Monday, August 08, 2011

A Family Displaced

The Conner family were early pioneers in Russell and Clinton County, Kentucky. My grandfather, Alonzo Conner and his wife, Millie Ann Guffey-Conner were born and raised in this part of the country where Lake Cumberland is now located. Alonzo came from a long line of property owners here where his great-grandfather, Lawrence Conner, received a land grant for 200 acres. It was in the fertile river valley of the Cumberland River on Indian Creek tributary. The land was handed down from Lawrence to his son, Cornelius Maguire Conner to his son, William Lawrence Conner and finally to Alonzo and siblings.

Alonzo Conner was born March 13, 1885 and wife, Millie Guffey, was born November 1, 1890. They were married November 6, 1907 and had eight children. They began their life along the river in the rich bottom lands farming and raising their family. Their youngest daughter, Mary Anna Grider Conner, was my mother and this is where she was born and raised. By the time all the children were of age and left home Alonzo received a letter in the mail, one that he had been dreading. He had heard that this big government project was coming, but was hoping they wouldn't decide to do it on his ancestral home. The letter read:

War Department, Wolf Creek Dam & Reservoir, December 12, 1947.
Dear Sir: It has been determined that your property located in the 2nd Magisterial district, Russell County will be acquired for the Wolf Creek Dam & Reservoir. It will be acquired prior to 30 April 1948 and negotiations toward purchase will be initiated in the very near future.

By the time all was said and done Alonzo received $850 for 30 acres and a house, and had to be out within four months. If he wanted to keep his home he only had a very short time to tear it down and/or move it somehow to another location. Fortunately his family had more land in which to move to. Some were less fortunate. With time being too short it was decided to build a new home elsewhere. All the memories, the old homeplace, and the beautiful river valley would soon be lost forever.

It's quite sad when I think about it, I will never be able to see where my mother grew up. Their old homeplace along with all the others in this community that were left behind were numbered by the government and put on a list. They were torn down and the land was cleared of all the farm fields, woods, and any traces of the community were erased. Fortunately the Conner's have handed down a lot of family photos which is all that is left of their heritage there. Each year the Conner's hold a family reunion on Labor Day weekend in Albany, Kentucky. There is also one held the following weekend for all the residents who formerly lived there, the Indian Creek Reunion, which is held at the park below the Wolf Creek Dam. Many families lost their ancestral homes as well, some being the Stearns, Griders, McWhorters, Tallents, Cooks, and Agees. The burials in the cemeteries in the valley were relocated to higher ground and many you will find now in the Government Cemetery, or sometimes the Hickory Ridge Cemetery. Whenever I drive across the Wolf Creek Dam I look down on the river side and try to see what little is left of the river valley they lived along. Possibly I'll get a glimpse of some memory that was left behind.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your article. I don't know if you are aware that there is a Lawrence & Margaret Blane Conner page on Facebook. I think that alot of the family members are interested in Margaret's Cherokee indian heritage, so if you have any information or pictures of descendants please join the FB page : ) Mary McIntosh
g Robert Lee Conner, gg Zachary Taylor Conner, ggg Cornelius Conner, gggg Lawrence Conner

Anonymous said...

Can you please add the link to the Facebook page you reference? I have not been able to find it. Thanks

Rhonda said...

Here is a link to the Lawrence Conner Facebook page:!/groups/117490851627890/

Anonymous said...

hi I was wondering is this Williams house or is this alonzos house..... thanks

Rhonda said...

Not sure whose house it is - William's or Alonzo's. The houses to be demolished were numbered and I've been looking for the list of houses and their numbers to confirm this.