Rhea Springs, Pt. 3: What happened to the residents flooded out by Watts Bar?

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – A community know for its mineral water and resort was swallowed up by Watts Bar Lake years ago.

We conclude our series of reports tonight on our own Lost Atlantis here in the Tennessee Valley.

As we told you yesterday, Rhea Springs was a thriving community in Rhea County with hundreds of residents.

The Tennessee Valley Authority acquired the land in the 1930s when they started building nine dams.

Our News 12 Morning Crew dives down to the bottom of this mystery by interviewing TVA officials.

Virginia and Donald Reed…Tom and Vangie Garison Ingle…..Joseph and Margaret Peters…the list goes on and on…..

All residents of a community with a church, school, and even a post office that is now under this body of water….

Scott Fielder with TVA told us “The land was acquired by working with the individuals there as part of the TVA Act and what TVA did is identify the area that would be flooded and then work with those families.”>

800 Rhea Springs families to be exact.

All received a letter like this one dated August 1st 1936.

“Dear Sir…it is possible that the Tennessee Valley Authority will need to acquire your land….”

The beginning of progress for TVA and the end of an era for this small community.

Rhea County historian Pay Guffey told us “People started having to find new places to live. Some moved to Spring City….some moved to Dayton.”

TVA was created in 1933.

Officials say in 1936 a river management plan was constructed. Part of that plan included 9 dams across the Tennessee Valley.

Fielder say “Watts Bar Dam was one of those and that construction started in 1939 and lasted until 1942.”

According to these documents, Rhea Springs landowners surrendered possession of the property by December 31st, 1938.

“Most of those families stayed there around Spring City about 15 percent of them left, and went to different parts of Tennessee and 5 percent left the area all together.”

That mean’t removing all their homes…buildings and fences….

“The dismantled homes or they just sold out and left.”

Unless they helped during the construction of the dam….

“There were about 800 families effected during the construction, during construction about a hundred families moved back into their homes and were part of the construction.”

In 1942 when the progress was completed, the water rose and the rest is history.

The spring, hotel, school house, post office and numerous stores are gone, but not forgotten.

Today a small park over looks the Piney River and the memories from the past…a reminder of what lies beneath.

So could this ever happen again in the Tennessee Valley In the name of progress?

“TVA has built out the dam system, it depends on what happens in the future, electrical growth needs, flood needs… navigation needs.”

They believe anything is possible, but highly unlikely, communities like Rhea Springs could one day be lost to the currents of time.

“If you want to check out Rhea Springs Park it opens this weekend.

For more on our series, watch Part One here.

And Part Two here.

Categories: Featured, Local News, Rhea County