November 24, 2012

What People Are Missing from this Story?

The view from the porch on a cove in Table Rock Lake.
M. and I are spending the long Thanksgiving weekend with her siblings and their spouses in a rented "chalet" on Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri—all imitation log siding, cathedral ceilings, stuffed animals (M. not too keen on them), and rustic lodge-themed art of the Hobby Lobby variety.

It's been all feasting and sleep, which is what we needed after the stressful last two weeks.

Yesterday she and I broke off from the group and hiked around in Table Rock State Park, adjacent to the big 1950s dam that created this impoundment with its 700-plus miles of shoreline. (Purposes: flood control on the White River, hydropower, recreation.)

Then we visited the Corps of Engineers visitor center at the dam. The historical exhibit began with the Osage and other Indian tribes . . . and then suddenly it was 1954. Nothing from the early 1800s until the 1950s.

Apparently the people living here then were just "dumb hillbillies" not worth memorializing except for a brief video appearance as victims in the Great Flood of 1927.

Assuming that eminent domain was employed to get the land that would be flooded, some people must have left their farms and businesses in sorrow, cursing the federal goverment.

Perhaps others took the money with delight and never looked back. Maybe others sold to private buyers for what seemed like a lot of money, while the buyer made much much more selling what would become prime lakeside building lots.

Whatever the stories are, the Corps of Engineers is not telling them.

There is a parallel with the National Park Service erasing history in Shenandoah National Park:
After all, the Blue Ridge dwellers were not only different from the mainstream of American society, but, according to one contemporary journalist, their existence in the dark hollows represented "about the limit of destitution at which human life could be sustained." Park promoters and government officials publicized the fact that "these people will be moved to more civilized regions of agriculture and industry." 
I suspect that the attitude of officialdom towards the Ozarks residents was much the same, but you will not find out at the Dewey Short Visitor Center.

5 comments:

Unknown said...

In the Shenandoah National Park, the government arbitrarily allowed residents over 60 to stay in their homes, while everyone else had to leave.Some descendants of these mountain people have tried, without success, to repatriate their ancestral properties. Wherever you see a big lake created by a dam, whether it be for energy or recreational purposes, rest assured that people had to be removed from their homes before the water rose. In the film "Lone Star" by John Sayles, the destroyed town bears the appropriate name of Perdito.

Chas Clifton said...

Lone Star! One of my favorite movies of all time.

Steve Bodio said...

Before I moved out west 30 some years ago I lived in the hills to the west of Quabbin reservoir in western Mass, a huge lake that drowned (I believe) five towns by damming the Swift River. No book has ever told the tale but it would be interesting.

More weirdly, H P Lovecraft used the flooding of the Swift River valley as the backdrop for The Color Out of Space, and I always though his Dunwich Horror lived somewhere up near me in the still lonely hills of Franklin County.

(Also see current Smithsonian on the New England vampire scare back then).

Darrell said...

I was born and raised in the Ozarks. There are, or were, some desperately poor people back in the sticks. Our parents liked to take Sunday drives in the country, to go visit relatives. I remember some that had no electricity, even in the '60s. They got water from a hand pump in the yard, and kept vegetables in a root cellar. Our father (born in 1910) told the story of his family being so poor that he couldn't have a bicycle. Finally someone gave him one, which he loved riding so much he wore out the tires. He couldn't afford new tires, so he tied ropes around the rims. He said it actually worked pretty well, but every time the knots came around and hit the ground, it gave him a kick in the butt, reminding how poor he was.

We fished Table Rock many times. My mom's side of the family had roots there going back to the early 1800s. Read up on what the Union did in MO during the Civil War (fodder for stories such as the Outlaw Josey Wales, for example). Oh, and the first battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi happened just SW of Springfield, north of Branson and Table Rock. Also, Shepherd of the Hills (perhaps the strangest John Wayne movie) happened in the Branson/Table Rock area, IIRC.

I couldn't go out in the country there without getting covered with ticks. Ugh.

Chas Clifton said...

I knew about some of the Civil War stuff, but not the back story on "Shepherd of the Hills." The Wikipedia entry was enough, I think!