In 1908, Lois Link left her family in Thomasville, Tennessee, to take a position teaching at the Holland School – a one-room school in rural north Georgia. She taught there one year then spent the next four years teaching in small rural schools around Georgia and Alabama. Her tenure at the Holland School was significant because there is where she met Adolphus Montgomery Barker (Dolph), the only son of John Thomas Barker and Linnie Blake. Born in Lyerly, Georgia, Dolph (1872-1921) was a graduate of Gaylesville High School. At the time he met Lois, he owned a store in Lyerly, Georgia, while also managing the family farm on Kincaid Mountain near Holland. Lois and Dolph were married in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 12, 1913.
Lois Link (1887-1968) was the daughter of Professor Samuel Albert Link and grew up in the education business where she had assisted her father with his own school in Tennessee. She was 21 years old when she arrived in Holland to accept her first paid teaching position.
Because the Holland community was so small and the Barker farm not far from the school, it’s easy to assume that Lois met Dolph Barker shortly after her arrival. We don’t know much about her time at the Holland School, but at the end of the term she returned home to Tennessee and the letters from Dolph began. From then until February 12, 1913 they wrote each other at least once a week. During this period, she continued to teach at other schools in Georgia.
Nancy Duke Murphy wrote about Lois’ teaching career in her family history [The Links of Our Family and Connected Kin, Nancy Duke Murphy & Josephine Duke McMahan, March 2002]:
Soon after high school graduation at age nineteen, Lois started her own teaching career. It began in Holland, GA, a small town in the northern part of that state. At the time, a few weeks stint of institutional training was all that was required of a beginning elementary teacher. With little training and in a school a long way from home, Lois Link started a teaching career. She was a very young woman.
There were several years spent by Lois teaching in the Georgia schools. She was at McDonough south of Atlanta, then at Albany, and back to Holland, Ga. An interest in one Adolphus Montgomery Barker, who lived in nearby Lyerly, GA, probably decided the last move.
The Holland School was originally built in 1896, making it one of the oldest schools in Chattooga County. It was located just south of the New Hope South Baptist Church and served the Holland community until the 1940s when its students were combined with those in the Lyerly community. Three different buildings housed the school. This photograph shows Miss Link’s class in front of the second building. (She is the tall woman wearing a white blouse in the center back of the photo.) In 1914, a larger school was built for the growing population. After Dolph’s death in 1921, Lois returned to teaching at the Holland School until she moved her family back to Tennessee in 1927.
Much of Lois and Dolph’s courtship consisted of letters. While only a few of Lois’ letters still exist, she kept many of Dolph’s letters. Dolph’s letters to Lois are full of local news and gossip, giving us a unique picture of this small rural community. For his grandchildren, this is our only link to him.
The first letter is from Dolph and is dated June 9, 1909. It is addressed to Lois at the family home in Thomasville, Tennessee. The school year has recently ended and she has returned home for the summer.
Wednesday Evening 6/9/09
Dear Miss Lois:-
Your highly appreciated letter received Monday and I must admit that I was delighted to hear from you. It seems like an age since I have seen you but you know that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Things are about as usual at Holland. Nothing has transpired of great importance since you left except Miss Fannie Lou is attending commencement at Milledgeville this week. I know the college felt highly honored having such noted guest. I don’t suppose Holland will be large enough to hold her when she gets back. Am looking for her to take up her abode at Sprite. I was away Sunday and didn’t get back to Holland until eight P.M. Stopped to see Mr. W— Collided with Bub. He was sitting up there crosslegged smoking his pipe of ease. Nothing to mar his happiness until I made my appearance. Then he began to grow a little nervous. He won’t leave her one minute just followed her around like a pug dog. Of course there was no cause for him to be allarmed (sic) but he didn’t understand the situation. Still I have sighted a light house and think I will land my boat yet, after having been tossed by wind and wave for a fortnight. I am going up there some night before long (If she will allow me) and see what can be done. To be sure it is a very difficult undertaking but the old adage says, “when there is a will there is a way.”
Gert say that she misses us very much. Says that Bub does not know how to work anything, that it is nearly impossible to keep oil, for you know that he has to keep a brilliant light. Tige may write but he is not going to make any calls. He had enough of that folding beadstead when he was out here before. I would love to see him and take another lesson in two-stepping for I think he is very graceful on the floor.
I haven’t seen Big Sis since you left. They made some cream over there the other night and she must be foundered. Lou was telling me that she was going to marry. That too bad. Don’t you pity me?
They are arranging a camping trip on Lookout Mt. some time in the next month. Mrs. Spencer from Trion will have charge of the party. You must come and go with us. We are going to take two tents. There will be about 12 in the crowd.
What portion of Ala. are you thinking of teaching school in? You must not get plum out of the world. Remember I am coming to see you about the first of Aug. or before. Am sorry that you didn’t get to go boat riding. I know that you were both disappointed.
You must be good and go to Sunday school. I am afraid that you will go off in heathernism since you have gotten so far away that you can not hear Tommie preach.
I have been worrying this week over a problem. I have been trying to figure out how long Niagara will stand but have not been able to solve it yet. Hope they won’t fall any ways soon.
Will close as it is growing late.
Excuse haste and write real soon.