CAIRO — It was a much humbler ceremony than could have been imagined at the beginning of the year, but the City of Cairo celebrated the 150th anniversary of being granted a town charter with some fanfare.
Monday night's city council meeting opened with a reading of a special proclamation marking Cairo's sesquicentennial, and representatives from the state and federal government were on hand to witness the event.
The city's proclamation states that "the prosperity and development that the city has enjoyed is a direct reflection of the leadership shown by its elected officials and business owners over the past 150 years." The proclamation, signed by Mayor Howard Thrower and the members of the city council, also pays tribute "to the values of citizenry set by those early settlers of yesteryear" and encourages current residents "to respect and maintain these services, community activities and inherited values."
Thrower said that upon his election as mayor earlier this year he was encouraged to "do something big" to mark the city's 150th birthday.
"Well, we can't do that this year" due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thrower said, "but what we can do is offer a proclamation."
About two dozen individuals were present at city all Monday night to witness the proclamation's reading, including U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany), whose district encompasses Cairo. Bishop came armed with a statement of his own, which was later read into the Congressional Record.
"The City of Cairo, Georgia has overcome storms and difficult situations, but has stood the test of time," Bishop stated in his entry to the Congressional Record. "Through dedicated community servants, they have sought to meet the needs of their community and to move it forward for the betterment of all of its citizens. This city holds dear to the values that make this community and country great -- God, country and family."
Bishop's entry to the Congressional Record goes on to state that Cairo "is a city that is steeped in a rich history and accomplishments that reflect the absolute best that our nation has to offer" and "has not strayed from the foundation that was set by its early leaders with an attentiveness to the needs of the people above all else."
Bishop's statement was entered into the Congressional Record during a pro forma session of Congress Tuesday. The congressman said the Record is reserved for "information of great importance, of historical value and of monumental accomplishments" about individuals and communities.
"Of course there's nothing that would be be more appropriate than for the City of Cairo to be recognized and have its history spread upon the pages of the Congressional Record where it will be now and henceforth and forever more," Bishop said.
Also present Monday night was state Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville), who stated that a resolution honoring the city's birthday will be brought forward in the state legislature. State Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) was also in attendance after having assisted the city in their ongoing efforts to locate the physical copy of the original town charter.
Former Mayor Booker Gainor also spoke at the event, noting the difficulty in celebrating the city's milestone amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
"I know this is a difficult time to celebrate," he said, "however, it's still something we can hold within our hearts and cherish."
Initially granted a town charter on October 28, 1870, citizens of Cairo elected a three-member governing council consisting of W.T. Rigsby, William Powell and B.L. Hearn in November of that year, along with the town's first mayor, Wiley Pearce.
The village which would later become known as Cairo was settled in 1835 by William Hawthorne, a Baptist preacher who blazed a 40-mile trail through the region.
In 1860 the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad purchased land from local residents which would later serve as as the center of the future town. The village which would eventually become Cairo was known as Miller's Station, the twentieth stop along the railroad, serving as a rail depot and post office. The name Cairo was selected in 1867 by the first postmaster, Jonathan Hall.
Cairo was later incorporated as a city in 1905, and the following year it was designated the seat of government for the newly-formed Grady County.
Bishop said the city's current leadership is living up to their forerunners by guiding the community "in a very admirable way."
"This city is now 150 years old," the congressman said, "but in the eyes of God it's but a minute."