Building an Inland Sea: Clarks Hill Lake on the Upper Savannah and the Twentieth-Century Lives, Land, and River Hidden by its Waters

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Title: Building an Inland Sea: Clarks Hill Lake on the Upper Savannah and the Twentieth-Century Lives, Land, and River Hidden by its Waters
Author: Shapard, Robert Paine
Advisors: Matthew Morse Booker, Committee Chair
Abstract: This thesis recounts the origins of the dam and reservoir built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1940s and early 1950s on the Savannah River, near Clarks Hill, South Carolina, and explores the experiences of people required to sell property and move to make way for the reservoir. To build the Clarks Hill hydropower project, the Corps acquired more than 140,000 acres on both sides of the river in Georgia and South Carolina, with about half that acreage flooded to create the reservoir. The history of people who had owned the land before the Corps, and in some cases lived on it, has receded from the awareness of many people, to the point that the lake seems more like a natural feature than a product of large-scale engineering. That underlying history receded further when Congress changed the name of the project from Clarks Hill to the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake in 1987, in that Thurmond did not symbolize the specific residents and landscape impacted by the dam. Using several oral-history interviews conducted by the author, and drawing on the written record as well, this thesis seeks to reclaim a space in the story of the project for the people it dispossessed of land and homes. The power of the federal government effectively limited the options for people who otherwise would have kept their land. But they had stronger connections to the land and found more value in it than supporters of the dam explicitly recognized, in the arguments they made for the project and in early assessments of the reservoir basin. More people lived within the zone of land acquisition, they were a more diverse group, they felt stronger connections to the land and saw more potential in it for the future. It was not such a used-up, vacant, and valueless landscape.
Date: 2009-08-07
Degree: MA
Discipline: History
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/607


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