Widow Clements was a Planter of Berrien County, GA

Nancy Patten Clements (1822-1887)

Nancy Patten Clements was the wife of John Franklin Clements, and mother of his ten children. For 23 years after his death, she was the head of household on the Clements farm. She led her family through the Reconstruction period in the South. She acted as a strong and capable matriarch of her family, under whose management the farm and family prospered.

Born Nancy Patten, she was a daughter of James M. Patten and Elizabeth Lee, and sister of Jehu Patten.  Her paternal grandfather, William Patten of Camden District, S.C., was a Revolutionary Soldier.  Her maternal grandfather, Joshua Lee, was a veteran of the War of 1812. About 1830, her grandfather Joshua built an earthen berm across the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland), the first in the area to serve the original settlers of Ray City, GA. This mill run later became the site of Banks Mill.

Nancy Patten was born October 7, 1822. According to Folks Huxford, her parents married about 1819 and were among the first settlers of this area in what was then Irwin County, GA. They settled on Land Lot 400, in the 10th district of old Irwin County. Lot 400 was situated on Big Creek, about four miles above the community then known as Allapaha, now Lakeland, GA.  (The James M. Patten home-place was cut out of Irwin into Lowndes county,1825; from Lowndes into Berrien, 1856; and from Berrien into Lanier in 1920.) In 1825, Nancy’s parents, Elizabeth and James Patten, and maternal grandparents, Martha and Joshua Lee, along with William A. Knight, Sarah Knight, Jonathan Knight, Elizabeth Knight, Mary Knight, Josiah Sirmans, and Matthew Albritton constituted the primitive baptist Union Church, on the banks of the Alapaha River.

In the latter half of 1840, Nancy Sirmans married John F. Clements in Lowndes County. Records of the marriage were lost when the Lowndes County courthouse burned in 1858.  Upon her marriage Nancy was about 18 years old; John F. Clements was 30.  His household in the enumeration of 1840 included another white  male, age 40-something, a young slave woman and a slave girl, but as yet, the Lowndes County tax records did not show that he was a land owner.  His neighbors included John Lee, John Roberts, Benjamin Sirmans and John Knight.

At the time of the wedding, the Indian War (Second Seminole War) was under way.  In this conflict John served as a private in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Independent Company of  volunteer militia. This unit saw action in 1836 in the skirmish at William Parker’s place, actions along Warrior Creek, and the skirmish at Cow Creek.

Children of John Franklin Clements and Nancy Patten:

  1.     Rhoda C Clements (1843–1920) married William J. Lee
  2.     Martha Elizabeth Clements (1844–1926) married W. M. Adams
  3.     William Clements (1846– )
  4.     Nancy R Clements (1849–  ) married Levi W. Sirmans
  5.     Mary Mollie Clements (1851–1932)
  6.     Missouri Clements (1854–1928) married Thomas J. Futch
  7.     Sara Amanda Clements (1855–1931) married Moses C. Lee
  8.     Winnie Annie Clements (1855–1893) married William H. Studstill
  9.     David C Clements (1857–1902) married Martha Baskin
  10.     John Miles Clements (1859–1937)

By 1844, Nancy’s husband John F. Clements had acquired 245 acres in the 10th  District of Lowndes County.

By 1850, the Clements’ land had increased to 980 acres in Lowndes County, 50 of which were improved. The cash value of the farm was assessed at $500, and John Clements owned another $50 in equipment and machinery. The livestock included 4 horses, 37 milch cows, 87 other cattle, 21 sheep, and 100 swine, valued at $1000 taken all together. They had on hand 300 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of wheat, 1 bale of cotton at 400 pounds, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, 50 lbs of butter, and $125 worth of meat. Their neighbors were the families of Aaron Knight, Aden Boyd, Henry Tison and William Giddings.

In 1856, the Clements and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and into the newly created Berrien County.

On September 23, 1864 Nancy’s husband John F. Clements died at age 54. She buried him at Union Church, the church her parents had helped to found at Milltown (now Lakeland, GA).

Levi J. Knight assisted the widow Nancy Clements with the administration of the estate. The usual notice was published in the Milledgeville Confederate Union.

Milledgeville Confederate Union
January 3, 1865

    And whereas, Levi J. Knight and Nancy Clements applies to me for letters of administration on the estate of John F. Clements, deceased.
These are therefore to cite and admonish all persons interested to be and appear in my office within the time prescribed by law, and file objections if they have any why said letters should not be granted.
Witness my hand officially, November 7, 1864 [pd$3025 5t.] W.E. CONNELL Ord’y

At the time of John’s death, the Clements farm place was on six hundred and six acres of land situated on parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of Berrien. There, the Clements family had raised corn, oats, sweet potatoes, and other food crops, and livestock including milk cows, beef cattle, sheep and hogs, and of course, cotton.  Nancy Clements was left to run the farm, provide for the six of their children who were still at home, and care for her aged mother.  According to the 1866 map of Berrien County, GA, Lot 356 is situated square on the confluence of Allapacoochee Creek (now Ten Mile Creek) and Camp Creek (now Five Mile Creek), which combine to form Big Creek. To the north, Lot 335 straddles Camp Creek; to the south, Lot 381 lies between Big Creek and the pocosin that formed the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek. This wetland was impounded with an earthen dam by Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight in 1863, who constructed a grist mill at the outflow which became known as Ray’s Mill.

Under prevailing law, Nancy Clements had to apply to the courts for appointment to see to the affairs of her own children.

Milledgeville Federal Union
December 4, 1866

    And whereas, Nancy Clements applies to me for letters of guardianship on the persons and property of the minor heirs of John F. Clements, deceased.
These are therefore to cite and admonish all persons interested to be and appear in my office within the time prescribed by law, and file objections if they have any why said letters should not be granted.
Witness my hand officially, November 5, 1866
15 5c                              W.E. CONNELL Ord’y

The estate of John Franklin Clements was finally liquidated in 1867.

Milledgeville Federal Union, April 2, 1867 — page 4
GEORGIA, Berrien County.

Two months after date, application will be made to the Court of Ordinary, for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John F. Clements, deceased.
LEVI J. KNIGHT, Adm’r.
NANCY CLEMENTS, Adm’rx

January 18th, 1867   (w.e.c.) 26 9

 Milledgeville Federal Union, July 16, 1867 — page 4
Administrator’s Sale.
Will be sold at the Court House door in the town of Nashville, Berrien county, Ga on the first Tuesday in SEPTEMBER next, within legal hours of sale, six hundred and six acres of land being parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of said county. Two improvements on the land. Sold as the property of John F. Clements, deceased. Sold for distribution. Terms twelve months credit, small notes and approved security.
LEVI J. KNIGHT. Adm’r
NANCY CLEMENTS, Admr’x
July 2, 1867.     W E C    49 tds

John’s widow, Nancy Patten Clements, continued to reside in Berrien County. She was assessed for taxes in the 1144th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County in 1867 as the administratrix of the estate of J.F. Clements and and the Guarantor for John’s eldest son, William W. Clements. There were 303 acres of land under her name on Land Lots 356 and 381, 10th Land District. Under the name of William W. Clements there were 677 acres on parts of Lots 356, 381, and 335. Her neighbor on Lot 335 was Jasper Cook.

In the census of 1870 her homeplace was enumerated in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the Ray’s Mill District, with her children Martha E. Clements, Missouri Clements, Winnie Ann Clements, David C. Clements, John Miley Clements, and Amanda Clements. Nancy’s 78-year-old mother, Elizabeth Patten Thornton, was living with them; after the death of Nancy’s father in 1846, her mother had re-married to William Thornton of Ware County. Also in Nancy’s household was nine-month old William L. Clements . Nancy’s boys helped with the farming while the girls kept house.

Nancy’s farm was described in the 1870 Non-population Agricultural census as 400 acres, with 60 acres improved and 340 acres woodlands. The farm was valued at $300,  equipment and machinery worth an additional $50, and livestock valued at $821. She had 3 horses, 1 mule, 10 milch cows, 2 oxen, 45 other cattle, 30 sheep, and 35 hogs. Her stores included 120 bushels of Indian Corn, 180 bushels of oats, 1 bale of cotton at 450 lbs, 75 lbs of wool, 1 bushel of peas and beans, 4 bushels of Irish potatoes, 150 bushels sweet potatoes, $6 dollars worth of “orchard products”, 120 gallons of molasses, $30  dollars worth of “house manufactures”, and $170 dollars of meat production. Nancy’s total real estate was valued at $500 and her personal estate was valued at $1442. Among her neighbors were Jesse Lee, John Lee, and John W. Peeples.

The 1872 Berrien County tax digest shows Nancy had acquired an additional 200 acres of land on Lots 356 and 381. By 1877 she had acquired 700 acres additional land on Lots 380 and 426, bringing her total acreage up to 1300 acres

The 1880 agricultural census show Nancy Clements’ land holdings at 1040 acres with 40 acres under cultivation and 1000 acres in woodlands and forest. Her farm was valued at $1000, with $10 in implements and machinery.  She spent $5 on building and repairing fences, but no money on fertilizer. Her costs for board and wages for farm labor was $48.  Her $241 in livestock included 1 horse, 13 milch cows, and 27 other cattle. There were 8 calves dropped on her farm in 1879; two cattle were slaughtered, and four more were lost to disease, stolen or strayed. She had 8 sheep on hand; seven lambs were dropped, seven sheep were sold, and one died of disease.  Eight fleeces were sheared, for 19 pounds of wool. She had 10 hogs and 9 barnyard chickens. Her total farm production was estimated at $500.

Berrien County tax digests show that between 1880 and 1887 Nancy Clements executed a number of additional land deals with her children and others of the Clements family connections. She eventually consolidating her personal holdings to all 490 acres of Lot 380, situated on the east side of Ray’s Mill Pond, and disposed of all of her livestock.  Her neighbors included John Lee on parts of Lot 356; George W. Knight on parts of Lots 357 and 358; and her son, John M. Clements on parts of Lots 381 and 356.

Nancy Patten Clements died on October 30, 1887. She was buried at Union Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Nancy Patten Clements, wife of John Franklin Clements. Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of Nancy Patten Clements, wife of John Franklin Clements. Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image source: Randy Merkel

 

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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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.

John Franklin Clements

John Franklin Clements (1810 – 1864)

Grave of John F. Clements, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Grave of John F. Clements, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

John F. Clements, his parents, and brother David C. Clements were among the earlier pioneer families that settled the vicinity of Georgia now known as Ray City, Berrien County. The Clements arrived here some time around 1832.  “The Knights were no doubt responsible for their coming, since they and the Clementses had been neighbors in Wayne County (now Brantley County), and Ann, [John F. Clements’] sister in 1827 had married Levi J. Knight, whose parents had moved to this area a couple of years earlier” – Nell Patten Roquemore

John F. Clements was born October 7, 1810 in Wayne County, GA , a son of William and Elizabeth Clements. As he was growing up his family lived in a part of Wayne county that was later cut into Brantley County. The Clements farm was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the early roads in south Georgia.

Next door to the Clements’ farm lived their friends and future in-laws, the Knights. William Clements had settled his family on land adjacent to the farm of William Anderson Knight, and the two became good friends. William A. Knight, patriarch of the Knight family, was among the very first settlers of Wayne County, having arrived there just after the creation of the county, about 1803.  Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The county seat was named Waynesville.

John F. Clements and his siblings grew up with the sons and daughters of William A. Knight. In late 1827 John F. Clements’ widowed sister, Mary Ann Clements Herrin, married Levi J. Knight in Wayne CountyMr. and Mrs. L.J. Knight set out to homestead in Lowndes county (now Berrien) on Beaverdam creek, at the present site of Ray City, GA.

In Wayne County, John F. Clements served as Tax Collector  for the two year term from 1830-32. He was elected February 12, 1830, with his father William Clements putting up a surety bond along with William Flowers.   Shortly after John’s term as tax collector expired, the entire Clements family followed the Knights and made the move west to Lowndes County, GA.  He took up residence in Mattox’s District, although tax records do not show he acquired land of his own there. Other Lowndes County settlers in this district included David Bell, James Price, Aaron Mattox, Etheldred Newbern, John Jones, Jr., Michael Peterson, John Peacock, Thomas Giddens, George Hunt, and Frederic McGiddery. In 1832, John F. Clements was a fortunate drawer in the Cherokee Land Lottery, drawing Lot 124, 28th District, 3rd Section, Cherokee County.  Lowndes county tax records from 1834-1844 show John F. Clements owned 400 acres of oak and hardwood land in Cherokee County.

During the Indian Wars (Second Seminole War) John F. Clements served in Levi J. Knight’s Independent Company of Lowndes County, appearing on a company muster roll from August 15 to October 15,  1838. Knight’s Company fought at the Skirmish at William Parker’s Place, and Actions on Little River, among other local engagements.

John’s father, William Clements, died in March of 1837. It is said that he is buried in an unmarked grave  in Union Church Cemetery, (now in Lanier County, GA).  John served as the administrator of his father’s estate.

1837-oct-21-southern-recorder-john-f-clements_administrator

John F. Clements appointed administrator of the estate of William Clement.

Southern Recorder
October 31, 1837

Four Months after date, application will be made to the honorable the Inferior Court of Lowndes county, when sitting for ordinary purposes, for leave to sell the land and negroes belonging to the estate of William Clements, late of said county, deceased.  John F. Clements, Adm’r.

 

In 1840, John F. Clements was enumerated in Lowndes County. He was 30 years old. His household included another white  male, age 40-something, a young slave woman and a slave girl.  Neighbors included John Lee, John Roberts, Benjamin Sirmans and John Knight. Later that year he married Nancy Patten, a daughter of James M. Patten and Elizabeth Lee, sister of Jehu Patten. 

John F. Clement served on the Lowndes County Grand Jury of 1841 which was convened in Troupville, GA, seat of Lowndes County, in May, 1841 under Judge Carlton B. Cole. Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the jury.   The jury criticized the condition of roads in the county and the past-due collections for the sale of lots in the town of Troupville. The jury allowed tax collector Norman Campbell thirty dollars, forty-two-cents and three mills for his insolvent list for the year 1839.

By 1844, John F. Clements had also acquired 245 acres in the 10th  District of Lowndes County. He was also administering 490 acres in Rabun County and 550 acres in Wayne County on behalf of his father

By 1850, John F. Clements owned 980 acres in Lowndes County, 50 of which were improved. The cash value of the farm was assessed at $500, and Clements owned another $50 in equipment and machinery. His livestock included 4 horses, 37 milch cows, 87 other cattle, 21 sheep, and 100 swine, valued at $1000 taken all together. He had on hand 300 bushels of Indian corn, 40 bushels of wheat, 1 bale of cotton at 400 pounds, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, 50 lbs of butter, and $125 worth of meat. His neighbors were Aaron Knight, Aden Boyd, Henry Tison and William Giddings.

In 1856, the Clements and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and into the newly created Berrien County.

When the Civil War started, John F. Clements was about 49 years old. The 1864 Census for Reorganizing the Georgia Militia  enumerated John F. Clements in the 1144th Georgia Militia District.  His age was given and 52 years, 7 months.  The 1864 Census for Re-organizing the Georgia Militia was a statewide census of all white males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not at the time in the service of the Confederate States of America. Based on a law passed by the Georgia Legislature in December 1863 to provide for the protection of women, children, and invalids living at home,  the 1864 census was a list of  men who were able to serve in local militia companies and perform such home-front duties as might be required of them. Possibly John F. Clements was mustered into the 5th Georgia Reserves, Company L.  Military records show a J. F. Clements, 1st corporal of Company L paroled May 1, 1865 following the Confederate surrender.

john-f-clements-5-georgia-reserves

John F. Clements died on September 23, 1864 at age 54. He was buried at Union Church Cemetery, Milltown (now Lakeland, GA).  Levi J. Knight assisted the widow Nancy Clements with the administration of the estate. At the time of his death, the Clements farm place was on six hundred and six acres of land situated on parts of Lots of Land No. 381, 356, and 335 in the 10th District of Berrien. His widow, Nancy Clements, was left to run their farm, provide for the six of their children who were still at home, and care for her aged mother.

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Notes on Sarah Malinda Clements

Sarah Malinda Clements (1862-1947)

Sarah Malinda Clements was born March 12, 1862 in Berrien County, GA. She was the youngest of 13 children born to David G. Clements and Gincey Sirmans.  She was a sister of Levi Jordan Clements, who was the patriarch of the Clements sawmill business at Ray City.

Sarah’s parents were pioneer settlers of the area. They were married in Lowndes County, GA on January 1, 1835.   Her father came with his parents to Lowndes County about 1832.  Her grandfather William Clements and William A. Knight had been neighbors in Wayne County, GA, and her aunt Anne Donald Clements had married Levi J. Knight in 1827. Her mother was  Gincey Sirmans, a daughter of Abner Sirmans and Bettie Kirkland. Abner Sirmans, his brothers, and father, Josiah Sirmans, were among the first permanent settlers of Clinch County, GA, having arrived there in 1822. Her aunt Elizabeth  “Betsy” Sirmans married Etheldred Dryden Newbern, another pioneer settler of Berrien County.

Sarah’s father and both of her grandfathers, fought under the command of their friend and neighbor Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1836-1838.  David G. Clements, William Clements and Abner Sirmans all served with Captain Knight’s Independent Company. David Clements was among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

Soon after marriage, David G. Clements acquired lot of land 406, 10th district, on which he lived and farmed until his death. He was cut into Berrien out of Lowndes County, 1856. In Berrien County, the Clements home place was in the 1144th Georgia Militia District just north of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

lot-470-471-maps-w-roads-ac

In 1854, Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth Clements, married William Gaskins. The Clements were neighbors of William Gaskins, son of Fisher Gaskins.   The Gaskins were another of the early pioneer families of Berrien County.  William Gaskins came to the area with his father and brothers, John Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins, with their large herds of cattle,  about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek (site of present day Ray City, GA).

At the outset of the Civil War, Sarah’s father and brother, John C. Clements, answered the call of General Levi J. Knight to form a company of men for Confederate service; their names appear on an 1861 muster roll of the Berrien Minute Men.  John C. Clements served with Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment; David G. Clements later appears on the 1864 census of southern men who were excluded from the draft on account of age.

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements.  https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

1870 census enumeration of 8-year old Sarah Clements in the household of her mother, Gincey Clements. https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n438/mode/1up

Sarah, born during the Civil War, grew up on her father’s farm during the Reconstruction period in Georgia.  She attended the local country schools and was educated through the 5th grade. It appears that she lived in her father’s home until his death in 1888.

Although  Sarah married twice, she was not lucky in love. She did not marry until the age of 36.

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

1880 census enumeration of Sarah Ann Clements in the household of her father, David G. Clements. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n379/mode/1up

In the Census of 1880, 18-year-old Sarah Ann Clements was enumerated by Census taker L.E. Lastinger in her father’s household. Also present was Sarah’s older sister Mary Ann, to whom she was devoted for life, and their siblings.  Next door were Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clements, and her husband William Gaskins. Also neighbors were William’s niece Mary Evelyn Gaskins and her husband George W. Fender.

On October 26, 1898 Sarah married William J. “Bill Jack” Knight.  He was born in 1860, but otherwise little is known of his history. The ceremony was performed by Albert Benjamin Surrency in Berrien County, GA.

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements

Sarah Clements and William J. Knight are enumerated together in the census of 1900 in their Rays Mill home. Sarah’s spinster sister, 59-year-old Mary Ann Clements, had also come to live in the Knight household.   Sarah’s brother, John C. Clements, and his family remained as neighbors, as did George W. Fender.

William and Sarah owned their farm near Ray’s Mill  free and clear of mortgage.  Only one offspring was born of this union, but the child died young.

William J. Knight died on January 22, 1909 at his home near Ray’s Mill, GA.

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Obituary of William J. Knight, husband of Sarah Malinda Clements

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

Information reached here Monday of the sudden death of Mr. “Bill Jack” Knight, a prominent resident of the Ray’s Mill district. Mr. Knight had been slightly indisposed for two or three days.  After eating a light supper Friday night as he was sitting at the fireside he suddenly fell over and died.  Mr. Knight was fifty years of age and was married about seven years ago to Miss Sarah Clements, of this place.  He was laid to rest at the Beaverdam burial grounds.  – Milltown News.

The widow Sarah Knight was enumerated (as Sarah Clements) in 1910 with her sister Mary Ann Clements in their home just east of Ray’s Mill.  They were neighbors of John B. Fountain and Frank Gallagher.

Some time before 1920 Sarah married for a second time, joining in matrimony with James W. Suggs.  He was from Dooly County, GA, a son of Malinda “Lynne” Ammon and Wright Suggs.

Sarah and James W. Suggs were enumerated together in the Census of 1920, at their farm on a settlement road near Ray’s Mill. Sarah’s sister and constant companion, Mary Ann Clements, resided with the Suggs.  On adjacent farms were Parnell Knight and Henry D. Bennett.

The 1926 Influenza epidemic reached its peach in Georgia in March;  1926 was the worst flu year since the pandemics of 1918-1919 which had claimed 675,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 30 million worldwide. Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Clements, at the age of 86, succumbed to Influenza, dying  on March 26, 1926.  She was attended by her nephew, Dr. Henry W. Clements, who was a son of Rowena Patten and Levi J. Clements.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery.

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Death certificate of Mary Ann Clements, March 26, 1926, Ray City, GA

Sometime between 1920 and 1930 James W. Suggs died, leaving Sarah widowed for the second time. Sarah, now on her own, boarded in the farm home of Sherrod Winfield Fender and his wife, Lula Bell Smith. Sherrod was a son of George W. Fender, and a neighbor of Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, and Phil McGowan. Also lodging in the Fender household was Chester Nobles.

Sherrod W. Fender died in 1931, but Sarah continued to live with the widowed Lula Smith Fender. The 1940 census shows Sarah Suggs enumerated as a “companion” of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

1940 census enumeration of Sarah Clements Suggs in the Ray City, GA household of Lula Fender.

Sarah Malinda Clements Suggs died April 8, 1947.   She was buried at New Ramah Cemetery at Ray City, GA. (Lula Fender was a member of the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church.)

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.  Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

Grave of Sarah Clements Suggs (1862-1947), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Image Source: Robert Strickland, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52222556

John Gaskins, Pioneer of Old Berrien

John Gaskins (1802 – 1865)

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave marker of John Gaskins (1802-1865), Riverside Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

 John Gaskins was one of the early pioneers of Berrien County, settling along with his father, Fisher Gaskins,  and brothers near present day Bannockburn, GA.  They made their homes on the west side of the Alapaha River about 16 miles distant from today’s Ray City, GA location, settling there about the same time the Knights and Clements were homesteading in the area around Beaverdam Creek.

John Gaskins was born June 29, 1802 in Warren County, GA. He was the eldest child of Fisher Gaskins and Rhoda Rowe, and a grandson of Thomas Gaskins, Revolutionary Soldier.  When John was around four or five years old, his parents  and grandparents  moved  the family back to Beaufort District, South Carolina, from whence they had originated.  The family appears there in Beaufort District in the Census of 1810. By the time of the 1810 enumeration, John Gaskins’ parents had given him four siblings – two brothers and two sisters.

But immediately following the birth of her fifth child, John’s mother died.  He was eight years old at the time.  His widowed father packed up the five young children and moved the family back to Warren County, GA.  There, on January 17, 1811 his father married Mary Lacy. Her father, Archibald Lacy, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and her brother was the Reverend John B. Lacy, who would later become a prominent  Primitive Baptist Minister.  Around this time John’s father was expanding his livestock business and began looking for good grazing land for his growing herds of cattle.

By 1812, John Gaskins’ father moved the family to Telfair County, GA where he acquired good grazing land for his cattle. His father and his uncle, David Gaskins, were very successful in the cattle business and soon had large herds, not only in Telfair County where they were enumerated in 1820, but also in Walton and other surrounding counties where good natural pasturage could be had.

Around 1821, the Gaskins again moved their families and cattle herds to the south, crossing the Ocmulgee River at Mobley’s Bluff and pushing into the new frontier of Appling County,GA.  John, now a young man of 17 or 18 years old, made the move with his family.  His uncle, David Gaskins, halted in an area of Appling County known as “The Roundabout”, situated in present day Atkinson County, where he found good range land for his cattle. John’s father took his herd across the Alapaha River into then Irwin County at a location that for many years was known as the John Ford.

The Fisher Gaskins clan, John’s father and his brothers, settled west of the Alapaha River a little south of present day Bannockburn, GA near the site of Riverside Church. On April 14, 1825  John Gaskins married Mary Pollie Barrow in Irwin County, GA.      This was about 15 miles north of the area where the Knights and Clements were settling their families above Grand Bay, near present day Ray City, GA.  John and Mary Gaskins established their homestead just to the north of his father’s place. By the end of 1825, the Georgia Legislature divided Irwin County and from the southern portion formed the new county of Lowndes.

On August 11, 1826 Mary Gaskins delivered to John his first son, Gideon Gaskins. A second son arrived on February 16, 1828, whom they named Fisher Jackson Gaskins; Fisher – after his paternal grandfather, and Jackson perhaps after Andrew Jackson, the Hero of New Orleans who would be elected President that year.

John Gaskins appeared as a head of household in Lowndes County in the Census of 1830, as did his father, Fisher Gaskins.  About 1829 or 1830, John’s father moved his cattle across the county and settled on Lot 91 of the 9th Land District, which was subsequently known as the Chambliss place, and later became the home of George D. Griffin.

About 1831 a contagious disease struck Fisher Gaskins’ herd, killing off several hundred head of cattle and inciting the elder Gaskins to seek new pastures yet again. With the help of hired hands, he drove his remaining cattle into North Florida to settle in the area of Alachua County, FL.   John and Mary stayed behind in Lowndes County (now Berrien), as well as John’s brothers,  William and Harmon.

“When he moved to Florida, he [Fisher Gaskins] left much of his herds behind in Georgia to be looked after by his sons, John, William, and Harmon who by that time were grown.  These herds multiplied and in turn, other herds were formed and placed about at various points in what is now Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties and over in Florida, under the management of herdsmen, who for their services were paid at the end of the year a percentage of the proceeds of the cattle sold that year.  The beef cattle were driven to Savannah and other distant places each year and sold. This arrangement with the herds and herdsmen continued with the elder Gaskins making periodic visits of inspection until his death, after which the three sons in Georgia received the Georgia herds in a division of the estate.”

Cattlemen like John Gaskins sold their Berrien County livestock at points like Savannah, GA or  Centerville on the St. Mary’s River, or Jacksonville, Florida.

John Gaskins fought in the Indian War 1836-1838, serving in Levi J. Knight’s Militia Company.   Georgia historian Folks Huxford wrote,  “His home was visited  by the savages on one occasion while the family was absent, and a good deal of vandalism and theft was committed.”   John Gaskins and his brother William were among those who took part in the Battle of Brushy Creek, one of the last real engagements with the Creek Indians in this region.

At age 38, John Gaskins and family were enumerated in the Census of 1840, still living in the northeast area of old Lowndes county now known as Berrien County. His brother, William, was living next door, and nearby were the homesteads of David Clements and William Clements, and other early settlers.

In 1850 the Gaskins remained in  Lowndes County.  Enumerated nearby the Gaskins home place were the residences of General Levi J. Knight, William Patten, Hardeman Sirmans, David Clements, Moses C. Lee, and other early settlers. John Gaskins was a farmer, with $600 in real estate.

Around 1855 the Gaskins were involved in some sort of public disturbance in Lowndes county.  Hardeman Sirmons, Benjamin S. Garrett, Drewry Garrett, Will Garrett, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Gideon Gaskins, and Lemuel Gaskins were all brought before the Lowndes Superior Court for their involvement in a riot.  In 1856, however, the Gaskins and their neighbors were cut out of Lowndes county and placed in the new county of Berrien. The defendants were able to have their case  transferred to Berrien County in June of 1856, and apparently escaped serious consequences.

In the Census of 1860 John Gaskins appeared on the enumeration sheets listed next to Thomas M. Ray, who would begin construction of Ray’s Millpond just a few years later.

From 1858 to 1861, John Gaskins served as a Justice of the Peace in Berrien County.

During the Civil War five of his sons joined Georgia Volunteer Infantry regiments: Fisher J. Gaskins, William Gaskins, Lemuel Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Harris Gaskins, .

Children of John Gaskins and Mary Pollie Barrow:

  1. Gideon Gaskins, born 1826, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Knight (July 17, 1831 – February 03, 1902); buried Riverside Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.
  2. Fisher J. Gaskins, Sr., born February 16, 1828, Berrien County, GA; married Elizabeth Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died November 14, 1908, Berrien County, GA; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  3. John Gaskins, Jr., born January 16, 1830, Berrien County, GA; married Catherine Calder; died May 6, 1886.
  4. Emily Gaskins, born 1832, Berrien County, GA; married Joseph Newbern.
  5. William Gaskins, born March 5, 1833; married Elizabeth Clements, daughter of David G. Clements; served in Company I, 54th GA Regiment; died August 27, 1910; buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  6. Lemuel Elam Gaskins, born 1836, Berrien County, GA; married Sarah Ann Sirmans, daughter of Abner Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment;  died October 26, 1862, Richmond, VA; buried Richmond VA, memorial marker at Riverside Baptist Church.
  7. Joseph Gaskins, born April 28, 1840, Berrien County, GA; married Harriet Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans; served in Company I, 50th GA Regiment; died February 4, 1911; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church.
  8. Harmon Gaskins, born 1842, Berrien County, GA; died young.
  9. Harrison  “Harris” Gaskins, born April 5, 1842, Berrien County, GA.; married Roxanna “Roxie” Sirmans, daughter of James Sirmans, on April 17, 1862; served in Company K, 29th GA Regiment; died January 7, 1926; Buried at Riverside Baptist Church
  10. Bryant Gaskins, born 1846, Berrien County, GA

Clinch County News
April 23, 1937

John Gaskins – 1802-1865

Oldest son of Fisher Gaskins by his first wife. Came to Berrien while a youth, grew to manhood here. His wife was a daughter of Joseph Barrow… Immediately after their marriage John Gaskins and his wife settled on the Alapaha River a short distance north of the old home of his father and near where Bannockburn now is, and there they spent their entire married life together.   The death of John Gaskins occurred at this home July 18, 1865; and 23 years later, January 6, 1888 his widow joined her husband in the spirit-land, at the age of 83.  Both are buried at Riverside Cemetery and their graves are substantially marked. They were the parents of a large family of sons and daughters and their living descendants in this county to-day are very numerous.

John Gaskins was a man who spent his life at home and gave his time and attention to his avocation.  The farm was made self-sustaining; work was the rule and grim want never came to stare the inmates of this farm-home in the face.  Food for family and stock was well and abundantly supplied and the excellence of the range went a long way in helping him to provide meat for family and lay up money from the sales of beef-cattle.  Deer and turkeys were plentiful and could be taken at any time. Fish abounded in the river and with all of these good things around life on the frontier was not so bad after all.  Hogs grew almost wild in the hammocks and only required a few weeks’ finishing off with corn or field crops to be ready for slaughter. Cattle were let to go at large all the time except they were penned regularly for about six weeks during the months of April and May so that they may be marked and branded and kept under control; and the annual sale of these beef-cattle brought the gold in their homes against the rainy-day and old age.

John Gaskins took part in driving the last of the wandering bands of Indians from Georgia soil, and one of the last engagements with the redskins fought on Berrien county soil took place near the home of this old pioneer.  His home suffered from Indian predations to the extent that the feather beds were taken out, the ticks ripped open, the feathers emptied and scattered and the ticks carried away with some other articles of the household.  Some of these articles were recovered, among which was a beautiful pitcher which had been treasured as an heirloom for many years.  The place where the pitcher was recovered after it had been cast aside by the Indians in their flight across the Alapaha River, is known to this day among the local inhabitants as “Pitcher Slough.”

Following the death of John Gaskins in 1865 his sons Fisher J. and John, Jr. served as the administrators of his estate.

Milledgeville Federal Union
August 21, 1866 — page 4

Georgia, Berrien County.
Two months after date application will be made to the Court of Ordinary of said county for leave to sell the lands belonging to the estate of John Gaskins, Sen., deceased, for the benefit of the heirs and creditors of said deceased.
F. J. Gaskins,
John Gaskins, Jr.   Adm’r’s.
July 2d, 1866.        WEC       50 9c

Related Posts:

Levi J. Knight ~ Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836

  1. Wayne County Beginnings 1803-1827
  2. Settling Lowndes County 1827-1836
  3. Seminole Wars 1836 – 1842
  4. Antebellum Wiregrass 1843 -1860
  5. Civil War 1861-1865
  6. Wiregrass Reconstruction 1866-1870

Settling in Lowndes County

About 1827 Levi J. Knight and his new bride Ann Herrin Clements homesteaded  on land on Beaverdam Creek, near the present day site of Ray City, GA.  In their first year on Beaverdam Creek, the Knights established a household and prepared to begin a family.

The Knight homestead was situated in Lowndes County (present day Berrien County).  When the first Superior Court in Lowndes County was convened at Sion Hall’s Inn on the Coffee Road, Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury. At that time, the only post office in Lowndes County (which then encompassed present day Lowndes, Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties) was  at the home of Daniel McCranie on the newly opened Coffee Road.   When Franklinville, GA became the first town in Lowndes County in 1828, the post office was moved there.  Located west of the Withlacoochee River about 9 miles southwest of the Knight property, Franklinville served as the first county seat of Lowndes County and a courthouse of hewn logs was constructed there at a cost of $215. According to Huxford’s “Sketch of the Early History of Lowndes County, Georgia“, Franklinville was a small trading community of one or two stores and a few houses. Hamilton W. Sharpe, a fellow Whig, regarded Franklinville a place of intemperance. Settlers in Lowndes County did most of their trading at Tallahassee, St. Marks or Newport, Florida, or traveled to Centerville on the St. Marys River.

In 1829, Levi  was Justice of the Peace for the 658th District, Lowndes County:

Digest of Georgia, 1837.  Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Digest of Georgia, 1837. Establishment of election districts in Lowndes County, GA

Election Districts and Elections. Courts and elections to be held at the house of Sion Hall,  1825, vol. iv. 128 –  Removed to the house of Francis Roundtree, 1826, vol. iv. 134 –  Elections in the  15th district to be held at the house of Daniel Burnett; in the 16th, at the house of Silas Overstreet, 1828, vol. iv. 179 –  At Jesse Goodman’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Williams’ district; at Sion Hall’s, the place of justices’ courts in Capt. Pike’s district; at John Townsend’s, being the court ground in Studhill’s district; at Levi Knight’s, the court place in Knight’s district; at Lewis Roberts’, the justices’ court place in Johnson’s district; and at Mr. Davis’, in Cowart’s district, 1829, vol. iv. 185—One dollar to the presiding magistrate for attending at the court-house to consolidate the returns, 1829, vol. iv. 409

Levi J. Knight received power of attorney from his father-in-law, William Clements, of Wayne County, on 19 Nov. 1830, “to appear for him in the Courts in Alabama and to sue for and collect all demands he has against Angus McDonald…” Angus McDonald had served as deputy clerk of the superior court of Wayne County. Georgia.  On December 24, 1822 William Clements had put up surety on the $1000 bond of Angus McDonald, guardian of Sidney Pilcher who was the orphan of Harriet Burney. Apparently, Clements had to make good on the surety, and he wanted Levi J. Knight to get his money back.

Ann gave birth to their first son,  William Washington Knight in 1829. Three more children were born over the next three years; Elizabeth (1830), John G. (1832), and Sarah (1833). During this period Levi J. Knight served out  his term (1829-1833) as Justice of the Peace, and returned to his experience as a surveyor, again mapping lands the state had gained from the Indians. As the state surveyor of Cherokee lands, Section 3, District 13, he took field notes  recording the distances and points demarcating the district and land lots, land features, roads, and watercourses. These field notes, along with those of other surveyors, were conducted prior to the distribution of lands in the 1832 Land Lotteries in Georgia.

Career in Public Service
“Levi, J. Knight, a planter of Berrien County…held several county offices; for a number of years he represented the county and was senator from his district in the general assembly.”
“He was commissioned a justice of the peace of the 658th district of Lowndes County in 1829, and served until 1832, when he was elected State senator from Lowndes County. He was again elected justice of the peace and commissioned October 15th, 1838. He served again as senator through the sessions of 1834-35 and 1837 to 1841. In 1845 he was again elected justice of the peace and served four years. In 1851 he was elected State senator from the 5th district, which then included Berrien County, and served through the session of 1851-52.”
Levi J. Knight was Sheriff of Wayne County (1824), Justice of the Peace of Lowndes County (1829-1833), State Senator from Lowndes County (1832, 1834, 1837, 1841). He was Senator from 5th District (1851-1856). He was Justice of the Berrien Inferior Court 1861, and a Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1868.
Levi J. Knight or one of his sons occupied a seat in the Georgia General Assembly for a period of forty years.

 Levi J. Knight was elected to the State Assembly as  Senator from Lowndes County in 1832 and 1834.  It was in this time that the Whig Party was rising against what was seen as executive excesses of “King Andrew” Jackson.  The Whigs favored national development and over time built an unlikely coalition of  anti-slavery, pro-slavery, and anti-masonic supporters. Levi J. Knight became a strong supporter of the Whig party and served as the Lowndes delegate to the Whig state conventions on several occasions.

In 1835, Levi J. Knight gave the Forth of July oration at the county courthouse at Franklinville to a large crowd and enthusiastic crowd, “We have come up on the jubilee of our country’s liberty, to honor the day that gave birth to the greatest republic in the world.”  The celebration was followed by a banquet with a round of regular toasts to Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette, and to former Georgia Governor, George Michael Troup, as well as some to denounce the excesses of President Andrew Jackson.

Some time in the 1830s the Lowndes County center of government moved from Franklinville to the growing settlement of Lowndesville. Located about twenty miles south of the Knight homestead, Lowndesville was near the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers. This location was touted by some to become a riverboat landing and the prospect of river transportation was hoped to foster a pioneer boom period for the community, but according to Montgomery M. Folsom  that dream was never realized.

When the community had grown to about 25 families, the name of the town was changed to Troupville in honor of Georgia Governor George M. Troup.  Troup was an outspoken proponent of the State Rights theory, which asserted that individual states were not bound by Federal law. Levi J. Knight and many other pioneers of old Lowndes County were Troup supporters, and in 1834 Levi J. Knight and his father William A. Knight were instrumental in forming the  the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA.  Troupville quickly became the leading town in the region. In Troupville there were stores, hotels, churches, doctors, lawyers, newspapers, entertainment, even a bowling alley. The Knights were among the planters of Lowndes County who made Troupville their center of trade  (Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents).

In 1836 another daughter was born to the Knights, Mary Adelaide Knight. As a young woman, Mary would become the bride of Thomas M. Ray who, along with her father, founded the original grist mill at Ray City.

In the spring of 1836 there were reports and rumors of Indians attacking pioneers in other parts of the state. The Seminole War was brewing… and that summer the original settlers of Ray City, GA were engaged in Indian skirmishes.

  1.  (1942). History of Lowndes County: Georgia, 1825-1941. Valdosta, Ga.: General James Jackson chapter, D.A.R. Pg 5-6.
  2. Georgia. 1837. A digest of the laws of the state of Georgia: containing all statutes and the substance of all resolutions of a general and public nature, and now in force, which have been passed in this state, previous  to the session of the General assembly of Dec. 1837.pg 995
  3. THE SOUTH GEORGIA HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL QUARTERLY, VOL. 1, JULY 1922, NO. 3, pp. 03-05.OLD RECORDS BOOK “H” OF BONDS, WAYNE COUNTY, GEORGIA, COURT OF ORDINARY, FIRST 77 PAGES.
  4. Huxford,F. 1971. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VI, The Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia 1971. pg 139.’
  5. Huxford,F. 1954. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume II, Press of the Patten Publishers, Adel, Georgia, pg 176.
  6. Huxford, F. 1975, Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume VII, Jesup Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia. pg 226.
  7. Huxford, F. 1967. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume V, Herrin’s Print Shop, Waycross, GA. pg 162.
  8. Georgia Surveyor General. 1832 – SURVEY RECORDS – FIELD NOTE BOOKS – Cherokee, Section 3, District 13, Levi J. Knight, 1832. http://find.sos.state.ga.us/archon/?p=collections/findingaid&id=324&q=&rootcontentid=231131#id231131
  9. Memoirs of Georgia, Volume I, Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 1895, Book, page 316
  10. Huxford, F. (1916). History of Clinch County, Georgia, , comp. and ed. by Folks Huxford. Macon, Ga: J.W. Burke. pg. 265
  11. Loyless, T. W. (1902). Georgia’s public men 1902-1904. Atlanta, Ga: Byrd Print. Pp 166.

Knights Come to Lowndes County, GA

In the winter of 1824-25 a group of Revolutionary War “Baby Boomers” came west from Wayne County, Georgia to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the area that would one day become known as Ray City, Georgia.  They were  politically connected and probably had full knowledge that the huge area of Irwin county, occupying the central third of the southern Georgia, was about to be divided into smaller counties.

Among the leaders of this small band of settlers were William Anderson Knight and wife Sarah Cone Knight, his brother Samuel Knight, and his son-in-law Isben Giddens. They brought with them their families, children, livestock, and their possessions to make a new home in the new county of Lowndes, which was created from parts of Irwin County in 1826. These pioneers were experienced at opening up a new county. They were frontiersmen with militia experience, and also experienced at carving farms and plantations from the wilderness of the Wiregrass. In a sense, they were the first ‘Americans’, born between the time of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. They were raised in a time of war; their fathers served as Revolutionary Soldiers. Like the baby boomers of later wars, they grew up in a sort of post-war boom period, where Americans were celebrating their new-found independence and freedom.

The Knights were true Wiregrass pioneers. They came to this section from Wayne County, where William A. Knight had been among the very first settlers, arriving there about 1803. The Knight’s Wayne County place was situated near the Old Post Road, one of the earliest roads in Georgia. On the land adjacent to Knight’s, another Wiregrass pioneer, William Clements, had settled his family.  The Knights and the Clements became steadfast friends with many family and business dealings; William Knight and William Clements served together on the Wayne county Grand Jury of 1813 and worked together in other civic capacities.

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

Old Post Road Historic Marker, Glynn County, GA

The Old Post Road…was originally an Indian trail extending from St. Augustine, Florida, northward through south Georgia into the rolling country known as the Sand Hill section. Mitchell’s map of 1756, now in the Library of Congress in Washington, shows this trail. During the Revolutionary War the American forces marched along it on their way to attack a British contingent at Fort Tonyn, which was somewhere south of [U.S. Hwy 84]. Historians have not been able to determine the exact site. The road continued to be used as a stagecoach route and post road between Savannah and Florida until the War between the States.

When Wayne County had been created in 1803, William A. Knight was one of five commissioners empowered by the Georgia Legislature to determine the site of the county seat in the new county, and “when it was done it was located on lands owned by Mr. Knight and by William Clements.” The Wayne county seat became known as Tuckersville, after resident John Tucker who served as the first postmaster there. (Waynesville was not officially designated as the county seat until 1829.) William A. Knight served as a post master after John Tucker, and William Clements served as a Wayne County road commissioner. Tuckersville  was located  somewhere north of Waynesville on the Post Road near the Buffalo Swamp, once the home and feeding grounds of herds of Georgia buffalo. The town disappeared from maps after 1850 and its exact location remains a mystery. wayne-historic-marker In its first twenty years, Wayne County was slow in developing.  William A. Knight served as the tax collector for 1806 and 1807, but no monies were returned to the state Comptroller General’s office for those years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia “The area contained hundreds of acres of pine barrens and wiregrass country. Much of the land was undesirable for settlement… Many of the early white settlers were families who, having lost their bids to win richer land in Baldwin or Wilkinson counties in the 1805 land lottery, settled for the isolation and less desirable land offered by Wayne County.”   Perhaps the lack of economic development in Wayne County finally discouraged the Knights. For whatever reason, it appears they decided there were better opportunities in opening up a new county than remaining behind in Wayne County.

As a member of the state Legislature, William A. Knight undoubtedly knew of the impending division of the vast Irwin County into smaller counties. The military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 had opened up the south central Georgia territory to pioneer settlers (see Daniel McCranie). Coffee’s road, as it was soon known, passed from Jacksonville, GA through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line.

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

Coffee Road Historic Marker, Nashville GA

When the Knights left their farms and came to south central Georgia to build their “log cabin in the wilds of the Wiregrass”, this area of Georgia was all part of the huge Irwin county. Lowndes was created from 2080 square miles carved out of Irwin, which had been plotted into Land Districts. Located on the center of Georgia’s southern border with Florida, Lowndes was still a quite large county. It would later be further divided into six present day counties; Lowndes, Brooks, Cook, Tift, Clinch, Lanier, and Berrien counties.

William Anderson Knight chose a home site on the northwest edge of Grand Bay in what was soon to be Lowndes County. This area, in the 10th land district of Irwin County, had good water and better soil than the typical pine barrens of Wayne County. It was situated between the Alapaha River to the east and the Withlacoochee and its tributaries to the west.

Children of William A. Knight and Sarah Cone:

  1. Thomas Knight, born February 6, 1799
  2. Kezia Knight, born November 20, 1801
  3. Levi J. Knight, born September 1, 1803
  4. William Cone “Big Billie” Knight, born October 8, 1805
  5. John Knight, born July 7, 1807
  6. Sarah Knight, born October 10, 1809
  7. Elizabeth Knight, born September 23, 1811
  8. Aaron Knight, born July 17, 1813
  9. Jonathan Knight, born January 16, 1817

William A. Knight’s place was near the route, such as it was, from Waynesville to Thomasville, GA. About nine miles to the west was Coffee’s Road; equidistant to the east was the site of Union Church, the Primitive Baptist church organized in 1825 by Reverend Fleming Bates and Reverend Matthew Albritton with the Knights, Pattens, Lees and Sirmans as founding members.

Historic Marker - Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Historic Marker – Union Church, organized 1825. Sarah and William A. Knight were founding members.

Knight and Union Church played a significant role in the rapid growth of Primitive Baptist churches throughout the Wiregrass region.  Union Church was at the head of the local organization of these churches into a Primitive Baptist Association, then known as the Ochlocknee Association. In 1833, Knight was appointed to travel these new churches to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association. By 1835,& when Union Church and other churches of south Georgia and north Florida sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee Primitive Baptist Association.

The Knight’s were influential in the development of Lowndes county from the very beginning, from the  convening of the first superior court to the representation in state politics. William A. Knight became the first state senator elected from Lowndes county to serve in the Georgia Assembly, and his son Jonathan Knight became the first state representative.

Following his parents , Levi J. Knight  brought his new bride, Ann Clements Herrin Knight, to homestead in Lowndes County in 1827. Anne was the daughter of the Knights’ Wayne County neighbors,  William and Elizabeth Clements.  L. J. Knight chose a spot not far from Grand Bay, on Beaverdam Creek,   where he established his  home site.  Perhaps even then he saw that the headwaters of Beaverdam Creek could some day be impounded to provide water power for a settlement.  Levi J. Knight’s homestead became the nucleus of a community, first known simply as Knight, GA that later grew into present day Ray City, GA.

Related Posts:

More on Andrew Washington Turner and Phoebe Isabelle Sirmans

Andrew W. Turner was married to Phoebe Isabelle Sirmans on March 27, 1892

Andrew W. Turner was married to Phoebe Isabelle Sirmans on March 27, 1892

Andrew Washington Turner, a subject of previous posts  (Andrew Washington Turner and Phoebe Isabelle Sirmans, Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929 ~ M.G. Melton Buys A. Turner Brick Bldgs. ), was born January 1, 1867 in Dublin, GA.  He was the son of Adeline Rebecca Black Reddick and Jesse Turner.  His  mother had been previously married to Captain Daniel Reddick, who was a sea captain engaged in trade along coastal Georgia.  Andrew had two half-siblings who were fathered by Captain Reddick; Susan Reddick and William D. Reddick.

At age 4, Andrew appeared with his family in the 1870 census of Militia District 344, Laurens, Georgia.  His father was a farmer there with $500 in real estate and personal estate valued at $450.  Andrew’s half-brother, enumerated as William D. R. Turner, worked as a farm laborer.   Also in the household was Andrew’s older sister, Henrietta (age 6).

Andrew’s father, Jesse Turner, died some time prior to 1880.  The 1880 US Census shows Andrew Turner,  living with his twice-widowed mother, half-sister Susan (Henrietta ?), and sister Mary Reddick.  They were then living in Berrien County, GA Militia District 1144, in the vicinity of Rays Mill.  Andrew, then age 14, “works on the farm,” the census noted.

It was in  Berrien County, GA that Andrew W. Turner was married to Phoebe Isabelle Sirmans on March 27, 1892.   She was born June 1, 1867, a daughter of Frances Sutton and  Abner Sirmans.  On February 24, 1893, Andrew Turner and his wife bought land from her father, Abner Sirmans. On this land, situated in the Rays Mill community (later Ray City, Georgia), the newlyweds made their home.

In 1900,  the census shows Rebecca Turner living with her son Andrew W. Turner and family in Rays Mill, Berrien, GA and notes that Rebecca was blind.

Andrew and Phoebe Isabella Turner were among the first members of the Ray City Methodist Church, which was organized on October 29, 1910.  Other organizing members were Mr. and Mrs. Will Clements,  Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Luckie, Will Terry, Mrs. Julia Dudley, Annie Lee Dudley, and Marie Dudley.

In 1910  Andrew Turner was working on his own account as a farmer.  Mrs. Turner’s widower father, Abner Sirmans, was living with the Turner family in Ray City,  but had his own income.

Andrew and Phoebe Isabelle raised their family in Ray City, GA.  Between 1892 and 1911, they had nine children:

  1. Lona Belle Turner (3/30/1893 – 5/10/1926) married Edward Holmes Sumner 10/28/1909 in Berrien County, GA, buried at Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery, Polk County, Florida.
  2. Rosa B. Turner (9/22/1894-9/23/1985) married Aubrey B. Shaw on 9/13/1914 ceremony performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens, Justice of the Peace, Ray City, GA. Rosa Turner is buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.
  3. Minnie Turner (7/5/1896 – 12/2/1987) married George I. Sumner on 12/22/1915, buried at Friendship Church Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.
  4. Maggie Turner (12/25/1898 – 9/20/1980) married Burie Webster Clements on 5/5/1920, buried at Lakeland Memorial Gardens, Polk County, FL.
  5. Jesse Abner Turner (7/14/1900 – 10/3/1969) married Maude D. Yarbrough on 1/3/1920, buried at Friendship Church Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.
  6. John S. Turner (8/25/1903 – 7/23/ 1984) married Florrie Olena Reynolds on 5/1/1927, buried at Riverside Cemetery, Macon, GA.
  7. Mittie Mae Turner (1/5/1907 – 10/23/1968) married F.H. “Mac” McColm, buried at Southern Memorial Park, Dade County, FL.
  8. Essie Turner (9/12/1909 – 2/11/1990) married 1) James Nathaniel Hall, 2) Tasca Luther Cole. Buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.
  9. William Theodore Turner (3/3/1911 – 9/10/1952) Never married. Buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.

The Turners made Ray City, GA their home through the 1920s.  The Census of 1920 gives Andrew’s occupation as “Cotton buyer” working on his own account.  His son, Jesse Turner, was working as a drayman, for public work. The family residence was located on North Street in Ray City, next to the homes of Levi J. Clements and Lucius J. Clements, operators of the Clements Sawmill.  Andrew Turner was also engaged in the in naval stores and the mercantile business.

In 1922, Andrew W. Turner dabbled in local politics:

Atlanta Constitution
Jan 11, 1922, pg 6

Ray City Officials

Milltown, Ga.,  January 10. – (Special.) – At the election for the town officers at Ray City.  Tuesday, the following were elected: Mayor, L.F. Giddens: councilmen. J.T. Phillips, A.W. TurnerJ.S. Clements, Jr., and J.A. Griffin.  They were installed immediately.

During the town’s boom period he constructed ”two large brick buildings known as the Andrew Turner Buildings.  One of the buildings is two stories high.”  In 1929, the Ray City News reported that this building was sold to M. G. Melton.

Sometime between 1922 and 1929 Andrew Turner purchased a farm situated between Hahira and Valdosta, GA and the family made this their home.  Around this same time period, he suffered a stroke which resulted in paralysis of his left side and impaired his speech.  He recovered use of his left leg sufficiently that he could walk with a cane, but his left arm remained paralyzed.  Andrew’s son, Jesse,  had married by this time but made his home near his father’s and ran the family farm.

Census records show that by 1930 the Turner family had relocated to Valdosta, GA to a home on Valley Street.   Andrew Turner rented the house for $20 a month:  Jesse Turner and his family apparently had an apartment in the same residence.  Andrew’s daughter,  Mittie, was working in a department store;  Jesse was working as an automobile mechanic.

Andrew Washington Turner died 1936.

Mr. Turner Dies After A Stroke
Valdosta Times
Monday, July 27, 1936.

      Funeral services for A. W. Turner, 69, well known resident of this county, who died at a local hospital last night as the result of a stroke of paralysis, will be held this afternoon at 6 oclock at Sunset Hill.
     The body was taken this morning from Sineath’s to the home of Mrs. A.B. Shaw, a daughter who resides at 305 West Gordon Street.
     Rev. L.H. Griffis, pastor of the Church of God, and Rev. C.M. Meeks, pastor of the First Methodist Church, will conduct the services. 
    Survivors are his wife and the following children: Mrs. A.B. Shaw and Miss Essie Turner, of this city; Mrs. G.I. Sumner, J.A. Turner and Theo Turner, of Hahira; J.S. Turner, of Porterdale; Miss Mittie Turner, of Miami; and Mrs. B.W. Clements, of Ft. Pierce.  A sister, Mrs. Mary Johnson, of Macon, also survives.
     Mr. Turner was for a number of years a merchant and cotton buyer in Ray City, but he had made his home in Hahira for a number of years before his death.  For the past two years he had been in ill health.
     His death is the occasion of much genuine sorrow throughout this section.

The Personal Mentions in the same edition of the newspaper noted:

Mr. and Mrs. P.N. Sirmans, Mr. and Mrs. Burns Sirmans, of Ray City, Mr. and Mrs. Terrel Sirmans,  and Mrs. Levi Sirmans of Nashville, were here yesterday to attend the funeral of Mr. A.W. Turner.

Phoebe Isabelle Sirmans Turner  died in 1948.

Mrs. A. W. Turner, 81, Passes Away;  Funeral Today
Valdosta Times
August 30, 1948

     Mrs. A.W. Turner, 81, passed away at the home of her daughter, Mrs. A.B. Shaw, 401, N. Troupe Street, early Sunday morning after a declining illness of several months. She had made her home in Valdosta for about five years, moving here from Ray City.
     Mrs. Turner was born and reared in Berrien County.  She was a member of the Lee Street Church of God.
     Survivors include five daughters, Mrs. A.B. Shaw and Mrs. J.N. Hall, Valdosta; Mrs. B.W. Clements, Mulberry, Fla.;  Mrs. G.I. Sumner, Hahira, and Mrs. F.H. McCullum, Miami, Fla.; three sons John Turner, Columbus, Ga.; J.A. and Theo Turner, Hahira; two sisters, Mrs. Leona Douglas, Ocala, Fla.; and Mrs. Kitty Turner, of Ray City, Ga.  Also surviving are a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren.
     Funeral services were to be held this afternoon at 3 o’clock, at the Carson McLane Funeral Home.
     Interment was to follow in the family plot in Sunset Hill beside her husband, who passed away several years ago.

Related posts:

Golden Anniversary of Pleamon Sirmans and Minnie Clements

Pleamon and Minnie Clements Sirmans  were long time residents of Ray City, Georgia.

They were married on August 23, 1910 in Cook County, Georgia and moved to the Ray City area in 1915.

For a time, Pleamon and Minnie Sirmans made their residence at this Ray City, GA Home.

For a time, Pleamon and Minnie Sirmans made their residence at this Ray City, GA Home. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

From a Newspaper article dated August 1960:

THE CITIZENS PRESENTS——-SENIOR CITIZENS

Living in Ray City, Georgia., since 1915, five years after they were married, Mr. and Mrs. Pleamon N. Sirmans were honored last Sunday by friends and relatives on the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary.Born in Willacoochee, Georgia., Mr. Sirmans attended school there. Mrs. Sirmans was born in Adel, daughter of William Clements, first merchant in Adel.

Mr. Clements bought the turpentine still in Willacoochee and it was there that Minnie Clements and Pleamon Sirmans met.

They were married August 23, 1910 by his uncle, E.L. Moore, a justice of the peace. After moving to Ray City, Mr. Sirmans was a car salesman for a number of years in Nashville and for 15 or 20 years operated a grocery store in Ray City. Ill health forced his retirement about 3 years ago (1957). He is on the City Council.

Mrs. Sirmans retained membership in the Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Adel and Mr. Sirmans is a member of the Ray City Methodist Church. In the family are: F. Burns Sirmans, Merle Sirmans and Mrs. W.H. (Hazel) Bradham all of Ray City; Mrs. J.H. (Hilda) Featherstone of Homestead, FL., and four grandchildren.

In addition to serving on the City Council, Pleamon Serman also served as Mayor of Ray City. Minnie Sirmans kept a cowpen behind their house in Ray City. Milking her cows in the

Pleamon and Minnie Clements Sirmans are buried at New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave of Pleamon N. Sirmans

Grave of Pleamon N. Sirmans

Grave of Minnie Clements Sirmans

Grave of Minnie Clements Sirmans

Related Posts

Pleamon N. Sirmans ~ Mayor, Ray City, GA

Arthur Shaw and Shaw’s Still

The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

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