John W. Hagan Married for Third Time

John W. Hagan (1836-1918) lived in the Cat Creek community near Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA.  He served during the Indian Wars in 1857 with Captain E.T. Kendrick’s Company of Florida Mounted Volunteers. In the Civil War, he served  with the Berrien Minute Men and wrote a number of  Confederate letters from Civil War battlefields to his first wife, Amanda Armstrong Roberts (1843-1872).  Following her death, Hagan was married in 1874 to Mary Smith, daughter of Owen Smith; she was the widow of Aaron L. Giddens and daughter-in-law of Isbin Giddens and Kiziah Knight.  Third, Hagan married Mrs. Martha Lawson Hodge, widow of Thomas B. Hodge and Lewis M. Ayers.

John W. Hagan was a prominent citizen, who served as chairman of the Lowndes County board of commissioners, representative in the Georgia legislature, leader in the Populist party, board of directors of the Alliance Warehouse Company, and was one of the incorporators of the Valdosta and Fort Valley Railroad Company along with William Roberts, James W. Roberts, W.B. Folks, Henry B. Holliday (father of Doc Holliday), Joseph Ousley, and W. G. McAdoo, and others in 1873, although it is not clear that there was ever any material construction of this line.

John W. Hagan married for a third time in 1909.

John W. Hagan married for a third time in 1909.

Valdosta Times
January 23, 1909

Hodge-Hagan Marriage

Don Quixote, or some other observant person, remarked on one occasion that “Love like Death is no respector of person, age or clime. It enters the palace of the rich as well as the poor. It goes forth to conquer in the morning, at noonday and in the decline.  It strikes in spring, summer and autumn – the buoyant youth, those of maturer age, and even those who have passed the summer of life.”
    There is some truth in this statement is proven by a matrimonial event in Valdosta yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Martha D. Hodge, the widow of the late Thomas B. Hodge.  The contracting parties were Hon. John W. Hagan and Mrs. Hodge.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. M. A. Morgan and was witnessed by quite a number of the relatives and a few intimate friends of the contracting parties.
     Much interest was attached to the marriage because of the prominence of the contracting parties as well as because of the fact that both of them had passed the meridian of life, though both are still young.  The groom is about seventy-three and the bride eleven years his junior.
     The marriage came as a surprise to many of the friends of the couple as nothing had been said about it to their friends.  It was rumored on the streets yesterday morning, but a rumor was all there was to it.  The relatives were notified a short while before it occurred and were invited to be present.
     The groom is chairman of the board of county commissioners, an ex-legislator and has been prominent in the county for many years.  The Bride was the widow of the late Tom Hodge and previous to her marriage to Mr. Hodge was the widow of the late L. M. Ayers, of Hahira.  Both parties are well fixed in this world’s goods, and the bride has property valued at from fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars.
     They have many friends who hope that their last days may be their best and that happiness will attend them on their journey down the evening of life.

The Tifton Gazette also announced the marriage, with some embellishments:

1909 John W. Hagan married Mrs. Martha A. Hodges

1909 John W. Hagan married Mrs. Martha A. Hodges

Tifton Gazette
January 29, 1909

John W. Hagan and Mrs. T. B. Hodge were united in marriage at Valdosta last week by Rev. M. A. Morgan. No announcement had been made of the approaching nuptials, and the news came as a surprise to their friends. The groom is 74 years of age and the bride about the same. It is the third venture of the groom and the fourth of the bride. Both are prominent. The groom is chairman of the county commissioners of Lowndes county, and an ex-legislator. He was the leader of the populist party there twelve years ago. Both are well-to-do, the bride have $75,000 worth of property in Valdosta.

1909 marriage license for John W. Hagan and Mrs. Martha D. Hodges, Lowndes County, GA

1909 marriage license for John W. Hagan and Mrs. Martha D. Hodges, Lowndes County, GA

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Jasper Giddens Caught

Jasper Giddens, who killed Calvin Hightower at Cat Creek,GA  was finally captured at Brookfield, FL in 1887.   The story of the killing was told in previous posts Cat Creek Knife & Gun Club and Jasper Giddens ‘Settles’ Knife Fight.

He was born as Isaac Jasper Giddens in 1844 at Cat Creek, Lowndes County, a son of Duncan Giddens.  The Giddens’ place was just a little southwest of the homestead of  Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City, GA. His father, Duncan Giddens, had served with Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1838, and a brother, John Mathis Giddens,  served during the Civil War with the 50th Georgia Infantry, Company B and died about 1862 in a military hospital. (See Marrying Cousins: Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens.)

As a young man, Jasper Giddens had lived in Ware and Clinch counties,  but eventually returned to the general region of Cat Creek and present day Ray City, GA. He took a job as a farm laborer at a plantation on the Lowndes/Berrien county line owned by William Roberts, who at that time was also part owner of the land now occupied by the city of Ray City. (See Ray City Land Passed Through Many Hands

After the 1879 killing, Giddens had eluded authorities for seven years.  But The Atlanta Constitution reported his capture in 1887:

The Atlanta Constitution
March 14, 1887, Pg 2

Jasper Giddens, who killed Calvin Hightower in the fall of 1880, in the upper part of Lowndes county, was captured several days ago at Brooksfield, Florida and is now awaiting his trial.   The account of the killing was published in the Valdosta Times soon after it occurred.  Giddens and Hightower met a a country frolic.  There were several of the Hightowers, male and female, and they were all at enmity with Giddens for some cause, and they warned him not to enter the house where the dancing was progressing. He hesitated some time, but backed by some friends, finally entered when a row at once occurred in which Giddens was severely cut. At first he did not know that he was cut, and he left the house, but returned immediately when he discovered his bleeding wounds and drew a pistol and fired the fatal shot which took the life of Calvin Hightower – the bullet taking effect in the abdomen.  He dodged the sheriff for some weeks and finally arrange a $500 bond, on which were the names of about fifteen of the best men in that portion of Lowndes and the lower part of Berrien.  But before court, when he was to have been tried, he jumped his bond, and his bondsmen were forced to pay the amount. Since that time, those injured gentlemen have been busying themselves to find him, and they have at last succeeded. A detective was employed ans several days ago he landed Jasper Giddens in the Brookfield jail, and Sheriff Harrell, of Lowndes county, went after him. His trial will likely take place at the May term of Lowndes Superior court. There is also a bill against Giddens for bigamy.

Ray City Land Passed Through Many Hands

According to early land title documents the land that now constitutes a significant portion of Ray City, GA was once owned in part by Thomas M. Ray.   T.M. Ray, along with his father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, founded Rays Mill.

Grave marker of Thomas M. Ray, Cemetery at Union Church (aka Burnt Church), Lakeland, GA.

Grave marker of Thomas M. Ray, Cemetery at Union Church (aka Burnt Church), Lakeland, GA.

The Last Will and Testament of Thomas M. Ray directed that ” all my property of every sort and kind be kept together and managed by executors upon the plan and fashion as nearly as possible that I have lately managed it for a term of  ten years, at the expiration of which time executors are hereby directed to expose every parcel of property that may then belong to the estate at public sale, and the proceeds from said sale be equally divided among my legal heirs that may then be living, or their representatives if any, and they be dead.”  “I hereby constitute and appoint my son in law H.H. Knight and my son Thos. M. Ray, to qualify and act when he becomes of age and my worth friend William  Roberts executors of this my last will and testament.  This May 31, st, 1876.”

Thomas M. Ray died just a few days later, June 14, 1876.  In accordance with his will, his land was tied up in the estate for the next 10 years, including Land Lots 422, 423, 451, and 452 in the 10th land district which were owned jointly by William Roberts and T.M. Ray.

Subsequent court documents show:

“At the April term 1879 Thos. M. Ray [Jr.] filed his petition to the Court oy Ordinary of Berrien County, Ga. showing that he had been duly appointed executor of the last will and testament of his father Tho’s M. Ray, and that he had reached the age of 21 years, and asking that he be appointed executor under the said will. Whereupon the Court directed that he be appointed executor as prayed.”

“H.H. Knight and Tho’s M. Ray [Jr.], as the duly and legally qualified Exrs. under the last will and testament of Tho’s M. Ray, applied to the Court of Ordinary of Berrien county, setting forth that under the terms of the said Will that all of the lands and property belonging to said estate should be sold, and praying that leave be granted to them to sell the said lands etc. Citation was ordered issued and published in terms of the law, Oct, term, 1886, of the Court of Ordinary of Berrien County.”

“At the November term 1886 of the Court of Ordinary of Berrien County an order was granted by said Court, reciting that it appearing to the Court that said citation had issued and been published as the law required that the said executors be granted leave  to sell the land etc.”

With the estate cleared to sell, William Roberts sold out his interest in Land Lots 422, 423, 451, and 452 to James Swindle on November 18th, 1886, receiving the amount of  $10,029. 70 in consideration.  In today’s dollars, this would have been about $12.1 million dollars.

Nine years later, in 1895, James Swindle transferred 150 acres of this land to his son, James S. Swindle.  The warranty deed stated that the value received in consideration was “Love and Affection,” and described the property   “to wit: One hundred and fifty (150) acres, more or less, being part of lot of land number 423, and bounded as follows; 10th Dist of Berrien County, Ga. Commencing at the North end of the Dam known as the Card Gin Dam and running North to a branch known as the Davis branch  thence down said branch to Cat creek, thence down said Cat creek to lands of H.H. Knight, thence running East along said H.H. Knight land to starting point.”

The Swindle land encompassed virtually all of  present day Ray City lying north of Beaver Dam Creek.  “That along in the 1880’s, it was owned and possessed by one James Swindle, and that James Swindle sold the same to his son James S. Swindle, and that James S. Swindle sold that part of the land…to Chas. X. Jones, with several other acres of the land, and that in the year 1908 the said tract was cut up into town lots, by the surveyor of Berrien County, T.I. Griffin, and platted for the Town of Raysmill, and that the said town of Rays mill, afterwards became incorporated as the town of Ray City, Ga.”

1919 title document showing chain of ownership of land at Ray City, GA.

1919 title document showing chain of ownership of land at Ray City, GA.