1930s TVA Relocations

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As part of his New Deal, the 73rd Congress under President Franklin Roosevelt introduced “fourteen programs to be facilitated in the first hundred days of the New Deal.” One of the most important acts was the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, known as the TVA. Senator George Norris lobbied for a bill to develop the Tennessee Basin. In the 1930’s, construction began on the Norris Dam, which the President readily promoted. On 18 May 1933 the bill was signed, creating the Tennessee Valley Authority. Senator Norris had the honor to have not only the bill,
but the lake, the town of Norris, and the first dam in the valley to be named after him.

The first TVA dam was constructed in Cove Creek, Anderson Co., TN. A total of 152,00 acres would be required for the lake basin. This included 1,262 tracts in Union Co., of which 323 tracts were in the Loyston, Union Co., TN community. The former name of Loyston was Loys Crossroads, the area where descendants of Martin Loy’s three sons settled at the turn of the 19th century.

The “Great Exodus” that resulted from this project affected 2,890 rural families. Among these were 991 families from Union Co. The majority of these families had lived in the community for many generations. Besides the hardships of being uprooted from neighboring friends and family, difficulties arose for these families in finding suitable sites for new homes and farms. Cemetery graves, some dating back to 1800, were disinterred: 5,226 graves would be reinterred at new locations. To assist in the grave relocation, TVA established five memorial cemeteries which provided plots for 84% of the total amount of graves. One of these being New Loyston Memorial Cemetery, from which the town of New Loyston emerged. The remaining number were reinterred in private and church cemeteries.

It was said that neither the Wars, disease, famine, or the present Great Depression affected families of the Tennessee Valley as the TVA project did.

While searching the Internet, I tried to find some sites on the TVA families that were relocated. My John Henry Loy had left the area known as Loys Crossroads circa 1805. (This year is per tradition, though he signed as witness to his mother’s East TN land sale in December 1808.) However, families of his cousins and his sister Mary still resided there, as did other allied families. Their descendants were among those involved in the “Great Exodus”. Because of this, and my interest in this community, I wanted to form a “TVA Exodus” Reunion page for anyone (or a descendant of anyone) affected by one of the TVA project relocations, which, besides TN, covered also parts of the states of NC, KY, and AL. (If I missed a state, let me know. I think it was only four.)

Since transforming this site into WordPress, this page is now interactive and open to comments. If you or your ancestor relocated during the 1930’s, please tell your story here. For example, where you (or parent(s)/ancestor(s)) lived before the TVA removal, name of dam being constructed, how old you (or parent(s)/ancestor(s)) were at the time of the removal, names of parents and siblings involved, what was your/their reaction was upon learning you/they would have to move, and where your family did relocate and any other memories of that time. Through the post, you might just meet a long-lost neighbor or the family of a long-lost neighbor of your ancestor.

10 Replies to “1930s TVA Relocations”

  1. Lisa Harless

    I manage Loyston Point Campground and am fascinated by the history of this incredible area. I just started digging through this site and love it, but wanted to see where is could locate some copies of pictures of the town of Loyston to hang in our store/office. Anyone have direction or things to share?

    1. loyhistorian Post author

      Hi Lisa!

      Glad you’re enjoying the Loyston part of the site! I have some TVA-related links on the site but just now noticed I apparently don’t have the photos linked. This is at the National Archives website, under the Lewis Hine (photographer) collection: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/532624

      From there, just do a search for “Loyston”. You can also do a search at the main National Archives page but you’ll have to weed through pdf and xls files as well, or click the “images” tab. The Lewis Hine collection contains other towns besides Loyston, so you might be interested in seeing all of his TVA-related photographs.

      Not in this group, but in Mr. Tharpe’s book To Loy’s Crossroads, there was a photo of Loyston church with the town meeting there. The townspeople held the “Last Roundup” at the time of the photo. That is, meeting to say their final goodbyes before leaving. I don’t know if that photo is available online, but it would be a good one for your office. Since Mr. Tharpe was a president of the Union Co., TN genealogical society in the 1980s, the society should have information on how to locate this photo.

      Is Harless your married name or birth name? There are Harless families that descend from the Loys. They were in Alabama, and later Texas beginning in 1850s. It’d be remarkable if your family was from this Harless branch.

  2. Charles A Sanders

    Records show that a relative, Kenas Gilbert, lived in Loy’s Crossroad (also shown in one record as Loy’s X-road). Thanks for this information about the area.

  3. Lamarre Notargiacomo

    Does anyone here know of unbiased media sources – other than the books you mentioned? My project is overdue and short so I don’t have time to read the books you mentioned right now, but I want to find a balanced historical perspective – one that documents the hardships created for the common man during the Tennessee Valley Authority era. I’m researching this and almost all of the sources speak glowingly of the benefits of TVA with only a passing mention of the down side. sportymom5n2@aol.com. Thank you!

  4. loyhistory Post author

    Hi Tanya!

    Thanks for posting!

    One of the books that covered the effects of all the TVA dam projects, and mentions Norris Dam area is “TVA And The Dispossessed: The Resettlement of Population in the Norris Dam Area” by Michael J. McDonald and John Muldowny. c. 1982 The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

    Another book, “To Loy’s Crossroads” was published in 1989 by William G. Tharpe for the Union County Historical Society. I’d corresponded with Mr. Tharpe at the time he published this and purchased a copy. It’s very informative as far as the TVA relocation affected the residents. Though I found one error regarding a Loy family tree in the book. It gave “Fisher” John Loy with his cousin John’s children listed. I informed Mr. Tharpe about this and he said he just copied info someone else had sent him. This doesn’t discredit the TVA section of the book, but just a warning if using any of the Loy tree part of it for genealogy.

    If you can’t find these books locally, you can search for it in “Find-in-a-Library” and order it through interlibrary loan. The Find-in-a-Library link is on the Genealogy Links section of my site.

    At the time I could afford a Newspapers.com subscription, I found several old news clippings on the Loyston TVA relocation not only in Tennessee papers, but in numerous states. One Dunkirk, NY article mentions local boys working for the CCC and being assigned to Loyston. Another Dunkirk, NY article gives a good detail with Loyston area resident interviews, which is probably what you’re looking for. Eventually these will get added to this site, but if you like, send me your contact info through this site’s contact form and I’ll email attachments of these clippings I have. [Edit: Duh! I just remembered, your email address is in my WordPress administrator panel with your post, so if you want me to send them to that email address, just reply to this post and I’ll send them.]

    Hope this helps some. I’ve not checked recently, but last I checked, there’s still hardly any online resources on the TVA removals.


    1. Lamarre Notargiacomo

      Hi Delores, I only skimmed your piece before sending my inquiry (above). I would appreciate it if you would send me the links to the original newspaper articles you mentioned above. Thank you so much! sportymom5n2@aol.com.

      1. loyhistory Post author

        Hi Lamarre,

        The newspaper articles are in various newspapers all over the U.S. at Newspapers.com. (I used to have a paid subscription, until my budget no longer allowed it.) As for books, I would highly recommend TVA and the Dispossessed. It’s pretty balanced and quite sympathetic to those forced to leave their homes of many generations. Since posting my article, I did find out that OpenLibrary (through Archive.org) has a digital copy to loan out to those with a free OpenLibrary digital account. Right now there’s a wait list, but it’s worth it. Archive.org usually has free public domain e-book downloads at their site, but the OpenLibrary section is that that’s still under some copyright (books in 1950s-1980s, primarily), so the digital lending library format is how they can still make these available.

        Here’s direct link to the book there:

  5. Tanya Jenkins

    I’m not sure if any of my family lost their land to the creation of Norris Dam, but I am doing a senior capstone project on Norris Dam and the effects on the Loyston area. Does anyone have any old newspaper clippings, old magazine articles, etc. on this?

    1. Debra J. Flatford Angell

      Hi I am Debra Flatford. I grew up in New Loyston. Just down from New Loyston cemetery. I now live in Norris. I have a lot of the Union county TN. books. I also had family removed from Loyston. Loved hearing my Mamaw Goldie Graham talk about the area. Email me at flatforddj@aol.com. I may be able to help with some questions.

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