Around 1868 work resumed on the Richmond-Danville Railroad Line, which had been delayed by the Civil War. The railroad was the beginning for a lot of Gwinnett County towns, Norcross included.
John J. Thrasher, called "Cousin John," came from Atlanta to build his home in 1870 and became the first mayor of Norcross, named after a friend and business associate named Jonathan Norcross.
Mr. Thrasher served as the town's first mayor from 1870 to 1878, and one of his visions was a city park that would not be used for commerce. The Norcross city park, named Thrasher Park after its founder, is still the center of Norcross, lined with stately Victorian homes, stores, and bordered by the railroad.
The Norcross post office was built in 1871, along with a two story building used for the Masons and shared by various church congregations.
For many years Norcross was a resort town and center of commerce. Tourists and businessmen traveled to Norcross by train to stay in the new 29 room Brunswick Hotel at the corner of Jones and Thrasher Streets, and farmers came into town to purchase supplies and process and sell their cotton and other products. Families from across the Chattahoochee River would cross by ferry to come to Norcross. The main river crossings were Nesbit Ferry, Jones Ferry and Medlock Ferry, named after the families who owned the land.
The Airline Belle, a four coach commuter train, began making two round trips from Norcross to Atlanta every day, beginning in 1878. Merchants would bring their wares to the resort hotel for tourists to peruse.
Public education was not available in Georgia until after the War, and Norcross offered its first free public school in 1871. Children would travel from as far away as the Pinckneyville community to go to school, often walking and carrying their lunches in buckets. Soon afterward (1872 or 1877) a Mr. Norman Favius Cooledge moved to Norcross and established a boarding school right next door, and children from miles around boarded here.
In 1903 a new two-story red brick school building was erected on College Street, overlooking the town. It had a bell tower, and upstairs featured an auditorium. Downstairs were four classrooms, heated by wood stoves.
Norcross Methodist Church was originally organized as Flint Hill Methodist Church in the 1820s and was located about a mile from Norcross. When the Southern Railway was completed in 1871 the Flint Hill church was relocated to Norcross and renamed the Norcross Methodist Church. The original windows were later replaced with arched stained glass windows, and a log cabin was erected in the back for the children.
Mt. Carmel Methodist Church was located two and one half miles north of Norcross on Peachtree Road. It was organized in 1828. Among the founding members were Robert McAfee, Jack Gregory, Wiley Jones, Billie Ginkins. Daniel N. Pittman donated five acres for the church. The first building was erected around the time the church was organized. The second building was built in 1876 under the pastorate of Rev. M.M. Newton. The present building (1959) was built in 1925 under the pastorate of Rev. Duncan.
Bethel Baptist Church was organized August 11, 1869, two miles west of present day Norcross. The four charter members were Mr. and Mrs. J.T.O. Beard, Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Holbrook and M. L. Walker.
Norcross Baptist Church was organized in 1872, shortly after the completion of the railroad. Among the charter members were Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Simmons and their daughters, Mr. and Mrs. David Thrasher, Major and Mrs. James, Mr. and Mrs. G. Rakestraw, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Jackson, Miss Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Thrasher, and Mr. and Mrs. William Davis.
Hopewell Christian Church was organized in September, 1886 with twelve charter members. In 1911 Bliss Woodward was superintendent of the Sunday school. D.Jr. Funderburg was assistant superintendent; Miss Velva White, secretary; Paul Jackson, chorister; Miss May Funderburg, organist; Miss Mamie Jones, Paul Jackson and D.J. Funderburg, teachers.
Among the early businesses in Norcross were Mr. E.T. McElroy's saw mill and furniture factory, Medlock Harness Factory, Norcross Manufacturing Company (also harnesses), and Johnson's Store, originally a general dry goods store, and later a hardware store, and the Summerhour Cotton Gin, where a new improved high-fiber cotton, called Half and Half, was developed.
Edward F. Buchanan was born in 1871 and adopted by the Norcross family of Leslie and Martha Buchanan. Edward spent much of his time as a boy at the Norcross Depot and quickly learned the telegraph code. When only 13, he traveled west, working as a telegraph operator. In the 1890's he returned to Atlanta and married Bertie Redwine. Shortly after the marriage they moved to New York, where Edward became a successful stock broker.
Edward never forgot his hometown of Norcross. He erected a stone mansion for his mother directly across from Thrasher Park, and it had every modern convenience, including water and electricity. He often visited Norcross, riding in his private Pullman car from New York, and established the Buchanan Plow and Implement Company and the United Electric Manufacturing Company.
From 1907 to 1908 Edward Buchanan moved to Norcross and began the first automobile manufacturing company in Georgia. His automobile, called the Norcross, was sold to some of his wealthy New York friends, but the company did not survive. Mr. Buchanan's logo was Nor-X, the X meaning to represent a cross or cross roads. It is said that the general public was somewhat confused about the meaning of the logo, and the car was called everything from "Nor-x" to "Nort."
The Brunswick Hotel (vintage postcard-1911)
George Reed <email@example.com> contributed this story about how Peachtree Road got its name:
My name is George T Reed Mr. Noye H Nesbit, (NHN) Norcross native, deceased. He was born in Norcross on Thrasher Street, educated Georgia Tech 1917, etc. He told many stories which I have recorded and typed. One that I must bring to your attention is his recollections of Peachtree Road.
When NHN was a small boy, ca 1903-5, he was in a horse-drawn wagon riding with his grandmother. As they approached the shallow place in the Chattahoochie to cross over, his grandmother told him (essentially):
Over there is where William Nesbit and two other men, (and their "helpers"...slaves), finished marking out a road from Hog Mountain to Alabama. When they got to the Chattahoochie (shallow place), they all were sititng around and one of the crew asked, "What shall we call this road?" Another said (words essentially), "...see that pine tree and the pitch (resin) (where the Indians had gotten pitch to seal their canoes) ? Another said, lets call it Pitch Tree Road. Thus this was the first name of the famous name now in Atlanta, etc.
William Nesbit was later on a three-man commission to name the present road, Peach Tree Road. I do NOT know which of the three men suggested "Pitch Tree road". I want to think it was William Nesbit, but I do NOT know which of the three men suggested "Pitch Tree. etc.
Read more about Noye Nesbit and his home on Thrasher Street.
I hate to claim a favorite, but Norcross is such a wonderfully charming little town! The train depot is now a restaurant, and I'm always a little disappointed if, while I'm there, the train fails to pass by. The park is lovely and still used regularly for summer concerts and such. The homes and shops are neat and clean and surrounded by flowers. I'll be adding more photographs!
Views of Norcross
History of Gwinnett County, 1818-1960, Volume II, by James C. Flanigan, copyright 1959
Norcross History Documentary Video- City of Norcross
Dynamic Gwinnett, text by Bill Kirby, copyright 1993
This history is under construction. I will be adding more information and photographs, so be sure to check back soon!
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