James Swindle ~ Wiregrass Pioneer

James Swindle was a pioneer of the Wiregrass area of Georgia.  He was born  in 1830 in South Carolina, and by the 1850s he was living in Liberty County.   James Swindle moved his family to Berrien County some time in the 1860’s.   The Swindle farm was located about two miles outside Ray’s Mill, GA [now Ray City, GA].

On November 22, 1855 at age 25 James Swindle married Nancy Jane Parker in Liberty Co, GA.  Nancy Jane Parker was the daughter of Solomon Parker and Harriet Baxter. She was born January 2, 1837 in Liberty County, GA.

JamesSwindle1830-1914

Swindle, James (1830-1914)

 

 

James Swindle & Nancy Jane Parker

James Swindle & Nancy Jane Parker

 

 

Left to right: James Henry Swindle, Nancy Jane Parker Swindle, Harriet Swindle, Martha Ada Swindle. The home was located about two miles outside Ray City.

Left to right: James Henry Swindle, Nancy Jane Parker Swindle, Harriet Swindle, Martha Ada Swindle. The home was located about two miles outside Ray City.

 

Children of Nancy Jane Parker and James Swindle:

  1. William Lawrence Swindle, b. September 8, 1856, Liberty County, GA; died 1915
  2. George Emory Swindle, b. April 5, 1859, Liberty County, GA.
  3. Ann Eliza Swindle, b. July 4, 1861, Liberty County, GA.
  4. Marietta Swindle, b. June 12, 1865, Liberty County, GA.
  5. James S. Swindle, b. July 13, 1867, Liberty County, GA.
  6. Catherine Ardella Swindle, b. April 13, 1870, Liberty County, GA; d. 1882.
  7. Harriet Swindle, b. December 26, 1871, Liberty County, GA.
  8. Martha Ada Swindle, b. March 18, 1877, Berrien County, GA; d. April 16, 1957, Valdosta Lowndes

Related Posts:

-30-

Turpentine in Wiregrass Georgia

Turpentine and naval stores industry became an economic engine for Ray’s Mill, Berrien County and the other counties of Wiregrass Georgia.

Turpentine Still in Thomas County, GA circa 1895

Turpentine Still in Thomas County, GA circa 1895

An  1881 news item sums up the Wiregrass workman’s appraisal of the original growth pine forests.

Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun, Jan. 15, 1881. Pg 3

— In regard to “The Turpentine Industry,” the Berrien county News says: “This comparatively new industry is attracting much attention in our vicinity.  The people of this section, who in a great measure, own the timber, have allowed it to lie idle and undeveloped, notwithstanding the turpentine is a great source of revenue.  This timber has stood upon the earth for centuries, and it may stand there as much longer, and the owners will derive no more benefit from it than from an equivalent sum of money locked up in a safe for the same length of time.”

As in other Wiregrass communities, turpentine and naval stores became major industries in Ray City, GA.  Robert S. Thigpen, a wealthy resident of Berrien County, GA,  owned a turpentine plant in Ray’s Mill.  The plant, sold in 1898 for $13,000, would have valued at more than $10 million in 2008 dollars.

Among  other Ray City and Berrien County residents who prospered in the industry was Walter “W.D.” Brown, who had a turpentine operation near Ray’s Mill in 1904. Wilson W. Fender  was in the turpentine business, as was Lorenzo D. Carter.  Arthur Shaw and brother-in-law, William Clements,  operated a turpentine still at Willacoochee, Georgia, Brothers Chester Shaw and Lacy Lester Shaw were also involved in the turpentine business.

John Whitford worked for one of the turpentine and naval stores concerns in the area.  His neighbor, Brass McKnight, was employed as “stiller” in the turpentine industry.  Another area turpentine barrel maker was William Watson.  Men like Jessie Norris, Elbert Thomas, John Fox, Levey Jones, Jack Jackson, Harrison McClain, Jessie Williams, Tom Thompson, Jim Stripling, George Taylor, and Daniel Holden and others worked on turpentine farms.  Many of these men may have worked one time or another for Lorenzo D. Carter, a naval stores operator and employer in Ray’s Mill (aka Ray City), GA in the early 1900s.

The firm of Sapp & Fender also conducted turpentine operations in Ray City.  David Asa Sapp was the manager; among his employees in 1917 were Leiland Scott, Si Randolph, Elisha  Graham, George Greene, James Hodges, Ellis Jenkins, Barney Johnson, John Jones, Robert Jones, Ruther Golden Jones, Ira Little, Will Mitchell, John Sam Robinson, Ernest Singleton, Arthur Stripling, Anderson Walker, John Waters, James Wooten, Turner Wooten, Willie Barnes, Arlie Brown and Handy Simpson. The company chauffeur was Henry Groover Page.

The Y. F. Carter Naval Stores concern began operation in Ray City about 1916 and by the 1930s it was the largest firm in the community, where approximately fifty men were employed.  This firm operated over ten crops of boxes, a “crop” consisting of 10,000 trees.  The turpentine rights for these trees were typically leased from local land owners..

Disputes over valuable lumber and turpentine rights sometimes ended up in court.  One such case was that of Shaw v. W.L.  Fender et. al., where the timber on land owned by Francis Marion Shaw  was being worked for turpentine  operations. William Lon Fender was a local turpentine man and in 1905 was treasurer of the South Georgia Turpentine Operators’  Association.

Collecting the turpentine was hard and sometimes dangerous work. The working conditions could be grueling and the pay was  meager.  But the vast, untapped pine forests of the Wiregrass provided abundant employment opportunities for those who could take it.  African-Americans, many sons of former slaves, came to the area to find work in the turpentine and sawmill operations. Other turpentine woodsmen, like Benjamin F. Morehead and Lewis Hudson, were born and raised in the local area of Ray’s Mill, Georgia.

Fire was a constant threat where the highly combustible turpentine rosin was present.  The March 22, 1905 Pensacola Journal related the disparaging ruminations of a Valdosta turpentine man about the low paid laborers and their risky work.

…I sent a negro with a team into the wood some time ago to haul drippings and the negro let the  wagon burn up, even the tongue. He was ‘totin’ the rosin up in a bucket, and I guess threw a match down on a dead pine top. When he looked around the pine top was in a blaze and the rosin-smeared wagon was catching. The negro tried to put it out and finally started the team toward a cypress pond but the wheel became locked against a tree and it was all the darkey could do to save the mules.”

As in other industries, African-American turpentine workers at the turn of the 19th century were subject to poor treatment by their employers. Violence could be the result. One such case was that of Joe Willmont.  Willmont was arrested while working turpentine at Ray’s Mill in May of 1911, where he was hiding out under the alias Will Nelson. Willmont/Nelson had arrived in Ray’s Mill after fleeing an alleged double murder at the West Bay Naval Stores Company in West Bay, Florida.  The killings occurred when supervisors at the Florida company attempted to ‘whip’ Willmont for quitting the company.

According to A. P. Malone, author of Piney Woods Farmers 1850-1900: Jeffersonian Yeomen in an Age of Expanding Commercialism, most black laborers who came to the Wiregrass to work in the sawmill and turpentine operations did not acquire real estate here.  Many lived in turpentine or sawmill “camps,” and moved on to other areas after the available timberlands had been exhausted.  “However, some – perhaps as many as one-fourth – married locally and stayed in the area, often because they had some skills which enabled them to purchase town or farm property. Examples in Berrien County of such individuals are Neil Shipman, Cap Taylor, and Nathan Bridges.”

Related Posts:

1879 Jasper Giddens shoots Calvin Hightower

Isaac Jasper Giddens was born in Cat Creek, Lowndes County, Georgia. Just across the county line, in Berrien County, was the Knight community, the homestead of General Levi J. Knight. As a young man, Jasper Giddens lived in Ware and Clinch counties, eventually coming back to south Berrien, in the general region of present day Ray City, GA

By 1879, Isaac Jasper Giddens was back in south Berrien county a where the shooting occurred.

Columbus Daily Enquirer,
Dec. 17, 1879.
Georgia News. Pg. 3

We learn from the Valdosta Times that a difficulty occurred recently, near the line of Berrien county, between Mr. Jasper Giddens and Calvin Hightower, in which both combatants were severely cut. Giddens ended the fight by freeing himself from his adversary’s grasp, and shooting him fatally.

 More details were reported by the Valdosta Times and the story made the state newspapers about how Jasper Giddens settled the Knife Fight.  Jasper Giddens fled from justice but was finally captured at Brookfield, FL in 1887.

More Stories from Cat Creek, GA:

Rice Production in Wiregrass Georgia

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

19th-century image of four Georgia rice field workers.

Rice production efforts by settlers  and rice plantations in coastal Georgia are well known, but rice was also grown by pioneer settlers of Lowndes, Berrien and other Wiregrass counties.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

“Rice, Georgia’s first staple crop, was the most important commercial agricultural commodity in the Low country from the middle of the eighteenth century until the early twentieth century. Rice arrived in America with European and African migrants as part of the so-called Columbian Exchange of plants, animals, and germs. Over time, profits from the production and sale of the cereal formed the basis of many great fortunes in coastal Georgia.”

The cultivation of rice on coastal plantations played a significant role in the introduction of slavery in Georgia, which was forbidden by the state’s original charter.

At least by the mid 1800’s settlers further inland,  in the Old Lowndes County region were growing small amounts of rice locally, along with other farming and agriculture efforts.   The total rice production in Lowndes County for the year ending June 1, 1850 was 66,300 pounds.  With the total state production reaching about 39 million pounds of rice that year, Lowndes county was hardly among the chief producers. Still, the rice crop was important to the local farmers  who had settled in the Rays Mill, Georgia (now Ray City) area.  The Reverend George White in 1855 listed rice, cotton and corn as Lowndes county’s major agricultural crops. The following year, 1856, Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes. One early Berrien county rice grower was Aden Boyd. The Berrien County agricultural and manufacturing records  for 1860 show his farm produced 80 pounds of rice, along with 50 bushels of corn, 10 bushels of oats and 5 bushels of peas and beans.

In 1870, rice production in Berrien County was 125,000 pounds. Henry T. Peeples, brother of Richard A. Peeples,  produced 38,000 pounds of rice on his farm alone. John W. Hagan’s  farm was the second largest producer at 2,320 pounds.  By 1879, Berrien County farmer Wiley Chambless  “gathered 21 bushels of clean, ruff rice from half an acre” and “plan[ned] to plant 50 or 75 acres in rice” for 1880.

Equipment for producing rice was manufactured right here in Georgia. In the 1850’s Nesbet & Levy’s Ocmulgee Foundry and Machine shop in Macon, GA. was manufacturing rice thrashers, among many other agricultural and industrial machines.

In Milltown (now Lakeland, GA.) there was a rice cleaning machine at the Lastinger Mill. Later on, Berrien county residents could take their rice to the Avera mill, built in 1880 near Nashville.   In fact, by 1880 the Columbus Daily Enquirer-Sun reported that, “The farmers of Berrien county say that rice pays them better than  cotton.”

1910 – A FEW INDUSTRIAL FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA

Rice – Rice is an important product which can be easily produced in Georgia of very superior quality. The average yield is about 12 barrels per acre and in favorable seasons a second crop of 8 to 10 barrels may be obtained. This product sells for about $3.50 a barrel.

Newer entries »