Check this out--written by a Northlake area elementary school student in 1987!
 

Cravey/Briarmoor History--A 12-year old's Treasure

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF MY NEIGHBORHOOD?
By Damon Remigailo. December 14, 1987

 

About the Author
August 2006: Damon was born in Atlanta in 1975, the son of Alice & Richard and brother of Richard, Jr. His family then and now resides on Silver Lace Ct. He graduated from Hawthorne Elementary, Lakeside High, and UNC, Chapel Hill. He and his wife, Heidi are expecting their first child in September 2006. They live and work in the inner city of Memphis, TN, he a youth minister, she a nurse practitioner.


The purpose of this project is to learn about the history of the land where my family lives. It is also to learn about who owned the property before us, how the land was used and how the neighborhood developed.

A piece of property has a street address and a legal description. I live at 2531 Silver Lace Court in Atlanta, Georgia. The property 'deed says that it is lot 18, Block J, Briarmoor Manor Subdivision, land lot 247, district 18, DeKalb County. My parents bought it from Peachtree Development Corporation in June of 1979 and the deed was registered at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

The first people to own this land were the Creek Indians. By the eighteenth century there were around twenty thousand Creek Indians in Georgia and Alabama. White settlers moved into Creek Indian Territory, and Andrew Jackson defeated the Creeks in 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama. The Creek land was divided into five Georgia counties which were distributed by a lottery in land lots of two hundred two and a half acres each. Among these lands was the property where my family lives. It is in land lot 247 in DeKalb County which was originally granted to John E. Gilbert on December 18, 1821 for the grant fee of nineteen dollars.

Archibald Darrough bought land lot 247 for one hundred dollars on March 9, 1822 and sold it to John Blake for "two hundred dollars on July 24, 1822 •. John Blake operated Blake's Mill on the north fork of Peachtree Creek until his death in 1854. An. historical marker now stands on the site on Shallowford Road.

John Blake was also a farmer and owned twenty-three slaves. In his will he listed land lots 265, 266, 249: 264, 284, 232, 231, 283, 282 and 247, but land lot 247 was the most valuable because Peachtree Creek went through the property and was the source of power to run the mill. John Blake had three sons who lived in Randolph County, Alabama.

William W. McElroy bought land lot 247 for three thousand two hundred dollars on October 3, 1862. He was a farmer who fought in the Civil War. He married Margaret Tilly McElroy in 1840. They were founding members of the Doraville Associate Reform Presbyterian Church and were opposed to slavery. They are both buried in the Prospect Cemetery on North Peachtree Road in Chamblee. The church is now used as an antique shop and-the McElroy’s graves are behind the church.

When William died, the land was passed to J. W. F. Tilly and then to Stephen T. McElroy on February 18, 1868. S. T. McElroy was one of three children and was raised on the McElroy farm in Norcross. There is now a McElroy Road which runs south from Buford Highway in Doraville.

Stephen T. McElroy was born in 1845 and fought in the Civil War at Baker's Creek, Mississippi, where he was wounded in the left leg on November 18, 1862. His leg was amputated and he was given a disability discharge in 1863.

Stephen McElroy owned land lot 247 until he sold it to the Clark Stewart Company of Fulton County on February 3, 1921. The John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company foreclosed on the property on September 1, 1931, during the great depression. Lum C. Pitts bought it from the John Hancock Company on January 29, 1936.

On February 1, 1936 the Georgia Commissioner of Game and Fish, Zack D. Cravey leased land lot 247 from L. C. Pitts to be used for a game preserve. Pitts reserved the right to quarry any rock and granite for one year and to cut standing timber for two years.

For five years the game farm was used to breed and raise Georgia Native Bobwhite Quail, Asiatic Chukar Partridges, wild turkey and deer.

The quail hatchery was located where Hawthorne Drive divides into Hawthorne and Caladium Drives. The stone house which you can see today on Briarcliff Road near Hawthorne Drive was where the manager of the game farm lived. His first name was Barney.

The property lease was not renewed because the Atlanta climate was not appropriate for raising Quail.

Zack D. Cravey bought the land from Lum C. Pitts for himself and his family on January 11, 1944. He built a lake for fishing where the quarry had been. He built a cabin and stable. When Cravey Lake was being built, there was a rock crusher left from the quarry.

Briarcliff Road was already a state road from Atlanta to Tucker. It had been paved to Cravey Drive by Scott Candler, the Commissioner of DeKalb County, when the game farm was operating. Georgia Power Company built electric lines and the county extended the water system to the game farm. Cravey Drive was a dirt road then.

In 1950, John L. Taylor Sr., Zack Cravey’s son-in-law, built a house at the corner of Cravey Drive and Briarcliff Road and lived there until 1953.

Zack D. Cravey sold land lot•247 to his two sons and John L. Taylor, Sr. They formed the Peachtree Development Corporation to develop the land into lots for houses. They named the subdivision Briarmoor Manor. In 1954 Peachtree Development Corporation built the streets Cravey Drive, Briarmoor Manor Road, Sylvan Ramble and Hawthorne Drive. By 1961 Caladium Drive, Cosmos Court, Cosmos Drive and Hawthorne Place were developed. Some of the builders who built houses on these streets were :Fred Jones, Frances Milam and Joe Honea. In the 1970' s and 80' s Cravey Drive and Hawthorne Drive were extended and Canna Ridge Circle, Jasmine Court, Cravey Trail, Silver Lace Court and Hawthorne Cove were built. Joe Honea is now building on the last vacant land.

In an early plat my cul-de-sac, Silver Lace Court, was drawn as a through street named Begonia Way, I think the change was made because there was too much rock to continue the street.

The streets were named for flowers and trees by Margery Cravey Taylor, now Margery Gambrell, who is Zack Cravey's daughter. The land for Briarmoor Manor Recreation Club was donated by Peachtree Development Corporation which also gave the land for Hawthorne Elementary School.

Hawthorne School was opened in 1960. Its architect was John Portman who designed the Hyatt Regency, Peachtree Plaza and Marriott Marquis Hotels in downtown Atlanta. His architectural firm was called Edwards and Portman at that time.

At one time there were almost one thousand students at Hawthorne. That is why Henderson Mill and Heritage Schools were built.

Hawthorne School has had five principals. Their names are Bob Rowlet, Bill Strain, Norman Dasinger, Tedd Briggs, and Gary Durham. Now Hawthorne School has fewer than four hundred students.

Northlake Mall was built on the Cash, Priest and Weed family properties. Zack Cravey wanted his sons to buy the land where Northlake Mall is today but they said they already owned too much •land.

Before the shopping center was built, the land was used for farming cotton and soybeans. Briarcliff Road was just a dirt road east of Cravey Drive. The WSB radio tower has been a landmark on La Vista Road since about 1935.

John Henry Honea, Joe Honea's grandfather, was one of the first people to live in this area. In about 1898 he bought a large farm south of the present Briarcliff Road from about Hawthorne Drive to Briarlake Road. His farmhouse was at the corner which is now Briarcliff and Payton Roads.

Lilian Grovenstein has lived on Briarmoor Road since 1956 when she and her husband, Erling, were two of the first residents of Briarmoor Manor. John Taylor, Sr., built her house and several others on the street. The Westbrooks have also lived there for over thirty years.

One of the people who lived on Briarcliff Road during the 1950's was Mr. Armstrong, a football coach who lived at Shallowford and Briarcliff Roads. Dr. Gaines and Sally Richardson lived in stone houses on Briarcliff Road. The white house across from Echo Lake was where Dr. Pruit lived. Margerite Stedman, who worked for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, lived on •Briarcliff Road across from Hawthorne Drive.

In the 1950[‘s, there was a poor country family, named Pugh, who lived on Briarcliff Road, east of Cravey Drive. They lived in a wooden shack with no plumbing. Their two sons were named Rupert and Dean. The family lived on the food they could find or catch. Before Neal Pope built his house on Briarcliff Road in 1980, another family lived on the more than ten-acre property for many years. They built the stone foundation and gateposts for a house. They moved into the foundation and were going to wait until prices went down to finish building the house. Eventually they added a small frame upper level. After her husband died, the lady sold the property to Mr. Pope. She continued to live in her house and his house was built behind it. In 1987 the small house was torn down and the foundation was made into a greenhouse.

Varner Drive was named for a policeman in DeKalb County who fought in World War II. He gambled with other military men on his ship and sent the money he won home to his wife. He used the money to buy the property along what is now Varner Drive.

Shallow Ford Trail and Briarcliff Road

Shallowford Road was part of the old Shallow Ford Indian Trail which went from the present Decatur Courthouse to the Chattahoochee River where Roswell Road• now crosses it. The trail went north on Clairmont Road to La Vista, east to Oak Grove Road and north to Briarcliff Road where Lakeside High School stands now. The trail turned eastward again to the present Shallowford Road where it turned to the north. The shallow ford, for which the trail was named, is two miles south of the town of Roswell.

Briarcliff Road follows the ridge of the hills. That is why there are so many curves in the road. The ridge also•serves as the watershed for the area. Water which falls on the west side flows toward the Gulf of Mexico and water on the east side works its way to the Atlanta Ocean.

Briarcliff Road was straightened a little and moved to the north when it was paved in about 1938. Before then, it followed what is now Payton Road which was called old Briarcliff Road between about 1938 and 1960. Payton Road was given its current name in about 1960 when it was paved.

General ,Sherman's Union Soldiers March Nearby

There are two historical markers in my neighborhood which tell about General William T. Sherman's troops who marched through here on their way to Atlanta. One is on Shallowford Road in front of Thriftown Shopping Center. The other is on the west side of Briarcliff Road, just north of Shallowford Road.

On July 18, 1864, Blair's 17th A. C. of McPherson's Army of the Tennessee camped at the site of Blake's Mill where Thriftown now stands. The next day Blair's troops marched down the old Shallow Ford Road and east on what is now Briarcliff Road to join Logan's 15th A.C. at the present Midway Church at Henderson Mill Road. The two corps of federal soldiers were on their way to Stone Mountain to destroy the Georgia Railroad.

On July 19th, Dodge's 16th A. C. also marched south on the old Shallow Ford Road. They followed the indian trail to Decatur to report to General James B. McPherson, who was killed three days later by a Confederate soldier.

John Taylor Jr, and the Elephant Bone

When John Taylor Jr. was a boy living on Briarcliff Road in the early 1950's, he heard a story about a circus which had come to town years before. One of the elephants had died•and needed to be buried. This area was country then and so it was chosen for the grave.

John was playing in the woods one day when he found the elephant's leg bone. He dragged it back to his house. He used it as a bench in the yard and would sit on it and wave to people as they went by.

The Legend of Whitey

The land west of Briarcliff Road, between Shallowford•and Henderson Mill Roads was inhabited by wild animals before it was developed in the 1950's. There were stories about a monster which lived in the forest but they were never proven.

The so-called monster made lots of noise. It was probably nothing but the great white owl which the people called Whitey.

Whitey passed away in about 1960.



My study of the history of my neighborhood has taught me the answers to several questions and how to look for answers to my questions. I learned how to find the record of a transfer of deed at the courthouse. I learned how to plan and do interviews and how to look up family histories at the historical society. In my neighborhood, I looked for historical makers and for old gravestones.

I found out how the land was used before I lived here. My project also taught me how much the land and people have changed over the years. I enjoyed learning to know my neighbors better. Several of them shared their time and stories with me.

I hope people in the future care for this land as well as the people in the past. I would like them to remember the indians, the miller, the soldiers, the farmers, the animals, the developers, and builders and the homeowners. I like to think about the indians and the animals who once lived where my family and my neighbors live now.



Bibliography

The Collections of the DeKalb Historical: Society, Volume 1, The Year Book—1952. Decatur, Georgia: Bowen Press, 1952.

Cravey, Zack .D. “Game Farm in DeKalb,” The Atlanta Journal, 1936

Davis, Elizabeth L. and Ethel W. Spruil. The Story of Dunwoody. Atlanta, Georgia: Williams Printing Company, 1975.

DeKalb County Courthouse, Real estate documents section,• October 21, 1987.

"DeKalb County Elementary Schools: Ten Year Self Study”, 1982-1984, “Hawthorne.”

DeKalb Historical Society Archives, November 4, 1987 and November 9, 1987.

Margery Cravey Taylor Gambrell, personal interview, November 6, 1987.

Lilian Grovenstein, personal interview, November 5, 1987.

Joe Honea, personal interview, October 27, 1987.

Hudgins, Carl T. "Mills and Other DeKalb County Industries and Their Owners." Read at the November, 1951, meeting of the DeKalb Historical Society.

Prospect Cemetery, United Methodist Church, Chamblee, Georgia, November 11, 1987.

John Taylor, personal interview, October 27, 1987.

Vanishing DeKalb. DeKalb Historical Society, 1985.



Special. Credits

Thank you:
Marie Brown, teacher
Gary Durham, principal of Hawthorne School
Delia Gilliland, DeKalb Historical Society archivist and genealogist
Lilian Grovenstein, neighbor• and early resident
Joe Honea, builder of many homes in my neighborhood
Alice Remigailo, mother
Richard Remigailo, father
John Taylor, Jr., neighbor and grandson of Zack D. Cravey
Margery Cravey Taylor Gambrell, daughter of Zack D. Cravey