What's In A Name? | Why Everything's Called Peachtree

Jul 23, 2018

If you live in or around Atlanta, you probably know how many places are named after peaches. In fact, within city limits there are 15 separate streets called Peachtree.

This installment of "What's In A Name?" answers a question from Sarah, the 8-year-old daughter of GPB's Chief Technology Officer, Adam Woodlief. She asks why everything in Georgia is called "peach."


While Georgia may be the Peach State, there's more to the story than our signature fruit. All of the Atlanta-area streets called Peachtree can attribute their names to Peachtree Creek. It flows southwesterly through DeKalb and Fulton counties before joining the Chattahoochee River just south of Vinings.

Peachtree Creek is perhaps most famous for the Battle of Peachtree Creek, a pivotal 1864 attack in the Atlanta Campaign during the Civil War. When Confederate forces led by Commander John Bell Hood failed to prevent federal troops from crossing the creek, the Union army forged on towards Atlanta. Peachtree Battle Avenue in Buckhead now pays tribute to that legendary fight.

The Battle of Peachtree Creek took place on July 20, 1864.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The creek's name goes way back to Georgia's earliest inhabitants, the Cherokee tribe. According to historian Kenneth Krakow, the waterway is named for the early Cherokee village of Pakanahuili. 

Resin on a pitch tree
Credit The Forager's Path

Pakanahuili was translated to English as "standing peachtree," even though there were no known Georgia peachtrees near this village.

Given these puzzling origins, many historians believe the name was incorrectly translated; it should be "standing pitch tree." Apparently, there was an old pitch tree near the village. Pitch trees are pine trees, known for their sticky resin or pitch. Given the unappealing nature of smelly sap, it's no wonder the city stuck with the "peach" translation. 

The fuzzy fruit became an emblem not only of the nearby capital but of the state itself. Georgia is no longer the country's primary producer of peaches, but it's still sweet enough to be known nationwide as the Peach State. 

BONUS PEACH:

Peach County, the youngest county in the state, was created on July 18, 1924. Its name is a direct reference to Georgia's reputation as a peach-grower. Formed from land in Macon and Houston counties, it's one of the most fertile peach-growing regions in America. 

County officials proclaim their seat to be the Peach Capital of the World. Johnston, South Carolina also claims that title. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California grows the most peaches of any state in the U.S.

Despite lacking an official title, Peach County could win an award for its peachy spirit. Every year, the county hosts the Georgia Peach Festival, featuring the World's Largest Peach Cobbler. The recipe calls for a whopping 75 gallons of Georgia peaches plus 150 pounds each of flour and sugar. If that sounds a bit intimidating, the festival's website offers a more home-friendly version of the cobbler. 

The World's Largest Cobbler is so large, it's baked in school bus floor panels instead of a pan.
Credit Peach County

Peach County is breaking other world records, too. Last week Pearson Farms unofficially broke the record for world's largest peach with a giant 1.8 pound fruit. After verification from Guinness World Records, the peach is destined for even bigger things: a monster-sized cobbler.