Brookhaven, GA, January 27, 2017 – Guest Column, By Kim Gökçe, Founder, Cross Keys Foundation – When it came time in 2009 to name a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to serving public education in the greater Brookhaven area of north DeKalb County we had no doubt it would be named, “Cross Keys.” Why?
Most folks assume it is because Brookhaven’s venerable old public high school, founded in 1958, is named Cross Keys High School. That is not correct. The appellation of Cross Keys Foundation was a tribute to centuries of tradition and place naming in our region at large. The high school was named for the same reason. At the time the school opened 1958 the majority of the region now known as Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and Chamblee had been known as Cross Keys for over one hundred years already.
Historical records (see footnote 1) provide that the militia district of “Cross Keys” was established in 1827 and continued to be referenced as such at least as late as 1951 (see map from DeKalb Historical Society at right). Prior to 1827 the only Federal post in the region was known as “Cross Keys,” and subsequently, “Old Cross Keys,” when the post moved to near current City of Chamblee just prior to Sherman’s March (see historical marker at bottom).
The area was increasingly settled by farming families during the first quarter of the 19th century. As land concessions were signed with the Creek (Muscogee) Nation between 1818 and 1821 more land was made available via grants to European settlers. While the mascots and symbols of “Indians” at Cross Keys High School are culturally inaccurate and reflect garb and headdresses of nomadic tribes of the mid and far west, it is a fitting and ironic tribute to the Muscogee Native Americans who long thrived on the same land.
The area remained primarily an agricultural community until the acquisition by the United States Army of a large tract of land in heart of the district in July of 1917. This tract became Camp Gordon, an infantry training and artillery cantonment. Part of that original 2,400 acres later became a Naval Air Station at the current site of Peachtree-DeKalb Airport (see footnote 4).The access to loading docks and westerly parking decks of Town Brookhaven are along Cross Keys Ave
Vestiges of the “Cross Keys” moniker are hidden all around the Brookhaven and Chamblee area today. This once included a significant intersection of Cross Keys Avenue on Peachtree Road at what is now Town Boulevard traffic light. The once significant intersection as a tribute to our European settlement period is now the appellation of the loading dock drive that parallels the mixed-used development, Town Brookhaven.
The symbol of the “crossed keys” itself traces to early Christian representations of the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth” famously offered by Jesus to Peter according to Matthew 16:19. Cross Keys is deeply embedded in the artifacts and the minds of many in our culture and our region. However, the generation that proudly named their new public high school “Cross Keys” in 1958 will soon fade into history themselves.
And thus our name. We chose to tie our mission to the centuries long story of the people who came before us to preserve and recognize the place-name they and their ancestors have always known and honored simply as, “Cross Keys.”
The Cross Keys Foundation started as a volunteer committee to raise scholarship funds for graduates of Cross Keys High School in 2009. It’s grown to support thousands of students and hundreds classrooms of the K-12 public schools in the area known as “Cross Keys” in DeKalb Co., Georgia, along Buford Hwy.
For more about the Cross Keys Foundation, go here.