Alpharetta development vestige of prominent families

Ruth’s Farm part of Spence, Wills, Peevy history

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – At the corner of Mayfield and Bethany roads, on the border of Alpharetta and Milton, sits a 22-acre parcel of land, one of the few remaining large parcels in the area. Sitting just outside downtown Crabapple, it will soon become a neighborhood called “Ruth’s Farm,” but it was once farmland belonging to one of North Fulton’s prominent families.

Ruth’s Farm will feature 49 homes with one entrance on Bethany Road. The houses to be built inside will be all brick and start at about half a million dollars each. It is owned by KM Homes and developed by the Providence Group.

“I got them to name it after [Ruth],” said Jack Peevy, the only son of Ruth Spence Peevy Wills, the former owner of the land. “The houses will look nice. They will be all-brick with three-car garages. Whatever is on that pasture land will reflect my mother.”

Ruth died in 2007.

The land belonged to Peevy, a retired colonel with the Army, and descendent of the Peevy and Spence families. Both have a rich history in the North Fulton area. Peevy sold the family land while keeping two historic family houses on it preserved. Peevy’s grandparents, Bascom and Oma Spence, purchased the farm in 1918, he said. Scotch-Irish descendants, they ended a spate of progressively moving south, from Forsyth County to Bethany Bend to Mayfield Road. The house long predated their purchase, however.

“Parts of one house date back before the Civil War,” said Connie Mashburn, a local historian. “If you look under the house, some of the beams are tree trunks, with the bark still on them. I don’t know how far back that type of construction goes.” Both houses on the land were donated by Peevy to the Alpharetta Historical Society in 2012. They sit on a few acres along Mayfield Road. All the land around them will be developed with houses.

The Spence family has been in the area since the Civil War.

“My great-grandfather went into the Civil War and was shot in the jaw,” Peevy said. “He was sent home to die. That was the practice at the time. But his jaw fell out, healed up and he went back into the war.”

The house eventually passed down to Bascom and Oma’s daughter, Ruth Spence.

Ruth Spence Peevy Wills married Hoye Peevy in the 1930s. He was a Fulton County deputy marshal.

“Like everybody her age, she got married right out of high school,” Peevy said. “She went to work at the Fulton County Courthouse.”

From there, her career took her into education. She became a secretary at a school in Sandy Springs where they encouraged her to go to college and where she eventually earned several degrees.

“She went ‘cafeteria-style,’” Peevy said. “She took a course here and a course there.”

She and Peevy divorced in the 1950s. Ruth then married Ed Wills, the nephew of Quilliam “Quilly” Wills, the mayor of Alpharetta, who sold what is now Wills Park to the county. Ed ran a successful cattle feed store on North Main Street.

One of Ruth’s relatives, Bill Spence, was a prominent lawyer in the area, head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and also mayor of Alpharetta. He won a race against Quilly Wills, which surely provided interesting family dinners.

“He called Quilly a damned Republican, and he beat him,” laughed Peevy. “That was probably the last time a Democrat beat a Republican up here.”

At the time, Democrats were considered the conservative party. Now, the Spences and Willses have all died out or moved off. That is why he sold off the family land. Money from the sale of the land went to the University of North Georgia, where he says he wants to build a military museum.

“I felt that preservation was more important than money,” Peevy said. “I’m not done with doing good deeds.”