Florala History

Stories and Information of Florala, Alabama

Martin Luther Ray Family

 

The Martin Luther Ray family moved to Florala around 1907, following his sister and brother-in-law , WC McLauchlin, by about 10 yrs. They first lived on 5th St (1 Ave intersection, southwest side) and later moved to a newly built house on 5th Ave (next door to the First Baptist Church, west side). We believe this picture was taken before they lived in Florala. Prior to moving to Florala they lived in Montgomery, AL near Oak Park. and before that in Geneva, AL and before that in Mississippi. Pictured are: front from left – Luther Gaston Ray, Annie Meacham Ray, Margaret Mclauchlin Ray, Martin Luther Ray, Martha Alef Smith Ray, Harold Ray (standing). back – Jessie Cornelia Ray, William Alexander Ray and his wife Marielou Jeter and child, Margaret Jane Ray (sister of MLR), and John Ray.

Martin Luther Ray as a young man in NC

Martin Luther Ray as a young man in NC

The house above is on 5th St and 1st Ave (southwest corner), and we believe is the first house Martin Luther Ray and family lived in. The house still stands today without the balcony and with a red metal roof.

The original Martin Luther Ray house on 5th Ave is shown below. Note that the Baptist Church is a small wood frame building at this time.

Martin Luther Ray house

The original Ray house (above) on 5th Ave burned down and was rebuilt (below).

 

Early picture of the "new" Luther Gaston Ray house

Early picture of the “new” Ray house

At some point Martin’s son, Luther, took over the house. Luther and his wife (Ruby Bailey Ray) raised 8 children there – 4 boys and 4 girls. The “first” rebuilt house had three stories with dormers on the top floor. The top floor was a big room, dormitory style, for the boys. Luther also took in boarders, usually school teachers. Someone left an electric iron plugged in and the top floor caught fire and was destroyed (not sure of the date of the fire, but 30s or 40s). The house was then repaired with an altered floor plan due to some termite damage. The repair was done without the top floor …as it is today. The upstairs has 4 bedrooms, a single bath (complete with a claw foot tub), a small kitchen, and a small room once used as a nursery. There was/is a lily pond out back. The Rays lived in the “Bailey” house on 5th Street during the repair. We do not have a picture of the house with three stories. Margaret Ray, Luther’s sister, married Charles Baker in the house in 1916.

The Luther Ray house still stands today (below) adjacent to the “new” Baptist Church. It was known in our family as “Aunt Ruby’s House”. Ruby survived Luther by many years and lived in the house alone for many of those years. Luther Ray was in the hardware business and owned the “Florala Hardware Co”. Luther also owned several farms. The house is no longer owned by any of the Ray descendants. One of the Ray daughters, as an adult, lived in the small house next door near the water tower.

William Alexander Ray was in the hardware business too, but in Pensacola, FL. His hardware store is still in business today as Pensacola Hardware. Both Luther and William Ray were financed in their hardware business by Laura Pearson Ray (widow of Neill Ray of Fayetteville, NC). Her devotion to her husband’s family was strong. She did this after both her husband and son, Donald, had died.

Luther’s Uncle and Aunt, William C. McLauchlin and wife, Mag, lived across the street. The house was on the site of the Hardee’s restaurant. They were a close family. After WC McLauchlin and his wife died, Martin Luther Ray’s daughters, Jessie and Annie, lived in the McLauchlin house. This was convenient because they helped take care of the 8 children.

Luther Gaston Ray house (son of Martin Luther Ray)

Luther Gaston Ray house (son of Martin Luther Ray). Read an article written by Luther Ray: Luther Ray article on churches-14

The page below contains an ad for the Florala Hardware Store

Above- Martin Luther Ray and his wife Martha, and son, Hal, and family. This picture was taken at the Ray house, probably in the side yard toward town. You can see some of the lake on the far right of the picture. The Piggly-Wiggly would be in the background today. Below – Martin Luther Ray with a grandchild. 5th Ave is in the background marked with the short posts.

Martin Luther Ray and grandchild

 

Approximate position where the above pictures were taken

John Ray died as a young man in 1899 in Florence, AL when the Ray family lived in Geneva, AL

***

Martin L Ray attended Davidson College (near Charlotte, NC) and fought in the Civil War. He was in Co. A, 63rd Regiment N.C.T. (5th Regiment N. C. Cavalry).

War record:  “Ray, Martin L, private. Born in Cumberland County where he resided as a farmer and enlisted at age 26, May 22, 1862 for the war. Present or accounted for through August 1864″. Martin L Ray was wounded in the war in his back. He was a teacher after the war. His daughter (seated next to him in the picture above) said any time he was on a horse, even though permanently injured, he always sat straight and proud in the saddle.

Martin Luther Ray had three brothers, two of whom were killed in the Civil War. Lauchlin Ray and Alexander Ray died in battle and have a obelisk monument erected to honor them in the Longstreet Presbyterian church cemetery in NC. Below are the inscriptions on the obelisk. Another brother, Capt Neill Ray, was wounded in the leg but survived. He married Laura Pearson and became a prominent citizen and lawyer in Fayetteville, NC. The book below, My Face to the Enemy, contains his personal accounts of the war.

Monument to brothers Alex and Lauchlin Ray (brothers of Martin Luther Ray)

Monument to brothers Alex and Lauchlin Ray (brothers of Martin Luther Ray)

Ray, Lauchlin and Alexander-A Monument. “but their bodies rest in unknown graves in Virginia.”
Alexander 4-2-1865 Aged 37. “Capt. Co. “D” 53 N.C. Regt.

Killed at Petersburg, Virginia.”

Lauchlin “about Oct 1862″ Aged 31 “Member of Signal Corp Army of Northern Va.
Died near Mr. Jackson, Va.”

The Civil War letters (below) were written by Martin Luther Ray’s brother Alex. Alex was killed in Petersburg, VA, only a week before Gen Robert E. Lee surrendered. Family lore has it that Martin Luther Ray was at Appomattox when Lee surrendered, but hurried home so quickly he was almost shot by Union troops unaware of the surrender.

 

Alex Ray letter Aug 24, 1863a
Alex Ray letter Aug 24, 1863a
Alex Ray letter Oct 1, 1863b
Alex Ray letter Oct 1, 1863a

The letters above were found in the attic of Margaret Ray Baker house on 109 South 3rd Street,Florala, AL. They had  been there for many years, but unknown to family members. They were likely passed down from Margaret’s father, Alex Ray’s brother. In these letters Alex describes his Civil War experiences. Enlarge to read. Remember “ss” was written as “p” during this period.

The book below contains letters of Martin Luther Ray’s brother, Neill W. Ray.

My Face to the Enemy
Insights to the 6th NC State Troops
Copyright 2001 by Matthew Bumgarner

The 6th NC State Troops, aka, “The Bloody Sixth,” was the pride of the Tarheel State. Read about the major battles from the hand of Neill Ray, Captain of Company D. Feel the loss of Colonel Issac Avery, who scrawled a dying thought, “Tell my father I died with my face to the enemy” to his boyhood friend and compatriot. Experience the bitter taste of Reconstruction through the letters of Captain Ray to his former colonel, Samuel McDowell Tate, and finally read perhaps the most stirring Confederate Memorial Address ever given, penned by the legendary Tate.

 

Neill W Ray family plot (obelisk)

Neill W Ray family plot (obelisk)

1899 Fayetteville Observer with Neill W Ray's obituary

1899 Fayetteville Observer with Neill Ray’s obituary. The above newspaper containing the obituary of Martin Ray’s brother, Neill W Ray, was also found in the Baker house in Florala. Neill W Ray was highly respected in the family.

 

 

13 Comments

  • By Cindy Holland, January 18, 2011 @ 8:44 am

    I’ve lived in the nearby area for 14 yrs but I am from Niceville and have always been attracted to The Luther Gaston House but never knew it by that name until last night when a friend of mine helped me find this page. I’ve always just referred to it as “my house” because I’ve always loved it.. lol. If you still check this site and get this message. Could you tell me more about the house itself? Why it’s been abandoned for so long, plans for reconstruction, who is it now owned by? Etc.. just any information you could give me would be wonderful. Apparently it’s not up for sale or it’d have the For Sale signs out, I’m assuming. But I would really love to at least know it has plans of some sort. I would hate to see this house go to rot like it has been for so long. It is/was beautiful in it’s day and I know it could be again if someone took the time to love it again.

  • By Max Baker, January 19, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

    Thanks for visiting the Florala History website. I tried to answer your questions on the page above about the Ray house. As of this writing, it is not owned by anyone in the Ray family. Like you, I hope that this grand ole house is not left to decay. It deserves better.

  • By Jason Franklin, August 10, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    The Ray House now is used for storage of some kind. I am a member of the fire department in Florala and we responded to a powerline arching out at the church one day and we looked in the house. It is filled almost to the roof with old clothing and newspapers. It is really sad to see a part of history wasting away. I do believe that some of the tri-cities members might know who owns the house now. I always was told that it was a bording house back in those times so thank you for correcting that.

  • By Max Baker, August 12, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

    We understand that the owner refuses to sell the house. Hopefully she will change her mind. If restored, the house could be an asset to Florala such as a Bed and Breakfast, or office of some type. Lets hope.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • By Jonathan Ray, December 15, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

    First, I want to thank whoever posted this information on the Ray family. I’m a descendant of William Alexander Ray and it is great to learn more about the family. Regarding the picture of the family at the top of this page, I can fill in 2 of the names for you. On the back row, the lady to William’s left is his wife, Marielou Jeter. I do not know the name of the child she is holding. The lady on Marielou’s left is listed as “Aunt Mag” on the copy of the picture I have. Thanks again.

  • By Max Baker, December 20, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

    Jonathan,
    Thanks so much for your contribution. I am a grandson of Margaret McLauchlin Ray (Baker)- deceased 1986. We always wondered who that older lady was in the picture. MarieLou Jeter was obviously William’s wife. “Aunt Mag” has to be Martin Luther Ray’s sister, Margaret Jane Ray (my grandmother was named after her). She was married to William Christopher McLauchlin. Aunt Mag was an artist and I know of one sketch she did of Lake Jackson.

    If you have not seen it, I posted a picture of your William A. Ray’s grandfather’s headstone in Long Street Cemetery.

    The William A. Ray side of the family has been sort of a mystery to us. I hope you will fill us in on that side of the family, and I will let you know what little we know.

    Max Baker
    Iowa City, IA

  • By Leo Lutz, May 19, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    I’m working on some family history and had an uncle, Guy L. Snider, who worked for a Ray Construction Co. Inc. in Pensacola in 1956. Is this business connected to your Ray family? I’m trying to find out how to get to someone who might have some old information on the business or records confirming Snider’s position.

  • By Max Baker, May 19, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

    Yes, I believe that William Ray’s son and possibly a grandson or two had a company named Ray Construction Co. in Pensacola. I will try to find someone who may help you.

  • By Wendy Windham, June 6, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    Jason to respond to your comment….could you imagine what we could learn about Florala by being able to read all those old newspapers left in this grand ole house…What a shame to let it just wither away..I love this site and so fascinated by the History of Florala…I have learned so much

  • By Cindy Holland, March 30, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

    I havnt checked back here since my last inquiry and speaking to Max.. *hi max .. :) ..* It appears I opened up some doors for discussion here. I still go by that house once a week and I am still in awe over it. I LOVE IT! I do wish I could own it or at least help in conditioning of it. I’ve always been drawn to it as a child. Is it possible to petition the woman who owns it? Maybe she’d open her eyes?

  • By Max Baker, March 30, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

    Hi Cindy,
    I have not heard of anyone doing anything with the Ray house. I visited Florala last Spring and determined that its not about to fall down. It might not look good, but Its a well-built house. Luther knew what he was doing when he built it. I’ll bet the lumber came from the Jackson Lumber co.
    Regards,
    Max

  • By Cindy Holland, March 30, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

    its still very much in the same condition it was when i last spoke to you. it is very heartbreaking to still see she has not done anything with it. people need to learn to have a higher reguard for things like this. if you ever hear anything more on it, please let me know. i dont know if you still have my email or not but ill make an attempt to check here more often as well. thanks max for all the info you have given me tho. its still a big part of my mind. i just wish she’d do something.

  • By Cathy Ray Stanley, April 15, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    Windy Windham–none of the newpapers mentioned are original to the house. The house was completely cleaned out prior to its sale. It has been junked up by the current owner. :(

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