Think back! What were you doing on this date last year or even last week? Do you remember the toys of your childhood? Imagine trying to discover two hundred years history of this county. On February 17, 1976, twenty eight Telfair County citizens met in the conference room of the McRae United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall for the purpose of organizing a historical society to preserve the historical lore, sites, and buildings particularly the administrative building of the former South Georgia College located in McRae. This first meeting was chaired by Mr. T. J. Smith, III until Mrs. Marguerite C. Smith was elected the first President of the new society. To increase interest in the society, and its membership, the society’s name was changed briefly to the Sugar Creek Historical Society, then to its present name, the Pioneer Historical Society. The Pioneer Historical Society was incorporated in August, 1976, and became an official 501 C(3) non-profit organization in 1983.
The first formal meeting of the Pioneer Historical Society was held on April 4, 1976 in the conference room of the Telfair Center for Community Development, with 130 of the 227 charter members attending. President Smith summarized the purpose of the Society as follows: 1. Understanding the history of the community, 2. Bring together all people interested in history, 3. Collect historical mementoes, and 4. Restore the of South Georgia College Building and include a small museum.
In 1979, the South Georgia College building was transferred from the Telfair County Board of Education to the Pioneer Historical Society and the Telfair Arts Association (name changed to the Telfair Center of the Arts in 2012). In 1982, due to the work of Society members William Dopson and Lec Ryals III, the building was placed on the National Register of Historical Places. In 2017 the Society received the Georgia Trust Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation for their restoration work to save the South Georgia College building.
The Pioneer Historical Society continues to conserve, preserve, and protect the history of Telfair County. The Society offers special interest programs, concerts, and community events at the restored South Georgia College auditorium. A small museum of local history, located in the old Helena railroad depot, is open for visitation by appointment.The Pioneer Historical Society meets the first Wednesday of every month at the Little Ocmulgee State Park. Throughout the year, the Society offers its members excursions to historical sites, and special interest programs at most of the monthly meetings. During February, Black History Month, the members will visit the Harriet Tubman Museum in Macon. On March 6, 2020, the Society will sponsor a community musical concert with the Dallas Brass Band and the Telfair County High School Band. This past November, the Pioneer Historical Society and the City of McRae Helena sponsored one of the six selected Georgia locations for the Smithsonian exhibit on Change in Rural America