Past Tense

Cross Keys is an area of Atlanta referenced in history before Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven, or Sandy Springs. There was a Cross Keys post office as early as 1846, when the postmaster was James A. Reeve.

Samuel House was one of the early settlers of this area, arriving in 1830. In 1850, he built a brick home that is now part of the Peachtree Golf Club. General Sherman spent the night at the home on July 18, 1864 and described it as “a brick house well known and near old Cross Keys.” Windsor Parkway was once known as House Road.

At the time of the Civil War, Dunwoody appeared on maps as Providence, which refers to Providence Baptist Church. Sandy Springs was known as Oak Grove and later had post offices named Hammond and Burdal (a combination of family names Burdette and Dalrymple). Chamblee’s post office was established in 1908. The name Roswell Junction was applied for initially, but that was denied to lessen confusion with the existing Roswell post office. There was no Brookhaven, only Cross Keys.

The name Cross Keys is referenced in Civil War records. Special orders from General James McPherson on July 16, 1864 instructs “The fifteenth Army Corps, Major General John A. Logan commanding, will move out from its present position at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow on the road leading to Cross Keys, following this road to a point near Providence Church, where he will take a left hand road (sometimes called the upper Decatur road, and proceed on this until he reaches Nancy’s creek, where he will take up a good position on each side of the road and go into bivouac.”

A Georgia historical marker at Mount Vernon Highway and Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs references General J. D. Cox’s Division to Old Cross Keys. A marker at Johnson Ferry and Ashford Dunwoody Road in Brookhaven gives this history for Old Cross Keys: “Ante-bellum crossroads settlement and post office, James Reeve (1792-1852) Post Master and merchant. Prior to 1864 the Post Office was removed to a point between Chamblee and Doraville where, name unchanged it was known as Cross Keys Post Office.”

In 1916, a new railroad station known as Oglethorpe Station opened at Oglethorpe University. Prior to that, the Cross Keys flag stop was operating a mile down the road.

There are not many reminders of the name today, other than Cross Keys High School, which opened in 1958 and the Georgia historic markers. The names we have come to know today are not the ones that were used one hundred fifty years ago. Tomorrow, I plan to go to work in Providence, do some shopping in Oak Grove and then travel over to Cross Keys for an appointment.

Other sources cited include:

The Atlanta Constitution September 20, 1916.

Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, volume 39, Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center.

(1) comment


Nice to see the hat tip to our Cross Keys origins. What is now North DeKalb was known for a very long time as the Cross Keys Militia District. When the community needed a name for its new high school, it was an easy call, "Cross Keys." In 1958, the community knew its history. Thanks for reminding everyone today we share this heritage. Here's an op-ed I submitted during the Brookhaven referendum period on the same heritage:

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