Pelham is a small southwest Georgia town with a rich history. Located in Mitchell County,just east of the Flint River, on the crossroads of U.S. Highway 19 and State Route 93, Pelham is approximately ten miles south of Camilla and thirty-seven miles south of Albany. The town was incorporated in 1881 and named in honor of Major John Pelham, who was killed during the Civil War (1861-65) at the Battle of Kelly’s Ford in Virginia in 1863. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the population was 3,898.
The town became an agricultural and commercial stronghold during the early twentieth century, due in large part to the presence of a towering, retail emporium called the Hand Trading Company, which occupied a four-story building in the heart of downtown. In 1914 Judson Larrabee Hand—the father of Virginia Hand, who would marry Cason Callaway of Callaway Gardens fame—began building the store following his visit to the Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago, Illinois. The Hand store featured a huge decorated dome, 100 columns, and nearly 100,000 square feet of floor space. It was the ultimate all-purpose superstore, offering a wide range of products from groceries and dry goods to tractors and other large farm equipment. The store closed in 1984, and the building remains one of the city’s most popular historic attractions.
Despite its small size, Pelham attracts thousands of visitors each year. An estimated 10,000 people converge in Pelham on the first Saturday of every October for the annual wildlife festival. The Pelham Country Jamboree, held every Saturday night in the downtown train depot, draws people from around the region. Other attractions include the Bacon Family Homestead, the James Price McRee House, and Mt. Enon Church and Cemetery.
Few towns the size of Pelham have a full-power television station. WABW-TV, Channel 14, is a repeater of Georgia Public Broadcasting, which is based in Atlanta. The station’s transmitter is located just outside the Pelham city limits, and the UHF station broadcasts a powerful signal that provides southwest Georgia with public television programming.
Pelham participates in the Better Hometown Program, operated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. This community-development program is a public-private partnership intended to stimulate the downtown revitalization of small communities with populations between 1,000 and 5,000.