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Lake Murray (South Carolina)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Early Settlement

The Saluda River was named after the Saluda Indian tribe, which lived along the banks of the river. For reasons unclear, the Saluda tribe migrated to Pennsylvania beginning in the early 1700s and were replaced by Cherokee from the north.

The lower Saluda River valley was settled in the early 1750s by German, Dutch, and Swiss emigrants. The region had two major settlements: the Dutch Fork (located on the fork of the Broad River and the Saluda River) and the Saxe-Gotha township.

In 1755, the Cherokee signed a peace treaty with the British and the Cherokee withdrew from the area, leaving much of the land for open settlement. The Dutch Fork was the most densely settled, becoming home to 483 settler families by 1760. It has been estimated that by the year 1765 there were 7,500 to 8,000 Dutch-Germans and German-Swiss who had come to the province of South Carolina.

Because of this common nationality and language, the Dutch Fork community remained very cohesive and somewhat isolated through the years. Today, the surnames of area reflect this: Shealy, Sease, Bouknight, Bowers, Rikard, Kinard, Koon, Summer, Wise, Dreher, Derrick, Dominic, Geiger, Epting, Frick, Huffstetler, Wessinger, etc. Many of these family groups live on land that is under the original land grant from the King of England still today. During the American Revolution, the Dutch Fork area was mostly patriot, unlike the surrounding regions that held large groups of English settlers. The only major engagement of the Revolution that was fought in the vicinity occurred in the nearby town of Ninety-Six, located up the Saluda River. It was the first land battle south of New England in the war.

The Saluda River was a strategic boundary, and since there was no bridge on the river at that time, the ferries near the Dutch Fork area were vital to the movement of troops and material westward toward the frontier. The most important of these ferries were Wyse's Ferry and Kimpson's Ferry.

During the war, Hessian mercenaries came to South Carolina to fight for the British. Many of them had been pressed into the service and brought to the Colonies against their will, and therefore many deserted the army and found shelter in Dutch-German settlements such as the Dutch Fork. Today, many locals know of specific ancestors that were brought to fight the young United States and became citizens.

After the war ended, things in the Dutch Fork returned to peaceful normalcy until the American Civil War. When South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, numerous volunteer regiments were created entirely from people in these settlements.

By 1928, about 5,000 people were living in the Saluda River valley. The community included 3 churches, 6 schools, and 193 graveyards.

Hydroelectric Power

The Saluda River held much interest in water power generation for more than a hundred years. As the demand for electricity in the developing South increased, it became apparent that harnessing the flow of large rivers such as the Saluda would be needed.

The Lexington Water Power Company, incorporated in 1903 by G.A. Guignard of Columbia., acquired the flowage rights on the Saluda River from Dreher Shoals to 20 miles upstream. Originally, two dams were considered to be built, one at Dreher Shoals, which was approximately 10 miles west of Columbia, and the other at Bear Creek, five miles upstream. However, in 1907 the company sold the lands necessary for construction of the lower dam at Dreher Shoals to James W. Jackson, of Augusta, Georgia and W. T. Van Brunt of New York.

Between 1908 and 1911, ownership of the Dreher Shoals property changed several times, but it was eventually purchased by the Richland Public Service Company, a subsidiary of Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company.

Since 1916, a man named Thomas Clay Williams had been proposing the development of hydroelectric power on the Saluda, Santee and Cooper rivers in South Carolina, but his propositions did not generate much serious interest. T. C. Williams was not an engineer, and his belief that massive power could be generated from the swamps and coastal plains of the state did not meet much enthusiasm with the leading engineers of South Carolina. It was not until the plans were brought before an engineer from New York, William Spencer Murray, that an engineer truly realized Williams' dream and its potential.

William S. Murray was an engineer with much experience in electric power systems and generation. In 1920, Congress authorized Murray to head a study undertaken by the United States Geological Survey for the establishment of a large-scale electric power grid in the industrial northeast. He also had been the chief engineer on the project to electrify the New Haven Railroad out of New York City.

Once Williams went to Murray to make his proposal in 1923, Murray and his partner, Henry Flood, Jr., poured over topographic maps of the region and worked on estimates. It looked as if they might be able to generate enormous power at very low cost. It was said that then, as Murray looked over a topographic map of the Saluda River Valley, his eyes glanced at the 360-foot contour line. He followed the line as it meandered through the valley and noticed that the contour did not touch a railroad, and that its highest elevation was never less than 40 feet  below the divide separating the Saluda Valley from the neighboring Broad River Valley. At about 10 miles west of Columbia its position on the north side of the valley approached within 8,000 feet of its position on the south side. Murray realized that a dam at that location would be one of the greatest dams for any power development in the world. He then visited South Carolina to investigate further.

While in South Carolina conducting his survey, Murray envisioned a system much larger than Williams' plan for one dam on the Santee River. Murray envisioned a system of three dams, one at the site on the Saluda, which in addition to power generation would keep a constant flow of water into the Santee where another dam would bring the water of that river together with the Cooper River on a vast diversion dam that fed the water into a power canal with a third dam and power house. The dimensions of the project quickly overshadowed the 60,000 horsepower system that Williams envisioned and grew to over 400,000 horsepower.

Securing the land

On July 8, 1927, the Federal Power Commission granted a license to Lexington Water Power Company for construction of a dam and powerhouse at Dreher Shoals. Immediately, the company went to work on securing the land needed for construction of the lake and dam. The reservoir and its protective margins covered an area of about 65,000 acres and to secure this, it was necessary to purchase a total of approximately 100,000 acres of which approximately 75% was woodland.

To secure the land necessary for the construction, 1,100 parcels of land needed to be purchased, on which approximately 5,000 people lived. The work of acquiring land was made more difficult because many properties had passed from fathers to sons with no legal transfer, with certain lands conveyed under crown grants from King James II of England, or other tracts had no records due to their destruction.

The work of securing these lands was entrusted to T. C. Williams and he carried it through to a very successful conclusion. Not only did he acquire the lands necessary, he made arrangements for the removal of 3 churches, 6 schools, and 193 graveyards containing 2,323 graves. In general, the landowners and local officials showed a positive spirit of cooperation with Williams and a large number of landowners took up lands adjacent to or in the vicinity of the project, continuing their farming or other pursuits in the same general neighborhood, so that their removal from the valley was not a loss to the community.

Clearing the way

The work of clearing the site for the project was started in April 1927. Clearing of the woodland up to the 360-foot; elevation line, which would later become the high water mark, was completed in the summer of 1928, when 2,000 men were employed and 37 saw mills were operating. Approximately 100 million board feet of lumber were manufactured. Practically all of the lumber required for construction of the dam was supplied from the clearing operation.

With the start of the work on the dam, the necessary field office and camp buildings were built near the site. A village of nine dwellings, a community house, and church were built half a mile away for operators. Dotted throughout the area were the camp sites of the contractors. The Arundel Corporation camps accommodated from 1,500 to 1,800 workmen at different times. The Barstow & Company camps provided quarters for 1,000 to 1,500 men. Smaller camps of subcontractors housed about 500.

One of the first operations was to build a railroad spur three miles long connecting with the Columbia, Newberry & Laurens Railroad at Irmo. Grading of this transportation link was begun September 12, 1927 and the line was in operation November 25. Prior to the completion of the railroad, construction material and equipment was hauled to the site by truck.

Reference: Bayne, Coy (1999), Lake Murray: Legend and Leisure, Third Edition, Revised, Bayne Publishing Co., ISBN 0-939241-65-X

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