The Town of Fries (pronounced “freeze”) is located
in Grayson County on the north banks of the New River. It is fifteen miles northeast of the county seat of Independence on Route 94. The town was named for Colonel Francis Fries of Salem, North Carolina. He
realized that even though the place was in a remote area, it had great possibilities because of the New River.
After purchasing the land, a special Act of Congress gave permission for a dam to be built at Bartlett Falls on the New River. In April of 1901, a deep cut was made in the mountain ridge. Timber was carted over trails by mule and oxen teams; bricks were made from nearby clay deposits and boulders were quarried from the mountain side. Construction was underway and in a matter of months a great dam, 39 feet high spanned the river and changed the face of the surrounding countryside.
A new town mushroomed. It was named for Colonel Fries and backed by Washington Mills Company. Approximately three hundred houses, a company commissary, post office, and other necessary business structures were built for the new population.
In February 1903, the mill was sufficiently built and equipped to start operation. The swiftly moving water turned the big wheel. A new town was born in Southwest
The town grew around the mill and although the textile mill ceased operation in 1989, the Town of Fries is a lovely spot. The New River still gushes over the dam and laps at grassy banks and curls around low branches. In 1998, the New River was designated
the first American Heritage River and at no other location is it more beautiful.
(Fries History Written by Avery Bond and Martha Nichols)