Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Family Relocations

Imagine living on the land that had been in your family for generations. Your great grandfather had immigrated to America and settled in the area that is now your home. Close family and extended family are buried in your backyard. You know everyone who lives in a 10 mile radius since you see them every Sunday at church. To say you have deep roots in this land would be an understatement. Life can be hard, but it is what you know and you love it.

Now imagine a corporation comes in and tells you that you have to move. They explain that this is for your benefit and not theirs. This is the foundation of the Loyston relocation process.

The Interviews

When the Tennessee Valle Authority came in the area for the Loyston relocation, they knew they needed to interview the families who they needed to relocate. In order to do so, they reached out to local teachers and others who they considered “educated”. The thought was, if those who were being relocated were interviewed by others in the community, it may lead to a better outcome. This was true with some of the residents, but others did not trust the TVA no matter who they talked to.

As part of the interview process, Loyston residents were asked about themselves, their family, and how the supported/were supported by the community. Questions ranged from their religious affiliation and where they went to church to what newspapers they subscribed to. It interviewer also asked how far each parent went in school and if anyone in the family had a “physical defect”. No question was off the table in order to help the TVA collection information.

Evaluating Farms

In order for the TVA to give residents a dollar amount for their property, they needed to evaluate three things; the property, the resident’s income, and their expenditures. The majority of the families that were part of the Loyston relocation were farmers. Therefore, much of what was being evaluated had to do with farm land, livestock, and other farming needs.

Property

When looking at the property, the TVA made note of any livestock on the property. This included all animals from horses to bee stands. It was noted how many of each were located on the farm and then assigned a monetary value. Machinery used on the farm was also assigned a value. The last items listed as property was that of a personal nature. This included if the resident owned a car, a radio, a stove, a sewing machine, etc.. Just like the farm equipment, each of these items were given a price as to the value.

Lewis Loy’s Property evaluation
family income

To get a full picture of the family’s income, the TVA looked at both expenditures and receipts. Expenditures included everything from food to feed the livestock to taxes on the property. It also included cost of insuring the property which most farmers did not have. On the receipt side, the TVA looked at if the family when to market and how much they received for selling goods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and other homemade goods.

The TVA also took into account the cost of running the household. They broke down each food item and evaluated how much the family used and what the cost would be. On some of the documents, you can see the actual receipt tape where the interviewer added up all of this information.

Lewis Loy’s income information
Outside income

The TVA also wanted to know if the resident was receiving what they considered “outside income”. This included income from savings account, pensions, insurance policies, and investments. This is also where if there were any kids living at home and working elsewhere would list their income. As you can see on the example below, the interviewer made a note that Lewis was “very curious about these questions.”

Lewis Loy’s Outside Income Information

The Final Report

After all the questions and evaluations, the interviewer was responsible for writing up a report of their findings. This report was basically an opinion of the interviewer of the likelihood of the resident willing relocating. You can see below in Lewis’ report, that the interviewer said he “gladly cooperated” with the interview, but that his attitude towards the TVA was “antagonistic”. The interviewer goes on to say that Lewis needs “further study” and that Lewis is only willing to give up the land that floods.

Final Page of Lewis Loy’s questionnaire

The last question which asks for the “gist of conversation” is always interesting to read. On Lewis’ form, it states that he is very clever but vows to not leave. This is usually where the interviewer gets brutally honest with how they feel about the family. I read one where the interviewer stated that the family desperately needed help or else their daughter would end up “working on a street corner”. I have also read several that call the family uneducated and, for that reason, easy to convince that relocating is for the best.

The Final Evaluation

The TVA took all of this information to form their opinion on where the displaced families of Loyston would go. While the majority of the residents finally gave in to the idea of moving, most agree that they were not given fair market value for their land. Farmers felt that they should have somehow been compensated for the fact that this property had been in their families for generations. The TVA did not pay for the emotional attachments that these families had.

Loyston and the TVA series

Make sure to also check out the other posts in this series…

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Grave Relocations

When the Tennessee Valley Authority came to Loyston, they knew they had to do two things. They had to relocate families and relocate graves. To do so, the TVA developed two departments. One group was responsible for interviewing families and taking inventory. (I’ll talk about that later this week.) The other group was responsible for documenting graves and contacting family members to ask permission to move their loved ones. Needless to say, the business of moving graves was not an enviable task.

Finding the Families

The first step to moving the graves in Loyston, was to find the heirs of those who were buried. Remember, it was the 1930s and some of the graves were marked with years from the 1800s. Finding the next of kin was no easy matter. The best course of action was to reach out the community to find family members. For that reason, it worked to the TVA’s advantage that Loyston, and the surrounding communities, were close-knit. Usually someone knew someone who was related to the person the TVA was looking for.

Once found, each heir had to sign off on the grave removal contract to give the TVA permission to dig up the remains and relocate them to a different cemetery. The TVA had a few cemeteries established for this reason. For example, New Loyston Cemetery would become home to a vast majority of the graves. Other remains were moved to the cemeteries requested by the family members.

The Grave Removal contract for my maternal 5th Great Aunt, Rachel Loy Irwin

As you can see in the above example, Rachel Loy Irwin’s son gave permission for the grave to be relocated. While these documents do not deal with the most pleasant information, a genealogist can find some important information. We know that Rachel had a son named Harvey Irwin. She learn when she died and her cause of death. The original cemetery, and where she is being moved to, is also listed. In this case, Rachel was buried at Anna Irwin Cemetery and is being relocated to Sinking Springs Cemetery.

Moving the Graves

After the TVA located the next of kin, the next step was to actually move the graves. To do so, either the named family member in the contract (or a family appointed representative) had to accompany the TVA to the original grave. Each excavation required a witness. At each disinterment, the TVA was required to fill out a Grave Removal Record. This was an accurate report of where exactly the original grave was and what was found in the grave. It also stated who the remains were transported to the new site. Once at the new cemetery, a “foreman of reinternment” reviewed the document and signed off that everything was handled accordingly. I don’t envy anyone who had to deal with the disinterment and reinternment of the graves.

Grave Removal Record of Rachel Loy Irwin

By looking at Rachel Loy Irwin’s Grave Removal Record, you discover just how specific the disinterment team had to be. The form asks for the condition of the container and the condition of the body. They were also required to state what was found in the casket (or box in many cases). In Rachel’s the only items listed were skeletal bones. Notice in the inventory line, it states that shoes were found with the remains. In other reports, you may find pieces of cloth or hair barrettes mentioned. The inventory items makes this feel a bit more personal then just the movement of bones from one place to another.

How to Find the Records

The TVA documents also included a follow up sheet that restated where the remains were reinterred. This document also includes the inscription found on the tombstone (if any). In some cases, pictures of the tombstones were included.

Post reinternment document for Rachel Loy Irwin

I have found the easiest way to locate the TVA Grave Removal documents is on Ancestry.com. To find these specific records, you will need to go under “card catalog” under the search category. Once there, type in “Tennessee Valley” in the keyword(s) box. This will pull up several results but you should see “U.S., Tennessee Valley Cemetery Relocation Files”. This will allow you to specifically search for your ancestor.

If you missed the first part of this series, “The History of Loyston”, make sure to go check it out!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

The History of Loyston

To understand the impact that the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Norris Lake Project had on this area of East Tennessee, you have to go back to the very beginning. Now, I’m not talking about the beginning of time, but more like the beginning of this area being settled. One of the very first communities in this area was Loyston.

Sharp’s Station

The first inhabitants of what would become the town of Loyston, was Hendrich Honus Sharp (my maternal 6th Great Grandfather) and his family. Hendrich was the son of John George Sharp and Anna Maria Loy. Hendrich’s father was a German immigrant who had settled and married in North Carolina. Hendrich was born in the North Carolina back country, but made his way to Tennessee thanks to Revolutionary War land grants. He settled on a slope of Big Ridge which overlooked the Clinch River. Due to the threat of Native American attacks, Hendrich built what would be called Sharp’s Station. The Station was essentially a fort for the settlers in the area and a place of protection.

Loy’s Cross Roads

A bit to the east of where Hendrich Sharp settled, another family was making their home in East Tennessee. John William “Fisher” Loy (my maternal 5th Great Grandfather) found a place to raise his family at the base of Big Ridge. Like Hendrich, John was born in North Carolina and came to Tennessee after the Revolutionary War. He soon discovered that the area was rich in iron ore deposits. Thanks to this discovery, John established a foundry and soon found himself in the middle of a new settlement. It did not take long for Loy’s Cross Roads to become just that. A crossroad and a gathering place for those who lived nearby.

John William “Fisher” Loy’s headstone which was made from the nearby iron ore deposits.

Loyston

After a post office was established in Loy’s Cross Roads in 1866, the name of the town was changed to Loy’s Crossroads. In 1894, the name was changed once again to Loyston. When the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) came to survey Loyston in the 1930s, the town contained approximately 70 residents. The town itself included a post office, two general stores, a filling station, a café, a mill, and a barbershop. The majority of the residents considered themselves Methodist and attended church at the Sharp’s Station Methodist Church. Loyston had become an important community that serviced many of the smaller communities in the area. Therefore, when the TVA began talking to the town’s people about possible relocation, the residents became a bit apprehensive.

Sharp’s Station Methodist Church in the 1930s

The Flooding of Loyston

While I’ll go more in depth in future posts about the TVA and the relocation of graves and families, it’s important to understand what happened to the town itself. Loyston was flooded to make what is now Norris Lake. The town was not destroyed. After those who lived in the area were relocated and Norris Dam was finished, the town of Loyston was flooded. Rumor has it that when the lake levels are at the lowest, you can still see the top of the church steeple peaking out of the water. Divers have also taken equipment down to video what Loyston looks like. However, since the water is so murky, it is difficult to make anything out. If you ever find yourself at Big Ridge State Park, there is a trail that you can take that allows you to look out over the water where Loyston once stood.

Norris Lake where Loyston once stood
Posted in Genealogy 101

TVA Records

This week’s tip takes a look at Alford Sharp’s cemetery/burial records.

In 1933, the TVA was given the task to build Norris Dam (and lake) in what is now Anderson/Union County.  In order to do so, TVA had to move not only families who were living in the area, but also the graves of their family members.  Included in this “move” was many of the members of the Sharp family.

Many of the Sharp family members were buried in the town Loyston.  In order to visit the town now, you would need a boat and take it to the widest area of Norris Lake.  If you suspect you had a family member buried in this area, your best bet to find where they are located now is to look up the Tennesssee Valley Cemetery Relocaton Files on Ancestry.com

If you are able to find your ancestors in these documents, you should find anywhere from one to four pages.  These pages may include everything from your ancestor’s cause of death and death date to what type of coffin they were buried in and the contents of the coffin. Below you can see a copy of Alford Sharp’s relocation paper.

http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60427

65+65+5

 

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Alford Sharp: Tennessee’s First Family

This week I am writing about Alford Sharp, who was a member of one of the first families of Tennessee.  The Sharps lived in Loy’s Crossroads in Union County, TN.   This area was flooded by TVA and is now at the bottom of Norris Lake.  Big Ridge State Park is the closest one can get to standing in the area of Sharp’s Chapel.

Alford Sharp was born to William “Station Bill” Sharp and Rachel Stiner on February 25, 1809 in Anderson County, Tennessee.  Alford grew up surrounded by family.  Not only was he one of sixteen children, but his father had seven siblings, making Alford’s extended family very large.  It is well documented that the Sharp families ran the same circles as the Loy and Graves families.  This is more than likely due to the fact that these families all emigrated from Germany and stayed together due to the sharing of language and customs.

On July 15, 1851, Alford married Elizabeth Loy in Union County, Tennessee.  They had eight children: Nancy (m. Ruben Bledsoe), Jacob L (m. Sally Plyes), Caswell C. (m. Elizabeth Oaks), William (m. Nancy Condry), Jane (m. John Pleasant Oakes), Parly (m. Caswell Wilson), Rachel Irene (m. Elias Carroll), and Alfred B (m. Nancy Gentry).

Alford Sharp was said to be an outstanding member of his community.  Not only did he serve as Justice of the Peace, but was even granted guardianship of his cousin’s children.  According to the early tax records of the state of Tennessee, Alford owned 70 acres of land worth $520 and one slave worth $500 in 1837.  When Alford passed away on December 20, 1876, his will listed five pages worth of personal property that had to be inventoried and divided between his heirs.

Alford was buried in Sharp’s Cemetery in Union County, Tennessee.  In 1935, when TVA planned to flood the area to build Norris Dam, Alford’s grave, along with many others were moved to different cemeteries.  I’ll talk more on this with “Tuesday’s Tips”.

 

Alford’s lineage is as follows:

Alford Sharp – Elizabeth Loy

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Rachel Irene Sharp – Elias S Carroll

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Susan Jane Carroll – Abraham Benjamin Price