William Devane

William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane (1838-1909), planter of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, GA. His brother, Benjamin Mitchell DeVane (1835-1912), was a notary public and an alderman in the city government of Adel, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane was born in Lowndes, now Berrien County, March 30, 1838, and was a son of Francis DeVane. His grandfather, Captain John DeVane, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. William’s father and uncles Benjamin (1795-1879) and William Devane (1786-1870) had come to Lowndes County from Bulloch County, GA about 1831 along with  others of the DeVane family connection.

The 1850 census places William DeVane in his father’s Lowndes County household, along with his older siblings Benjamin and Patrick who worked as laborers. William, age 12, apparently was not yet assisting with the farm work, although records do not indicate that he was attending school at that time, either.   William’s brother Thomas was working the farm next door.  Some of the neighbors included Samuel Connell, William Parrish, Ansel Parrish, Absolom Parrish, James Parrish, James J. Fountain and Thomas Futch.

At the time of the 1860 census, William and Benjamin DeVane were still living in their father’s household and working at farming. The census records indicate William, age 23, attended school that year. Patrick DeVane and Thomas DeVane had farms nearby. Some of the neighbors were Nathaniel Cooper, William B. Turner, Henry J. Bostick, Fredrick M. Giddens, John A. Money, and Ansel Parrish.

During the Civil War, William and his three brothers all joined the army. William was the first to join, enlisting in Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment  as a private  on March 4, 1862 at Nashville, GA.  Benjamin DeVane enlisted in the same company May 9, 1862 at Nashville, GA. He was later elected 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, 50th GA Regiment and served to the end of the war. Patrick joined Company I on August 14, 1862 at Calhoun, GA. He fell out sick at Culpepper, VA on November 18, 1862 and died in a Confederate hospital on December 13, 1862; his estate was administered by William Giddens. William Devane’s brother Thomas Devane enlisted in Company H, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment on 21 Dec 1862.

The 50th Georgia Regiment was sent to the defenses around Savannah.  Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish, son of the DeVane’s neighbor James Parrish, wrote home on April 23, 1862 describing their encampment situated near Savannah:

“about one or one and a half miles east of the city where we can have a fair view of the church steeples and the nearest part of the town…Our camps are very disagreeable now in consequence of the dryness of the weather, the ground being sandy and loose and the winds high. it keeps ones eyes full of sand almost all the time which is not a very good remedy…It is about one mile or little over to the river from our camps. We can see the steamboats passing almost constantly…Our camps are situated near extensive earthworks or entrenchments for the protection of our troops should the enemy attempt to attack the city by land. Fort Boggs [is] on the river below town about 1/2 miles below…it commands the river tolerable well. the marsh between the channel and the fort is about 1/4 of a mile wide and the fort is on a high bluff at the edge of the marsh and is covered from the view of the river by a strand of thick bushes on the hillside…Captain Lamb‘s Company [Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment] has moved from Camp Tatnall to a place on the river below fort Jackson and about one mile and a half from Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.

The 50th Georgia Regiment went on station at Fort Brown. Fort Brown was situated at the Catholic Cemetery at what is now the intersection of Skidaway Road and Gwinette Street.

Fort Brown was one of the anchors of an extensive earthworks protecting Savannah.

A line of formidable earthworks, within easy range of each other, in many places connected by curtains, and armed with siege and field guns, was thrown up for the immediate protection of Savannah. Commencing at Fort Boggs on the Savannah River and thence extending south and west in a semi-circular form, enveloping the at distances varying from one to two and a quarter miles, it terminated at the Springfield plantation swamp. The principal fortifications in this line were Fort Boggs, mounting fourteen guns, some of them quite heavy and commanding the Savannah River – Fort Brown, near the Catholic Cemetery, armed with eleven guns – and Fort Mercer, having a battery of nine guns. Between Springfield plantation swamp – where the right of the line rested just beyond Laurel Grove cemetery – and Fort Mercer, were eighteen lunettes, mounting in the aggregate twenty guns. Connecting Fort Mercer with Fort Brown was a cremaillere line with nine salients, mounting in the aggregate eight guns. Between Fort Brown and Fort Boggs were seven lunettes armed with eight guns. These works were well supplied with magazines. It will be noted that the armaments of these city lines consisted of seventy pieces of artillery of various calibers, among which 32,24,18, 12, and 6 pounder guns predominated. A considerable supply of ammunition was kept on hand in the magazines. – Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 17

 

On May 18, 1862 Ezekiel Parrish wrote from “Savannah, Ga Camps near Fort Brown”:

We are living very hard here now for the soldiers rations of bacon have been reduced to so small a portion that we are pretty hard {illegible} for something to grease with. Several of our last ration of bacon has been less than one pound to the man for four May’s rations, but of the other kinds of provisions we draw plenty to do well though the pickel beef is so poor and salt and strong that it is not very good and in fact some will do without before they will eat it. Occasionally we get some fresh beef but it is very poor without any grease to go with it…The water here is very bad and brackish and a continual use of it is enough to make anybody sick.

William DeVane, 24 years of age,  would serve only a short time before providing a substitute. Substitution was a form of Civil War draft evasion available to those who could afford it.

Substitution
With war a reality, the Confederate legislature passed a law in October 1861 declaring that all able-bodied white men were obligated to serve in the military. This statute allowed substitutions for men who had ‘volunteered’ for the militia. It also permitted those not required by law to enlist in the military to serve as substitutes. However, by the Spring of 1862, after a year of fighting and hardship, the flow of new volunteers became a trickle, which forced the 
Confederacy to pass the first American conscription law. In April 1862 the legislature authorized a draft of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years. This law also allowed substitutes to be used. Later that year, in September 1862, the legislature extended the maximum draft-eligible age to forty-five years. The revision specifically stated that only those who were not eligible for the draft presumably those too old, too young, or foreign citizens – could serve as substitutes.  – Mary L. Wilson, 2005, Profiles in Evasion

The market price of a soldier, it is said, soon mounted to from $1500 to $3000. …To employ a substitute or to accept services as one was regarded by many, and almost universally so in army circles, as highly reprehensible.  – A. B. Moore, 1924, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

After just over three months of service and without engaging in any action, DeVane secured a discharge from the army June 18, 1862, by furnishing a substitute. According to company rolls, John R. Croley  enlisted that same day at Fort Brown, Savannah, GA as a substitute in DeVane’s stead.   The 47-year-old Croley (also Crowley or Crawley) was himself exempt from military service. Croley had brought his family from Sumter County to Berrien County in 1860.

Shortly after assuming DeVane’s place, Croley and the rest of the 50th Georgia Regiment were sent to Camp Lee in Virginia. Croley was to have a rough time of it. Soon sick, he was left behind at the camp when the regiment pulled out on August 21, 1862. In February 1863 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, Richmond, VA with Rheumatism. On March 12, he was admitted to the the C.S.A. General Hospital at Farmville, VA with diarrhea.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Croley returned to duty April 29.  He was with his unit when the 50th GA Regiment entered the Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863. Severely wounded and taken prisoner of war, he was sent to one of the Union hospitals in and about Gettysburg.  His arm was amputated, but he did not recover. He died of wounds July 31, 1863.  The location of his burial is not known, presumably in the vicinity of Gettysburg.  A monument in his memory marks an empty grave at Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Croley left behind a widow and four children in Berrien County. William DeVane sat out the rest of the war.

DeVane was married on May 10 1865 in Dooly County, GA to Miss Sarah Jane “Sallie” Butler of that county. She was born February 12, 1842, a daughter of Ezekiel and Eliza Butler.

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Born to William and Sallie were eleven children:

  1. Emma Lorena DeVane, born February 18, 1866, married George W. Marsh of Sumter County, FL.
  2. Marcus LaFayette DeVane, born April 25, 1867, died September 15, 1889.
  3. Columbus Clark DeVane, born February 11, 1869, never married.
  4. Ada Belle DeVane, born April 10, 1870, married William J. Hodges of Lowndes County, GA
  5. Ezekiel H. DeVane, born December 4, 1872, married Beulah Parrish, daughter of Elbert Parrish.
  6. William E. Pemberton DeVane, born November 8, 1875, married Mary McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland
  7. John F. DeVane, born August 2, 1877; died October 1878.
  8. Benjamin Robert DeVane, born October 15, 1879; married Bessie Whitehurst, daughter of Nehemiah Whitehurst
  9. Caulie Augustus DeVane, born September 15, 1882; married Alma Albritton, daughter of Matthew Hodge Albritton
  10. Connard Cleveland DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married Nellie Mae Coppage, daughter of Jehu Coppage
  11. Onnie Lee DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married John W. Strickland, son of William J. Strickland of Clinch County.

The homeplace of William DeVane was about four and half miles west of Ray City on the Nashville-Valdosta Road. It was situated on the north half of lot 457, 10th district. Possum Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek, crosses the northeast corner of this land. The place was given to William by his father before the elder DeVane’s death in 1868. William DeVane had received no deed however, and title was vested in him March 1870, by arbitration proceedings agreed to by all the heirs.

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

The 1870 Census enumeration shows that William DeVane’s household then included his wife, Sarah Jane, and children, Emma, Marcus, Columbus, and Ada, as well as an African-American boy, Rufus Prine, who at age 11 was working as farm labor.

Berrien County Tax records also document that after the War, William DeVane worked his farm with the help of freedman Joseph Prine. The relationship between Joseph and Rufus is not known.  Joseph Prine was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1816. The 1872 tax records show DeVane employed seven hands between the ages of 12 and 65. This count matches exactly with the 1870 Census enumeration of the Joseph Prine household, which then included Joe Prine (56), Jane Prine (54), Samuel Prine (22), Chaney Prine (33), Elza Prine (17), Jasper Prine (14), and George Prine (11), as well as the younger Prine children, Jinnie (8), Huldy (7), Eliza (5), and Philip(2).

In 1872, the William DeVane farm consisted of 508 acres on portions of lots 457 and 418 in the 10th Land District. To the north was Mary DeVane with 755 acres on Lots 418 and 412. Benjamin Mitchell DeVane also owned portions of Lot 418 and 419. John Baker had 122 acres on Lot 419. William H. Outlaw had 245 acres on Lot 419. To the south, John W. Hagan owned 356 acres on lots 503 and 504. J.S. Roberts also had some acreage on 503 and 504.  To the east, the Reverend John G. Taylor, Sr. had 400 acres on Lot 456.  By 1877 John Webb had acquired a 1470 acre tract just to the northeast of the William DeVane place.

 

William DeVane developed one of the finest plantations in Berrien County, containing 935 acres. It was situated on a public road and Possum Creek. The main house was six-rooms, and there was also a three-room house and a tenant house on the place. The six-horse farm of over 100 cultivated acres was said to produce a bale of cotton to the acre. Devane kept 120 head of stock on a fine stock range. His equipment included farm implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle, two wagons, and two buggies.

Sallie Butler DeVane died June 15, 1896.  A death announcement appeared in the Tifton Gazette.

Tifton Gazette
July 10, 1896

Mrs. Sallie Devane, of this county, wife of Mr. William Devane, died on Tuesday of last week.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

 

William DeVane died March 8, 1909.

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

 

A series of legal advertisements regarding the estate of William DeVane appeared in the local papers:

Valdosta Times
March 27, 1909

Notice to Debtors and Creditors All parties having claims against the estate of the late Wm. Devane, are requested to present them properly made out, to the undersigned. Those indebted to his estate will please make settlement at once.
The deceased at the time of his death was not indebted to any of the heirs.
C. C. Devane,
Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. 5.

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Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1909

Notice of Sale.

We will sell to the highest bidder for cash, on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county, at the Wm. Devane estate, the following property: 935 acres of land; one farm containing 150, the other 785 acres; 175 in cultivation, 120 head of stock. Farming implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle; two wagons; two buggies; 350 bushels of corn; six tons of cotton seed. Heirs of Wm. DeVane.

Valdosta Times
November 20, 1909

Public Sale

We will sell to the highest bidder, for cash on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county at the Wm. DeVane place, the following property: 2 farms containing 935 acres, 150 in one, 785 acres in the other; 111 acres in cultivation; fair Improvements—timber is fine; 120 head of stock and farming Implements. C. C. Devane, Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. No. 5.

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Valdosta Times
August 14, 1912

FOR SALE—A fine plantation, One of the best in Berrien county, containing 935 acres, within 4 1/2 miles of Georgia and Florida railroad. Nearest station, Ray’s Mill. 6-horse farm in state of cultivation. Soil very productive, will produce bale of cotton to the acre, other crops in proportion. One six-room dwelling, one three-room and a tenant house on the place. Good water. Near schools and churches. Fine stock range. River runs through edge of land. Public road through farm. Will sell on account of division between heirs. If desired stock, mules, hogs, cattle, goats and farm implements can be bought at reasonable prices. C. C. DeVane, Hahira, Ga., R.F.D.

 

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1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

1894 African-American Voter Registration at Ray’s Mill, GA

Given the history of slavery and racial discrimination in the United States, researching African-American genealogy can be a challenging puzzle.  Slave names were not often recorded.  Even after Emancipation, civil records of African-American citizens were often neglected. Further complicating matters,  most of the 1890 census records were lost in a fire and through a series of tragic missteps in the record handling. Fortunately, an 1894 record of the Poll Tax collection in the Rays Mill District (now Ray City, GA) helps to document early African-American residents of the town.    Many of these men were born in slavery and became “Freedmen” after the Civil War and Emancipation. A few were born in northern “Free” states.  After the War, they came  to south Georgia, primarily to work in the naval stores industry, collecting turpentine in the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. Some lived in turpentine camps, some rented farms or houses, a few became property owners, business men and employers in their own right.

Poll Taxes

After the Civil War, the poll tax evolved regionally to be a complex legal device to disenfranchise African-Americans. Georgia led the way in 1868 (effective in 1871), and by 1900 in every formerly-Confederate state had poll taxes aimed at preventing black citizens from voting.

According to Today in Georgia History,

The poll tax, a bulwark of the Jim Crow era, was one of many roadblocks thrown up to keep African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. Although the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1870, guaranteed former male slaves the right to vote, the poll tax, which all voters had to pay was designed to prevent voting. Georgia’s 1877 constitution authorized the tax, which limited voter participation among both poor blacks and whites. But most whites got around the provision through exemptions for those whose ancestors fought in the Civil War or who could vote before the war. 

Georgia’s “grandfather clause” allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted  prior to the abolition of slavery to vote without paying the tax. Georgia created a cumulative poll tax requirement: men 21 to 60 years of age had to pay a sum of money for every year from the time they had turned 21, or from the time that the law took effect.

Tax Payers
Ray’s Mill District, Colored, 1894

William Adkinson
Dixie Alston

Peter Burges
Thomas Burges
Saul Brown
William Brown, Sr.
John Black
B. B. Brown
Joe Brown

Walter Curt
Jesse Coleman
Len Coleman

James Davis

David Ellison
S. M. Eady
Sam Eady

Brister Hufman

Henry Gowdine
Henry Gilliard
William Grayham
William Gerald

West Kelley

John Livind

Joe Medlay
Carter Moore
William Mathis
Alex McKnight
S. J. Myers
Sandy Murphy
William McGowin
Richard McGowin
Henry McCoy

Preston Richardson
E. L. Rias
Ebb Ross
Randolph Ried
William Smith
Mack Spights
Gilbert Sloan

Wiley Tarrell

A. Vandross

John Wamble
George Williams
Ed Wilson
John Wade
Alex White
James Whitfield
W. D. Williams

SOME NOTES ON THE TAXPAYERS:

DIXIE ALSTON
Dixie Alston was an African-American born during the Civil War, in March of 1862. He was born in South Carolina, as were both his parents.  In 1883 he married Amelia [unknown], also a native of South Carolina.  It appears that Dixie and Amelia moved to south Georgia sometime in the early 1890s.  In 1894, Dixie Alston registered to vote in the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA.  He subsequently appears in the census of 1900, enumerated as Dixie Aulston, in the 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County.  His household in 1900 included his wife Amelia (age 46), and children, Sarah (18), Lillie (17), Dixie (10), James A. (7), William (5), and Orie B (1).  The Alstons were living in a rented house, and Dixie was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Dixie Alston and family were enumerated in the 1157 Georgia Militia District where Dixie continued to work as a turpentine laborer.  Whereabouts of Dixie Alston after 1910 are unknown, but his son Dixie Alston, Jr. later lived in Nashville GA where he worked for the Keefe and Bulloch turpentine operation.

ROBERT B. “BB” BROWN
BB Brown was born in South Carolina about 1856 he married Corinna, a South Carolina woman, about 1875 and they made their home in South Carolina until some time after 1881. By October 1886, the Browns moved to Georgia. BB Brown paid the poll tax in 1894 to vote in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA. The census of 1900 shows the Browns owned a farm in the Rays Mill District free and clear of mortgage. They were neighbors of Levi J. Clements, Alfred Hill, and Ben Knight. In 1910 their neighbors on nearby farms were John Miles Clements, Georgia Cooper, Jeff Williams and James W. Williams. The 1920 census shows the Brown farm was situated at Rays Mill on the Willacoochee Road. Their immediate neighbor was Robert E. Lee and his family. Corinna Brown died sometime before 1930. By this time the Brown farm had been cut into Lanier County. The widower Brown continued to work his farm with the assistance of his children.

SOLOMON “SAUL” BROWN
Solomon Brown was born  about 1862 in South Carolina. He apparently came to the Rays Mill, GA area  some time before 1894. The 1910 census shows him in Rays Mill, widowed, living alone in a rented home and working as a farm laborer.

WILLIAM L. BROWN
William L. Brown was a farmer from South Carolina. He was born in May of 1862. About 1882 he married Lessie. They were in Berrien County, GA by the 1890s where William paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District in 1894. The census of 1900 shows he was working a rented farm near the homes of Richard Eady, William Revell, and Frank Gallagher.

PETER BURGES
Peter Burges, or Burgess, was an African-American born in August of 1865 at the conclusion of the Civil War. He was a native of South Carolina, as were both his parents.  By 1894, Peter Burges made his way to  the Ray’s Mill (now Ray City) District of Berrien County, GA where he was registered to vote. In the census of 1900, he was enumerated in the 1144 Georgia Militia District, the “Ray’s Mill” District, Berrien County. He was single, living alone in a rented house, and working as a turpentine laborer. He subsequently appears in the 1144 G.M.D census of 1910 as a farm laborer, and in 1920 he was renting a farm on the Willacoochee Road.

TOM BURGES
Tom Burges was born about 1850 in Georgia. He was enumerated in 1910 in the 1300 Georgia Militia District. At age 60 he was widowed, living alone in a rented house, and working at a sawmill. He was a neighbor of African-American teacher William M. Clark, sawmill employee Burris Hall, turpentine teamster David Story, turpentine employee John Merritt, and washerwoman Sallie Sanders.

JESSE COLEMAN
Jesse Coleman appears in the Berrien County tax records of 1884. His taxable property included $5 worth of livestock and $5 worth of furniture. In 1890 Jesse Coleman paid the poll tax in the 1329 Georgia Militia District, the Connells Mill District just west of Rays Mill. He had $57 in livestock, $15 in furniture, $10 in tools, and $2 in other property.

JOHN L. LAVIND
John L. Lavind was an African-American farmer from South Carolina. He was born in 1868. About 1886 he married Sarah Sloan, a woman from South Carolina. John and Sarah appear in the 1900 Census in Berrien County where they were neighbors of Arch Parrish. The Lavinds were working a rented farm in the 1145 Georgia Militia District, the Adel District. Living with the Lavinds and assisting with the farm labor were Sarah’s siblings, Alicia A Sloan and Davis Sloan. It appears that Sarah Sloan died sometime in the early 1900s. Census records indicate that John Lavind (enumerated as John Lavine) married a second time in 1908 to a widow woman named Kerene. In 1910, he was making payments on a farm at Adel and working as a self-employed farmer. His neighbors were sawmill workers Beacher Ward and Charlie Beland. In 1920, John and Karene were renting a farm on the Adel and Nashville Road which John was working on his own account. The were neighbors of Theresa Devane Hutchinson, widow of James Henry Hutchinson; her son, Vaude McIntyre Hutchinson was a school teacher.

HENRY MELVIN
Henry Melvin was born in North Carolina about 1863. He apparently came to live in the Rays Mill, GA district some time before 1894. In 1900, he was enumerated in the Mud Creek District of Clinch County, GA where he was renting a house and working as a turpentine laborer. On September 14, 1901 Henry Melvin and Delia Jenkins were joined in Holy Matrimony in Clinch County, GA in a ceremony performed by Joseph Powell, Justice of the Peace. The 1910 census shows Henry and Delia were renting a farm in the 586 Militia District of Clinch County, where they raised crops and children. Some time before 1920 Henry Melvin returned to Ray City, bringing his family to live on the Ray City & Willacoochee Road, on a rented farm which he worked on his own account. Henry Melvin died November 1, 1920 in Berrien County, GA. Anna remarried, probably about 1921, to Emanuel Smith. The Smiths rented a farm near Ray City, where they were neighbors of Walter H. Knight, John S. Fender, J. Mancil Ray and James F. Ray, James R. Johnson, and Lucian H. Grissett. Sometime before 1935 the Smiths moved to Lakeland, GA

HENRY MCCOY
Henry McCoy was born in October 1859 in North Carolina. About 1886 he married Anna. Some time before 1894 they came to Rays Mill, GA where Henry rented and worked a farm. Most of the McCoy’s neighbors were turpentine workers including Odum Wiley, D.D. Oxendine, Peter Burges, and Isham Hill. In 1910, Henry and Anna owned a home on North Street in Ray City. Henry worked as a drayman; Anna worked as washerwoman. Among their neighbors were hotelier Wilson W. Fender, merchant Louis Levin, telegraph operator Ralph E. Spear, blacksmith Rollie N. Warr, policeman Henry Hodges, carpenter Gordon J. Knight, and postmaster Charles H. Anderson. Henry McCoy died sometime after 1910. His widow married Sam B. Cooper on April 22, 1918 in Berrien County in a ceremony performed by Justice of the Peace J. W. Moore. Sam Cooper worked in a shop as a tailor and owned a home in Ray City, in the “Negro Quarters” according to 1920 Census records.

RICHARD MCGOWAN
Richard “Dick” McGowan was born a slave in North Carolina in the 1840s. He was brought to Berrien County (then Lowndes) as a young man, and lived most his life near Ray City, GA.  Freed after the Civil War, he continued to live for a while on the plantation of his former owner, Hardeman Sirmans.

JOSEPH MEDLEY
Joseph Medley was born about 1856 in the state of New York. In 1883, he married a Virginia woman named Jane. By 1885 The Medleys had moved from New York to South Carolina, and by 1888 they were in Georgia. Joseph paid the poll tax in the Rays Mill District of Berrien County, GA in 1894. The 1900 Census shows the Medley family in the neighboring Georgia Militia District 1300, the Milltown District, where Joseph owned a farm free and clear of mortgage. The census appears to show that the Medleys also rented a farm in addition to the farm they owned. Joseph farmed while Jane worked as a laundress. Both were enumerated as literate. They were neighbors of Joseph Dedge, Edwin Powell, and John Ed Thigpen brother of Robert Silas Thigpen. In 1910, the Medleys continued to farm in the 1300 GMD. Their son, William Medley, worked as a sawmill fireman, and son Aulie Medley assisted with the farm labor. Next door were Elmore Medley and Rainey Medley who were both employed in turpentine production. Other neighbors included John D. Patten and Matthew G. Patten. In 1920, Joe Medley, age 76, was no longer working. The Medleys rented a house at Milltown on the the Nashville Road. Their son William worked as a farm laborer and Henry worked as a truck driver at a cross tie camp.

SAM JULIAN “JIM” MYERS
Sam Julian “Jim” Myers was born October 1870 in South Carolina. By 1894 he came to Berrien County, GA to work as a turpentine chipper. He paid the 1894 poll tax in the Rays Mill District. In 1897 he married Rosa Sloan and they acquired a home on payments in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Rosa’s brother, Sydney Stone, lived with them and also worked as a turpentine chipper. Also boarding in the Myers household was Dr. Ervin Green; the 1900 Census taker added the notation “Quack” by Green’s occupation. By 1910 Jim Myers took up the ministry in the Methodist faith and moved his family to Adel, GA to a home on Maple Street. By 1920, Reverend Myers took his family to Fitzgerald, GA where they lived on Lemon Street.

ELIOTT RIAS
Eliott Rias was an African-American citizen of Rays Mill, GA for 40 years. He was a son of Pompy and Clarender Rias, born about 1863 in South Carolina. After the Civil War and Emancipation, he and his brothers and sisters grew up helping his parents work their farm in Laws Township, near Kingstree, Williamsburg County, SC. Some time after 1880, Eliott left South Carolina and came to Georgia to work as a turpentine laborer. He appears in the property tax digest of Clinch County as a Freedman, paying the poll tax for 1887 in the 586 Georgia Militia District, the Mud Creek District. About 1892, Eliott married a South Carolina woman named Henrietta. By 1900, Eliott and Henrietta were living at Rays Mill with their four children. They were renting a house and Eliott was working as a turpentine laborer. In 1910 Eliott Rias was renting a farm, which he was farming on his own account. Henrietta was keeping house and minding their seven children. Pauline Hodges, an African-American school teacher, was boarding with them. Among Rias’ neighbors were John L. and Cassie Hall, Babe Baldree, Barney Chism, John Whitfield, Tom Burgess and Mack Speights. By 1920, Eliott and Henrietta were working a rented farm at Rays Mill on their own account.  Some time before 1930, Henrietta Rias passed away. All of Eliott’s children were grown and moved away. Eliatt Rias was left alone, living in Rays Mill in a home he rented for $3.00 a month. He worked as a carpenter. He was a neighbor of Sherrod Fender, Henry Studstill, Arrin H. Guthrie, Perry Guthrie, Herman Guthrie, and Ivory Wright.

EBENEZER ROSS
Ebenezer “Ebb” Ross was an African-American farm laborer born in Georgia about 1857. The 1870 census shows Ebenezer, age 23, and his wife Fannie, age 17, living in Berrien County, Georgia Militia District 1144, the Rays Mill District. Ebenezer Ross had a net worth of $30. In the 1870s and 1880s the Rosses were neighbors of William and Frances Giddens, Mary and Richard Anthony, Jesse and Margaret Carroll, John T. and Catherine Carroll, Peter and Josephine Best, and Nancy Parker. The 1875 Berrien Property Tax Digest shows Ebenezer Ross paid the poll tax, and his entire taxable property was valued at $20.00. The following year the value of his estate had dropped to just $2.00. In 1880, the Rosses home enumerated in the 1300 GMD. Living next door with the Carrolls was mail rider Everet Roberts. The 1890 tax digest shows the Rosses were faring slightly better. Eb was working for J. H. Wright, one of 58 freedmen employed by Wright.

MACK SPEIGHTS
Mack Speights was an African-American turpentine laborer who lived for about 40 years at Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA. According to family members, he was born June 14, 1867 in Ridge, Williamsburg County, South Carolina, a son of Elias McBride Speights and Norah Speights. He married Martha Ellen Cooper in South Carolina on August 14, 1889. He apparently brought his young family from South Carolina to Rays Mill about 1893 and appears on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. Like many young African-American men, he came to work in the naval stores industry, turpentining the piney woodlands of the Wiregrass. By 1910, Mack Speights was renting a farm at Rays Mill where he and Martha were raising their eight children His oldest sons, Elias and William, worked as farm labor. The Speights were neighbors of Joseph S. Clements, Brodie Shaw, Bruner Shaw, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher. By 1930, Mack and Martha had moved to Gainesville, FL with several of their children and grandchildren.

ABRAHAM L. VANDROSS
Abraham L. Vandross , an African-American turpentine laborer, was born about 1867 in South Carolina. He was on the list of voters in the Rays Mill District in 1894. About that same time he married a woman named Hannah. By 1900, Abraham and Hannah had moved to the Dry Lake District of Brooks County, GA where they lived in a rented home. By 1910 Hannah and Abraham returned to Berrien County to the 1300 Georgia Militia District, where they acquired a home which they owned free and clear of mortgage. Abraham continued to work for wages as a turpentine worker; Hannah worked as a washerwoman. They also took in a boarder, Albert Johnson, who was a sawmill employee. In 1910, the Vandrosses were neighbors of William M. Clark, an African-American school teacher. The 1920 Census shows Abraham and Hannah’s home was on Oak Street, Milltown (now Lakeland), GA. Their boarder in 1920 was Reverend Jordan R. Gay.

JOHN WAMBLE
John Wamble was a widowed African-American farmer. He was born about 1850 in Georgia.  At the time of the 1900 Census, he was living near Rays Mill, GA with his two teenaged sons. The Wambles were neighbors of Richard Morehead, Benjamin Moorehead, David C. Clements and Rubin Knight.  His son, Horace, married about 1907 and made his home on the Nashville & Valdosta Road near Cat Creek.

JOHN WADE
John Wade was a Freedman living in Rays Mill, GA with his wife, Emma, and their large family. John Wade was born about 1824. The property tax digest of 1887 shows his taxable property consisted of $7 dollars worth of livestock and $20 in household and kitchen furniture. The 1880 census shows the Wades living and farming in Lowndes County, GA.

JAMES WHITFIELD
James Whitfield may have been an African-American farmer who later lived in Grooverville, Brooks County, GA.  He was born about 1868. This James Whitfield cannot be definitively placed in Rays Mill, however, his son, James Whitfield, Jr. lived in Nashville, GA in the 1920s.

GEORGE WILLIAMS
The 1900 census shows George Williams  in the 1145 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. He was working as a log turner at a sawmill.  He was born in North Carolina about 1858.  In 1900, he was living alone, apparently in housing at the sawmill.

Related Posts:

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men

Levi J. Knight, original pioneer settler of Ray City, was the military leader of the community. He served as a captain of the local militia company in the Indian Wars, and as a general in the state militia.

Almost immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln,  Levi J. Knight formed a company of 103 volunteers, the Berrien Minute Men.

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men, passed December 10, 1860 at Nashville, GA

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men, passed December 10, 1860 at Nashville, GA

Georgia
Berrien County

At a meeting of the Company of Berrien Minute Men at Nashville this 10th day of December 1860, the following resolutions were offered by Capt. Levi J. Knight.
    Resolved that we the Berrien Minute Men, adopt the following uniform, viz, Blue Gray Cloth, turned up with black flat-plate buttons, gray caps, with a black leather band, and plate buckle in front.
   Resolved that  we hold ourselves in readinefs to march at a minute warning, under orders from his excellency  the Governor, to any place in this state or out of it, that his excellency’s orders may designate.
   Resolved that we prefer the Minnie Rifle, and Sword Bayonet, and request our officers to apply for them, as our first choice.
      On Motion, the above resolutions were unanimously adopted.

Although Civil War was imminent,  long months of preparation passed. A few of these original Minute Men would drop out and new recruits take their places before Captain Knight’s Company finally made their way to Savannah in the summer of 1861.

1860 Muster Roll of the Berrien Minute Men

1860 Muster Roll of the Berrien Minute Men

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berrien-minute-men-rMusterRolls1860-2

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berrien-minute-men-MusterRolls1860-2

berrien-minute-men-MusterRolls1860-99

Muster Roll of Capt. Levi J. Knight’s Company of Volunteers Styled, The Berrien Minute Men Enrolled 28 Nov. 1860
Levi J. Knight Capt.
Thos. S. Wylley 1st Lieut
William Giddens 2nd Lieut
William Y. Hill 3rd Lieut
1 Arch. McCranie 1st Sergt
2 Jno. R. Langdale 2nd Sergt
3 Wm H. Overstreet 3rd Sergt
4 Sirman W. Nash 4th Sergt
5 Moses Giddens 1st Corp.
6 John Knight 2nd Corp.
7 Wm C. Giddens 3rd Corp.
8 Jasper M. Luke 4th Corp.
9 Dr. H. M. Talley Surgeon
10 F. H. Rooks Private
11 Moses H. Giddens Private
12 Abraham J. Luke Private
13 David P. Luke Private
14 H. W. McCranie Private
15 Jacob B. Griffin Private
16 James M. Williams Private
17 John P. Griffin Private
18 Sion D. Griffin Private
19 John L. Hall Private
20 Berrien Hendly Private
21 David M. Luke Private
22 James H. Kirby Private
23 John F. Kirby Private
24 Joel J. Parrish Private
25 Jacob Davis Private
26 Thos N. Connell Private
27 Wm Bradley Private
28 Alex D. Patterson Private
29 Wm Dickson Private
30 Wm J. Lamb Private
31 Johnson M. Richardson Private
32 John M. J. McCranie Private
33 A. L. Parrish Private
34 David D. Mahon Private
35 Matthew O. Giddens Private
36 Jas L. ONeal Private
37 B. M. James Private
38 John Tison Private
39 D. P. McDonald Private
40 Danl. M. Patterson Private
41 Jno. W. Griffin Private
42 Irvin Jones Private
43 John F. Parrish Private
44 Levi T. Smith Private
45 Wm M. Kirby Private
46 Wm Anderson Private
47 Richard G. McCranie Private
48 Andrew Dobson Private
49 Solomon Griffin Private
50 Wm. W. Rutherford Private
51 Jackson M. Handcock Private
52 Jas M. Hall Private
53 Jas A. Hall Private
54 William B. Bradford Private
55 John C. Lamb Private
56 Martin Griner Private
57 Isbin T. Giddens Private
58 Saml Jefcoat Private
59 John P. Weekly Private
60 Jarrad Johnson Private
61 Wm Richardson Private
62 Jas Hendley Private
63 Wm Patten Private
64 John M. Handcock Private
65 John D. Handcock Private
66 Newton M. McCutchin Private
67 Patrick Nolon Private
68 John Studstill Private
69 Saml Gaskins Private
70 W. D. Williams Private
71 Isaac Goodman Private
72 Howell B Dobson Private
73 Thos D. Lindsey Private
74 Danl. McNabb Private
75 Robt McNabb Private
76 Jas McNabb Private
77 Boney Roe Private
78 Joseph S. Morris Private
79 Ed Maloy Private
80 John Giddens Private
81 Geo M. L Wilson Private
82 Danl. W. McCranie Private
83 John Lindsey Jr. Private
84 Lovic M. Young Private
85 Gideon Gaskins Private
86 Ashley Newbern Private
87 Elbert Mathis Private
88 Jas Mathis Private
89 Joseph Newbern Private
90 Joel G. Young Private
91 Wm Luke Private
92 Wm J. Watson Private
93 Joseph Gaskins Private
94 Wm Branch Private
95 John J. Young Private
96 George W. Flowers Private
97 Newit Ward Private
98 Robt. H. Goodman Private
99 John C. Clements Private

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Related Posts

Old Union Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Burnt Church

   Located in present day Lanier County, GA, the old Union Church lies about 10 miles east of where Levi J. Knight settled on Beaver Dam Creek (now Ray City, GA).  It was the first church to serve the pioneer settlers of this region.  L. J. Knight’s parents, Sarah and William Anderson Knight , were among the organizing members of the church.  Built on land provided by Jesse Carter, the church was originally referred to as Carter’s Meeting House, and later designated Union Church.

The church and cemetery  were on a trail used by the Creek Indians traveling between the Chattahoochee River and the Okefenokee Swamp.  During the Indian Wars, 1836-1838,  the church building was partially burned.  The fire-damaged timbers were used in the reconstruction, and since that time Union Church has also been known as Burnt Church.

  “Union Baptist Church, on the Alapaha River ….was constituted October 21, 1825, the first church in the old area of Irwin County.  The original members William A. Knight; his wife, Sarah; Jonathan Knight; his wife, Elizabeth; Joshua Lee; his wife, Martha; James Patten; his wife, Elizabeth; Mary Knight; Josiah Sirmans, deacon.  The Rev. Matthew Albritton served the church as its first minister.”

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

Union Church, Lanier County, GA

In Pines and pioneers: A history of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1825-1900,  author J. T. Shelton gave the following description described a Big Meeting at Union church:

“The old church had a door on every side for easy access, a rostrum along one wall with seats facing it from three directions. The arrangement allowed the seating of slaves on one side. With feet planted firmly on the wide floor boards, the congregation sat on the pews, each a single plank. The women of the church had scrubbed down with potash and homemade soap both pews and flooring, and the wood had a soft, silvery sheen. The pulpit was seven feet long, twelve inches wide and two inches thick; three to five preachers sat on a long bench behind the  pulpit until each had his turn to address the assembly. The exhorter then paced up and down the generous space provided, and he held forth for two hours before the next preacher had his chance. Listeners came and went; mothers carried out crying babies; little boys believed that they would starve to death before they could get outside to the loaded dinner tables that were as much a part of Big Meeting as the preaching.”

In 1928-30, The Clinch County News published a series of articles on the history of Union Church, portions of which are excerpted below:

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter I

Union Primitive Baptist Church, the mother of all the churches of this faith in this immediate section of Georgia, was organized or constituted October 1st, 1825.  The presbytery consisted of Elders Fleming Bates and Mathew Albritton.

As is well known, the church is located on the banks of the Alapaha River about 1 1/2 miles south of Lakeland formerly old Milltown.  It stands to-day where it has always stood for the past 108 years (1933). The cemetery close by contains the graves of many pioneers and old citizens of east Lowndes, southeast Berrien and western Clinch counties.  Baptisms have always taken place in the nearby river, it not being over one hundred yards from the church to the river.  A high bluff with a sharp bend in the river’s course is the visitor’s introduction after he has passed the church.  Several steady-flowing springs of fine drinking water are to be found on the banks, and eminating from the walls of the bluff.  Part of the bluff slopes off to the river’s edge at the river bend thus making an ideal place for baptism purposes.

The little log-house which was the first building on the site of the present church, had come to be known as Carter’s Meeting House prior to the organization of the church.  For some months prior it had been the scene of monthly meetings or services, and it was the expression of the desire of the settlers to have some kind of divine services in their midst, for there was not a church to be found of any denomination from the Altamaha River to the Florida and Alabama lines.  The settlers in this immediate vicinity were more numerous than in most of the settlements, and many of them Carters.  The meeting-house took its name from old man Jesse Carter and he probably gave the land and his boys had a hand in building the original log house to hold services in.   The earliest settlers had only been living here four years at the time, while the most of them had not living here hardly a year.  Knights, Carters, Giddens and Lees made up most of the settlers west of the river while on the east side of the river were to be found Tomlinsons, Sirmans and Fenders, Corbitts and Mathises.  Further down the river could be found the Wetheringtons, Swilleys, Peters, Walkers, and Roberts.

Elder William A. Knight, at that time a layman, was one of the leading spirits in the formation of the church.  As already stated it was Elders Bates and Albritton who presided at the organization of the church, but to “Old Father Knight” as many people called him in his lifetime, may be attribute more than anyone else the religious activities of the community in those days when the first settlers were moving in.  He led in prayer and in song, and when the preacher failed to keep an appointment because of lurking Indians, high waters or other providential hindrances it was Bro. Knight who took charge and carried on the service. Five years after the church was organized he was licensed to preach the Gospel and two years later (1832) he was ordained to the full Gospel ministry.

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 Union Church had been constituted under the auspices of the Piedmont Primitive Baptist Association, but by 1827 the establishment of a number of new churches prompted a desire to divide the association.  Fleming Bates and Matthew Albritton, of  Union Church, were appointe to lead the local organization of  “seven Baptist churches situated between the Alapaha and Flint River” into the new Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association.  The Ochlocknee Association grew rapidly and by 1833 included 35 churches and 1,010 members.   William A. 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 again sought to divide from the Ochlocknee Primitive Baptist Association, Knight served on the presbytery in the organization of the new Suwannee  Primitive Baptist Association.

Clinch County News
September 20, 1929

HISTORY OF OLD UNION CHURCH
Established 1825

Chapter XIII.

As has been stated before, the minutes of the church from the beginning in 1825 to 1832 have been lost.  We understand, however, that Rev. William A. Knight was the first pastor as well as the guiding hand of the church during these early years.  It is certain that he was one of the charter members and the only ordained minister holding his membership with the church during that time. Assuming that he was pastor during those seven years, the list of pastors up to recently [1929], is as follows:

  • William A. Knight                          1825-1832
  • Matthew Albritton (died)              1832-1850
  • William A. Knight (died)               1850-1860
  • Ansel Parrish                                1860-1865
  •                               (No record, 1865 to 1873)
  • Timothy William Stallings            1873-1888
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                       1888-1900
  • Timothy William Stallings           1900-1902
  • A. A. Knight                                     1902-1907
  • J. A. Chitty                                       1907-1911
  • Aaron A. Knight                                1911-1913
  • Isham Albert Wetherington                        1913-1915
  • Orville A. Knight                          1915-1916
  • E. R. Rhoden                                1916-1918
  • I. A. Wetherington (died)         1918-1923
  • Wm. H. Tomlinson                    1923-1925
  • Orville A. Knight                        1925-1927

If the writer could properly write the life of these earnest consecrated servants of the Lord, it would be equal to writing an account of the religious life of this section in the Primitive Baptist denomination.  Fearless in fighting sin and bold in preaching Christ and faithful in contending for the Faith, they have served nobly and well and unborn generations will bear witness to the fruits of their work.  With few exceptions the writer has not sufficient biographical data at hand now to write of their individual lives, but we know of their godly records.  We hope to write later of the lives of these great preachers.

Church Clerks

The clerks of the church likewise contain a list of fine men, known throughout their communities and  counties for their good, upright lives, and their staunch Christian characters. We do not know who the first clerk was.

Elected

  • Owen Smith              September 7, 1832
  • Joshua Sykes              January 12, 1839
  • Isaac D. Hutto                  April 13, 1845
  • William Patten                  May 10, 1851
  • William Lastinger              July 8, 1854
  • John Studstill                       Jan 9, 1858
  • William Giddens                May 7, 1863
  • E. R. Rhoden                 October 8, 1891
  • W. R. Rhoden         November 10, 1894
  • J. L. Robertson        February 12, 1898
  • Wm. J. Knight                  May 12, 1900
  • J. A. Weaver                 August 10, 1901
  • G. L. Robinson      September 12, 1924
  • J. A. Weaver          September 12, 1925
  • J. S. Shaw                     October 8, 1926

A good portion of the minutes is in the handwriting of assistant clerks.  These assistant clerks were generally elected by the church, but of late years there have been no assistants.  The list of assistant clerks is as follows:

  • William A. Knight          1834-1837
  • Levi Drawdy                  1837-1848
  • James Walker                1853-1854
  • Richard H. Burkhalter 1861-1862
  • John P. Tomlinson       1887-1900
  • John T. Watson            1900-1902

Deacons

The church has had but few deacons during its 105 years [as of 1929] of existence.  There were apparently never over two at the time, and when elected they served for life unless sooner dismissed by letter or otherwise.  The list given below is full of as fine men as ever lived in this section.  We do not in the list make any attempt to show how long they served except in those cases where they died members of the church.  We do not know who the first deacons of the church were.  List follows:

Bro. Edmund Mathis, one of the deacons, having removed his membership, Bro. Joshua Lee was elected in his place March 10, 1833, and ordained April 13, 1833 by Elders Peacock, Friar and Knight.

September 6, 1839, Bro. Edmund Mathis was received back into the membership by letter from Concord church, Hamilton County, Fla., and acted as a deacon until dismissed again by letter April 10, 1841.

On June 13, 1841, brethren Jacob Hughes and John Lee were ordained deacons.  Members of the presbytery not shown by minutes.

March 13, 1852, brethren Richard H. Burkhalter and J. D. Peters were elected deacons.  They were ordained June 12, 1852 but the minutes do not show who constituted the presbytery.  Bro. Burkhalter died in 1862 and Bro. Peters also died a member but we do not know when.

The minutes do not show any further ordination of deacons until 1891 when Bro. John P. Tomlinson was elected on May 9th.  On June 13, 1891 he was ordained by Elders J. A. O’steen and T. W. Stallings.

On December 9, 1899, Bro. James L. Robinson was elected a deacon but was never ordained.

On November 10, 1906 Bro. Israel G. Carter was elected a deacon and ordained January 12, 1907 by Elders B.P. Lovett from Salem Church, I. A. Wetherington from Unity church,  A. A. Knight , the pastor.

On October 9, 1909, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected deacon, and ordained February 12, 1910 by Elders Wetherington, Chitty and A. A. Knight .

Treasurers

The minutes do not disclose that the church ever had any treasurer until 1909 whem on October 9th, Bro. J. A. Weaver was elected as such.

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.

Some other members of Union Church:

  • William Hughes  – joined by letter, December 8, 1838
  • William Wesley Johnson – baptized August 10, 1839
  • Amelia Sherley Johnson – baptized June 13, 1840
  • John Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1839
  • Elender Wetherington Lee – joined by letter, June 8, 1838
  • Joshua Lee – constituting member, October1, 1825
  • Martha Ford Lee – constituting member, October1, 1825
  • Moses C. Lee – baptized September 11, 1841
  • Jincey Register Lee – baptized September 10, 1854
  • Thomas Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Eady Mathis – united 1839, dismissed by letter December 12, 1840
  • Tyre Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Nancy Lee Mathis – joined by letter April 12, 1828, dismissed by letter December 11, 1847
  • Mehala Rice Monk – joined by letter 1838
  • William Patten – baptized September 9, 1848, dismissed by letter March 11, 1854 to organize Empire Church

 

Related Articles:

Confederate Letters of John William Hagan

In 1954, the Confederate letters of John W. Hagan were published by  Bell Irvin Wiley.  Hagan lived in the Cat Creek community near Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  In the Civil War, Hagan enlisted in  the “Berrien Minute Men,” a Confederate army unit organized by  Levi J. Knight, original settler at the site of Ray City.  Hagan served in the 29th GA infantry in Company  D, (later reorganized as Company K, the Berrien Minutemen),  and was elected 3rd Sergeant.  By 1864, he was serving as 1st Sergeant, and at times was in command of the Company.

Confederate Letters of John W. Hagan

Confederate Letters of John W. Hagan

John W. Hagan wrote regularly from field camps and battle lines to his wife and family back in Berrien County. His letters were typically addressed to Amanda Hagan, his wife, or  Rueben Roberts, his father-in-law.  He frequently mentions relatives, colleagues in the Berrien Minute Men, and other Wiregrass Georgia residents including James Roberts, Ezekiel Roberts, Stephen Roberts, Sherard Roberts, Kiziah Roberts, Bryant J. Roberts, John J. Roberts, George Roberts, James Roberts, Levi J. Knight, Jonathan D. Knight, William Washington Knight, William Sirmans, John Herndon, Wiley E. Baxter, Barzilla Knight, John M. Griffin, Thomas Griffin, Asa Newsome, William Roberts, Benjamin S. Garrett, J. L. Robert, Elias Thomas, Harriet Newell Wilson, Ellen Groover Clifford,  John Moore, Nancy Moore, Isbin B. Giddens, William J. Beatty,  James L. O’Neil, William Giddens, Burrell H. Howell, Moses H. Giddens, James Turner, Edward Maloy, U.D. Knight, Henry Harrison Knight, Edwin Griffin, Wiley E. Baxter, William Cameron, Jonas Tomlinson, Thomas Clifford, Jasper Roberts, John C. Clements, Thomas W. Ballard, James W. Mathis, James D. Pounds, James Giddens, Elias Lastinger, James Fender, Aaron Mattox,  Moses F. Giddens, and  William Anderson.

John W. Hagan witnessed  and described the death of Major John C. Lamb, who commanded the 29th Georgia Regiment until he was killed during the retreat from Vicksburg, MS in 1863.  Hagan also wrote about the execution of “Old Yaller” Elbert J. Chapman, who was shot for desertion even though he had left the 29th Georgia Regiment to serve with another unit.

John W. Hagan was captured during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864 along with John Hearndon, Jonathan D. Knight, James D. Pounds, among others, and was sent to Camp Chase, OH for the remainder of the war .

The 43 letters he wrote home between 1861 and 1865 were published by Bell Irvin Wiley, and subsequently appeared in the Georgia Historical Quarterly.  The content of these letters may now be viewed online through JSTOR archives of the journal articles.

cover-georgia-historical-quarterlyTHE CONFEDERATE LETTERS OF JOHN W. HAGAN. Part I

Bell Irvin Wiley
The Georgia Historical Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 2  (June, 1954), pp. 170-200
Published by: Georgia Historical Society
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40577510

cover-georgia-historical-quarterlyTHE CONFEDERATE LETTERS OF JOHN W. HAGAN: Part II

Bell Irvin Wiley
The Georgia Historical Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 3  (September, 1954), pp. 268-290
Published by: Georgia Historical Society
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40577711
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Bryan J. Robert’s Account of the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County

Bryan J. Roberts, and his brothers Nathan and John, were among Levi J. Knight’s company of men who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.  Many published accounts of the pioneer skirmishes with Native Americans at  William Parker’s place on the Alapaha River and at Brushy Creek have been related on the Ray City History Blog.

Here is the story the way it was told by B. J. Roberts 50 years after the event:

The Valdosta Times
May 14, 1887

INDIAN FIGHTERS

A Brief Account of the Fighting In This Section In 1836.

Mr. Bryan J. Roberts, father of Mr. W. K. Roberts of this place, is one of the pioneers of Lowndes, and has seen service as an Indian fighter in this and Clinch counties.  He is now in his 78th year and is spending the evening of his life very happily among his devoted children, having a few years ago divided a fine property among them, reserving for himself a sufficiency for his simple needs.  His children are all prospering and he is happy in seeing them happy.

In 1836 the rumors of depredations and murders by Indians in other portions of the State caused widespread alarm in this section, and the citizens organized companies for the protection of their families and property.  Capt. Levi J. Knight commanded the company to which Mr. Roberts belonged.

This company was on duty one hundred and five days, and during that time engaged in two bloody fights with the red skins.

In August, 1835, a squad of Indians raided Mr. William Parker’s home, not far from Milltown.  They carried his feather beds out into the yard; cut them open, emptied the feathers, cut and carried the ticks with them.  They also robbed him of provisions, clothing, and $208.25 in money.

Capt. Knight’s company was soon on the trail of this squad and in a short time overtook them near the Alapaha river, not far from the Gaskins mill pond.  The sun was just rising when the gallant company opened fire on the savages. A lively fight ensued, but it soon terminated in the complete routing of the Indians, who threw their guns and plunder into the river and jumped in after them.  A few were killed and a number wounded.  One Indian was armed with a fine shot gun.  This he threw into the river and tried to throw a shot bag, but it was caught by the limb of a tree and was suspended over the water.  This bag contained Mr. Parker’s money, every cent of which he recovered as well as all the other property taken from his house. The fine gun was fished out of the river and, afterwards sold for $40, a tremendous price for a gun in those days.  In the fight Mr. Peters was shot with this same gun.  One buck-shot struck him just above the waist-band of his pants, passed through and lodged under the skin near the backbone. He was also struck by two shot in the left side, which made only slight wounds.  The Indian was not more than thirty yards distant when he shot him.  Mr. Peters recovered from his wounds in less than twelve months.

Having driven the Indians into the dense swamp beyond the river, Capt. Knight marched his company as rapidly as possible in the direction of Brushy creek, in the Southwestern portion of the county.  When they arrived near that place, they heard a volley of small arms, and on arrival found that the battle had been fought and that the volley they heard was the last tribute of respect over the grave of their brave comrade-in-arms, Pennywell Folsom.  Edwin Shanks and a man named Ferrell were also shot dead in the fight.  Edwin Henderson was mortally wounded and died near the battlefield.  Mr. Robert Parrish, Sr., who lives near Adel, had his arm broken by a bullet in this fight. The Indians lost 27 killed and a number wounded.  We have no account of any prisoners being taken.  The battle of Brushy Creek was fought in a low, marshy swamp where Indian cunning was pitted against the invincible courage of the Anglo-Saxon, and in five minutes after the fight opened there was not a live red skin to be seen.

From this place Capt. Knight marched his company to what is now Clinch county.  He overtook the Indians at Cow Creek, where a sharp engagement took place, resulting in the killing of three and the taking of five prisoners. Mr. Brazelius Staten was dangerously wounded in this fight but finally recovered.

This ended the Indian fighting in which Capt. Knight’s company were engaged. Half a century has passed since then.  Nearly all the actors in that brief but bloody drama are at rest beyond the stars. A few of them are still among us, the valiant pioneers of this country, who bared their breasts to the bullets of the savages in order that their descendants might possess this fair land in peace.

The following is a list, as near as can now be ascertained, of the living and dead of Capt. Knight’s company.  The company numbered 120 men, many of whom came from neighboring counties, whose names cannot now be recalled.

LIVING–Bryan J. Roberts, Moses Giddens, John Studstill, Jonathan Studstill, Aaron Knight, Guilford Register, Echols county.) David Clements, William Giddens, John and Nathan Roberts, Fla.) (Zeke Parrish, Lowndes county,) John McMillain, John McDermid and Robert Parrish.

DEAD–George Henedge, Jeremiah Shaw, Daniel Sloan, John Lee, Moses Lee, James Patten, William J. Roberts, Isben Giddens, Jacob Giddens, Elbert Peterson, John Knight, Thomas Giddens, Harmon Gaskins, John Gaskins, William Gaskins, Sam Lee, Frederick Giddens, James Parrish, Martin Shaw, Archie McCranie, Daniel McCranie, Malcom McCranie, Alexander Patterson, James Edmondson, David Mathis, Thomas Mathis, Levi Shaw, William Peters, Jonathan Knight, Levi J. Knight and Brazelias Staten.

The Indians who passed through here belonged to the Creek Nation and were on their way from Roanoke to Florida to join the Seminoles.  They were first discovered in this county by Samuel Mattox, at Poplar Head, near where Mr. Tom Futch now lives.  Mattox was afterward hanged for murdering the fifteen-year-old son of Mr. Moses Slaughter.  Most of these Indians reached the Okeefenokee Swamp where they were joined by a large band of Seminoles.  From then until 1839 these savages did much damage to the white settlers in the vicinity of the Swamp, but in that year they were driven out and took refuge in the Everglades, where they were, with the exception of a small number, finally captured and sent to Arkansas.
Since the above was put in type another of the gallant old Indian fighters, Mr. Aaron Knight, has joined his comrades beyond the stars.

A 1915 reprint of this article also  noted “The Malcolm McCranie referred to was the father of Mr. Geo. F. McCranie, cashier of the Bank of Willacoochee and Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners of Coffee.”

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Isbin S. Giddens Visited Old Berrien Friends in 1905

Isbin Sylvester Giddens was born in Berrien county, Ga. in 1858,  a son of Elizabeth Edmondson and William Giddens.  “His family is Southern, his paternal grandfather having been a native of North Carolina, and his maternal grandfather of Virginia.  His father, William Giddens, was a planter in Georgia, a county judge and a soldier in the Confederate army. His mother, Elizabeth, was also a Georgian by birth. ” Isbin S. Giddens was the youngest of nine sons.

Isbin S. Giddens grew up on his father’s farm, near Ray City, GA in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, where he and his brothers helped work the farm.

By 1880, Isbin S. Giddens had moved to Manatee County, Florida where he was working as a grocer and living in the household of his brother, Matthew Giddens.

Some time before 1890, Isbin S. Giddens moved to Hillsborough County, FL where he served as county treasurer.  He enjoyed great success as a grocery merchant forming his own company,  I. S. Giddens & Co., wholesale grocers, of Tampa.  In 1900, the Giddens’  home was located on Seventh Avenue in Tampa, FL.  By 1905 Isbin S. Giddens had all but retired and, by 1910,  moved to the flourishing Hyde Park district of  Tampa, where he was engaged as a self-employed real estate broker.  Three  of his brothers also settled in Tampa, where they were among the prominent  citizens of the city: County Commissioner Marcus F. GiddensDr. John A. Giddens, a well known dentist, and Henry Clay Giddens, a successful business man.

In 1905, Isbin Giddens made a trip back to the old neighborhood in Berrien County.  His visit was reported in The Valdosta Times.

The Valdosta Times
December 16, 1905 pg 7

An Old Berrien County Boy.

Mr. I. S. Giddens, a retired capitalist of Tampa, Fla., was in Adel Monday, a guest of his niece Mrs. W.B. Wilkes.  Mr. Giddens was reared in Berrien County and went to Tampa when it was hardly as large as Adel.  He was treasurer of the county there for fourteen years and made a fortune in the wholesale grocery business.  He has a summer home in Monteagle, Tenn., and spends a good deal of the time there. His wife is visiting in Valdosta.  Her health has not been good for some time but is now much improved.  Mr. Giddens has many friend in Berrien who were glad to see him.  -Adel News.
Mr. Giddens is a brother of Mrs. J. B. Carter, of Valdosta, and Mrs.  Giddens has been a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Carter for a few days.

Grave of Isbin Sylvester Giddens (1858-1916), Woodlawn Cemetery, Tampa, FL.

Grave of Isbin Sylvester Giddens (1858-1916), Woodlawn Cemetery, Tampa, FL.

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The Biggles Farm

In 1880, Needham W. Pearson deeded 80 acres of land to his daughter, Elizabeth Pearson Biggles. She was the wife of James Thomas Biggles, subject of the previous post.

James Thomas Beagles and Mary Elizabeth Pearson Beagles

James Thomas Biggles and Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles

About 1901, James Thomas Biggles  returned to the Rays Mill area after completing a prison term in the Fargo Convict Camp for the murder of his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson. Re-joining his wife, Biggles purchased an 100 acre tract, adjacent to her land,  from Eugene M. Giddens. This tract had been in the Giddens family since the early 1800s. Isbin Giddens brought his wife, Keziah, and their two young children, William and Moses Giddens from Wayne County to settle in what was then Irwin County, near the present day Ray City GA in the winter of 1824-25. Present day county lines place the land in Lanier County, about 6 miles east of Ray City and just north of Highway 129.

After the death of James Thomas Biggles in 1911, the 100 acre tract that was in his name was sold at an administrator’s sale to J. V. Talley. The 80 acre tract was sold in 1924 by the heirs of Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, following her death in 1923. About that time Dr. Reubin Nathaniel Burch acquired both the 100 acre and the 80 acre tracts from different owners. Dr. Burch sold the property about 1930 and it was eventually accquired by the Roquemore family of Lakeland, GA for turfgrass production.

John A. Giddens, D.D.S.

Yet another college educated son of William Giddens, of Berrien County, was John A. Giddens.  Like his brothers, Henry, Isbin and Marcus,  John A. Giddens moved from Berrien County to live in Tampa, FL.  His biography appeared in Memoirs of Florida in 1902.

Rerick, Rowland H. (1902) Memoirs of Florida: Embracing a general history of the province, territory, and state; and special chapters devoted to finances and banking, the bench and bar, medical profession, railways and navigation, and industrial interests.The Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, GA. Vol II, Pgs 525-526.

John A. Giddens, D.D.S., a well known dentist of Tampa, is a native of Berrien county, Ga., born July 24, 1860.  He was the son of William Giddens, a Georgia planter and Confederate soldier who died in 1900, and Elizabeth (Edmundson) Giddens, of Georgia, who died in 1882.  Dr. Giddens was reared on his father’s plantation, received his early education in the public schools of the vicinity and the Thomasville high school. At seventeen years of age he became a teacher in the public schools but after one year resigned in order to take up the study of dentistry.  He entered the dental office of Dr. Alfred Smith of Valdosta, Ga., and remained there until 1881 when he matriculated at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery.  He was graduated from this famous institution in 1883 and at once entered upon the practice of his chosen profession in Berrien county, Ga., but remained there only one year and in the fall of 1883 removed to Florida, selecting as his location, the thriving city of Tampa.  Two years later he went to Key West, practicing in the last named place for ten years.  In September, 1897, he returned to Tampa, which has been his home since, and where he has built up a large and lucrative practice.  Dr. Giddens is a member of the Florida State Dental society and belongs to the Methodist Episcopal church South, of which he is a steward and local clergyman.  He has been married twice, first in January, 1889 to Mary, daughter of James R. Curry, of Key West. She died in November, 1893.  His second wife was Miss Carrie Hammerly, of Tampa, formerly of Virginia, to who he was married September 15, 1898.  He has two daughters, Pauline C. and Fannie E., aged eleven and nine years respectively. The family is quite popular and enjoys a wide circle of acquaintances and friends.

Henry Clay Giddens ~ Man of the South

Henry Clay Giddens, portrait from Men of the South, 1922.

Henry Clay Giddens, portrait from Men of the South, 1922.

Another Giddens brother detailed in Memoirs of Florida was Henry Clay Giddens, who was born and raised in Berrien County, GA.  His parents were Elizabeth and William Giddens.

Rerick, Rowland H. (1902) Memoirs of Florida: Embracing a general history of the province, territory, and state; and special chapters devoted to finances and banking, the bench and bar, medical profession, railways and navigation, and industrial interests.The Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, GA. Vol II, Pgs 525-526.

Henry Clay Giddens, a worthy business man of Tampa, was born in Berrien county, Ga., November 2, 1863.  His family is Southern, his paternal grandfather having been a native of North Carolina, and his maternal grandfather of Virginia.  His father, William Giddens, was a planter in Georgia, a county judge and a soldier in the Confederate army; his wife was Elizabeth Edmundson Giddens, also a Georgian.  Henry C. is the tenth of eleven children and the youngest of nine sons.  Eight of these children are still living.  He is one of the four brothers who settled in Tampa, where the are among the prominent  citizens: Marcus F., Isbin S., county treasurer and member of the firm I. S. Giddens & Co., wholesale grocers, and Dr. John A. Giddens, a well known dentist. Henry C. Giddens was reared and received his early education in his native county.  He took a course in the Eastman business college, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he graduated in September, 1885.  At the age of twenty he came to Tampa and clerked one year in the store of C.L. Friebele, and for six years was bookkeeper and general manager for E. A. Clarke & Co. November 1, 1891, he embarked in the clothing business as the partner of  W. B. Henderson, one of the leading men of Tampa.  Mr. Giddens has been treasurer of the Building and Loan association ever since its organization ten years ago.  He is a member of the Board of Trade and of the order of the Knights of Pythias,  and is one of the pillars of the Presbyterian church of which he is deacon.  He was married June 27, 1887 to Sallie M. Graham of Tampa, a native of Alabama, and they have two children, Henry Chalmers, born August 22, 1895, and James Graham, born July 10, 1891, died April 27, 1901.

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  An updated sketch of  Henry Clay Giddens was published in Men of the South in 1922.

Moore, Daniel Decatur. 1922. Men of the South: a work for the newspaper reference library. Southern Biographical Association. New Orleans. Pg 272.

  Henry Clay Giddens, retail clothier, of clothier, of Tampa, Florida, is a native of Berrien county, Georgia, where he was born November 2, 1863.
Mr. Giddens attended the common schools at his home and then took a commercial course at the famous Eastman Business College, Poughkeepsie, New York.
He located in Tampa, in 1883, at the age of twenty, when that city was a mere village and when there were only two or three mercantile establishments in the town.  He “looked for a job” and found one with C.L. Frieble, one of the pioneer merchants of the place. He was later employed as a clerk by E.A. Clarke & Company and was soon promoted to manager of the store.
Six years after his arrival in Tampa, Mr. Giddens found himself established in his own business, Henry Giddens & Company, his partner being the late W.B. Henderson.  This business has been continuously in operation ever since and, with the growth of Tampa, has become one of the largest retail clothing establishments in the State, occupying the corner store of the Giddens building, at Franklin and Lafayette streets. The firm has been incorporated as the Henry Giddens Clothing Company.
Mr. Giddens is a member of the Board of Trade, one of the most active directors of the Young Men’s and Women’s Christian Associations and the Old People’s Home, and always alert in the interest of Tampa.  He served on the City Council four years and on the Board of Public Works four years and is now president of the Board of Trustees of the Tampa Public Library, to which he gives much time and attention.
Mr. Giddens married, in 1887, Miss Sallie Graham, and they have one son, H.C., Jr., who is vice-president of the Henry Giddens Clothing Company.

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