Richard Seward Johnson ~ Ray City Farmer

Richard Seward Johnson (1855-1936)

Richard Seward Johnson. Image courtesy of Henry Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

Richard Seward Johnson. Image courtesy of Henry Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

 

Richard Seward Johnson, a son of Merritt H. Johnson (1814 – 1877) and Mary Ann Holland (1819 – 1894), was born about 1855.  His father, Merritt H. Johnson, was a farmer of Thomas County, GA who before the Civil War had $600 in real estate and $3453 in his personal estate. His father was not enlisted during the Civil War, instead appearing on the 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia,   a statewide census of all white males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not serving at that time.  Many of the men enumerated in this census were exempt from service, and Merritt H. Johnson may have been exempted on account of his age (50).

Richard Seward Johnson’s parents came from Johnston County, North Carolina to settle in Thomas County, GA some time before 1850, along with his maternal grandparents and many others of the Holland family connection. Enumerated in 1850 in Thomas County, GA and  in Colquitt County in 1860, his parents were apparently residing in that portion of Thomas County which was cut into Colquitt County in 1856.

Richard Seward Johnson left his parents’ household by the time he was 15, as indicated by his absence there in the Census of 1870.  He apparently made his way to Berrien County, GA where on April 28, 1878 he married Ida Isabelle Shaw.   She was a daughter of William Jasper Shaw and Elizabeth Wetherington, born on the first Christmas of the Civil War, December 25, 1861.

Marriage certificate of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Shaw

Marriage certificate of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Shaw

By 1878 Richard Johnson owned 100 acres of lot 498, 10th Land District on the south side of the Ray’s Mill community, 1144 GMD. This land was valued at $300, and another 50 acres valued at $300 were in Mary Ann Johnson’s name. Together, they owned $70 in household furnishings, $259 in livestock, $70 in books and tools. Another 100 acres of Lot 498 was listed as the property of Jerry R. Johnson.  Jonathan Knight held an adjacent plantation of some 12oo acres on lots 497, 496 and 517. Other neighbors included Thomas S. Murphy on portions of lots 497 and 498,  Marcus Giddens on portions of lot 497,  Senator Jonathan E. Bryant on Lot 515, Green Bullard on lot 469,  and James M. Baskin owned lots 470 and 471.

From the 1879 tax records it appears that most of Mary’s acreage had been transferred to Richard. Mary was not listed as a property owner, whereas Richard was shown with 140 acres on Lot 498, valued at $600. His brother, James R. Johnson had also acquired 100 acres of Lot 498.  His father-in-law, William J. Shaw had acquired 310 acres on portions of Lot 499 and 514.  Jeremiah Shaw owned portions of Lots 499 and 500. Another 220 acres of lot 498 belonged to Thomas S. Murphy.  Moses H. Giddens was on a 250 acre portion of Lot 497, James M. Baskin continued on lots 470 and 471, and Jonathan Knight maintained his extensive plantation on adjacent lots.

In 1880, Richard S. Johnson had 140 and James R. Johnson 110 acres on Lot 498.  Moses H. Giddens on was on parts of 497, Thomas S. Murphy on portions of 497 and 498, William J. Shaw on portions of 499 and 514, and James M. Baskin owned lots 470 and 471.

For the  about the next 50 years, Richard Seward Johnson and his bride raised children and crops at Ray City, GA.

  1. William Cauley Johnson (1879 – 1958) married Rosa Lena Knight
  2. Florence Johnson (1881 – 1969) married Johnnie S. Peters
  3. Mary Johnson (1882 – 1914 ) married  Henry Needham Bullard (1878 – 1938)  on May 26,  1901 in Berrien Co., GA.
  4. Bessie Johnson (1885 – 1980) married Joseph B. Patten (1887 – 1971) on February 12, 1910
  5. Lillie Johnson (1886 – 1963) married Charlie Register who served as minister of Cat Creek Church
  6. Manning Filmore Johnson (1890 – 1967) married Marie Lola Carter
  7. Manson Lowndes Johnson (1890 – 1975)
  8. Ida Bell Johnson (1894 – )

Ida Isabell Shaw Johnson died January 4, 1927 at Ray City, Berrien County, GA.  She was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Richard Seward Johnson died in 1936 and was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.

 

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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