ELLIJAY, Ga. – A new sign for the Cecil Mathews Memorial Bridge stands on the roadside just at Turniptown Creek just before you get to the shops at Whitepath Commons when traveling from Ellijay. A simple brown sign stands for a man of Ellijay’s history.
On September 14, 2021, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives and Representative of District 7, David Ralston visited the site with family and friends of the late Cecil Mathews to dedicate the bridge over Turniptown Creek to him.
With 7 kids, six daughters and one son, Cecil Mathews was memorialized in a ceremony dedicating the bridge to his memory for his remaining family. All of his children but one were able to attend, but few had a short drive. Eldest child Maxine Clark said that many of the siblings are spread all over the southeast from Kentucky to Alabama and one still living in Ellijay.
With local leaders Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson and Chamber President/CEO Jennifer Grimmer also attending, the family listened as Speaker Ralston read the official resolution naming the bridge and delivered two duplicated signs to the family members.
Ralston said, “He was a very highly thought of person in this community.”
Mathews opened his own sawmill in Ellijay in 1965 after operating others for 15 years previous. According to the approved resolution, he later completed the total electrification of the business in 1966 which “allowed for the streamlining of production and an increase in lumber supply used in the manufacture of furniture and flooring.”
A special feat in that day, the electrification allowed for 15,000 feet of lumber to be sawed in a day with grading still done by hand. This also attracted other businesses to the county at the time and aided in modernizing the area.
Patsy Harris, one of Mathews’ daughters, accepted a bound copy of the resolution on behalf of the family.
Harris said, “Thanks be to God, there is seven of us children and we’re all still living. We’re all in our 70’s and 80’s. I appreciate what you did.”
Maxine Clark of Blairsville and Mathew’s eldest daughter, chuckled as she fought back tears when asked about the sign and what it meant to see her father memorialized in the area they grew up. Amid the tearful moment she could only reply, “What do you think?”
Taking a moment, Clark eventually said, “Daddy was the best man in my life. I still can’t talk about it but I guess I’m the ‘bawl-box’ of the family.”
Each of his seven children, from eldest to youngest, are Maxine Clark, Joann Crotzer, Doris Hammond, Jackie Allums, James Mathews, Patsy Harris, and Susan Buckner.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – During the county’s monthly work session today, information received over a zoom call was revealed as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, along with Public Works Director Jim Smith spoke on it’s involvement with another Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge project.
According to Smith, the state is discussing replacement of two bridges on Highway 52 East. The project would require a detour along state roads as they plan to go about the project. Smith went on to add that this could mean closure of as section of the highway for up to a year.
Through traffic would take alternative state roads. However, Smith noted that much of the local traffic would end up relying on Lower Cartecay Bridge for certain traffic and access routes. The project has been under discussion since it was condemned in April, 2017. It was later adopted into a state replacement program, and it was later given a priority over another local bridge.
Now, the bridge could see the beginning of construction to replace it over five years later. According to Chairman Paris, the date given by the state would be August, 2022.
In addition to this, Smith said that the state hopes to start its 52 East Bridges project in 2025.
Paris added later that Smith presented a strong argument that the DOT needs to move the start date on Lower Cartecay to a earlier date so that the bridge will definitely be completed and available for traffic as necessary for local traffic.
While the state made no official promises, Smith said representatives “didn’t disagree” with a need for an earlier start to Lower Cartecay.
This project has gone through several plans for replacement in the county as former Post Commissioner Travis Crouch debated for setting aside money in the annual budget to replace the bridge before the board found the state replacement program.
A massive reduction in local costs, the county applied and was accepted into the program, but has, until today, never heard of official start dates for the physical construction as the state has been acquiring right of ways and engineering plans for the project.
Paris said both he and Smith stressed the importance of having he bridge completed sooner rather than later, especially with another major bridge project nearby so close behind it on the timeline.