Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our lasting memories -- Part 2

Downtown Fairfield (Dunaway photo)
Hope indeed springs eternal, and the few houses from the valley of the East Fork that were moved would be classic proof. If you can't live where you want, take your memories and go somewhere else.

Most who lived in the old town, however, were either not inclined to move their houses or didn't have the means. They certainly had time. The flood control project, which got off to a rousing start, soon found itself stuck in the mud.

The buyout in the valley stretched out over several years, which meant the core of the population, family by family, simply moved on. They were in no rush to leave and in no hurry to stick around listening to vague conversations about how a brand new Fairfield could exist at the top of a hill.

With no road.

Town Under the Lake does a remarkable job covering the moving of houses, landmarks and historical structures, some of them as far as Knox County.

A number of ancient buildings were moved to Dunlapsville to form the Treaty Line Museum, a worthwhile idea that eventually died on the vine.


One entry in the book, written by "Anonymous," reveals the general feeling of the time:

Properties were purchased over a long period of time, so we all heard rumors and truth about the fair and unfair practices of the buyer. It was well into this buying phase before a New Fairfield was actually available. Then we find out there is not one but two New Fairfields to consider. 

At this point in time, however, most people had, or were in the process of finding new homes. Our community was disintegrating. People were moving everywhere. Our friends were scattering, most beyond reach within a few years.

Shortly after this buying phase began, a new plague entered the picture. Vandals! Soon it became an all too common sight to find that some homes had been entered and looted. People would stop at a home they found appealing and helped themselves to whatever they wanted. Remember, I am speaking of homes still owned and occupied by the residents.

The worst was arson! The Dunlapsville bridge and many empty homes were lost this way. It became too common to lose an empty home or two on a weekend while families still lived in the valley. I am not aware of anyone who lost a home that was still occupied, but there may have been some.

Well, not lately
Houses looted, utility lines cut and stripped for scrap ... for the final few who waited until the end, it was scary.

Meanwhile, as 1969 dragged along, so did the project. The government was slow appropriating money to actually build the dam. The target date for completion was completely off kilter.

On Oct. 3, 1969, the Palladium-Item reported “Reservoir Projects Funds Halted ... Following a hearing with the Federal Bureau of Budgets in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, it appears the near-future construction of the Brookville Reservoir is dead.”

Franklin County had taken an economic hit because not only was it perhaps not getting its dam, more than 200 houses had been razed, burned or moved, and an entire valley of property taxpayers were living somewhere else.

By the end of 1969, the project, already two years behind schedule, appeared doomed.

By 1970, the Nixon administration finally set the funds free and work began on the $8 million earthen dam. A date for completion was 1974.

In 1970, work began on a poorly designed causeway that would link relocated S.R. 101 with Blooming Grove.

Then on July 27, 1975: “With a handful of speeches and a simple unveiling, state and federal officials Saturday formally dedicated the Brookville Lake, the second largest water recreation facility in Indiana. The ceremony barely lasted 60 minutes for the 5,260-acre reservoir, which took $43 million and nine years to complete.”

The point:

“The major water project in the basin is the multipurpose Brookville Lake on the East Fork of the Whitewater River in Franklin and Union Counties. It controls runoff from a drainage area of 379 square miles, reduces flood stages at agricultural lands below the dam, at the towns of Brookville, Cedar Grove, and West Harrison, and contributes to a reduction of flood damages along the Ohio River."

As former residents gather at the museum site every June to recall the past and contemplate the future, it's worth noting that it takes more than a $43 million federal reservoir project to kill a community.

It was our town.

It is not our lake.

Photo of the one at the top before it became that.

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