There is a gorgeous white house located at the corner of East Avenue and North College Street in Cedartown, Georgia. It stands three stories high, including the basement. The first floor has teakwood that was brought from Africa. At the time the house was built, a basement was a luxury.
Two well-known families with Deaf children lived in this same house at two different times over 117 years apart. The house faced two different directions: In 1833 it was facing East Avenue, and today it is facing North College Street.
The Prior Family came to Cedartown in 1832 with the early settlers. Asa and Sallie had a large family with five Deaf children. They first lived in a house somewhere near the present-day Asa Prior Cemetery and the future first location of the First Baptist Church on Brooks Street.
Asa Prior started building the new Prior Family house in 1833, the same year a law passed to establish Georgia School for the Deaf. When Ephraim and Middleton, the eldest Deaf Prior children, were home during breaks from American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, typically in April and September of each year, they probably pitched in to help. The house was completed in 1835. Asa took great pride in their house.
Sallie passed away in 1838. The Deaf Prior children went to school in different places, but in 1850, sources show they were homeschooled in their family home.
Then, a liquor store opened near the Prior house. Asa was against liquor consumption and was upset there was a store so close to his home. Asa had fought and pushed for years for several issues important to him. Around this time, many things turned sour for him. He left for Texas in 1852. The Deaf Priors continued to live in their family house.
In 1855, Angeline married her first husband, a GSD graduate. They moved to Mississippi, where her husband was originally from, and later moved to Texas. After Angeline’s first husband and three sons passed away, she and her other children moved back to Georgia. She married her second husband, another GSD alumnus, in 1869.
Lucius married a GSD alumna in 1859 and later moved to the Prior Station area, present-day Esom Hill in Cedartown. The Weekly Commercial in Rome, Georgia, on Sept. 23, 1874, has an article that mentioned Lucius raising fine apples in the Prior Station area. According to Richard Ferguson, a distant grandson of Asa Prior, Lucius died in Esom Hill but attended the Church of Christ in Borden Springs, Alabama. These towns are next to each other on the Georgia-Alabama state line.
The Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, and GSD closed in 1862. Ephraim, Middleton, and Abigail were still living with their hearing brother, Haden, in the Prior house. Gen. William Sherman’s army burned down much of Cedartown. The fires reached as far as the courthouse on present-day Prior Street in November 1864, about one block from the Prior house. Luckily, the Priors were safe, and their beautiful house stood undamaged.
When the Priors left Cedartown, the house was used for different purposes over the years — as a schoolhouse, an inn and a tavern.
In about 1900, John T. Phillips bought the house, which faced East Avenue. College Street had become more fashionable and desirable. Phillips had radical plans. The house was put on jacks and greased logs placed underneath. About 400-500 mules worked together and turned the house to face College Street.
After that, it was passed through families and sold several times. Finally, the house was turned into a funeral home when it was purchased in 1948 by Lee Borders. The Gammage Family bought the house in 1950 and now run the Gammage Funeral Home.
The Priors and Gammages have something in common. Both families have members who were Deaf and went to GSD. Mary Louise Gammage moved into the house when she was young and grew up there. She attended GSD from 1959 to 1966 and married her high school sweetheart the summer she graduated. They moved to Augusta, Georgia.
The house, built 189 years ago, is still standing strong today. Thank you to the Prior Family and the Gammage Family for keeping the house beautiful and thank you for supporting and believing in Deaf children, their education, and their right to speak in American Sign Language!