Part of the GAGenWeb Project.
JOSIAH SIRMANS, JUDGE BEN SMITH'S ANCESTOR, RESTS IN FENDER CEMETERY
File contributed by Robert Latimer Hurst.
Many Of The Smiths, Paffords Are Buried In This Historic
Cemetery Just Outside Lakeland
CAROLINE PAFFORD MILLER'S GRANDFATHER, ROWAN PAFFORD, IS INTERRED IN SPRINGHEAD CEMETERY
This Pioneer Rests In The Burial Ground Of The Church He Built
By Robert Latimer Hurst
Judge Ben Smith's and Carolina Pafford Miller Ray's exchange
of letters gives an insight into several topics: the
background found in the writing of the 1934 Pulitzer Prize
novel, "Lamb in His Bosom," in 1933 and incidents in Southeast
Georgia history. Both serve the student of history and
literature well. In 1990, when this correspondence was being
sent from Waycross, Georgia, to Waynesville, North Carolina,
Mrs. Ray admitted to being unwell.
"After another, wearing, horrible stay in (the) hospital, I'm
still around. Hospitals are torture centers!" she exclaims.
She, then, pauses in her narrative to thank Judge Smith for a
copy of his book, "Chuck's Crew," which relates experiences
during Ben's active service in World War II. "I didn't know
you are a `wri-tah,' too. May the Lord be with you! (You'll
Ben thanks her for the autographed copy of "Lamb" and offers
her a "newsy letter" about South Georgia "where your roots
are." He tells that he has returned to Mud Creek in Clinch
County. The magistrate, who was born in Lakeland in 1923,
reflects on the log houses, rail fences, syrup boilers, smoke
houses --"In fact, every farm was a self-sufficient unit.
Spending the night at my aunt's, you could see the stars
through the roof but not a drop of rain would come in. I know
that you must spend a lot of time thinking about your early
The novelist's attention quickly turns to early 1990s world
news: "As to Bush (the current President's father)!! What can
I say? If we're going around invading everybody ("Bum, Bum,
Bum. Here I come...)in little Grenada, Panama and, now,
Kuwait, I suggest that we fight the monsters who hold up food
for starving millions in Africa.
"Those Saudi Arabic sands... I can hear our boys coughing from
here. `Thus do the glaring sands make conquerors of us
all...,'" she continues. Again, the subject changes as she
confides to Ben that he's "prettier than Joe Namath --my other
favorite `Joe,' the only person who ever really loved Marilyn
Monroe (for whom I felt a deep compassion.) Poor little girl
Blue Lost --Joe DiMaggio truly loved her...."
The judge writes about his early remembrances: "My forebears
came to Clinch County (then Ware) in 1822. The first was
Josiah Sirmans, who was the first white settler in these
parts. He is ancestor to almost everyone in Clinch and Lanier
counties. In 1825, Lawrence Smith came from the Barnwell
District, South Carolina. He was my great-great grandfather
and settled on the northern perimeter of the Okefenokee Swamp.
He was neighbor to the Wildes family, who were massacred by
Indians. His own barn and outbuildings and crops were
destroyed by the Indians during the Seminole Wars of 1837
-1839. He forted up his home soon after, and it became a place
of refuge for fleeing settlers.
"He and his oldest son, John (my great-grandfather), were both
members of Capt. D.J. Miller's company of Ware County Militia.
It is noted that a James Pafford was also on the roster. This
surely has to be a progenitor of your family as they were in
this country by then, having come from Tennessee. This was at
a time when the son, James Marion, was only five years old, so
it could not have been he. This militia unit was a member of
General Floyd's expedition that drove the Seminoles out of
their swamp paradise. (I am not particularly proud of this.)
Remembering South Georgia, Caroline asks Ben if he "knows" St.
Simons Island: "My very favorite spot on Earth! Many the time
was that I `crabbed' off that ol' pier! How dear to my
heart... Ol' Man Time sleeps nights on `the Island' and often
naps in the day time while nothing ever happens." She refers
to Paul Redfern, whose historic airplane flight in the 1920s
began from St. Simons. Certainly, those days found much
happening on this barrier isle, and Caroline Pafford was a
part of those "Roaring `20s."
Ben, hoping that his letter cheers up the former Waycross
native, points out more ancestry that relates to her family as
well as his. "Lawrence Smith's son, James C., was the first
settler to start an overland freight business. He hauled
supplies from the coast to the interior by oxcart and became a
wealthy man for those times." He has touched upon a point of
interest because Mrs. Ray wrote how her pioneer characters
traveled in oxcarts and went from the interior to the coast
once a year for supplies.
"It is noted that one of the Pafford sons, Berrien, married my
kinfolk, Harty, granddaughter of Josiah Sirmans. Her brother,
Isaac Sirmans, married my great-aunt, Nancy Richardson. He was
the grandfather of the late Hamp Sirmans who ran the
Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Waycross.
"Your ancestor, Rowan Pafford, was a private in Company K,
26th Georgia Infantry, which was my own grandfather's company.
Upon the reorganization in 1862, he became a lst lieutenant in
the 4th Georgia Cavalry (Clinch County) and in 1864 took
office as Senator in the Georgia Senate during the
Confederacy," declares Judge Smith, who continues to cite the
closeness of the two families.
"I simply do not understand people who are incurious about
their heritage. Ours is so wonderful, such a rich tapestry of
the human struggle and triumph over the most desperate
hardships. I was first privileged to view this great thing in
your own book as a little boy, and I never got over the
experience. It was an honest book and the only one that came
close to telling the story of our people," finishes Judge
Her thoughts turn to the "Ol' Satilla." Informing that she was
born on a bluff just above the Satilla where great grapevines
(`Fox grapes'?) teased all chidren, the author adds that the
joy of any piney woods youngster was pulling down young pines
and "riding the great, green horses."
"It's all gone," she concludes. "It's all gone --but engraved
forever on our true hearts of `solid gold.' There were
huckleberry and gall-berry bushes and ... barefoot, brown as
coffee beans, happy as whip-poor-wills and mourning doves...
But it's all gone now."
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