There’s A Demolished Town Hiding Underneath This West Virginia Lake
There is a place that people visit all the time that used to be a whole town, and they don’t even know it. That’s because today the location is Summersville Lake.
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Summersville Lake, known as "The Little Bahamas of the East," is a very popular destination during the warm months of the year. You can go boating, fishing, swimming, scuba diving, and hiking. But half a century ago, you could not do any of those things there. Why?
Because before the early 1960s, there was no lake here at all. Instead, there was a town called Gad that sprung up during the 1800's.
However, in the early 1960s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purchased the town and bought the properties of each resident and business in town. The reason for this was to demolish the town and replace it with a reservoir to reduce flood damage in the area and augment low water flow.
The community originally settled here was not large, but they had a kinship — and many people living today can trace their family origins back to the city, either through family ancestry, or because that small town was their birthplace.
This photo shows the town's main store, which also held the post office, both owned and operated by Arthur Backus. On the knoll above the store, you can see several canvas tents — these are believed to be the tents of surveyors who are mapping the path for a planned railroad. It is also a spot often used by traveling bands of gypsies to set up camp as they passed through the area.
Several of these photos date back to the late 1800s or early 1900s, though no official timestamp can really be placed on these photos or people. All are residents of this extinct town.
This store, owned by Frederick Kessler and John R. Vaughn, was another popular spot in town.
But eventually, the town, and all the memories that came with it, was demolished. All of its residents received a sum of money for their property to move somewhere new by 1960.
By 1966, the reservoir and dam were built. Commonly, a dam such as this would bear the name of the town it replaced, as is customary for the Army Corps of Engineers, but since the resultant name would be the laughable "Gad Dam," they chose to name it after the nearby town of Summersville instead.
Every 10 years, Summersville Lake is drained for routine maintenance. The lake is drained 55 feet at this point, and when this occurs, some remnants of the old town may be glimpsed, including one of the old roads.
It is a bit eerie to see such a popular vacation spot drained of water like some barren wasteland, but it also points to the engineering genius of the Corps of Engineers to create new bodies of water where none existed before.
Have you ever been to Summersville Lake? Did you know there was a once a town beneath its waters? Feel free to comment below and join the discussion.