The History of Pembroke, Georgia
The City of Pembroke was named after Judge Pembroke Williams, a prominent local resident of the late 1800s. The city was a rail hub for naval supplies and farm produce for most of its existence, and was eventually chartered by the state in 1905.
Pembroke came by its name from a prominent citizen of the late 19th century, Judge Pembroke Williams. As was true for so many small towns of the rural South, Pembroke's inception was dependent upon the railroad. It was one of the lucky sites, inasmuch as the "train stopped there." Its sister town, Ellabell, was not so lucky when the train passed her by. According to historians, Pembroke came into existance when the Savannah and Western Railroad extended its line from Meldrim, Georgia, to a point 32 miles west of Savannah. Indeed, a most interesting fact is that the first resident of Pembroke worked for the railroad. When a boxcar was switched off, he began living in it, and that is how the story began. This gentleman's name was M. E. Carter, and he became Pembroke's first section-master.
The railroad's importance stemmed from the fact that Pembroke, as well as other small rural towns during the late 19th century, was a large producer of naval stores as well as lumber. By the late 1890's permanent buildings of a substantial nature were being constructed, and by the early 20th century, Pembroke became the commercial and business center of Bryan County. The little town was incorporated August 23, 1905, by an act of the Georgia General Assembly. It is evident that the forefathers were interested in education, because on December 5, 1905, a bond referendum was called to approve the issuance of $8,000 in bonds for the purpose of building Pembroke's first school. This school was the Bryan Normal Institute. In 1919, it was sold to the Bryan County Board of Education for $4,000, with the stipulation that there would always be a high school in the city of Pembroke. Education is still a high priority throughout Bryan County.
Pembroke encompasses approximately 8 square miles of land and is located at the intersection of Highway 280, Highway 67, and Highway 119. The railroad tracks run through the middle of town parallel to Highway 280. There are many old buildings built in the 1930's with beautiful motifs along this section of highway. One such building housed the Tos Theatre, now planned for renovation, where many of the residents of Pembroke and surrounding areas spent many enjoyable Saturdays and, if they were lucky, weekdays as well.
Next door to the theatre was the drugstore, where there were wonderful treats such as ice cream cones piled high, comic books, and small tables and chairs where you could sit and enjoy not only the delights sold in the store, but friendships as well. Many Saturday afternoons in Pembroke were spent sitting in cars parked on Main Street "people watching." It was a quieter, more peaceful time, even though everyone had just come through the Great Depression.
Other businesses in Pembroke were a grocery, dry goods store, hardware store, and a bank, as well as doctor's and lawyers' offices. Some of the loveliest buildings housed the various denominations of churches.
Throughout the years, Pembroke has grown. The population of Pembroke, as well as the population of surrounding areas, has contributed to the growth of the town itself. In recent years, under the excellent leadership of the mayor and councilmen, numerous activities bring many people to the town. The annual Christmas parade has become a favorite, as well as the Balloon Fest. The local school system has earned an exceptional reputation, and along with extracurricular activities, has enticed people to move to Pembroke and Bryan county.
Pembroke is a town that combines the beauty of its antiquity with the excitement of its growth. It is, in many ways, an anomaly, in that when you "drive through Pembroke" you have a wonderful sense of the past and all those wonderful memories; however, they are mingled with the present and all its activities that denote growth. Local residents consider themselves very lucky to live in Pembroke, Georgia!