What's In A Name? | Beaver Ruin Road, Ponce de Leon Avenue and Foe Killer Creek

Jul 9, 2018

Many Atlanta roads are named after local waterways — but where do those creeks and springs get their names?

In this episode of "What's In A Name," we explore three names listeners were curious about: Beaver Ruin Road, Ponce de Leon Avenue and Foe Killer Creek.

First, Charles Arnold Brown asked us on Facebook where Beaver Ruin Road comes from.

A mischievous-looking beaver
Credit Steve Hersey

The road in Gwinnett County is named for a nearby creek. The “Beaver” of Beaver Ruin Creek was actually a man, a Cherokee named Beaver Toter. A flash flood destroyed his house and property — leaving poor Beaver ruined. 

Georgia has another Beaver Ruin Creek, in Clarke County. Its origin is closer to what you might expect of a place named “beaver ruin”: that creek got its name after flooding caused by local beaver dams destroyed the surrounding area.

Next, Mike Burns in Roswell wonders why there’s an Atlanta street named after a Spanish conquistador.

According to the journal Southern Spaces, Ponce de Leon Avenue isn’t just named for explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. Its name comes from Atlanta’s own “Fountain of Youth.”

The Ponce de Leon springs once flowed where Ponce City Market stands today. In the 1860s, many Atlantans enjoyed taking leisurely day trips to the natural springs. One of those visitors, local physician Henry Wilson, believed the waters had rejeuvenating powers. He named the springs after Ponce de Leon and his legendary quest for the Fountain of Youth. 

Ponce de Leon Springs circa 1895 from the Healey Collection
Credit Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library
Foe Killer Creek in Roswell, Georgia
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Mike Burns was also curious about Foe Killer Creek.

We discovered Foe Killer is actually a misnomer. The stream between Roswell and Alpharetta was really called Four Killer Creek.

According to historian John Goff, it was named for a Cherokee chief in the 1830s. Four Killer lived at the head of the stream that bears his name.

Cherokee warriors were ranked by the number of enemies they conquered: one killer, two killer and so on, up to six killer. With four kills under his belt, Four Killer was a prominent member of his Cherokee community.

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