Chatuge Dam is an earth-fill type dam across the Hiawassee River about three miles southeast of Hayesville, NC. At full pool elevation, water covers about 3,700 acres in Towns County, GA.
There was much speculation on June 12, 1941 that a dam was coming to this area. Clay County would be greatly affected by the TVA purchasing one third of the best farm land. Folks feared that many people would have to leave the county making the taxes higher.
According to historian Jerry Taylor, the TVA even worked on Sunday. "Back then folks stopped on Sunday since they attended church," he said. "But the TVA kept working on the storage dam at the mouth of Shooting Creek in Clay County."
Engineers hoped to have the dam finished in 15 months. Almost 2,000 skilled and unskilled employees would be needed to work nonstop on three shifts. Federal experts started looking into land acquisition. The dam in this area was called Chatuge that is believed to mean "the meeting of the waters."
Time is marching on. The House of Representatives passed a bill to build four dams in the Tennessee River area. The Senate gave final approval for the project July 10, 1941.
Besides beginning construction on Chatuge Dam, reunions and revivals were being held in July. About 2,000 Ledfords attended their final reunion and singing in the Scrougetown. Ledford's Chapel was moved to accommodate the dam. My parents, Rondy and Blanche L. Ledford, attended this last reunion before the church was forced to move for the dam.
A regional newspaper ran a feature on August 31, 1941 about the TVA forcing 500 families to move from Shooting Creek. The people were required to relocate by the last day of December, 1941. The prices for the land were still unclear.
Taylor said people thought the dam was needed to help our country win the war. "It was like a lamb to the slaughter," he added. "People did what they had to do."
How did people react to severing their roots? Some were philosophical, others downcast. Some were stubborn and had to be evicted. Most didn't know where they would move. Neighboring countires hiked land prices because farms were needed.
Allen Bell, superintendent of Clay County Schools, didn't know what to do about Elf School. About 283 students attended and most of the families would move. A new road must be built to reach the school. Water would surround the school and students didn't need a lake for their playground.
Holt Patton of Hayesville was worried about losing his land. He figured he would sit on the back seat when the TVA settled up. Patton said he could move his house, but wouldn't have land to make a living. "I'm in a plight," he added.
Hayesville swelled to capacity during the construction of Chatuge Dam. It was a booming town. Construction workers rented rooms out of houses. Citizens complained because of wide differences in land appraisals and there was no choice to sell your land. The TVA took all your land.
People scrambled to move before the December deadline. Some didn't make it. A local paper stated on January 9, 1942 that some old-fashioned neighborliness was needed to help people move. The TVA was burning barns, destroying homes, cutting trees, and clearing the land.
Even the wildlife scampered when their habitats were destroyed. The land looked like a hurricane had struck. A chimney stood where a family once lived. A lone chicken looked for a roosting place. Roads were torn up and muddy. Banks were bare. Water would soon cover the once rich farmland.
The local Lions Club started stocking fish in Lake Chatuge on May 22, 1942. The TVA project was finished.
Beautiful Lake Chatuge located in Clay County, North Carolina near Hayesville, NC.