In the late 1930s and early 1940s TVA started building dams in southern Appalachia to provide electricity to rural citizens and to aid in the war effort of WWII.
The Deer Hunter’s Grandmother, Lura, lived in Judson-a town that now lies at the bottom of Fontana Lake. In 1942 TVA begin construction on Fontana Dam-which is the highest concrete dam east of the Rockies. Lura’s family and many others had to leave their homes to make way for the lake that resulted from the dam. Each winter the TVA pulls the water level down-in places you can see foundations of homes and business from that era-still existing, buried under the water all these years.
I grew up close to 4 TVA lakes. Going to the lake has always been a favorite summer activity for us-boating, fishing, swimming, knee boarding- I’ve enjoyed all of it at our local lakes never really thinking about what others lost for the greater good of electricity.
The Deer Hunter’s Aunt and Uncle stay at an old house that sits directly in front of a TVA lake. Earlier this summer we had the good fortune of spending the day with them. Chitter and Chatter are sitting on the front steps of the farm house, which is over 100 years old.
The girls enjoyed swimming, but spent most of the time- searching for treasure.
Chitter found these neat pieces. I suppose the blue is from a cobalt bottle, the 2 similar pieces look like old plate or bowl pieces, and the white piece is the inside of an old metal canning lid.
Chatter found these old plate shards and an old dime. After Chatter found the first piece- they were both hooked, hunting treasure around the lake. They asked where the items came from “who owned the pieces?” they wanted to know.
The question brought to mind these options; the pieces could have come from the old homes covered by the lake, from “modern day” trash thrown over the sides of boats or washed into the lake from campsites or from trash dumps that are now under the lake (before there were garbage dumps folks dumped their trash in the woods a favorite treasure hunting place for us).
The picture above would have been the view from the old farm house-well minus the lake, the boats and the docks. I tried to imagine what it must have looked like-trees, trails, cabins, cornfields, cows, chickens, kids running barefoot- all came to mind.
My line of thinking led me to put myself in the shoes of folks like Lura who were forced to move due to the construction of TVA Dams. I don’t think I’d have been happy to leave my home for some new fangled electricity.
And the folks who lived in the old farm house-they had a front seat view to the changes. How many neighbors did they loose? Back in those days travel here in the mountains was mostly still by foot or horse-did it make their travel routes longer or did they get a boat to cross the lake in?
You know how your mind forgets things-especially early in the morning. I can just imagine waking up in that old farm house thinking “I’m going to pick some wild grapes down by the creek today”-only to remember there wasn’t a creek or any grapes-but a lake of water in the holler where they use to be.
Anyone who has seen “O Brother Where Art Thou?” will recall the ending scenes of Everette trying to get his wife’s ring before the valley is flooded with the new lake. Of course TVA’s lakes were slow to rise to their full level-but it does make you think about all the things covered by the waters of the TVA.