Alapaha Star Reports 1886 Demise of Ben Furlong

Ben Furlong (circa 1854-1886),
Desperado of Berrien County, GA

Ben Furlong was perhaps the most notorious outlaw ever known in Berrien County, GA. Furlong, a sawmill man when he wasn’t on the bottle, frequented the communities along the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad – Sniff, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma and Vanceville.

brunswick-and-western

The Brunswick & Western Railroad linked the communities of northern Berrien County with Brunswick, GA to the east and Albany GA to the west, and connected with the larger Plant Railway.

Furlong was a philandererwife beater and a killer, wanted for dozens of criminal charges including the shooting of B&W engineer Chuck Brock and passenger Will Harrell, and cutting the throat of another passenger.  It was said he committed his first murder at the age of 15. Some said after his demise his ghost haunted the scene of his final, heinous crime.

After his September 24, 1886 death  Furlong’s infamy was literally told around the world. But the most detailed accounting of  Furlong’s final days was published in the Alapaha Star, Berrien County’s own “splendid newspaper” edited by Irishman J. W. Hanlon (Hanlon had previously served as editor of the Berrien County News,  Albany Medium, and later edited the Quitman Sun and wrote humorous works under the pen name Bob Wick).

 

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Alapaha Star

October 2, 1886

MURDER AND SUICIDE

A Negro and — the Body In His Stock Lot – Suicide —- The Negroe’s Body Found —- —- – Inquest – A Horrified —- Etc.

Friday evening of last week [September 24, 1886], after the Star had gone to press news reached town that B. W. Furlong, who has been conducting a saw mill at sniff in this county, was dead, from the effects of a dose of laudanum, taken with suicidal intent. Before going to his room about twelve o’clock he asked his wife to forgive him for all he had ever done, and told her that he would go away from there in a few days and begin a new life. He called his children to him and spoke kindly to them and asked them not to disturb him, as he wanted to take a long sleep. He then went to his room, closed the door and, it is supposed, took the fatal dose. Later in the afternoon some one entered the —m, on hearing a strange —– — —– — dead.

Mr. Furlong had been drinking heavily for some weeks, and his creditors, knowing his business to be in a shaky condition, a day or two before his death had his property attached. Mr. Silas O’Quin, of this place, went down Friday morning to levy on some of his property, and found him rational, but wild-looking. He informed Mr. O’Quin that he had shot a negro about two weeks previous to that time and it was supposed that he was dead. This conversation occured about 11 a. m.

Mr. Furlong’s body was taken to Waresboro Sunday morning [September 26, 1886] for interment.

Immediately after his death rumors of the killing of the negro began to circulate, and on Friday evening [September 24, 1886], for the first time, they reached Alapaha. It seems that Furlong had been short of hands for several weeks.  A negro boarded the B. & W. R. R. at some point and stated that he was hunting work, and that he had no1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-2a money. The conductor, knowing that Furlong needed hands, took the negro to Sniff and turned him over to —- was taking to Furlong got off —-Willachoochee,
where he had work. The negro objected strenuously to being put off, and refused to work. Shortly after the train left, the negro walked off in the direction of Willacoochee, but was soon discovered by Furlong, who brought him back, handling him pretty rough in doing so.

Furlong then handcuffed him. That evening, after dark, according to report, the negro slipped out of the commissary and had gone some distance out on the tram-road when he was missed. He was still handcuffed. Lofton, a white man, in Furlong’s employ, discovered the fleeing negro and showed Furlong the direction he had taken. Furlong pursued him with a double-barreled gun, and in a short time the report of the gun was heard. Furlong returned without the negro. Before he reached the mill he met a mulatto who was a trusted employe, who had started after Furlong, hoping to prevent him from shooting the negro. Furlong told him that he had shot the negro and that if he divulged it, he, Furlong, had men there who would swear that he, the mulatto, did the shooting. Later in the night Lofton and the mulatto were sent by Furlong to the wounded man —- — ——— –. — ——- was shot through the neck and was completely paralyzed, except his tongue. When he saw Lofton he said: “if it hadn’t been for you Mr. Furlong would not have shot me.” This mulatto says he carried the wounded man something to eat later in the night. This was Tuesday night. It is reported that the negro lay there until Thursday night, when he disappeared. That night Furlong ordered out three mules, one for a wagon and two to be saddled. Where they went is not known, but the supposition is that the mission was to take the body to some deep water, weight it and sink it out of sight.

Lofton has fled, and his whereabouts are unknown. It is said that he is well connected in Atlanta. The mulatto is named Jim Simmons and is here.

Last Sunday [September 26, 1886] a crowd of whites and blacks went down to the Alapaha river and dragged for the body of the missing 1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-3anegro at the bridge at Moore’s old mill, but without success.

It is now rumored that the —- was concealed in a branch — of the mill.

But those rumors would turn out to be wrong, the mill branch concealed no body. An inquest into the fate of Jesse Webb was about to uncover the ultimate cause of death and the true location of the body.

 

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Arthur Shaw and Shaw’s Still

In 1908, the opening of the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave Ray City, GA residents a transportation access to the world, and a convenient connection to towns on the G & F route. Among those with a Ray City – Willacoochee connection was Arthur Shaw, son of Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, of Ray City, GA.  Arthur Shaw, a native of Ray City, spent most of his life at Willacoochee, GA.

Francis Arthur Shaw (1866-1933), son of Francis Marion Shaw, Sr., was born and raised near Ray's Mill (now Ray City), GA. Husband of Victoria Giddens Knight (first wife) and Gertrude Albritton (second wife) Turpentine still operator. Though a native of Berrien county, and some of his turpentine operations were in Berrien county, he resided in Willacoochee most of his adult life. Was a mayor of Willacoochee. Courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Francis Arthur Shaw (1866-1933), son of Francis Marion Shaw, Sr., was born and raised near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA. Husband of Victoria Giddens Knight (first wife) and Gertrude Albritton (second wife). Turpentine still operator. Though a native of Berrien county, and some of his turpentine operations were in Berrien county, he resided in Willacoochee most of his adult life. Was a mayor of Willacoochee. Courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Bryan Shaw, of the Berrien County Historical Society, contributes the following:

Arthur Shaw, of Willacoochee, was business partners in the turpentine operations with his brothers, Chester and Lacy Shaw, and brother-in-law, William Clements.

The commissary at  Shaw’s Still was operated by Lacy Shaw. Lacy later ended his partnership with Arthur and farmed near the home place of his parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw, in Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road. About 1917 he sold his home to Pleamon Sirmans and moved into Ray City and operated a hardware store there before moving to Valdosta about 1927 or so.

The location of the turpentine operation was actually about a mile or so south of Springhead Methodist Church in Atkinson County. The terminus of the Pinebloom railroad which ran through Willacoochee was at Shaws Still which is shown on the early 1900 railroad maps. The intent at one time was for the Pinebloom to terminus at DuPont, however the extension was determined to be financially unsound and it was given up. Very little is visible of the old Pinebloom railroad bed between Willacoochee and Shaws Still. The terminus of the railroad was about where the Henderson Lumber Company had its operation, near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road. The still site is no longer visible and is on a  private hunting preserve now.
—Bryan Shaw

 

The Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad, originally called the Fitzgerald, Pinebloom & Valdosta, was a logging road and occasional common carrier owned by the Gray Lumber Company. 

[Benjamin B. Gray, a principal of the Gray Lumber Company and the OP & V,  was a brother-in-law of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong.  Furlong committed his first murder while employed at Gray’s sawmill at Pinebloom, and thereafter wreaked mayhem up and down the line of the Brunswick & Western Railroad.]

The 52-mile Lax-Pinebloom-Nashville line was completed in 1901-03.

In 1906, the FP&V sold the section south of Pinebloom to the Douglas, Augusta, & Gulf Railway (which was controlled by the Georgia & Florida).  The FP&V continued to operate the tracks north of Pinebloom. (Pinebloom was a flag station on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad a mile east of Willacoochee with a 1896 population of about 200. The Gray Brothers saw mill was its largest enterprise.)

The line was renamed the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta Railroad in 1910, and in 1915 the Henderson Lumber Company gained control.

The 1918 Report of the Georgia Railroad Commission listed the OP&V as a 27-mile line between Gladys, a point on the Ocilla Southern Railroad, and Shaw’s Still, which was about nine miles southeast of Willacoochee. Two years later the Commission indicated that the OP&V had been dismantled and listed its successor road, the Willacoochee & DuPont, as a 9.5-mile line between Willacoochee and Shaws Still.

In 1915, when the Henderson Lumber Company acquired the Ocilla, Pinebloom, & Valdosta Railway, it ran from Gladys to Shaw’s Still. In 1918, the Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad purchased the line and reportedly abandoned the tracks between Gladys and Willacoochee the following year (or used them only for logging or hauling naval stores and turpentine). It continued to operate the eastern and southern section of track from Willacoochee to Shaws Still, but apparently was not able to extend the line past Shaws Still to DuPont, a town on the Atlantic Coast Line in Clinch County. In 1922, this track too was abandoned.
Source: http://www.RailGa.com

The Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Arthur Shaw’s life, loves, and business dealings:

Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933

Shaw Family Newsletter: FRANCIS ARTHUR SHAW 1866–1933

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Thomas R. Cox and The Bank of Willacoochee

Thomas R. Cox grew up at Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City) and later returned as a resident. He was only educated through the 8th grade, but made a successful career in bookkeeping.  In the early 1900s he went to Willacoochee, GA to live with his uncle Gid Gasksins and to work  in Gaskin’s general merchandise store as a salesman.

Within a few years Thomas secured a situation as Bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. The Bank of Willacoochee was chartered in 1900 with $25,000 capital investment. The Cashier of the bank was George F. McCranie, son of Malcolm McCranie who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek.

All seemed well until the morning of Thursday, May 4, 1916 when Thomas R. Cox failed to show up for work at the bank.  With Cox’s unexplained disappearance Cashier George F. McCranie suspected the worst, and the bank was closed pending an investigation by the state bank examiner.

Over the next two months some details unfolded, not only in local newspapers, but in papers  as far away as Honolulu.

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Tifton Gazette
May 12, 1916

Bank of Willacoochee

Closed Pending Examination of the Books by Authorities

    Willacoochee, Ga., May 9. –  The doors of the Bank of Willacoochee of this place were closed Monday and the institution is in the hands of the state bank examiner.
     T. R. Cox, who was bookkeeper, has been missing since last Thursday. Soon after his departure, it was reported that George F. McCranie, cashier, discovered that errors had been made in keeping the books, and immediately wired for experts to examin into the affairs of the bank. The examination has continued through yesterday and today.
     Later reports say the errors in the books are not as great as reported and that the bank is in good shape.

—–♦—–

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Thomas R. Cox of Willacoochee, GA sought by police. Atlanta Constitution, May 17, 1916

 

Atlanta Constitution
May 17, 1916

Police Asked to Find Missing Bookkeeper

________________

    Police Chief W. M. Mayo was requested to have his men be on the lookout for Thomas R. Cox, former bookkeeper of the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., who was reported to have embezzled the bank of several thousand dollars.
    George F. McCranie, cashier of the institution, called at the police station and told Chief Mayo that the officials of the bank offered a reward of $500 for the former bookkeeper’s arrest.

 

Honolulu Star-Bulleting reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports arrest of Thomas R. Cox, bookkeeper of the Bank of Willachoochee

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
June 19, 1916

Charged with the embezzlement of $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., Thomas R. Cox, aged 28, was recently arrested in New York.

 

 

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette, May 25, 1916 reports Thomas R. Cox, formerly of Ray City, GA, arrested in New York.

Tifton Gazette
May 26 1916

COX CAUGHT IN NEW YORK

New York, May 25, — Thomas R. Cox, Age 28, was arrested here today charged with embezzling $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, of Willacoochee, Ga.

     The Bank of Willacoochee, considered one of the soundest financial institutions in that section of the state, was closed May 8th following the disappearance of the Bookkeeper, Thomas R. Cox.
    It was at first stated that the shortage amounted to $30,000 but later there were reports that the defalcation was not so great, an error of the adding machine being in part responsible.
    Cox’s home was formerly at Ray City, in Berrien County.

1916-may-27-atlc-thomas-cox

Atlanta Constitution
May 27, 1916

Coffee Sheriff Holds Thos. Cox in New York

Willacoochee, Ga., May 26. — (Special.) — A telegram was received from Sheriff David Ricketson, of this county, last night stating that Thomas R. Cox, who is charged with wrecking the Bank of Willacoochee, was held by him in New York city and requisition papers have been forwarded to the governor of Georgia for his signature. The state bank examiner is still in charge of the institution and the amount of shortage is not known, though it is estimated at several thousand dollars.

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Tifton Gazette
June 23,1916

BANK OF WILLACOOCHEE

From the Willacoochee Record.
      At a meeting of the stockholders of the Bank of Willacoochee Tuesday, the stockholders present representing 231 of the 250 shares of the bank, voted unanimously in favor of an assessment sufficient to bring the impaired capital stock up to its par value and resume business.
      This will make the institution as sound as it ever was. Besides a plan has been proposed by depositors are to be insured and new officers for the institution will be elected if the plan of reorganization is successful. It is understood that the present depositors will co-operate with the stockholders for the payment of their claims as it will assure the reorganization and at the same time protect themselves as depositors.

1916-jul-7-atlc-bank-of-willacoochee-reopens

Atlanta Constitution, July 7, 1916 reports that the Bank of Willacoochee has reopened for business

Despite all the reported allegations of embezzlement by Thomas R. Cox, the available newspapers never reported that the Bank Examiners had any findings against him or that he was ever charged with any crime. He later worked as a book keeper in Ray City, GA.

 

The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

There were several south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

After 1908, the route of the Georgia & Florida Railroad was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles.

Gideon Gaskins and the Oak View Hotel

Gideon D. Gaskins

Gideon D. Gaskins was born September 15, 1859 and raised in the vicinity of Ray’s Mill, GA.  His father was William Gaskins and his mother was Elizabeth Clements.  The Berrien County tax digests of 1884-1886 show the twenty-something young Gideon Gaskins in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill district, although he was not a land owner.

On October 17, 1886, Gideon D. Gaskins married Lourene “Lula” Clements in Berrien County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula R. Clements, October 17, 1886, Berrien County, GA

Lula was born September 5, 1866, a daughter of John C. Clements  and Mary Patten.

Some time before 1887,  Gideon Gaskins moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where he worked as a merchant.  The 1887 property tax digest show “Giddie” Gaskins owned property in the town of Willacoochee valued at $135, and $25 worth of household furnishings. His stock of merchandise was valued at $300. The 1890 property tax digests show Gaskins’ town property in Willacoochee valued at $200, as well as $50 in household furnishings and $20 in livestock.

An 1898 society item from offered a tongue-in-cheek critique of the Willacoochee merchant’s physique.  Gaskin’s fellow businessmen and neighbors were: Albert Padgett, merchant; William L. Moore, merchant; Joe Vickers, merchant; Henry Paulk, merchant.  Gid Gaskins was apparently leaner and cleaner shaven than his colleagues.

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

1898 personal mention of Gid Gaskins, merchant of Willacoochee, GA

Tifton Gazette
June 17, 1898

Clever Joe Vickers is waxing fat, selling good goods and eating fish these days.  The same would be true of our friends Padgett and Moore, but Gid Gaskins is not quite keeping up with the boys in the matter of flesh.  Like Henry Paulk, however, he is better prepared to stand hot weather.

In the census of 1900, Gideon Gaskins gave his occupation as merchant and indicated he was working as a wage employee. By 1902, Willacoochee was a growing concern and Gideon was ready to run his own shop.  He built a brick store in Willacoochee on the south side of the tracks of the Brunswick and Western Railroad. The Brunswick & Western Railroad ran 171 miles from Brunswick, GA to Albany, GA passing through Waynesville, Waycross, Waresboro, Pearson, Sniff, Kirkland, Pinebloom, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma,  Brookfield, Vanceville, Tifton and other towns.  In the 1870s and 80s the Brunswick & Western had been the stomping grounds of the notorious outlaw Ben Furlong; in the 1900s Jack Alsea “Joe” Furlong,  son of Ben Furlong, was  residing at Willacoochee, GA in the household of his foster parents Benjamin B. Gray and Ellen Gray .

 

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Tifton Gazette
March 21, 1902

A Growing Town

    Tifton’s sister city Willacoochee is showing more evidence of thrift and interprise than any town along the Brunswick and Western.
    The Bank of Willacoochee has just finished two handsome brick store rooms on either side of the bank building, and these are occupied by D. E. Gaskins and by Carter & Ford.
   Mr. G. D. Gaskins is erecting a handsome brick store, 25×90 feet, as is also Mr. J. J. Vickers, the former on the south and the latter on the north side of the railroad, where his store was burned last Christmas.
   Both these buildings will soon be completed and occupied. Messrs. M. Corbitt and J. F. Shearer have also put a handsome line of groceries in the post office building.
    Several more improvements are contemplated.

Gideon D. Gaskins and Lula Clements had only one child, Mattie Mae Gaskins, born October 10, 1890. A 1904 news clipping from the Tifton Gazette suggests that Mattie Gaskins may have attended the Sparks Institute as a teen ager.

1904-apr-29-gideon-gaskins-of-willacoochee-ga

The 1910 census records show that Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had come to live with the Gaskins in Willacoochee by that time.  It was a banner year for Willacoochee in 1910.  The opening of the line of the Georgia & Florida on October 1, 1908 had brought a second railroad to the town and by 1910 the town was experiencing a boom in construction.  The Peoples Bank building went up, along with half a dozen still-existing brick and wood commercial buildings.  and the Willacoochee Electric Plant. And in 1910,  the Oak View Hotel was built in Willacoochee; Gideon Gaskins would be the proprietor.

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA

The former Oak View Hotel, Willacoochee, GA, with its distinctive jerkinhead (clipped gable) roof line. The jerkinhead design roof was stronger, but more expensive than a conventional hip gable roof.

The former Oak View hotel still stands on the corner of McCranie Street and Gaskins Street in Willacoochee, GA.  The hotel was built in a prime location,  one block south of the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad and two blocks east of the depot of the recently opened Georgia & Florida Railroad.   After 1908, the route of the G&F was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles. The Gaskins were one of many south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

The costs of constructing the Oak View Hotel may have strained Gideon D. Gaskins’ finances.  In 1910 he received a judgment of bankruptcy, but later determined that he would be able to make good on all his debts.

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Tifton Gazette
April 29, 1910

Does Not Appear Bankrupt

     Brunswick, Ga., April 23. – The case of G. D. Gaskins of Willacoochee, recently adjudged to be a bankrupt by the local refferee in bankruptcy, will come up for a hearing in this city on May 2.
    The schedule of liabilities and assets of the bankrupt were recently filed in the court for this district, and they show that he has assets of about $7,450, while his liabilities are only about $2,982.11.
    Some of the indebtedness has been paid off since the filing of the petition, and it is expected that when he comes to the hearing he will offer to pay dollar for dollar.

Despite earlier struggles, business was good in Willacoochee. By 1916 Gideon’s nephew, Thomas R. Cox, had secured a position as bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. When Cox disappeared in May, 1916 there were allegations of malfeasance.

Gideon D. Gaskins died at his home in Willacoochee, GA on October 23, 1916.

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Death of Gideon D. Gaskins reported in the Tifton Gazette

Obituary
The Tifton Gazette

Oct 27, 1916

 G. D. Gaskins, Willacoochee.
Willacoochee, Ga., October 24.-(Special.)- G .D. Gaskins, proprietor of the Oak View hotel and a well-known citizen of this county, died at his home here last night about 6 o’clock. He is survived by a wife, one daughter, Miss Mattie Mae Gaskins, of Willacoochee; four brothers, Bart, Tom and John Gaskins of Ray City, and Bryan Gaskins, of Sparks, and three sisters, Mrs. Ida Sirmans, and Mrs. Catherine Roberts of Nashville, and Mrs. Mary Cox of Ray City. The funeral was held at 3 o’clock this afternoon, followed by the interment here.

The grave of Gideon D. Gaskins lies in the Willacoochee City Cemetery.

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Gideon D. Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

The information from the grave marker is somewhat problematic. First, the given name on the grave does not follow the expected spelling –  “Gidian” instead of “Gideon.” Second, the date of death on the grave -March 21, 1916 – does not match with obituaries published in local and state newspapers which clearly establish the date of death as October 23, 1916.  It appears that the marker on the grave of Gideon D. Gaskins was placed well after the time of his death, perhaps after the time of his wife’s death, and that the date of his passing or even the spelling of his name was not well known to those tending his grave.

After the death of Gideon D. Gaskins his widow, Lula Clements Gaskins, operated the Oak View Hotel for a few years, then returned to Ray City, GA with her daughter, Mattie Mae Gaskins.   They lived in a house on Main Street, Ray City, until Lula’s death in 1947.

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

Grave of Lula Clements Gaskins, Willacoochee City Cemetery, Willacoochee, GA. Image source: Barbara L. Kirkland

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

Eighteen-year-old Wilma Geneva Harper  began her teaching career at Ray City School in 1928. There, while teaching first grade, she met and married Ray City School principal Prentice Munson Shultz.  The couple worked together at the school until 1941.

Wilma Harper was born in Willacoochee, GA on June 13, 1909, a daughter of Minnie Etta Burns and Youngie Harper. Her family lived in Willacoochee and Douglas, GA before moving to Ocilla, GA.

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

At Ray City School, Wilma Harper Shultz taught in a wood-frame classroom building that was constructed as an annex to the brick school built in 1923.  In a 1988 article in the  Rome News,  she reflected on her start at Ray City School and 60 years spent in the classroom.

Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News, December 12, 1988. Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News
December 12, 1988

Retired Teacher Can’t Stay Away

Milledgeville – Wilma Shultz has taught a lot of children, their children, and their childrens’ children in her 60 years in the classroom.

She retired after 46 years as a first-grade teacher in 1974, but retirement could not keep her out of the classroom. She has continued to substitute teach at Midway Elementary School, where she spent most of her career, and at Northside Elementary School.

At 78, the petite, immaculately dressed white-haired woman says teaching is the one thing that keeps her going.

She began in 1928 in Ray City, near Ocilla, where she grew up on a farm. She had set her sights on teaching when she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City school.

The only requirement for teaching then was a teacher-training course, which she took in high school. She began teaching first grade at age 18.

A year later she married the principal.  

They moved to Milledgeville in 1943, where Prentice Shultz taught math at Georgia Military College and his wife worked at a nursery school. They attended college during the summer, getting their education degrees, completing requirements by 1951.

When Prentice Shultz died in 1976, his wife said, she found her life empty and began substitute-teaching to fill the void left by his death.

“It’s hard to be left alone,” she said.  “I’ve seen people my age give up. But, I like being able to get up and go to the classroom.  It’s my therapy.  It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Teaching, she said, has changed. In Ray City she taught in a house converted to a school. There was no indoor plumbing and no lunchroom.

Her students were rural children unprepared for the academic and social aspects of school.  They were shy and frightened, and they didn’t know how to write or count.

“Today, children start off with kindergarten, so you don’t have that long readiness period in first grade,” she said. “When I began teaching, we had to teach them everything from the ground up.  I would say that when children finish first grade now, it is comparable to children in second or third grade then.

But it’s the things that don’t change, she says, that make her love teaching.

“They are still those sweet, innocent children,” she said.

Wilma Harper Shultz died on September 11, 2002.

Obituary

Mrs. Wilma Shultz, 93, died September 11, 2002, in Greenville.

Mrs. Shultz was a native of Barrow County, but made her home in Milledgeville, Ga., for 58 years before moving to Greenville. She was a graduate of Georgia State College for Women, was a retired elementary school teacher in Baldwin County and was a member of First United Methodist Church.

Surviving are her daughter and son-in-law, Janice and Jimmy
Lyon, of Greenville; and two grandsons, Ray Lyon of Appleton, Wisconsin, and Ken and Candyce Lyon of Charleston.

Services will be Saturday, September 14, at 11 a.m., at First United Methodist Church in Milledgeville, Ga., with Dr. Harold Lawrence officiating. Burial will follow at Baldwin Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

The family will receive friends tonight, September 13th, from 7 to 8:30 at Moore’s Funeral Home in Milledgeville, Ga.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the St. Francis Hospice, 414 Pettgru St. Greenville, SC 29601; or First United Methodist Church Building Fund, 300 W. Hancock St. Milledgeville, GA 31061.

The Mackey Mortuary is in charge of local arrangements.

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

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Henry Howard Thompson was a Skidder Flagman

Pine and Cypress timber have been an important resource in Wiregrass Georgia since pioneer times. According to the Georgia Forestry Commission, “The 1870 census showed that timber was already becoming a profitable industry for Georgia with the annual timber value rising from $2.4 million to more than $4.0 million in that decade. By 1880, Georgia ranked first in the South in total lumber production and was second only to North Carolina in number of sawmills…With virtually no regard for conservation, early settlers simply cleared forestlands, cultivated an area for a few years, then abandoned their fields for freshly cleared lands.”

By the 1900s, virtually every South Georgia town had its sawmill and turpentine operations, including Ray City. In those early days, logging was done by hand;  trees were felled with two-man crosscut saws, and skiddermen like Claudie Royal dragged by horse- or mule-drawn skidder carts to a railroad tram for transportation to the sawmill. There was no safety equipment and little concern about the occupational safety of the workers.  Cutting timber was inherently dangerous, and workers were presumed to know how to do their jobs safely – the risk was theirs.

When steam power was harnessed to do the heavy work of dragging felled pine and cypress timber out of the forests and swamps of Wiregrass Georgia, someone had to signal the equipment operator when the logs were ready to be moved.  That was the job of Henry Howard Thompson,  Skidder Flagman.  In 1917, Thompson was employed at the Clements Lumber Company at Ray City, GA. He gave his home address as Anniston, AL.

Henry Howard Thompson, Draft registration card, 1917

Henry Howard Thompson, Draft registration card, 1917

Henry H. Thompson was born in Heflin, Alabama in 1898, a son of Henry and Rameth Thompson.  On June 5, 1917 he registered for the draft in Berrien County, GA.  Three weeks later, on Sunday, June 24, 1917  Henry married Rose Lee Drawdy in Berrien County.  The ceremony was performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens, Justice of the Peace at Ray City, GA.

Marriage certificate of Henry Howard Thompson, June 7, 1917, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Henry Howard Thompson and Rosa Lee Drawdy, June 7, 1917, Berrien County, GA.

Rose Lee Drawdy, born July 15, 1900, was a daughter of Susan M. Green and Daniel Drawdy, and a granddaughter of Delilah Hinson and Noah Green. Her father was a veteran of the Civil War having served with Company K, 32 Georgia Regiment. Her mother and grandmother later lived at Rays Mill (now Ray City, GA).

As a skidder flagman Henry Howard Thompson was part of a crew that operated an overhead skidder or a ground skidder, sometimes called a “possum dog” skidder. The crew also  included a log “tong” man, drum man, a foreman and other workers.

The skidder, placed in the woods, was used for pulling logs from the forest and bunching them in convenient places to be loaded upon wagons by the team crew and conveyed to the logging railroad. A skidder could be mounted on slides and moved from place to place by means of cable and slides resting on the ground, and upon being put up was operated under its own steam, and a drum, around which there was a steel cable, would draw in the logs. Cables could be run so the skidder dragged logs along the ground,  or could be run from tree to tree with a system of pulleys allowing the logs to be lifted and transported  by overhead skidders.

There were tongs attached to the ends of the cable to be fastened around the logs, and it was the duty of the tong man to apply the tongs to the log, and the flagman would thereupon signal the drum man, who would start the machinery and pull the log to its proper place. The cable ran through a pulley attached to a tree some 15 or 20 feet from the ground, and to offset the strain upon the tree guy wires or lines were run to and attached to other trees some 30 or 40 feet away. The skidder could draw in logs within a radius of 900 feet from all sides…the logs being pulled in would encounter obstructions and the operations were more or less dangerous.

Old time South Carolina logger Lacy Powell talked about how it was:

“The skidder used an 85-foot high rig-tree, usually a cypress with the top cut out and fitted with a huge pulley. It could reach out with cables to pull logs from a 600-foot radius to the track where they were loaded on cars. The rails were moved to the timber as it was cut.”

“It was dangerous work. Falling trees crushed loggers. Limbs snapped from a falling tree and ‘slingshotted’ back to strike loggers.”

“A flagman signaled the skidder operator when a log was hooked on the line to be hauled to the track. The skidder whistle hooted twice to warn the men to watch for the flying log.”

“You knew to stay away from a log on the skidder line,” Powell said.

Steam powered skidder loading logs. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/38948

Steam powered skidder loading logs. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/38948

But, mud and water in the swamp made quick movement by workers impossible.

“You couldn’t run; you settled down in that mud,” he added.

Death was an ever-present hazard in the logging operations. Six long blasts of the steam skidder whistle signaled a fatal accident. ‘That was a lonesome sound. People would come from everywhere to see who was dead.’

The men made stretchers for the dead and injured by running saplings through the sleeves of the denim jackets they usually wore. – Star News, July 26, 1981

 

One such example was that of R. L. Mikell, skidder operator for the Gray and Gatchell sawmill at Howell, GA:

Tifton Gazette
June 29, 1907

Valdosta, Ga., June 5  R. L. Mikell, a skidder for Gray and Gatchell, at Howell [Echols County, GA], suffered injury from an accident to-day that may cause his death. He was operating a skidder; pulling logs from a swamp when one log became fastened against another.   He tried to release it, when the log swung around and struck him, breaking his thigh. The log that obstructed it also flew up and broke the thigh in another place, knocking Mr. Mikell down and rolling over him, causing internal injuries.  The physicians regard his case as critical.

 

By 1920, Henry H. Thompson had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA where they were living next door to his sister, Mamie Lou, and  brother-in-law, Charlie Buckhannan.  Henry was a stationary engineer and Charlie was a mechanic, both working for the Henderson Lumber Company. They were living on the East & West Highway in the Henderson Lumber Company quarters.  The Henderson Lumber Company had its operation near today’s Henderson Road and Springhead Church Road, about where the  Willacoochee & DuPont Railroad (formerly the Ocilla, Pinebloom & Valdosta) terminated at Shaw’s Still.

Later the Thompsons moved to Jacksonville, FL.

Henry Howard Thompson died May 13, 1982 and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson died August 9, 1986. They are buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, FL.

Graves of Henry Howard Thompson (1898-1982) and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson (1900-1986).

Graves of Henry Howard Thompson (1898-1982) and Rosa Lee Drawdy Thompson (1900-1986). Image source: Johnny

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.

 

Watson Grade News, January 22, 1904

In 1904, a series of articles on the residents of “Watson Grade” began to appear monthly in the Tifton Gazette. Watson Grade, near Empire Church just  northeast of Ray’s Mill, GA , was the location of the Watson family farm and the home of Sam I. Watson, among others.  The first issue of Watson Grade News, as reported by “Trixie,” included several bits on the family of William and Betsy Patten.

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com

Elizabeth Register and William Patten. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com

Tifton Gazette
January 22, 1904

Killed by a Lumber Cart.   

Mr. W. C. Patten has been very sick for the past few days, but is improving.   

The school at Round Pond was to have opened up last Monday, but was suspended for two weeks, owing to the disagreeable weather.   

Mr. Mann Rouse is all smiles; he’s a girl.   

Mr. William Patten, aged 83 years, is very ill. He was stricken about a year ago with paralysis and it is supposed that he has the second attack.   

Mr. W. H. Watson has killed forty-nine porkers, of  very good average, this season. Mr. Watson is one of our hustling farmers.   

Mr. and  Mrs. J. I. Patten had a thrilling experience last Monday in a runaway scrape.  They were going to see Mr. Patten’s father, who is very sick, when their horse became frightened and ran away.  Mrs. Patten was thrown from the buggy at once while Mr. Patten remained until the shafts came loose, which left him in the buggy unhurt.  Mrs. Patten was bruised but not seriously injured.   

The young folks of this section enjoyed a nice pound party at Mr. D. P. Kent’s one night last week.   

One of our young men went to Valdosta a few days ago and came back with a new buggy and a lot of furnitures.   

Quite a crowd of our young folks enjoyed  nice dance at the beautiful home of Mr. Z. Spell last Saturday night.   

Miss Belle Patten is visiting relatives in Tampa, Fla.   

The many friends and schoolmates in this county of Miss Creasie Cook, of Coffee county, were shocked last Wednesday to hear of her death, which occurred near Willacoochee Tuesday.  Miss Cook was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Cook, who for years had lived near this place, but Mr. Cook had moved his family only a few days ago to superintend the logging of a saw mill near Willacoochee.  Miss Cook’s death was caused by falling from a timber cart and the log breaking her skull and severely bruising her body eight days before her death.  The remains were interred in Empire cemetery late Wednesday afternoon. Her bereaved parents and relatives have the sympathy of many friends in this, their time of sorrow.

TRIXIE

Watson Grade, Jan. 18.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904.

Watson Grade News in the Tifton Gazette, January 22, 1904. The article included personal mentions of the Watson and Patten families with Rays Mill, GA (Ray City) connections.

Some additional notes on the personal mentions in this article.

W. C. Patten  referenced in the article was William C. “Babe” Patten (1849-1944), a son of William Patten and Elizabeth “Betsey” Register.  William C. Patten was  a Notary Public and Ex Officio Justice of the Peace, He was married to Sarah Lee, who was the daughter of Moses Corby Lee and Jincy Register. When his wife’s niece, Jennie Lee, married Samuel I Watson in 1900, it was W. C.  Patten who performed the ceremony.  W.C. Patten, after the death of his first wife, married Sam Watson’s sister,  Laura Watson.

Round Pond was one of the common schools of the area. In 1906 Round Pond School was consolidated with Possum Trot and Guthrie School.

Mr. William Patten, age 83, born Nov. 3, 1820, was the oldest son of James and Elizabeth (Lee) Patten.  He was the husband of Elizabeth Register, and father of William C. Patten and James Irwin Patten, also mentioned in the article.

William Henry Watson was a son of Mark R. Watson and Rachel Slaughter, and the husband of Dicey Guthrie.  Dicey and William Watson made their home on the Ray City and Mud Creek road northeast of Rays Mill in the Empire Church community, in that part of Berrien county that was later cut into Lanier County.

Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Patten were James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.  James Irwin Patten was the eldest son of  William and “Betsey” Patten. Leanna Patten was a daughter of Jethro Patten.

Daniel P. Kent, host of the “pound party” was a farmer raising a family in the 1300 Georgia Militia District.  The 1899 Young Folk’s Cyclopedia of Games and Sports provides the following definition:

POUND PARTY, an entertainment to which each guest is required to bring something weighing exactly a pound. These may be eatables, toys, useful articles, or whatever the giver pleases. Each package is numbered and laid aside as it is received. When the guests are ready for the distribution of the parcels, numbered cards, or slips of paper, are passed around and each draws one. Some one then takes the packages one by one, calling its number aloud; the holder of the corresponding number becomes its owner, and must open it in the presence of the company.

Belle Patten was  a daughter of James Irwin Patten and Leanna Patten.

Creasy  or Creasie Cook, 13-year-old daughter of William Jackson Cook and Annie Laura Mathis,  died as a result of a tragic accident that occurred on January 7, 1904 during logging operations supervised by her father at a Willacoochee sawmill.  He father, W. J. Cook, was a registered voter in at Rays Mill, GA in the 1890s, and others of the Cook family connection lived in the town and surrounding area.   Creasy Cook was buried at Empire Cemetery.

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