It was not downtown. It was in Buckhead, but it was not at Henry Irby’s tavern, which was located near the intersection of present-day West Paces Ferry, Roswell and Peachtree roads. Irby didn’t purchase that property until 1838. It was about 5 miles west, where Peachtree Creek meets the Chattahoochee River. It was there the Muskogee Indians lived in a village called Standing Peachtree. Today the village would be located off Ridgewood Road near Moores Mill Road.
The reference to the “alpha and omega” of public roads is taken directly from the first chapters of famed Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett’s “Atlanta and Environs.”
The Muskogee were known as the Creek Indians because of their propensity to live near creeks and rivers. Their presence in the South goes back 12,000 years. These are the true Buckhead natives. Standing Peachtree was a significant trading post for pioneer settlers and traders. It was the first commerce center of what would eventually become Atlanta.
The village and name take on further significance during the War of 1812, a nearly three-year conflict between the young U.S. and Great Britain and her Indian allies, including the Muskogee. In order to keep the Muskogee at bay, the state of Georgia constructed a series of forts along the Chattahoochee River. One of those forts was Fort Standing Peachtree, which was completed in 1814 and sat on a hill overlooking the village. While the fort didn’t see any action during the war, it became the first post office in the area and is approximately where the Western & Atlantic Railroad crossed the Chattahoochee before reaching its terminus in the future downtown of Atlanta.
Standing Peachtree is also the origin of Peachtree Road. It has been put forward by a number of authors, including Garrett, that “peach tree” could be a confusion of a “pitch tree,” which would have been a pine tree covered in sap, or pitch. But we only need to look back at those first few pages of “Atlanta and Environs” for the truth.
It is a first-hand account told to the Atlanta Constitution by a gentleman named George Washington Collier in 1897. Collier’s family owned much of the land that would become Ansley Park through south Buckhead. Collier Road carries the family name into modern times. Collier served as a mail carrier between Decatur and Allatoona with a stop at Fort Standing Peachtree.
Collier said in the interview there was a mound as high as a house near Standing Peachtree, and on top of that mound grew a peach tree. The references to a pitch tree are all second hand.
The route from Standing Peachtree to Gwinnett County became Peachtree Road, and the road has carried that name ever since, appropriate considering it was the most important road in the area.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.