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.

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Posting Mail at Ray City

Post marked Ray's Mills, GA

Post marked Ray’s Mills, GA

 Levi J. Knight and the first Wiregrass Pioneers to settle on Beaverdam Creek in the area of present day Ray City, GA arrived here about 185 years ago, in the 1820s. At first  these settlers had no mail service at all, but within a year or two a post office was established at Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie’s place on the Coffee Road. That was a 50 mile round trip for the settlers at Beaverdam Creek to fetch their mail.  Other post offices sprang up to serve the pioneers of Old Berrien County, but no post office was established closer than 10 or 12 miles to Ray City until after the Civil War.

KNIGHT’S MILL POST OFFICE
After the end of the Civil War, the grist mill that General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray had established on Beaverdam Creek became the site of the first post station serving the present day area of Ray City, GA. This mill was originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” and in 1867 a post office established here was simply referred to as “Knight’s Mill.” In 1870 the United States Postal Service Guide indicated that the postmaster of Knight’s Mill received an annual salary of $12.   The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

RAY’S MILL POST STATION
In 1870, after the death of General Knight, Thomas M. Ray bought out complete ownership of the mill from his father-in-law’s estate. Thereafter the mill and the surrounding community became known as Ray’s Mill. Apparently from 1871 and 1875 there was no post office in operation at Ray’s Mill, and residents were again compelled to take their mail at Nashville or Milltown. In 1876 a local post office resumed operation and according to the Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters,  Henry Harrison Knight was appointed on June 6, 1876.  The United States Official Postal Guide of July, 1879 lists the post office at “Ray’s Mills,” Berrien County, Georgia, but the postmaster’s name is not given. The Georgia State Gazetteer, Business and Planter’s Directory for 1881-82 also lists the the Ray’s Mill post office. In the 1885 Official Register of the United States, H.H. Knight was again listed as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia. His compensation for this service was $36.25. Post Office Dept records appear to indicate  that H.H. Knight was reappointed as Postmaster on May 22, 1886.  His wife, Mary Susan Ray Knight, was officially appointed Postmaster on November 1, 1892.  Joseph O. Sirmans was appointed on October 2, 1899 and served for about a year.  On September 1, 1900 the appointment was given to William C. Johnson (Johnson married H.H. Knight’s daughter in 1907).  The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters documents that David J. Rigell was appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on March 8, 1901.  Ulysses A. Knight took over on August 12, 1902 and was later confirmed as postmaster. Josiah S. Rigell took the position on April 28, 1903.  Post office records seem to indicate that the post office at Ray’s Mill was discontinued effective March 31, 1904 and for a while the mail was sent to Milltown (now Lakeland).

Some local histories say David Rigell, a  merchant of Berrien County, was the first postmaster at Ray’s Mill.  The primary sources, timing and other factors indicate that this was not the case (see David Jackson Rigell ~ First Postmaster of Ray’s Mill? Maybe Not!), but that Rigell served as postmaster in the 1901. It is speculated that the death of General Knight left the position vacant until Henry H. Knight, son-in-law of Thomas M. Ray and nephew of General Knight took an interest in civil service.

In 1909, Eugene Ray reported that “Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman, young men, are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here,” in Ray City, GA. The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Charles Anderson was officially appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on February 6, 1909, and  the Official Register of the United States shows in 1909, Chas Anderson was earning, $82 a month or $984 a year as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill.  That sum might have been comparable to an annual salary of about $35,000 a year in 2007 dollars.

On April 1, 1920, James “Joel” F. Fountain  became the Acting Postmaster. His appointment as Postmaster was confirmed in the U.S. Senate on June 5th of that year. The following year the  Ray City Post Office made the state news when it was dynamited by “Yeggmen“.

The census of 1930  shows James F. Fountain continued as the Ray City postmaster.  James Arthur Grissett and Lacy Albert McDonald were employed as rural mail carriers at Ray City.

By 1934, Mamie E. Fountain, wife of J. F. Fountain, took over as Postmaster at Ray City.

In 1939, the Nashville Herald announced a vacancy in the postmaster position at Ray City:

The Nashville Herald,
February 2, 1939    Pg 1

Postmaster’s Exam Called for Ray City

      An open competitive examination will be held shortly to fill the position of postmaster of Ray City, according to an announcement from the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.
Applications for the examination will close on February 10th.  All who desire to take the examination for this place must file their application by that date.
The place and date of examination will be announced after the date for making applications is closed.
Complete information may be obtained by applying at the post office in Ray City.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

The U. S. Postal service and census records provide the following on subsequent Postal employees at Ray City.

Name Title Date Appointed
James Arthur Grissett Mail Carrier prior to 4/04/1940
Chloe Ann Johnson Asst Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
Garth L. Webb Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
William A. Garner Acting Postmaster 04/02/1955
William A. Garner Postmaster 08/06/1957
Mrs. Florence V. Garner Officer-In-Charge 05/08/1970
Timothy R. McLeod Postmaster 11/27/1971
Jeane U. Camp Officer-In-Charge 06/04/1987
Billy R. Cromer Officer-In-Charge 07/30/1987
Muriel S. Privett Officer-In-Charge 11/05/1987
Jeane U. Camp Postmaster 01/30/1988
Nancy Deloras Courson Officer-In-Charge 01/08/2003
Nancy D. Courson Postmaster 05/17/2003
Flora Parker Officer-In-Charge 07/26/2012
Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

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