WILBUR THOMAS IN BUSINESS FOR MANY YEARS
By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian
Wilbur Laten Thomas opened his roadside business just south of Folkston in 1925, after moving to there from a similar roadside business north of Hilliard, Fla.
The young entrepreneur was just 29 years old at the time, but already he and his wife, the former Myrtle Dryden of Brantley County, who were married in 1919, had three daughters: Darlene, Freida and Janet. A son, Wilbur, Jr. was to be born in 1926 in Folkston.
The roadside business was in its infancy then, but a bridge was being built across the St. Marys River, replacing a ferry for vehicles wishing to cross, and U.S. No. 1 Highway was soon to become the Central Dixie Highway.
Wilbur would build his cabins and general store building near this highway. A hand-powered gasoline pump would dispense gasoline to the few autos passing along the just-opened route. The business would be named “Thomas Trading Post”.
In order to make a living, young Thomas would also operate a small farm, sell pecans and trade and traffic in mules, hogs and horses.
Born on December 27, 1896, in a log cabin in Brantley County between Hickox and Hoboken, his father was Alfred Thomas and his mother, Lovie Crews Thomas. Wilbur was one of sixteen children born to the union in the same log cabin.
Wilbur, sitting in his giant recliner near the cash register in his trading post, said “We had a black midwife, Aunt Lil, who delivered every one of us.” He continued, “She charged three dollars for each baby!”
His wife, Myrtle, died on July 4, 1973, but Wilbur continued to run the business alone. The quaint store is cluttered with memorabilia of the past years, including a three-foot length of galvanized pipe, wrapped with tightly-wound newspaper and bound with fishing line. “That’s what I’ve had to use when some people got rowdy in here” he explained with eyes gleaming. “I didn’t come here to be run out of my own place of business,” he added. On several occasions Wilbur had resorted to that “peacemaker” when someone “off the road” locked horns with the genial Thomas.