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Richard Peters in 1848

Richard Peters (November 10, 1810 – February 6, 1889) was an American railroad man and a founder of Atlanta.

Grandson of Judge Richard Peters, Jr. (an associate of George Washington) he was born near Philadelphia at Germantown, Pennsylvania to father Ralph Peters.

Contents

Early career

His early Pennsylvania career found him working with architect William Strickland and as a rodman with John Edgar Thomson for $1.50 a day. Thomson liked the 26-year old's work and offered him a job for $1000 a year to help with construction of the new Georgia Railroad for which he was chief engineer. One hundred dollars got him a rough paddlewheeler ride into camp near Charleston, South Carolina in the brutally cold February 1835.

He worked the state road the eight years it took to complete it from Augusta to the new town of Marthasville, Georgia, building a life-long friendship with Lemuel P. Grant both of whom began buying land in the new town. When the road was completed, he was made superintendent and while in that position heard many complaints about the length of the name Marthasville which took too long to write in log books, freight, etc. He traded letters with Thomson and when the latter suggested Atlanta, Peters began printing up thousands of circulars distributing them from Augusta to Tennessee advertising the new name which was officially changed in December 1845.

He built a home there and was married in 1848 to Mary Jane, the daughter of early settler Joseph Thompson. He founded the first Atlanta steam factory, the flour mill at the Georgia RR between Butler and Calhoun (the location of today's Sloppy Floyd office building). With no water, the mill needed to be powered by wood and Peters purchased 405 acres (1.64 km2), the land lots 80 and 47, for $2,000 [1] which is basically all of midtown between North Avenue and 8th St for pine wood. This land turned out to be the key to his future wealth.

Always interested in transportation, he had run stage coach line from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama, but after the completion of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad he moved the northern end to West point and continued from there to Montgomery. He was also an avid live stock breeder and horticulturist and established a nursery in Atlanta in 1854.[2]

The War

During the American Civil War, Peters remained in Atlanta until a few days before the arrival of Union General Sherman's army. In Atlanta, he was the civilian transportation agent for all Atlanta railroads. He contracted with the blockade running Crenshaw Company supplying cotton by rail in exchange for foodstuffs. In early 1861, he sold the steam engine from his mill for $12,000 to be used in the Confederate Powderworks at Augusta. By the time of the Battle of Atlanta, he and his family were in Augusta where they stayed until April 1865. After Sherman left Georgia in December 1864, he had James R. Crew repairing the 24 miles (39 km) of destroyed Atlanta and West Point Rail Road and Lemuel P. Grant, the nearly 100 miles (160 km) of wrecked Georgia Railroad. By April, the war was over and rail service was restored to Atlanta.

After the War

Richard Peters in 1889

In 1871 he built Atlanta's first street railway, Atlanta Street Railway Company with real estate man George Adair . After the Kimball House was destroyed by fire, Peters helped lead the efforts to have that center of Atlanta life rebuilt eventually having to ask Hanniball Kimball back to town to help raise money. He began to subdivide his north Atlanta land, first by laying out roads: north/south by trees (myrtle, juniper, apple, etc) to match the naming of Peachtree Street but threw in Penn to harken back to his Pennsylvania roots; east/west streets were numbered starting with 3rd St. (since North Avenue and Ponce de León were long-since named) and ending with the northernmost extent of his property, 8th St and built his final home on the highest part: the block bounded by Peachtree, 4th, Cypress and 5th streets. In 1884 he sold 180 acres (0.73 km2) surrounding W.Peachtree to Kimball for $1,000 an acre to create Peters Park, a development which eventually failed for lack of sales. In 1887 he sold 5 acres (20,000 m2) of his remaining holdings to the state for $10,000 and donated another four to help found the Georgia School of Technology.

He left a million dollar estate. Of his two sons, Edward stayed on the estate and built Ivy Hall, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while Ralph became president of the Long Island Rail Road.

He is buried in Oakland Cemetery, in Atlanta.

Notes

  1. ^ Carson, O.E., The Trolley Titans, Interurban Press, Glendale, CA, 1981, p.8
  2. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=ERQoAAAAYAAJ

External links

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