(NOTE: THIS IS NOT A HIKE NATURALLY BUT MANY HAVE ASKED ME ABOUT THE TOWN BENEATH THE LAKE SO HERE IS AN ARTICLE THAT I DRAFTED. NATURALLY IF THERE ARE ANY ADDITIONS OR CHANGES PLEASE LET ME KNOW. RUSS MEADE, firstname.lastname@example.org )
- This is a work in progress to make sure all facts are as correct as possible as we rediscover or disprove the information on the Town of Buffalo.
- If you see anything that you find is inaccurate or if you have additional information, please send me specific details and references so we can modify what we have found so far.
THE “TOWN” BENEATH LAKE LURE- FACT OR MYTH?
(Whiteside Valley) (Whiteside Valley Church-organized July 7, 1892.)
I love dealing with facts! Facts are, as we know, “a truth known by actual experience or observation”. Facts are proven by empirical data of original material, photos, and first- hand accounts.
I also love retelling myths as they add mystery, color, and fun to our lives. Myths tell a story of a people or a community.
The interesting part of the story of the Town of Buffalo as it has the characteristics of both!
There are pictures, first- hand accounts of building being removed, numerous internet references to the town, logical conclusions, and stories being told of this now flooded town for years.
Let’s see if we can bring this town up from the depth of Lake Lure to remember this once proud, self -sufficient community in the beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge of NC!
Now, for those of us who live in Lake Lure, one of the most intriguing questions we receive from guests and permanent residents alike is:
“Why all the Buffalo references and Buffalo road names in the Lake Lure area? “
You see the reference to buffalos everywhere you travel in the Hickory Nut Gorge:
- Buffalo Creek Road,
- Buffalo Shoals,
- Buffalo Junction,
- Buffalo Creek,
- Buffalo Church, the list goes on and on.
The word “Buffalo” was used to describe our area existed well before the lake existed!
The “ town” of Buffalo is mentioned here 1886. Page 5 https://archive.org/details/rutherfordcounty00hick
Any building there would be called Buffalo The” town” then would be The Town of Buffalo thought no one would say the words the “town” of Buffalo.
Permanent residents and visitors alike see these references and ask:
Was there really a long forgotten town under the lake?
Let’s lay out some “facts” and let you decide if this Town was real or a local myth.
The “Town”of Buffalo was most logically located at about the center of what is now Lake Lure.
I use the word “town” very loosely as most likely it was a village or community.
The exact location can only be logically guessed. No physical remnants of this community exist today as the Flood of 1916 would have removed all the buildings.
Now how was the town named?
Again, we can only guess but today, if you take your boat out to the very center of the lake and look to your right and you will see a mountain that looks exactly like a Buffalo!
Hence, perhaps, the name of the town of Buffalo or after the creek that ran thought what is now the lake!
The “Town” of Buffalo was located in what was known as Whiteside Valley. It was centered on farming and mining. The below is a picture of the Valley before the lake.
How many people lived in Buffalo?
There is no know record of how many people lived in the Town of Buffalo but judging by the church records of the Whiteside Valley Church of 1918 with 98 members, it can be assumed that the entire town was about 150 people.
To date, not too many people are known. However William Oats lived on a large tract (700 acres) on the Muddy Fork branch of Buffalo Creek. Robert Oats, a grandson of William Oats married Margie Fortune. William Oats was listed as the postmaster of the Rutherford County town of Buffalo. Barzille Ledbetter owned a store in Buffalo
This town was most likely a brief stop for those heading through Hickory Nut Gorge on the Drover’s Road to Asheville, NC. The Ledbetter store would have been a logical place to replace a travelers supplies They would have rested here before going to Pine Gables for the night and then on to Sherrill’s Inn in Fairview for the second night. The road they traveled was call Drover’s Road (now 64/74).
The known buildings were the Whiteside Church, the Ledbetter Store, a cemetery, and even a school.
When construction of the dam was complete, Buffalo was flooded as it was also in the Flood of 1916.
Most of the houses and buildings were removed before the flooding There was a complete relocation of an entire community known as Whiteside Valley, all homes, the Whiteside Valley Church & Cemetery & the Ledbetter Store. Whiteside Valley Church was organized July 7, 1892.
When it was known that plans for the lake to be built were going to flood the area in the 1920’s, the church members began to look for another property and ended up tearing down the original church, using the materials to build on and repair the old Chimney Rock Church site.
There are numerous first- hand accounts of workers removing building from what is now our lake. One of the workers who helped removing the left over material from the town and building the lake was offered land in exchange for his work and said” “You couldn’t farm it, you can’t grow anything on it, you can’t put cows on it…it’s worthless” William Joe Jay Kiser (“Strawberry Kiser”) 1903-1979 Reported by Grandson Todd Kiser.
It is interesting fact that he was also the one who also left the jeep truck in the Town of Buffalo at about the center of the lake.
Tradition says the steeple from the original Whiteside Valley Church was used on the new church. All the graves were removed and” (Info from the book “Precious Memories; Bill’s Creek Community, Lake Lure, North Carolina”, by Virginia Dare Dalton Wilson).
Chimney Rock Baptist Church was” organized July 7, 1872 and met in a log school house on Rock Creek. The church was disbanded about 1902 when it was last mentioned in the Association’s minutes. Many of its members united with Whiteside Valley Baptist Church around 1892.
In May 1926 the church was sold to Carolina Mountain Power due to the Lake Lure dam being built. On August 29, 1928, the Whiteside Valley church became Chimney Rock Baptist, and is still located on that site.
From Chimney Rock Baptist Church http://chimneyrockbaptist.com/episodes/5437-history
(If you look closely, you will see the church in the background)
Today there are few pictures of this lost town except the above and the Barzille Ledbetter’s well.
However an interesting survivor of this one vibrant community is the 1917 Reo truck that has been talked about for generations not just because it’s an antique but because it spent 45 years at the bottom of Lake Lure in Buffalo.
The truck belonged to Barzille Ledbetter (1874-1965), and the picture below was of his well in the town of Buffalo after the flood of 1916. “In 1926 the town of Buffalo was flooded to create Lake Lure. Barzille had to move his family, his home, his store and blacksmith shop before the flooding began.” From the Digital Courier, May. 08, 2014
To read the full story please see this interesting article in the Mountain Breeze:
When construction of the lake that we now know as Lake Lure began the residents of the Town of Buffalo naturally did not want their relatives buried under the lake.
Many of the graves were moved to Buffalo Cemetery in the Rumbling Bald Resort. This was the high ground and a logical choice.
To see a list of the Whitesides and others who are in this unique cemetery see: http://files.usgwarchives.net/nc/rutherford/cemeteries/bufflure.txt
Now, was the town a reality?
In my though process the answer is a resounding yes~! The first- hand accounts, pictures, names of Buffalo, the found jeep from the town, cemetery removals are ample proof of its existence. Now, perhaps locals never called it a” town” no more that we say “ we live in the town of Lake Lure but Buffalo existed and it is a beautiful story of those who built the beautiful area that we now enjoy and love!
So perhaps the next time you are in about the middle of Lake Lure, look to your right to see the mountain that looks just like a buffalo and reflect about the brave people who once called this area home!
Ponder for a moment their daily lives, massive struggles in living in this primitive environment, their hopes and dreams and simply say we remember you!
No greater honor can we give these people or anyone is to simply be remembered!