I’m proud to have known PTC’s founding father

Carolyn Cary's picture

Regarding the article by Steve Brown, The Citizen, May 13, I must take issue with his premise.

Brown, a parvenu if there ever was one, has evidently decided that living in a community means being divisive and questioning well-established historical facts. As a native of the area, one would think Brown would not want to do this.

I have been privileged to live in Fayette County for all but seven years of Peachtree City’s history. I have been writing about its conception, its good times and bad, and have come to know personally most of those men who were involved.

Its history begins in 1956 when two real estate men in College Park, Earl Denny and Golden Pickett, began searching for large tracts of raw land. They decided that the western side of Fayette County would be a good place to look. It was near an international airport, there were two major highways intersecting there, and a railroad track ran all the way through the area.

They proceeded to browse the area, known then as Shakerag and Clover, and stopped in the bank in Tyrone. Bank manager Floy Farr listened politely as they outlined their desire to acquire several thousand acres to create a new town.

Farr sent them south on Ga. Highway 74 to talk to “Mr. Bob” Huddleston, who owned as much as 7,000 acres.

Denny, the more aggressive of the two, talked a big talk. Mr. Bob listened politely and agreed to take an option on selling some land at $30 an acre.

Things were looking up for the real estate developers and Denny contacted Pete Knox Jr. in Augusta, who was a large land and timber holder. Knox and his brother, Wyck, who also had an office in Atlanta, were in the business of building prefab houses and were interested in a place to create a village using this newfangled type of housing.

An article in The Fayette County News, Oct. 3, 1956, related the news that a new development was planned for western Fayette County.

A Fayette County businessperson, J.B. Masters, told me just last week that he remembers Denney coming into a barber shop in Fayetteville extolling the virtues of investing in a brand new town to be built on the western side of the county. Masters said he smiled politely and graciously declined to take part in this wild idea.

An article in The Atlanta Journal, May 13, 1957, caught the eye of a Georgia Tech junior, Joel Cowan. He was the roommate of a Tech senior, Pete Knox III.

Cowan thought this “new town” sounded like a project he wanted to be associated with and the father of his roommate was mentioned as a part of the project. His roommate arranged a luncheon with Dad and Cowan.

Cowan was asked to manage the new town without salary during his senior year, and was promised stock at the end of the year. He agreed. His duties were to “manage the Fayette County land, collect rent for leased farms, keep the creditor farmers happy so they wouldn’t foreclose (no, they hadn’t been paid yet), fight forest fires and help to plan the community,” which he did. Yes, that included driving down from Atlanta to fight the occasional fire.

There were not, however, specific plans as to the layout of the new city, until a corporation was formed in 1957, The Peachtree Corporation of Georgia. Knox Jr. served as a director and Cowan was manager.

Also on board, was Willard C. Byrd and Associates, who were landscape architects and planning consultants. The term “city planner” hadn’t been invented yet. Working for this firm at the time was Walter Hunziker, who was also attending Georgia Tech.

Hunziker proffered the idea of a planned town such as were being built in England. He and Byrd probably created the color landscapes that appear in the 1957 prospectus. For several years newspaper articles referred to the new community as “New Town.” It is felt that Byrd is the one who finally came up with the name “Peachtree City.”

Evidently Hunziker had been contacted somewhat recently by former Mayor Brown. He now lives in Cannes, France, and Brown asked for his remembrances. Bless his heart, due to the fact that it had been at least 54 or 55 years since he even thought about the matter, and the brochure he sent was not correct, some misconceptions have occurred.

In an email to Joel Cowan, Dec. 8, 2008, Hunziker wrote, “I had lost most contacts [in Atlanta] until the Internet came up, and on Google I found out that Peachtree City had become real, and that you were its first mayor. Congratulations!”

Obviously Hunziker was not aware his short connection to the matter in 1957 was brought to fruition.

By the fall of 1958 it became understandable that the project was going to require mega-dollars, more than Knox had to invest. No matter how much Denny tried to convince Fayette Countians the new city was a deal, folks just smiled and graciously said no thanks.

Just a few weeks before the 25th city anniversary, I traveled to Augusta and spent an afternoon with Pete Knox Jr. He was most pleasant and courteous. Though he acquired options on thousands of acres of land, he could go no further. Many of the land descriptions were old, i.e., 100 feet to the oak tree and over to the pea patch.

He told Cowan that he was turning the project over to him, leaving Cowan to find the financing to continue. As much as Knox was excited about a new town idea, he had never been to the site more than twice, and one of those was just after 1959 when Cowan invited him to spend the night. Knox can be credited, however, with hiring Cowan.

Now, one thing I have noticed in my 43 years around Cowan: he was and always will be a visionary. He took the project on, found the financing, drew up a concrete plan, this goes here, that goes there, straightened out the fuzzy-worded deeds, applied to the legislature to create a new city, and had a house built in 30 days to comply with the rules for creating a new city. Those rules included the city had to have a mayor, and the mayor had to live in the city. No problem.

Because those 1957 drawings were rather nebulous and drawn without even seeing the property, Cowan had to be definitive.

He drew up a plan and he stuck to his plan. He made his plan work. The dictionary describes the word, “father,” figuratively, as “a man who did important work and was a worker or leader.”

When Cowan, myself and many others in the 1950s and ’60s came to Fayette County, we looked around to see where we could volunteer, and where we could help to make things better.

Decades later, many of us are now in our 70s, but still are volunteering and contributing to our community. We do nothing that is divisive.

It is with pride that I say that I have known and worked with the “Father of Peachtree City,” Joel Cowan, for over four of those decades.

[Carolyn Cary is the official historian of Fayette County and a contributing writer to The Citizen. Her email is ccary@TheCitizen.com.]

login to post comments | Carolyn Cary's blog

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
SPQR's picture
Submitted by SPQR on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:18am.

Steve, you ignorant parvenu.

I just love it. Keep rocking the boat. Question everything. Let there be no sacred cows.

CCB's picture
Submitted by CCB on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:40am.

Is there a vaccination for parvenu. I think my friend's dog died from it.

That old girl is getting a little uppity.

Submitted by jevank on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 11:39am.

No vaccine or cure, but I hear a little medical marijuana relieves the symptoms.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:11am.

You don't say...

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 12:13am.

I cannot say there is much difference between what Ms. Cary wrote and my column from 13 March 2009.

The slight difference would be Ms. Cary refers to the term "father" with a somewhat nebulous meaning to describe Cowan , and I used the term "founder" to appropriately describe Pete Knox, Jr.

The absolute fact as stated in my column was if there were no Pete Knox, Jr., there would be no Joel Cowan as employed by Knox.

Ms. Cary's knock on Hunziker was uncalled for under any circumstances. It is sad to say that Willard Byrd and Walter Hunizker have been written out of most accounts of Peachtree City's history, including Ms. Cary's, until now.

Ms. Cary has relied upon the Floy Farr account of meeting Denny and company, but a great deal of meat is missing in the limited account Farr provided since he was mildly involved at that juncture.

It is important to note that Farr served on a state entity related to cotton with Knox kin. The account is told a little bit different from that end.

Submitted by sokak6 on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 7:50pm.

I had to look it up. But how apt.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a parvenu as: "A person from a humble background who has rapidly gained wealth or an influential social position; a nouveau riche; an upstart, a social climber. Also in extended use. (Generally used with the implication that the person concerned is unsuited to the new social position, esp. through lacking the necessary manners or accomplishments.)"

The term designates individuals not socially accepted by individuals already established in their new class.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:37am.

Of course, so does divisive. This may be Brown's only contribution to the city - a new word that we have never needed to use before, parvenu. Next time you see him be sure to say "Hello Mr. Parvenu, how are you?" Has a certain melody that is pleasing to the ear.

Submitted by Doug on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 9:19am.

My family has known Carolyn Cary for many years. My mother spent a bunch of years working in the historical society. We always thought the world of Ms. Carolyn.

I just can't believe how low brow she went on this one. Look, if you disagree, just say you disagree. The name calling and accusations are going too far.

None of my family have ever really thought much of Sallie Satterthwaite anyway. She's a liberal activist type.

Submitted by AllKnowing on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 7:50am.

What I wonder is why does the Citizen give Brown any ink? He is lacking in manners and accomplishments for sure. He certainly is socially unacceptable. He is so nasty that he repells people. Thank goodness for the day he went of office in our town.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:17am.

All you have to do is read most anything Brown has written, and you will soon realize that we have a PERFECT person right here in our midst...and he goes by the name of Steve Brown...

CCB's picture
Submitted by CCB on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:37am.

Spyglass sounds jealous.

Say what you want about Brown, but don't say he doesn't know what he's talking about. I'm still a Logsdon fan and glad he decided not to run again. There goes Brown's summer newspaper writing project down the drain without Harold as a candidate. Maybe Plunkett will run.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 6:20pm.

that's it, jealousy. LMAO..

I saw enough of Brown in his term in office and later and in the last Mayoral Campaign to form what I believe to be a fairly accurate opinion.

That said, opinions vary, and most on here aren't exactly jumping to Brown's defense.

ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 8:07am.

You go Carolyn, trash away. Sallie, too. The two of 'em are a pair. Love taking their shots.

One thing I love about the South is whenever someone is about to say something really crappy about somebody they start with "Bless His Heart", and then whammo....In this case Carolyn uses a fancy word to show how smart she is then she trashes the old dude retired in France for his alleged bad memory. Maybe, just maybe, he tried to forget about you folks walking around in bedsheets over here !

Have a nice day, y'all !

P.S. Another Southernism I love before before the hammer drops--- "I just love her to death but...." (followed by any number of insults including recent weight gain).

Submitted by PTC4LIFE on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 2:06pm.

You know southernisms is our nice way of telling you that you're a moron!

It's too bad outsiders feel they need to create lies or half truths to try and become relevent.

Mr. Brown should get a real job instead of living off his wife, and newcomers should know we welcome people with different life experience, just don't come here and tell us you know the truth better than us. It is also interesting that Brown and followers shoot down the men and women who worked so hard to contribute the most to the city in the early years. This community, while not perfect, is far better than most and exactly why you still live here.

Bless your little heart, Steve.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 10:13am.


SPQR's picture
Submitted by SPQR on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 9:03am.

Help us out here so we can get on the track to correct Yankee etiquette.

Submitted by AlarminglyCorrect on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 8:54am.

Oh boy, another displaced yankee come to the bad, nasty, ol' South. Hahaha. We just love it when you pathetic, jobless Yankees come south because the North has taxed you and regulated you right out of your beloved north. Why don't you go back to the Rust Belt ? Why don't you go back to New York or Ohio, or Illinois, or Minn-a-soooooo-ta, you disgusting punk. Can't? Why? No jobs, high taxes too many liberals controlling your life. Perhaps you can go back north and, to use a line from your gutter-mouthed buddy, "Dice", you can always make money up north like "Little Boy Blew" Hahaha. Never forget , we love unhappy yankees who HAVE to move south...you're always good for a laugh. You'll never be anything here but a punch-line. Hahaha.

ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 9:34am.

Li'l bit of "Heritage with Hate" there, folks. There's rude people everywhere including here. Carolyn's shots are an amusing example.

Submitted by yada yada yada on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 1:27pm.

We don't give a damn how you did it in New York. Bless your little heart.

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 8:04am.

I was stupid enough to vote for Harold Logsdon and I'm sure you did too. I'd take Steve Brown back in a heartbeat.

An honest person has to admit Brown has been right a bunch of times. My personal opinion is when people like AllKnowing start attacking people's character to avoid the real subject, then Brown's probably right.

Vote Republican

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.