In 1934 Ray City was ‘Noted Section’ of Berrien County

Ray City began 1934 on an optimistic note.  A “booster” story from the Nashville Herald praised the farming, education, churches, municipal government, roads and businesses of Ray City.

The Nashville Herald, 
January 25, 1934, Pg 1

RAY CITY IS NOTED SECTION

Excellent Community of Berrien County and South Georgia – Fine Farming Section

In writing about different communities of Berrien County it is next to impossible to neglect the city of Ray City and the large farming territory surrounding it.  The Ray City section constitutes the southern portion of Berrien County, where extensive farm operations are carried on during every month of the year in all lines of endeavor.

The trading point is the city of Ray City, just ten miles south of Nashville, the county seat.  It has a population of around 500 people, all of whom are industrious and hospitable, with fine schools, churches and live wire merchants.  There is no better place in south Georgia to live than Ray City.

The farming population surrounding Ray City constitute an industrious and progressive people.  To a certain measure they are prosperous, because everything to be raised on a farm can be grown on their fertile lands, and each year their products find ready markets, returning to them cash in abundance.  The section is noted for its fine tobacco and cotton lands and is a hog and cattle raising territory of excellent possibilities.

The city of Ray City affords every convenience and comfort for the citizens of the community.  There is a fine school system, which is under the capable and efficient supervision of Prof. P. M. Shultz.  Prof. Ulmer Crosby is principal, and the other teachers are:  Mrs. P. M. Shultz, Miss Jessie Aycock, Mrs. A.B. Baskins, Miss Lillian Ford and Mrs. Eulalie Dickson.

The school has nine grades, with an enrollment of a few over the two hundred mark.  A number of fine students complete the school each year, advancing to higher institutions of learning.  The school system in Ray City is really a big asset, (illegible) a higher type of citizenry.

The school board is composed of the following gentlemen who handle their duties in a most admirable manner and of benefit to patrons and students combined.  H.A. Swindle, chairman, M.A. Studstill, sec.-treasl., C.H. Vickers, J.M. Studstill and W.M. Creech, members.

Ray City is not short either along the spiritual line, having four active churches as follows:  Baptist, Rev. Walter Branch, pastor; Methodist, Rev. F.A. Ratcliffe, pastor; Primitive Baptist, Elder C.H. Vickers, pastor; Christian, supply pastor.  The Baptist and Methodist churches conduct Sunday Schools, and young people’s organizations.

The affairs of the city of Ray City are in the hands of men who apparently have the united support of the people, as the entire body was recently re-elected to office.  J. H. Swindle is mayor, and the councilmen are:  G.V. Hardie, Y.F. Carter, H.P. Clements and W.M. Creech.

The standing committees for the year 1934 are:  Water and lights, G.V. Hardie and Y.F. Carter; Street, W.M. Creech and H.P. Clements; Sanitary, entire city council.

In questioning the mayor, Mr. J. H. Swindle, he stated that the city enjoyed a very good administration the past year, and that 1934 was begun with the city in much better financial condition than a year ago.

Ray City is soon to enjoy one of the best highway outlets of any small city in south Georgia.  It is located on Route No. 11, the short route into Florida from Atlanta.  This highway has been recently graded for paving and at some future date this work will be a reality.  Other good roads lead out in all directions as well.  It is located on the Georgia and Florida railroad, and is one of the railroad’s most important shipping points.  Mr. T.W. Thompson is the G. & F. Agent, having served in that capacity for a long number of years.

The postmistress is Mrs. J. F. Fountain, and the rural mail carriers are James Grissett and L.A. McDonald.

There are also several industries which add to the progressiveness of the town and community.

The Ray City Ice & Storage Company, of which Mr. D.T. Sharpe is manager, serves a wide territory.  At present this concern has on storage over 100,000 pounds of meat being cured for farmers.

The Y.F. Carter Naval Stores concern is the largest firm in the community, where approximately fifty men are given employment.  This firm operates over ten crops of boxes, the leases affording additional revenue for landowners.  It has been in operation for about eighteen years.

The J.H. Swindle Gins and Warehouse is another concern of benefit to the entire section.  Plants are located at Ray City and Barrett, being among the most up to date in south Georgia.  Mr. Swindle buys cotton and cotton seed, corn, peanuts, hay and other country produce.  Besides gin and warehouse activities he operates a twelve horse farm.

The Peoples Banking Company, a private institution, is owned by Mr. J. H. Swindle, with Mr. E. J. Patten as cashier.  This bank was organized several years ago by Mr. Swindle when Ray City lost its regular bank, so as to carry on the business operations locally and without interruptions.

Mrs. R.N. Warr is owner of old Ray Pond, famous for its fishing for the past hundred years.  Mrs. Warr acquired the pond about two years ago, and since has created a good income out of the sale of minnows, pond plants, frogs, and tadpoles.  The pond covers an area of approximately 4,000 acres.

Among Ray City’s most enterprising merchants are:  Swindle & Clements, B. Ridgell Jones Drug Store, Purvis Grocery Store, Weeks Grocery Store, Hardie Filling Station, South Georgia Oil Company, Bradford Barber Shop, Putnell Barber Shop, Swain Garage, Woodward Blacksmith Shop, Griner Corn Mill and others.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

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James Henry Swindle ~ Businessman and Public Servant

Hosea Peeples “Hod” Clements

Hosea P. “Hod” Clements,  son of Ann Eliza Swindle and John Miles Clements, was a life long resident of Berrien County. He was a cousin of the Clements brothers who ran the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City, GA. Hod was educated at the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute, and served in France during WWI, but always returned to Ray City.

Hod P. Clements of Ray City, GA, 1911.

Hod P. Clements of Ray City, GA, 1911.

On September 15, 1917 Hod P. Clements married Alma Florence May in a ceremony performed by A. J. Futch, Minister of God.  Alma was a daughter of Mary Florence “Molly” Simmons and Sirmon Green May. Her father was a farmer at Nashville, GA .

Hosea Peeples "Hod" Clements and Alma Florence May were married in Berrien County, GA on September 15, 1917.

Hosea Peeples “Hod” Clements and Alma Florence May were married in Berrien County, GA on September 15, 1917.

The following year Alma gave birth to their first child, James Herman Clements, born May 8, 1918.

As told in the previous post (Hod P. Clements and the Dixie Division ), Hod joined the army and shipped overseas late in the summer of 1918  where he served from September 17, 1918 to July 5, 1919.

James Herman Clements, son of Alma Florence May and Hod P. Clements, circa 1921. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com.

James Herman Clements, son of Alma Florence May and Hod P. Clements, circa 1921. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com.

For a while Hod and Alma made their home on his father’s farm, situated on

They moved to Ray City in the 1920s and lived in a house on Jones Street, Ray City, GA. Armed with a degree from the Georgia Normal College and Business Institute, Hod Clements went into business in Ray City: “From 1923 until 1945 Clements operated a general store named Swindle and Clements.”

James Herman Clements and Mildred Lorene Clements, children of Alma and Hod P. Clements, with Marie and Pete Studstill. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com.

James Herman Clements and Mildred Lorene Clements, children of Alma and Hod P. Clements, with Marie and Pete Studstill. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com.

The Clements were involved in the community. Hod Clements was a Master Mason, raised up January 8, 1935, and a member of Duncan Lodge. Alma Clements was a supporter of local education and in 1941 she was working in the lunchroom at the Ray City School.

In the 1940s the Clements home on Jones Street was valued at $1000.  Hod and Alma lived there with their children, James Herman Clements, Mildred Lorene Clements, and Helen Frances Clements. Also boarding in the Clements home was James Gaskins Grady.  Grady was a school teacher who had come to Ray City from Montevallo, AL some time after 1935.

The Clements’ neighbors on Jones Street were James M. Studstill, who was the uncle of Vera R. Yawn, and great uncle of D’ree, Allene, and Caswell S. Yawn. Another neighbor was Thomas J. Studstill, and a few doors down were Chester Nobles, Billy Creech, and J. H. P. Johnson.

Hod worked 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, employed as the manager of a meat market.  For this he earned $30 a week, $1500 a year.

In 1948, buying the old Ray City Bank and its equipment for $3,500 he opened The Bank of Ray City , a private bank and the only financial institution in the town at that time.  Obtaining a state charter in 1949, H.P. Clements began banking with a capital of $10,000. In 1956, Mr. Clements’ son-in-law, Lawson Fountain, returned to Ray City, from Jacksonville, FL and afterwards the two ran the bank together. In later years Mr. Clements was forced to retire due to ill health. Then in 1973 the bank was sold to the Citizens Bank of Nashville. Georgia, and is now the Ray City office of that bank.

Hosea P. Clements died June 8, 1978 and now rests in Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

-30-

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Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata

In 1939 the Ray City School Glee Club gave a Christmas Cantata with many students and teachers participating.

Ray City School, circa 1949. The school building was originally constructed in 1922.

Ray City School, circa 1949. The school building was originally constructed in 1922.

The Nashville Herald, December 14, 1939

Ray City School Glee Club to Give Christmas Cantata

      Ray City High School Glee Club will present a Christmas Cantata, “Memories of Bethlehem,” (Holton), on Wednesday evening, December 20, at 8 o’clock in the high school auditorium.  The glee club will be assisted by Miss Josephine Collier, pianist; contralto, Mrs. Rudolph Zeigler (Martha Ernestine Cantrell Ziegler); soprano, Mrs. Garth Webb, and Miss Hazel Tabor.

      Members of the club appearing on the program will be:

      Sopranos and altos:

      Peggy Carter, Annie Ruth Clements, Juanelle Clements, Marjorie Garner, Frencholyn Guthrie, Myrtle Hendry, Alma Luke, Evelyn Moore, Victoria Sirmans, Pauline Skinner, Juanelle Starling, Carolyn Swindle, Allen Yaun.

      Baritones and basses:

      Roy Carter, Hugh Clements, Hubert Comer, Billy Guthrie, Morris Johnson, Bruce Knight, Harold Moore, Ronald Parrish, Hubert Starling, Jack Vickers, Lamar Weaver.

      The Symphonet Band, which has been organized since October, will play for the processional.  They are: 

      Lamar Hardy, Fain Guthrie, Ferrell Herring, Barbara Swindle, Annie Martha Grisset, Lois Burkhalter, Kenneth Cameron, Billy Creech, Casswell Yaun, Bob Starling, Sadie Griner, Wylda Starling.

      Ushers for the occasion will be Helen Scarboro and Betty Garner.  Candle lighters will be Robert Martin, Rudolph Scarboro, Bill Gray, Harvey Wood.

      Wise men will be Hilda Sirmans and Doris Mobley.

1939 Class Seniors, Ray City School. Miss Tabor, Teacher. Pictured are Annie Ruth Clements, Elizabeth Weaver, Mona Faye Swindle, D'Ree Yawn, Hazel Sirmans, Doris Forehand, and J.D. Carter.

1939 Class Seniors, Ray City School. Miss Tabor, Teacher. Pictured are Annie Ruth Clements, Elizabeth Weaver, Mona Faye Swindle, D’Ree Yawn, Hazel Sirmans, Doris Forehand, and J.D. Carter.

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Bright Tobacco Brings Jobs During Depression

Berrien County, GA tobacco crop, circa 1920s-30s. Image detail courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Berrien County, GA tobacco crop, circa 1920s-30s. Image detail courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Following the Stock Market Crash of 1929,  Ray City and Berrien County residents looked to agriculture as their economic lifeline .  Then, as today, the area economy was primarily driven by agriculture.  During the Great Depression, agriculture and particularly tobacco production were even more critical in providing jobs for Berrien county.

 “Berrien county is rated as the best tobacco county in the state, and the Ray City section plays a big part in furnishing a good grade of tobacco to make this possible. ”  -1929, Nashville Herald

But before the 1900’s,  tobacco was not at all significant in the farming and agriculture of Ray City, or the region. In the early days of Ray City,  tobacco was really not considered a market crop in Georgia.   The 1876, Handbook of the state of Georgia reported:

Tobacco of very fine quality is grown in any portion of the State, where proper attention is given to it, but it is not extensively cultivated for market, though many farms produce a home supply.

In 1890 the land devoted to tobacco cultivation in Georgia still amounted to only 800 acres, which produced 263,752 pounds, or  about 330 pounds per acre.   The Milledgeville Recorder crop report for the month of June 1892 reflected the general poor condition for tobacco farmers during the drought of that year.

Crop Report Item
Milledgeville Union Recorder, Jul. 5, 1892

Berrien — Weather for experiment in tobacco unfavorable. Where a stand has been secured it is doing well.  About 200 acres planted in this section.

The state publication Georgia: Historical and Industrial reported in 1901 that tobacco was still an experimental crop in Georgia.

     Tobacco has never been a staple crop of Georgia. Yet it can be grown with great success. Many farmers have cultivated it for their own use, and some have made a good profit by its cultivation and sale. Improved facilities for harvesting, curing and marketing it will greatly increase its production. The type of tobacco depends upon climate and soil. Rich lands give one type of tobacco, while other lands, almost useless for cereal crops, yield a tobacco very valuable for color and flavor. Of course the culture and curing of the plant have great influence on the quality. The plant is first raised in seed beds and when large enough transplanted like cabbage and tomato plants. The land used for the crop must be well plowed and harrowed. Before setting out the plants, the land must be marked three feet or more apart each way, and hills or ridges must be made at the intersection of the marks, and in these intersections the plants are set out as soon as warm weather is assured.
     A German farmer in Dodge county who tried tobacco-raising reported that he raised on one-twentieth of an acre 160 pounds of Sumatra leaf tobacco. He was offered $80.00 for the crop, which would be at the rate of $1,600 to the acre. In Decatur county, about eight miles from Bainbridge, is a tobacco farm of 600 acres, which yields the famous Sumatra tobacco of the finest grade.

Tobacco emerged as an economically significant Georgia crop in the early 1900s.  This was partly due to  the arrival of  the boll weevil in 1915 and the subsequent decimation of cotton cultivation.   With the decline in the profitability of cotton,  Georgia farmers  turned to tobacco as a cash crop.

The Aug 19, 1924 edition of the Atlanta Constitution noted the success of Ray City tobacco grower W. M. Creech:

 Valdosta Sells 135, 000 Pounds.

Valdosta Ga., August 18. – A total of 135,000 pounds of tobacco was sold on the local market today bringing an average price  of slightly over 23 cents. W.M. Creech, a grower living near Ray City, sold several lots of quality tobacco aggregating about 10,000 pounds. Prices ranged from 30 cents to 40 cents per pound, averaging about 33 cents and netting him a little less than $3,000.

By 1929 Georgia was producing almost 87 million pounds of Bright tobacco a year.  To a large extent, life in Berrien county was centered around tobacco farming and agriculture in general.  The opening of the tobacco market, the ginning of the cotton crop, truck farming, lumber milling, and production of naval stores were important annual events that bought employment to local men and out-of-town cash to the local economy.

OPTIMISM REIGNS AS TOBACCO MARKETING SEASON NEARS
 Atlanta Constitution, Jul 16, 1933

GOLDEN LEAF CROP BRINGS NEW LIFE TO SOUTH GEORGIA

NASHVILLE, Ga., July 15. -(AP) With the opening of the Nashville tobacco market set for Tuesday, August 1, local business and general activities have taken on new life. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be paid to growers, who likewise will part with it to local businesses.
    Nashville again will operate three large warehouses with two sets of buyers sent here from the most important companies. Besides regular buyers, a large group of independents are expected on the market, as indications point to an improvement in this year’s weed prices.
    All Nashville warehousemen have arrived on the scene to canvas the territory and assist growers in preparing their crop for market.
    The weed crop in Berrien county is extremely fine this year, warehousemen terming it the best in the past several years. Growers are about half through curing the crop, which is expected to be completed shortly following the market opening.  Berrien county’s crop is almost three times as large as last season and by far better in quality than in 1932.
    Nashville, one of the larger markets of the state and centrally located, expects to market around 8,000,000 pounds of the golden weed.
    It is estimated that the south Georgia tobacco crop will place on the floors between  55,000,000 and 60,000,000 pounds.
The opening of the season will mean that many men who have been out of employment will secure jobs.  These workers are usually paid from $1.50 to $2.50 a day.  Hundreds will be used on the floors for handling the weed and others in offices.
   Following the tobacco season the cotton crop will be a source of  further  revenue. Gins here and at Ray City and Alapaha are now preparing for the season and expect long and profitable runs.
  A 25,000-feet per day capacity sawmill is being constructed at Weber, on the Georgia & Florida railroad five miles from Nashville.  Approximately 60 men will be used on the job and paid good wages. It will require five years to saw the tract.
    The T.J. Lowe’s Son & Co. planing mill is now operating on full time with about 25 men employed.  This firm has been running on part time for the past six months, but improvement in local building and trade warranted a longer schedule of operation.
    The watermelon crop this season brought growers some needed money , as well as the bean and cantaloupe crops in the Enigma and Alapaha sections of the county.
    Naval stores operators in this county have taken on new life, due to improvement in the turpentine spirits and rosin prices.

 

Tobacco Warehouse in Nashville, GA circa 1967, believed to be Planter's Warehouse. The building was torn down in 2010.

Tobacco Warehouse in Nashville, GA circa 1967, believed to be Planter’s Warehouse. The building was torn down in 2010. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

A Brief History of the Ray City Methodist Church

A brief history of the Methodist Church in  Ray City, GA is excerpted from a  document composed about 1988. (See also Fifty Years of Methodist Ministers ~ Ray City, GA).

Ray City Methodist Church

The Church was organized by brother F.D. Ratcliff on October 29, 1910.  The Rev. W.E. Hightower of Remerton, Georgia served as the first pastor. Originally the services were held in a tent on the north side of town near the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Will Clements.  Among the first members were Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, Will Terry, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Turner, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley.

Shortly after the Church was organized, Rev. Ratcliff held a revival in the Masonic Hall. Five Church members were present and twenty-one new members joined.  This made the total membership twenty-nine persons.  During the time Brother Hightower served as pastor, he was originally on the Remerton Charge. He was later transferred to the Milltown Charge.  At this time Brother Langston was the presiding elder and lived at Sparks, Georgia.

The church services were held in the Masonic Hall until it burned. Since the faithful Methodists helped the members of the Christian Church to erect their building, the Methodist were invited to hold their services in the new Christian Church building each second Sunday.

Land for a Church was donated in 1912 by R.D. Swindle, father of Henry A. and R.P. Swindle. In 1917, a tent meeting was held on the site of the present Church and plans were formulated to construct a new Church. Brother Barr was pastor and leader of the movement. A committee consisting Lucious Clements, W.M. Creech, Will Terry, J.M. Tyler and Mr. Patterson drew up the plans for and constructed a wooden building which was used until replaced by the existing block building in 1954.  The new block building consisted of an auditorium, three Sunday school rooms and a kitchen.  William Guthrie, a cabinet maker from Nashville, Georgia, made the pews for the new sanctuary.  The social hall was added in 1964 and bears the name “Swindle Hall” in honor of Mr. Henry A. Swindle who was a long-standing, faithful member of the Church.

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