History of Ray City School

In 1918, a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA was let out by the Board of Education. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. The contract for materials went to A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City.

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record, September 25, 1919, announcement of construction at Ray City, GA

Construction on the brick school building, which has been preserved in Ray City and which now houses the Joe Sizemore Community Library, began in 1920.  The Ray City School opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927. In 1918, the Berrien County School Board put out a contract for a new school building in Ray City, GA. Plans for the building were drawn by Valdosta architect Lloyd B. Greer. Materials were supplied by A. H. Miller Hardware Store in Ray City. The school opened in 1922.

Ray City School, March 11, 1927.

The brick school building at Ray City, GA was designed by Valdosta architect Lloyd Greer.  Among other buildings designed by Greer were:  Federal Building and Post Office, Valdosta, GA; Carnegie  Library, Valdosta,GA; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Tallahassee, FL; James Price McRee House, Camilla, GA; Dasher High School, Valdosta, GA; Barney School, Barney, GA; Barber-Pitman House, Valdosta, GA; Lanier County Auditorium and Grammar School, Lakeland, GA; Ilex Theater, Quitman,GA; Moultrie Theater, Moultrie, GA; United Cigar Store Building, Jacksonville, GA; Quitman Library, Quitman, GA; Echols County High School, Statenville, GA; Barrow Hall, Emory Junior College, Valdosta, GA; Pine Grove School, Fitzgerald, GA; Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, GA; Douglas Negro High School and Douglas White High School, Douglas, GA; Nichols House,Valdosta, GA; Berrien High School, Nashville, GA. The Lyric Theater, Waycross,GA was designed by Greer.

Old Wooden School at Ray City, GA

The Ray City High School Class of 1949 wrote, “The school of our community was begun long before our town received its present name having been known as Rays Mill. “

Among those early teachers of Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) was  Henry Harrison Knight (1840-1898).  These teachers   taught in the little one room log house schools  of Berrien county, and were often paid in “found” – bartered, homegrown commodities such as ham, chickens, eggs, or butter.

The first school building was located on the east side of town. This building was destroyed by fire. Then a log cabin called the Alliance Building was constructed in 1898, and was used for about two years.

In January 1898, the Tifton Gazette reported that Robert Crawford Woodard was the teacher at the Rays Mill academy.  He later went on to become a physician.

In 1900 the interested people of the community decided to make an improvement in the school plant. Trees were cut from their lands and carried to Sutton’s Sawmill to be made into lumber, for the purpose of erecting a frame building. That stood where our present building is now standing. It consisted of one large room. Some of the interested patrons who helped with this building were: J. S. Swindle, W. E. Langford, Isaac Burkhalter, Redding Swindle, and W. M. Knight. With the aid of other patrons they completed the first Ray City School. -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The town experienced a boom period when the Georgia & Florida Railroad came to Ray City in 1909.The increased population made it necessary to make an addition of two more rooms to the school.” -History of Ray City School (1948-49 Yearbook)

The January 19, 1911 edition of the Valdosta Times reported news of the school in Rays Mill (now Ray City).   Husband and wife team James Marcus Patten and Ida Lou Hall Patten were running the school. Professor J.M. Patten was college educated, having completed the teacher education program at North Georgia Agricultural College, and had twenty years experience teaching in the common schools of Berrien County.

In 1918,  the Reverend John W. Shoemate and Mrs. Harriet M. Shoemate came to Ray City to take charge of the school.   Reverend Shoemate was a native of Tennessee, and a Baptist minister.  Mrs. Shoemate was a native of South Dakota, and college educated. In Ray City, they were the neighbors of Professor and Mrs. J. M. Patten.  Mrs. Patten was also then occupied teaching public school.  The Ray City School was then still held in the three-room, wood frame building, and educated  students through the eighth grade. One student from this time period was Claudey Belle Hester, who wrote well enough for publication in Progressive Farmer.

According to the Annual Report of the Department of Education, in 1920 the public high school in Ray’s Mill was a 2-year Junior High School. Sankey Booth was Superintendent of the school and later served on the Berrien County Board of Education. One of the teachers in old Ray City was Louannie Eudell Webb (1902-1972), who started teaching by age 17.  She was a daughter of Luther Webb and Mary J. Albritton, and had only an 8th grade education herself. She married Leroy Lorenzo Carter on August 3, 1922. Another teacher at Ray City in 1920 was Lucile Fountain; she taught the fourth grade class. According to later census records, she herself had only attended school through the 4th grade.  It was the talk of the town when her beau, Calvin Simmons, came and got her out of class  and took her to get married on February 13, 1923. Maria Antoniette Poblete Knight worked as an art teacher at the Ray City School in the 1920s.

The Brick School

That [multi-room wood school house] was used until 1920 when work on the present building was started. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

Ray City School, 1948-49, C. W. Schmoe, Principal.

In 1924, the Georgia Library Commission added the Ray City School as the only station in Berrien County for the Georgia Traveling Library.   the Georgia Library Commission had been created in 1919 by the General Assembly with and annual appropriation of $6,000, which included funds for the maintenance of traveling libraries.  These traveling libraries typically provided 50 or 100 books, which were available for a few months before being passed on to the next station.

Wilma Harper began her 60 year teaching career at the Ray City School in 1928 at the age of 18.  There she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City School. A year later they were married.

In 1928, the Georgia Library Commission reported  library service offered in Berrien only at Ray City, through the Ray City School and at the Kings Chapel School.

The Great Depression took a great toll on Berrien County, and Ray City struggled with funding to keep the school open. Only through the generous contributions of local citizens and by charging students a tuition, was the school able to continue for the full term. In 1930, the school could not even afford to hold graduation exercises.

In the 1930s many schools in smaller communities were consolidated. In 1936, Pleasant Vale and Sapling Grove schools were closed and the students sent to Ray City.

The Ray City School held a junior high school rating until 1936, when it became an accredited senior high school. Another classroom building was added that year to the school plant. -History of Ray City School (from the 1948-49 Yearbook)

By the 1940-41 school term, New Lois High School was also consolidated with Ray City High School.

In the early days students at Ray City School brought their own lunches to school and ate outside on the school grounds, as there was no lunchroom or kitchen to prepare food.  David Miley recalled a sow that used to come into the playground, and snatch the lunch bags of unsuspecting kids. The school grounds were fenced and had a cattle gap to keep free ranging livestock from entering the schoolyard.  Even so, livestock could and did occasionally get into the school yard.  By 1941, the school had a lunch room serving 150 students a day.

In 1950, half of the Ray City grammar school students appeared barefoot in the annual school photos.

In 1950, half of the Ray City grammar school students appeared barefoot in the annual school photos.

William E. “Bill” Griner (1902-1984) was the janitor at the Ray City School. He came to school very early every day and built a fire in the potbellied stove in every room. There were four classrooms and the soup kitchen in the old wooden building. In the brick building there were six classrooms, the principal’s office and the laboratory, each with their own stove.  At Christmas, every student brought Bill a gift. Bill had a nephew nicknamed Peanut, and although Bill himself had only two years of formal schooling, he worked hard to make sure that Peanut made it through high school. Peanut later became a policeman at Remerton, GA.

 

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

Fence and cattle gap in front of the Ray City School kept livestock out of the schoolyard, 1949.

During WWII, Ray City School did its part.   Vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army. Graduates and former students left Ray City to go to war. Some never came back.  Hubert Comer (RCHS 1940) joined the Navy and was killed in the D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. Harry Elmore Devane (RCHS 1938) also joined the Navy.  On D-Day Devane was a boat officer on a tank landing craft at Omaha Beach. He was killed in an accident aboard the aircraft carrier USS FDR after the war. James A. Swindle (RCHS 1936) captained a B-26 Marauder and flew 75 bombing missions; he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Maurice “Max” Johnson (RCHS 1940) served as a B-24 pilot during WWII from 1942 to 1945. Leland E Langford (RCHS 1939) enlisted on June 12, 1941, serving as an Army pilot until he was killed in a plane crash in 1949.   J.I. Clements (RCHS 1938) joined the Army and fought in Germany. Many other alumni of Ray City School served as well.

William R. “Mac” McClure was principal of the school in the mid 1940s. Charles Woodrow “Woody” Schmoe served as principal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His wife, Nancy Young Schmoe, taught 5th Grade.

 

In 1947 a fifteen thousand dollar gymnasium was constructed by the patrons, a building in which the whole community justly takes pride (1948-49 Yearbook).  The town dedicated the building with a big dance celebration and the crowning of the Queen of the Harvest.

In 1948, a vocational building was erected by the veterans of World War II, at the end of five years this … [became] a part of Ray City School.

It was in 1949 that veterans of World War II built  a “very modern and up-to-date lunchroom” for the school.

In 1954, Ray City High School and all other white high schools in the county were combined into Nashville High School.  The brick school building at Ray City continued to serve as an elementary and middle school until 1994, when all county schools were consolidated into facilities in Nashville.

J. M. Sloan Dies after Throw From Horse

James Murray Sloan came to the Ray's Mill, GA neighborhood in 1871. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

James Murray Sloan came to the Ray’s Mill, GA neighborhood in 1871. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

James Murray Sloan, a son of David and Diadema Sloan, was born Jan. 18, 1833 in Duplin County, N.C.,  J. M. Sloan and his wife, Martha Susan Gordon,  removed from North Carolina to Mississippi for a brief stay, then to Echols Co., Ga.; thence to Berrien County, GA in 1871 where J.M. Sloan engaged in farming.  A number of Duplin County, NC families had relocated in the 1850s to that portion of Lowndes County which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. Among these Duplin transplants were William J. Lamb, James Carroll, Jesse Carroll, William Godfrey, Andrew J. Liles, William Best, James W. Dixon, and Robert Rouse. James Dobson brought his family and slaves, Peter McGowan and Richard McGowan believed to be among them. William Hill Boyett, John Bostick, Treasy Boyett Bostick and Mary C. Bostick came from Duplin to Berrien in the mid-century, and A few years later, Jessie Bostick also removed from Duplin County to the area.  Many of these settled in the area between present day  Ray City and Lakeland, GA (then called Allapaha).

County property tax records for 1873  show J. M. Sloan paid a poll tax in Berrien County that year but  listed no taxable property in his name.  The 1874 tax records show an assessment on  household and kitchen furniture valued at $10, $25 in plantation and mechanical tools, and $166 in ‘other property,’ but no real estate.  By 1875 J. M. Sloan had acquired 245 acres in lot 450, 1144 GMD, in the 10th district, about a mile outside of present day Ray City, GA,  valued at $400 and had $145 in ‘other property.’  Portions of adjoining Land Lots 422, 423, 451, and 452 in the 10th land district  were owned jointly by William Roberts and T.M. Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, GA. (see Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863)

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lot # 450.

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lot # 450.

The 1876 tax records show  James M. Sloan listed as “agent for wife,”   with 242  acres in lot 450, 10th district valued at $250.  At that time he had  $50 household and kitchen furniture;  $115 in horses, mules, hogs, sheep, cattle, etc.; and  $9 in plantation & mechanical tools.

He was faring about the same in 1877, still on the same acreage in lot 450, now with  $60 household and kitchen furniture, pianos, organs, etc;  $142 in horses, mules, hogs, sheep, cattle, etc.; and  $41 in plantation & mechanical tools.  His total estate was valued at $493.

Neighbors were William E. Langford with 60 acres and  John B. Gaskins with 100 acres on the same land lot 450;  Jethro Patten on Lot 449; John G & Mary Knight on portions of Lot 450 and 451. Barney B. Chism on Lot 426; William A. Bridges on portions of Lot 470 and 471; and 471 Robert Woodard on lot 471. Neighbor Jonathan D. Knight , who was on portions of Lots 424, 425, 450 and 451, was a signer of the 1877 Georgia Constitution. Another neighbor was John Thomas Clower, Doctor of Ray’s Mill, on a small farm in lot 424.

The 1880 tax records show James M. Sloan was the liquor dealer at Rays Mill.

In 1890 the Berrien County tax digest shows the Sloans were still on their 242 acre farm on Lot 450 in the 10th Land District, now valued at $500.

Neighbors in 1890 still included John B. Gaskins on Lot 450 and John G. Knight on portions of Lots 424, 450 and 451; Redding D. Swindle on portions of Lot 423 and 424;  Mary A. Ray  and Texas E Ray on portions of Lot 423 and 424; James A. Knight on portions of Lot 471; Elizabeth E. Knight on portions of Lots 424, 450, and 451; Walter H. Knight on Lot 426; Louis L. Knight on portions of Lot 451;  Joseph E. Langford on a portion of Lot 450; portions of Lots 424 and 449 belonged to John T. Higgs; Barney B. Chism on Lots 426 and 427; James M. Baskin on Lots 470 and 471.

In 1894, The Tifton Gazette reported the demise of  James M. Sloan, his death occurring on November 20, 1894.

The Tifton Gazette
Nov. 30, 1894 — page 1

Mr. J. M. Sloan, a thrifty farmer of Rays Mill neighborhood, died on Tuesday of last week.  He fell from his horse some time ago, from which he sustained injuries that produced death.  He was a native North Carolinian, but a resident of Georgia for quite a quarter of a century.

James Murray Sloan died after being thrown from a horse.

James Murray Sloan died after being thrown from a horse.

His widow, Martha Gordon Sloan, continued to reside  in the Rays Mill District.  The census of 1900 shows  she owned the family farm, free and clear of mortgage, which she worked on her own account, with the assistance of farm laborer Charlie Weaver.

Martha Gordon Sloan, wife of James Murray Sloan. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Martha Gordon Sloan, wife of James Murray Sloan. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Children of Martha Susan Gordon and James Murray Sloan:

  1. John Fisher Sloan 1858 – 1930
  2. Emma Jane Sloan 1859 – 1871
  3. Mary Ann Sloan 1861 – 1863
  4. Sarah Virginia Sloan 1864 – 1944
  5. Martha Ida Letitia Sloan 1867 – 1930
  6. Susan Evelyn Sloan 1870 – 1940
  7. Catherine Diademma Sloan 1872 – 1901
  8. Celia Frances Sloan 1874 – 1895
  9. Fannie Sloan 1874 –
  10. Minnie Gordon Sloan 1876 – 1904
  11. William David Sloan 1879 – 1935
Graves of James Murray Sloan and Martha Susan Gordon, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

Graves of James Murray Sloan and Martha Susan Gordon, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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Feb 4, 1911 Ray’s Mill News Items

Rays Mill news items appearing in the Feb 4, 1911 Valdosta Times were about the business and social scene in the new town.

The Valdosta Times
 Saturday, February 4, 1911, page 7,
Rays Mill News Items

     Mr. A.L. Bridges has moved into his new building here.
     Mr. W. L. Swindle, of Nashville, has accepted a position with his brother, Mr. J.S. Swindle, of this place.
     Miss Leslie Langford returned to Rays Mill Wednesday night from Vidalia.
Mrs. L.  J. Clements is spending a few days in Milltown this week.
    Mr. G. V. Hardee, druggist of this place, moved in his new building Wednesday.
    Mr. I. Burkhalter made a business trip to Nashville Wednesday.
    Mr. Floyd Fender, of Tifton, is visiting Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Fender for a few days.
    Mrs. Baskin, Mrs. Terry, Mrs. Dr. Clements, Miss Fannie Clements and Miss Lessie Carter represented Beaver Dam Missionary Society at the missionary rally in Valdosta last Tuesday, January 31, and lunch was served at the Tabernacle. They report a good meeting, also a pleasant time for all who attended.
    Mr. A. L. Taylor, of Nashville, has bought Mr. J.T. Webb’s store.
    Mr. W. M. Carter, of Rays Mill, visited Tifton last Saturday returning Sunday night.
    Mr. W. H. Terry made a business trip to Valdosta Wednesday.
    Mr. George Norton spent a few days in Macon last week returning Monday night.

Ray City News appeared in The Valdosta Times, Feb 4, 1911.

Ray City News appeared in The Valdosta Times, Feb 4, 1911.

Austin Lawrence Bridges was a merchant from who came to Ray City in 1909 with his bride, Della Pope.  He bought a house on Jones Street and opened a dry goods store.

William Lawrence Swindle was a farmer of the Ray City area and former Sheriff of Berrien County.  He was a brother of James S. Swindle, and son of James Swindle, Pioneer Settler.

Leslie Alma Langford was the daughter of William E. Langford and Mary Virginia Knight, and sister of Luther Etheldred Langford. In 1918 she married Walter Greene Altman. At the time he was a clerk working for Nix & Miller Company, a sawmill in Ray City, GA, but shortly thereafter he became an ice dealer.  Later Walter owned a cafe where Leslie worked as a waitress.

Mrs. L. J. Clements was Eugenia  Watkins Clements, wife of Lucius J. Clements. Her parents were Sarah and Thomas H. Watkins, of Whitesburg, Carroll County, GA.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from La Grange College in 1907.

Gordon Vancie Hardie was a druggist and entrepreneur of Ray City.

Isaac Burkhalter, Jr was born 1863 in Clinch County, GA just weeks before his father, Captain Isaac Burkhalter was killed at Gettysburg. Isaac Burkhalter, the son, made his home at Rays Mill some time before 1900 with his wife, Marentha Sirmans, where he engaged in farming until his death.

Wilson W. Fender was the owner of the Fender Hotel in Ray City.  His wife Lena Fender was in millinery. His eldest son was telephone lineman Floyd Fender, of Tifton, and his younger son’s were Ike and Lutie. Ike Fender was a telephone operator and Lutie Fender was a soda jerk.

The Ladies of the Beaver Dam Missionary Society

  • Mrs. Baskin mentioned in the story could have been one of several Baskin women: Mary Ann Harrell Baskin, second wife of James B. Baskin; her step-daughter, Fannie Ellen Hagan Baskin; or another of the Baskin wives.  The Baskin family  helped found the Baptist Church at Ray City.
  • Mrs. Terry was Nebbie Luckie Terry. She was a daughter of William F. Luckie and wife of W. H. E. Terry, also mentioned in the article.
  • Mrs. Dr. Clements was Pauline Nelson Clements, wife of Dr. Henry Warren Clements. Dr. Clements owned  the second gasoline powered automobile in Berrien County, a Maxwell Doctor’s Roadster.
  • Miss Fannie Lola Clements was a daughter of Martha J. Cements and David C. Clements.
  • Miss Lessie E. Carter was a daughter of Lorenzo D. Carter and Anna Eliza Fender.

Jesse Thomas Webb, who sold his store in Rays Mill, was a son of Mary and John L. Webb, of the Connells Mill District. After selling his store in Rays Mill he moved to Tifton, GA and opened a store there.

William Manson Carter was a son of Lorenzo D. Carter and Anna Eliza Fender, and brother of Lessie E. Carter. In 1917 he worked as a druggist for C. O. Terry.

William Henry Edward Terry came to Ray City about 1910 and built the first brick building in the new town.

Luther E Langford

Luther Elthedred Langford, Ray City, GA native and descendant of General Levi J. Knight.

Luther Elthedred Langford, Ray City, GA native and descendant of General Levi J. Knight.

Luther Etheldred Langford (1879-1957)

Luther Etheldred Langford was born November 12, 1879 at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA, the firstborn child of William E. Langford (1854 – 1933) and Mary Virginia Knight (1856 – 1916). His paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Ray, the sister of Thomas M. Ray who co-founded Ray’s Mill. His paternal grandfather, Etheldred Langford, was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. On his mother’s side, he was a grandson of William Washington Knight, and a great grandson of Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City.

Luther E. Langford married Amanda Asbell October 23, 1910 in Colquitt County, GA.  She was born February 7, 1887.

Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell

Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell “Mandy” Langford, of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Johnnie Mobley.

Luther and Amanda Langford made their home in  Berrien County, Georgia.  On Sept 12, 1918 Luther reported to the Berrien county draft registration board, where his WWI draft card was completed by registrar D.A. Sapp. Luther’s occupation at the time he registered was farming, self-employed. At 39 years of age, he was tall and slender with gray eyes and light hair. His farm place on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga,  was located about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Luther and Amanda spent their lives in Berrien County raising crops and children.

Sadly, one child was taken from them while just a tot.  The September 4, 1925  Nashville Herald reported the tragic death: “Little Muriel Langford, the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Langford, who resides about a mile from Ray City on the Milltown-Ray City road died Tuesday morning from what was thought to be the bite of a rattle snake.”  (See Ray City Child Dies From Bite of Rattle Snake, 1925)
Children of Amanda Asbell and Luther E. Langford:

  1. Edwin Vasco Langford, born August 2,  1917 ; died 2005  – Served in WWII; taught at Ray City School after the War.
  2. Leland Etheldred Langford, born July 10, 1919; died 1949
  3. Merle Elizabeth Langford  born May 31, 1922; died 1925
  4. Merice Lancing Langford  born June 22, 1926; died 1993
  5. Lillian Allene Langford born September 16, 1929 –
  6. Clyde Rudolph Langford born September 15, 1931; died 2006

Luther Etheldred Langford died 11 May 1957. He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia, USA

Gravemarker of Luther Etheldred Langford and Amanda Asbell Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

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