About the series
These days, small towns are beginning to look more and more alike, with a fast-food chain on the corner and a big-box retailer down the street. But this winter, The Times will take you to the unique communities within Hall County, sharing their history, their characters and their charm. Look for a story each day through the New Year. To see previous stories, go to gainesvilletimes.com/hamlets.
Despite the hustle that surrounds the intersection of Spout Springs, Thompson Mill and Friendship roads in South Hall nowadays, Frank Duncan can remember a time when the land around self-named Duncan City was “a whole lotta nothin’.”
In fact, Duncan City didn’t have as much as a sign to let those passing by know where they were or point them in the direction they were looking to go.
So in the late 1970s, after years of giving directions to lost travelers who would knock on the door of his corner house, the late Lucius Duncan, Frank Duncan’s father, asked the county to put up a road sign so people would stop interrupting family dinners.
After being told a sign at that intersection would bankrupt the county, Lucius Duncan took matters into his own hands and erected a handcrafted sign directing people to cities like Winder, Athens, Jefferson, Commerce and even London and Hong Kong.
“We had a lot of people ask how to get to Gainesville,” Frank Duncan said. “But there were people wanting to get all over.”
As the self-appointed mayor of Duncan City, Lucius Duncan even set the speed limit for the intersection as “let ’er go.” He claimed he received his mail from Buford, Hoschton and Flowery Branch, but his love letters always came from out West.
“He had women from all over sending him love letters. A lot came from California,” Frank Duncan said. “They had seen him on television and thought he had a lot of money.”
But despite being interviewed for newspapers and television, including “On the Road with Charles Kuralt,” Lucius Duncan was a farmer just working to make it through tough times a century after his family moved to the area.
“Daddy established Duncan City, and times were hard then. The family came down from South Carolina (in 1877) and eventually a lot of them moved out different ways, but he stayed here and named it ‘Duncan,’” Frank Duncan said.
To get to and from school, Frank Duncan rode a makeshift school bus from Duncan City to Flowery Branch and was named an unofficial member of the school patrol.
“Our house was the last stop on the route for the bus, and I would run up when we got to the railroad tracks to check for any trains coming,” he recalls.
In the evenings after school, it wasn’t uncommon for the Duncan family to sit down for dinner and hear a knock at the door.
“Daddy would tell me to go answer the door cause he was eating supper, so I’d go answer it and have to tell people which way they needed to go. A lot of times, it’d be dark outside and I’d point them down the right road,” Frank Duncan said.
But on those special nights when his mother would kill a chicken for dinner, Frank Duncan said the directions he gave got a little sloppy.
“All I wanted was to get back in the house and eat that chicken, so I wouldn’t really tell people how to get where they needed to. Daddy told me to stop doing that and give them the right directions.”
Lucius Duncan farmed cotton and corn on the land that is now prime real estate for shopping centers, restaurants and doctors’ offices. Now, his son handles the flurry of commercial development on what is known as Duncan Corner, although the old white house where the Duncan family lived still stands.
“I can’t take that house down, so we’ve got someone renting it right now. This area has changed a lot over the years, really in the last five to 10 years, going from a hole-in-the-wall, just a hole-in-the-wall, to a lot of movement,” Frank Duncan said.