Death of Mack Talley Bradford

Death of Mack Talley Bradford (1874-1919)

Mack Talley Bradford was a son of Thomas Bradford and Martha Connell. His father was a native of Lowndes County, GA but as a young man had moved to Sumter County, Florida.  After serving in the Florida Cavalry in the Civil War, his father returned to Berrien County, GA where Mack Talley Bradford was born on July 7, 1874.

Mack Talley Bradford grew up on his father’s one-horse farm in the 1157th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA. As a man, he was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and black hair.

On September 29, 1901, Mack Talley Bradford married Maggie R. Gaskins in Berrien County, GA. She was a daughter of Fisher H. Gaskins.  The marriage was performed by H. B. Peeples.

Mack Talley Bradford and Maggie R. Gaskins marriage certificate, September 29, 1901, Berrien County, GA

Mack Talley Bradford and Maggie R. Gaskins marriage certificate, September 29, 1901, Berrien County, GA

Mack and Maggie Bradford made their home on a farm in Connells Mill District on the Nashville & Valdosta Road, not far from the farms of Flemming B. Gaskins and Harmon Gaskins.

Children of Mack Talley Bradford and Margaret R. “Maggie” Gaskins

  1. James Albert Bradford (1902 – 1990)
  2. Leon Bradford (1905 – 1962)
  3. Cora Bradford Strawder (1907 – 1994)
  4. Perry E. Bradford (1910 – 1936)
  5. W Henry Bradford (1912 – 1913)
  6. Olan Jackson Bradford (1914 – 1962)

Mack served as a traverse juror at spring ad-term, 1905, Berrien superior court, which met on the second Monday in June.  M.T. Bradford was a member of Woodmen of the World, a Mason, and a  southern Baptist. In 1909 Mack Talley Bradford attended the Program Union Meeting of the Southern District Mell Baptist Association held at Staunton church, January 29-31. The Saturday morning sermon at that meeting was delivered by Reverend Perry Thomas Knight. Mack Talley Bradford delivered the Sunday morning Devotional.

M.T. Bradford  was among the Ray City investors who received a State Bank Charter  to open the Bank of Ray’s Mill. The bank opened for business on August 14, 1911.  The principal bankers were Benjamin Perry Jones, President of the Valdosta Bank and Trust, and Vice President Clarence L. Smith.  The other investors were J.S. Swindle, J.H. Swindle,  W.H.E. Terry, Riley M. Green, and J. F. Sutton, all of Berrien county, and Charles Lee Jones and  J.B. Griffin, of Lowndes county. The Bank of Ray’s Mill  would later be known as the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

On September 12, 1918, Mack Bradford registered for the draft in Nashville, GA.  He gave his address as RFD Route #2, Ray City, GA.

Mack Talley Bradford, WWI draft registration, Berrien County, GA

Mack Talley Bradford, WWI draft registration, Berrien County, GA

 

Tifton Gazette August 29, 1919 reports death of Mack Talley Bradford.

Tifton Gazette August 29, 1919 reports death of Mack Talley Bradford.

Tifton Gazette
August 29, 1919

Fall From Ladder Kills Berrien Farmer

Mack Bradford a young Berrien county farmer is dead from injuries that he received a day or so ago when he fell from a ladder. Mr. Bradford did not know his injuries were serious and in a short time after the accident he walked out into a field where he had some men at work. Later he complained of feeling badly and sat down to rest. Not feeling any better he sen his small boy who was with him to a nearby branch for some water. When the boy returned he found his father in a dying condition and before he could summon help Mr. Bradford was dead.

Grave of Mack Talley Bradford (1874-1919), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of Mack Talley Bradford (1874-1919), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

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Obituary of Jay Sirmans, September 29, 1916

Jay Sirmans was born April 16, 1864 and lived all of his life in the vicinity of Ray City, GA.

Jay Sirmans of Ray City, GA. Image detail courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Jay Sirmans of Ray City, GA. Image detail courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Jay Sirmans was the youngest son of Elizabeth Knight and Hardeman Sirmans, the eighth of their twelve children. His sister Martha Elizabeth Sirmans married Joe S. Clements, who was treasurer at the Clements Sawmill and later served as Mayor of Ray City. His sister Clara Sirmans married Irishman Frank Gallagher and they had a farm east of Ray City. His sister Annie B. Sirmans (1872 – 1963) married John Chilton Matheny; she was later the owner of Ray’s Mill. His sister Valeria Sirmans (1874 – 1961) married James Isaac Lee

On 22 March 1893 Jay Sirmans married Rachel Allifar Smith (born July 30, 1869)  a daughter of Mary Jane Smith and  John Woods Smith.

Children of Rachel Smith and Jay Sirmans:

  1. John Hardeman Sirmans, born February 23, 1899 in Georgia;  died April 28, 1966 in Berrien County, Georgia
  2. J B Mitchell Sirmans, born January 19, 1905 in Berrien County, GA; died July 13, 1983 in Lanier County, Georgia; buried Empire Cemetery.

In 1899, Jay Sirmans gained a bit of local attention after his attempt to capture a large alligator for exhibition in the western states.

Obituary of Jay Sirmans

Jay Sirmans died rather unexpectedly at the age of 52.

Obituary of Jay Sirmans, Ray City, GA

Obituary of Jay Sirmans, Ray City, GA
Tifton Gazette, Sep. 29, 1916 — page 2

Tifton Gazette
September 29, 1916 — page 2

J. Sirmans, Ray City

Mr. J. Sirmans, a well known resident of Berrien county, living about a mile and a half from Ray City, died at his home Wednesday night at 9 o’clock, says the Valdosta Times.
Mr. Sirmans had been ill for about 10 days but his condition was not thought to be serious. His death came as a great surprise.
Mr. Sirmans is survived by his wife and two sons.

Sirmans was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA. He was a member of Woodmen of the World, and insurance through the fraternal organization provided a large and distinctive monument to mark his grave.

Gravemarker of Jay Sirmans, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Died September 20, 1916

Gravemarker of Jay Sirmans, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA. Died September 20, 1916

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Family of Lester Griffin

Lester Griffin, born July 30, 1890, was a son of Lillian Melissa Knight and Noah Webster Griffin, grandson of  Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, and great grandson of Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA. He was a brother of Bessie Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin, age 18, son of Noah Webster Griffin and Lillian Melissa Knight. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester’s parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District) but moved to the Lower Fork district  of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before his birth in 1890.   There, Lester Griffin grew to manhood and took up farming on his own account on rented land.

Sometime before 1917, Lester Griffin moved to Irwin County, where he took a wage job farming for James O. Sutton, who owned a farm on the Ocilla-Lax Road. Sutton’s mother was a Griffin.

On August 12, 1917 in Irwin County, GA, Lester Griffin married Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin.   She was a daughter of Rachel McMillan and Bartow B. Griffin, keeping it all in the family. The blushing bride was 18 years old; the 26-year old groom was of medium height, slender, with dark hair and blue eyes.

According to Griffin family members, “Lester Griffin and Margaret Elizabeth (Lizzie) Griffin were distant cousins.  Lester’s Great-Grandfather Thomas Griffin and Lizzie’s Great-Grandfather Joshua Griffin were sons of James Griffin, Revolutionary Soldier, and Sarah Lodge Griffin, early settlers of that part of Irwin County.”

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin, 1917. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Lester Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Griffin, Irwin County, GA

Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin had five children:

  1. Bonita Griffin
  2. Noah Webster Griffin
  3. Audrey Griffin
  4. Ommie  Griffin
  5. Cecil Lester Griffin

Descendant Alan K. Griffin shares the following:

From what we were told, mostly by Daddy’s oldest sister, Bonita, Lester Griffin took a job in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a carpenter/builder when she was a child.  This corresponds to the South Florida real estate boom of that time (see Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz).  She vividly recalled travelling by wagon and walking on their move to that area and coming home.”

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster "Webb" Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin and Children, circa 1925-1926. (L to R) Noah Webster “Webb” Griffin, Lester holding daughter Ommie, and Audrey. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lizzie Griffin and Children. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

“There was a violent hurricane that hit the Miami area on September 18, 1926, with winds estimated between 131 and 155 MPH  (see Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane).  Because there was little warning or understanding of hurricanes at that time, more than 370 lives were lost and 35,000 were made homeless in Southern Florida.   Some thought the storm was over when the eye passed over and were outside when the second part of the storm hit (the eye reached the coast at Coral Gables about 6AM and lasted 35 minutes).  The highest winds and storm surge (up to 10 feet) was in the second part of the hurricane.  Fort Lauderdale, just to the North also had severe storm surge from the Hurricane.  Prior to the hurricane, Grandmamma Lizzie and the children had travelled home, apparently for a visit.  Both of Lizzie’s parents had birthdays in August, Bartow Beauregard Griffin (August 18, 1861 – August 12, 1929) and Rachel McMillan Griffin (August 12, 1860 – October 29, 1938) so perhaps the visit home was to celebrate their 65th and 66th birthdays, respectively.  In any event, they were fortunate not to have been in Ft. Lauderdale.  As Bonita related, Lester remained  and rode out the storm in their house, which overturned in the storm (similar to photo below), nearly taking his life.  Whether they would have all survived is doubtful, had they remained with him. 

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

Fort Lauderdale, FL building destroyed by hurricane. Photographed on September 18, 1926. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/3048

“They never returned to live in South Florida, instead buying a house on 5th Street in Ocilla, GA near the home of Lizzie’s brother, John Griffin.  Lester  became a night watchman, or deputy policeman in Ocilla sometime after returning.  He became sick with flu and pneumonia sometime in late 1928 and was under the care of Dr. G. L. McElroy and Dr. G. W. Willis from December 17 till he died on News Years Eve, December 31, 1928.    The information on the death certificate was provided by Lizzie’s brother, John. 

 

Lester Griffin (left) and friend.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester Griffin (left) with ‘a friend’ (as noted on the back of photo).  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA.  Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Death Certificate of Lester Griffin, Irwin County, GA. Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

 “Lester Griffin died December 31, 1928 at the age of 38.  He died of pneumonia leaving his widow and children at a tough time with the depression and all they faced.

“Bonita was 10 years old at his death, Webb 9, Audrey 7, Ommie 5, and Cecil was 1 year and 8 months old. So, here was Lizzie at 30 years old, with five young children to raise on her own, and a house with a mortgage.  By the Grace of God, the Woodmen of the World covered Lester’s mortgage, so the home became Lizzie’s outright.  She had many of her family nearby, but being a proud lady, went to work as a seamstress to support them, and worked her whole life.  (She still worked at A. S. Harris Department Store in Ocilla when my brothers and I would spend weeks there during summers in the 1960’s.) Bonita helped with the younger children and home chores, and Webb worked to support the family as well.

“Odd thing is, Lester’s Father, Noah Webster Griffin,  similarly died in 1897 at the age of 41 , leaving his widow, Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin, to raise 8 children (one, William Howard Griffin, that she was about 6  months pregnant with at Noah’s death).   Noah Webster Griffin actually died from Typhoid fever, possible due to contaminated well water at the farm they had moved to about a year earlier.

“I recently found the only photo I know of Lillian at about age 80, still looking very strong with daughter-in-law, Lizzie Griffin (Lester’s widow), Lizzie’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher with baby daughter, Faye, Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of WH and Carrie Griffin),  Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of Lillian’s son, William Howard Griffin), Charles Harold Griffin (son of WH and Carrie Griffin), and Ommie Griffin (daughter of Lizzie) .

“Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin (1862-1947) as you may know, was the sister of Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934) and Mary Virginia Knight Langford (1856-1916).  Another sister, Margaret Ann Knight, b. 1858 died in 1863 at the tender age of 5 years.  This is documented in one of the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Carroll Knight.”

Family of Lester Griffin

Family of Lester Griffin
Left to Right: Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin at about age 80, still looking very strong; Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin (Lester Griffin’s widow); Lester’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher  (in rear) with baby daughter, Faye Fletcher; Lester’s daughter Ommie Griffin (front, center); Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of Lester’s brother, William Howard Griffin); Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of WH Griffin); Charles Harold Griffin, son of WH and Carrie Griffin (front, right). Image courtesy of Alan K. Griffin.

Lester and Lizzie Griffin are buried at Brushy Creek Cemetery, Ocilla, GA with many others of the Griffin family connection.

 

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Minnie Gordon Sloan Married Meritt E. Johnson

Minnie Gordon Sloan was a daughter of  Ray’s Mill farmer James M. Sloan and Martha Gordon Sloan, born July 17, 1876. She married Meritt (or Merritt) E. Johnson on January 17, 1904 in Berrien County, GA.  Meritt Johnson was born January 22, 1878 in Berrien County, GA and raised in Rays Mill (later Ray City), GA.  He was a son of James R. Johnson (born February 1, 1858 in Johnson County, NC; died May 17, 1928 in Lakeland, Lanier County, GA) and Mary Elizabeth (Truett) Johnson (born July 7, 1848 in Jackson County, MS; married April 1, 1874 in Berrien County, GA; died June 6, 1915 in Lakeland, GA); he  was a brother of James Randall Johnson, subject of previous posts.

Marriage certificate of Merritt E. Johnson and Minnie Gordon Sloan, January 17, 1904, Berrien County, GA.

Marriage certificate of Merritt E. Johnson and Minnie Gordon Sloan, January 17, 1904, Berrien County, GA.

After marriage, Minnie and Meritt made their home on Main Street in Lakeland, GA, where they maintained their residence for many years.

According to  Georgia’s Official Register, 1937, Meritt E. Johnson was a product of local Berrien County schools and studied law on his own at home.  He taught school for five years before being admitted to the bar. He was a Baptists, Mason, Odd Fellow, Knight of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, and member of the Farmers’ Union. From 1901 to 1908 he served as Justice of the Peace. From  1904-1908 he was on the Berrien County Board of Education, and from 1910 to 1916 he was a school trustee in the Knight school district. In politics he was a democrat; he served as city councilman in Lakeland from 1919 to 1926 and as city recorder form 1929-1931.  He was solicitor in the Lanier County Court from August 15, 1929 to August 15, 1933 , and again from August 15, 1935  to August 15, 1937.

Census records attest that  Meritt wasn’t always so bookish.  In 1910 census of Milltown, GA, he was working as a carpenter, building houses. In 1920, he was a barber, working on his own account in his own shop.  Some time before 1930, son Julian A. Johnson took over the barbershop, and Meritt Johnson entered legal practice in Lakeland.

Children of Minnie Gordon Sloan and Merritt E. Johnson:

  • Blanche Estelle Johnson, born November 4, 1904, attended Georgia State Womens College –
  • Julian Aubrey Johnson, born October 15, 1907
  • Hoke Smith Johnson, born May 28, 1910

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Kate Nobles ~ Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle

In 2006 during the remodeling of the house at 507 Jones street, Ray City, Georgia a small cache of sooty, crumbling documents were retrieved from where they had fallen behind the fireplace mantel.  Among these items was a 1917 form letter from Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle, addressed to Kate Fountain Nobles, wife of Jasper Nobles. 

Woodmen of the World Aug 1917 notification of non-payment of "grove assessment" addressed to Kate Nobles.

 

According to Dr. David Beito, Professor of History at the University of Alabama,  fraternal organizations were among the largest organizations of any type in late 19th and early 20th century America.  By some estimates nearly one out of every three American men belonged to a fraternal organization in 1910. There were fraternal organizations for every ethnic and religious group in American.  

At that time, Woodmen of the World and its sister organization Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle were fraternal insurance organizations that particularly appealed to white, native born Americans. Both organizations were national fraternal insurance organizations founded by Joseph Cullen Root.  

Beito writes: 

“A notable accomplishment of fraternal orders was to spread life insurance among the masses. Between 1890 and 1910, the number of people belonging to societies offering death benefits increased from 1.3 million to 8.5 million. By the end of this period, fraternal policies represented nearly half the value of all life insurance.” 

“A key reason for the strength of fraternal networks of trust and cooperation was a shared code of values among the members. Although the details varied, nearly all societies trumpeted the virtues of thrift, self-reliance, reciprocity, self-government, and civility. Taken together, these and related ideals constituted a kind of fraternal consensus.” 

 The distinctive headstones of Woodmen of the World members in local cemeteries are public testimonies to the historical presence of  fraternal organizations in Ray City and Berrien County, GA.   Documents like the one above attest that at least some Ray City,GA women were members of these organizations as well. 

For more on Ray City History and the Nobles Family, see http://raycity.pbworks.com/ 

For more on the impact of fraternal organizations in America, read:

To Advance the “Practice of Thrift and Economy”: Fraternal Societies and Social Capital, 1890-1920
David T. Beito
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 29, No. 4, Patterns of Social Capital: Stability and Change