Iris Thompson Fry of Lula is somewhat of a hoarder — not the kind you see on television, but a hoarder of memories and stories.
To anybody who will listen, she will rattle off one story after another, mostly related to Lula and memorable residents from the past. She keeps journals and scrapbooks, even notes friends exchanged when she attended Lula Elementary School and East Hall High School, where she graduated in 1964.
Iris loved to listen to stories her mother, other relatives and older people would tell her about the past. Lula has been her life except for the years her work carried her to the Georgia Archives, where her interest in history only increased.
She returned to Lula in her later years, living in the home she grew up in on Chattahoochee Street. She spends a lot of time in a room where she said Dr. Lee Rogers of Gainesville came to deliver her mother’s first child, who didn’t survive.
Iris has written innumerable stories and is encouraged by friends to put them in a book. Instead she defers to posting them online or placing them in a special publication, such as one done on Lula’s past a few years ago.
Homebound, she finds a computer her savior and puts it to good use to share her stories and preserve hers and others’ memories.
One of Iris’s favorite stories she posted online recently has to do with her great uncle, S.S. “Two S.” Carter, whom she calls Uncle Dank. She never knew him because he died well before she was born. But she wrote down memories her mother and others told her of this prominent Lula character.
Uncle Dank might have changed the course of history for the little east Hall County town. According to the story told Iris by her cousin, the late Lula Mayor Ike Whitworth, Uncle Dank at one time owned 37,000 acres in the Lula area.
Johnson & Johnson was looking for property in the mid-1920s to build its model mill village, which would become Chicopee Manufacturing Corp. While the company looked over his property, he wouldn’t let go of any because he didn’t want anybody bigger than he in Lula, according to Iris.
Instead, Johnson & Johnson liked property offered south of Gainesville and built the mill there and what became Chicopee village. Had it built in Lula, the town most likely would be a far cry from what it is today.
Uncle Dank was known as a horse trader who never married and never owned an automobile, preferring instead to ride in a carriage pulled by four matching horses. He did court the love of his heart in Banks County, Iris said, but the woman died before he could marry her, and Carter remained a bachelor.
The horse trader label undoubtedly came from his ability to buy and sell livestock. Uncle Dank is said to have traveled to Montana and return with several train carloads of mules. They would be herded from the depot down the road to his barn that would cover a couple of blocks in Lula. From there, he would sell them to farmers who came from all around.
Uncle Dank also was a financier, Iris said. He would loan farmers money to plant their crops or buy equipment and livestock. They would come to him Nov. 1 of every year after the crops were harvested and pay him back. Then he would loan them enough to get by over the next year. Carter owned the bank and most of Lula at the prime of his life.
His other nickname came from his given name, Seaborn Sylvester, thus “Two S.” He was born May 16, 1852, and died Feb. 15, 1929. He is buried at Bellton Baptist Church cemetery next to his mother, Amanda King Carter.
His will left his nieces much of his property. Iris’s Grandmother Garner was a niece, and when she died she left her three daughters each a house and farm.
Today, according to Iris, she is the only relative owning a piece of Uncle Dank’s former vast holdings — the home she lives in on Chattahoochee Street.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.