Delilah Drawdy ~ Centenarian

Centenarian was Born on Christmas Day

Tifton Gazette
Feb. 28, 1913

 

Berrien News Item, Feb 28, 1913 - Delilah Drawdy

Berrien News Item, Feb 28, 1913 – Delilah Drawdy

Berrien county boasts of a lady resident 102 years old, Mrs. Delilah Drawdy, says the Sparks Eagle. She has over three hundred grand-children and moved to Georgia from North Carolina. She can thread a needle without glasses; has a good number of quilts she made herself; is able to do house work; goes whereever she wishes; enjoys her meals, and can talk very interestingly of the changes in the modes of travel during her century and more of life.

Dr. P. H. Askew and Delilah Hinson Drawdy, circa 1904.

Dr. P. H. Askew and Delilah Hinson Drawdy, circa 1904. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Ridin’ in a REO–In  what is believed to be the first car in Berrien County, Dr. P.H. Askew and Mrs. Delilah Drawdy ride in style in a REO two-seater. Dr. Askew wanted Mrs. Drawdy to be his first passenger in his new car, and when asked if she was afraid to go for a ride in the REO, she replied, “Why should I be? I’ll have a doctor driving?”

The photo was taken about 1904,  the first year the REO Motor Car Company produced automobiles.

 Dr. Pleasant H. Askew was a prominent physician, businessman and landowner of Nashville, GA. In the 1920s he purchased a farm from Sullivan J. Knight along Cat Creek about five miles north of Ray City, GA; it was one of several Berrien County properties he owned.

Delilah Drawdy died in March, 1914

Obituary of Delilah Drawdy

Obituary of Delilah Drawdy

 Tifton Gazette
March 27, 1914

Died at Age of 102.

Adel, March 17. Mrs. Delilah Drawdy, who died at the age of 102 at Rays Mill Sunday, removed one of the most remarkable women in the state. She married Noah Green when she was 15, and to them was born 10 children, five of whom are still living. The oldest child is eighty-four years of age, and the youngest is sixty-four. Mrs. Drawdy was twice married, her second husband being Levy Drawdy, with whom she lived twenty-five years. Two sons were born to them, one of which survives her. Her grand children, great grand children and great great grandchildren number over 400.
    Mrs. Drawdy was a grand mother of sheriff J. M. Shaw’s first wife.  She retained her faculties well, despite her age and remembered when the “stars fell.”

Other remembrances included:

Mrs. Drawdy, probably the oldest woman in the State of Georgia died at her home in Rays Mill Sunday. She was 102 years old, and was the grandmother of J. H. May and Mrs. J. M. Shaw of Adel…. She was able to sit up and sew until a few weeks before her death , and at the age of 101, she made a quilt for her grandson, J. H. May. Her eyesight and hearing were good and she maintained her metal faculties until the last. She joined the Primitive Baptist Church in 1852. Burial took place at Milltown Monday. She was born in North Carolina and moved to Georgia when she was 15 years old. Surviving children, William Green of Stockton, Mrs. Baten of Sparks, Mrs. D. M. Drawdy of Rays Mill, H. H. Green of Rays Mill, Mrs. H. Cox of Dupont and S. M. Drawdy of Hahira.

Affectionately known as “Dillie, her maiden name was Delilah Ann Hinson.  She was born on Christmas Day, 1812 in Anson County, North Carolina a daughter of Frances Steward and Charles “King” Hinson. As a young woman she came with her father to Pulaski County, GA.  About 1827 she married Noah Green, also of North Carolina.  Census records for Noah Green show he and Dillie made their household in Captain Lenam’s District, Pulaski County, GA.

Children of Delilah A. Hinson and Noah Green:

  1. William Hiram Green (1834-1916)
  2. Elizabeth Green (1834-1886)
  3. James Green (1836-)
  4. Frankie Angeline Green (1840-1922)
  5. Charles R Green (1842-)
  6. John B Green (1843-)
  7. Susannah Green(1846-)
  8. Houston H Green (1849-1925)
  9. Sarah Ann Green(1853-1945)

Family tradition says about 1854-55 Noah Green relocated his household to that part of Lowndes county which was soon to be cut into the new county of Berrien.  But almost at the moment of arrival at the new homestead, Noah Green suffered a heart attack and died,  leaving the widowed Dillie to raise a family on her own.

Within a year or two Delilah Hinson Green married again.  Her second husband was the widower Levi Drawdy, a prosperous farmer in Berrien County.  He was a son of John Drawdy, born October 15, 1803, in the Barnwell District of South Carolina. His uncle Daniel Drawdy was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Drawdy’s first wife, Rebecca Carter, was a daughter of Elijah Carter, Sr., who lived on Little Saltketcher Creek on the Barnwell-Colleton line in South Carolina. Levi and Rebecca Drawdy made their home in Barnwell county until 1834 when they moved to settle on land on the west side of the Alapaha River in present day Lanier County, GA. Many of the Carter family connection had already come from South Carolina to settle in the same area. On June 7, 1834 Drawdy and his wife Rebecca were baptized into the membership of Union Church. He served as a private in 1838 in the Indian War, in Capt. Jesse Carter’s Company of Lowndes County militia. In 1853, Rebecca Carter Drawdy died and was buried at Union Church near their home. She was survived by her husband and ten children.

About 1854,  the widower Levi Drawdy and the widow Delilah Ann Hinson Green were married.  The couple made a blended household out of their large families. At the time of marriage they had 18 children between the two of them. Their union produced two more.

Children of Delilah Hinson and Levi Drawdy:

  1. Sylvester M. Drawy
  2. Perry Drawdy

Mr. Drawdy was buried at Union Church. He left a will dated July 25, 1864, which was probated August 25, 1881, in Lowndes Court of Ordinary. His son, Daniel, was designated as executor. His home place and farm, Lot of Land No. 389 in 11th district of Lowndes, was divided among the wife and surviving children: Daniel Drawdy, Levi Drawdy, Jr., Sylvester M. Drawdy, Mrs. Christina Drawdy Wetherington, Mrs. Elizabeth Green Touchston, Mrs. Kiziah Drawdy Rhoden, Mrs. Sarah Drawdy Chitty,  and Fairiby Drawdy.

Delilah Ann Hinson Green Drawdy died in 1914. She is buried along with other members of the Green and Drawdy families in the cemetery at  Union Church.

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.

Related Posts:

Eulogy of Elder Ansel Parrish

Ansel Parrish (1824 -1891)

 Elder Ansel Parrish, of Berrien County, GA was one of the ablest and best known Primitive Baptist preachers of his time.  Ansel Parrish joined Pleasant Church at the age of 19 and was baptized by Elder Moses Westberry, Jr.  He thereafter dedicated his life to the service of the Primitive Baptist faith. During the Civil War he ministered to the confederate soldiers in 50th Georgia Regiment at their encampment near Savannah, GA.  He became a leader among the Primitive Baptists, and preached at many of the churches in the area.  From the death of Elder William A. Knight in 1860 until 1865, the close of the Civil War,  Ansel Parrish served as pastor of Union Church, the mother church of all the Primitive Baptist churches in this section. He died January 16, 1891 leaving a widow and seventeen children, and eighty grandchildren.

Ansel Parrish (1824 - 1891). Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Ansel Parrish (1824 – 1891). Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Recognized throughout the Wiregrass, “he was considered a great power in the church as well as out of the church”.

The Thomasville Times
August 16, 1884

Moultrie Meanderings.

The yearly meeting of the Primitive Baptists at Barber’s church, three miles east of here, came off last week. The attendance was large, Elder Ancil Parrish, one of the old landmarks, was present. Uncle Ancil bids fair to weather the storms of several winters yet. The creed of these people may be at fault, or not, I don’t pretend to say; but the predominant idea of their lives seems to be embodied in the maxim: “Be honest, industrious and attend to your own business, and they endeavor to carry out this proposition with might and main.

Ansel Parrish married Molcy Knight on December 15, 1842.

Elder Ansel Parrish, (1824 -1891), and Molcy Knight Parrish (1826 - 1897). Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Elder Ansel Parrish, (1824 -1891), and Molcy Knight Parrish (1826 – 1897). Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Following the death of Ansel Parrish on January 16, 1891, Eulogies appeared in The Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, January 24, 1891

He Will Be Missed.

        Many of our readers knew a man, now gone from view, whose plain and simple life, unadorned with the polish of modern culture, illustrated in a striking degree many of the higher and nobler attributes of manhood; whose life-work stamped him a man of power.  Although denied in his youth the benefits of the ordinary high schools of the country, and necessarily therefore a stranger to theological seminaries, yet he had the gift of oratory, and the force of strong convictions. He expounded the Scriptures as he understood them, and labored to make men better.  He was not skilled in the arts of the modern doctors of divinity, nor was he a juggler with words. He was a plain blunt man. To him there shone a light through the clouds of the letter of the word which fired his heart and loosened his tongue. He went out among his people and taught them justice and the ways of peace. He was a law-giver of the old-time type. When brothers quarreled he called them together, heard the testimony, settled the dispute, and sent them away reconciled. He always kept them out of the Courthouse when he could, but if he failed he followed them to the bar of the court, and there exercised a wonderful influence in the settlement of the case. The people believed his heart was pure and his judgment was sound, and seldom a jury was found which would not accept his convictions and make them their own verdict, in spite of the pleadings of the lawyers. It was his custom on such occasions to take a seat within the bar of the court room, and when the lawyers on his side opposed to his convictions would rise to address the jury he would sit dumb and motionless. It is said the lawyers, knowing his power, would often address much of their speech to him, hoping to draw some token of assent, but he could not be coaxed or driven from his position. But when the other side – the right side – was being presented to the jurors, his face would show his sympathy; and repeatedly, and unconsciously, as it were, when strong points were being driven home by the logic of the speaker, or when important quotations bearing on the case would be drawn from the evidence, he would nod assent, and give audible tokens of approval. He was always in touch with the juries, and the verdicts always came right.
It has been often said by lawyers practicing in that court that he was more greatly to be feared, if he was against their client, than the logic and eloquence of the most astute practitioner in the circuit.
This good old man – simple and home-spun in his ways – was a power in the region about him. If he drove to the county town, or to a railway station, a crowd would gather round his buggy before he could get out, and two or three would begin unhitching his horse.
He asked no money for his preaching, but he always had plenty – the product of a well-tilled farm; and no widow, or other deserving poor person in the neighborhood, went unprovided for if he knew of their want. It is said that he studiously avoided giving publicity to his charities, and that the beneficiaries were often ignorant as to the identity of their benefactor.
The fame of this man went beyond the limits of his neighborhood and county. Wherever those of his faith and order assembled in Wiregrass Georgia or Florida he was known, and his name was reverently mentioned. If he was present he was a leader; if absent, his absence was felt.
Such a man was Elder Ansel Parrish, the old Primitive Baptist preacher of Berrien County, as seen by one who was neither his partisan nor his parishioner.
When news of his fatal illness spread over the country hundreds of his devoted friends and followers journeyed to the bedside of the dying preacher to get a last look into the depths of those great grey eyes before the light went out and the old-time fire burnt down in their sockets. And when they laid his body away in the old family burying ground, a great concourse of people gathered to mingle their tears with the sod in the new made mound.

A week later, The Valdosta Times followed up with a tribute to Elder Parrish.

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, January 31, 1891

 Ansel Parrish

        A Brief Biographical Sketch Of One Who Will Be Missed. “Oh for the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.” Elder Ansel Parrish was born in Bulloch County, Ga., July 7th, 1824, and died at his home seven miles southwest of Nashville in Berrien County January 16th, 1891.
Elder Ansel was the fourth son of Henry and Nancy Parrish, who moved from Bulloch to Lowndes, now Berrien County, in 1825, and the future preacher learned to take his first toddling steps at a camp fire on the road while his parents were moving here.
He grew up with the meager opportunities common to our country and his literary attainments were therefore meager. Of a calm temper he was early separated from the wild life of the country and joined the Primitive Baptist Church in 1843, being in his nineteenth year, and was ordained an Elder March 18th, 1854. He was married to Miss Mollsey Knight, whose father was William Knight  [William Cone Knight] and her mother a daughter of Jesse Carter, thus uniting the two largest family connections in Lowndes County. To write of him as a neighbor and friend, a husband and father would be out of place here. Those who knew him best loved him most.
It is as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus I would fain write most, and then, he was so widely known that the task will alas fall short of his merit. The writer heard him preach first and most frequently at Salem (Adel) Church of which he was one of the Pastors for a long number of years, assisted by his uncle, brother and co-worker the late lamented Elder Ezekiel J. Williams. As a preacher he was earnest in the faith as he interpreted the word of God, yet not harsh, ever bearing in mind the faith of others. He devoted his early and mature manhood to his Master’s service and when the infirmities of age began to creep on him he seemed to not regard them as an excuse to satisfy self ease, but labored on, and when he could not stand in the sacred desk to deliver his message he preached seated. For all this work and work in physical pain, he never, to my knowledge, asked a dollar as a reward.
A good substantial farmer, he was not only self sustaining but ever ready to open his hand to the needy when his already open heart heard the cry of distress. Seventeen children, 14 of whom are living, 7 sons and 7 daughters were born to him. He leaves 80 living grandchildren, and 24 dead, preceded him of his 8 brothers and 2 sisters, only the venerable Josiah Parrish of Ava, and Absalom of Arkansas survive him.
Elder Parrish was at the time of his death Pastor of the following Churches:  Pleasant and Cat Creek, literally falling in the line of duty. May his fidelity to his Master’s cause be taken as an example by those whom he has so long and faithfully warned. In him his family has lost all that goes to make a husband and father, and his Church its wisest counselor.

The archives of the US GenWeb project provide the following biography:

Biography of Elder Ansel Parrish

Elder ANSEL PARRISH was one of the ablest and best known Primitive Baptist mininsters in his day for over 35 years prior to his death. He was considered a great power in the church as well as out of the church. He was born in Bullock County, July 7, 1824, a son of Henry and Nancy Parrish.
        He was married Dec. 15, 1842, in Lowndes (now Berrien) County, to Molcy Knight, born Nov. 7, 1826, daughter of William Cone Knight. 
        Elder Parrish was first converted and united with Pleasant Church in Lowndes County, Aug. 19, 1843, and was baptized. Mrs. Parrish followed him into the church and was baptized November, 1847. He was ordained a deacon in his church, Feb. 2, 1848, and served in this office until he was licensed to preach, Jan. 17, 1852. Two years later, March 19, 1854, he was ordained to the full Gospel Ministry by a presbytery composed of Elders Wm. A. Knight, J. B. Smith and J.E.W. Smith. From then until his death, Jan. 16, 1891, his was a very busy and fruitful ministry among the Primitive Baptist Churches in Berrien and adjoining counties. His first cousin, Elder E. J. Williams, was Pastor of Pleasant Church when he (Elder Parrish) was ordained and continued as such until 1881 when he declined re-election; thereupon Elder Parrish was called. He continued as Pastor of his home church until his death. At the time (1881), he was already serving Cat Creek Church in Lowndes County, and in April, 1881, he was called as Pastor by Friendship Church near Hahira, also Salem Church in Adel. These four Churches he continued to serve as pastor until his death 13 years later. He also served as Moderator of the Union Association several years. Elder Parrish owned a large tract of land in Berrien County and gave each of his sons a farm when they married. Mrs. Parrish died June 25, 1897. She and her husband were buried in the Lois Cemetery near Pleasant Church.

 

Grave of Ansel Parrish (1824 - 1891), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: FindAGrave.com

Grave of Ansel Parrish (1824 – 1891), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA. Image source: FindAGrave.com

Children of Molcy Knight and Ansel Parrish

  1. Rachel E Parrish 1844 –
  2. Elizabeth L Parrish 1845 – 1928, married Marion Register
  3. James W Parrish 1847 – 1916
  4. Nancy E Parrish 1848 – 1924
  5. Mary Eleanor Parrish 1849 – 1909, married John Lee
  6. Henry William Parrish 1851 – 1928
  7. John A Parrish 1853 – 1914
  8. Sarah Laura Parrish 1854 – 1933, married William M. Register
  9. Ezekiel Crofford Parrish 1856 – 1924
  10. Martha M.  “Mattie”  Parrish 1860 – 1942, married Aaron A. Knight
  11. Josiah Allen Jones Parrish 1861 – 1929
  12. Jesse A Parrish 1864 – 1938
  13. Amanda Celestia Parrish 1866 – 1900
  14. Naomi Parrish 1867 – 1886
  15. Moorna Parrish 1868 –
  16. Child Parrish 1869 –
  17. Alderman B Parrish 1871 – 1932

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More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA

James Thomas Beigles

James Thomas Biggles

In the winter of 1887, a family  feud at Rays Mill, Georgia turned deadly when J.T. Biggles gunned down Madison Pearson from the porch of Henry Harrison Knight’s store.

At that time Knight’s store was  one of the few commercial establishments at Rays Mill and was a community meeting place.  The store was situated on present day Pauline Street, approximately opposite from the Ray City School.  In front of the store was an area known as the “court ground”  and the building served as the court house when there was need.   Knight’s store was also occupied by Dr. Guy Selman, one of the first doctors in the area,  and after David Ridgell departed in 1905 it was the location of the Ray’s Mill Post Office.  Henry Knight’s son-in-law, Cauley Johnson was postmaster. The building was destroyed by fire, probably in the 1940’s.

James Thomas Biggles was born in Georgia in October, 1860, a son of John Jefferson Beagles and Catherine Wright Biggles. (There was obviously some confusion over the spelling of the family name.)

Mary Elizabeth Pearson

Mary Elizabeth Pearson

J.T. married Mary Elizabeth Pearson on July 26, 1879. The ceremony was performed by Jonathan D. Knight, Notary Public.  James Thomas Biggles  appeared in the census of 1880 in District 5 of GMD#1144 as Thomas Beagle, farm laborer, age 19, with wife, Elizabeth, age 21. In the cemetery of Union Church (aka Burnt Church), next to the grave of Mary E. Biggles, stands a small headstone with the inscription “Infant of Mr. & Mrs. J.T. Biggles, Born and Died Apr. 15, 1879.”

J.T Biggles had a running feud with his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson.  At first Biggles tried to work through the court, but he soon took the law into his own hands and murdered Pearson before a crowd of citizens.  Biggles became a fugitive for twelve years before returning to stand trial.

The state press reported on the Murder in Berrien:

The Columbus Enquirer-Sun
Nov. 11, 1887 — page 3


Terrible Result of an Old Feud.

     Nashville, Ga., Nov. 9. – At Ray’s mill in this county, on Tuesday evening last, a dreadful encounter occurred in which M. G. Pearson was shot and instantly killed by J. T. Beagly, the cause being a family feud. It appears the parties had met to amicably settle the trouble if possible, but soon engaged in some hot words, when Pearson said to Beagly:
“Come out in the sand and we will settle the trouble.”
     They started out. Beagly drew his pistol and fired upon him as he went out, and shot him dead the first fire, then took to the swamp and has not yet been captured.

The Valdosta Times provided additional details:

The Valdosta Times
November 12, 1887

MURDER IN BERRIEN

J. T. Beigles Kills Madison G. Pearson at Ray’s Mill – A Family Feud which ends in the murder of a Brother – in- law.

Madison G. Pearson was killed by his brother-in-law, J. T. Beigles, at Ray’s Mill, in Berrien County, last Friday, the 4th, inst. A Family feud was at the bottom of the difficulty.

Beigles had married Pearson’s sister. The mother of the latter lived for sometime with her son, but a family quarrel, it seems, drove her to her daughter’s home. After she took up her abode with the Beigles family, some questions arose about the division of her small property. One report says that she willed all she had to Mrs. Beigles, and thus aroused her son’s indignation, and another rumor says that Beigles killed a beef which belonged to the Pearson estate, and that this was the cause of the trouble between the two men. At any rate there was trouble between them, and the old lady took the side of her son-in-law. Pearson, it seems, made some threats, and Beigles had him arrested under a peace warrant. Friday, the day of the tragedy, was set for a hearing before the Justice of the district, and Beigles and his wife and old Mrs. Pearson appeared at the Court ground at Ray’s Mill as witnesses. The bailiff had Madison Pearson under arrest, and the parties at interest, and about forty interested neighbors, all met at Mr. H. H. Knight’s store. Beigles’ father was among those present, and he approached Pearson about a compromise, but Pearson thought he had been greatly outraged, and freely expressed his indignation. He refused to accept the proposals made by the elder Beigles. A witness to the whole affair at the Court grounds informs us that the elder Beigles’ attitude and manner was not such as indicated any real desire for a fair compromise, and that his actions and his words were the immediate cause of the conflict, if it can be called a conflict. In reviewing the difficulty, the elder Beigles, who was standing between his son and Pearson, made some assertions which the latter vehemently denied or disputed, and the younger Beigles shouted to Pearson that he was a liar. At this Pearson, replied hotly that if Beigles would step with him to the ground from the porch upon which they stood, he would whip him, and as he spoke he sprang off at right angles from Beigles, but he struck the ground a dead man. Beigles fired at him on the spring, and the ball entered the side of the head near the left temple. Pearson doubled up as he lie fell and his head hit the ground first. He never spoke a word, and died in a few moments. Pearson had two brothers on the spot, and one ran to the dying man and the other started upon Beigles, but he met a cocked pistol in his face, and was warned to stand back, or else share the fate of his brother. Beigles kept his face to the awe-stricken crowd, pistol drawn, while his father pushed him backward some thirty feet, then he turned and they both fled. There was not a gun or pistol on the hill that could be found, and the two Beigles escaped. A pursuit was quickly organized, but they had gotten out of sight, and are yet at large. Pearson was not armed.

Pearson’s mother and sister witnessed the murder of their son and brother, so an eye witness informs us, without shedding a tear. After some little time Mrs. Pearson walked up to the dead man laying upon the ground, and stooped down and kissed him. She then rose calmly and walked away without any signs of emotion.

Thus a Justice’s court was sadly and suddenly transformed into an inquest court. The coroner lived forty miles away, and the bailiff, who held Pearson in custody as a prisoner when he was killed, summoned a jury, and the Justice, who was about to convene his court to try Pearson on a peace warrant, instead of proceeding with the trial, swore in an inquest jury to sit upon the dead body.

After swearing numerous eye witnesses the jury found that the killing was done as outlined above, that the same was willful murder; also that the elder Beigles was an accessory to the dead.

We are indebted to a neighbor of the parties, and an eyewitness to the tragedy, for the above statement of the circumstances connected directly and indirectly to the killing. All the parties were sober.

In 1899 the Valdosta reported the follow up on the trial of the Biggles case.

The Valdosta Times
October 17, 1899

BERRIEN SUPERIOR COURT. CONCLUSION OF THE BEAGLES-PEARSON CASE.

Berrien Superior Court after a four days’ session adjourned Thursday afternoon. The session was devoted entirely to criminal business, no civil cases being called. The principal case of importance was the trial of Madison G. Pearson, Nov. 4, 1887, twelve years ago as was stated in Friday’s Times.

Beagles was married to Pearson’s sister, and there had been considerable bad blood between them, culminating when Mrs. Pearson left the home of her son and went to live with her daughter, Beagles’ wife.

Pearson threatened to kill Beagles on several occasions and a few days before his death went to Beagles’ house and cursed his wife and children.

Beagles then swore out a peace warrant for Pearson, and he was arrested under it and carried to the Court House at Ray’s Mill for trial. A large crowd was on the court ground, among them Beagles, and Pearson challenged him for a fight, pulling off his coat and starting out the door as he did so. Beagles was standing on the porch of the house, within a few feet, and as Beagles stepped out fired at him, shooting him through the head, the ball entering just in front of the right ear and coming out behind the left ear, producing instant death.

Beagles skipped the country, and spent several years in Florida, returning just before his arrest. He was admitted to the bail, and staid under bond until two months ago, when his bondsman gave him up, and since that time he has remained in jail.

At his trial he was represented by Col. Joseph A. Alexander of Nashville and W. H. Griffin of Valdosta, while the state was represented by Col. W. M. Hammond of Thomasville and Solicitor General Thomas. The trial lasted a day and a half, and every inch of ground was stubbornly fought. The principal evidence against the dead man was the ante-mortem statement of his own mother, made four years ago, which was exceedingly bitter in denunciation of her son.

Six hours were spent by Cols. Griffin and Hammond in their strong and eloquent arguments of the case, and he jury remained out on it seven hours before returning a verdict of manslaughter with recommendation to mercy. Col. Griffin made a touching appeal to the court for mercy, and Judge Hansell fixed the sentence at two years in the state penitentiary.

In the U.S Census of 1900 James T. Biggles was enumerated on June 23, 1900 as a convict in the Fargo Convict Camp in the Jones Creek District of Clinch County, GA.

In 1910, the Biggles were back together in Rays Mill, GA where they were enumerated with several boarders living in their household.

James Thomas Biggles died May 11, 1911 in Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia. He was buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA. On his tombstone his name appears as J.T. Biggles.

Grave Marker of James Thomas Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave Marker of James Thomas Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Reports on the disposition of his estate were reported in the Nashville Herald:

Nashville Herald
Aug 7, 1911

Administrators Sale

Pursuant to an order of the Court of Ordinary, will be sold before the court house door in Berrien County, all the real estate belonging to J.T. Biggles, deceased, to wit: one lot in the town of Milltown, on Howell Ave., known as the H.L. Kelly lot; also ten acres of lot No. 473 in the 10th district in the southeast corner of said lot; also, 36 acres in the ? district, the last two tracts known as the Margaret Horsby lands; also, 100 acres, bounded on the west by Milltown and Nashville public road, east by Dog Branch, and lands of Jas. Johnson and Banks lands, on the north by lands of Mary E. Biggles, said tract known as land sold by E.M. Giddens to J.T. Biggles; also, lot 6 in block 32, lot 8 in block 73, lot 1 in block 69, lot 6 in block 59, lot 10 in block 48, all in the new survey in Milltown, Ga., also, one-half acre in town of Milltown bounded east by lands of M.E. Patten, south and west by lands of R.L. Patten, north by old Brunswick & Western right-of-way; also lot No. 3 in block No. 29, Roberts survey of Milltown, Ga., Sold as the property of the estate of J.T. Biggles, deceased, to pay debts and for distribution. August 7, 1911

Nashville Herald
Sept 5, 1911

Administrator’s Sale

Georgia, Berrien County. Will be sold before the court house door on the first Tuesday in October the following land: 1/2 acre of land in the town of Milltown bounded east by lands of M.E. Patten, south and west by lands of R.L. Patten, north by old Brunswick & Western right-of-way on which is situated one gin house and one barn, five double Foss gins, one short cotton gin, one conveyor, one double Monger box press, one seed conveyor and all belts and pulleys now used in the gin house. Terms cash. Sept 5, 1911. M.W. Bargeron, W.A. Biggles, Administrators of Estate of J.T. Biggles.

Mary Elizabeth Biggles died May 7, 1923. She was also buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church. Her tombstone reads, ” Mary Elizabeth Biggles, May 7, 1923, Aged 70 Yrs., A loving mother and grandmother.”

Gravemarker of Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, Georgia

Gravemarker of Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, Georgia

Update on Perry Thomas Knight

Perry Thomas Knight

Found a new bio of Perry Thomas Knight in the Georgia Official and Statistical Register, 1955-1956 – page 134 (below), and new photo at Berrien County Historical Photos Collection.  Prior to attending Southern Normal University, P.T. Knight attended the Green Bay School near Ray City, and the Oaklawn Academy at Milltown, GA  (now Lakeland, GA).  In 1923, he led the fundraising effort to pay for the Doughboy Monument in Nashville, GA.

PERRY THOMAS KNIGHT, Atlanta, Dec’d. Associate Public Service Commissioner Emeritus. Born Mar. 7. 1877 at Rays Mill, Berrien co., Ga. Graduated Southern Normal University, LL.B. degree, 1901.

Advertisement for Southern Normal University, 1901.

Advertisement for Southern Normal University, 1901.

Began the practice of law in 1901. Baptist. Democrat. Mason. WW I —Chaplain & 1st Lt. Former member, Berrien County Board of Education; W. & A. Railroad Commission, 1925-27. Member, house of rep., Berrien co., 1921-22, 1923-23 Ex.-24. Senator, 6th dist., 1925-26. Ex.-26 2nd Ex. Public Service Commissioner, Jan. 25, 1928 – July 21. 1933 removed by Governor Eugene Talmadge; re-elected Nov. 16, 1936–continuously served until Apr. 1, 1953 (vice-chairman 1949 until date of retirement, April 1 1953). Retired under Legislative Act, and became Associate Public Service Commissioner for life. Dec’d Sept. 17 1955.

Family details: Married July 19, 1903 in Milltown (know Lakeland) Ga., Annie Lota Duggar, daughter of Wiley J. and Sallie (Bowen) Duggar. Children: James Perry, married and has 5 children; Elwin Thomas, married and has 4 children. Perry T. Knight was the son of George Washington Knight and Rhoda (Futch) Knight, and the grandson of Aaron and Nancy (Sloan) Knight, and of John M. and Phoebe (Mathis) Futch.

 

According to 1917 draft records in Berrien County,  P. T. Knight also engaged in farming operations and was an employer.  One of his  workers was Charles Anthony Ray, a one-eyed farm laborer from Wayne County.

 

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Primitive Baptists at Ray City

A recent document discovery at Ray City Community Library, Ray City, GA was the minutes of the 1962 Union Primitive Baptist Association.

The settlers of the Wiregrass in Lowndes and Berrien county, Georgia were predominantly of the Primitive Baptist faith.  Union Church (aka Burnt Church) on the Alapaha River served the families of early settlers like William A. Knight and his son Levi J. Knight. Primitive Baptist churches became a part of many communities. In 1913, the Knight descendants built New Ramah Primitive Baptist church at Ray City.

Just a few of the Ray City People who were Primitive Baptists:
Cassie Lee Hall, Arrin Horn Guthrie, Effie Shaw Clements, Alfred F. Fender, Minnie Clements Sirmans, Aden Boyd, Elizabeth Skinner Register.

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