"In Dec. 1967 TVA came to me to buy. I told them I have nothing for
them. They told me if I wouldn't take the easy way it would go the hard
way. I told them I had gotten nothing easy in my life and we'd just go
the hard way.
The principles I fought for and my buddies died for such as freedom and the right for a man to make his own way and determine his own destiny are trampled upon and flaunted in my face every day by TVA in this LBL project. Just what is the use in living anyway if every thing you have believed in and been taught to admire is desecrated by my own government?"
--from complaint filed before Congress in 1968 by Mr. Homer Ray
What were the communities between the rivers REALLY like?
Between the Rivers was isolated from the surrounding society by the rivers. It is in this isolation that is to be found the beauty of BETWEEN THE RIVERS. It was an isolation which cradled its communities; not, as some have said, holding them in ignorance. Much the same way that we seek today to escape from the pressures of the world into the familiar surroundings of our homes, back then, for those of us who lived among the hardwoods and riverbottoms, we had only to cross the threshold of our society--the rivers--to feel that security.
The rivers protected us; fed us; and at times they threatened us; but as much as the land that lay between them, they contained us...
In the Lyon and Trigg county areas of Kentucky (that we are most familiar with) we had approximately 19 communities, 15 schools, 25 churches, 163 cemeteries, 16 post offices, 51 groceries, and 9,000 residents.
All this was taken from us for the very narrow purpose
of providing a "demonstration" of how removing all commercial activity
from within the LBL would stimulate economic development on the
outside. The class action lawsuit filed by the residents between
the rivers, claiming TVA did not have the right to use eminent domain against
unwilling sellers just to create a recreation area, was defeated on this
narrow premise. The judge in the sixth circuit court of appeals quoted
from then TVA Chairman Aubrey Wagner's testimony before Congress in which
he explained this demonstration. This demonstration alone gave TVA the
right to use eminent domain to remove us from our ancestral homes.
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In all of this we developed a strong sense of "belonging" to our communities, like the rivers that they lay between, they contained us...
All Gone, but for the people who remember, and our cemeteries...
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Our churches were bulldozed from the face of our land.
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Despite what many visitors to the LBL are led to believe, the families from between the rivers still maintain their own cemeteries. We are fully responsible for all upkeep; including repairs of vandalism and "replacement" of stolen stones--many dating to the early 1800's and even earlier. Our cemeteries remain a center of gravity for us; a last link to our living heritage.
|Biswekk||Boyd (2)||Boyd Memorial||Brandt|
|Cathey||Catholic (2)||Chambers||Champion (2)|
|Colson (2)||Compton (2)||Cook||Dennis|
|Downs (2)||Dunlap||Ferguson Springs||Ford|
|Fulks||Fuqua||Futrell (5)||Futrell-Laura Furnace|
|Gray (3)||Griffin||Hanes||Hematite-Center Furnace|
|Herndon (2)||Hicks (4)||Higgins (4)||Hildreth (2)|
|Hilltop-Robertson||Hopewell Church||Houston||Indian Springs|
|Ingram||Jackson (2)||Joyce||Jenny Ridge|
|Lofton||Lone Pine||Long Creek||Lowery|
|Mount Pleasant||Mountview Church||Mount Zion||Murphy|
|Rhoades (2)||Roach (2)||Ross (2)||Ross-Turner|
|Rowlett||Rushing Slave||Rushing (3)||Rushing Creek|
|Rutland||St. Mary's (2)||St. Stephens||Sardis|
|Shaw (2)||Sills||Smith (2)||Soden|
|Trinity Church||Vickers||Vinson (2)||Vinson Slave|
|Vogel||Wallace (2)||Watson (2)||Wenger|
|Whitford (2)||Wilcox (2)||Wilkerson||Williams (2)|
|Wofford (2)||Woodson||Unknown Burials|
Each of the above names has a further significance in that TVA has systematically changed the names of our places, erasing all evidence that our culture ever existed; all evidence that such a thing was ever done. Our cemetery names have remained constant--a reflection of our communities between the rivers.
In recent years the incidence of vandalism in our cemeteries has increased. Graves have been opened, stones broken or stolen, wrought iron fences stolen. Our cemeteries remain our point of contact with our identity as being from between those rivers...
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--A group of grandmothers protesting in front of the Lutz Motel in Twin Lakes in January of 1964. TVA had claimed the motel and established its land office, from which it would organize its "acquisitions." These were among the "willing sellers" that TVA "benefitted" by occupying their ancestral homes.
According to testimony of then Congressman Frank Stubblefield, before the House of Representatives, land owners between the rivers were offered "approximately one-half" the accessed tax rate for their land. TVA explained this, in an article in the Paducah Sun-Democrat, as necessary to prevent land speculation. Those that complained had their offered price cut in half. The resulting small number of appeals was used as evidence that the offered price was considered fair by the land owners.
Land owners were given a date and told that after that date their home would be bulldozed, burned, and buried, "whether you agreed to the offered price or not..." While the families still lived in their homes, TVA employees would come in and "carry off personal possessions," claiming they were now TVA property. (Quotes from Stubblefield's Congressional statement.) The bulldozers and harassing TVA agents are burned into the memory of all those from Between the Rivers.
TVA insisted that our heritage was of no significance; and certainly of no value. They could not understand why we resisted--they called it "dragging our feet." When we requested that our churches, which had served as the core of our communities for generations, be left so that we might return to worship in our ancestral communities--even if we could no longer live in them--our churches were bulldozed and burned. The Tennessee Valley Authority torched our churches, but there were no federal investigations into the attrocity.
When we sought assistance from the outside, we were ridiculed and told we were standing in the way of progress. By eliminating our homes, farms, and businesses the entire region would prosper. This was the motivation for TVA destroying our communities, occupying our land, referring to us as trash that needed to be removed, and trying to eliminate all evidence that we had ever lived among our beloved hills and forests.
Now TVA acts surprised when we object to their building stores, restaurants, and rental cabins, "because the LBL visitors would like such accomadations." They do not understand why it upsets us to watch as our ancestral places are farmed, because they now claim it is necessary for the benefit of the wildlife (we assume this also applies to the cattle grazing on land leased within LBL).
In short, they can not fathom why it angers us that they now say the motivation for doing all of this to us was invalid and they must now replace what we had. And they act surprized that we are still vigilent. We are more organized now than ever and we intend to protect what still belongs to us.
They may have never realized it. But it is a good thing for them we were not like they portrayed us when they occupied our land. It is a good thing for them now that we are not like they have continued to portray us for the last thirty years at their Welcome Center. We have remained above that.
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It is not uncommon today to hear that phrase, "I'm from between the rivers", uttered by those who were born after the forced relocation. We are, in fact, witnessing a new generation of "former residents", who take pride in their heritage and share the understanding--if not the actual memories-- of what we were forced to give up; and why. Any sociologist will tell you that collective, or community, memory is not dependent on the experience of the individual, but the shared experiences of the community. The culture continues to the extent that this community memory lives in the new generations.
What follows is a poem written by Jonathan Oliver for his mother. Jonathan was born shortly after his family was forced from their land. This family was among the many that traces back to revolutionary war soldiers settling Between the Rivers.
(For many this loss is compounded with outrage when
we now see TVA's businesses replacing those we had, and contract farmers
planting, haying, and grazing cattle on our farms in the new push to turn the LBL into a commercial
enterprise. We understand exactly how narrow the justification for taking
our homes and heritage was; and that the sole justification is now being
willfully abandoned with each new commercial venture between the rivers.)
What the LBL continues to mean to us.
The cemetery rescue effort.
Please check back for more information.
If you would like additional sources of information on the people from Between the Rivers, there are a few books available.
* Dr. J. Milton Henry published a book under contract for Austin Peay State University and TVA during the formation of the LBL. The book is called Land Between the Rivers. It is doubtful you can acquire this book from TVA because he said a few favorable things about us; but Austin Peay University may still be a source.
*Betty Joe Wallace wrote Between the Rivers: History of the Land Between the Lakes. It was also published by Austin Peay University, in 1992.
Norma Jean (Rhodes) Ladd has published three volumes on the families from between the rivers, with a focus on the Lyon County area. These are the outgrowth of the regular reunions held by the former residents. Her books are called L.B.L. Reunions and Memories from Between the Rivers. She is a native of the between the rivers area. She can be reached at: 132 Griggstown Road, Calvert City, Ky. 42029
Just please don't rely on the TVA for an accurate account of our
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