It’s no wonder residents along Friendship Road in southern Hall County are so passionate in resisting a change in the road’s name to Lanier Islands Parkway.
The road and community have a rich history, and residents have fought numerous battles to preserve Friendship’s identity, most of them losing causes. One of the biggest was the reopening of a quarry that first opened to supply rock for the building of nearby Buford Dam in the 1950s. The quarry closed when the dam was completed.
In the 1970s, Friendship residents fought tooth and nail against reopening it, but their efforts failed. Subsequently, they have opposed expansion and longer operating hours, losing again when Flowery Branch annexed the quarry, freeing it from Hall County’s stricter rules.
Residents woke up one morning to find their road had been designated a state highway, Ga. 347, allowing larger trucks to use it, again loosening tougher restrictions.
After part of the road was renamed Lanier Islands Parkway, the Islands proposed renaming the rest of Friendship and its eventual extension. Friendship now runs between Interstate 985 to Spout Springs Road. It will be widened to six lanes from the present two, and an extension will carry the road all the way to Ga. 211.
Besieged Friendship residents have watched century-old homeplaces demolished, trees felled and endured land taken for road rights of way. They’re compensated for their land, but would rather keep their property and rural landscape intact.
Friendship was a dirt road until 1962, lifetime resident Bonnie Harrison, 80, remembers. Travelers even had to ford a stream that ran across it.
Harrison’s family almost lost their farm during the Great Depression. He started plowing at age 9 so his father could walk the seven miles to work in Buford. His family donated property for Friendship Baptist Church, the heart of the community. Harrison lost 6 acres to the road widening.
Isolated for years, Friendship residents used to have to go 10 miles to buy groceries, but shopping centers have sprouted nearby. They have a Buford address, are on a Buford telephone exchange, but that town’s city limits have inched closer, along with Flowery Branch and Braselton. Yet some residents still use wells and most lack sewer service.
The community’s roots are deep. Friendship Church is documented back to 1844, but a sign for many years posted its founding as 1832. Lorene Veal and Mary Puckett wrote a history of the church, which began with 15 members in a brush arbor near the present location. John Phillips in 1845 donated 3 acres on which the church continues to sit.
Three ancestors of Chris Puckett were charter members of Friendship Baptist. The Pucketts, with 11 children, walked from South Carolina to settle in Hall County, living under a large rock overhang off what is now Blackjack Road until they could build a house.
Harrison helped move the church building on logs from one side of Friendship Road to the other in 1948 to provide more space for Sunday School rooms. He also would carry a bucket of water and dipper to the church for the preacher and singers.
The Rev. T.W. Jones refused payment when he served the church in 1970-71 and left a $2,000 donation for a fellowship hall built with mostly volunteer labor in 1975.
Agnes Pugh’s father, Enoch Hayes, was church song leader and songwriter, teacher at Rabbit Hill School and a justice of peace who managed Friendship precinct elections.
At the intersection of Friendship and Hog Mountain roads is historic Roberts Crossroads, a former community gathering place where men met to form a Civil War army. James Roberts lived in a log home there and operated a store and post office.
The word “Friendship” itself means a lot to residents, Teresa Owens says. She’s among leaders against the road name change and says 99 percent of residents oppose it. Even residents in newer subdivisions want Friendship Road’s name to remain, she said.
To residents’ delight, Hall County Planning Commission recommended against the change. But they are holding their breath as they say politically powerful people are behind the idea, and Hall County Commission has the final say in a vote scheduled Feb. 28
A veteran of the various battles Friendship lost, Chris Puckett says of the name change: “It would be the final insult.”
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.