By: Kara Monk
| There is a familiar saying, which is along
the lines of, "Home is where the heart is." This is true for most,
but often, people are forced to leave their homes and relocate. Often,
this causes a sense of uprootedness and confusion. One's most precious
memories are often left behind. Confusion results from the loss of
familiarity and a sense of having little or no ties to a new place.
Sometimes, the changing of homes may be quite devastating, but eventually
overcome or in the worst case, the uprooting could cause a lifelong disappointment
and result in a loss of feeling of a sense of belonging which is a key
to living a full life. The people of the former towns of New Bordeaux,
Petersburg, and the Ridge community were all too familiar with the feelings
of hopelessness. Although these people faced great challenges and
hardships, they are quite heroic because many were able to accept the devastating
changes, but eventually moved on and hopefully found a new "place" while
never forgetting their past.
The town of New Bordeaux which was about 3 1/2 miles from the Savannah River in McCormick County, South Carolina, was founded by French Huguenots led by the Rev. John Louis Gibert in 1764 (Riley 10). These people located in this area, which was near the present Lake Thurmond, in order to escape religious persecution in France (Waters). Although the French Huguenots were forced to leave their past and in a sense say goodbye to their homes forever, they were quite productive in their town of New Bordeaux. They made their new home the best they could with the given resources: arms, tools, cattle, etc., and made wine and silk (Riley 10). They constructed many homes and a well. Approximately 300 people called New Bordeaux "home" around 1765 (10). Between 1764 and 1772, about 475 Huguenots called the Clark Hill Reservoir Area "home" (11). As a way of dealing with their problems and adjusting to their new homes while still fostering horrible memories of their past home, the people established the Huguenot Church at New Bordeaux, which was the last to be organized in South Carolina before the American Revolution (11). Still today, there is a stone monument which marks the site of the log church. Because of the American Revolution as well as the abandonment of silk production for more profitable and easy occupations, the town of New Bordeaux soon "passed out of existence," but the descendents of these Huguenots are found to this day in western South Carolina (12). Deborah Tall's essay, Dwelling, focuses on the religious persecution of the people of the Jewish faith. The people of New Bordeaux suffered much in the same way as the people of the Czech village of Lidice (Tall 280). Perhaps the people of New Bordeaux could have related to the woman survivor of the Holocaust when she returned to Lidice after the war had claimed all and left nothing, not even ruins of the village, behind. The Huguenots found nothing on their land after the American Revolution. In both cases, war caused both the Jewish woman and inhabitants of New Bordeaux to lose a part of their past because there was not place left. The people's images of themselves were tied up in the place they formerly called "home." Relocating the image within is often a a difficult task.
Petersburg, once the third largest town in Georgia, with more thatn 2000 residents, was located on the piece of land where the Broad and Savannah rivers meet (Elliott 2). The tobacco industry was given much credit for Petersburg's success. The village was divided into town lots, about 3/4 of an acre each, with convenient streets intersecting each other at right angles. Petersburg contained two warehouses, a town hall, post office, several churches and about forty stores (Riley 13). Despite the tobacco industry's success, the cotton industry soon "took over," leaving the town of Petersburg no reason for "existence"(Riley 14). Ironically, there was a reason for existence: Petersburg was "home" to about 800 inhabitants (13). Sadly, Petersurg's "decline was as rapid as its growth." (14). Today, not even the cemetery remains because the waters of Lake Thurmond have smothered the remains of this once thriving town (14). "Only when the lake falls at least fifteen feet or more do the chimneys and foundations of the long-dead community rise to the surface like ghosts from a distant past" ("A Past Washed Away" 2). As in Tall's essay, Americans demand privacy, which we are given in our homes. Especially in rural America, as settlers moved out onto different lands, the people insisted that their farmhouses be set toward the middle of their rectangular grids of land. By doing so, they achieved individualism, which is "at the core of American identity" (Tall 283). Individualism was achieved by the amount of space that one had. "Space symbolizes hope, place, achievement, and stability," said Yi-Fi Tuan in Tall's essay (qtd. in Tall 283). The people of Petersburg respected each other's space, but unfortunately, the town unraveled. Possibly the people of Petersburg were lucky to be able to leave the "dead town." Tall takes a different viewpoint about the leaving of one's space for a new place. A fixed place may sometimes be seen as a trap, home to disappointments and hopelessness (Tall 283). The inhabitants of Petersburg were forced to leave their place of forty years behind, but this forced decision was a step forward because the "arena of freedom" was now open to them all (qtd. in Tall 284). The people of Petersburg did not dwell on their having to leave Petersburg, but rather they realized that there was an "arena" which contained much new hope and freedom for the future. Since tobacco farming proved to be an unsuccessful means of earning an income in Petersburg, perhaps they moved to a new area, which was home to different types of industry. Whatever the case, in this instance, the people recognized that their new home was taken from them, but chose to move on and try to find a new home.
The people of the Ridge community felt differently than the people of Petersburg. Although the people of Petersburg did not have their land "taken away" from them as did the people of the Ridge community, they still could relate to the feelings of losing a home, a past and, in a way, a future. In a small town near Appling, Georgia, there was a farming district which was called "the Ridge," hence the name Ridge community ("Clark Hill Anniversary" Pavey 1). A way of life vanished forever for the Ridge community because of the construction of Lake Thurmond. These people were farmers who raised corn and wheat, milled molasses with mule-drawn presses, and raised chickens and apple trees. In a 1992 interview with Robert Pavey of the Augusta Chronicle, a Mrs. Carter recalled how the people of the Ridge community felt about their land. "They loved their land," recalls Mrs. Carter, who was born in May of 1900 in Lincoln County (1). There were births and there were funerals, and there was always pride (1). Tall discusses pride and the meaning of the full life as having a balance between wandering and staying in one's life. It is understood that between venturing out and returning, returning is the greatest challenge because one is given the repsonsibility of sharing the lessons of one's experiences so that others may learn (Tall 284). In the same article for the Augusta Chronicle, Robert Pavey also interviewed Mildred Fortson, who was the superintendent of Elijah Clarke State Park for eighteen years, who told of one woman's endless pride: "One old woman, she had arthritis and she held out. The line went to her kitchen door. She said she was born there and she wanted to die there. They settled out of court" ("Clark Hill Anniversary" Pavey 3). The people of the Ridge community know best of the hardshhips and challenges of returning home because they will never be able to return home. They were not even able to venture out on their own peacefully, but rather were forced out, and definitely were not given the choice to return. These people feel cheated of a full life beacause their roots are in one place (under the water) while their soul and heart are forced to be in another. They were not able to make a deicision on whether to go or stay, so the people, who wanted to stay but could not, were forced to leave their roots behind. Simone Weil, a writer who argued for attachment in Tall's essay, comments that the least recognized need of the human soul is to be rooted. Being familiar with one's origin and dwelling near it is quite important. The amount of involvement in the community helps to preserve and better appreciate the wonders of the past while fostering certain expectations for the future (Tall 282). The Ridge community was a close-knit community with deep roots implanted in their community's past, but each human soul of that former community was left with a feeling of hopelessness because of the building of Lake Thurmond.
The Reid home in Lincoln County was a large wood frame house with porches set atop a hill overlooking the family farm. Milledge Reid did not want to leave his home nor did he believe the waters would back up as far as the government said. "They stayed as long as they could," said John D. Eubank of Leah, Georgia ("Clark Hill Anniversary" Pavey 4). They were born and raised there. The waters continued to rise, and the Reid family held out until the very last minute, deserting their grapevines, apple orchards, pastures and outbuildings, not to mention their past and pride ("Clark Hill Anniversary" Pavey 4). "They had to be taken out of there. The Sheriff and some of his people in boats came out and rescued them and a few of their belongings" ("Clark Hill Anniversary" Pavey 4). It is certainly reasonable to think that the Reid family felt betrayed and disoriented, much the same way that the Jewish people felt after the Germans destroyed their village of Lidice (Tall 280). In both cases, their past was destroyed and they were forced to realize that their future would never consist of their former home again.
Not only have many people lost a part of their past, but the lake itself lost a very important part of its past. In December of 1987, legislation was pushed through Congress to rename the reservoir after United States Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Many people were angry because of the name change, and as a result, 72,000 signatures were collected on petitions to change the name back. These 72,000 people had always known the reservoir as Clarks Hill, not Lake Thurmond. Changing the name scared the people because their past memories had taken place while the lake was named Clarks Hill. Although the attempt to change the name was unsuccessful, in Georgia, the General Assembly adopted legislation to affirm the official name of the lake: Clarks Hill (in Georgia only). Meanwhile, on South Caroina tourism maps, the reservoir is referred to as Lake Thurmond. The "Clark" in Clarks Hill originated from John Mulford Clark, an Augustan of the early 1800s who owned a large parcel of land in McCormick County now called Clarks Hill, South Carolina ("Rediscovering Clarks Hill" Pavey 12).
Ironically, the very lake that claimed many people's past is now the home for many new memories which have shaped the past for many. Even though the construction of the lake was tragic for many because it claimed the homes, past and pride of many, people today have many ties to Clarks Hill. Today, Clarks Hill attracts eight million people yearly. Undoubtedly, it is shaping the past of many today.
Elliott, Rita Folse. Petersburg Underwater Survey, Elbert County, Georgia.
Pavey, Robert, "Clark Hill Anniversary." Augusta Chronicle
19 Jun. 1992. 15 Oct.
"A Past Washed Away." Augusta Chronicle 23 Aug. 1998. 18 Oct. 1998 http://augustachronicle.com/stories/022897/lak_lure_series.shtml
"Rediscovering Clarks Hill." Augusta Chronicle 28 Feb. 1997. 15 Oct. 1998 http://augustachronicle.com/stories/022897/discovering_clarks.shtml
Tall, Deborah. "Dwelling." American Nature Writing.
Ed. John A. Murray. San
United States. Department of the Interior National Park Service,
Waters, Randy. Personal interview. 23 Oct. 1998.
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2001, The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.