In the late 1800’s lumber and
naval stores were the main sources of industry throughout southeast Georgia
where it was common practice to locate new communities for the purpose of
marketing forest products. Pembroke came
into being in 1889 when the Savannah and Western Railroad extended its line
from Meldrim to a point 32 miles west of Savannah in north Bryan County where
the timber business was thriving.
The first citizen of the city
was M. E. Carter who was a member of the construction crew for the
railroad. During the construction of the railroad, a
boxcar was switched off the line and became not only Carter’s office for
directing work, but also his residence. Carter
became the first section-master for the railroad in Pembroke and kept that
position for three and one-half years.
As soon as the trains began arriving, houses and businesses were built around
and near the railroad. One of the first land
acquisitions on record was the purchase of land for the train depot in
Pembroke. With the completion of the
railroad and the thriving timber business, Pembroke became the commercial and
business center of Bryan County. One of
the first business decisions made in Pembroke in 1903 was for the organization
of the city’s first bank. The Pembroke National Bank received its charter from
the state of Georgia in 1907 and later became the Pembroke State Bank.
Pembroke was named for Judge
Pembroke Whitfield Williams who was well-known as a leader in education and as
a jurist. He lived in the Mill Creek
community near Ellabell and had extensive timberland in the area. Records also indicate in 1883 he served as
postmaster of Fido, later named Groveland, located eight miles west of
Legislation was introduced by
State Representative John Bacon of Pembroke to the Georgia General Assembly and
ratified resulting in the incorporation of the City of Pembroke on August 15,
1905. The first city officials were
appointed by the General Assembly and included J. W. Strickland as mayor, and
R. S. Burgess, M. A. Gibson, James B. Moyd, Julius Morgan and C. C. Moyd as
councilmen. City business meetings were
conducted in the R. S. Burgess store which had been constructed prior to 1903.
Within four months of its incorporation,
on December 5, 1905, a bond referendum was called to approve the issuance of
bonds in the amount of $8000 to build Pembroke’s first school. Bryan Normal Institute was a two-story brick
structure and located on property bordered by College and Smith Streets. School records list Clark M. Sims as the
first graduate of Bryan Normal Institute.
In 1919, the property was sold to the Bryan County Board of Education
and has served as the location of both Bryan County Elementary and High School.
Businesses located in the
city included Murrow’s Drug Store, Sims Grocery, Burgess Mercantile, Carter’s
General Merchandise, Harn’s Grocery, Solomon Smith Hardware, J. B. Moyd’s Grocery,
Bryan County Pharmacy, T. H. Edwards Grocery, Family Pharmacy, Lee’s Grocery,
J. C. Mikell Grocery, and E.P. Smith Grocery.
Julius Morgan owned and operated Morgan’s Dry Goods and Furniture
Business as well as the first Chevrolet dealership. His row of businesses in Pembroke was known
as Morgan’s Gold Block and had its very own electrical generating system.
Pembroke continued to be the
commercial and business center of Bryan County even though Clyde was the county
seat. Since the railroad did not pass
near the community of Clyde, discussions centered on moving the county
courthouse to a new location. After much
debate, the citizens of Bryan County voted on December 18, 1935 to move the
county seat of government from Clyde to Pembroke. With more than two-thirds vote in favor of
locating the county seat to Pembroke, legislation was introduced in 1937 by State
Representative D. B. Warnell of Pembroke and was ratified by the Georgia
General Assembly. Records were moved
from Clyde to the Masonic Lodge building in Pembroke where temporary county
offices were set up until the new two story brick courthouse was completed and dedicated
on May 18, 1938. The courthouse located
on South College Street continues to serve as the center of Bryan County government.
Silent movies first came to
the city in the 1920’s. Citizens could
enjoy this new entertainment in the movie theater located in the downstairs
floor of the Masonic Building. In the
1930’s Mr. S. G. Tos built a modern new theatre with the most up to date sound
equipment and movie projectors available at the time. The theatre continued operation until the
On September 28, 1928, a bond
referendum was passed to build the city’s first city-owned water system for a total coast of ten thousand dollars. Two years later in 1930, homes and businesses were provided with electricity from Georgia Power. The city continued to grow and as a result more services were needed. In 1970, a federal grant and loan was received to construct the city’s first municipal sewage system and to make improvements in the city’s water system. Also included in the referendum was the purchase of Pembroke’s first fire truck.
Without a City Hall, city
business and council meetings were conducted in downtown business
locations. However in 1977, Pembroke’s
city government moved into its new and modern municipal office building on
North Main Street. Today, the city
continues to operate from the same City Hall. Pembroke has continued to develop slowly while
maintaining its small town charm.
location in north Bryan County is an easy commute to Savannah, Statesboro and
Georgia Southern University, Fort Stewart Army Installation, the beaches along
coastal Georgia, and surrounding attractions making it an ideal location to
live, work and play.