Old Land Mark Gone ~ Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith

William Smith (1797-1882), pioneer settler of Lowndes County, GA, homesteaded on land lot No. 50, 11th District along the Withlacoochee River in the 1820s.  Smith would serve as clerk of the court, postmaster, and Ordinary of Lowndes County.

This section was then truly a wild southern frontier of the young American nation, replete with wild animals, panthers, bears, wolves, and snakes; Indians who resented the forceful and often illegal intrusion of settlers on to their native lands; and many febrile diseases, typhoid, malariascarlet fever, and other little understood diseases among them. Through this wilderness in 1823, General Coffee cut a military thoroughfare into north Florida. The Coffee Road opened up the territory and led to the creation of  Lowndes County by an act of the legislature on December 23, 1825.  It was around this time that the Knights first came to Lowndes county and settled in that portion which was later cut into Berrien County.    

The first Courts and first elections in Lowndes County were held at the house of Sion Hall,  who built an Inn on the Coffee Road.  But soon the commissioners of Lowndes County appointed to determine the location of the county courthouse chose William Smith’s place on the Withlacoochee as the site of the county seat, and named the place Franklinville, GA.

Lowndes at that time included most of present day Berrien County, and Lanier, Cook, Tift, Brooks, and Echols, besides. For a time the post office for this vast frontier county was at the home of Big Thumb Daniel McCranie. However, On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department established a post office at Franklinville and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

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

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

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

William Smith, “Uncle Billy” as he was known,  kept an inn at Franklinville in addition to his official duties.

Uncle Billy was a member of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  along with Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharp, Aaron Knight, Jonathan Knight, John Knight and William Cone Knight,  Noah H. Griffin, Martin Shaw, Malachi Monk, Captain David Bell and many others.  The Association gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville in 1835 to toast State Rights.

Just a few years after its founding, Franklinville was found to be unsatisfactory as the seat of Lowndes county, although a legal announcement in the November 7, 1837 Milledgeville Southern Recorder, pg 4, documents that public auctions were still being held at Franklinville at that date [The same page announces auctions at the courthouse at Troupville] .

… an act was passed by the Georgia legislature, appointing a commission to select an appropriate place for a county site. Franklinville had been its capital, but was not near enough to the center. As the legend goes, Big Billy Knight and Big Billy Folsom were appointed. So it came about that where the wine-red waters or the Ockolocoochee and the black current of the Withlacoochee meet at the end of a long sandbar and go tumbling and writhing, eddying and curving down the long reach of moss-grown trees, like two huge serpents struggling for the mastery, the plat of a town was drawn, and it was called after Georgia’s great chevelier governor, “Troupville,”

William Smith moved to Troupville where he continued to serve as Postmaster.  In 1837, he was also serving as the guardian of the orphans of James Baker.

There, he also operated “Tranquil Hall,” one of the three hotels in the town.  Tranquil Hall was widely famed for its hospitality, and when court was in session at Troupville, the judge and lawyers usually stayed at the tavern.  According to an South Georgia Watchman, September 1, 1858 editorial, it was the only thing in Troupville worth bragging about. Tranquil Hall was situated on the public square, along with the court-house and jail, the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery.”  The other inns were the Jackson Hotel , situated on the town square and run by Morgan G. Swain and his wife, and a hotel operated by Jonathan Knight for eight or ten years until he moved away to Appling County about 1849.

Troupville itself would suffer the same fate as Franklinville. When the Atlantic & Gulf railroad (later the Savannah, Florida & Western Railway) came to Lowndes County, it bypassed Troupville, following a route four miles to the south through the site now known as Valdosta, GA. The first train rolled into Valdosta in July of 1860.

The railroad was in process of building when residents of Troupville began to move. William Smith, one of the pioneers, and known as “Uncle Billy” Smith, the day the deed was signed by Mr.Wisenbaker giving the railroad six acres of land on which to build the first station, tore off the wing of his hotel at Troupville and moved it to Valdosta, where he operated his hotel several years. The first house moved to the new town was owned by Judge Peeples and it was rolled from Troupville to Valdosta, being placed on pillars on the lot on Troup street where it now stands. Several other houses were also moved bodily and some few of them are yet standing. In a few weeks time Troupville as a town was no more.

— — ◊ — —

Advertisement for Tranquil Hall, upon its relocation from Troupville, GA to Valdosta, GA, 1870.

Advertisement for Tranquil Hall, upon its relocation from Troupville, GA to Valdosta, GA, 1870.

Albany News
January 7, 1870

The Proprietors of Tranquil Hall, formerly of Troupville, have opened a house at Valdosta, Ga., for the accommodation of the Traveling Public, where they will find the fare equal to that of any House on the line of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad, and charges as reasonable.

WM. SMITH
MARGET SMITH

— — ◊ — —

Uncle Billy and his wife Margaret continued to operate Tranquil Hall at Valdosta, GA.  Eventually, in their declining years they sold out to Darius M. Jackson.

William “Uncle Billy” Smith died February 1, 1882.  His obituary was reported in the Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, February 4, 1882

Old Land Mark Gone.

Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith.

Mr. Wm. Smith, an old gentleman, whose history is intimately connected with that of Lowndes County, died last Wednesday morning at his residence in Valdosta in the eighty-fourth year of his age, leaving his aged wife (who we believe is about the same age) to tarry a while longer with us. The funeral services were held at his late residence Wednesday afternoon and his remains were buried in our cemetery Thursday morning at 10 o’clock. Mr. Smith was born in 1797, in North Carolina, and emigrated to Irwin, now Lowndes County, and settled the place now known as “Old Franklinville.”

       The Indians, bears and panthers were numerous in these pine forests then and Mr. Smith’s early life was one of some adventures. (Here we will remark that Mr. Smith promised us to write up a history of those early days for publication, but from a feebleness which had been growing on him for six months we suppose he was not able to do the work.)

       When Lowndes was made a county the county site was located at Franklinville, (Mr. Smith’s home,) and he was elected Clerk of the Court. An interesting account of the first court held was published in these columns about a year ago from his pen.

       Later, the county site was moved to Troupville and there Mr. Smith kept a hotel. “Tranquil Hall,” as it was known, was noted for its hospitable landlord and lady and for its splendid table. Travelers carried the good name of this country inn far and wide.

“Tranquil Hall,” with Troupville, was moved and helped to make Valdosta, when the Gulf Road came through here; but the hotel declined with the old people and about ten years ago they gave up the business, and sold the building. It is now occupied by Mr. D. M. Jackson.

Mr. Smith has more than once been Ordinary of the County, having held that office as late as twelve or fourteen years ago. He has held other positions of honor and trust, and in his prime of manhood was a leading and influential man. He had two sons, William and Henry, who died after the war, leaving families. All of Wm. Smith Jr.’s family have died, we believe, but Mr. Henry Smith’s widow, four children and one or two grandchildren are living. So Mrs. Wm. Smith, the widow of the deceased, survives all but four grandchildren and the great grandchildren. We hope the good old lady will find her remaining days as comfortable and as happy as they can be to one left alone at such an age. We would like, at some other time, to give Earthier reminiscences of the old gentleman’s life, if we can get hold of the data.

 † † †

To this obituary, Hamilton W. Sharpe added the following testament (By 1880, Hamilton Sharpe had removed to Quitman, GA where he operated a hotel known as Sharpe House.) :

The Valdosta Times
 Saturday, April 22, 1882

Mr. Wm. Smith. Christian Advocate. William Smith died in Valdosta recently in the eighty-fifth year of his age.

I have known him for over half a century. He was elected Clerk of the Superior Court of Lowndes County in the year 1827, which office he held consecutively for a number of terms, and filled other offices of trust and honor in that county. He was the proprietor of “Tranquile Hall,” located in Troupville, the then county site of Lowndes, and the house was long and favorably known as one of the best hotels in the state. The result of the late war between the States was very hard on him, as his all consisted of slave property. His life was long and varied, a true friend in every respect. He became a member of the M. E. Church South many years ago, but was not very demonstrative in his religious duties until late in life. He was a constant attendant on Church, and always enjoyed the services of God’s house. His departure was very sudden, but we have no fears as to his being well prepared for the change, which was a happy one to him. His children, one by one, all preceded him to the grave, but his wife, like himself very old, still lingers on these mundane shores.

Peace be to his memory.

H.W. Sharpe.

† † †

Related Posts:

William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist

William Hamilton Griffin (1853-1917)

William Hamilton Griffin was born in that part of Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. He became a prominent public administrator and jurist of Wiregrass Georgia, and was involved in some of the most dramatic legal contests in Ray City history.

William H. Griffin

William H. Griffin

William Hamilton Griffin  was born July 18, 1853, on his father’s plantation, located in that portion of Lowndes county which is now included in Berrien county, GA. His honored parents, William D.and Nancy (Belote) Griffin, were also natives of Lowndes county.”

He was a cousin of Bessie Griffin, and Lester Griffin of the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA),

“The father, William D. Griffin, aided in effecting the organization of Berrien county and was its second treasurer, which office he held continuously until his death, in 1892, except one term, during the so-called -“Reconstruction” period, immediately succeeding the Civil War, when nearly all white voters were, under Federal statutes, practically disfranchised. The father was a soldier in the Confederate service during the latter part of the war and was with Johnston’s forces in the operations of the Atlanta Campaign.”

The paternal grandfather represented Brooks county in the state legislature, though his residence was on land now in Lowndes county. The great-grandfather, James Griffin, was a private soldier in the Revolutionary War.  James Griffin and Sarah Lodge Griffin were early settlers of Irwin County, GA.

William H. Griffin, the subject of this sketch, was afforded only the advantages of the common schools of his native county, the family fortunes, in common with those of most southern families, having been seriously affected by the war. He was educated in the public schools and academies at Nashville, GA. He soon developed traits of leadership and at twenty was elected clerk of the court for Berrien County, an office he held in 1874-5. From 1882 to 1885 he held of the office of Ordinary of Berrien County. While in this office he studied law, and in 1884 he was admitted to the Georgia bar. He at once began the practice of his profession at Nashville, but in 1885 he removed to Valdosta, GA.  There he formed a law partnership with Judge Benjamin F. Whittington, as Whittington & Griffin, this relation continuing for several years.

He was elected mayor of Valdosta in 1892, and served three consecutive terms. Governor William Yates Atkinson appointed him judge of the city court of Valdosta in 1897, for a term of four years, at the expiration of which he was reappointed for a like term, by Governor Allen D. Candler, and continued on the bench until 1905. During his eight years of service he tried 1,358 civil cases and 2008  criminal cases, a total of 3,866. His decisions were carried to the supreme court but 18 times and were reversed in only two cases.

In politics Judge Griffin was a Democrat, having always given that party his unqualified support. He served as mayor of Valdosta, judge of the city court, representative in the state legislature from Lowndes County, Chair of the Democratic Executive Committee of Lowndes County, and as referee in bankruptcy. His elevations to public office were a tribute to his worth and to the respect with which he was held by the community.

He was a member of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and held membership in various bar associations. His chief recreations were fishing and hunting.

William H. Griffin was twice married — first, on May 18, 1879, to Margaret “Maggie” MacDonald, daughter of Dougal P. and Anna (Peeples) MacDonald, of Nashville, Berrien county. Maggie McDonald was born in 1864. Her father was listed on the 1860 roster of Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men, but he was also enumerated in Berrien County on the 1864  Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. Maggie was apparently raised by Dr. Hamilton M. Talley, as she appears in his household in Berrien County in the census of 1870. She died in 1890.

William H. Griffin was second married to Miss Carrie Abbott, of Randolph, VT, September 28, 1892. He had two children of the latter marriage—William Abbott Griffin, born in 1896, and Margaret Griffin, born in 1902. William and Carrie Griffin were members of the Methodist Episcopal church South.

William H. Griffin served as attorney for the estate of prominent Rays Mill turpentine man Robert S. Thigpen, engineering some of the largest property deals in Ray City history in the disposal of the Thigpen estate.  Thigpen’s holdings at the time of his death in 1898 included his turpentine plants and naval stores stock at Rays Mill, Naylor and Lenox, GA.

In 1899, William H. Griffin represented James Thomas Beagles, defending him for the Killing of Madison G. Pearson at Henry Harrison Knight’s store at Rays Mill (now Ray City),GA some 12 years earlier. The Beagles case was tried before Judge Augustin H. Hansell. Attorney Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words. Beagles was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only two years incarceration.

In 1906, after his retirement from the bench Judge Griffin entered into a partnership with Hon. Elisha Peck Smith Denmark, and formed the law firm, Denmark & Griffin. E.P.S. Denmark was the husband of Mary Lane, daughter of Remer Young Lane, a Valdosta banker and one of the largest land owners in all of Lowndes County.  Of Judge Griffin, it was said that “He enjoyed the confidence, esteem and patronage of the most prominent and important people and business interests of Lowndes and adjoining counties.”

In the matter of Green Bullard’s estate, William H. Griffin was retained by William B. Shaw to represent the interests of his wife, Fannie Bullard ShawGreen Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and  owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek. The Shaws wanted the estate to be administered by Fannies’ brother, Henry Needham Bullard, rather than her half-brother, William Malachi Jones.   The other side of the family was represented  by Buie & Knight in the dispute. Mallie Jones was the son of Mary Ann Knight Bullard by her first husband, William A. Jones.

Judge Griffin’s name was synonymous with integrity. He “walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and spoke the truth in his heart.” He exemplified the best ideals of the profession. He was generous-spirited, and gave liberally of praise and commendation where he thought it due.  When the first train to roll through Ray City on the Georgia & Florida Railroad arrived at Valdosta, it was Judge W. H. Griffin that gave the welcome address at the celebration.

His death occurred at his home in Valdosta, April 15, 1917, and the throng of people, including many lawyers from other counties, who attended his funeral attested strongly the esteem and love there was for him in the hearts
of those who knew him.

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Post-Search Light
Apr. 19, 1917

Judge Griffin Died Sunday

Prominent Valdosta Jurist Passed Suddenly Away From Heart Trouble – Well Known Here.

    The following account appearing under a Valdosta date line in the daily press Monday will be interest to Bainbridge friends of the deceased.
     Judge Griffin was well known here, and was related to Representative E. H. Griffin, of this city.
    “Judge William H. Griffin, one of Valdosta’s prominent men and a leading south Georgia lawyer, succumbed to attack of heart failure this afternoon at 1:45 o’clock after less than an hour’s illness.  He was alone at his home when the attack came on him, members of his family being at church.  Mrs. Griffin returned home soon after he was stricken and a physician reached his side in a few minutes but was powerless to relieve his patient.
    “Judge Griffin was sixty-four years of age, an active south Georgian, and for forty years a citizen of Valdosta. He was a member of the law firm of Denmark & Griffin, and controlled a large and lucrative practice.  He was a member of the two last general assemblies of Georgia and exerted a strong but conservative influence in that body.  He had been judge of the city court of Valdosta, mayor of the city, member of the school board and active in the public life of this city and section, which loses one of its best citizens in his death.
     “Judge Griffin is survived by his wife and two children, a son, Mr. Abbot Griffin, and daughter, Miss Margaret.
   “His son was in Macon, where an announcement of his father’s death reached him.
    “Judge Griffin’s funeral and interment will take place here probably on Monday.”

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery. Image source: Robert Strickland.

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Ray City 4-H

One of the popular clubs at the Ray City School was 4-H. In the 1930s, 4-H members included Bernard Johnson (RCHS 1930), Brown King (RCHS 1930),  Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, Billy McDonald,  James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936),  Clyde Carter (RCHS 1936), Margaret Carter  (RCHS 1930), Mabel McDonald (RCHS 1930), Clyde Moore, Doris Swindle  (RCHS 1930), and Grace Swindle, and Beth Terry (RCHS 1930).

In the 1950s,  the Ray City kids in 4-H included James Williams (RCHS 1952), Eugene Johnson (RCHS 1952), Donald Mathis (RCHS 1953), Charles McKuhen (RCHS 1953).

 

James Williams, Ray City High School class of 1953

James Williams, Ray City High School class of 1953

James Walter Williams (1935-1998), son of James Walter Williams and Mary Inez Watson, was born and raised in Ray City, GA.  He attended the Ray City School, participating in varsity basketball from 1951-53, and was a member of 4-H. He graduated with the RCHS class of 1953.  Williams later served in the U.S. Army as a Specialist, 4th Class. James Walter Williams died December 14, 1998; he was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Eugene Johnson, Ray City High School class of 1953

Eugene Johnson, 4-H Member
Ray City High School class of 1953

Eugene Johnson (1935-2012) was born September 1, 1935 in Moultrie, GA to the William Ira Johnson and Marie Harrod Johnson. When Eugene was a child his father died. His widowed mother moved the family to Cat Creek, GA to the homeplace of Eugene’s grandparents, Henry F. Harrod and Edna Young.   Eugene Johnson passed away Saturday morning November 24, 2012 at his residence in Valdosta, GA; his grave is at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Donald Mathis, 1952-53 school photo, Ray City High School, Ray City, GA

Donald Mathis, 4-H Member
1952-53 school photo, Ray City High School

Charles McKuhen, 1952-53 school photo, Ray City High School

Charles McKuhen, 1952-53 school photo, Ray City High School

Ray City School 4-H Club, 1952-53

Ray City School 4-H Club, 1952-53

 

4-H Girls, Ray City School, 1950-51

4-H Girls, Ray City School, 1950-51

4-H Club, Ray City School, 1948-49

4-H Club, Ray City School, 1948-49

Patterson Hotel Built by Lon Fender in 1912

The Patterson Hotel, built by Lon Fender, opened for business on July 15, 1912 in Valdosta, GA.  Lon Fender was involved in some biggest business deals in Wiregrass Georgia and in the history of Ray City, GA.  He owned farmland near here in the 1920s and a  turpentine still at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA.

The Patterson Hotel, Valdosta, GA was built in 1912 by Lon Fender and Eugenia Devine.  At the time it was the most luxurious hotel in south Georgia.

The Patterson Hotel, Valdosta, GA was built in 1912 by Lon Fender and Eugenia Devine. At the time it was the most luxurious hotel in south Georgia.

The Patterson Hotel located at the corner of Patterson and Savannah Avenues was built on the site of another hotel, the Florence Hotel. It was torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The Patterson Hotel located at the corner of Patterson and Savannah Avenues was built on the site of another hotel, the Florence Hotel. It was torn down to make way for a parking lot.

 

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.

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, later moving to Ray City, GA. His wife, Texas Irene Hagan, was a daughter of Civil War veteran John W. Hagan and Mary Smith.

The Fenders had a knack for the hotel business. Lon Fender’s cousin, William Seaboarn Fender,  was an investor in the Valdosta Hotel Company. His brother, Wilson W. Fender, operated the Fender Hotel at Ray City.

In 1911, Lon Fender partnered with Eugenia Prescott Devine (1850-1927), widow of William H. Devine (1849-1887) to build a modern brick hotel in Valdosta, GA. The Patterson Hotel Company was incorporated in 1912, with a capital stock of $25,000.

This building, the Patterson Hotel, replaced the old Florence Hotel, where Ray City residents Benjamin L. Starling and , stayed during the 1909 Carnival Week and the flight of the Strobel Air Ship.

 

 

In 1911, The Valdosta Times reported that Lon Fender would build the Hotel Patterson.

In 1911, The Valdosta Times reported that Lon Fender would build the Hotel Patterson.

 

Valdosta Times
May 6, 1911

New Hotel Is Now Assured

Work of Tearing Down the Old Florence will Begin as Soon as Possible.

(From Tuesday’s Daily)

       Within the next few days the old Florence hotel will be torn down to make room for a magnificent new hotel which is to go up in its place.
        If you want to buy the Florence almost at your own price, provided you will agree to move it off the ground which it now occupied without any delay. Work on the new hotel cannot commence until the old building is removed and it is decided to begin the work on the new one right away.
        Mr. W. L. Fender this morning closed a trade with Mrs. Devine by which he comes into possession of the ground now occupied by the Florence Hotel, extending eighty feet on Patterson street and two hundred and eleven feet on Savannah avenue.  Mr. Fender is to be leading spirit in building the new hotel, but it is understood Mrs. Devine will be interested in the new building.
        Mr. Curran Ellis, the well known architect, has already prepared the plans for the new hotel and he was in the city this morning and submitted them to Mr. Fender and Mrs. Devine.
       The new hotel will be five stories and will be one of the handsomest structures of its size in the state.
       It will have between ninety and one hundred rooms and every room will have hot and cold water and most of the rooms will have baths attached. The building will have a handsome passenger elevator running from the lobby to the top floor.
        The hotel will have handsome columns extending out over the Patterson street sidewalk with a main entrance on Patterson street but with another entrance on Savannah avenue. There will be a store room on the corner of Patterson street and Savannah avenue to be occupied by a drug store while there will be another store room on the west side of the building to be occupied as an up-to-date cafe. Between these two store rooms will be a colonnade leading to the office and lobby. The kitchen will be on the southwest corner of the building and the dining room will be on the west side as the present one in the Florence hotel.
        The maid p—- —- be on the second floor and on the east side, leading to a large veranda overlooking Patterson street. The building is to be equipped in the very best of styles and it is to be a credit to a town of twenty-five thousand people.  Mr. Fender and Mrs. Devine have already had flattering offers from well known hotel men for a lease of the building.
       Mr. Ellis, the architect is expected to have the working plans completed within a day or two and it is understood that the contract for the work will be let just as soon as possible. Prominent contractors were here this morning figuring on the new building.
       The completion of this new hotel will be the biggest work done in Valdosta during the present year. It will transform the appearance of the city and will give passengers on all of the roads a good view of the imposing structure.

 

Atlanta Constitution, May 12, 1912

Atlanta Constitution, May 12, 1912

 

Atlanta Constitution
May 12, 1912

Little Items of Georgia Cities
Valdosta Hotels.

Valdosta, Ga., May 5. -(Special.) – William Foor, proprietor of the Aragon hotel at Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday closed a ten-year lease for the handsome new hotel built by W.L. Fender and Mrs. Devine in this city. The terms of the lease have not been made public, but a very satisfactory price was received by the owners. The new hotel will open about the 20th of June.The building will be ready for the furnishings within the next few weeks.There are few hansomer hotels in this part of the state than the new structure. The owners of the Valdes hotel have announced their intention to enlarge and refurnish the hotel as soon as the lease of Mr. Ferrell, the present manager, expires in September. The proposed improvements will make the Valdes probably the most handsome hotel in southern Georgia, and will place Valdosta in the front rank in hotel accommodations.

 

Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1912. The Hotel Patterson prepared for a grand opening on July 15, 1912.

Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1912. The Hotel Patterson prepared for a grand opening on July 15, 1912.

Atlanta Constitution
 July 12, 1912

Little Items of Georgia Cities
Hotel Patterson to Open.

Valdosta, Ga. Valdosta’s new hotel, the Hotel Patterson, will be thrown open to the public on the 15th instant. The furnishings which are of the best class, are being installed rapidly and the finishing touches to the building are being pushed. Manager William Foor of Jacksonville, who has leased the property for a number of years, will devote much of his personal time to the hotel and is determined to have it open by the 15th of the month, even if some minor details are not completely finished by then. The house is one of the neatest and most comfortably appointed hotels in the state. It’s kitchen and dining room equipment is of the most modern character and so far as quality goes is not excelled. The building is of pressed brick, four stories with basement, but the owners propose to add two more stories during the latter part of the year or early next spring. Mr. Foor has already signed a contract for the lease of the additional floors. 

 

Related items:

Huff Brothers of Ray City

Omar Alvin Huff  and Gerald Elvin Huff, of Ray City, GA were sons of Paul E. Huff and Mary Lou Lightfoot. Gerald Huff graduated from the Ray City High School with the Class of 1946.   The brothers attended Emory Junior College in Valdosta, Georgia in 1947-1948.  At Emory, they were classmates of Robert J. Starling.

Gerald E. Huff and Omar A. Huff, 1948, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA

Gerald E. Huff and Omar A. Huff, 1948, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA

 

Emory Junior College, 1940s, Valdosta, GA

Emory Junior College, 1940s, Valdosta, GA

The Huff brothers both transferred to the University of Georgia.  At UGA, Omar Alvin Huff studied law. He was a member of the Delta Theta Phi, National Law Fraternity and received his law degree with the class of 1950.  He later moved to Melrose, FL.

Gerald Elvin Huff was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from UGA in 1950. After graduation, Gerald E. Huff returned to the Ray City, GA area and in 1952 coached the New Lois boys basketball team. He later moved to Orlando, FL.

Gerald Elvin Huff  of Orlando, FL, died February 25, 1993. He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, FL.

February 26, 1993

GERALD ELVIN HUFF SR., 64, 1401 S. Ferncreek Ave., Orlando, died Thursday, Feb. 25. Mr. Huff was a senior marketing representative for an insurance company. Born in Tift County, Ga., he moved to Central Florida in 1961. He was a Baptist. Survivors: wife, Emma Belle; sons, Jerry, Steve, both of Orlando; daughters, Ann Mims, Orlando, Lynn Roney, Lake Mary; brothers, Omar ”Pete,” Melrose, Mike, Lake Park; sisters, Thelma Waller, Ashburn, Ga., Lois Blair, Deltona, Betty Sirmans, Peggy Exum, both of Hahira, Ga.; six grandchildren. Carey Hand Garden Chapel Home for Funerals, Orlando.

 

Omar Alvin Huff (JD ’50) of Melrose, FL, died August 3, 2011. He was buried at Eliam Cemetery, Melrose, FL.

Omar Alvin Huff “Pete”
 Mr. Omar Alvin Huff “Pete” , 88, of Melrose, [Florida] passed away Wednesday August 3, 2011 at his son’s home in Hawthorne following an extended illness.

Mr. Huff was born in Chula, Ga. (Tift County) on Jan. 14, 1923 to the late Paul E. and Mary Lou (Lightfoot) Huff.  He had served in the United States Navy, and retired as a Manager in the Insurance Service Offices. He was a member of the Trinity Baptist Church and was active with the Campers on Mission.  His wife Helen, daughter, Betsy Huff Fritsch, daughter-in-law, Elizabeth J. Huff, and six siblings had preceded him in death.

Survivors are his children; Teresa Huff Jones (Ralph) of Green Cove Springs, Paul A. Huff (Barbara) of Interlachen, and Thomas G. Huff (Sally) of Hawthorne. He also leaves behind his sister, Peggy Exum of Valdosta, Ga.; 11 grandchildren; and many great-grandchildren.

A viewing for Mr. Huff will be held on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 in the Jones-Gallagher Funeral Home from 6-8 p.m.  Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011 at 10 a.m. in the Trinity Baptist Church with Pastor James Peoples and Pastor Scott Stanland officiating.  Burial will follow at the Eliam Cemetery in Melrose.

 

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G & F Railroad To Open with Big Excursion

Road opens with big excursion

Georgia and Florida railroad prepared to open. Atlanta Georgian and News, Sep. 26, 1908

Georgia and Florida railroad prepared to open. Atlanta Georgian and News, Sep. 26, 1908

Atlanta Georgian and News
September 26, 1908

To Open Road With Big Excursion

Valdosta, Ga., Sept. 26. – The businessmen of Valdosta held a meeting at the city hall yesterday afternoon for the purpose of perfecting arrangements for the entertainment of the people along the line of the Georgia and Florida railroad who are coming to this city on the big excursion which the road will run next Thursday. This event will mark the opening of a passenger schedule on the new line between Hazlehurst and Madison, Fla., via Valdosta, and it is said that hundreds of persons are coming to this city from the different towns along the line. Many of them will be strangers who have never visited Valdosta, and all will be given a royal welcome.
The track-layers on the gap of the line between Valdosta and Nashville joined the rails near Rays Mill last Saturday and this week has been spent in surfacing the roadbed and getting ready for the passenger schedule to go on October 1. The road is now in operating order from Hazlehurst to Madison, Fla.

First Regular Train on the G & F, The Valdosta Times, September 26, 1908 Pg 5

First Regular Train on the G & F, The Valdosta Times, September 26, 1908 Pg 5

The Valdosta Times
September 26, 1908

Many are Coming Next Week

First Regular Train on G. & F. will Bring Large Crowds

It Will Arrive From Hazlehurst Next Wednesday with Five Hundred Excursionists to Spend the Day in Valdosta – Crowd Will be Entertained Here.

The first regular passenger train over the Georgia and Florida railroad will reach this city next Wednesday at noon from Hazelhurst, Ga.
The train will leave Hazlehurst that morning at seven o’clock and it will come through by Broxton, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville and other places, taking up a crowd of people at each station and bring them to Valdosta to spend the day.
The first train will be devoted exclusively to the white people and the officials of the road are working up the crowd to come here. It will consist of the best class of people between here and Hazlehurst, and the citizens of Valdosta have already decided to arrange some line of entertainment for the visitors.
A meeting will be held tonight to take up the matter and discuss what line of entertainment shall be arranged. It has been suggested that open-house be kept for the visitors and that lunches be prepared and served to them. One suggestion was to tag every guest with a badge, which should admit him to the place where refreshments are to be served. Another suggestion was to have the dinner prepared when the guests arrive and serve it to the visitors in a bunch, so that the citizens of Valdosta will have a better opportunity to meet them and talk with them.
The details of the entertainment will be arranged later, it having already been decided to make it all that it should be. Valdosta never lags when a test of hospitality comes and every citizen will do his part toward welcoming to the city the people on the line of road above here.
It is very probable that the meeting tonight will decide all about what kind of entertainment will be given the visitors.

Cauley Hammond Shaw was Ray City Police Chief

Cauley Hammond Shaw (1883-1961)
Ray City Police Chief, 1914

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and www.berriencountyga.com

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and http://www.berriencountyga.com

In 1914 Police Chief Cauley Shaw was the officer responsible for law and order in Ray City, Ga.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law by Bryan Shaw, relates that Cauley H. Shaw served as Deputy Sheriff in Berrien County, 1907; Nashville Police Chief, 1908; Milltown City Marshal, 1910; Douglas Police Chief, 1911; Ray City Police Chief, 1914; Willacoochee Police Chief, 1920; and was the first motorcycle police officer in Valdosta, GA.

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Cauley Hammond Shaw was born November 5, 1883, a son of Charlton Hines Shaw and Rebecca Jane Devane.  As a boy, he attended the local schools through the 7th grade. In the Census of 1900 Cauley H. Shaw, age 16, is enumerated in his parents’ household. His father owned a farm near Adel, GA where Cauley assisted with the farm labor. Cauley’s elder brother, Lester H. Shaw, worked as a teamster, while his younger siblings attended school.

As a young man, Cauley Shaw entered the profession of  law enforcement, serving as a Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County in 1907.   On January 16, 1907 he married Julia Texas Peters , in Berrien county, GA. She was the daughter of William Peters and Sarah Mathis, born May 20, 1883 in Berrien, GA.

A year later  Cauley accepted the position of Police Chief in Nashville, GA. The newlyweds were blessed with their firstborn child on February 21, 1908, a boy they named James C. Shaw. Tragically, their infant son died just six months later on September 3, 1908 and was laid to rest in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. The following year on October 24, 1909 Julia delivered a second child, Julian C. Shaw. Again, tragedy struck, the newborn surviving just a few weeks. The baby Shaw was interred at Cat Creek Cemetery.

In April of 1910, Cauley and Julia were found in Hazelhurst. GA. They were boarding in the household of Rebecca W. Barber, widow of Dr. John W. Barber. Cauley owned a barbershop where he worked on his own account. Soon, though, Cauley returned to police work, serving as City Marshal of Milltown (now Lakeland, GA) in 1910, and Police Chief of Douglas, GA in 1911.

In 1913 a third child was born to Cauley and Julia, a daughter they named Hazel Annie. By this time, Cauley Shaw had moved his young family back to Ray City, GA where he served as Chief of Police.

Bryan Shaw relates an incident report from the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

Again, January 22 , 1915:

 Officers at Ray’s Mill raided a skin game a few nights ago and brought in ten colored men and boys.

The first World War found Cauley Shaw and his family still in Ray City. On September 12, 1918 Cauley Shaw registered for the WWI draft in Ray City. Signing as Registrar on his draft card was the town pharmacist, C.O. Terry. He was 34 years old, medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and light hair. Cauley had given up  his position as Ray City Police Chief to Charlie H. Adams,  and was  employed in farming at Ray City.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

By the time of the 1920 census, Cauley Shaw had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA, where he had returned to law enforcement, working as a city policeman. When the Shaws were enumerated on January 2, 1920 they were renting a house on Vickers Street. The Shaw household consisted of Cauley, wife Julia, their seven-year-old daughter Hazel, and their niece Myrtie Smith, age eight.

The Valdosta City Directory shows, in 1923, Cauley and Julia Shaw were living in a home at 406 Floyd Street, Valdosta, GA.  Cauley was employed as a foreman. His cousin, Brodie Shaw, owned  home a few blocks away at 203 S. Lee Street, and was working as a “yardman” [lumber yard?].  By 1925, the directory shows  Cauley was back in police work for the city of Valdosta.  Brodie Shaw had moved even closer, to a home at 307 Savannah Street.

Some time before 1930, Cauley and Julia moved to Douglas, GA where Cauley had served as police chief in 1911. Cauley again took work as a city policeman. They first rented then purchased a home near the corner of Ashley Street and College Avenue.   In 1930, their daughter, Hazel, married John H. Peterson, of Douglas.

Julia and Cauley remained in Douglas, GA.  The census records show Cauley’s 1940 salary as a police officer there was about  $23 dollars a week.

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and www.berriencountyga.com

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and http://www.berriencountyga.com

Julia Peters Shaw died March 16, 1956.   Cauley Hammond Shaw died in Douglas, GA on March 28, 1961.  Both are buried in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes county, GA.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Image courtesy of  Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

 

Rays Mill Gets G & F Depot

The railroad played an important role in the development of Ray City.  It spurred the development of businesses like the Mayhaw Lake Resort and Luckie Lumber Mill (later Clements Lumber Company). It provided farmers with access to distant markets, and the people of Ray City with transportation to cities and connecting destinations.

By September 1908, the  G&F Construction Company was nearing completion of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. The section  running from Nashville, GA via Rays Mill (now Ray City, GA) to Valdosta was the last remaining track to be laid. A contract was let out to construct a “neat and commodious” train depot at Rays Mill  at a cost of $1500 dollars.  The contractor was Richard A. Whitehurst, of Valdosta, GA. In addition to the depot, the railroad built a number of section houses at Ray’s Mill. These were homes for railroad employees and their families.   A big wooden water tower was constructed just south of Main Street on the east side of the tracks to provide water for the trains.

1908 announcement of the construction of a train depot in Rays Mill, GA

1908 announcement of the construction of a train depot in Rays Mill, GA

NEW ROAD WILL START PASSENGER SCHEDULE
Georgia and Florida Will Begin to Operate Trains Between Nashville, Ga., and Madison, Fla.
Valdosta, Ga., September 5. – (Special.) It is announced that a regular passenger schedule on the Georgia and Florida railroad will be inaugurated on October 1, and that trains will then be run between this city and Hazlehurst, on the Southern railway.  The gap from here to Nashville, Ga.,  26 miles, will be completed within the next three weeks or less, giving a straight line from Hazlehurst to Madison, Fla.  It is understood that two passenger trains a day will be run each way.
      Contractor R. A. Whitehurst, of this city, today signed contracts to build two depots for the road between here and Nashville.  The first will be located at the place of John Mathis, about 8 miles north of this city, and the other at Rays mill, in Berrien county.  The depots are to be neat and commodious structures, and will cost about $1,500 each.  So far as known now these will be the only stations between Valdosta and Nashville, but there is a probability of one more being build.  The new line opens a splendid territory in this and Berrien county.

By November 9, the depot at Rays Mill was ready to open.

Train depot at Rays Mill, GA was ready to open November 9, 1908.

Train depot at Rays Mill, GA was ready to open November 9, 1908.

Valdosta Times
November 6, 1908

The new depots at Mathis and Ray’s Mill on the Georgia and Florida road are nearly completed and will soon be ready for occupancy.  The depot at Mathis was thrown open Monday and an agency established there.  The agency at Ray’s Mill will be established next Monday [Nov 9, 1908]. The company has just received and put on several new passenger cars, which helps general appearances wonderfully.  – Nashville Herald.

Mahlon Parker Bowers was later a Railroad Agent for the G&F Railroad at the Ray City,GA depot.

 

 

Electric Lights and Running Water for Ray City, GA

Ray City Water and Light

Ray City Light Plant - September 18, 1923

Ray City Light Plant – September 18, 1923.  Bruner Shaw was among those present at the start-up of the power plant.

In the 1920’s the cities and towns of south Georgia were all working to bring electricity to homes and businesses. In fact, in the first six months of 1922, Georgia ranked 4th among all states east of the Mississippi in hydroelectric power production. At that time, 87% of all electricity generated in Georgia came from hydroelectric power.  In Ray City, though, the people still relied on kerosene lamps or gas light.

In 1922, Milltown, GA (now known as Lakeland, GA,)  began work on a one-thousand horsepower hydroelectric plant. The plant was expected to supply enough electric current for Milltown, Valdosta, and for other area towns including Ray City,  GA.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution; March 12, 1922

Work Soon to Begin on Hydro-Electric Plant at Milltown

Milltown, Ga., March 12. –(Special.) — The town council has purchased water meters and light meters and as soon as they arrive they will be installed.

F.E. Hatch, of Albany, will begin work in a few weeks on the hydroelectric plant. He has been delayed by not securing right of way from some parties. The plant is to be located on Lake Irma with water piped from Burk’s Pond, a mile away. The plant will cost about $350,000.  A thousand horsepower will be generated by the plant, current enough to supply cheap power for Milltown, Valdosta, Ray City, Adel, Sparks, Nashville, Ocilla and other towns.

Ray City wasn’t waiting for power to be run from another town, though.  Funds were appropriated in sufficient amount, it was thought,  to complete the construction of a municipal waterworks and  power plant in Ray City, and a contract was let.

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution; July 21, 1922

Ray City to Install Electric Light Plant

Milltown, Ga., July 21. –(Special.)  Ray City is soon to have electric lights and waterworks.

Mayor L. F. Giddens has closed the contract with McGraw & Co., of Thomasville, to put in the plant. All material is bought and expected any day. Work has begun on wiring the homes, and this part of the work will be completed by August 1.

The contract also has been let for boring a well near the dam, and the city will be piped as soon as possible, to give the people both electric lights and waterworks. They will own their own hydro-electric plant.

Bonds have been sold to take care of the expense. 

But the construction of the electric plant at Ray City didn’t progress well. The water quality from the deep well was bad, and the dam for the hydroelectric plant needed repairs before it was even completed. By the end of October there was still no power or water service in the city.

 

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution; October 28, 1922

Ray City Will Get Water and Lights

Ray City, Ga., October 27. –(Special.) — The deep well at Ray City has struck a vein of sulphur water.

The pipes have been laid and are being connected. Citizens expect to have water in their homes in a few more days. The dam at Beaverdam Pond is being repaired and in the course of a few weeks, the wiring having already been done, Ray City will be equipped with electric lights.

 

But for electrification, things got worse instead of better.  Attempts to repair the dam failed, and when the dam finally broke the project was off schedule and hopelessly over budget. A year later the dream of cheap hydroelectric power in Ray City was running out.  In the meantime the city was running a kerosene fueled motor to drive the electric generator. It would take another bond issue to continue the project, and the people of Ray City put it to the vote. The election at Ray City to float additional bonds, $5000 for school purposes and $7000 for water and lights, was carried 64 for and 4 against.  The Annual Report of the State of Georgia for 1922 reported Ray City had a deep well at 255 feet; by 1924 the bacteriological condition of the water was still untested.

 

 

 The Atlanta Journal Constitution; November 11, 1923

$12,000 Bonds Voted For Use in Ray City

Milltown, Ga., November 10 –(Special.) — The election at Ray City to float additional bonds, $5,000 for school purposes, and $7,000 for water and lights was carried 64 for and 4 against. Several years ago Ray City floated bonds sufficient, it was thought, to build a new school building, but building expenses exhausted the funds and left the building incomplete. As soon as the new bonds are sold, the work on the building will be completed and Ray City will have one of the best modern school buildings in the state.

It was also thought that sufficient funds were appropriated to put in a waterworks and electric light plant. But these funds gave out before the work was what they wanted. There is a hydroelectric plant. The dam was broken some time ago and the light is furnished now by a powerful kerosene engine. The funds to be raised by these additional bonds is for the completion of this work.

 On January 5, 1928 the Georgia Power & Light Company purchased the Ray City Electric plant, for the sum of $3,816.

Epilogue:

On Beaverdam Creek, just east of the Pauline Street bridge, are the concrete remains of the Ray City hydroelectric dam.  Nearby, the remnants of a mechanical shed remain.  The old Ray City water tower was torn down and sold for scrap a few years ago.

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John W. Hagan Married for Third Time

John W. Hagan (1836-1918) lived in the Cat Creek community near Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He served during the Indian Wars in 1857 with Captain E.T. Kendrick’s Company of Florida Mounted Volunteers. In the Civil War, he served  with the Berrien Minute Men and wrote a number of  Confederate letters from Civil War battlefields to his first wife, Amanda Armstrong Roberts (1843-1872).  Following her death, Hagan was married in 1874 to Mary Smith, daughter of Owen Smith; she was the widow of Aaron L. Giddens and daughter-in-law of Isbin Giddens and Kiziah Knight.  Third, Hagan married Mrs. Martha Lawson Hodge, widow of Thomas B. Hodge and Lewis M. Ayers.

John W. Hagan was a prominent citizen, who served as chairman of the Lowndes County board of commissioners, representative in the Georgia legislature, leader in the Populist party, board of directors of the Alliance Warehouse Company, and was one of the incorporators of the Valdosta and Fort Valley Railroad Company along with William Roberts, James W. Roberts, W.B. Folks, Henry B. Holliday (father of Doc Holliday), Joseph Ousley, and W. G. McAdoo, and others in 1873, although it is not clear that there was ever any material construction of this line.

John W. Hagan married for a third time in 1909.

John W. Hagan married for a third time in 1909.

Valdosta Times
January 23, 1909

Hodge-Hagan Marriage

Don Quixote, or some other observant person, remarked on one occasion that “Love like Death is no respector of person, age or clime. It enters the palace of the rich as well as the poor. It goes forth to conquer in the morning, at noonday and in the decline.  It strikes in spring, summer and autumn – the buoyant youth, those of maturer age, and even those who have passed the summer of life.”
    There is some truth in this statement is proven by a matrimonial event in Valdosta yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Martha D. Hodge, the widow of the late Thomas B. Hodge.  The contracting parties were Hon. John W. Hagan and Mrs. Hodge.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. M. A. Morgan and was witnessed by quite a number of the relatives and a few intimate friends of the contracting parties.
     Much interest was attached to the marriage because of the prominence of the contracting parties as well as because of the fact that both of them had passed the meridian of life, though both are still young.  The groom is about seventy-three and the bride eleven years his junior.
     The marriage came as a surprise to many of the friends of the couple as nothing had been said about it to their friends.  It was rumored on the streets yesterday morning, but a rumor was all there was to it.  The relatives were notified a short while before it occurred and were invited to be present.
     The groom is chairman of the board of county commissioners, an ex-legislator and has been prominent in the county for many years.  The Bride was the widow of the late Tom Hodge and previous to her marriage to Mr. Hodge was the widow of the late L. M. Ayers, of Hahira.  Both parties are well fixed in this world’s goods, and the bride has property valued at from fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars.
     They have many friends who hope that their last days may be their best and that happiness will attend them on their journey down the evening of life.

The Tifton Gazette also announced the marriage, with some embellishments:

1909 John W. Hagan married Mrs. Martha A. Hodges

1909 John W. Hagan married Mrs. Martha A. Hodges

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

John W. Hagan and Mrs. T. B. Hodge were united in marriage at Valdosta last week by Rev. M. A. Morgan. No announcement had been made of the approaching nuptials, and the news came as a surprise to their friends. The groom is 74 years of age and the bride about the same. It is the third venture of the groom and the fourth of the bride. Both are prominent. The groom is chairman of the county commissioners of Lowndes county, and an ex-legislator. He was the leader of the populist party there twelve years ago. Both are well-to-do, the bride have $75,000 worth of property in Valdosta.

1909 marriage license for John W. Hagan and Mrs. Martha D. Hodges, Lowndes County, GA

1909 marriage license for John W. Hagan and Mrs. Martha D. Hodges, Lowndes County, GA

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