Welcome to Kentucky #LakeLife

Between the Rivers: A Story of Loss and Sacrifice

The Part of the “Land Between the Lakes” Saga That TVA Will Not Be Portraying at Their Welcome Center

“In Dec. 1967 TVA came to me to buy. I told them I have nothing for them. They told me if I wouldn’t take the easy way it would go the hard way. I told them I had gotten nothing easy in my life and we’d just go the hard way. 
The principles I fought for and my buddies died for such as freedom and the right for a man to make his own way and determine his own destiny are trampled upon and flaunted in my face every day by TVA in this LBL project. Just what is the use in living anyway if every thing you have believed in and been taught to admire is desecrated by my own government?” —from complaint filed before Congress in 1968 by Mr. Homer Ray 


Originally there were approximately 370,870.5 acres between the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. This area was known simply as “between the rivers.” It was not uncommon for those Between the Rivers to have claim to their lands tracing back to the 1700’s.

Between the Rivers was isolated from the surrounding society by the rivers. It is in this isolation that is to be found the beauty of BETWEEN THE RIVERS. It was an isolation which cradled its communities; not, as some have said, holding them in ignorance. Much the same way that we seek today to escape from the pressures of the world into the familiar surroundings of our homes, back then, for those of us who lived among the hardwoods and riverbottoms, we had only to cross the threshold of our society–the rivers–to feel that security.

The rivers protected us; fed us; and at times they threatened us; but as much as the land that lay between them, they contained us.

In the Lyon and Trigg county areas of Kentucky (that we are most familiar with) we had approximately 19 communities, 15 schools, 25 churches, 163 cemeteries, 16 post offices, 51 groceries, and 9,000 residents.All this was taken from us for the very narrow purpose of providing a “demonstration” of how removing all commercial activity from within the LBL would stimulate economic development on the outside. The class action lawsuit filed by the residents between the rivers, claiming TVA did not have the right to use eminent domain against unwilling sellers just to create a recreation area, was defeated on this narrow premise. The judge in the sixth circuit court of appeals quoted from then TVA Chairman Aubrey Wagner’s testimony before Congress in which he explained this demonstration. This demonstration alone gave TVA the right to use eminent domain to remove us from our ancestral homes. 

Our Communities

Our communities were tight knit; there was amazingly little social stratification among us. There was a tremendous sense of self-reliance based on neighbor helping neighbors, and the avoidance of outside support systems, which were seen as charity. In our communities when someone was sick and in need, everyone knew. The “sitting up with the sick” was common practice. This meant the community members helped with the work around the home place, sat with the patient at night to help with basic care, administer medication, help with cooking as well as laundry. “I’ll help you because I know you’d help me; but I hope I never need you,” was the common assumption.

In all of this we developed a strong sense of “belonging” to our communities, like the rivers that they lay between, they contained us

A Partial List of Our Communities

HamatiteCenter FurnaceIronton
SardisCarmackPleasant Hill
EnergyWoodson ChapelWake
YaleBrandon ChapelJenny Ridge
Twin LakesPleasant HopeBethleham
FultonStar Lime WorksGolden Pond
CumberlandFerguson Springs
All Gone, but for the people who remember, and our cemeteries.

Our Churches

Our churches were the center of our communities. They stood in solid testimony to the peoples’ trust and faith in GOD. They represented the social as well as the spiritual part of our lives. Our churches shared the legacy of our past and the hope for our future. The pealing of their bell was a sound revered by all who heard. The bell was rung for the call to worship, as well as a means to communicate special needs: such as a death in our community. When someone was ill in our community everyone was aware. They knew that one ring of the church bell meant they had died and gone to a better place, and two rings meant that it was time to dig our friend’s grave. The men gathered their shovels and picks and went to the cemetery to dig their friend’s grave and wait for Mr. Shelly Dunn to arrive. No longer do we hear the church bell toll for our friends, but these are sacred memories we hold in our hearts and share with our living friends from BETWEEN THE RIVERS

A Partial List of Our Churches

Pleasant Hill BaptistGolden Pond Baptist
Jenny Ridge HollinessOak Ridge Baptist
Pleasant Valley BaptistFerguson Springs Baptist
Hematite MethodistCumberland Baptist
Woodson Chapel MethodistSardis Methodist
Cross Roads BaptistBethlehem Baptist
Carmack BaptistPisgah Baptist
Pleasant Hope BaptistUnion Hill Christian
Brandon Chapel MethodistParadise Christian Union
Mt. Pleasant Christian UnionDitney Hill Christian
Crockett Creek BaptistMt. Carmel Baptist
St. Stephens CatholicCenter Furnace Baptist
Salem BaptistStar Lime Works Pentacostal
Our churches were bulldozed from the face of our land.

Our Cemeteries

There were–and still are–some 200 cemeteries located beteen the rivers. Most, although certainly not all, were in a church yard. Others were to be found scattered throughout the hills and hollows on what used to be the backside of someone’s place. Regardless of where they lay, the cemeteries were–and still are–something special. We were taught at an early age to respect the graves in them; a grave was sacred and never to be stepped on. But perhaps the example of the place the cemetery held in our society was to be found in its upkeep. The cemeteries were cared for by the people who lived in the nearest communities. One day each year was set aside as grave yard cleaning day. This was an exciting time, as neighbors gathered their families, lunches and tools to spend the day engaged in a labor of love. It was certainly a special day–a day that still lives in our memories of the land that lay between the rivers.

Despite what many visitors to the LBL are led to believe, the families from between the rivers still maintain their own cemeteries. We are fully responsible for all upkeep; including repairs of vandalism and “replacement” of stolen stones–many dating to the early 1800’s and even earlier. Our cemeteries remain a center of gravity for us; a last link to our living heritage.

A Partial List of Our Cemeteries

Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of cemeteries of that name.

Acree, Atwood, Bailey (3), Bailey-Byrd, Barnes, Barnett, Barrow, Bass, Belisle, Bethlehem-River View, Bethlehem-Downs, Blossus, Bogard, Bohanon, Bonner, Boswell (2), Biswekk, Boyd (2), Boyd Memorial, Brandt, Brigham, Britton, Brokow, Brown (2), Bruton, Buchanan (2), Buckner, Bufford, Bullock, Byrd, Cambell (2), Cassity-Weaver-Savells, Cathey, Catholic (2), Chambers, Champion (2), Cherry, Chinese, Coleman, Collie, Colson (2), Compton (2), Cook, Dennis, Dickerson, Dilday, Dill, Dixon, Downs (2), Dunlap, Ferguson Springs, Ford, Fulks, Fuqua, Futrell (5), Futrell-Laura, Furnace, Gardner (3), Gatlin, Gilliam, Grace, Gray (3), Griffin, Hanes, Hematite-Center Furnace, Henderson Chapel, Hendon, Heathcock, Henson, Herndon (2), Hicks (4), Higgins (4), Hildreth (2), Hilltop-Robertson, Hopewell Church, Houston, Indian Springs, Ingram, Jackson (2), Joyce, Jenny Ridge, Jones, Keel, Kuhn, Lady (2), Lane (2), Largent, Lee-Dodds, Litchfield, Lofton, Lone Pine, Long Creek, Lowery, Luton, Malone, Marberry, Matheny, Matheny-Cumberland Matheny-Ferguson, Mathes, Mays, Miles, Mitchell, Mitchusson, Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Mountview Church, Mount Zion, Murphy, McClanahan, McWaters, Neeble, Negro, Neville Creek, Newby, Newby, Newton, Nickell, Nunn, Oakley, O’Bryan, Outland, Paradise, Parker, Pettit, Pennegar, Pleasant Hill, Ralls, Reynolds, Rhoades (2), Roach (2), Ross (2), Ross-Turner, Rowlett, Rushing Slave, Rushing (3), Rushing Creek, Rutland, St. Mary’s (2), St. Stephens, Sardis, Savells, Salem, Scarborough, Schneider, Shaw (2), Sills, Smith (2), Soden, Spiceland, Stalls, Stone (3), Sykes, Taylor, Tharpe, Travis, Turkey Creek, Trinity Church, Vickers, Vinson (2), Vinson Slave, Vogel, Wallace (2), Watson (2), Wenger, Whitford (2), Wilcox (2), Wilkerson, Williams (2), Wofford (2), Woodson, Unknown Burials

Each of the above names represents a heritage, a lineage, kept alive by our continued sense of place and community. Each item on that list is an anchor; a last remnant that they were unable to forcibly remove from us. All the rest was taken for the very narrowly and carefully defined purpose of removing the already existing commercial facilities and ensuring that no new ones would ever be introduced.

Each of the above names has a further significance in that TVA has systematically changed the names of our places, erasing all evidence that our culture ever existed; all evidence that such a thing was ever done. Our cemetery names have remained constant–a reflection of our communities between the rivers.

In recent years the incidence of vandalism in our cemeteries has increased. Graves have been opened, stones broken or stolen, wrought iron fences stolen. Our cemeteries remain our point of contact with our identity as being from between those rivers.

Written by

When Julie is not being a jerk by forgetting to label her Photoshop layers, eating all the pepperoni and colby-jack cheese in her refrigerator and until recently, showing up for work in her pajamas, she enjoys her sons, Brandon and Luc, being YaYa to JP, Lizzy, and Marley, The Lake, never being satisfied with her own work, the Chicago Bears, The Lake (this may have been mentioned before), music (really loud), reading (Stephen King, naturally), and movies (lots of them)—you know, stuff most chicks like. A real original. Julie is a career Visual Artist and Designer and an accomplished Writer. She has spent the last 20+ years slam-dunking design work for clients big and small. She has also been the featured speaker at numerous events with other like-minded professionals. Julie specializes in visual design and interaction designs—two fancy terms she uses to make herself sound important and to explain that she cares about how things look and how things work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.