Georgia Historical Society Dedicates New Historical Marker About Cedar Valley Academy

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Thursday, June 13th, 2024

On Saturday, June 8, 2024, the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) unveiled a new historical marker about Cedar Valley Academy (CVA), a former school in Cedartown during the 1800s. Dedicated in partnership with the Polk County Historical Society, the marker details how CVA taught Hearing and Deaf students from Cedartown’s White settler population.

“With the erection of the Cedar Valley Academy historical marker, we are able to highlight the impact of Cedartown on the evolution of Deaf education in the nineteenth century,” said Elyse Butler, GHS Manager of Programs and Special Projects. “Anyone can simply walk up and learn how the early Deaf education at the Cedar Valley Academy influenced the state legislature to provide funding for specialized education for Deaf Georgians.”

Deaf education was revolutionized when the first American schools for Deaf students opened in the early 1800s. At that time, the State of Georgia did not have in-state specialized education services. Starting in 1834, the State provided funding for Deaf Georgians to attend the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in Hartford, Connecticut.

Asa Prior, a Georgia land lottery awardee and early settler in the valley who later became known as the father of Cedartown, raised five Deaf children. Prior enrolled his older children at ASD, but soon sought a more local alternative. After CVA was chartered in 1834, Prior sent several of his children there and later became a Trustee of the school.

During the school’s operation, the State of Georgia recognized the success of CVA’s Deaf students and conducted a feasibility study based on the CVA model that became the inspiration for the Georgia School for the Deaf in 1846.

"The Polk County Historical Society, in its 50th year, is pleased to partner with the Georgia Historical Society in spotlighting the earliest school in Cedartown and its contribution to Deaf education,” said Arleigh Johnson, Polk County Historical Society Director. “This dedication is one of many projects we've undertaken to preserve and share our unique history and heritage with the community and all who are interested in local and Georgia history."

The marker dedication took place in Prior Cemetery. Speakers included Arleigh Johnson, Director, Polk County Historical Society; Breana James, Historical Marker and Program Coordinator, Georgia Historical Society; Jordan Hubbard, Professor of Political Science and History, Georgia Highlands College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College; Dr. Adonia K. Smith, Retired Educator and Georgia School for the Deaf (GSD) Alumnus; Delle Copeland, Retired GSD Educator and American Sign Language Interpreter; and Rebecca Cowan-Story, Educational Sign Language Interpreter, Floyd County Schools.