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.  One of the teachers that year was Emily Britton Parker, wife of the Methodist Minister Pledger Parker.

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.

The Ray City – Willacoochee Connection

There were several south Georgia families that shared a Ray City – Willacoochee connection.

After 1908, the route of the Georgia & Florida Railroad was from Jacksonville, GA to Madison, FL  and provided convenient transportation between Willacoochee and Ray City by way of Nashville, GA, a run of about 34 miles.

Wilma Harper Shultz Began 60-year Teaching Career at Ray City

Eighteen-year-old Wilma Geneva Harper  began her teaching career at Ray City School in 1928. There, while teaching first grade, she met and married Ray City School principal Prentice Munson Shultz.  The couple worked together at the school until 1941.

Wilma Harper was born in Willacoochee, GA on June 13, 1909, a daughter of Minnie Etta Burns and Youngie Harper. Her family lived in Willacoochee and Douglas, GA before moving to Ocilla, GA.

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

Wilma Harper Shultz taught first grade at Ray City from 1929-1941. Image source: Jack Johnson

At Ray City School, Wilma Harper Shultz taught in a wood-frame classroom building that was constructed as an annex to the brick school built in 1923.  In a 1988 article in the  Rome News,  she reflected on her start at Ray City School and 60 years spent in the classroom.

Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News, December 12, 1988. Wilma Harper Shultz reflects on 60 years in the classroom.

Rome News
December 12, 1988

Retired Teacher Can’t Stay Away

Milledgeville – Wilma Shultz has taught a lot of children, their children, and their childrens’ children in her 60 years in the classroom.

She retired after 46 years as a first-grade teacher in 1974, but retirement could not keep her out of the classroom. She has continued to substitute teach at Midway Elementary School, where she spent most of her career, and at Northside Elementary School.

At 78, the petite, immaculately dressed white-haired woman says teaching is the one thing that keeps her going.

She began in 1928 in Ray City, near Ocilla, where she grew up on a farm. She had set her sights on teaching when she met and fell in love with Prentice M. Shultz, who taught and was principal at Ray City school.

The only requirement for teaching then was a teacher-training course, which she took in high school. She began teaching first grade at age 18.

A year later she married the principal.  

They moved to Milledgeville in 1943, where Prentice Shultz taught math at Georgia Military College and his wife worked at a nursery school. They attended college during the summer, getting their education degrees, completing requirements by 1951.

When Prentice Shultz died in 1976, his wife said, she found her life empty and began substitute-teaching to fill the void left by his death.

“It’s hard to be left alone,” she said.  “I’ve seen people my age give up. But, I like being able to get up and go to the classroom.  It’s my therapy.  It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Teaching, she said, has changed. In Ray City she taught in a house converted to a school. There was no indoor plumbing and no lunchroom.

Her students were rural children unprepared for the academic and social aspects of school.  They were shy and frightened, and they didn’t know how to write or count.

“Today, children start off with kindergarten, so you don’t have that long readiness period in first grade,” she said. “When I began teaching, we had to teach them everything from the ground up.  I would say that when children finish first grade now, it is comparable to children in second or third grade then.

But it’s the things that don’t change, she says, that make her love teaching.

“They are still those sweet, innocent children,” she said.

Wilma Harper Shultz died on September 11, 2002.

Obituary

Mrs. Wilma Shultz, 93, died September 11, 2002, in Greenville.

Mrs. Shultz was a native of Barrow County, but made her home in Milledgeville, Ga., for 58 years before moving to Greenville. She was a graduate of Georgia State College for Women, was a retired elementary school teacher in Baldwin County and was a member of First United Methodist Church.

Surviving are her daughter and son-in-law, Janice and Jimmy
Lyon, of Greenville; and two grandsons, Ray Lyon of Appleton, Wisconsin, and Ken and Candyce Lyon of Charleston.

Services will be Saturday, September 14, at 11 a.m., at First United Methodist Church in Milledgeville, Ga., with Dr. Harold Lawrence officiating. Burial will follow at Baldwin Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

The family will receive friends tonight, September 13th, from 7 to 8:30 at Moore’s Funeral Home in Milledgeville, Ga.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the St. Francis Hospice, 414 Pettgru St. Greenville, SC 29601; or First United Methodist Church Building Fund, 300 W. Hancock St. Milledgeville, GA 31061.

The Mackey Mortuary is in charge of local arrangements.

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

Grave of Wilma Harper Shultz, Baldwin Memorial Gardens, Milledgeville, GA. Image source: Jack Johnson

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