The History of Peachtree Corners - Part Three: 'Bibles, Guns and The Mystery of The Founders'
As settlers began moving deeper into Georgia, clearing farmland and establishing settlements that would grow into villages and towns, churches were an integral part of their lives and the life of the community. Such was the case in Peachtree Corners.
Faith was the cornerstone of life for most early settlers. Often one of the first buildings constructed in a new settlement was the church, though it was usually raised after the tavern. Taverns were the place to meet, purchase goods, find lodging or seek refreshment. In short, taverns generated commerce – and commerce was the driving force of a new settlement.
But the church was also very important, and nowhere more than in Pinckneyville, the frontier settlement that would become Peachtree Corners. In addition to a community's spiritual center, churches usually kept a settlement's earliest records, as was the case in Pinckneyville – though the founding of the settlement is still wrapped in something of a mystery.
Pinckneyville was established sometime during the 1820s. We know that much because the area’s first church, Mt. Carmel Methodist Church, was established in 1826 and was built in 1827 on five acres of land donated by Pinckneyville settler Daniel N. Pittman.
What isn’t clear is whether Pinckneyville was merely named after or was actually founded by one or more of the Pinckney family – Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, his brother Thomas and a cousin, once removed, also named Charles Pinckney – all from Charleston, S.C.
Charles Cotesworth and his cousin, Charles, were both delegates to the Constitutional Convention, both American Revolutionary War heros and, at one time or another, both ministers to foreign governments on behalf of American interests.
Thomas Pinckey was also an American Revolutionary War hero, as well as a U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and, in 1795, the chief negotiator of what ultimately became the Treaty of San Lorenzo, or Pinckney's Treaty, with Spain.
Both Thomas and his cousin, Charles (not to be confused with Charles Cotesworth – Thomas’ brother) were governors of South Carolina, which started a family tradition. When it was all said and done, there would be seven more South Carolina governors from the family over the course of time.
But the question remains; was the settlement of Pinckneyville an investment by one or more of the Pinckney’s – what today might be considered a land development – or was it simply named in their honor, for whatever reason? Many historians believe the settlement was, at the very least, an investment of some type by one or more of the Pinckney family members, given their far reaching political and financial endeavors.
Despite whatever involvement the Pinckney family may have had, by the end of the 1820s the settlement of Pinckneyville was a growing community of planters on the stagecoach road connecting eastern Georgia to Alabama. It consisted of the Hunnicutt Inn, the first inn of the settlement, Mt. Carmel Methodist Church and the Washington Academy, the first fee based school around, which was located on what is now Spalding Road and the site of another historic church that goes back to the days of the Pinckneyville settlement, Shiloh Baptist Church. Pinckneyville even had a post office that operated from 1828 until after the Civil War in 1866.
But by the middle of the 1830s, another church was established that would call Peachtree Corners its home. It began in 1836 as Prosperity Church in what is now Chamblee.
When the Civil War broke out, church records indicate that 14 men from the church went off to fight, though it isn’t clear in which battles they were engaged.
As Union soldiers made their way down from the north, leaving a charred and blood soaked trail of destruction from Chickamauga to Kennesaw Mountain and, finally, Atlanta, a band of Yankee soldiers operating on General Sherman’s eastern flank – possibly Garrard’s Raiders, who ravaged and burned Covington – made camp at Prosperity Church. While there, the soldiers burned the alter tables of the church in their campfires.
By war’s end, only six of the church’s 14 members who left to fight returned to their church and families.
The old church would eventually move to present day Peachtree Corners to become Peachtree Corners Presbyterian Church, located on present day Spalding Drive – having endured the hardships of the Civil War and Reconstruction, two world wars and the Great Depression, while managing, like Mt. Carmel Methodist Church, to grow and serve its faithful even today.