The 1940 TVA Removal of the Charles H. Dewitt Family

My father worked for TVA as an iron worker. One of the projects he worked on was building the dam and bridge over the Tennessee River near Lenoir City.

Yes, Dad worked on a dam bridge. We had a lot of fun saying that when we were kids. Dad was a dam worker.


My mother’s mother’s mother was Henrietta Collins Webb. She went by Etta. A school buddy from my growing-up years told me a few years ago that her grandmother was also Etta Webb, but that was her maiden name. I didn’t think much about it.


Recently, I found the wedding announcement of my aunt Etta Packett who married Gordon McConkey. I realized that I didn’t know much about Gordon’s family except that his father was named Wesley, according to the announcement.

Gordon’s mother was a Webb, too! And when I traced her Webb line as far as I could, there is a distinct possibility that Gordon and Etta were distant cousins.

Then when I traced Gordon’s family outward, I found Etta Webb who married a Dewitt. So it looked like I was related to my friend from school, since all those Webbs were related.

I was poking around the Webb part of the tree to see if something might fall out.

And it did.

The TVA removal of the family of Charles H. and Etta Webb Dewitt.

Families were removed from their homes, if the homes were to be impacted by the waters of the proposed dam.







Leave Lenoir City at A Street, go north on Broadway 0.3 mile, turn right past the C. H. Bacon Hosiery Mill, continue 0.5 mile to dirt road over the hill to the left; take dirt road and go to the second house on the right, which is the home of Mr. Charles H. DeWitt.


A few families living just below the dam site on small tracts, supplementing their farm incomes by industrial employment, make up this community. This is one of the two families living on less than two acres of land while the other tracts are less than 30 acres. The land in cultivation is apparently in good condition.


Mr. DeWitt is unable to accept employment but puts in what time he can on his little 1.7 acres of land which is on the bluff over-looking the River. He claims that one acre is in cultivation. Aside from the chickens which he raises primarily for his own use, he has a tobacco patch and some truck crops. He owns no farm tools other than those used b hand; nor has he any work stock. He has one cow and one calf at this particular time.


Mr. DeWitt is in apparent good health, yet his heart will not permit him to work at any job which his education would allow him to perform. He is very sociable, but he expressed disappointment in finding it necessary to move from his present location. Mrs. DeWitt is also very agreeable. Their two children, Juanita and Mildred, have both stopped school. One is employed at the Hosiery Mill while the other is doing nothing at the present time. However, she is very anxious to get a job. With the exception of Mr. DeWitt, the family is in excellent health.


Mr. Charles DeWitt is only 54 years, but he claims that a bad heart prevents him from ding any strenuous work. He does cultivate one acre of land on which he raises tobacco and a few vegetables. He reported an income of $135 from this acre in 1939. the oldest daughter,Juanita, aged 22, is the chief source of income. She is employed by the Bacon Hosiery Mill from which she reports an income of $636 for 1939.


The residence is a five roomed, weatherboarded, ceiled house, which is in good condition. It is comparatively new and was built by Mr. DeWitt himself. It overlooks the River at the rear and offers a view of which the entire family is quite proud. They have a lovely basement, and he had great plans for what he was going to do until he was bought out by the TVA. The house is well kept, and the furniture shows that Mrs. DeWitt is a good housekeeper with refined tastes.


Aside from the cash received for his home, the furniture which he owns, and one cow, Mr. DeWitt has no other relocation resources. The money received, howevere, should be ample for a fair location. His daughter, Juanita, will continue working in the Hosiery Mill, and that is the guiding feature in his wanting to relocate near


Lenoir City. Every effort is being made to help Mr. DeWitt, and Mr. Woods is reporting to Lenoir City on June 7 to cooperate with Mr. DeWitt in finding a suitable place of relocation.


This property was acquired by purchase on May 27, 1940. The worker called to see Mr. DeWitt, and the terms of the contract were discussed. The entire family was present. They stated that they understood that the property was to remain in their possession until June 24 and that they were not permitted to remove any of the fences or buildings. The removal date was discussed very thoroughly and Mr. DeWitt assure the worker that he would move before the expiration of his allotted time.

VISIT WITH MR. WOOD 6-7-40 Ketchen

The worker visited Mr. DeWitt accompanied by Mr. Wood concerning relocation. Mr. DeWitt explained to the worker and to Mr. Wood that he had located a place two miles east of Niota in McMinn County, six miles from Athens and six miles from Sweetwater. The new residence will be on Bill Mason’s farm. He does not have the farm leased, but the residence is leased. It is a six roomed weatherboard structure. Mr. DeWitt explained that each of the towns mentioned had knitting mills and that he expected his two daughters to get employment in one of these.

Mr. Wood stated that he would probably look him up again in a few days and he visited that area quite often. There will probably be no need for further visits from this office.

REMOVAL 6-12-40 Ketchen

Mr. DeWitt called at the office on this date to leave the key to his home. His furniture is moved and the property has been turned over to the Authority. Mr. DeWitt moved to the property location given above.

Some people gained jobs.

Some people lost homes and property.

TVA was a beast that gobbled and gave. My people were not property owners until my father worked for TVA.

I am sad for the loss of the Dewitt family property, especially when I consider that their home was down river from the dam and wouldn’t be covered by the lake.

I suspect a field trip might be in order.

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