Post Office Box 3
Ghent, West Virginia 25843
A deer herd of several hundred has been propagated.
George Chambers likes to tell of the time he and others carted 3 does and a month-old fawn from the farm of real estate man J. C. Blackburn of nearby Mt. Hope to join the herd. They lassoed the deer and put them into home-made lumber cages on a truck, taking 2 at a time. "They kicked like buzz saws all the way," George said.
The fawn was cared for by Mrs. Jess Richmond, who live at the lake. Throughout the summer, she fed it through a large nipple on a milk bottle, calling it form the woods twice a day with a dinner bell installed on her lawn.
To insure game protection and food about 100,000 trees have been planted, in addition to 25,000 multi flora rosebushes, several acres of Lespedeza, and more than 50 acres of buckwheat.
Before stocking the lake with fish, all streams emptying into it were treated with rotenone. During one meeting to determine the species to be stocked, a lady asked, "Whats the difference between a largemouth bass and a small mouth bass?" Rising to his feet with a large grin Brooks Adair said, "Mam, the largemouth is the female or the species, and the smallmouth is the male."
A. E Seaman, formerly chief biologist of the West Virginia Conservation Department, and now head of his own biology service, was hired to stock the lake and was retained for five years in an advisory capacity. On his advice the members purchased 250,000 day-old walleyes, 34,000 fingerling bass (largemouth and small mouth), 43,000 bluegill fingerlings, 110 adult black crappies, 23,00 fingerling crappies, 110 large bullfrogs, and several thousand gizzard shad.
The fish were stocked in the spring of 1951 and fishing was allowed in 1954. By then the bass had grown to about 3 pounds, walleyes to about 2 pounds. Fishing has improved each year since, though the lake was stocked only once.
Leo Vecellio told me that his mother, who at the age of 67 had never fished in her life, now owns a casting rod, and if he didnt go down to the lake to get her on some days shed fish on into the night.
Part of the lakes shoreline was set aside exclusively for bathing. Tons of white sand were dumped along it, and the area was roped off and marked by white buoys. To insure maximum safety, rules and regulations were drawn up. A boat equipped with safety and first-aid equipment patrols the area.
Provisions for winter sports-skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, and ice fishing were made, and association members and friends began to enjoy the facilities at Flat Top throughout the whole year.
As of this year (1958) , the cost of building the lake and its facilities has run to $498,000. With a membership of 288, that makes the average cost to members a little more than $1700, although members with more than one lot have paid proportionately more. Cost of the land was $130,000; the perimeter road $95,000, and the dam $273,000.
At the start of 1958 there were 90 homes on the lake, plus a number of trailers, boathouses, and Brooks Adairs tent the only one left. A minimum building code prohibits structures covered with paper or tin. Most members still have to build, but theyve grown lawns, built fireplaces, docks, and other structures, and use their lots for outings and other recreation.
In discussing the project with me, Harry Anderson, one of the original directors, said that what will never cease to amaze him was the absolute faith of the original subscribers that it would be a success. He told me that one day while construction was going on he was standing on the dam with J. G Lilly, father of sons who were members of the association.
"Harry, dont you think mother and I should join? Mr. Lilly asked him.
"There are nine lots in your family now, and your 75 years old," Anderson replied. "It would be fine, but dont you think the family has already done its share?"
Phil Wilson, one of the projects prime movers, was ill in bed when I spoke with him. "I dont think Ill be around when Flat Top reaches its full potential," he said, "but I have children wholl enjoy it, and their children will too. Im grateful that Ive been allowed to share in one of the greatest conservation projects ever undertaken in West Virginia."
I asked Phil id hed ever thought the deal might fail. A smile crossed his face. "Well, I cant say we actually thought that," he replied. "But with all the bills and worries, we came awfully close. I know that a good many people thought we were a bunch of damn fools."
After the lake was built, William C Marland, then governor of West Virginia, was so impressed he wrote to George Chambers, in part:
" I congratulate you on your part in helping conceive and execute one of the finest recreation spots in our state."
Carl J. Johnson, then director of the states conservation commission, wrote: "Although this is a private venture in conservation, it will help everyone in the watershed of Glade Creek in Raleigh County. These far-sighted outdoorsmen are teaching others a splendid lesson as they protect their forests and wildlife for the future .We only wish that every county in West Virginia had a like project."
And Johnson, writing to me personally, summed it up neatly when he said, " state agencies can only point the way toward real conservation. The big job is up to the people.
Through the years, Flat Top Lake has prospered and new improvements continue for the benefit of its Members.
A bridge over the spillway was completed in 1976 at a cost of $149,986. It was named the "George B. Chambers Memorial Bridge" as a tribute to the Association's first President.
The beach has been enlarged and a concrete pier, parking lot, playground equipment and picnic tables added to this increasingly popular summer recreational area.
In 1978, the Board of Directors adopted a long-range recreational master plan. Some of the facilities in this plan are now a reality, such as tennis courts, a softball field, basketball court and nature trails.
An Association office and a maintenance building with adjacent fenced boat storage area have been necessary improvements to the efficient operation of the Association.
Current membership includes numerous second generation Members.
Anew electronic gate security system was completed in 1984. It enables Members to conveniently admit guest from their home phones.
A new 1/5 mile section of perimeter road was built in 1983, eliminating dangerous curves in the original road. The entire original perimeter road was resurfaced in 1988.
We will continue to face the challenges and develop solutions in the best interest of Flat Top Lake and its Members.
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