Hyman Hardeman Sirmans of Ray City, GA

Hyman Hardeman “Brocy” Sirmans (1919 – 1969) of Ray City, GA was a son of Mamie and Daniel W. Sirmans.

Hyman Hardeman "Brocy" Sirmans of Ray City, GA.

Hyman Hardeman “Brocy” Sirmans of Ray City, GA.

H. H. Sirmans  was born on March 22, 1919 at Ray City  just in time to be enumerated in the census of 1920. His father  rented a farm on one of the settlement roads near Ray City.  Next door was John and Anne Sirmans Matheny, and on the adjacent farm, George W. and Mary Fender.

1920 enumeration of the household of Daniel W. Sirmans.

1920 enumeration of the household of Daniel W. Sirmans.

http://www.archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel338#page/n372/mode/1up

Hyman H. Sirmans was enumerated in the Census of 1930 in his father’s household at Ray City, GA.  He was 11 years old, and attended school along with his sisters Lerine and Victoria. Edith and Margaret were too young to attend.

1930 enumeration of the household of Daniel W. Sirmans.

http://www.archive.org/stream/georgiacensus00reel338#page/n372/mode/1up

Hyman H Sirmans worked on a Liberty Ship  during WWII.  His service records give his physical description as 5′ 6″ tall, and 228 pounds.

He began his service at sea in 1940, and served as a Fireman/Watertender on the S. S. William G.  Lee.  The William G. Lee liberty ship was built in Savannah, Georgia by the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation.

The WWII liberty ship S. S. William G. Lee, photographed after the war.

The WWII liberty ship S. S. William G. Lee, photographed after the war.

The Merchant Marine website provides the following:

“Liberty ship” was the name given to the EC2 type ship designed for “Emergency” construction by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II. Liberty ships were nicknamed “ugly ducklings” by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The first of the 2,711 Liberty ships was the SS Patrick Henry, launched on Sept. 27, 1941, and built to a standardized, mass produced design. (2,710 ships were completed, as one burned at the dock.) The 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated throughout the country in 250-ton sections and welded together in about 70 days. One Liberty ship, the SS Robert E. Peary was built in four and a half days. A Liberty cost under $2,000,000.

The Liberty was 441 feet long and 56 feet wide. Her three-cylinder, reciprocating steam engine, fed by two oil-burning boilers produced 2,500 hp and a speed of 11 knots. Her 5 holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, tanks, and locomotives lashed to its deck. A Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.

As a Fireman/Watertender on the S.S. William G. Lee, H. H. Sirmans would have been responsible for tending to the fires and boilers in the steam ship’s engine room.  His duties would have included tending the boilers to maintain steam at specified pressure, and regulating the amount of water in the boiler,  observing gauges, and cleaning equipment and work area.  He may have also done maintenance and repair work in the fireroom and engine room, and monitored operation of evaporators and condensers used to convert salt water to fresh water.

The William G. Lee  was launched in July, 1944 and made numerous Atlantic crossings during WWII. According to the ConvoyWeb database for Merchant Ships during WW2, the William G. Lee departed from NYC on July 25, 1944 with Convoy HX.301, and arrived at Liverpool, England on August 8, 1944. She departed Methil, Scotland with Convoy FS.1541 on August 11,1944 for Southend, England, arriving on August 13, 1944. She departed Southend, England with Convoy FN.1455 on August 20, 1944, for Methil,Scotland. Two days later she departed Methil Scotland with Convoy EN.425 on August 22, 1944 bound for Loch Ewe, Scotland, arriving August 24. She joined Convoy ON.250 departing from Liverpool and arrived NYC on September 7, 1944. She departed from NYC on October 5, 1944 with Convoy HX.312, and arrived at Liverpool, England on October 21, 1944. She joined Convoy ON.267 departing Southend on November 18, 1944, and arrived NYC on December 5, 1944. She departed Boston, MA with Convoy BX.138 on December 21, 1944, arriving off Halifax on December 23. She joined Convoy HX.328 departing from NYC on Christmas Eve, 1944, arriving at Liverpool England on January 8, 1945. On January 10, 1945, she made the run from Southend with Convoy FN.1598, bound for Methil, Scotland. Nine days later, she made the return run with Convoy FS.1702. She departed Southend with Convoy ON.280 on January 22 1945, arrived NYC on 9 February 9, 1945. She joined Convoy HX.341 and departed NYC on February 28, 1945, arriving at Liverpool England on March 15, 1945.  On 27 March 1945 she departed Southend with Convoy ON.293, and arrived NYC on April 15, 1945. She departed from NYC on May 3, 1945 with Convoy HX.354 and arrived Liverpool on 18 May 1945.

H. H. Sirmans married Marjorie E Garner in 1944 in Baker County, FL 1944  21268

1969 Obituary of Hyman Hardeman Sirmans, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

1969 Obituary of Hyman Hardeman Sirmans, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

LAKELAND, Ga. – H. H. (Brocy) Sirmans, 49, of Ray City, died at his home early today of an apparent heart attack.
    He was born and lived all his life in Berrien County.  He was a member of Ray City Baptist Church, the National Farmers Organization and the Farm Bureau.
    Survivors are his wife the former Marjorie Garner; a daughter, Patricia Ann Sirmans of Valdosta; mother, Mrs. Mamie Sirmans of Ray City; four sisters, Mrs. Lerine Harris and Mrs. Margaret Stalvey and Mrs. Edith Peters of Ray City and Mrs. Victoria Bradly of Savannah.
     Funeral services are to be held at 3 p. m. Wednesday at Ray City Baptist Church with burial at Beaver Dam Cemetery. The body is to be taken to the residence late today.
    Music Funeral Home of Lakeland is in charge of arrangements.
    Active pallbearers are to be Jackie Giddens, Murice Lankford, Marvin Harris, J. Bart Gaskins, Clyde Miller, Albert Studstill, James Swindle and Lonnie Plair.
    Honorary pallbearers are to be Walter J. Gaskins, Billy Clements, Glen Lee, John David Luke, Lawson Fountain, Sam Barker, Joe Latham, Jack Knight, Herbert Allen, Thomas Patten and Leland Kent.

Lamar Fountain Preferred Swamp to Prison

Ray City native Lamar Fountain achieved national notoriety as an escape artist, and stories of his escapades appeared in the news from coast to coast. Previous posts have addressed the  six times he found his way out of incarceration.  Add to that a jailhouse interview after his capture in 1974, which told something of Fountain’s life on the lam:

Perhaps Ray City's original reality survivorman, escape artist Lamar Fountain preferred homeless life the swamp to prison.

Perhaps Ray City’s original reality survivorman, escape artist Lamar Fountain preferred homeless life in the swamp to prison.

The Charleston News and Courier
November 13, 1974

Elusive Prisoner Prefers Swamp, Snakes, Potatoes

      RAY CITY, Ga. – Lamar Fountain, back in jail after his sixth escape, says he eluded police for seven weeks in a Georgia swamp, ignoring snakes, stealing potatoes and fishing.
      Frustrated police officers gave up chasing him and instead hid in the canebrake at night. They caught him on the banks of a fishing hole near Ray City, his hometown.
      The slow-talking, 48 year-old escapee said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the Berrien County jail that he hacked trails deep into the southeast Georgia swamp and built four shelters so he could keep on the move.
      “I had some help. You’ve got to have a little bit of help.” Fountain said, but he refused to elaborate.
      “I got sweet potatoes from people’s fields. Sweet potatoes go a long way with a man,” he said. “I got sugar cane and pecans, and I have eat some palmetto roots.
      “Also, I was fishing and I had an old frying pan I found and some lard. I had a little bit of meal and made some hushpuppies.
      Asked about the poisonous snakes that inhabit the Georgia swamps, Fountain said, “I just walked by them. I never killed a snake or a coon or nothing. I walked past rattlesnakes asleep and past six or eight moccasins laying up by a cyprus root.”
      Since 1969, Fountain has been in-and-out of several Georgia prisons serving a 30-year term for robbery, larceny, forgery and the escape attempt he made prior to his first conviction.
      He escaped from a Lowndes County work camp in 1969 and stayed in California for a year, he said, before heading back toward Georgia and getting arrested for fighting in a bar south of New Orleans, La.
      Fountain said he had been an alcoholic since he got out of the Air Force at the age of 20.
      “I railroaded awhile for the Charleston and Western Carolina out of Augusta,” he said. “Then I worked for a paper mill awhile, but I guess I drove a truck more than anything else.”
      Now, he said, he would like a chance to settle down on land near Ray City which his father left him and raise cattle and hogs.
     “I want out. I’ve never done anything wrong except when I was drunk, and I don’t drink anymore.”
     Fountain claims the original charges against him involved a mixup with a friend’s billfold and the fact that he cashed his girlfriend’s $37 check at a Valdosta, Ga., bar.
     Berrien County Sheriff Walter J. Gaskins, who has had to capture him three times, said Fountain likely will be sent to the maximum security prison at Reidsville, Ga.
     The sheriff is not convinced that is necessary.
    “This boy don’t ever give me no trouble,” he said. “I went and got him (from prison) and brought him to his father’s funeral and to his mother’s funeral and once when his mother had her leg took off.”

 

Related Posts:

Escape Artist Lamar Fountain Caught Again

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain, Ray City, GA

Lamar Fountain

From 1968 to 1975 Lamar Fountain escaped from area jails six times to return to his friends and family at Ray City, GA. Berrien county sheriff Walter J. Gaskins composed the Ballad of Lamar Fountain to tell the story of this extraordinary escape artist. Fountain once told his jailor, “When I’m in jail, I feel like there’s a 200-pound weight on me. When I get out I feel free.”

A 1975 Newsweek article described Fountain thus, “The son of a poor but respectable Ray City family, Fountain dropped out of school early on and began running with a rowdy crowd in nearby Valdosta; later he did odd jobs driving pickups and got into a series of minor scrapes in Georgia and Florida, including a couple of rape charges that were later dropped. ‘It wasn’t rape at all,’ he maintained. ‘I got caught in bed with another man’s wife.’ Mostly his problems were just drunken brawls, and no serious charges ever stuck.”

That was until 1968 when a woman accused him of a $20 theft. When Fountain was stopped by police, he had a wallet that belonged to another man. With Fountain in jail, the authorities found he was also wanted for forging checks. Unable to provide bail, and after languishing for months behind bars waiting for arraignment before a grand jury, Lamar Fountain escaped from the Valdosta jail.

When he was apprehended, the charge of escape was added to the pending charges for theft of the wallet, the $20, and the check forgery. Lamar plead guilty and was was sentenced to more than 20 years. But all too often, Fountain was able to break away from his jailors and make his way back to “the ramshackle Kent’s Grocery in Ray City and boast to loyal neighbors about his exploits.”

The Florence Times
November 13, 1974

Escape Artist Caught Again.

      RAY CITY, Ga. – Two officers hid among the thickets, watching the marsh below. After 40 minutes, they saw a flicker of light.
They waited until a car passed on the rural highway, then advanced several feet and stopped, afraid to scare off their elusive prey. Each time a car went by, they moved a little closer.
      Finally they were only 15 feet away. Chief Deputy Robert Swanson stood up, shone his flashlight and identified himself as a Berrien County Police Officer.
“Y’all got me, just don’t shoot,” said the heavily bearded man, putting down his fishing pole and flash light, taped over to dim the light.
      And so Sunday night ended the latest escape in the remarkable career of Lamar Fountain.
     Seventy-eight days before, Fountain
, 54, had escaped from Thomas County jail. It was his third escape of the summer and sixth since 1968 when he first was arrested on three minor theft charges – a $37 bad check charge an two alleged thefts of $5 and $20.
    During previous escapes, Fountain had traveled to California and New Jersey. But he had been homesick and had trouble getting jobs without revealing his telltale Social Security number, so he returned each time to south Georgia where relatives could help him, and where, each time, he was caught.

      This time Fountain never left the swamplands around his native Ray City and Swanson said, “lots of folks said we wold never catch him.”
     
In fact, authorities said, many local residents aided the escapee.
      But Swanson knew the area well from his own duck hunting trips and some residents helped by calling the sheriff’s office each time they spotted Fountain, allowing officers to keep trak of his approximate location.
      Swanson said Fountain had been living in a small shelter in the woods, made of cyprus poles and insulated with linoleum and moss. Inside were a makeshift bunk, jugs of fresh water and cooking utensils.
      Fountain was sentenced in 1969 to 20 years for the three thefts and his first escape. He faces additional time for each of his five subsequent escapes.
      Wearing a two-inch beard and suffering from a cold, Fountain said yesterday that he just wants to go home to his native Ray City to raise cattle and hogs.
      “I want out. I’ve never done anything wrong except when I was drunk. But I don’t drink anymore. My body just can’t stand it.
      “I hope some people will get involved in my case and give me another chance. I’ve served six years already. That’s long enough for a $5 theft.”
       Fountain declined to reveal the tricks he used to elude search parties and bloodhounds. “I may need to use them again,” he said.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.

Lamar Fountain Captured at Ray City, GA on Nov 10, 1974.

 
 

Ballad of Lamar Fountain ~ Escape Artist

From 1968 to 1975 Lamar Fountain escaped from area jails six times to return to his friends and family at Ray City, GA.  Berrien county sheriff Walter J. Gaskins composed the Ballad of Lamar Fountain to tell the story of this extraordinary escape artist.   Fountain once told his jailor, “When I’m in jail, I feel like there’s a 200-pound weight on me. When I get out I feel free.”  In 1975 the story of Lamar Fountain made the national news.

Ballad of Lamar Fountain

Lamar Fountain was not a bad man;
He went to prison in this great land.
Whisky and women were the cause of it all;
That’s been many a man’s downfall.
Poor Lamar Fountain.

Many days and nights have come and gone
Since Lamar left his loved ones at home
He suffered many days and nights away,
Thinking of his parents who were old and gray.
Poor Lamar Fountain.

He escaped first from the Valdosta jail
Because he was unable to make bail.
Some of the leaders of this great land
Have committed crimes much worse than this man.
Poor Lamar Fountain.

A man with no money can only say
With God’s help he’ll be free someday.
As a law-enforcement officer I can’t stand
To see advantage took of any poor man.
Poor Lamar Fountain!

Related Posts