Family History

Visiting with Isaac Wilson – The Norris Dam Relocation Surveys

The other day I stumbled upon an amazing find on – the Tennessee Valley, Family Removal and Population Readjustment Case Files, 1934-1953. For years I’ve accessed the cemetery relocation records, but never realized the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) also documented relocations of living families. I imagine being forced to move from the only home these people ever knew was probably traumatic. However, through these records, those who went through it left a fortunate glimpse into their lives for their descendants. Here’s a story I was able to compile about Isaac Wilson  just using the information he provided for this survey: TVA Relocation Interview – Wilson Isaac 1934

Isaac Wilson, born 1869 in Indiana, had lived 46 years in a four-room house in Jacksboro, Campbell County, Tennessee, on land lying between Whitman Church and Flint Hills. His wife, who at age 68 was blind, was born in that same county in 1866. During their marriage they had a total of two boys and six girls. By September of 1934, only one daughter, who was 38 years old, was still living at home. Over the years, the couple had lost three of their children: one son who was killed in a mine, one daughter who died in infancy, and one daughter who died due to an operation. All of them were buried not far away in Indian Creek – a cemetery scheduled to be relocated to make way for construction of the Norris Dam.

TVA Relocation Interview, Isaac Wilson
TVA Relocation Interview, Isaac Wilson

The Wilson family spent their days working on their 100-acre farm. Typical chores would include cutting wood from 30 acres of timber, planting crops and hay on 15 acres of cropland and 15 acres of pasture, and raising livestock and taking care of their home and farm on the remaining 40 acres.

The red dolomite soil making up the most of Isaac Wilson’s farm supported 50 acres of level ground, 25 acres of gently rolling hills, and 25 acres of steeply rolling hills. There was also a tenant farmer on the land. However, Isaac was not inclined to recommend the man. Perhaps the rent paid in farm shares was not enough to cover Isaac’s $305 mortgage on the farm so made dealing with a tenant not worth his time.

Once a week Isaac would drive his horse and nine-year-old wagon along the nine-mile trip to Coal Creek for supplies. And about once a year, the family managed to make it all the way to Knoxville for a visit.

When the children had been young, they traveled 1 1/2 miles to Whitman Hollow School. However the six-mile walk to Jacksboro High School and the need to lend a hand around the farm discouraged the older children from continuing their education. But with their never ending chores and only the Bible to read and no electricity to allow for much other activity after dark, little education beyond elementary school was needed. As it was, Isaac had only attended through the first grade and his wife through the sixth grade.

Now at age 65, Isaac focused on tending his 50 chickens, seven cows, one mule, and two hogs. He also planted tobacco, corn, and hay with the help of his animals, sand plow, and two turnout plows. He harvested his hay with a hay mower. Several years back he had even invested in the purchase of a Singer Sewing machine for his wife and daughter.

All his hard work sustained the family by bringing in an annual income of $325 in 1933 earned from the sale of milk, milk products, and livestock. This was in addition to about $252 worth of vegetables, wood, and pork produced by the land and farm animals which further sustained the family. With their frugal living, they only needed to outlay an extra $28 in cash for additional supplies that year.

In the end, Isaac knew he had to move for the big project, but until that time he had work to do and a family to support. He really had no time to stop working just to answer a few questions.

Norris Dam
Norris Dam, Source: Library of Congress



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