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The History of Peachtree Corners - Part Four: ‘The Iron Horse Changes Everything’

For most towns, the arrival of the railroad meant growth and prosperity. For Pinckneyville, it meant a slow, painful death.

During the first half of the 19th century, Pinckneyville – now known as Peachtree Corners – became a prosperous agriculture-based community.  There was even a post office in operation. 

Travelers from the north and the east would likely take the trail that led them through Pinckneyville on their way to the south and the west.  There they could find lodging for the night and even a place of worship on Sunday.

But that all changed by the end of the Civil War, though not so much as a result of the war – the area was of little to no tactical or strategic benefit to either side.  What changed the course of history for Pinckneyville was the railroad; more to the point, the “iron horse” coming through what would become Norcross.

The land that went through what is now Norcross was better suited for the railroad.  It just happened to be located a few miles east of the Pinckneyville community.  But those few miles made a world of difference.

John Thrasher, an entrepreneur, railroad builder and philanthropist, founded Norcross in October 1870, about the time the Atlanta and Richmond Air-Line Rail Road, operated by the Richmond and Danville Railroad, made its way through the area.  Known to most as “Cousin John,” Thrasher named the town Norcross, after his good friend and former Atlanta Mayor John Norcross.  Thrasher would serve as Norcross’ first mayor.

Once the railroad was built, it seemed that Norcross boomed almost overnight. 

People wanted to be near the railroad and the commercial benefits associated with it.  Soon, houses, churches and schools – the first of which was built by Thrasher – were springing up all over the new town.  Within just a few years, the railroad would become the backbone of the Norcross economy and a strong commercial influence for more than a century.  Norcross became a vacation destination for many in Atlanta looking to get away from the city for a while.  Visitors and businessmen often stayed at the Brunswick Hotel that boasted 29 rooms.

Pinckneyville, in the meantime, began to die off.  The post office was closed and the trail that connected east Georgia and South Carolina to Alabama and southern Georgia became less relevant.  Instead of a good day’s ride on horseback just to get to the excitement and business opportunities found in post-war Atlanta, people in and around Norcross could now get there in an hour or less by rail.  Even the Flint Hill Methodist Church in Pinckneyville, which had been established a half century earlier, finally moved to Norcross to become the Norcross Methodist Church.

Within a few years, Pinckneyville became the place where people “used to live” or where families still had some farmland.  Now, going to Norcross meant “going to town.”  It would remain that way for the next century as Norcross grew and Pinckneyville faded.  And though it was a longtime in coming, the fortunes of the old Pinckneyville community would change for the better when, just as it had in the beginning, commercial opportunities would present themselves to a new generation of “pioneers.”

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