Sharing memories of Peachtree City’s early days


The previous column entitled “The developer who created today’s Peachtree City — and gets little credit for it” got quite a bit of attention last week.

History is a fascinating look at people, actions, decisions, interactions, and behaviors. History’s cousin, legacy, is also a depiction of specific people and events.

Of course, as Winston Churchill made clear, the historical narrative is largely dependent upon who is writing it. History and legacy can be perilous preoccupations, indeed. Peachtree City’s history is no different.

So now you know

The overwhelming majority of residents in Peachtree City (perhaps 99.99%) would have never known about the city’s founder Pete Knox, Jr. had I not started writing about him in The Citizen back in 2009. I stumbled upon Knox while doing some research as mayor.

Local schoolchildren were writing errant papers on the city’s history. A local amateur historian had been promoting a revisionist history for years, and everyone went for it. There were no “official” accounts.

Joel Cowan referred to my lifting the historical curtain away from Knox in 2009 as an “incendiary editorial.” Fortunately, my writings brought Knox some attention and he ended up getting at least a mention in a history booklet released by the city’s library.

There has been a great deal of legacy confusion in Peachtree City. Somehow the founder’s employee, Joel Cowan, was cited as the founder everywhere I looked, especially in bios of Cowan on the sites of various organizations he was involved in.

I was deeply saddened that Cowan himself never lifted Knox and the other investing founders up in the public forum, the people who gave him the opportunity to be part of the city’s great story. To me, it showed a great deal of disrespect.

Like Knox, the other man who was tossed out of the historical narrative was Peachtree City Development Corporation’s (PCDC) Doug Mitchell.

Back in the 1800s, Fayette County was a huge land mass. The land was eventually divided into current Fayette, DeKalb, Spalding, Clayton, and what is now South Fulton (formerly called Campbell). All of those counties had the same chance at success, but one ranks much higher on the quality of life metrics by far: Fayette County. The difference is Peachtree City and Mitchell made the difference.

Had it not been for Pete Knox, Jr.’s crazy idea of starting a city from scratch (in a county that resented the new city) and Doug Mitchell forming the right organization with the right people to propel the vision to unprecedented heights, there would be no Peachtree City or Fayette County as it is today.

It’s important to give people their due. You don’t have to like them but at least acknowledge their accomplishments. This is a good lesson for our children, especially in our culturally divided society.

Readers recalling Doug Mitchell

I thought it apropos to list some of the comments from social media about the column on Doug Mitchell and the city’s history.

Michael Witt commented that he grew up in Annapolis Maryland in the late 70s-early/mid-80s. Mitchell and his stepfather (president of a large civil engineering company outside DC) went to many conventions together. Witt’s mom and Mitchell’s wife became best friends.

“I can recall as a kid in Maryland hearing about Peachtree City! Doug was very proud of what he had done/was doing,” Witt said. “Ironically, through a million twists and turns, I (along with my two sisters) now call Peachtree City home. I don’t recall Doug being an especially likable guy, but you have to give him some credit regarding his job.”

Former Fayette County Commissioner Peter Pfeifer said, “Doug and PCDC were certainly not perfect but are really most responsible for what was created.”

It’s a theme with Mitchell, the haughtiness, but the execution was impressive.

L. Gibbs worked in a local dentist’s office where Mitchell was a patient. She said Mitchell had some anxiety regarding dental procedures. Gibbs successfully worked to make him more comfortable.

“Ironically, he never once shared the details on his work with PCDC or his role in the development of PTC,” Gibbs explained. “He came across as a sweet family man who was very proud of his children.”

So appreciative was Mitchell of Gibbs’ compassion that he allowed Gibbs and her husband to stay at his log home retreat in Montana. “It was such a gracious and welcome retreat that he gave us and refused any payment for the stay,” said Gibbs. “Glad to see this article from Steve Brown because the city of PTC definitely should recognize him for his skills at bringing PTC to where it is today.”

Perhaps one day there will be an official recognition of Knox and Mitchell. You never know.

Filling in the gaps

Michael Jerrell reminded me not to leave out Steve Black. Black, now president of Pathway (formerly PCDC), was also a force at PCDC. Black has overseen much of the Pathway development outside of Fayette County, including Summer Grove and Avery Park in Coweta County, Monarch Village in Henry County, and Lake Forest in Forsyth County.

Resident reader Tom Walsh rightly pointed out that I never told the readers how the alcohol rehab program worked out for Pete Knox, Jr. Knox cleaned himself up and lived a sober life until his death in 1993.

As no parent should ever have to experience, Knox had the unfortunate circumstance of living with a daughter and a son dying from cancer.

During Knox’s drinking days, he bought a lumber mill on a whim. It was a disastrous move and could have ruined the family. The sons Pete III and Boone had to waste a great deal of their young adulthood working countless hours to save the project for their father.

Pete III became a national figure in real estate investment trusts while Boone became a prominent figure in Georgia banking.

Steve Goins said he was in high school locally in 1979. He said in addition to the Big Star as indicated in the column there was also the A&T grocery store located in the Aberdeen Village Center. “Of course, the one constant in most of the history of PTC is going to be Jim Royal and Partners II Pizza,” Goins said.

Many readers have commented on moving to Peachtree City in the 1970s and remembering the horse stables and pastures. You might have wondered where the street names “Bridlepath Lane” and “Clydesdale Road” came from.

The equestrian theme for the city did not survive, and the site was converted to what is now the Glenloch Recreation Center and soccer fields.

Share your experiences

If you are a Peachtree City long-timer, let us know your thoughts on the city in the 1970s — 1980s in the comment section.

I am working on crafting something on the gregarious Mayor Fred Brown next.

Read the previous history columns in this series with these links:

Part 1 – The founder, the idea, what now? 

Part 2 – The land purchase, the hostility, and the first steps 

Part 3 – The crash, the change, and the new direction 

Part 4 – Worldwide turmoil, Peachtree City in foreclosure, and new ownership 

Part 5 – The developer did it but got no credit

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]


  1. Steve, great job on the series! I am finally getting around to chiming in. The folks at PCDC who we worked with & were friends with for years…….. not enough can be said about what they accomplished. I’m glad PCDC has come to light again because in my travels around town, the vast majority of the people I meet have never heard of them! They could have developed all the lots & sold them to a big national builder. Instead, it was slow, controlled growth……..& always keeping the land use plan intact.
    You’ve done a good job noting Doug Mitchell’s impact, & Steve Black has been mentioned, deservedly so. But a couple of guys from PCDC, whose names have somehow not been brought up (unless I missed it), are Jerry Petersen & Rick Schlosser. Jerry was the guy who designed the subdivisions, streets, lots……he did it all……..even named the streets! Rick ran PCMG, the marketing arm of PCDC. Rick was the one who set up the PTC Info Center in Westpark & was the broker for the sales force. The info center is where newcomers or existing residents could visit to find out who the approved builders were, & what subdivisions were being built. There was a huge topographical map that showed the entire city, highlighting the new areas opening up. But Rick’s I think Rick has never gotten enough credit. He was constantly marketing to “north-siders” to come down to visit PTC. But Rick also was instrumental in helping to establish the price-ranges for each subdivision & worked with Jerry worked to make them all work…….always allowing for connecting cart paths.
    Rick also worked with builders to fairly distribute lots, & which subdivisions they were best suited for. Again, PCDC always resisted the temptation to sell out to big national builders.
    We recently lost Rick, way too soon. I always felt that he had as much to do with the success of Peachtree City as any one person. I hope one day he’ll be honored alongside Farr & Cowan. He deserves it!
    Keep up the good work, Steve.
    Duey Pfeifer

  2. Steve, your series has been interesting to read. I have lived in Peachtree City for 49 years now (I was born here). Growing up here was a blessing and a curse. We were sheltered from a lot of things that happened in other parts of the country. That is why we called it The Bubble. We liked the quiet nature of the city. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone you knew. Before it was A&T Supermarket, it was Jim Hudson’s supermarket. Weird to think I have been here longer than Partners. Summers were spent riding bikes all over the city, having the Partners buffet for lunch, playing video games at Galaxy Games or the Fun Factory. Sporting goods were bought at Pro-Am Sports. A scoop of ice cream was from Oh, My Goodness. You got your first haircut from Mickey at Aberdeen Barber Shop (Now Mickey Scott’s Barbershop). Flowers came from Cappie’s. My family owns M.A. Industries on Dividend Dr. We have been here since 1971. I think we are the oldest, manufacturing company in the city. When Hardees came, we thought we were big time. We spent Saturday nights at the amphitheater listening to bluegrass bands at the McIntosh Opry. I could go on and on. It is fun to reminisce.
    We were all taught Joel Cowan and Floy Farr started the city.
    Thanks again,
    Scott Peacock

    • Steve, Enjoy your articles as well! I moved here a few years before Scott as a young teen, before Aberdeen Shopping Center was built. At that time Willowbend Shopping Center was the only retail space I recall. It consisted of one building where Al’s Dry Cleaning and laundromat are housed today. Hudson Food Market, Pak-A-Chic (Paul Sikes owner) and the US Post Office were tenants at the time. Once Aberdeen was built it was occupied by Brothers Ltd (short-lived men’s clothing store owned by Mansours from Newnan and located where Partners II is today), Thompson’s Pharmacy (Cappies Flower Shop today) which included a fountain food and ice cream bar, Hudson’s Market relocated (bowling alley today), a woman’s clothing store in upper part of Y-Knots today, Ruth Crumptons Beauty Shop in lower section, along with Mickey’s Barber Shop, Dr. Fleming’s Dental Office and a bike shop where the Tux Rental is now.

      The city was a far different place vs. today. Very few golf carts, a few metal 3 wheelers used for golf by those near the country club. For teen entertainment motorcycles were commonly seen on dirt paths that ran from Golfview Dr near Blue Smoke Trail into Kedron area across old Hwy 74 down into McDuff Parkway area. At night Hancheys (SP) Gulf Gas Station next to Willowbend Shopping (torn down now) was the hangout for older teens with muscle cars. It was not uncommon to see the Police Chief Haskell Barber or his officer Freddy Cox hanging with this crowd at Hancheys, as very little else was going on in PTC. On warm weather weekends “The Rocks” on Line Creek was a popular hangout for teens, but hardly as accessible as it is today.

      4th of July has always a big celebration for the citizens, parades and competitions at Riley Field back in the day. Riley Field was originally a softball complex with robust adult men and women leagues. Its a shame what has become of those softball leagues today! In the late 70’s the rock band Kansas (Carry on My Wayward Son) relocated to this area and would host benefit charity games at Riley Field against some of the local citizenry. Lead singer Steve Walsh lived in the Glenloch area near the horse stables. I could never understand why a guy whose band was opening for the Rolling Stones moved here, but he was a common site jogging on our roads, as were the girls with their horses from the stables. One girl in particular caught my attention and she is still with me today!

      If you were fortunate enough to live on Lake Peachtree or had a friend that did, boating was always a great way to have fun. For me learning how to ski on that lake always brings back memories of having to help Norman Jones clean the boat first, because Ralph said, and then having Norman wear you out by pulling you in circles that created giant waves for you to crash on. My knees still hurt Norman, here Shaddix!

      In the Fall, Sunday afternoons were reserved for football at the Presbyterian Church field on Willowbend where the child care building and parking lot are now. It always started out as touch football, but you know turned into very competitive tackle when the boys from Fayetteville, Brooks or Tyrone showed up. None of our high schools were any good at sports (not like today), of course there was only one high school Fayette County. The first athletic team I remember being any good was the golf team made up of guys who played a lot of golf at Flat Creek Club; David Harris, Walt Kaurin and Jimmy Ward. I think they actually started the team at Fayette and eventually won state.

      Moving to Peachtree City in my youth, I was so mad at my Dad as we drove down Hwy 74, this old 2 lane winding road that seemed 100 miles long adorned by cow pastures, abandon shacks, and not much else vs. living in the northern metropolis I had become accustomed, but in the end I wouldn’t have it any other way! The people you mentioned Steve and so many more made this a great place to live and raise a family! Hopefully it stays that way for many future generations!