1940 shows John and Estella, and their son Derrell were living in Dahlonega, renting a house valued at $6000. Estella was working as a school teacher; Derrell was a student at medical college.  The 1940 enumeration of John C. Sirmons does not indicate he owned a farm or reference a farm schedule, but Sirmons must have acquired or rented an agricultural property by 1940.  In 1939, while he continued to serve as Dean of the college, John C. Sirmons also went into poultry production under contract to Jesse D. Jewell, Inc. Sirmons “began with a small chicken house in 1939 and later in the 1940s built a larger one, growing flocks of 10,000 birds for Jesse Jewell’s expanding poultry empire.”

John C. Sirmans, Dean Emeritus, North Georgia College, 1943

John C. Sirmans, Dean Emeritus, North Georgia College, 1943

About 1943 Estella Sirmons joined the NGC faculty. She had been serving as the principal of the school at Suches, GA.

Estella Moore Sirmons, 1943, Associate Professor of English, North Georgia College.

Estella Moore Sirmons, 1943, Associate Professor of English, North Georgia College.

 

John C. Sirmons, 1951, Dean Emeritus, North Georgia College. Sirmons was a native of Berrien County, GA.

John C. Sirmons, 1951, Dean Emeritus, North Georgia College. Sirmons was a native of Berrien County, GA.

John C. Sirmons was ill in 1953 and unable to attend events at the college. He died August 13, 1953.  He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega, GA.

Eulogy for John C. Sirmons, October 1, 1953

Eulogy for John C. Sirmons, October 1, 1953

The Cadet Bugler

North Georgia Loses Beloved Dean Emeritus

Read in Assembly
October 1, 1953

    A man has passed away at North Georgia College which leaves a lonely place on our campus.  Dean. J. C. Sirmons has gone to his heavenly inheritance.
    Christianity is a triumphant thing. Sometimes when the heart is lifted on the wings of song we feel it. Under the spell of a great speech or sermon we feel it again.  And the truth sweeps over us in great tides when we look upon a life like that of Cy Sirmons.  Christianity IS a triumphant thing!
    I was on the way to the college when the news came to me of Dean Sirmons’ passing. I am at that stage in my own journey when I cannot afford to lose friends.  Sometimes when we look over our shoulder and see good friends passing away into the shadows beside the road, then we feel a loneliness as we go on under the burden of grief.  Sometimes you think life is hard, even evil.  Then, if you have the sort of faith that made Dean Sirmons’ life shine in the stars, you realize that they have not simply dropped into the shadows, but have passed from the light – through the night – into the light as God promised.  This assurance strengthens you, and girded with this great truth, you lengthen your step, fix your hand a little more firmly in the hand of GOd, and keep working toward your own bend in the road.
     I have seen many alumni and friends of North Georgia College both here and in other parts of the State. Wherever I go, people ask, “Do you know Cy Sirmons? How is Dean Sirmons now?” School teachers have remarked upon his great sense of humor. Some have said, “He helped me with a smile and a good story when I felt awfully blue.” Rich, poor, girl, boy, man, and woman found in him a sympathetic friend.
     Cy Sirmons was a man whose halo was unstained and who well found it easy to exchange the royal robes of earthly servant for whatever spotless garment God provides for those who pass under the shining arch.  The world is a better place because J. C. Sirmons lived on the campus of North Georgia College for a score of years.
          -By Will D. Young, Dean

Grave of John C. Sirmons, Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega, GA.

Grave of John C. Sirmons, Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega, GA.

At North Georgia College an annex to Lewis Hall was added in 1966. The dorm was called Sirmon’s hall after John Sirmons, Registrar and Dean from 1932 until 1949.  This dorm served the campus until 2011.

Lon Fender ~ Turpentine Operator

William Alonzo “Lon” Fender was a son of William Alfred Fender (1836-1920) and Susannah Allen (1841-1920).  His father was a Civil War  veteran and a farmer of the Naylor district, Lowndes County, GA before moving to Ray City, GA in his final years.

Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in the Wiregrass and in the history of Ray City.  He owned farmland near here in the 1920s and a  turpentine still at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

William Lon Fender, photographed circa 1924, lived near Ray City, Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in the naval stores industry.

Lon Fender was born December 14, 1868, the 5th among 12 Fender children.  He grew up on his father’s farm in the area of Naylor in Lowndes County, Georgia.  In 1898, he married Texas Irene Hagan, a daughter of John William Hagan (1836 – 1918) and  Mary Susan “Pollie” Smith (1834 – 1908).  The couple made their home in Tifton, GA for a time, and afterward at Valdosta, GA.

The 1910 census shows “Alonzo” Fender and his brother John Franklin Fender in Valdosta, GA with their families residing in neighboring households on Patterson Street; both were occupied as turpentine operators.

His parents were still in the Naylor area at that time, renting a farm. The farm was on a road parallel to the new railroad, and was just off the “Milltown Road.”   Their neighbors were Thomas A. Ray, and  the widow Mary C. Stone.  Sometime before 1920 his parents moved to Ray City where they purchased a house on Main Street.   Lon’s older brother, Wilson W. Fender, had come there to Ray City prior to 1910 and operated a hotel there.

Lon’s father,  William Alfred Fender, died prior to the enumeration of the 1920 census. His mother remained in their Ray City, GA home until her own death (said to be later that year), living  with her widowed daughter Nita Knight, and her grand daughters Reba A. Knight, Dorothy Knight, and grandson Ezekiel Knight.  William Alfred Knight and Susannah Allen Fender are buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA, with an undated grave marker.

Lon Fender and his brothers grew to be big-time Wiregrass timber men, and for decades the South Georgia newspapers were full of stories about land deals, sawmills, and turpentine stills operated by the Fenders.  The Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress, Nov. 30, 1906 edition reported one of Lon  (W. L) Fender’s big deals:

1906-lon-fender-timber-deal

Thomasville Weekly Times Enterprise and South Georgia Progress
Nov. 30, 1906 — page 8

TURPENTINE AND TIMBER

Big Deals Completed at Valdosta and Milltown

Valdosta, Nov. 27. – (Special)  The largest and most important turpentine and timber deal which has occurred in Georgia in many a day was consummated here Saturday.  W. L. Fender, of this city, bought the entire turpentine and timber interests of Clements, Lee & Co., at Milltown.  The property consists of 7,000 acres, 4,000 acres of which is “round” or unboxed timber, and 3,000 back-boxed, also stills, fixtures, mules, wagons, etc.  There are few finer bodies of timber lands now in Georgia lying as it does in one body, and its value is increasing every day.     Buyer and seller both decline to state the price paid for the property but it is believed that it was not much under $100,000.

Among the most  significant of Lon Fender’s Ray City dealings was his 1921 acquisition of the Sirmans Tract – 2,400 acres of virgin pine forest which was situated just north of town.

November 5, 1921 -  William Lon Fender purchases the 'Sirmans Tract' near Ray City, GA.

November 5, 1921 – William Lon Fender purchases the ‘Sirmans Tract’ near Ray City, GA.

 

Valdosta Times
November 5, 1921

2,400 ACRES OF TIMBER LAND BRING $100,000

VALDOSTA, Nov. 4. – W. L. Fender, of Valdosta, has bought 2,400 acres of timber land in Berrien county for $100,100, this being the largest and most important transaction of this kind recently in south Georgia. The land belonged to the J. C. Sirmans estate and was sold by the administrators. This is virgin long leaf yellow pine, and Mr. Fender will turpentine it and afterward saw the timber.

 

This valuable tract of timber figured prominently as a part of the transaction in which the Jackson Brothers acquired the big sawmill at Ray City – simultaneously purchasing the Clements Lumber Company from the Clements Family, and the Sirmans Tract from Lon Fender.  Local and state newspapers reported the transaction:

The Nashville Herald
February 16, 1923

The new owners [Jackson Brothers] have bought the Lon Fender timber tract, which Mr. Fender bought more than a year ago from the Sirmans estate. It is one of the finest timber tracts in this section of the state. This with the other timber insight affords at least five years running yet, and there is more to be had, it is said, that will run them ten years.

The Atlanta Constitution
March 4, 1923

The [Jackson Brothers] company purchased the Sirmans Timber, the largest body of original pine in south Georgia.  Several hundred acres of this timber had not been turpentined until last year.  This body of timber sold some two years abo for over $100,000 and let at once for turpentine purposes. It lies between Milltown and Nashville. As soon as the turpentine lease is off the Jackson brothers will begin sawing.

In the fall of 1925, Lon Fender leased farmland near Ray City from John Levi Allen.  This land was most of the former Jehu Patten farm, which consisted of a home and 260 acres in section 454 of the 10th district, located just southwest of Ray City, near the farms of  Francis Marion Shaw,  Lacy Shaw, and Jesse Shelby Shaw. (John Allen had purchased the farm from Jehu Patten in 1902 – see http://www.audubon4tet.com/FMS/21_John_Levi_Allen.pdf)

William Lon Fender continued to make his home on Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA for the rest of his life.  He died March 10, 1949 while in Baldwin County, GA, and was buried  at Sunset Cemetery in Valdosta, GA.

Grave of William Lon Fender, Sunset Cemetery,  Valdosta, GA

Grave of William Lon Fender, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA

Related Posts:

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute

The Ray City History Blog has previously noted the Ray City Alumni of Georgia Normal College and Business Institute at Abbeville, GA.

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute Abbeville GA

Georgia Normal College and Business Institute Abbeville GA

A number of the Clements family attended the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute including Lucius Jordan Clements, William Grover Clements, James Irwin Clements, Joe Clements, Chester Lee (son of Moses C. Lee and Amanda Clements),   Bessie Clements, and Hod P. Clements. D. C. Clements of Nashville, graduated from the business program in 1906.

Another alumnus from Ray City was Charlie Parham, who taught  in Ray City and Berrien County schools over a twenty year period, and served twelve years on the Berrien County School Board.

Samuel I. Watson attended the Institute in the year of its opening, and later served on the State Board of Education. When S. I. Watson arrived at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in the winter of 1899 he wrote back to the Editor of the Tifton Gazette:

Samuel Irvin Watson attended the inaugural session of the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute in 1899.

Tifton Gazette
March 3, 1899

A Berrien Boy in Wilcox.

Abbeville, GA, Feb. 27. – As I have reached my destination, I take great pleasure in writing an article to your paper from this place, as I have found everything pleasant, both my traveling and place of stopping.
    While there is whiskey of almost every description sold here I have not seen an intoxicated person since I came to Wilcox county.
    I find the people of Abbeville and surrounding country to be intelligent, sober, whole-hearted, enthusiastic, sociable and enterprising, and who give a hearty welcome to those coming to their city.
   The enrollment of the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute is about 300, and it has been in session only about five months; the school ranks among the best in Georgia.  The principal is a plain, unassuming gentleman, whom we all, as students, love;  this however, applies to the entire faculty.
    There are students here from Georgia and Florida, and scarcely a vacant room for boarding students.  This town will surely have to make more arrangements for the accommodation of the latter, if they continue to increase as they have in the very short time the school has been in session.
    There is a great problem that should be carefully and accurately solved by each and every one of us that contemplates attending some high institution of learning.  A great meany of our boys and girls leave their state to obtain a higher education than can be accomplished in our common schools, but we ought to remember that it is an honor to us to recognize our own state, and that we have fully as good schools and colleges as any adjoining state.
    I hope to have some of my Berrien county friends come with me next time.

S. I. Watson.

P. S. Why not the teachers of Berrien have two days in the examination for license this year?

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Albany, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Foundation http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Students at Georgia Normal College and Business Institute. Albany, Georgia, 1911. Hod P. Clements (back row, 3rd from left) later became a banker in Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Berrien County Historical Foundation http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Here added is the 1902 commencement announcement:

The Atlanta Constitution
30 May 1902

Georgia Normal and Business School Ends Successful Year.

Abbeville, Ga., May 29. -(Special.)-The fourth annual commencement of the Georgia Normal College and Business institute closed here tonight. This was the most successful term in the history of the college and the number of graduates were greater than ever before.

The halls of the college were crowded to its utmost capacity at every exercise to hear the speeches of the graduates. Those graduating in the commercial class are Addie Laura Collins, Webster, Fla,; R. F. Dowdy, Vance, Ga; Florence E. Huss, Franklin, Ohio; D. F. Burnett, Jr., Madison, Fla.; Ashley C. Snow, Abbeville, Ga.; Gertrude Blow, Ashburn, Ga.; James C. Story, Abbeville, Ga; A. M. Sykes, Wright, Ga.; Elijah R. Simmons, T. J. Townsend, Lake Butler, Fla.; R. D. Howard, Patterson, Ga.; Lucius J. Clements, Millstown, Ga.; Alvin V. Sellers, Graham, Ga.; Ralph F. Collins, Bushnell, Fla.

Those graduating in the teachers’ class are Mollie Lee Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; S.S. Knight, Lake Butler, Fla.; Eunice McCullough, Melrose, Fla.; E. A. Rice, Dupont, Ga.; Myrtle Baker, Abbeville, Ga.; Ida Irene Vause, Edgar, Fla.; W. O. Young, Leland, Fla.; Henry P. Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Lillie May Maynard, Abbeville, Ga.; J. A. J. Pinholster, Brooks, Fla.; Bessie Clements, Milltown, Ga.; R. S. Johns, New River, Fla.; Theola Ruff, Fort White, Fla.; Lola Smith, Abbeville, Ga.; Murrel Futch, High Springs, Fla.; C. L. Cowart, Collins, Ga.; Joseph Coffin, Lake Butler, Fla.; H. D. Warnock, Leland, Fla.

Those graduating in the scientific classes are Carlotta L. Townsend, Lake Butler, Fla.; Sampie Smith, Shepperd, Ga.; M. L. Purcell, Glenville, Ga.; Maude Avant, Patterson, Ga.; E. F. Fender, Griggs, Ga; H. J. Dame, Homerville, Ga.; I. S. Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Louis Smith, Simmons, Ga.; Mary Lizzie Paxson, Abbeville, Ga.; W. E. Carter, Louis, Ga.; N. M. Patten, Milltown, Ga.; W. B. Cornelius, Homerville, Ga.; Mark L. Morrill, Atlanta, Ga.

The commercial graduates are Elijah R. Simmons, Citra, Fla.; John D. Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; Mark L. Morrill, Atlanta, Ga.; Helen S. Bomberg, Jasper, Fla.; S. F. Rogers, Abbeville, Ga.; L. M. Carter, Louis, Ga.; B. H. Dorminey, Dormineys Mill, Ga.; B. B. Maynard, Newton, Ga.; J. Louis McLeod, Abbeville, Ga.

When William Grover “Bill” Clements attended Georgia Normal College and Business Institute,

“He stayed at the dormitory which was run by the President of the Commerce Department. The charge for living at the school, including meals, was $9.80 a month which his parents paid for in syrup and bacon from the farm. It was a co-educational school.

Bill said, ‘The ladies lived downstairs and the gents up. I had a Yankee sweetheart. She was the sister of the Principal’s wife. There wasn’t much time for social activities then but I did play on the baseball team. I played first base and sometimes I was the catcher.’  He modestly didn’t want to admit it, but was one of the star hitters on the team.

  …the total enrollment was about 200 students at that time. Bill was graduated with honors, the leader of his class, and he was offered a job on the faculty. He turned it down though, preferring to go back to the farm and help his parents send the twins through school.” – Madison County Carrier, April 16, 1981 

Transcription courtesy of Ron Yates, http://www.yatesville.net/

The twins were Joe and Irwin Clements of Rays Mill, GA, students at the business institute in 1904:

A personal mention in the September 9, 1904 edition of the Tifton Gazette. Irwin and Joe Clements, and Chester L. Lee headed to college.

Commencement speaker Reverend John W. Domingos, of Tifton, reported this description after his visit to the college in 1905 :

I never had the pleasure of a visit to the delightful little town of Abbeville ’till last Saturday.  When I arrived on the grounds, and went into their school buildings, met the teachers, and examined a little into their fixtures and outfit, I was suprised to find a school of such proportions in the little city of Abbeville.
    There are on the grounds three spacious buildings, standing side by side all of them two-story buildings; two of these are built of wood, and the latest, a new building is of brick.  In the first of these, on the left as you approach them, phonograpy, or short hand, and type writing and telegraphy are taught on the first floor. On the second floor the intermediate classes are taught; and the museaum is also located on this floor.  In the middle and main building, on the first floor, are four class rooms; on the second floor are the auditorium, the music room and the laboratory. In the third, the new building, on the first floor, the work of the business department includes book keeping, banking, etc.  On the second floor is the principal’s recitation room.  This is a fine room, and can accommodate 100 pupils.  The library is also located on this floor.  It now contains between tow and three thousand volumes ans some of these are choice and costly works.  The books are very appropriately arranged, and are kept in splendid book cases.  There are twenty-two of these, four feet in length, with four shelves to the case.  In seventeen of these the books range in sections: Educational, fiction, literature, encyclopedias, language and mathematics, poetry, science, etc.  The other five are devoted to periodical literature, magazines, etc.
    Prof. W. A. Little is the principal of this school.  He is a man of rare gifts, push and energy, and is assisted by an able corps of teachers.  This is the listed course of study: Scientific course, teachers’ course, complete commercial course, accountants’ course, music course, shorthand, telegraphy, penmanship, post-graduate business course.
    They have had in the school this year, I was told, some 200 boarding pupils; but they have no dormitories; the pupils board in families in the town.  The principal told me that they have matriculated this year, in all, nearly 300 pupils…
    I give you these facts, Mr. Editor, for — people to think about a little.  The phenomenal success of this school is simply due to a few things.  First of all, of course, to the efficiency of the teachers, but very largely to two other things; first, they have good work-shops, or good buildings in which to do their work, and good material and implements with which to work; in the second place, they have the hearty co-operation of the people.  The school is the pride of the town.  Give a teacher or preacher your sympathy and co-operation and you can expect something of him;  withhold it, and you cannot get the best result.  Don’t put a man in an ice box, and then curse him for not sweating.
     We have a fine town; why may we not have one of the largest and best schools in all this country?

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Circus Train Wrecked in Tifton

Circus Train

News article reported the 1902 wreck of the Harris shows circus train at Tifton, GA.

News article reported the 1902 wreck of the Harris shows circus train at Tifton, GA.

The November 23, 1902 issue of  The Valdosta Times, reported on the wreck of the Harris Shows circus train at Tifton, GA.   The story led with, “Valdosta seems to be a jonah for the Harris Nickel Plate Shows…” How prophetic that opening would turn out to be.

The Nickel Plate Circus in a Bad Smash-Up at Tifton

HARRIS SHOWS WINTER HERE

The Circus Train in Another Wreck at Tifton and one of Their Best Horses  Killed – Lions to be Kept in Building at Pine Park  –  Where the Performers Will Go.

Valdosta seems to be a jonah for the Harris Nickel Plate Shows, in spite of the fact that the managers of the show like Valdosta, and the people of Valdosta have been very much pleased with the show and the people who are managing it.
      When the circus started for Valdosta a few days before the State Fair, they were in a collision, near Dothan, Ala., that destroyed several of they cars and came near costing human lives.  Several of their best wagons and cages were torn up so that they had to be placed in the shops here for repairs.
      Last Saturday morning as the circus train was fixing to pull out of Tifton for Valdosta, it had a collision with an engine which was drilling some cars there, doing a good deal of damage.  The show train, which was to be drawn by one fo the Georgia Southern’s engines, was backed into the switch train, which was then on the main line.
      The show train ran into this train in the rear, demolishing several of the cars of the Harris show, as well as the property of the railroad company.  All the show people were aboard their coaches, and were badly shaken up by the jolt.  Mr. Dorsey, the traveling representative of the show, was hurt worse than any of them.  He was considerably bruised by a bump against the side of the coach, and has needed medical attention.  Mr. Bowles, the band master, was bruised below the eye, from the fall of a flute which hung above his sleeping berth.
       The stable cars were next to the passenger coaches, with all the fine and valuable horses of the show.  One of the best ring horses was thrown down by the jar,  and several other of the horses fell over him, crippling him in such a manner that is was necessary to shoot the animal to relieve his suffering.  This horse was valued at not less than $1,000.
      One of the heaviest of the show wagons was demolished in the wreck. This wagon was a costly one, requiring eight horses to pull it.
      The train reached this city about eleven o’clock and the tents were raised for the performances that afternoon.  Two good performances were given and, afterwards, the property of the circus was carried to Pine Park where it will remain for four months , when the circus will go on the road again.  The lions are confined in a little building adjoining the main entrance to the grounds, while the wagons, tents, etc, are stored away in a different part of the grounds and the horses are in the live stock stables.
Most of the performers with the show will join other troupes for the winter, though a number of them will remain in this city and go in practice for the next season’s work.

What this news item did not report was that the Harris Nickel Plate Circus train was also transporting the circus’ star attraction, Gypsy the Elephant. The bloody history of Gypsy the Elephant had already left a trail of dead trainers across America long before she came to Valdosta in 1902. It was in Valdosta just days later that Gypsy went on her final murderous rampage before being executed by the Valdosta police chief.   Fifty years later it was reported that the bones of Gypsy the Elephant were in Ray City, GA.

Rays Mill Boys Debate at Advance Society Meeting

In the late 1800s,   Perry Thomas KnightLucius Clements, Benjamin L. Wilkerson and William D. “Bill” Lee  were intellectually inclined young men of  Rays Mill, GA.    Clements and Wilkerson were neighbors.  All four of the boys attended the Green Bay School. They and others of similar mind gathered at  Green Bay “Advance Society” meetings to discuss and debate social ideas.

Tifton Gazette
Friday, March 20 1896

From South Berrien
Green Bay, Feb 17.  Our Advance Society held its meeting Friday evening.  Subject for discussion Resolved, that the negro has been more cruelly treated by the white man than the Indian.  The decision was rendered in the negative. The affirmative was represented by B.L. Wilkerson and W. D. Lee, and the negative by P.T. Knight and Lucious Clements.

Lucius Clements would have been about 15 at the time of this debate: Perry Knight about 19. Lee was 16, and Wilkerson was 17.  Perry T. Knight attended Oaklawn Baptist Academy  and went on to became a teacher, lawyer, soldier, chaplain, railroad commissioner, legislator, and public service commissioner.  Lucius J. Clements  attended the Georgia Normal College & Business Institute,  and managed the Clements Sawmill at Ray City until the Clements family sold the business.  He became a businessman, license inspector, and assistant tax collector. Wilkerson became a dentist and later moved to Miami, FL.  Lee became a farmer; he later constructed a Sears Mail-order home east of Ray City.

Images courtesy http://yatesville.net/index.htm and http://berriencounty.ga

 

Andrew Morris ~ Shingle Mill Machinist

Ray City People
Andrew Morris

In 1910, Andrew Morris, his wife and children were living in Ray City, Ga in a rented house on Jones Street.  Andrew and Louvena Morris had been married 11 years. He could  read and write, she couldn’t.  Their neighbors were Ray City People: Register, Robert C  and William Cole.

Andrew worked as a machinist at a shingle mill.  Wood shingles were the common material for roof construction at the time, and most houses in Ray City probably had wood roofs.  Cypress was the preferred local material, and in 1909 the price of cypress shingles in Georgia averaged about $4.00 per thousand, while pine shingles sold for half that amount. A cypress shingle could last for up to 18 years.[1] 

In examining the attic of the circa 1903 house at 507 Jones Street, Ray City, GA many old cypress shingles were found. The rafter and stringer construction of the roof framing were clearly spaced to receive the wooden shingles. Old photographs and family history indicate that the wood shingle roof was replaced with a tin roof sometime before 1950.

 Andrew Morris may have worked on a steam powered shingle machine such as the one owned by the Georgia Agrirama Museum, Tifton, GA pictured below.[2]  

    

  This 1911 advertisement shows how the machine would have looked when new. The “Columbia” shingle mill was made by Perkins and Co. from Grand Rapids, MI. The shingle machine had a  36 inch diameter horizontal saw blade. The blade guard displays raised lettering with the company name, location, and patent dates.  

  In 1910 a number of other Ray City people gave their place of employment as “shingle mill.”   William C. Shaw was a laborer at a shingle mill, as was Jesse Booth.  His father, Robert Booth, was a manufacturer of shingles, working on his own account, but was not listed as an employer.  Related posts: