Thursday, April 16, 2015

TVA and the Hatchcock Family

I ran across the Hatchcock family when I was researching a DNA match With a descendant of my fives times great grandfather, Adam Beard (1725-1777).

Sarah Caroline Barrett, known as Callie, was born in Colbert County, Alabama, on 13 August 1889. The county is in northwest Alabama. The terrain is quite hilly as the southern slopes of the Appalachian mountains reach into the county and the Tennessee river bisects the county from east to west. Callie came from a farming family and on 26 December 1909 she married Bennett Moland Hathcock, who also farmed. By the time the Great Depression cast it global shadow, Bennett and Callie had eight children.

Soon after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president, Congress enacted the TVA Act of 1933. The Tennessee Valley Authority was a very different kind of government agency. Roosevelt had asked Congress to create "a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise." The organization was responsible for providing navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region deeply affected by the the Depression.

Erosion of Alabama farm land during the Depression; photograph
courtesy of the Library of Congress

During the 1930s nearly 30 percent of the population of Tennessee suffered from malaria; the average family income was $639 a year; and much of the land had been farmed for too long without resting the soil through crop rotation. TVA not only built the dams that enabled power generation, it taught Tennessee farmers the latest farm management techniques. But not without cost. In order to provide low-cost electricity to these rural families, TVA displaced 15,000 families by condemning their land.

Ben and Callie Hathcock's family was one of those 15,000 families. They were renting a farm near Cherokee from George Hurd and had done so for about a year. Ben and Callie had six of their children still at home. Eventually, Ben and Callie secured land in Mississippi from their landlord and relocated to Mississippi on 26 January 1937. However, I sense a bit of impatience in the TVA removal case file about the length of time it took:

A TVA dam under construction in Tennessee c1940; photograph courtesy
of Wikipedia

"5 Nov 1936: This home is located on the tract belonging to George Hurd, which has recently been condemned by the Authority. It is located on the highway leading from Margerum to Riverton and about half way from Margerum to Iuka Bridge across Bear Creek.

The home is a four room frame building of box construction. It is in a fair state of repair. The interior is modestly furnished, and was clean at the time of the visit.

The family consists of husband, wife, and six children, all of whom are in good health and present no known physical handicaps with the exception of Uzell a fifteen year old son who is a cripple, having been afflicted with infantile paralysis.

Both Mr. and Mrs. H. are native of Colbert County, having been reared and lived most of their life in the Middle Creek section and moved to their present location a year ago. Mr. H. is engaged in farming, and he has followed this occupation all of his life. One son, Estel is employed by the TVA in the Reservoir Clearance Division.

The family is a third and fourth tenant. Mr. H. owns two head of work stock. He has thirty-five acres in crop, eighteen of which is cotton and will yield nine bales. These resources together with the employment of the son should be adequate for the family to care for themselves and maintain the present standard of living.

No definite plans for removal have been made, and as stated above the family despairs of being able to find a suitable place for relocation. 

3 Dec 1936: This family has been contacted twice since the original contact. At the time of the last visit, Mr. H. informed the worker that he secured land for another year from Mrs. R. H. Hurd near Burnsville, Mississippi, and would remove as soon as it was possible for them to build a house for him.

6 Jan 1937: This family was contacted on the above date, and the worker was still informed that they were waiting for the house to be completed in order that he might move. Again on 15 January, the family was contacted, and the worker was advised that the house had been completed, however, the condition of roads and weather made it impractical for them to move.

26 Jan 1937: Mr. H. and family removed to their new home site today. This relocation is considered as satisfactory


Page 2 of the Ben Hathcock TVA case file; courtesy of

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