Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-1941

By Broadus Mitchell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
Tennessee Valley and
Reciprocal Trade

BEFORE it flooded the Clinch River area with water back of the Norris Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority transferred more than five thousand bodies from country cemeteries. It was a pity that the damage done by these dwellers to their country in two hundred years could not be so swiftly and completely removed. They had almost brought the land down to death with them. The forest had been slashed, the hillsides plowed for corn, the topsoil in great part washed away by the fifty-inch rainfall; the streams were converted in dry weather to trickles, and in wet to destructive torrents. The Clinch is only one of many mountain rivers and creeks making for the Tennessee, and the watersheds of all of these, and of the Tennessee as well, told the same story of despoilment. The Scotch-Irish were self-reliant but ignorant, spirited but stubborn.

Part of their poverty had been caused by the physical isolation of the mountains, but more of it was due to the social isolation into which they had been driven by slavery. To the westward and southward, where the mountains flattened, their fellows had similarly been victims of the competition of black chattels. The whole of Tennessee and the parts of six other states embraced in the great valley— Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky—had all been exploited, drained by man as completely as they had been drained by the river system. All had been exhausted, with no restoration. Families which came over the mountains to found and defer. 1 free homes, had kept the names and

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