Georgia Historical Society Dedicates New Historical Marker About Cedar Valley Academy

(l-r) Arleigh Johnson, Dr. Adonia K. Smith, and Breana James.

Cedartown, GA, June 11, 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.

The marker text reads:

Cedar Valley Academy

Chartered in 1834, Cedar Valley Academy (CVA) was located near here and taught Cedartown’s White settler population, including local Deaf residents. In 1833, John J. Flournoy, a Deaf man from Georgia, petitioned the State for educational support for Deaf Georgians. From 1835 through 1845, Georgia offered funds for those who wished to attend the American School for the Deaf in Connecticut. The State recognized the success of CVA’s Deaf students by 1843 and investigated a local, cost-effective Deaf education program. On December 25, 1845, new legislation required State funding be used for in-state schools, including CVA. Although CVA disbanded the same day, it represented the need for specialized education for Deaf Georgians. The State transferred the funds originally allocated for in-state schools to the Georgia School for the Deaf when it opened in 1846.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and Polk County Historical Society

For more information about the Cedar Valley Academyhistorical marker dedication or the Georgia Historical Society marker program, please contact Elyse Butler, Manager of Programs and Special Projects, at 912.651.2125, ext. 119, or by email at


The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history. GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation.
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The Georgia Historical Marker Program is an important part of the Georgia Historical Society’s (GHS) statewide educational mission. Through a public-private partnership with the State of Georgia, GHS is responsible for erecting new historical markers and maintaining more than 2,000 markers installed by the State prior to the program’s privatization in 1998. Online mapping tools allow users to explore themed marker trails and design custom driving routes. Visit for more ways to use Georgia’s historical markers and experience history where it happened.