Last fall the girls’ class went on a field trip to Proctor, NC. Even though I’ve read about the impact TVA lakes had on several towns-and settlements in my area-I did not know anything about Proctor.
Hazel Creek which is now located on the shores of Fontana lake was once a surprisingly populated area with several small communities as well as the town of Proctor. The folks who lived in and near Proctor didn’t loose their homes to the flooding waters of the TVA-instead they were isolated when the road leading to their homes was covered by the newly formed lake. Like the folks who’s homes were covered by water-they too were forced to sacrifice their land to the government to aid in the war effort.
In 1886 Proctor was established to serve the surrounding farms scattered throughout the Hazel Creek area. The small town turned into a boom town in the early 1900s when the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company built a large sawmill. Once the sawmill arrived Proctor grew to a population of 1,000. The town had it’s own doctor, dentist, train depot, movie theater, school, and barber shop.
In 1928 Ritter pulled out of Proctor-after having logged the surrounding areas. Proctor returned to a small farming community as most of the jobs left with Ritter.
Moses and Patience Proctor were the first known white settlers to the area. Their old gravestones have been surrounded by a newer one. There are nearly 30 cemeteries in the Hazel Creek area.
On the beautiful fall day our group visited Proctor, we rode a pontoon boat across the lake and were dropped off near the Lakeshore Trail.
Every where we walked we saw relics-the most visible remains were from the Ritter Lumber Company.
One structure that has been saved is the Calhoun House. It is open to the public-you can walk through the home.
We were only there for a few hours- so we only visited one of the many cemeteries scattered throughout the area. The Proctor Cemetery is on the home site of the first white settlers-Moses and Patience Proctor. To say the graveyard was amazing is an understatement-I could have stayed there for hours reading the inscriptions wondering about the folks who lived and died in Hazel Creek. More than one student pointed out graves that belonged to children-and many seemed to be from the same family.
I could tell the kids had a good time-there was much laughter, horse play, and even swinging on grape vines. However, I wondered if they really got why we were there-if they understood the sacrifice the people who once lived there made for the rest of us.
NC Curriculum requires 8th graders study NC History. The Learning Center! practices cross curricular teaching-meaning the 8th grade students studied people who were displaced by TVA Dams before the trip in Social Studies, went on the trip to see an area where people were displaced from, then after returning were required to write about Proctor in their writing class. They were to write a descriptive story about the Hazel Creek area. They could be the person from Hazel Creek or they could meet someone, alive or dead, while they were there. The main components being describing the area in great detail and discussing how frustrating it must have been for the folks who were displaced by the building of Fontana Dam.
After reading a few of the papers written by the students-all my doubts were gone. The kids not only enjoyed the trip-they clearly understood the sacrifice made by the people who were removed from their homes in Hazel Creek.