Clearing the way
How Lake Murray was Named
Combining the Dreher Shoals and Bear Creek sites into one giant development had its start in the office of William S. Murray. While working late one afternoon, Murray glanced at a topographical map made by the U.S. Geological Survey. Murray had been studying two proposed water power developments on the Saluda owned by different companies. His eye followed the 360' Mean Seal Level (MSL) topographical contour, and as he followed its meanderings throughout the Saluda Valley, some very significant things presented themselves.

He noted that the contour did not touch a railroad; its highest elevation in respect to the divide separating the Saluda Valley from its neighboring Broad River, was never more than 40 feet below that divide.

Finally and most interesting of all, after winding around the valley of the Saluda for hundreds of miles, its position on the north side of the river approached to within 8,000 feet from its position on the south side of the river. It dawned on Murray that by spanning this distance with a dam, the largest water power impoundment in the world could be created.

This billboard promoted the "Largest Earthen Dam In The World." Lexington Water Power Company was formed in 1903 and merged with SCE&G in 1943.

In February 1927 the Federal Power Commission accepted an application to license the Lexington Water Power Company to construct a dam and powerhouse at Dreher Shoals. License for Project No. 516 was issued on July 8, 1927.

A newspaper report from August 4, 1930 stated that "Lake Murray, as the tremendous storage reservoir is known, was named by an act of the general assembly of the state of South Carolina, in honor of that distinguished engineer, William S. Murray, whose foresight, vision and tireless energy were responsible for the launching of the project."

A River Basin is Purchased
One of the biggest challenges confronting Lexington Water Power Company was purchasing land. The reservoir and its protective margins covered an area of about 65,000 acres and to secure this, it was necessary to purchase a total of approximately 100,000 acres. At the time development was started, the Lexington Water Power Company owned only 800 acres with options and easements for an additional 13,200.

Acquiring the necessary 1,100 parcels was made more difficult because many properties had passed from parents to sons and daughters with no legal transfer. Certain lands had been conveyed under crown grants from King James II of England, and in other instances, no records were available because of their destruction.

The massive task of land purchasing was only part of the problem. Before a dam could be constructed, arrangements had to be made for the removal or relocation of three churches, six schools and 193 graveyards. Overall, property owners and local officials showed a spirit of cooperation. A large number of property owners settled in nearby towns and countryside which border the lake.

Logging began in spring 1927. By mid 1928, over 2,000 men were employed and 37 saw mills were operating. Field offices and camp buildings had sprung up. Over 100 million board feet of lumber were manufactured. Lumber required for the dam's massive network of concrete forms and trestles was supplied from the clearing operation.

This photo was taken on April 8, 1927 as logging began in the Saluda Valley. Little was wasted as these trees provided lumber for the dam's massive network of forms and trestles.

Camps of the Arundel Corporation, contractor for the construction of the dam, accommodated from 1,500 to 1,800 workmen. W.S. Barstow & Company, general contractor in charge of clearing, spillway, power plant structures, machinery installations, substation, temporary and permanent houses, cableway between the dam and intake towers, and mosquito control, provided quarters for 1,000 to 1,500 men. A village of nine dwellings, a community house and church were built half a mile away for operators.

Over 100 million board feet of lumber were cut from this site. This photo was taken on February 21, 1928 of a lumber yard located on the railroad spur.

One of the first operations was to build a railroad spur three miles long connecting with the Columbia, Newberry & Laurens Railroad, at Irmo. Grading of this transportation link was begun September 12, 1927, and the line was in operation November 25th. The railroad was essential for hauling construction material and heavy equipment of the day. This spur is still in use today and supplies SCE&G's coal-fired plant, McMeekin Station, with trainloads of fuel.
lake murray history
the land before the lake
clearing the way
the construction era
the world's greatest earthen dam
opportunity for power
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