Understanding the significance of preserving the records of the past for the sake of the present and future generations brought a small group of Thomaston and Upson County citizens together on May 31, 1967, to organize the Upson Historical Society.

      Since that time, the Society has done more than listen and learn from program speakers, presentations, and tours; they have actively engaged in the collection of documents, artifacts, and structures of historical significance. The Society began its work by taking a trip to the Georgia Department of Archives as an orientation for the task before them. Through the passing decades, the Society has not ceased to sponsor trips, tours, and special events as ways to stimulate the interest of the community in its history and heritage.

      Realizing that many people learn to love and use history by first climbing their family tree, or digging for its roots, in 1969 efforts were begun to bring together a census of the cemeteries of the County ("The Cemeteries of Upson County, Georgia"). Members painstakingly copied the material on about 12,000 grave stones, listed them by cemeteries and lots, and added an alphabetical index. This project has been updated, edited, and republished two times, in 1989 and 1992. Proceeds from the sale of these documents aid in financing the society's projects.

      In 1930, under the sponsorship of the John Houston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, two local historians compiled a 1,122 page history of the County ("The Early History of Upson County, Georgia"). The Upson County Commission accepted this volume as the official history of the County. By the mid 1960's these books had become rare finds, so the Society joined in an effort with the DAR to reprint the volume. The Society issued a second reprint in 1982 [and a third in 1999]. Again, the sale of books helped to finance the work of the Society.

      Beginning in the 1960's and continuing until the 1980's one of the Society's founders, Jack Morgan, a self-taught genealogist, compiled 180 family record books. These handwritten documents provide a wonderful source of research for families which have lived or still reside in the County.

      During 1970, with the aid of the Citizens and Southern Bank of Thomaston, Georgia, the Society acquired the Pettigrew-White-Stamps house, one of the oldest surviving structures in the community, dating back to the 1830's They moved the house from a location in the midst of the business section, where it might have fallen to the wrecker's ball, to an accessible lot on US Highway 19 in the south part of Thomaston. There the Society established a combination house and community museum, which now provides a place for hundreds of valuable artifacts, photographs, and documents. The society opens the house for visiting groups or individuals, and also places it on the annual local tour of homes.

      During 1975 and 1976 when the City of Thomaston and Upson County celebrated sesquicentennials, and the nation observed its bi-centennial, the Society played a leading role in these observances. Among the centennial projects, the members assisted in the publication of a brief, illustrated history of the community.

      From 1973 to 1979, many Society members played an active role in the writing of the history of the First Baptist Church of Thomaston. This 1,087 page book, fully documented and indexed, has provided another valuable resource for family and local historians. These books are also on sale by the Society.

      Starting in 1986, the Society actively sought to preserve the County's last covered bridge, which was destroyed by the flood of 1994. The rebuilding of this historic structure, using much of the original timber, is now complete.

      During the 1990's, the Society realized that local governments were running out of room for records and that some of these old documents were not properly preserved. Two successive presidents led the society into a cooperative agreement between the Society and agencies of local government to establish an archives. The Thomaston-Upson County Board of Education agreed to deed a former high school library building to the City and the County; and with financial assistance from Community Enterprises, a local foundation, this building was restored and equipped. An archivist has been employed, and the facility opens its doors daily for researchers. (Visit its website, Thomaston-Upson Archives, to learn more.) The Society's meeting room, seating 100 people, occupies a portion of this structure.

      Recently the Society served as sponsor for a major local history project, a book which chronicles the story of R. E. Lee Institute, the grand old school which served as the center of education and community life for 117 years (Proud To Be From R.E. Lee).

-- Dr. Edwin Cliburn