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Philpott maps show land now below lake
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Pat Ross, director of the Bassett Historical Center, shows an original map of the land that now is Philpott Lake. The map, which is in two frames, may help families piece together their ancestors’ history. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray).
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

An original map of Philpott Lake dating back to 1949 is helping families piece together their ancestors’ history.

The map, which shows Philpott Lake and the names of the original owners of the land beneath it, was donated to the Bassett Historical Center a few months ago by the children of Thomas B. Stanley Jr. The children came across the map when cleaning out Stanley’s home in Stanleytown, according to Pat Ross, director of the Bassett Historical Center.

Since the center obtained the map, a lot of people have come in to look at it, and many are stunned to find out how much land their families owned and who their neighbors were, she said.

Some of the families listed on the map that had land under what now is Philpott Lake are Jarrett, Ingram, Turner, Foster, Clark, Mullins, Spencer, Bryant, Menefee, Brooks, Stone, Martin, Shelton, Bowling, Crawford, Mize and Philpott.

When the center received the map, it was in its original mailing tube but was torn and needing repair, Ross said. Royal Stone Outback Framers of Bassett repaired the map and pieced it back together.

The map is on display at the center in two large frames.

Originally, the War Department and Army Corps of Engineers from Fort Norfolk sent the map of the Philpott Lake project to Thomas B. Stanley Sr. in Washington, D.C., Ross said.

At the time, Stanley Sr. was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He served as governor of Virginia from 1954-58.

Philpott Lake, formed by the construction of Philpott Dam, was named for the small village of Philpott that is a few miles downstream from the dam. The Philpott Dam project was authorized by Congress in 1944 for flood control and the generation of electric power. The unit is part of an 11-reservoir system that was planned by the Corps of Engineers to control floods in the entire Roanoke River Basin, according to documents at the center.

Construction of Philpott Dam began in March 1948 under the direction of the Corps of Engineers. By October 1951, flood control was being provided, and in October 1953, the dam and all three generators in the powerhouse were completed and operating, with a combined capacity of 14,000 kilowatts of electric power, the document read.

The Philpott Reservoir area, comprising about 3,000 acres of water and nearly 7,000 acres of surrounding land, lies in Franklin, Henry and Patrick Counties, according to the document.

Before the construction, government officials contacted the families of people buried in cemeteries where Philpott Lake was to be located, Ross said.

Families could have the family cemeteries relocated or remain in the same location and be buried under the lake, Ross said. At that time, some families would not sign to have the cemeteries relocated, she added.

According to documents at the center, the government paid to have 19 family cemeteries comprising of 159 graves relocated, and each family decided where the new cemeteries would be located. About 59 graves were not relocated.

In the late 1990s, center volunteer Pam Hollandsworth did research and found that some families were relocated to the Shady Rest cemetery located behind Triplett’s Store in Bassett. It is the only relocated cemetery that the center knows of, but of course, there are many more, Ross said.

The Bassett Historical Center has the records on which graves were moved, but no record of where they were moved to, other than those moved to Shady Rest, Ross said.

The map “was a great find” because it gives family members a chance to find out where their family’s land was located and whether their family cemeteries were moved, said Anne Copeland, assistant director at the center.

Before receiving the map, many people would come into the center asking where their family’s land was. Now, the center can show them the exact spot, Ross said.

Anyone who is interested in family history wants to know where their ancestors lived, and the map is like “a piece of the puzzle that they’ve found,” Ross added.

“We appreciated it very much (to receive the map) because it’s a part of our history,” and it helps people understand their families, Ross said.


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