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Column: Buck’s head stops here when it comes to storytelling
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
December 24, 2012 11:25 AM | 3045 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
In the course of writing these columns, I on occasion get something wrong.

While never my intention, as I dig for the histories behind obscure memories, the information is not always reliable. I also tend to trust other people’s memories over my own, which has consequences.

I would like to take this column to address some of these issues, most of which were brought to my attention by our readers. Do not read anything into the fact that this paper’s date is Dec. 26 and therefore will be perhaps the least read paper of the year.

In a June 6 column on Standing Fort Peach Tree and the founding of Atlanta, I wrote Native Americans lived near the confluence of Peachtree Creek and the Chattahoochee River for thousands of years before settlers came into the area. A reader objected to my characterization, saying it made it sound as though the Natives had not lived in the area for thousands of years prior to our arrival. That is clearly not the case as settlers and the natives lived in harmony and traded frequently at that outpost for many years.

In an Oct. 24 column on one of the most beloved places from my childhood, the Toy Museum in Buckhead, I wrote that it was open from 1984 to 1986. I have to admit this number struck me as odd as I was 11 in 1984 and had therefore begun to move away from toys and into more mischievous distractions. I remember being enthralled with the “Star Wars” toys and the windup toys, and would have sworn that the museum operated in the late 1970s.

Several readers said the same. I received a kind note from museum owner Joe Daole’s daughter not to correct the date but to say “Thank you.” In my response I asked her when the museum was open and found out it was open from 1978 to 1984.

My final error has been perpetuated by generations of Buckhead residents, passed on verbally and even in writing about how our community came by its name. I have written this tale so many times now that I have lost track. It is said that Henry Irby hung a buck’s head near his goods store at the intersection of present-day West Paces Ferry and Roswell roads. Our trusted Buckhead historian Wright Mitchell, a co-founder of the Buckhead Heritage Society, actually tracked down the truth.

John Whitley, whose cabin remains in a Vinings backyard to this day, shot and killed the great buck and hoisted its head on a 3- to 4-foot-high stake on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center near the stream that runs through the campus. This led to the expression for travelers and farmers that they would meet at “the buck’s head.” This buck’s head was not on Henry Irby’s property.

Of course I am sure I have made others. There was some grumbling about Fat Fred’s Fruit Emporium and a place called the Candy Corner, which I was never able to track down but continue to be interested in. And there is the near-complete lack of information on R.L. Hope Elementary School, which every once in a while a reader will remind me did exist.

I guarantee only mistakes will occur again in these columns but never on purpose. They will happen because, as in the examples above, there are gaps in our history and our storytelling. The only way to fill those gaps is to tell these stories and let readers expound on them.

Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can reached at

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