Post Office Box 3
Ghent, West Virginia 25843
weeks arduous searching, assisted at times by D. D. Parsons, a salesman from nearby
Charleston, he had his site he thought.
Now he needed a team. He selected 13, and called them his strategy committee. But one of the men he chose, a farmer named
Mel Sawyer who knew the area like the back of his hand, told George, "I know where theres a better site than this. Ill show you."
It looked promising. Entrance to the new site was gained via an abandoned railroad bed, but this soon gave way to dense undergrowth. George and members of the strategy committee had to chop their way through with machetes, axes, and other tools. Then George invited R. F. Baker, State Road Commission soils engineer, Col. John P. West, a retired Army engineer, and Floyd Rothlisberger, State Soil Conservation head, to give their opinions. All agreed it was a desirable site, its advantages outweighing its disadvantages. Thus on June1 1 ½ months after finding his first site, George had a second and final one.
Now it was time to raise the money to acquire the land and face up to hundreds of other problems. George gave it to the members of the strategy committee straight. The area would have to be surveyed, test drillings made, a hearing had to be arranged with the State Public Service Commission for authorization to build a dam, and specifications and plans had to be drawn. How was the money for all this to be raised?
Talk came thick and fast, but finally it was decided that an association would be formed and each of its members would contribute $1000. For this, each would receive a piece of property fronting the water when the lake was finished. A $25 deposit would be collected to help pay preliminary expenses, and when construction actually got under way the balance would be called for in $250 installments. Should the venture fail in its preliminary stages, the original deposit would not be returned. It was estimated that 300 members would be needed to make the lake project a success, an appraisal that proved to be not too far off. There are now 288 association members.
While the members busied themselves selling the plan to others, George set about acquiring the property options he needed.
The sit area, in the minds of many was practically worthless, but as soon as word of the project got around prices began to rise. George traveled far and wide, even to other states, to get in touch with owners of land in the area.
There was the time one of his options on one acre of mountain land was to expire at midnight on a cold, blustery February day. George and C. D. Parsons set out over rough, unimproved roads through snow 10 inches deep to see the owner. He was out. They waited, making themselves as comfortable as they could in the small kitchen of the 2 room shack. When at last the farmer arrived, George gave him a personal check for $500 to hold the property, knowing the association would eventually repay him.
The drive for association memberships began in January, 1950, and with in two months 115 had signed up. With this big boost, steps were taken to make test drillings for construction of the dam, which was expected to cost about $150,000.
The Hoffman Drilling Company, with branch offices in Beckley, was hired. Six borings were made, and after the drill had passed through 15 feet of muck, there was solid slate, and then bedrock.
George Chambers, Raleigh County Clerk Harry Anderson, lumberman Sam Thompson, and coalman A. G. Wilcox, all from the Beckley area, traveled through Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, and even into Cube, taking pictures of dams and lake sites, and gathering data. When they got home they turned it all over to Phil Wilson, a civil engineer, and Leo Vecellio, a contractor, to draw up plans and specifications for the dam.
It was first decide to build a gravity, earth-filled dam, but then it was thought best to put an 18-inch, concrete core inside the dam for strength, rigidity, and safety, through this would raise the estimated cost. The finished product would be 425 feet long, 240 feet across the base, and 45 feet high.
In April, the strategy committee began to think about requesting authorization for the dam from the State Public Service Commission, so the Flat Top Lake Association was formally organized with George Chambers as president. Other original officers were: J. G. Anderson, first vice president; A. G. Wilcox, second vice president; Harry Anderson, secretary-treasurer; Carl Jarrell, assistant secretary-treasurer. Board of directors: A. J. Lilly, P. H. Wilson, Fletcher Mann, Floyd Sayer, T. R. Carney, Leo Vecellio, , C. D. Parsons, Leslie Gates, J. G. Lilly, and E. S. Pugh Jr.
A hearing was set by the P.S.C. for June 23, and now it was learned, that the Beckley Water Company would appear before the commission in opposition to the dam.
At the hearing, the water companys representatives said their main concern was that the damming of Glade Creek might jeopardize their reservoirs level and the water supply of the area. The lake supporters replied that thered be enough water going over their dams spillway to keep the reservoir at proper level. Its big question answered, the company withdrew its opposition.
Now came a ticklish moment in the hearing. Wilson, the associations civil engineer, was asked by C. E. Nethkin, commission chairman, about the finances of the association.
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