The First Hundred Years
On August 17, 2008, the town, or should I say the community of Cedar Grove, will officially turn one hundred years old. In reality, Cedar Grove, or the community that it encompasses has been around for much longer than that. Cedar Grove has always been a community. Cedar Grove, the town, never seemed to get off the ground. The fates against it, Cedar Grove is the only incorporated Laurens County town to have never had a post office and though it was the largest Laurens County town ever created by the Georgia Legislature, its location far away from railroads and populous centers doomed it to fail as a municipality. In the end, Cedar Grove and those who have lived there and those who still live there have persevered to make it a fine place to live.
Early residents of the community, the Clarks, Gays, and Burches often traded for goods and supplies, not in Dublin, some twenty three-airline miles away, but instead along with other early residents of Scottish descent in Montgomery County, now Wheeler County, in the community of Little York, once located west of Alamo. Later in the 19th Century, residents traded at McRae, ten miles closer than Dublin.
Before there was a Cedar Grove, there was Arthur, Georgia. Located near the intersection of Georgia Highway 45 and Paul Young Road and west of the present Cedar Grove Crossroads, Arthur, established as a post office on June 29, 1880, was named for Arthur Burch, a member of the Burch family, who has for more than a century and a half lived in the area. The first postmaster at Arthur was Daniel H. Burch. He was succeeded by D. Cabie, who served for only 18 days until Arthur Burch took office. Arthur Burch only served for 79 days until John Burch was sworn in as postmaster, a post he held until C.M. Clark became the final postmaster in 1900. The post office was closed on September 22, 1908 and the mail ordered to be sent to Depue in Dodge County.
In the latter decades of the 19th Century, what would become the Cedar Grove community was inhabited by the Browning, Burch, Caldwell, Clark, Clements, Colemans, Currie, Gay, Harrell, Harrelson, Lowery, Miller, Mullis, Purvis, Ryals, Sears, Taylor and White families.
Citizens of McRae desperately wanted a railroad to Dublin. They had hoped to lure the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad away from Eastman. In 1904 the men from Telfair County met and formed the McRae and Dublin Railroad Company. C.B. Parker was elected President of the company. Grading was begun from the depot to the Seaboard Air Line near the Oil and Fertilizer plant. Ransom Rogers of Atlanta laid off the route and the work was begun on the 35-mile road. The road progressed along the present day Highway 441 toward Dublin, but failed due to lack of financial support. Telfair County tried again in 1912. The Jacksonville, McRae, and Northern Railway was incorporated to build a road from the Ocmulgee near Jacksonville through McRae and northward to Dublin through Cedar Grove. One of the incorporators was future Georgia governor, Eugene Talmadge. Like many other attempts, this railroad also failed. The coming of the railroad would mean new people and, more importantly, more money for the Cedar Grove Community.
Promoters of an actual town had high hopes. On August 17, 1908, the Georgia Legislature adopted a bill incorporating the town of Cedar Grove. It was the largest town ever created in Laurens County. With twenty four land lots of two hundred two and one-half acres each, the new town was 4,860 acres in size or 7.59 square miles. John P. Harrell was named as the town's first mayor. James Purvis, J.T. Parish, W.E. Kinchen, J.Y. Hill, and S. Harrelson were named to the first town council until an election was held on the first Saturday in January 1909.
Yet, there is one burning and mystifying question about Cedar Grove which still puzzles anyone who ever lived there or just passed through. Where are the cedar trees? Well, the story goes like this. About the year 1869, Rev. Cornelious Clark, a righteous and God-fearing man, wanted to build a church near his home. He remembered a grove of cedars growing in a nearby cemetery and decided that this would be the place for his house of worship and obviously named it "Cedar Grove." Samuel Harrelson, Mary Pharis, B.L. Lowery and others joined with him in establishing the new church. Others took offense that the community's church would not be located in a more central location, so B.L. and Lamar Lowery offered to build a church in the triangle formed by Georgia Highways 46 and 126 and Sudie Pearl Jones Road, about one and a quarter miles to the northwest along Sudie Pearl Jones Road. Clark reluctantly agreed to the new location but insisted that the name Cedar Grove be retained. And, it did.
The most accepted authorities state that Purvis' store was the first business in the town. Sam Mackey, Russell Howell and Cordie Joiner also operated establishments there.
Cedar Grove became the center of religious, civic and educational activities. The earliest church, the Clark Baptist Church, ceased to exist in the 1880s. There was a New Hope Church located southwest of the Cedar Grove Crossing off Chic Inn Road.
The Masons of lower Laurens County organized the Whiteford Masonic Lodge in 1885, moved to the Lowery community shortly thereafter, and later returned to Cedar Grove. The Odd Fellows of Cedar Grove established a lodge, which they share with the Masons.
The original school began in a log church. As the school population grew, classes were held in the lower floor of the Masonic Lodge until 1924, when the schools of Whitewater, Oakdale and Union Springs were consolidated into Cedar Grove School. A large school, for its time, was built in 1926 and expanded in 1939. The school closed and merged into Laurens High School near Rentz.
In 1920, the Cedar Grove Community Council was created to help promote the community. The original members were: J.W. Horne, J.T. Grimsley, D.E. Grinstead, J.C. Ussery, J.F. Burch, J.W. Purvis, R.F. Gay, M.L. Miller, B.H. Howell, C.W. Clark, A.B. Miller, H.R. Gilder, J.P. Jackson, Dr. B.S. Benson, R.L. Thigpen, B.L. Lowery, E.N. Johnson, S.L. Miller, L.L. Howell, A.H. Johnson, M.L. Beasley.
The actual town of Cedar Grove only existed for ten years and two days. For on August 19, 1918, when most of her citizens were fighting World War I, the boll weevil and flu bugs, the Georgia Legislature in its enigmatic wisdom repealed the town's charter. They might have killed the town, but they could never kill the spirit of Cedar Grovers, who love their community as their forebearers did.