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They watched a house float down the river with a rooster on the rooftop

Posted by | February 6, 2015

Big Emory – our river used for swimming, providing water for a multitude of steam engines, used as the source of ground water for the drilled wells for the homes and businesses. Emory was truly our lifeline. Ordinarily, she calmly flowed down past everything, often hitting shoals that made cascading ripples as she danced merrily along her way, but she was shallow enough to wade in and enjoy the coolness on our feet and legs.

Emory also had “turning holes” that swiftly spun into a vortex of danger for anyone or any thing that fell into its swift rotating energy. Nevertheless, the Emory was a little river that nourished a whole community, flowing into the Clinch River, then into the Great Tennessee River.

Oakdale TN flood of 1929

The Oakdale, TN flood of 1929.

In the later part of March 1929, the rains started, continuing for days on end. The hills and mountain streams poured forth to swell the Emory River far beyond its normal boundary. It was March 23, and nothing in the path of rising Emory River was safe.

Railroad tracks were gone. The big steam engines lay on their sides at the bottom of the river. All railroad business ceased. The 1905 bridge across the river crumbled into huge metal and concrete masses. All the homes built near the Little Tunnel and extending up to the bridge on the west side of the tracks were washed away.

Along the main street in the middle of Oakdale, part of the extended building on the Drug Store washed away. The newly built theater and meeting hall upstairs held its ground, along with Bullard’s Store and the brick Dr. Carr building. Any homes on the side of the street next to the river were lost. The homes on the right of the road were saved.

Right on the corner—as the main road from town started to curve at the intersection up the hill towards the Kries, Snyder, Moore, and Carr homes—my Grandmother Oakley and Aunt Bertha lost their home. A few feet to the next curve going to the bottoms, stood a two-story store on the left, and it survived.

The homes on the right side were spared, including my Uncle Sam and Laura Oakley. However, the homes on the left side of the road next to the river were not spared. My family, Ed and Eula Oakley, sons, Edgar, Junior (Speed Hound), and me – Barbara Nell – had just moved into the row of houses located after the second curve to the bottoms, on the river side.

My dad had been out west as an oil well driller. Junior was born in New Mexico, and I was born in Texas. Our Uncle Sam came to Oakdale around 1925, to work in the new bank built over by the railroad station. He married Laura Holliday. First he brought his mother and sister from Kentucky and built the little house on the corner behind his home.

Barbara Oakley Hayes with her father and brother, 1929.

In the fall of 1928, Uncle Sam sent for my family to come to Oakdale, as the Southern Railway needed workers. We had moved into one of the houses next to the river and lost everything we had except the car. Ed lost a gallon jar of marbles that he had won playing boys all across the country.

My mother took Junior, who was 5, and me, who was 2, up into Mrs. Snyder’s yard. I truly can remember seeing my grandmother’s home wash away. I am sure my grandmother and aunt were there with us, but I have only a few mental snapshots to call upon. One is of Mrs. Snyder’s rolling her apron up and down around her arms. Another is of my mother holding me in her arms and crying with Junior hanging close.

My friend Jo Moore was also 2 years old at the time. Their home was up the street near town somewhere behind Dr. Carr’s building. Jo remembers her dad Bill holding her on his shoulders as they watched a house float down the river with a rooster on the rooftop.

I have no idea where we went, or how we survived after the flood – possibly with Uncle Sam, but for some reason, I think the Methodist Church was a refuge.

By the summer of ’29, the Emory River was back where it was supposed to be, except for a slight shift up behind Bullard’s Store. The Red Cross rebuilt my grandmother’s home – right back on the same corner and in the same style. My family moved two houses up the street across from Mr. and Mrs. Frank Arp, Margaret, Chicken, and Doris Ann.


Barbara Oakley Hayes
Oakdale High School, Class of 1945
The Oakdale Express, Vol 1, No. 4, Spring 2008


Duke Power floods the Uplands of SC

Posted by | February 5, 2015

The Cherokee name Jocassee means “Place of the Lost One,” and what a fitting description that is for the South Carolina lake that bears its name, and for its sister lake, Lake Keowee. In 1974, Duke Energy Corporation finished construction of the Oconee Nuclear Station on the Keowee River in Oconee County, SC. The construction project included these two man-made lakes. The largest is Lake Keowee, which was built at the station site. Lake Jocassee, built at a higher elevation to serve as a pump storage lake for hydroelectric power generation, covers 7,656 acres, impounding the waters of the Whitewater, Thompson, Horsepasture and Toxaway Rivers.

artist's rendering of Oconee Nuclear Station, SCArtist’s rendering of what would become Oconee Nuclear Station on lake Keowee in Oconee County.

There’s no question that Lake Keowee’s 18,500 acres of water and 300 miles of shoreline have been a valuable source of energy and recreation in northwestern South Carolina. The lake provides a dependable water supply for Greenville and Seneca. The station’s generators have a total capacity of 174,000 killowatts of electricity. And campers can enjoy the county-managed 155-acre Mile Creek Park, the 40-acre South Cove Park, and 44-acre High Falls Park (all leased from Duke).

Progress, as always, has a cost.

It was a post-World War II boom-time, for growth in population, housing, energy-use and consumption. No river with the downhill heft of Keowee would escape the dam builders’ advances. It was also a time in which the economics of the family farm forced some uncomfortable compromises among those who had for all history, in the words of Fruber Whitmire, “lived at home.” Growing one’s living was a dying way of life; an infringing world ran on ready cash.

So the die was cast. Not many who lose a birthplace, a homeplace, a piece of sacred earth to a dam through eminent domain are going to bless Duke Power.

Keowee – Micheal Hembree and Dot Jackson

Beneath the two lakes lay some of the most ancient and significant Native American and early European archaeological sites in the Southeast. Two hundred feet below Lake Keowee’s surface sit Fort Prince George, an early British military outpost, and the Cherokee village site at Keowee–“land of mulberry groves,”– which during the eighteenth century served as the capital of the Lowerhill Cherokee. Many other historic towns and buildings, such as Falls Creek Church, Estatoe, Sugartown, Mt Carmel Church, Jocassee Village, Camp Jocassee, and Keowee Church, felt the onrush of the Keowee River’s dammed waters.

home in Pickens SC circa 1917This was the home place of John Thomas Newton, circa 1917. The site is now under water due to Lake Keowee construction.

Lake construction also required harvesting the wild timberlands in the lake basins, including some of the last stands of native old growth forest in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. These lakes inundated some of the best bottomland in upstate South Carolina. When Crescent Land and Timber Company, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, finished the clearing operation in the fall of 1969, they had harvested 17.5 million board feet of pine sawtimber, 15 million board feet of hardwood sawtimber and 51,800 cords of pulpwood.

Duke Energy boasted that this was enough sawtimber to build 2,350 six-room houses, and that the pulpwood would load 2,250 railroad cars. Some of the yellow poplar trees that were harvested in the ancient forest of Jocassee were reported to be 200 feet tall, seven feet in diameter and over 200 years old.

Then there was the question of submerged cemeteries. State law prohibits damage or destruction of human remains. It is a felony, and conviction carries a maximum file of $5,000 and 10 years in prison. So suitable reinterment plots had to be found. “Old Pickens” was located at Robertson’s Ford on the Keowee River, near where the nuclear station now sits. The only building remaining from Old Pickens is the old Presbyterian Church. There is a church yard with some of the original old tombstones, and next to that are the reinterred graves of Fannie Gibson, Joab Lewis, Isabella Baskin Reid, and a number of others moved to the site by Duke Power.

Other graves identified and claimed by relatives were moved to Martin Grove Wesleyan Methodist Church, Mount Carmel Baptist, Oconee Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Sunrise Cemetery in Pickens, and Stamp Creek Baptist Church Cemetery. (For a more complete list see

The Duke Power Company Memorial Cemetery was established during the construction of Lake Keowee as a place where unclaimed graves could be reinterred. If a living relative could not be found to specify a new interment location, the unknown remains where buried here.

In the fall of 2007 Duke Energy hired a Georgia-based company to do an archeological survey of Lake Keowee that will encompass the shoreline, islands and undeveloped portions of lake access areas. “The region is rich in history, and we believe it is important to identify archaeological and historic sites within the reservoir,” said Joe Hall, manager of Duke Energy’s lake-use permitting.

Luther Lyle, chairman of Oconee County’s Arts and Historical Commission, called the survey a wonderful thing, but late in coming.

“The Cherokee were all up and down the river and a lot is already under water,” Mr. Lyle said. “There is a wealth of knowledge and information to be gained from what’s still above the lake. I think the mindset has changed since the lakes were put in and we realized how much we have lost.”


Sources: – “Oconee Nuclear Station,” by Buzz Williams, pp. 9-10, 15
Keowee: The story of the Keowee River Valley in Upstate South Carolina, by Michael Hembree, Dot Jackson, self published 1995



There is no reason why Tonoloway Ridge should not be known as an Apple Section

Posted by | February 4, 2015

“Hancock and its surrounding area during the main span of the 20th century was one of the largest fruit producers in the nation,” begins the Maryland Historical Marker along West Main Street in that same town. “In 1886 Edmund Pendleton Cohill (1855-1943) began the cultivation of fruit crops. Over the years his planted acreage increased, and Cohill formed the Tonoloway Orchard Company. Other company and family names followed…”

Nowhere does the marker mention Henry E. Van Deman, and that’s a shame, for without him Cohill’s Tonoloway Orchard may not have risen to the dominant market position it ultimately achieved.

Henry E. Van Deman was born in Concord, OH in 1846 with very nearly an apple in each hand; both his father and grandfather were orchardists. Like many farm boys of his era, he never attended college, spending his young manhood instead fighting with the 1st Ohio in Civil War between 1863-65.

After the war he studied for a time with one Dr. J.A. Warder of Ohio, an ‘old-time pomologist.’ He moved to Benzonia, MI, where he helped his brother John develop orchards for several years, then on to Allen County, KS in 1871, where he took up a homestead claim.

In 1876 Van Deman became a member of the Kansas State Horticultural Society, which in turn brought him to the attention of the Kansas Agricultural College. He was invited to teach there in short order, and rose to become chairman of the college from 1878-80. He was during this same period gaining national recognition for his regular contributions to “Gardener’s Monthly.”

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, U.S. farmers were expanding fruit orchard programs in response to growing markets. At the same time, horticulturists from the USDA and agricultural colleges were bringing new varieties to the United States from foreign expeditions, and developing experimental tracts for these fruits. In response to this increased interest and activity, the USDA established the Division of Pomology in 1886.

The USDA recruited Henry E. Van Deman, and brought him from Kansas to Washington, DC as the division’s chief pomologist.

Van Deman’s “Report of the Pomologist” in the ‘Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the year 1886’ directly addressed a crucial aspect of the department’s diversification program — namely, the production of fruits for export. Apples and citrus fruits were seen as particularly significant.

USDA Pomological Watercolor CollectionThe introduction of new apple varieties required exact representations of the fruit so that plant breeders could accurately document and disseminate their research results. Since the use of scientific photography was not widespread in the late 19th Century, USDA commissioned artists to create watercolor illustrations of newly introduced cultivars.

Many of the watercolors were used for lithographic reproductions in USDA publications, such as the Report of the Pomologist and the Yearbook of Agriculture. From USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection; Malus domestica “Bloomfield”; Specimen No.: 10252; Grower’s State: Maryland ; USDA Artist: Deborah Griscom Passmore; Watercolor Date: 9/28/1895

Edmund Pendleton Cohill was born in Elmira, NY when Henry E. Van Deman was nine years old. In 1861 young Edmund’s mother Mary died, and he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Y. Mapes, in Great Bend, PA. He attended public schools until he was seventeen years old, when he went to Harrisburg to become a clerk in the office of T. T. Wierman, chief engineer of the Pennsylvania Canal Company.

Here he remained two years, making his home with Mr. Wierman.
While in the city he attended night school, and took a course in short hand, telegraphy and bookkeeping. In 1874, upon graduation from Harrisburg Commercial College, he accepted the position of private secretary to George M. Ball, general manager of the Empire Transportation Company, in Williamsport, Pa.

In 1875 Empire sent Cohill to Baltimore as cashier, a position he held for one year. During his time in Baltimore he met Mary Ellen Rinehart of Hancock, MD. The two married, in Hancock, on October 23, 1876, and Cohill resettled there for the remainder of his life.

Edmund  Pendleton CohillEdmund Pendleton Cohill.

Cohill partnered with his father-in-law Samuel Rinehart in the mercantile business and manufacture of sumac. Rinehart retired in 1880, leaving Cohill sole owner of the business. In I886, he began commercially cultivating apples.

Van Deman, in the meantime, resigned from the USDA in 1893, to enter the private market. He continued to publish horticultural editorial work, and got involved as an investor and in an advisory capacity with large fruit and nut plantations in Louisiana, Kansas, and Tennessee.

He also served as a judge of exhibitions of nuts and fruit in practically every state in the Union and at all the national expositions.

By 1901 E.P. Cohill was starting to be noticed nationally as a rising star in pomology circles. Guy L. Stewart, Asst. Industrial Agent, B&O R.R., wrote an article in the Maryland Horticultural Society Report of that year titled “Apples in Western Maryland: Their Present Status and Future Prospects,” in which he applauds Cohill’s leadership in orchardry: “The people of this section have only begun to see that their money lays in apples. Mr. EP Cohill, a merchant and himself an owner of a young orchard, has talked and talked to the people to get them interested in apple culture.

“He has illustrated and set the example by planting one hundred trees each year for the past five years, but is now convinced that this is too slow and will plant more extensively. He shipped from Hancock this season nine carloads, 2600 barrels. As example of what can be done Mr. Cohill says that eight fifteen year old trees yielded $1.90 per barrel or $575 per acre of forty trees.”

Stewart concludes that there’s a prime orchardry business opportunity to be had for those who would see it: “A soil so fine and mellow, with a growth of blue grass so heavy as to be difficult to work through, with south eastern exposure, natural air and water drainage, facilities for market, being half way between Pittsburg and New York, and with intermediate points, good wagon roads for hauling and with a standard market variety thoroughly tested, there is no reason why this Tonoloway Ridge should not be known as an apple section.”

Section of Tonoloway Orchard, Hancock, MDSection of Tonoloway Orchard, Hancock, MD.

Van Deman, who still lived in Washington DC, probably had plenty of contacts in the Maryland Horticultural Society from his years at USDA, and even if he didn’t read this article, he most certainly had heard about the Tonoloway Ridge and its orchardry potential. Indeed, less than a year after the Maryland Horticultural Society article by Stewart appeared, a July 29, 1902 NY Times article reported:

“The Tonoloway Orchard Company was incorporated today by a number of Government pomologists, and work will begin immediately planting an orchard of 800 acres in Winter apples along Tonoloway Ridge, near Hancock, MD. H.E. Vandemen, who established the department of pomology of the United States Agricultural Department, is President of the company.” No mention in that article, interestingly, of E.P. Cohill, who ran Tonoloway on a day-to-day basis from the start.

Cohill’s fruit operation was instantly catapulted to the first rank, able now to tap into Van Deman’s nationwide network of finance, knowledge and contacts.

Other company and family names followed Tonoloway Orchard, among them: Millstone Orchard Company, Locher Orchards, Daniels, Funk, R.S. Dillon, Corona Orchard Company, Round Top Orchard Company, Green Lane, Roy Daniels, John Mason and L. Resley, as well as Hepburn Orchards. Over time, many of them were incorporated into larger companies such as Fairview Orchards.

Hancock went on to become one of the United States’ most productive areas in the apple industry. By 1925 over 5,000 acres of land were devoted to commercial fruit production. At the industrial peak in the mid 1940-60’s, Maryland produced over two million bushels of apples, 25% of which were produced in Washington County.


“A history of Washington County, Maryland: Volume 2, Part 1” By Thomas John Chew Williams, Higginson Book Company, Hagerstown, MD, 1906


North Carolina politician gives us the word ‘debunk’

Posted by | February 3, 2015

The North Carolina historical marker skirts the issue diplomatically: there’s much more to the story of how Felix Walker ‘gave new meaning to the word’ than the sign is letting on.

The verb debunk means to expose or ridicule the falseness or hollowness of a myth, idea or belief. It is made up of the prefix ‘de-‘, meaning to remove, and the word ‘bunk’.

On February 25, 1820, the Missouri Question, whether Missouri should be admitted to the Union as a slave or free state, was being hotly debated in Congress. Near the end of the debate and amidst calls from the floor to have a vote, Felix Walker, representative from Buncombe County, NC, rose to speak. And speak. Did I mention that Felix Walker spoke?

When asked by other members to desist, he replied that he was bound ‘to make a speech for Buncombe,’ and continued to hold forth.

Walker was elected as a Republican to the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Congresses, serving from 1817 to 1823. One can only wonder if his long-windedness got him hounded out of North Carolina, for he moved to Mississippi in 1824.

But he left in his wake a masterful symbol for empty talk that could not be ignored by the speakers of the language, and buncombe, actually spelled bunkum in its first recorded appearance in 1828 in “Niles’ Weekly Register,” must have been widely used. Bunkum, noted that journal, was said to be a ‘very useful and expressive word, which is now as well understood as any in our language.’ And “The Wilimington Commercial” referred in 1849 to ‘the Buncombe politicians — those who go for re-election merely.’

In George Ade’s 1900 book “More Fables in Slang” the –um ending has been dropped: “he surmised that the Bunk was about to be handed to him.’

The term debunk originated in a 1923 novel “Bunk,” by American novelist William Woodward (1874–1950), who used it to mean to take the bunk out of things. And H. L. Mencken, the sage of Baltimore and a connoisseur of the American language, entitled one of his books “A Carnival of Buncombe.”

Safire’s Political Dictionary, by William Safire, Random House, 1978
Word Myths, by David Wilton, Ivan Brunetti, Oxford University Press US, 2004


I Want to go Back

Posted by | February 2, 2015

“I would like to go back and carry a few lap-links in my pocket, just in case the hoss busts a trace chain. I want to tie the rawhide ham-string once more and adjust the back-band til it is just behind the hoss’s withers. I want to tie my shoes again with laces made of groundhog hide.

“I want to go back where the ducks and geese are picked every month; where corn and taters are planted, and soap is made by the signs of the moon; where “warnits” and hickory nuts are gathered in the fall for the winter mast; where the folks still dig roots and herbs to buy their winter boots and shoes; and where these same boots and shoes are greased with sheep or beef taller; where the peggin’ awl is still in use; where Arbuckles coffee is parched in the stove and ground in a mill held in grandpa’s lap; where some of the menfolk tied the brooms with home-grown broomcorn; where they make popguns out of elders and shoot paper wads in them.

Arbuckles Ariosa coffee“Yes, I want to go back where they drink sassafras tea in the spring-time to thin their blood;

where they churn with the old up and down churn-dasher; where they turn the churn of cream around as it sits by the fireplace in the big house, so it will get in the right form for churning; where goose quill toothpicks are still in use; where they still boil the clothes and use bluin'; where they refill the straw ticks right after thrashin’ time and where they wear long flannel drawers.

“Yes, I want to go back to the country and get my fill of cracklin’ bread. I want to see the people eat again and shovel it in with their knives. I want to go to the neighbors to borrow the gimlet. I want to go back where they eat three meals a day…breakfast, dinner and supper…and the word “lunch” will never be heard again.

“Yes, I want to go back and make another corn-shucker out of locust. I want to strip some cane and top it and dip the skimmin’s offen’ the bilin’ molasses. I want to go to the neighbors for a bushel of seed corn, or shell a ‘turn’ of corn and take it to the mill for bread and watch as the miller measured out his toll for the grinding. I’d like to call a few doodlebugs outen’ their holes, but I want to avoid the spanish needles, the cuckleburrs, and the chiggers that make life unbearable, and to avoid stone bruises forever.

“I doubt if I could measure up to the hardy souls that were my forefathers. They lived by their strength, by the work of their hands and the sweat of their brow, by the faith they had in themselves. Theirs was a hard life, but it was honest. It was all they knew and they were happy in their way of life and helped themselves by helping others.

“I feel sad that they children of today’s modern society are cheated by missing the things that in those days made families realize they had to work together to live, and in doing so, were kept in a mutual band of friendship.

“It doesn’t seem possible in a span of 50 or more years that life has gone from ways of simplicity to what some of us consider utter confusion. People can’t or won’t take time to enjoy the natural things.

Antlion larvae, or doodlebugsAntlion larvae, or doodlebugs

“We’re living too fast. Modern society has filled us with tension, and unrest. Respect for the things we once held dear and made life worth while a few years ago are gone.

“And as our beloved forefathers rest and meditate in their eternal dreams, on the gentle slopes where once they erected their humble homes. We recall and reminisce about the ways and traditions of the past, realizing with a tear of sadness that we can’t go back or live any of those happy times again.”


source: Too Late For Flowers; Never Too Late For Tears, by Roy L. Sturgill, ‘Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia,’ published by the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, Publication 12, 1978


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