Berrien County Paid Terrible Toll on the Otranto

When the troopship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918 near the end of World War I,  Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead were dozens of soldiers from Berrien.  For weeks news of the disaster trickled into American newspapers. Facts were sketchy at best –  In some cases, soldiers who perished in the sinking were incorrectly reported as survivors. The article below incorrectly reported the Irish coast as the site of the sinking. In actuality, the ship went down of the coast of the Isle of Islay, Scotland.  It would nearly two months before the names of the lost were known to the folks at home…

Atlanta Constitution
November 28, 1918

Berrien County Paid Big Toll On The Otranto

Nashville, Ga., November 27.- (Special.) – Berrien county paid a terrible toll in the loss of her young men when the ill-fated Otranto went down off the Irish coast a few weeks ago [October 6, 1918];  in today’s list seven new names of dead from here were added the to already heavy toll.  The names of the dead in today’s list include:

Joe Wheeler, son of John Wheeler, of this city; Lester Handcock, son of Joe Handcock, of Enigma;
William P. Hays, father unknown [George Robert Hayes, died 1914], of Enigma; James M. McMillen, son of Jake McMillen, of Alapaha; Ben F. McCranie, son of Neil McCranie, of Adel. Mr. McCranie had heretofore lost his son-in-law, Gordon Flowers, killed in action some weeks ago. Shelby [Shellie] L. Webb, son of Thomas Webb, of Ray City; Arthur Harper, son of Peter Harper, of Alapaha.
     Those Berrien county boys reported lost prior to this report include Jim Boyett, son of Jack Boyett, of Milltown; Guy Coppage, son of Guy G. Coppage, of Cecil; Lafayette Gaskins, son of Bart Gaskins, of Ray City; Bennie E. Griner, son of Ben Griner, of this city; Robert J. Hancock, son of J. J. Hancock, of Lenox, George H. Hutto, son of Luke Hutto, of Adel; Mack Easters, son of Benjamin Easters, of Lenox; George B. Faircloth, son of Colon Easters, of Milltown; Thomas H. Holland, son of K. H. Holland, of Adel; Ralph Knight, son of Walt Knight, of Ray City; William McMillen, son of B. [Burrell] McMillen of Enigma; John F. Moor, son of Frank Moor, of Adel; Charley Railey, son of John Railey, of Alapaha; William C. Zeigler, son of J. W. [Jesse] Zeigler, of Sparks; Thomas J. Sirmans, son of Mose Sirmans, of this city; Richard [Rufus] Davis, father unknown [Elisha E. Davis].
     The dead from this accident bring Berrien county’s total to about 45 fatalities from all causes during the war. Based upon population, this county has undoubtedly suffered greater loss in men dead than any other county in this state, because of so many of her boys on board the Otranto.  The people here will take steps to preserve the memory of these boys by appropriate construction on the public square, it is said.

Atlanta Constitution, November 28, 1918 - Berrien County Paid Big Toll on the Otranto

Atlanta Constitution, November 28, 1918 – Berrien County Paid Big Toll on the Otranto

 

Otranto Stories in Ray City History

Billy McDonald at the University of Arizona

Billie McDonald, University of Arizona, 1952

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA at the University of Arizona, 1952

Billie McDonald, a son of Lacy Albert McDonald and Carrie Eugenia Langford, was born  November 10, 1920 at Ray City, GA.  He was a grandson of William C. McDonald and Jane Lastinger McDonald.

Billie and his sisters attended the Ray City School.  Mabel McDonald graduated from the Ray City  School (then a junior high school) with the class of 1930 and went on to graduate from Valdosta High School in 1932.   Eugenia McDonald graduated  from Ray City High School with the class of 1936, and Billie McDonald graduated with the RCHS class of 1938.  One of Billie’s classmates at Ray City was  J.I. Clements who went on to a long coaching career at Georgia Southern University.

Billie McDonald’s father, Lacy A. McDonald, (1881-1960) was born at Cat Creek, Lowndes County, GA and worked in the Cat Creek District as a rural mail carrier. Lacy McDonald was probably educated at Kings Chapel School near Ray City, as was his sister, Lillie McDonald, who attended the school in 1906.

Billie’s mother, Carrie Eugenia Langford (1894-1984), was born at Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) on August 31, 1894, a daughter of William E. Langford and Mary Virginia Knight, granddaughter of William Washington Knight, and great granddaughter of Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City, GA.  Her parents owned a place between the farms of her uncle Walter Howard Knight and cousin Paul Knight.

Lacy McDonald and Carrie E. Langford were married on January 3, 1915 in Berrien County, GA. The ceremony was performed by Perry Thomas Knight, Minister of God. Afterward,  they made their home at Ray City, on the farm of Carrie’s parents.  Lacy continued to work as a rural mail carrier.  His 1918 draft registration gives his physical description as short and slender with brown eyes and dark hair.

In the summer of 1931,  ten-year-old Billie McDonald, his sister Mabel and their mother all went to Camp Wilkins, the first 4-H camp in Georgia.  Camp Wilkins was a program at the Georgia State College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts at Athens, GA, now known as the University of Georgia.  Billie and Mabel were there for the summer-long boys’ and girls camps. Their mother, Carrie McDonald, was there for a week long session for Farm Women.  Also attending from Ray City  that summer at Camp Wilkins were Leland Langford  (RCHS, 1939),  J. D. Luke, James Swindle  (RCHS, 1936), and girls Clyde Carter (RCHS 1936), Margaret Carter, Clyde Moore, Doris Swindle, and Grace Swindle.  Chloe Johnson was there also, attending the summer school for farm women.    The 4-H activities in Berrien County were coordinated by County Agricultural Agent Donald L. Branyon.

Billie Graduated with the RCHS class of 1938.  In 1950, he was enrolled at the University of Arizona.  While pursuing his degree there he was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA, attended the University of Arizona in 1950. Billie was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

Billie McDonald, of Ray City, GA, attended the University of Arizona in 1950. Billie was a member of the Ramblers hiking club.

 The only prerequisite for membership in Ramblers,  Arizona’s hiking club, is an incurable wanderlust. Ramblers departed regularly each Sunday for many points of interest in the Southwest, including Miller Peak, Mt. Lemmon, and Baboquivari Peak. The Rambler pin identifies those who have tramped on a required number of hikes.

Billie McDonald married Lucile “Lucy” Ponsell (Lucy) McDonald (1921-2008). She was born near Waycross GA  and lived in Jacksonville, FL during her early life. She also lived in Arizona, Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi before settling in Ray City, GA. She was a volunteer at  the Ray City library. She was a member of the First Baptist Church in Ray City where she also worked in the church library.

Related posts:

 

An old tintype of Walter Howard Knight

Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934)

Tintype photograph of Walter Howard Knight, Rays Mill, Berrien County, GA. Image Courtesy of Jimmie Mobley.

Tintype photograph of Walter Howard Knight, Rays Mill, Berrien County, GA.  Image Courtesy of Jimmie Mobley.

Walter Howard Knight, a son of  William Washington Knight (1829 – 1863) and  Mary Elizabeth Carroll (1839 – 1906) was born November 28, 1859 in Berrien County, GA.  The tintype photograph above depicts him  in his senior years, perhaps in the 1920s.

Tintype photographs  such as this were made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion.  Since the image is produced directly on the medium, tintype photographs normally appear as a mirror image, reversed left to right.  Each tintype is usually a camera original – one of a kind.   Compared to other early photographs, tintypes were very inexpensive and relatively easy to make. A photographer could prepare, expose, develop and varnish a tintype plate and have it ready for the customer in a few minutes.  Tintypes became very popular during the Civil War, and enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s. Although prints on paper soon displaced them as the most common type of photograph, the tintype process continued to enjoy considerable use throughout the 19th century and beyond, especially for casual portraiture by novelty and street photographers.

Historical records of Walter Howard Knight first appear in the Census of 1860 when he was enumerated in his father’s household in Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Walter Howard Knight in the household of his parents, Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 Census  https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n403/mode/1up

Walter Howard Knight had little chance to know his father who went off to fight in 1861 as a Sergeant in the company of Berrien Minute Men.  The Civil War letters of William Washington Knight spoke tenderly of his children as he wrote from the camps and  battlefields,  but he was not to see them grow to adulthood.  Illness was rampant among the Confederate regiments, and Knight was furloughed home sick in 1863.  He died of chronic diarrhea at Milltown, GA December 27, 1863, one month after Walter Howard Knight’s fourth birthday.

After the War, Walter’s mother married William Joseph Lamb who was also a veteran of the Berrien Minutemen (see  William J. Lamb ~ Confederate Veteran).   The census of 1870 shows  Walter Howard Knight was living with his mother, step-father and sisters (Mary Virginia and Lillian Melissa) in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, later known as the Ray’s Mill District. (A third sister, Margaret Ann, had died during the Civil War).

1870 census enumeration of the household of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Lamb, Berrien County, GA.

1870 census enumeration of the household of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Lamb, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n439/mode/1up

At age 19, Walter Howard Knight married Jimmie Gullett in Dougherty County, GA.  She was the 14 year old daughter of George M. Gullett and Julia Lindsey. Her father was an insurance agent in Daugherty County.

Marriage Certificate of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight

Marriage Certificate of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight

According to the Census of 1880, Walter and Jimmie Gullett Knight made their home in the Rays Mill District, near the farm of his step-father, William J. Lamb. Walter, like his neighbors, was engaged in farming.  Property tax records from 1884 show Walter H. Knight did not own the land he farmed, but did own $60 in livestock, $5 in tools and books, and $25 in household furnishings.

1880 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

1880 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

By 1890 Walter had acquired 490 acres consisting of lot 426 in the 10th Land District.  The land was valued at $1 per acre. At the time taxes were assessed he had the farm, $75 in household furnishings, and no other taxable property.  Among the property owners on adjacent land lots were James M Sloan,  Elizabeth E. Knight ( portions of Lot 450), Joseph E. Langford (portions of Lot 450),  and Barney B. Chism on Lot 427.

Partial map of the 10th Land District, showing location of Lot 426.

Partial map of the 10th Land District, showing location of Lot 426.

By 1900 Walter H. Knight was farming land on the Valdosta Road near Rays Mill, GA. The Census of 1900 shows Walter H. Knight owned a farm free and clear of debt, which he occupied with his wife Jimmie, and eight children.  His brother-in-law William E. Langford, husband of Mary Virginia Knight, was farming nearby. Among his other neighbors were Greene Bullard,  and Henry Bullard.

1900-walter-h-knight-enumerationhttps://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu179unit#page/n776/mode/1up

 In October of 1900, Walter’s daughter Dollie  married “the boy next door,” Louis Malone Bullard , a son of Mary Ann and Green Bullard, and moved with her husband to Valdosta, GA.    In 1901 his daughter Julia married David Jackson Rigell, merchant of Ray’s Mill, GA.  (She later married W. D. Sloan, son of her parent’s neighbor, James M. Sloan).

Walter H. Knight and Jimmie Gullett Knight continued farming land near Ray City into the following decades.   In the spring of 1910, their daughter Ruby Texas Knight  was married to James Randall Johnson and the couple made their home next door to her father’s place on the Valdosta Road, Ray City, Georgia. Walter’s eldest son, Paul Knight, was farming nearby. The Langfords farmed neighboring land, but both Mary Ann and Green Bullard had passed away.

1910 census enumeration of the household of Walter Howard Knight and Jimmy Gullette, Berrien County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of the household of Walter Howard Knight and Jimmy Gullette, Berrien County, GA.

https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n635/mode/1up

It was a terrible blow to Walter and Jimmie Knight when their son Ralph was lost in the sinking of the HMS Otranto in the closing days of World War I. They carried on working their farm through the 1920s. Their daughter Laurie remained at the old home place, but the rest of their children had moved on to their own lives. In 1919, their daughter-in-law Marie “Toni” Poblete Knight, wife of Owen “Adrian” Knight, came to live with them on the farm with her two children Owen, Jr and Ralph. Toni had married Adrian while he was serving in the Army at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, TX.  But at the end of WWI, Adrian had abandoned his young family and disappeared (see Ray City Love Story Told by Betty M. Williams.)

1920 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

1920 enumeration of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, 1144 GMD Rays Mill District.

http://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n319/mode/1up

Walter and Jimmie kept their daughter-in-law, Toni Poblete Knight and grandchildren with them on the farm for four years, until Toni lost any hope that  Adrian would return to his family.  Toni returned west and obtained a divorce.

Laurie Inez Knight,  the youngest Knight daughter married Horace Webb in 1928.  They made a home on Charlton Street in Valdosta, GA

Adrian Knight eventually did return to Ray City and his parent’s farm. He married his brother’s widow, Effie Guthrie Knight. In the census of 1930, the enumeration of Walter H. Knight’s place shows Owen A “Adrian” Knight and Mary E. “Effie” Knight had a home on the Knight farm.

 

Children of Jimmie Gardener Gullett and Walter Howard Knight:

  1. Julia Elizabeth Knight,  born August 9, 1880; died September 10, 1955
  2. Dollie Howard Knight,  born April 12, 1882;  died March 26, 1956
  3. Paul Knight,  born July 22, 1884; died 1949
  4. Walter Raleigh Knight,  born  November 14, 1886,
  5. Ralph Knight,  born 19 Apr 1889; died in the Otranto disaster  October 6, 1918
  6. Ruby Texas Knight,  born  October 11, 1891;  died June 17 1977
  7. Laurie Inez Knight,  born  April 9 1894; died April 1, 1974
  8. Owen Adrian Knight,  born  October 7, 1896; died  September 25, 1972

Walter Howard Knight  died June 13, 1934.


The Nashville Herald, 
June 21, 1934

MR. KNIGHT DIED AT RAY CITY HOME

	Many friends here of Mr. Raleigh Knight sympathize with him deeply in the death of his father, Mr. Walter Howard Knight, which occurred at his home 
in Ray City last Wednesday.  Mr. Knight was seventy-four years of age and was a well-known and highly respected citizen of his community.  He was a native of 
that section and had lived there all his life.
	He is survived by his wife, four daughters and three sons.  His wife was before her marriage Miss Jimmie Guelette of Albany.  The daughters are Mrs. 
W.D. Sloan of Stockton; Mrs. L.M. Bullard and Mrs. Horace Webb of Valdosta; and Mrs. J.R. Johnson of Ray City.  The sons are Paul Knight and Owen Knight of Ray 
City and Raleigh Knight of Adel.
	There are also 12 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren among the survivors.
	The funeral services were held at the Baptist church at Ray City Thursday afternoon. – Adel News.
Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Jimmie Gullett Knight died three years later, August 3, 1937.  Husband and wife are buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Graves of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Graves of Jimmie Gullett and Walter Howard Knight, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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Family of Lester Griffin

Lester Griffin, born July 30, 1890, was a son of Lillian Melissa Knight and Noah Webster Griffin, grandson of  Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, and great grandson of Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA. He was a brother of Bessie Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester’s parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District) but moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before his birth in 1890.   There, Lester Griffin grew to manhood and took up farming on his own account on rented land.

Sometime before 1917, Lester Griffin moved to Irwin County, where he took a wage job farming for James O. Sutton, who owned a farm on the Ocilla-Lax Road. Sutton’s mother was a Griffin.

On August 12, 1917 in Irwin County, GA, Lester Griffin married Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin.   She was a daughter of Rachel McMillan and Bartow B. Griffin, keeping it all in the family. The blushing bride was 18 years old; the 26-year old groom was of medium height, slender, with dark hair and blue eyes.

According to Griffin family members, “Lester Griffin and Margaret Elizabeth (Lizzie) Griffin were distant cousins.  Lester’s Great-Grandfather Thomas Griffin and Lizzie’s Great-Grandfather Joshua Griffin were sons of James Griffin, Revolutionary Soldier, and Sarah Lodge Griffin, early settlers of that part of Irwin County.”

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin had five children:

  1. Bonita Griffin
  2. Noah Webster Griffin
  3. Audrey Griffin
  4. Ommie  Griffin
  5. Cecil Lester Griffin

Descendant Alan K. Griffin shares the following:

From what we were told, mostly by Daddy’s oldest sister, Bonita, Lester Griffin took a job in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a carpenter/builder when she was a child.  This corresponds to the South Florida real estate boom of that time (see Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz).  She vividly recalled travelling by wagon and walking on their move to that area and coming home.”

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster "Webb" Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster “Webb” Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

“There was a violent hurricane that hit the Miami area on September 18, 1926, with winds estimated between 131 and 155 MPH  (see Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane).  Because there was little warning or understanding of hurricanes at that time, more than 370 lives were lost and 35,000 were made homeless in Southern Florida.   Some thought the storm was over when the eye passed over and were outside when the second part of the storm hit (the eye reached the coast at Coral Gables about 6AM and lasted 35 minutes).  The highest winds and storm surge (up to 10 feet) was in the second part of the hurricane.  Fort Lauderdale, just to the North also had severe storm surge from the Hurricane.  Prior to the hurricane, Grandmamma Lizzie and the children had travelled home, apparently for a visit.  Both of Lizzie’s parents had birthdays in August, Bartow Beauregard Griffin (August 18, 1861 – August 12, 1929) and Rachel McMillan Griffin (August 12, 1860 – October 29, 1938) so perhaps the visit home was to celebrate their 65th and 66th birthdays, respectively.  In any event, they were fortunate not to have been in Ft. Lauderdale.  As Bonita related, Lester remained  and rode out the storm in their house, which overturned in the storm (similar to photo below), nearly taking his life.  Whether they would have all survived is doubtful, had they remained with him. 

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

“They never returned to live in South Florida, instead buying a house on 5th Street in Ocilla, GA near the home of Lizzie’s brother, John Griffin.  Lester  became a night watchman, or deputy policeman in Ocilla sometime after returning.  He became sick with flu and pneumonia sometime in late 1928 and was under the care of Dr. G. L. McElroy and Dr. G. W. Willis from December 17 till he died on News Years Eve, December 31, 1928.    The information on the death certificate was provided by Lizzie’s brother, John. 

 

Lester Griffin (left) and friend.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin (left) with ‘a friend’ (as noted on the back of photo).  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 “Lester Griffin died December 31, 1928 at the age of 38.  He died of pneumonia leaving his widow and children at a tough time with the depression and all they faced.

“Bonita was 10 years old at his death, Webb 9, Audrey 7, Ommie 5, and Cecil was 1 year and 8 months old. So, here was Lizzie at 30 years old, with five young children to raise on her own, and a house with a mortgage.  By the Grace of God, the Woodmen of the World covered Lester’s mortgage, so the home became Lizzie’s outright.  She had many of her family nearby, but being a proud lady, went to work as a seamstress to support them, and worked her whole life.  (She still worked at A. S. Harris Department Store in Ocilla when my brothers and I would spend weeks there during summers in the 1960’s.) Bonita helped with the younger children and home chores, and Webb worked to support the family as well.

“Odd thing is, Lester’s Father, Noah Webster Griffin,  similarly died in 1897 at the age of 41 , leaving his widow, Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin, to raise 8 children (one, William Howard Griffin, that she was about 6  months pregnant with at Noah’s death).   Noah Webster Griffin actually died from Typhoid fever, possible due to contaminated well water at the farm they had moved to about a year earlier.

“I recently found the only photo I know of Lillian at about age 80, still looking very strong with daughter-in-law, Lizzie Griffin (Lester’s widow), Lizzie’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher with baby daughter, Faye, Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of WH and Carrie Griffin),  Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of Lillian’s son, William Howard Griffin), Charles Harold Griffin (son of WH and Carrie Griffin), and Ommie Griffin (daughter of Lizzie) .

“Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin (1862-1947) as you may know, was the sister of Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934) and Mary Virginia Knight Langford (1856-1916).  Another sister, Margaret Ann Knight, b. 1858 died in 1863 at the tender age of 5 years.  This is documented in one of the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Carroll Knight.”

Family of Lester Griffin

Family of Lester Griffin
Left to Right: Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin at about age 80, still looking very strong; Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin (Lester Griffin’s widow); Lester’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher  (in rear) with baby daughter, Faye Fletcher; Lester’s daughter Ommie Griffin (front, center); Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of Lester’s brother, William Howard Griffin); Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of WH Griffin); Charles Harold Griffin, son of WH and Carrie Griffin (front, right). Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester and Lizzie Griffin are buried at Brushy Creek Cemetery, Ocilla, GA with many others of the Griffin family connection.

 

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J. M. Sloan Dies after Throw From Horse

James Murray Sloan came to the Ray's Mill, GA neighborhood in 1871. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

James Murray Sloan came to the Ray’s Mill, GA neighborhood in 1871. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

James Murray Sloan, a son of David and Diadema Sloan, was born Jan. 18, 1833 in Duplin County, N.C.,  J. M. Sloan and his wife, Martha Susan Gordon,  removed from North Carolina to Mississippi for a brief stay, then to Echols Co., Ga.; thence to Berrien County, GA in 1871 where J.M. Sloan engaged in farming.  A number of Duplin County, NC families had relocated in the 1850s to that portion of Lowndes County which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. Among these Duplin transplants were William J. Lamb, James Carroll, Jesse Carroll, William Godfrey, Andrew J. Liles, William Best, James W. Dixon, and Robert Rouse. James Dobson brought his family and slaves, Peter McGowan and Richard McGowan believed to be among them. William Hill Boyett, John Bostick, Treasy Boyett Bostick and Mary C. Bostick came from Duplin to Berrien in the mid-century, and A few years later, Jessie Bostick also removed from Duplin County to the area.  Many of these settled in the area between present day  Ray City and Lakeland, GA (then called Allapaha).

County property tax records for 1873  show J. M. Sloan paid a poll tax in Berrien County that year but  listed no taxable property in his name.  The 1874 tax records show an assessment on  household and kitchen furniture valued at $10, $25 in plantation and mechanical tools, and $166 in ‘other property,’ but no real estate.  By 1875 J. M. Sloan had acquired 245 acres in lot 450, 1144 GMD, in the 10th district, about a mile outside of present day Ray City, GA,  valued at $400 and had $145 in ‘other property.’  Portions of adjoining Land Lots 422, 423, 451, and 452 in the 10th land district  were owned jointly by William Roberts and T.M. Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, GA. (see Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863)

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lot # 450.

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lot # 450.

The 1876 tax records show  James M. Sloan listed as “agent for wife,”   with 242  acres in lot 450, 10th district valued at $250.  At that time he had  $50 household and kitchen furniture;  $115 in horses, mules, hogs, sheep, cattle, etc.; and  $9 in plantation & mechanical tools.

He was faring about the same in 1877, still on the same acreage in lot 450, now with  $60 household and kitchen furniture, pianos, organs, etc;  $142 in horses, mules, hogs, sheep, cattle, etc.; and  $41 in plantation & mechanical tools.  His total estate was valued at $493.

Neighbors were William E. Langford with 60 acres and  John B. Gaskins with 100 acres on the same land lot 450;  Jethro Patten on Lot 449; John G & Mary Knight on portions of Lot 450 and 451. Barney B. Chism on Lot 426; William A. Bridges on portions of Lot 470 and 471; and 471 Robert Woodard on lot 471. Neighbor Jonathan D. Knight , who was on portions of Lots 424, 425, 450 and 451, was a signer of the 1877 Georgia Constitution. Another neighbor was John Thomas Clower, Doctor of Ray’s Mill, on a small farm in lot 424.

The 1880 tax records show James M. Sloan was the liquor dealer at Rays Mill.

In 1890 the Berrien County tax digest shows the Sloans were still on their 242 acre farm on Lot 450 in the 10th Land District, now valued at $500.

Neighbors in 1890 still included John B. Gaskins on Lot 450 and John G. Knight on portions of Lots 424, 450 and 451; Redding D. Swindle on portions of Lot 423 and 424;  Mary A. Ray  and Texas E Ray on portions of Lot 423 and 424; James A. Knight on portions of Lot 471; Elizabeth E. Knight on portions of Lots 424, 450, and 451; Walter H. Knight on Lot 426; Louis L. Knight on portions of Lot 451;  Joseph E. Langford on a portion of Lot 450; portions of Lots 424 and 449 belonged to John T. Higgs; Barney B. Chism on Lots 426 and 427; James M. Baskin on Lots 470 and 471.

In 1894, The Tifton Gazette reported the demise of  James M. Sloan, his death occurring on November 20, 1894.

The Tifton Gazette
Nov. 30, 1894 — page 1

Mr. J. M. Sloan, a thrifty farmer of Rays Mill neighborhood, died on Tuesday of last week.  He fell from his horse some time ago, from which he sustained injuries that produced death.  He was a native North Carolinian, but a resident of Georgia for quite a quarter of a century.

James Murray Sloan died after being thrown from a horse.

James Murray Sloan died after being thrown from a horse.

His widow, Martha Gordon Sloan, continued to reside  in the Rays Mill District.  The census of 1900 shows  she owned the family farm, free and clear of mortgage, which she worked on her own account, with the assistance of farm laborer Charlie Weaver.

Martha Gordon Sloan, wife of James Murray Sloan. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Martha Gordon Sloan, wife of James Murray Sloan. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Children of Martha Susan Gordon and James Murray Sloan:

  1. John Fisher Sloan 1858 – 1930
  2. Emma Jane Sloan 1859 – 1871
  3. Mary Ann Sloan 1861 – 1863
  4. Sarah Virginia Sloan 1864 – 1944
  5. Martha Ida Letitia Sloan 1867 – 1930
  6. Susan Evelyn Sloan 1870 – 1940
  7. Catherine Diademma Sloan 1872 – 1901
  8. Celia Frances Sloan 1874 – 1895
  9. Fannie Sloan 1874 –
  10. Minnie Gordon Sloan 1876 – 1904
  11. William David Sloan 1879 – 1935
Graves of James Murray Sloan and Martha Susan Gordon, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Graves of James Murray Sloan and Martha Susan Gordon, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Related posts:

Ray City Class of 1930 Didn’t Walk

It is that time of year when communities and schools everywhere celebrate the graduation of their students with the presentation diplomas in graduation exercises.   Sadly, financial exigencies 0f 1930 precluded graduation exercises for the Ray City School Class of 1930.

At that time, the operation of the Ray City school was governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees which also operated under the Berrien County School Board. The local school trustees were elected on the calendar year,  not the school year, and served a two year term.  Thus, the Ray City school trustees elected in January of 1929, Joseph Henry Pascal “Joe” Johnson, Rozzie P. Swindle and Moses Albert Studstill, along with three returning members, Dr. George Hill Folsom, Elias Moore “Hun” Knight, and William Henry Edward Terry, were responsible for the spring semester of the 1928-1929 academic year and the  fall semester of the 1929-1930 academic year.

The Nashville Herald
Jan 24, 1929

Ray City School Trustees named for the year 1929.

The Ray City School Trustee election  was held last Saturday, Jan. 12., and the following citizens will guide the destinies of the school for the year 1929: Mr. W. H. E. TerryDr. G. H. Folsom, Mr. E. M. Knight, Mr. M. A. Studstill, Mr. R. P. Swindle, and Mr. J. H. P. Johnson.

    Both Mr. Studstill and Mr. Swindle offered for re-election, with Mr. J. H. P. Johnson the only new candidate in the race, Messrs. Terry, Knight, and Folsom were held from the last term. Mr. Studstill lead the list with 40 votes, Mr. Johnson 38 and Mr. Knight 6.

    The Ray City school is reported as having had a very fine fall term of school and with the fine corps of teachers and their board of education, on of the best years in the history of Ray City Schools we be completed in June.

The 1928-29 academic year had been quite full of accomplishments for the Ray City School, despite a flu outbreak in January.  But the 1929-30 academic year was a financial challenge, and the school struggled to remain open for the entire nine month school year. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term.

The Nashville Herald
May 22, 1930, front page

Ray City School Closes May 25th

COMMENCEMENT BEGINS TONIGHT AND ENDS SATURDAY EVENING WITH THE USUAL CLASS PLAY

      The Ray City School will come to a close Saturday night when the Senior Class play, entitled “A Hen-Pecked Hero,” will be given.  The commencement will begin tonight with the grammar school program, activities being postponed from Friday night on account of the Nashville Senior Class play.  Due to the school being run on a tuition basis, the commencement sermon and the graduation exercises will not be held.

      The Senior Class has been practicing daily for the past several weeks in preparing for the class play to be held Saturday night.  It is said to be very good and should draw a large attendance on that night.

Cast of Characters

Helen Hallmark, a college senior, Mable McDonald.
Doris Dartless, another senior, Doris Swindle.
Botzky, a rushing Russian, J.T. Smith.
Lilly, Russia’s fairest lily, Edra Byrd.
Barker, a defective detective, W.H. Knight.
Ted Slocum, the football coach, Bernard Johnson.
Mrs. Holden, why son-in-law left home, Beth Terry.
Iantha Brown, the romantic bride, Margaret Carter.
Prof. William Brown, her lesser half, Brown King.
Bud Cedman, with good intentions, J.R. Knight.
Countess Kalmanoff, the cause of it all, Virginia Knight.

      The Ray City school has enjoyed a very successful year and 225 students were enrolled.  At the end of the seventh month, it was feared that the school would be compelled to close down on account of finances, but public spirited citizens and patrons made the nine months term possible by contributions and placing the school on a tuition basis, which furnished the necessary money to continue operations.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

Additional notes:

Mabel V. McDonald was a daughter of Carrie Eugenia Langford and Lacy Albert McDonald. She was a sister of Billie McDonald and Lillie McDonald.  Her father was a rural mail carrier at Ray City,GA serving the Cat Creek area.  Mabel attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia in the summer of 1931.

Doris E. Swindle was a daughter of Sarah Ellen “Stell” Daniel and James Henry Swindle. Her father was a farmer and merchant of Ray City, and served in the Georgia House of Representatives in the 1930s. Doris attended Camp Wilkins at UGA in the summer of 1931, and went on to attend Georgia State Womens College (now Valdosta State University). She was killed in an automobile accident in 1941.

J. T. Smith was  John Thomas Smith, son of Leila Terry and Grandson of Zack Terry.  J. T. Smith and brother, Edwin, later operated a dairy farm near Ray City, GA.

Edra Byrd was a daughter of Mattie Swindle Byrd, and a granddaughter of Mary Etta and Redding D. Swindle. In 1930, Edra was living with her grandparents. Her grandfather, Redding Swindle, served as Ray City’s first mayor and was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Ray City School.

W. H. Knight was a son of Josie Langdale and Paul Knight.  His father was a farmer of Berrien County.  W. H. Knight was a grandson of Jimmie Gullet and Walter Howard Knight.

Bernard Lamar Johnson was a son of James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight. In 1930 his father was a farmer near Rays Mill, GA. Bernard attended Camp Wilkins at UGA in the summer of 1931

Beth Terry was a daughter of Charles Oscar Terry and Esther E Russell.  Her father was a pharmacist and prominent businessman of Ray City. In the summer of 1931, Beth attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia.

Margaret Carter was born and raised in Ray City, GA. She was the daughter of Cora and Yancy F. Carter. Her father was a Ray City Councilman, board member of the Bank of Rays Mill, and operator of the Y.F. Carter Naval Stores, which in the 1930s was the largest firm in the community.  After completing school at Ray City, Margaret attended the summer course at Camp Wilkins, University of Georgia in the summer of 1931. She went on to attend  Georgia State Womens College (now Valdosta State University).

Franklin Brown King was a son of Ida Guthrie and Jim King.  He went on to a long career as a merchant marine.

John R. Knight was a son of Walton and Mildred Knight. He later lived in Lanier County.

Virginia Florence Knight was a daughter of  Carl Herbert Knight and Mattie Julia Hadsock.  In 1934, she married William A. “Bill” Garner. The Garners would later run the Ray City Post Office.

Related Posts:

Wilma Harper Shultz Began 60-year Teaching Career at Ray City

James R. Johnson and Ruby Knight

James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight

James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight, Ray City, GA

James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight, Ray City, GA

Ruby Texas Knight (1891 – 1977)
Ruby Texas Knight entered this world on October 11, 1891, a daughter of Jimmie Gullette and Walter Howard Knight. She was married to James Randall Johnson on April 21, 1910 and the couple made their home next door to her father’s place on the Valdosta Road, Ray City, Georgia. Ruby Knight Johnson died June 17, 1977 and was interred at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

James Randall Johnson (1886-1955)
James Randall Johnson was a son of Mary Elizabeth Truett and James R. Johnson, born November 8, 1886 in Berrien County, GA and raised in Rays Mill (later Ray City). He was a younger brother of  Meritt E. Johnson, who later served in various public offices in Milltown, GA.    As a young man, James Randall Johnson worked as a farmer. The census of 1940 shows James Randall Johnson and Ruby Texas Knight renting a house on North Street in Ray City. At that time James was working as a carpenter, constructing houses. He died March 14, 1955 and was buried at Beaver Dam  Cemetery, Ray City.

The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll

Mary Elizabeth Carroll was born May 9, 1839 a daughter of Margaret Chestnut and  Jesse Carroll. Before the Civil War, Mary Carroll’s father was one of the wealthiest men in Berrien County.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of 1) William Washington Knight, 2) William Joseph Lamb.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of 1) William Washington Knight, 2) William Joseph Lamb.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll married William Washington Knight in 1855, a union of two influential families in Lowndes and Berrien county histories (The Knights and the Carrolls were cut from Lowndes into Berrien County in 1856.) The bride was a petite dark-haired beauty of 16; the  groom, at 26, was 6 feet in height, with dark hair and blue eyes.   William was born 4 Mar 1829 in that part of Lowndes, Georgia that is now known as Berrien County, Ga.  He was the eldest son of Levi Knight and Ann Clements/Herrin, and a grandson of William Anderson Knight.

In 1860, before the start of the Civil War, Mary E. Carroll and her husband William Washington Knight were living in the vicinity of Beaver Dam Creek near the present site of Ray City, GA. William owned a farm there, situated next to the farm of his uncle, John Knight.

1860 Slave Schedule, Berrien County, GA.

1860 Slave Schedule, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu142unit#page/n140/mode/1up

William W. Knight’s real estate in 1860 was valued at $1100, and he had a personal estate of $700. William and Mary were raising their young children, Mary V. Knight (4), Margaret A. Knight(2) and Walter H. Knight (6 months).

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

1860 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n403/mode/1up

In January 1861, William Washington Knight was elected Justice of the Peace in the 1144th Georgia Militia District. As an elected official he could have claimed exemption from military service during the Civil War.  But on October 1, 1861 Knight enlisted in  the “Berrien Minutemen,” a Confederate army unit then being organized by his father,  Levi J. Knight.  William served in the 29th GA infantry in Company K, the Berrien Minutemen, and was elected 2nd Sergeant.

It must have been difficult for young Mary E. Knight, left home to raise her children alone while William and many other young men of the county  marched off to war with the Berrien Minutemen.  Two years into the war, on August 6, 1863, she penned the following:

It is not that my lot is low

that bids this silent tear to flow,

It is not greaf that bids me mourn;

It is that I am All Alone.

In woods and glens I love to roam

When the tierd hedges hies him home

Or by the woodland poole to rest

When pale the stars looks on its breast

Yet when the silent evening sighs

with hallowed airs and symphonies

my spirit takes another tone

and sighs that it is All Alone.

The Autumn leaf is sear and dead

It floats upon the watery bead

It would not be a leaf to dye

Without recording sorrows sigh

The woods and winds with sudden wail

Tell the same unvaried tale

I ‘ve now to smile when I am free

And when I sigh to sigh with me

Yet in my dreams a form I view

that thinks on me and loves me too

I start, and when the visions flown

I weep, alas that Am All Alone.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll suffered not just the loneliness of a soldier’s wife, but the grief of a mother. It was during the war, in 1863, that she lost her little girl, Margaret Ann Knight, just five years old.

Supply requisition records for Company K show that William Washington Knight was in service in Dalton, Georgia on December 6, 1863.  Shortly after that, Knight was furloughed home because of illness. He died of chronic diarrhea at Milltown, GA December 27, 1863.

As the war dragged on, the widowed Mary E. Carroll Knight was left to raise their three surviving children :

  1. Mary Virginia Knight 1856 – 1916, married William E. Langford
  2. Margaret Ann Knight 1858 – 1863
  3. Walter Howard Knight 1859 – 1934
  4. Lillian Melissa “Pink” Knight March 22, 1862– 1947, married Noah Webster Griffin

But with the end of the war Mary re-married in 1865. Her second husband,William Joseph Lamb, was also her first cousin.  His mother, Margaret Carroll, was a sister of Jesse Carroll, Mary’s father. His father was William Lamb, who was one of the early settlers of Milltown.

William J. Lamb was a Civil War veteran who had been seriously wounded in battle (see  William J. Lamb ~ Confederate Veteran).   The census of 1870 shows  Mary Elizabeth Carroll was living with her husband, William J. Lamb, in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, later known as the Ray’s Mill District. With them were Mary’s children Mary V. Knight, Walter H. Knight, Lillian Knight.

1870 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

1870 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n439/mode/1up

Living with the Lambs was their cousin, Henry Harrison Knight, a son of John Graham Knight.  Henry was working as a country merchant at the time. Later he would open one of the first stores in the community of Rays Mill (nka Ray City), GA.

Also living at the Lamb farm were freedman Morris Wilkinson, his wife Charlott Wilkinson, and a three-year-old son, Henry Wilkinson. The Lambs employed Morris Wilkinson as a farm laborer and Charlotte Wilkinson worked as a domestic servant.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb, circa 1875, daughter of Margaret Chestnut and Jesse Carroll. Image detail from original courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb, circa 1875, daughter of Margaret Chestnut and Jesse Carroll. Image detail from original courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

The 1880 census enumeration of Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb with husband, William J. Lamb, in Berrien County, GA.  Neighbors were William, Virginia and Luther Langford.  Nearby were Mary’s son, Walter Howard Knight, and his wife, Jimmie Gardener Gullette.

1880 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

1880 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll, Berrien County, GA.

http://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n380/mode/1up

In 1900 the census records show Mary and William Lamb living in the Lower Fork District, No. 658 of Lowndes County. They were boarding with Bessie Griffin and Joseph S. Bazemore. (see Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899)

1900 census enumertion of William J. Lamb

1900 census enumeration of William J. Lamb and Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb

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

Mary Elizabeth Carroll Lamb died December 29, 1906.  She was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Elizabeth Lamb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Grave marker of Mary Elizabeth Lamb, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

-30-

Related posts:

Knight Family Outing

Knight Family of Ray City, GA

Knight family of Ray City, GA.  Walter Knight is among those pictured.

Knight family of Ray City, GA. Walter Knight is among those pictured.

Walter Howard Knight, a son of William Washington Knight (1829 – 1863) and  Mary E Carroll (1839 – 1906), is among the Knight family members in the photo above.  He was born November 28, 1859 in Berrien Co., GA and died June  13, 1934.  Walter Howard Knight is buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Related Posts:

Knight Sisters of Ray City

Laurie Inez Knight (left) and Ruby Texas Knight (right), of Ray City, GA.

Laurie Inez Knight (left) and Ruby Texas Knight (right), of Ray City, GA.

 Jimmie Gullette and Walter Howard Knight, subjects of previous posts, had four daughters: Julia Elizabeth Knight, Dollie Howard Knight, Ruby Texas Knight, and Laurie Inez Knight.

Grave of Julia Rigell Sloan, City Cemetery, Lakeland, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Julia Rigell Sloan, City Cemetery, Lakeland, Lanier County, GA

Julia Elizabeth Knight (1880 – 1955)
Julia Elizabeth Knight was born August 09, 1880 in Georgia.  She married twice.  Her first husband, David Jackson Rigell, was an early merchant of Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City, GA.)  They were married on March 19, 1901.   Sometime after Mr. Rigell’s death in 1911,  she married Dr. William David “Will” Sloan.  Julia Elizabeth Knight died September 10, 1955.

Grave of Dollie Howard Knight (1882 – 1956), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Dollie Howard Knight (1882 – 1956), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Dollie Howard Knight (1882 – 1956)
Dollie Howard Knight was born April 12, 1882. On October 28, 1900 she married “the boy next door,” Louis Malone Bullard , a son of Mary Ann and Green Bullard.  The Bullards lived on the east side of the Valdosta Road, in present day Lanier County. Dollie Knight Bullard died March 26, 1956, and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Ruby Knight Johnson (1891 - 1977), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Ruby Knight Johnson (1891 – 1977), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Ruby Texas Knight (1891 – 1977)
Ruby Texas Knight  entered this world on October 11, 1891.  She was married to James Randall Johnson on April 21, 1910 and the couple made their home next door to her father’s place on the Valdosta Road, Ray City, Georgia.  Ruby Knight Johnson died June 17, 1977 and was interred at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Grave of Laurie Knight Webb (1894 - 1974), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Laurie Knight Webb (1894 – 1974), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Laurie Inez Knight (1894 – 1974)
Laurie Inez Knight  was born April 9, 1894. She married Horace Webb in 1928.  They had a home on Charlton Street in Valdosta, GA where her husband worked as a furniture repair man. Laurie Knight Webb died April 1, 1974 and was buried next to her sister, Ruby, at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Knight Sisters of Ray City, GA. (L to R) Dollie Howard Knight, Julia Elizabeth Knight, Laurie Inez Knight, and Ruby Texas Knight.

Knight Sisters of Ray City, GA. (L to R) Dollie Howard Knight, Julia Elizabeth Knight, Laurie Inez Knight, and Ruby Texas Knight.

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