Otealia Baldwin was born in Asheville, North Carolina but grew up in the Nantahala area of Macon County. She lived with her grandmother in a four room farm house. Her home place consisted of a barn and pastureland where they raised chickens, hogs, and cows. Her grandparentís main livelihood before the construction of the Nantahala Lake and dam was farming. However, when she was thirteen years old she and her family were forced off of their own land because of the construction of Nantahala Dam and were relocated onto two acres of land that they owned above the waterline. She claims that they were very fortunate to have owned land above the waterline. Being displaced brought great changes. Owning only owned two acres of land they could not rely on farming as they once did before the lake and the dam. When asked how much her family was paid for their land, she replied: "Very little."

She relates that her entire community was disrupted when they were forced to relocate. Some individuals moved to surrounding communities and counties while others even moved to different states. Not only were families and home places effected but general stores, post offices, filling stations, corn mills, schools and churches had to move as well. However, the thought of obtaining electricity helped the relocation process because they all knew that the end result would be electrification throughout the area.

Otealia remembers the community before the dam construction as a nice and lively community where everybody farmed. "It was just a nice community,"she states."Memories of the land clearing are very sad, especially when they brought in their machinery and chainsaws to cut down all of the timber, demolish the houses and clear the land." Otealia says that this was a period that was, "very sad and destructive, words cannot describe how it looked and made me feel." She also relates that rural electrification totally uprooted the community and scattered everybody. "Many individuals lost contact with friends due to relocation and displacement."

However, she claims that electricity was a much needed resource and that they were all glad to get it. She claims that it was good feeling to have electric lights in her home. The radio was also a wonderful change that electricity brought into their homes. Before electricity they had to listen to the radio with the use of a car battery. She says that "electricity definitely made life easier," the electric washing machine is one time saver that she mentions.

Most families in the Nantahala area received electricity about the same time as those in surrounding communities. Electricity became available when the wires came through to everyone. She relates that a lot of people just naturally learned how to wire their own homes by just teaching themselves. She claims that the atmosphere was very positive throughout the area because they were all so glad to get the electricity. Local community men would usually install wires throughout the communityís homes. There are times that Otealia wishes that the lake which covers a wonderful community would just go away. However, she states that "electricity has really helped us!!!"

© Western Carolina University

NOTICE: WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS The digitalized exhibit ìWatts in The Mountains: Rural Electrification in Western North Carolinaî is the sole property of Western Carolina University. As such, all materials presented in this exhibit are protected under the current law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code) that governs the making of copies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Fair use under the law permits reproduction of single copies for private study or research. Further transmission, reproduction, or presentation of protected items without the written permission of the copyright owners is forbidden This institution reserves the right to refuse any additional copying petitions if, in its judgments, fulfillment of the request would involve violation of the copyright law.