Posting Mail at Ray City

Post marked Ray's Mills, GA

Post marked Ray’s Mills, GA

 Levi J. Knight and the first Wiregrass Pioneers to settle on Beaverdam Creek in the area of present day Ray City, GA arrived here about 185 years ago, in the 1820s. At first  these settlers had no mail service at all, but within a year or two a post office was established at Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie’s place on the Coffee Road. That was a 50 mile round trip for the settlers at Beaverdam Creek to fetch their mail.  Other post offices sprang up to serve the pioneers of Old Berrien County, but no post office was established closer than 10 or 12 miles to Ray City until after the Civil War.

After the end of the Civil War, the grist mill that General Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray had established on Beaverdam Creek became the site of the first post station serving the present day area of Ray City, GA. This mill was originally known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill” and in 1867 a post office established here was simply referred to as “Knight’s Mill.” In 1870 the United States Postal Service Guide indicated that the postmaster of Knight’s Mill received an annual salary of $12.   The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Green Bullard  was appointed postmaster of Knight’s Mill (later known as Rays Mill) on August 3, 1868. Bullard held the position until June 29, 1871 when the Knight’s Mill post office was discontinued.

In 1870, after the death of General Knight, Thomas M. Ray bought out complete ownership of the mill from his father-in-law’s estate. Thereafter the mill and the surrounding community became known as Ray’s Mill. Apparently from 1871 and 1875 there was no post office in operation at Ray’s Mill, and residents were again compelled to take their mail at Nashville or Milltown. In 1876 a local post office resumed operation and according to the Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters,  Henry Harrison Knight was appointed on June 6, 1876.  The United States Official Postal Guide of July, 1879 lists the post office at “Ray’s Mills,” Berrien County, Georgia, but the postmaster’s name is not given. The Georgia State Gazetteer, Business and Planter’s Directory for 1881-82 also lists the the Ray’s Mill post office. In the 1885 Official Register of the United States, H.H. Knight was again listed as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, Georgia. His compensation for this service was $36.25. Post Office Dept records appear to indicate  that H.H. Knight was reappointed as Postmaster on May 22, 1886.  His wife, Mary Susan Ray Knight, was officially appointed Postmaster on November 1, 1892.  Joseph O. Sirmans was appointed on October 2, 1899 and served for about a year.  On September 1, 1900 the appointment was given to William C. Johnson (Johnson married H.H. Knight’s daughter in 1907).  The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters documents that David J. Rigell was appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on March 8, 1901.  Ulysses A. Knight took over on August 12, 1902 and was later confirmed as postmaster. Josiah S. Rigell took the position on April 28, 1903.  Post office records seem to indicate that the post office at Ray’s Mill was discontinued effective March 31, 1904 and for a while the mail was sent to Milltown (now Lakeland).

Some local histories say David Rigell, a  merchant of Berrien County, was the first postmaster at Ray’s Mill.  The primary sources, timing and other factors indicate that this was not the case (see David Jackson Rigell ~ First Postmaster of Ray’s Mill? Maybe Not!), but that Rigell served as postmaster in the 1901. It is speculated that the death of General Knight left the position vacant until Henry H. Knight, son-in-law of Thomas M. Ray and nephew of General Knight took an interest in civil service.

In 1909, Eugene Ray reported that “Charles H. Anderson and Dr. Guy Selman, young men, are putting up a drug store. Mr. Anderson is postmaster and Dr. Selman practices his profession here,” in Ray City, GA. The Post Office Department Record of Appointment of Postmasters shows that Charles Anderson was officially appointed Postmaster of Rays Mill on February 6, 1909, and  the Official Register of the United States shows in 1909, Chas Anderson was earning, $82 a month or $984 a year as Postmaster of Ray’s Mill.  That sum might have been comparable to an annual salary of about $35,000 a year in 2007 dollars.

On April 1, 1920, James “Joel” F. Fountain  became the Acting Postmaster. His appointment as Postmaster was confirmed in the U.S. Senate on June 5th of that year. The following year the  Ray City Post Office made the state news when it was dynamited by “Yeggmen“.

The census of 1930  shows James F. Fountain continued as the Ray City postmaster.  James Arthur Grissett and Lacy Albert McDonald were employed as rural mail carriers at Ray City.

By 1934, Mamie E. Fountain, wife of J. F. Fountain, took over as Postmaster at Ray City.

In 1939, the Nashville Herald announced a vacancy in the postmaster position at Ray City:

The Nashville Herald,
February 2, 1939    Pg 1

Postmaster’s Exam Called for Ray City

      An open competitive examination will be held shortly to fill the position of postmaster of Ray City, according to an announcement from the Civil Service Commission, Washington, D.C.
Applications for the examination will close on February 10th.  All who desire to take the examination for this place must file their application by that date.
The place and date of examination will be announced after the date for making applications is closed.
Complete information may be obtained by applying at the post office in Ray City.

Transcription courtesy of Skeeter Parker

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

National Archives Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Ray City, GA

The U. S. Postal service and census records provide the following on subsequent Postal employees at Ray City.

Name Title Date Appointed
James Arthur Grissett Mail Carrier prior to 4/04/1940
Chloe Ann Johnson Asst Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
Garth L. Webb Postmaster prior to 4/04/1940
William A. Garner Acting Postmaster 04/02/1955
William A. Garner Postmaster 08/06/1957
Mrs. Florence V. Garner Officer-In-Charge 05/08/1970
Timothy R. McLeod Postmaster 11/27/1971
Jeane U. Camp Officer-In-Charge 06/04/1987
Billy R. Cromer Officer-In-Charge 07/30/1987
Muriel S. Privett Officer-In-Charge 11/05/1987
Jeane U. Camp Postmaster 01/30/1988
Nancy Deloras Courson Officer-In-Charge 01/08/2003
Nancy D. Courson Postmaster 05/17/2003
Flora Parker Officer-In-Charge 07/26/2012
Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.

Wayne Putnal and Lawson Fountain at the Ray City, GA Post Office shortly after it opened.


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Attack of the Yeggmen

In the first half of the 20th Century, stories of Yeggmen  and their explosive work abounded in the media, even in rural South Georgia.   The famous detective, William Pinkerton, was a expert on the “The Yeggman” and published professional articles on the subject.

The Yeggman, by William Pinkerton.

The Yeggman, by William Pinkerton.

On December 6, 1921 the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the attack in Ray City. Postmaster at the time was James “Joel” F. Fountain.

Ray City, GA post office wrecked by dynamite. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 6, 1921.

Ray City, GA post office wrecked by dynamite. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 6, 1921.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Dec 6, 1921


As a result of dynamiting by yeggmen, the post office in Ray City, Ga., in Berrien County, was almost totally wrecked Sunday night, according to word received Monday morning. Immediately, inspectors were assigned to investigate the case by Louis A. Johnson, inspector in charge. No word was received as to the extent of the loot secured.

The followup on December 8th reported the safecrackers were still at large.

The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprised reported on the Ray City Post Office robbery, December 8, 1921

The Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprised reported on the Ray City Post Office robbery, December 8, 1921

Thomasville Daily Times Enterprise
December 8, 1921

Live News From Towns in South Georgia

No Clue To Robbers Of Post Office At Ray City

Valdosta, Ga., Dec 8. – Although post office inspectors have been at work on the case continuously, no clue has been found in connection with the robbery of the post office at Ray City, when the safe was blown by a high explosive on Monday night.  Only a small amount of mony was secured, but several blank money order books and other records were taken.  These are only valuable to the post office and worthless to the robbers.  The building was entered by means of a crowbar and the high explosive used blew the door from the safe and broke all the windows in the building.

Attack of the Yeggmen

The Argot of the Vagabond,
by Charlie Samolar, published in American Speech, 1927, by the American Dialect Society, Duke University Press:

The bluebird sings by the lemonade springs in the rock-candy mountains …

From a Vagabond Ditty.

A few of the words used in the early days of vagabondage in this country have undoubtedly been handed down to the present, but it is difficult to segregate them, as the old-timers are surly or short-memoried and the vag leaves practically no literature. The word drill, a relic of the Civil War, is still in use; it means “to hike.” Counting ties and beating trains, now well-know phrases, probably originated in the days of young railroads.

Hobo gang-life in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century produced a great many terms, but most of them are now archaic, having passed out of use with the death of the gang-form. A few, however, should be mentioned. A yegg was a burglar who travelled by beating trains. The word is supposed to be derived from “John Yegg,” who is said to have been the first safe-cracker to use nitro-glycerine as an adjunct to the prosecution of his art. A gang of yeggs was generally known as the folks. Sometimes, they were called the Johnson Boys, from the “Johnson-bar,” the reverse lever of the locomotive of those days; yeggs used a tool somewhat similar to it. Any kind of a gang was known as a push, a word credited to Australia, but I think it is a sister of the mob of the city underworld. An obie, or O.B. was a post-office. O.B., I believe, is P.O. reversed with the P. made into a B. The yegg pushes specialized in obies for two reasons; they were easily broken into and Federal big-houses were more comfortable than state penal institutions. Handing the match was a custom practiced by pushes in their open-air hang-outs. The intruding stranger was handed a match, which signified: “Go and build your own fire.” This was always done when a job was being hatched or when one of the folks was making soup (nitro-glycerine). A uniformed officer, now termed a harness-bull, was called a finger, from his itching desire to get his fingers on one. A plainclothesman, now called a fly-dick, was an elbow, from his way of elbowing through a crowd when he saw someone he wished to keep in sight. A lighthouse was a vag who knew all the ropes in a particular territory and tipped off the visiting vag regarding rocks and shoals. A light-piece, still used, but rarely, was a piece of silver money; probably because of its color. Stamps was, at one time, a name for money, yeggs handled considerable quantities of stamps, part of the proceeds of obie jobs.


Ray City Post Office Wrecked By Dynamite

A brief but interesting sidebar in the Dec 6, 1921 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution contains a now obscure reference to the ‘yeggmen’  that beset  the Ray City Post Office.   Fortunately for our understanding, the intellectuals of that time were there to document such obscurities.

Read Attack of the Yeggmen

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