Atlanta’s Upper West Side
( Or the forgotten beginning of the City of Atlanta)
by Riverside Kate
Once considered to be the “country”, Atlanta’s Upper West Side has a rich history of which few today are aware and is worthy of recognition and remembrance. Experiencing periods of growth and decline, its facade of industry and commerce hides the still bucolic neighborhoods that line the streets.  “Peachtree”, the now-famous trademark of Atlanta, originated in Bolton, (once Boltonville, Fulton, and Iceville for the Atlanta Brewing and Ice Co.) 
at the Indian Village of Standing Peachtree in northwest Atlanta, (the Upper West Side) and is much older than the city itself.  The Creek and Cherokee Indians lived and traded at Standing Peachtree. This name is an English translation of the Indian Village, Pakanahuili. It was located on an old 
Indian path, on both sides of the Chattahoochee River at the mouth of Peachtree Creek. Several different accounts exist regarding the origin 
of the name “Standing Peachtree”, including references to both a 
“pitch (pine or rosin) tree” as well as an actual peach tree.

The Creek Indians continued to threaten white settlements after the Revolutionary War. Sandwiched between whites to the east and west, they fought to keep the land along the Chattahoochee. A letter dated May 27, 1782 from Georgia Governor, John Martin, relates information that a band of Coweta Indians, led by William McIntosh, was expected to rendezvous at the Village of Standing Peachtree in preparation for an attack. This letter is the first known mention of the Village of Standing Peachtree.
Standing Peachtree Today
 The War of 1812 brought more people to Standing Peachtree. Rev. William Jasper Cotter, who came at this time to the area with his father described Standing Peachtree in his autobiography: “…all was new – waters in the creeks and rivers as clear as crystal: rich valleys, hills, and pine mountains covered with a thick forest: a land of beautiful flowers – white, pink, yellow, and red honeysuckles, redwood and dogwood blossoms, wild roses and other beauties. There was plenty of wild game – deer, turkey, and other varieties. When first seen, all was in lovely, beautiful spring, 
and I was nine years old.”
During the War of 1812, this knob overlooking the river was chosen as an ideal crossing point.  The expertise of Major James McConnell Montgomery was needed to build a fort, (Fort Peachtree / Fort Gilmer), and a flat raft crossing system, later Montgomery Ferry, which then became DeFoor’s Ferry in 1853. By 1822, on land ceded by the Creek Indians a year earlier, Montgomery owned more than 1000 acres. Because he thought it was such a beautiful area, he moved his family here and became the first permanent white settlers in the region that was to become Atlanta. He built a house at the intersection of what is now Moores Mill Road and Bolton Road and continued to run the ferry. He established a church on Casey’s Hill, which is now Crestlawn Cemetery, and has become in modern times an overlook of the burgeoning Atlanta skyline. In 1825 Standing Peachtree became a post office.
Montgomery Ferry
On December 22, 1837, the Governor of Georgia appointed Charles Bolton, state Railroad Commissioner, along with two others to supervise the extension of the Western & Atlantic Rail Line. Montgomery Ferry was named the proposed junction of the railroads, referred to as Terminus. It was soon decided that with the river and the soon coming railroad so close together, that the symbolic Zero Mile Post, should be moved to a location that remains today. By 1838, the Western & Atlantic Railroad completed the Chattahoochee Bridge at Boltonville, which would eventually connect Chattanooga to Savannah, Augusta, and Macon.  By 1843 the W&A RR was operational from Atlanta to Marietta. The bridge was located where Marietta Boulevard now crosses the Chattahoochee. In 1850 the bridge was relocated several hundred feet down stream where it is still operational today. The railroad was chiefly responsible for the phenomenal development of Atlanta and soon became the most important inland transportation center of the state.

It was also in 1838 that Henry Irby started a tavern and grocery on a spur of an old Indian trail. Two years later the head of a buck was mounted on a pole in front of the tavern, and the region just north east of Bolton came to be known as Buckhead.
This life sized statue stands on the hill in Crestlawn cemetery
at sunset, overlooking the skyline of Atlanta 2009
By the end of the Civil War, Sherman had left his mark all over Atlanta's Upper West Side. Along with several battles, and the Shoupades, a notable eminence between Peachtree & Proctor creeks, Casey’s Hill, is on an old road from Atlanta and via Montgomery’s Ferry ran to Marietta. On June 18, 1864, the chief of artillery, CSA Brigadier General Francis Ashbury Shoup, approached the army commander, General Joseph E. Johnston, about building a defensive entrenchment line on the north bank of the Chattahoochee River, the last natural obstacle to the approach of Atlanta. Shoup envisioned a line so strong that it would deter any assault and so efficient that it might be held by only a portion of the Army, while a substantial force could then strike any federal bridgehead attempted above or below the Bolton Bridge. Johnston approved the proposal. Over the next two weeks, engineers conscripted slaves from the Atlanta-area plantations to construct a unique set of fortifications. It was these Confederate “Shoupades” that protected the bridge and forced Sherman to cross the river further to the north. Johnston’s River Line was a series of thirty-six distinctive, small forts that ran for seven miles in Smyrna from Nickajack Creek to one mile above Peachtree Creek. There are remnants of only nine of the Shoupades remaining today.
On the morning of July 5, 1864, Union Army Major General William T. Sherman observed Johnston’s River Line and later wrote: “It was one of the strongest pieces of field fortifications I ever saw.” Sherman declined to attack the works and determined to cross the Chattahoochee River to the northeast. He then directed two of his armies to pin the confederates inside the fortifications.

Johnston’s army abandoned the River Line and retreated across the river near the RR bridge on July 9-10, 1864. They camped on the left bank until the 18th, when most of them shifted to Casey’s Hill. It was here that Johnston decided to counterattack at Peachtree Creek. Drawing immense criticism for the abandonment, citing a lack of aggressiveness and conservation of manpower, on July 17 Johnston received a letter from Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieving him of command. Practically on the eve of battle, Lt. General John Bell Hood was now in command. Hood, himself, sent a telegram to Davis seeking a remand of the order, advising Davis that it would be, “dangerous to change the commander of this army at this particular time”. On July 20, Hood commanded his troops into the Battle of Peachtree Creek. This was the first major attack in the Atlanta Campaign by Sherman’s Union Army of the Cumberland. It resulted in severe defeat.  Estimates say that approximately 6,500 men where killed that day. River Car Line – Trolley Car # 948 was operated by the Georgia Power Co. for more than 20 years. It had sliding doors and clerestory roof.  So Collins took action to save his home. He chartered a horse car, attached two mules to the vehicle and drove it personally to the river. His bet was won. The River Car Line made it’s first run before Christmas, and Collins’ home was saved. The first electric car on the River Line operated on May 8, 1892. With more families wanting to move to the “country,” this new mode of transportation freed city dwellers from dependence on the horse & carriage, as well as the trains. The original trolley line is now Hollywood Road, then known as Chattahoochee Avenue. On Saturday, April 9, 1949 free rides were given, and the River Car Line was the last streetcar to run in Atlanta.
With the new streetcar and electricity traversing the plantation of James W. Spink, this property neighboring Bolton became known as Riverside. Spink sold the first lots for the start of this new community in 1892. An article in the Atlanta Constitution dated June 9, 1892 was titled “ATLANTA ON THE CHATTAHOOCHEE – The City Has Gone Clear To the River – The Sale at Riverside”. Mr. Spink had accumulated a vast fortune in gold, which he kept around his house. For some unknown reason he decided to bury it. Taking no one with him, it took three nights to bury all of his gold. He also did not reveal the location to any member of his family. When he suddenly died in his chair in 1906, no one knew where to look for his buried treasure. Its location is still a mystery to this day. As Atlanta reconstructed and grew, the neighboring farms along the Chattahoochee River with their pastoral landscape would become the Upper West Side. This pristine area grew and prospered as several generations of families and newcomers worked the land. In 1890 Hollywood Cemetery was organized. With the location so far (five miles) from the city’s core, it was decided that the first electric streetcar should go all the way to the Chattahoochee River.
A prominent citizen, James D. Collins had built a fine new home in Bolton near the end of the line. He made a bet with a friend that the River Car Line would be running by the end of 1891 or else he would deed his home over to him. The rails had been laid before Christmas, but the wires to power the streetcar would not be in place until after the first of the year.
Spink’s widow Elizabeth, continued to live in Riverside until her death in 1910. In 1914, the remainder of the “Spink Estate” was sold as “300 lots and 20 small farms”. By the 1920s, Riverside was a bustling community. This writer has been told more than once “it was a great place to have grown up”.
These communities expanded and flourished – largely due to an abiding sense of family, school and church. Mr. Montgomery’s Chapel, a little log church, was located on Casey’s Hill. This place of worship served his thirteen children and the traffic coming from Decatur and Atlanta until 1867. A small tavern on the hill, catered to travelers on this route as well. After the Civil War, the congregation moved the chapel to Inman Yard (until 1903) and renamed the church Mount Vernon Methodist Church. Near the turn of the century, the population grew more intensely than ever before. The surrounding communities of Whittier Mill, Riverside and Chattahoochee needed for both a church and a school. The daughter-in-law of James A. Collins contributed eight thousand dollars and the land for the construction of a new church so the church was moved to Bolton Road, where it is located today and called Collins Memorial Methodist Church. It was known as the Church of Five Widows, as four widows joined Mrs. Collins in helping to get the church started. The five widows were: Mrs. James D. Collins, Mrs. James M. Moore, Mrs. William (Susan) McGuirk, and Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, wife of Dr. W.C. Fisher. It is a beautiful church building with its striking red doors and stained glass windows, and has been the backbone of Atlanta’s Upper West Side for more than a century. In October of 2009, Collins Church celebrated their 100 th anniversary. The homecoming assembly on that day over-filled the sanctuary. 
Other families of importance to the beginning of this area are, 
Mauldin, Jeffries, McDonald, Hughes and Adams families.
Collins Memorial Methodist Church
In 1952, the Metropolitan Planning Commission’s Plan of Improvement mandated Bolton, Riverside, along with many other communities, be incorporated into the City of Atlanta. Some residents did not favor this plan, but to no avail. With the railroads and the water plant (1891), the area’s inhabitants already had access to sewerage, telephones, lights and power at a time when they were well outside the city limits. In 1954, the City of Atlanta built Fire Station 28 on Main Street in Riverside, to protect and serve the citizens of Atlanta’s Upper West Side.
 As some feared, the neighborhoods began to change in 1952 when the area was annexed into the city limits. As a result, while some communities benefited others carried the burden of an entire city. The scenic neighborhoods became engulfed in industrial activity. Marietta Boulevard was widened to accommodate a rapid influx of business. R.M. Clayton water treatment plant continued to expand, and the train yards – Tilford Yards and Inman Yards, accommodated more and more cargo traffic. Not only were the aesthetics of the neighborhoods changed forever, but many of the descendants of the original pioneering families of Atlanta left - sad and frustrated that their communities had become an island of industrial activity. Beginning in the 1980s, new residents started moving into the Upper West Side. Then beginning in 2000, there were many rezonings of under utilized industrial parcels to mixed-use and medium density residential uses. New homes are being built beside the charming older homes. Once again, the strong sense of family, community and place has returned. People work, children play and communities are worshipping together again in Atlanta’s Upper West Side.,
is only one project of the Riverside Residents Association, Inc.,
A U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax exempt/non profit organization,
located in Atlanta Georgia, since 1984.
Our goal is to maintain the community as a great place to live by promoting
community spirit that encourages cooperation, assistance and respect for all.
We promote well being, health, safety and security in the community.
Church of God
USGS Topo Map 1927