Here are the stories of some of the people affected by the creation of Lake Norman:Alan MayhewMayhew, 62, of Mooresville, was a boy when his dad drove the family down Brawley School Road to visit Alan’s grandfather on McKendree Chapel Road, in the old Mayhewtown community named for Alan’s ancestors. To a young boy, the 10-minute trip seemed to take forever, he said.People in Mayhewtown once raised cotton, soybeans, oats and corn and bartered them at a general store. Mayhewtown had about 40 families each farming about 100 acres, and, at one point, had more people than Mooresville, Mayhew said. Much of Mayhewtown’s farmland is now under Lake Norman.Alan’s great-grandfather, William “Absey” Abslam Mayhew, opened the store in the late 1800s. His grandfather, Thomas Holtshouser Mayhew, closed the store about the time of the Depression as much of unincorporated Mayhewtown’s population shifted east to Mooresville, which grew because of its railroad lines. Alan will never forget looking past a stand of trees in Mayhewtown back in the 1950s and seeing a vast stretch trees cleared for the future Lake Norman. “It looked like a bomb hit it,” Alan Mayhew said. “They had knocked down all the trees.”The locals nicknamed Lake Norman “the mud puddle” in its early days because that’s pretty much what it was until the lake filled, he said.Mayhew later became Bank of America’s city executive in Mooresville. He smiled recounting how his boss in the early 1990s expressed great skepticism when he approved financing the Catawba Queen, a custom replica of a Mississippi riverboat that has become one of the lake’s greatest attractions.Bob BlytheBlythe, 78, is a lifelong Huntersville resident and has served as the town’s attorney for the past 50 years. As the dam was being built and the lake filling in, Blythe said many area residents were excited about the recreational opportunities it would provide.“People were anticipating the usage of the lake. … I do recall a cousin and I, fairly soon after it opened, bought an old sailboat to try and go on it. It only lasted a couple years. … It took water pretty good,” Blythe said of the leaky boat. “Certainly we tried to get out there every once in a while to use that boat, unsuccessfully,” he said with a laugh.What many residents didn’t anticipate was the corresponding growth that would come with the lake’s formation. “They never anticipated the type of growth it’s created. That wasn’t on a lot of people’s minds at the time. At the time, Huntersville had a population just a little over a thousand people.”While Blythe didn’t know of anyone displaced by the formation of the lake, he said, some of his family members “did lose some land to the lake.” The home where Blythe’s grandfather grew up – near N.C. 73 and Beatties Ford Road – is still standing, now with a shoreline. “The home where my grandfather grew up is still right on the lake right now, some of their land was taken, but not the house itself, in fact its still owned by the family,” he said. “The house is still there right at the end of the road. In effect, (the lake) created a peninsula around it.”Loretta FodrieIn 1964, Loretta Fodrie and her husband, Don, leased waterfront property in the early days of Lake Norman. The couple leased a lot off Robinson Road off N.C. 150 in Mooresville from Duke Power, for whom Don worked. The lot, which she recalls cost $100 a month, was overgrown with brambles, scrubby trees and bushes under the canopy of several large oaks and tall pines, tulip poplars and maple trees. Her husband chose the lot because it was on a sheltered cove with sassafras bushes that someone told the couple were good luck.Her husband cut a path from the road at the top of a hill down to the lake “beach.” “We called the path ‘Chigger Alley’ because we could never get home to Charlotte without taking several dozen red bugs home with the three little girls and ourselves,” Loretta, 75, a retired teacher, recalled.Hawthorne Lane Methodist Church in Charlotte had a retreat on Robinson Road with a covered picnic shelter. Many teenagers learned to water ski on outings there. “Don and I would sometimes be annoyed by the loud circles of their boats in the cove, fearful that a boater might not see our little girls playing in the water as they came too close to shore, but that never happened,” Loretta said. “I made a ‘safe swim area’ for the girls and their friends, and later for my school classes, by connecting concrete blocks to painted milk jugs by ropes.”The couple eventually bought the lot from Duke Power for about $10,000 and in the 1970s built a cabin, piece by piece, in a corner of the property, saving the center to build a house where they would retire one day. But Don Fodrie, who had a heart transplant in 1986, died in May 1988.In 1995, Loretta married Les Kunz. They planned to build a home beside their cabin, but Les died of cancer in 2004. “I decided to go ahead and build the house, which I moved into in February 2005,” Loretta said. “My daughters and grandchildren are happy, and so am I. I love being in Mooresville at the lake. My roots of both good marriages are here, especially in the cabin. And I love sharing the house with my family and friends, which is just what Les would have loved, too.”JoAnne MillerMiller, 70, a Huntersville resident and member of the planning board, was attending college in Charlotte when Lake Norman was being filled. She’s heard many stories about places that eventually slipped under the water, but one of her favorites had to do with area roadways. “When the roads were getting ready to flood, they would put up barricades,” she said.“A lot of times it was quicker to go the old way, because it would take a long time before the water (would cover the road.) Monday mornings at school, you’d hear about who drove into the lake,” she said with a laugh. “They didn’t tear down a lot of things down, it just filled up over the top. … The old wooden bridge across Beatties Ford, the army corps blew it up. I heard it took two or three times.”Bruce AndersenAndersen, 74, is a Huntersville resident and planning board member who said he spent 35 years working with Duke Power running Cowan’s Ford Dam. While he wasn’t there for the original construction or filling of Lake Norman, Andersen said, he was on site in 1965-66 for the building of Unit 4. “It was quite the operation,” he said. “I used to give guided tours (to everyone) from fifth-graders to highly-skilled engineers from Germany. I said if a dam doesn’t leak, it breaks.”There was a rumor that one such engineer was brought in to address a leak early on in the dam’s history, which Andersen said is actually true. “We had a major leak in the facility in the filling,” he said, noting that dams built in the area are constructed after grading down to granite or bedrock.“I don’t know if they rough (the foundation) up or put studs in, but (builders) poured concrete right on the bedrock. But put 130-foot deep pile of water, the pressure on that, (the water) tends to find its own path,” he said. “The path it found, one of them, was between the concrete structure and the bedrock, and kind of washed out under the dam. So much water pressure started washing out underneath and eroding the granite, it was enough flow it disturbed them.”Andersen said the expert that was brought in determined that drilling and connecting pipes into the dam’s foundation and then pumping hot tar into the washed out area underneath was the best solution. “They knew when to stop because the dam started tilting, instruments could tell it started to move a little. They took the header out (and you) can still see all these pipes sticking out of the floor.” Sarah McAulayMcAulay, 73, is a lifelong Huntersville resident, except for the nine years she attended college and worked in Virginia. McAulay has been town mayor and commissioner and held numerous other municipal government and civic positions.While McAulay was away at school while the dam was built and the lake filling, she recalls that when she’d come home to visit, the lake wasn’t among the top 10 conversations she’d have with friends, family and members of her church. When it did come up, McAulay said, people weren’t sure what to expect from the lake.“People who’d been here a long time just laughed because the Catawba River was so red, they thought it’d be a red lake and never be crystal clear like it sometimes is.”McAulay said she remembers when the lake was a summer retreat for Charlotte families. “People had summer homes on Lake Norman. The wife and children would stay during the summer and the husband and father would come from Charlotte on the weekends. As the kids grew, they stayed longer until it became socially acceptable to live at the lake,” she said. “It took real individuals living in Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius (to make that happen).“The management of different employment groups wanted their managers to live in South Charlotte. … Now people don’t know who lives on Lake Norman, it’s still private and people value that privacy a great deal.” Cotton KetchieKetchie, 68, a Mooresville artist and author, fished and played along the banks of the Catawba River long before Lake Norman was created.He played on a cable swing near an old steel bridge that connected Brawley School and Bethel Church roads and recalled how he and others carried a 60-foot-wide drag seine to the river to catch fish. They caught so much that six to eight families would gather regularly to enjoy catfish stew. “We’d make gallons of it,” said Ketchie, owner of Landmark Galleries in downtown Mooresville.“We just had a good time,” he said. “I’m so grateful I grew up when I did. I have memories no one else has. Few of us are around here.”
Friday, Jun. 14, 2013
Residents recall impact, early years of Lake Norman
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