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Flowery Branch native recalls her hometown's history
Doris Smith remembers growing up on a dirt road in South Hall County
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Doris Smith talks about how Flowery Branch has changed over the years she has lived there at the Flowery Branch City Hall. Smith has been a lifelong resident of Flowery Branch, where she raised two sons. - photo by Erin O. Smith

When Doris Smith was born in 1926, Flowery Branch was a different place.

“It used to be just a quiet little town,” the 90-year-old woman said.

Since then, Smith has watched her little hometown grow into what it is today.

“Now we’ve got manufacturing ... new streets, new shops,” she said.

Last month, the city honored her for being a lifelong resident during the Flowery Branch “Post-Construction Block Party” at the Lights Ferry Road intersection in the center of Flowery Branch. Smith was actually born at a country farmhouse on Lights Ferry Road when it was just a dirt trail, her youngest son, Lee, wrote in an email to The Times. Now, the city was celebrating the grand opening of a roundabout there.

Smith’s recollections about the town — which she can recall with the help of her youngest son, Lee — paint a different picture of the 21st century city.

Currently, the city is home to more than 5,600 people on its more than 6 square miles, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. It is also home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons training facility.

At the time of Smith’s birth to John Carson Humphrey and Minnie Ida Simms Humphrey, Flowery Branch’s population was less than 500 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

“We used to know everybody here, all of our neighbors and all of our friends,” she said.

The amenities of the town were few. In fact, indoor plumbing was nonexistent.

“All of the toilets were outside,” she said.

The street she lived on — Lights Ferry Road — was just a dirt wagon path. During the school year, Smith walked the 3 miles (1 1/2 miles there and back) from her home to attend Flowery Branch Elementary.

This daily routine rooted the ideal of hard work and staying busy.

While children today spend close to eight hours at school and head home or are involved in extra-curricular activities, children of Smith’s generation worked on their homesteads. Smith helped her family with cooking and farming, often working in the fields until sundown. Her family said she milked cows daily and kept the yard tidy. Working hard is one thing that has remained constant in Smith’s life.

“I like to work,” she said. “I don’t want to lay around. I like to be busy.”

She also had to deal with surviving the devastation of the 1936 tornado, which struck Gainesville and Flowery Branch.

She said two of her three brothers were hurt during the catastrophic event.

“I was a little girl, but it was such a horrible time,” she said.

Smith also recalled the regular mode of transportation at that time was a train. Now, most residents drive cars, which led to the construction of a roundabout.

Despite living through the tornado, the Great Depression and World War II, Smith recalled happy memories including her marriage to Harold Smith when she was 17 years old and the birth of her two sons. Ernest, now 71, was born a few years after she and her husband married in 1943. Then in 1961, her youngest son (now 55) was born.

During this time, Smith applied her strong work ethic to raising her two boys and supporting her family. To do that, she worked in leather shops in Gainesville and Buford, making saddles and bridles for horses.

Following her retirement, Smith found a way to stay busy in her home off Tanner Street.

“I love to garden,” she said, alluding to her roots of living on a farm. “I like the country. I’m a country gal.”

Therefore, it has not always been easy for her to see Flowery Branch develop into the bustling city it is now.

“It doesn’t look like it used to,” she said, adding it is impossible for things to remain the same. “It would all be pretty boring if everything was like it always is.”

However, the city has attempted to maintain some of its original appeal. In 1985, Flowery Branch’s Main Street was listed on the national and state registers for historic places, because of its 19th century and early 20th century buildings, including the historic train depot. The depot was rehabilitated through federal and city funding and is now used as a community center, welcome center, and museum, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia website (

And while the town has tried to maintain part of its history while developing into a burgeoning city with all kinds of amenities, Flowery Branch will always have a claim in Smith’s heart.

“It’s where both of my boys were born and I’ve worked here all my life,” she said.