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Lake Chatugue, Georgia

Lake Chatugue, Georgia

It was during the eras of Prohibition and the Great Depression when my grandparents and some of their relatives decided to move from Georgia. My grandparents had each grown up in the southern reaches of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Hiawassee. Lake Chatugue was formed when the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) built a dam and flooded the adjacent valleys. Many families in the area lost their homes during that construction. Times were very difficult! Ancestors of my grandparents had been some of the first white settlers in the area, and their family roots ran deep. Those German and English immigrants moved into what was Cherokee Indian land and carved out a living in the mountains. A few of them married members of the Cherokee Nation and chose to leave with their Indian families on the “Trail of Tears,” ending up in what is now Oklahoma. Lake Chatugue is a long deep lake, with clear, cold water, extending for miles into North Carolina. The water levels are frequently drawn down quite radically to provide drinking water for cities in the southern part of Georgia. Road construction along the lakefront was still going on throughout later years when my family would return to my father’s birthplace for summer visits. The original roads were single-lane tracks of hard rock and red clay, first dynamite-blasted and then bulldozed out of the hillsides. Dirt stirred up by passing vehicles would rise in the still air and be visible for miles. The cloud of dust would then settle on any exposed surface. When it got wet with rain it immediately turned to slippery mud that would leave a permanent red stain. It’s somehow ironic that I now live in another place of red dirt, where red dust clouds are often seen, and it too leaves permanent red stains. The western plains of Oklahoma are a long way from the hills of Georgia and the shores of Lake Chatugue, but they are each lovely in their own way.

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