CLAY CO., Tenn. (WKRN) – Known for its crystal clear water and great fishing, Dale Hollow Lake is a reservoir that sits on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. But Dale Hollow Lake wasn’t always there. Dale Hollow Dam and Reservoir were completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1943.
The creation of the reservoir resulted in the submerging of a town named Willow Grove. In 1942, the town was purchased by the government in order to create the reservoir in accordance with the Flood Control Act of 1938.
Darren Shell, a local author and historian, became curious about the town underneath the water.
“I’ve written a number of books about the moving of Willow Grove, and it kind of hit home with the heart you know,” he said.
Willow Grove was once a thriving community, but the residents gave up their homes, businesses, and livelihoods to create Dale Hollow.
“I mean, gosh, coming home and just you have a note on your door says you got to move. So I had a real empathy toward them for that terrible situation,” said Shell.
The news of the government buying and demolishing Willow Grove came in the midst of World War II.
The war is one reason why the project was completed so quickly according to Shell, “We would have a power supply in case our grids were bombed. And they made Dale Hollow so we could build bombs.”
What’s left of homes, businesses, and streets, along with many memories now sits peacefully under the water.
The remaining members of the community still gather to share memories of what once was.
“They have a reunion every year on Labor Day of the people of Old Little Grove, and it’s more of the children of the people because most of them are all passed now,” said Shell.
While many think of Dale Hollow as a great location for recreation, what’s left of the residents of Willow Grove have a different view. “They look at the lake differently than many of us do. They look out and see things that we don’t see what used to be there.”
Scuba divers often visit Dale Hollow to check out what’s left of the town of Willow Grove.
The dam was built across the Obey River in Clay County. The lake covers areas of Clay, Pickett, Overton and Fentress Counties in Tennessee as well as Clinton and Cumberland Counties in Kentucky.