The Sacrifice of Lilly and Gad
WORLD HISTORY | January 19, 2019
Bluestone Lake in Summers County, West Virginia. Source: (pinterest.com)
The Appalachian Mountains, which cuts through several states including West Virginia and North Carolina, are a beautiful sight to behold. However, the downfall of living at the base of such a majestic landscape is that when it rains the mountains have a tendency to funnel the rainfall into the valleys. This results in flash floods which can be devastating to the nearby communities. Over the years, the government has attempted to prevent these floods by building dams. However, the water still has to go somewhere and many times that somewhere happens to be the location of an existing community. Two of these communities were the towns of Lilly and Gad in West Virginia.
Back in the 1700s, Robert and Frances Lilly, accompanied by Josiah Meador and their families, settled in what would later become Summers County of West Virginia. The settlement came to be known as Lilly, West Virginia. According to the legend, they arrived with nothing but “a bible, an ax, and a gun.” The area was chosen for its plentiful natural resources. The settlement eventually grew into a community of subsistence farmers, consisting of more than thirty families, and several buildings sprang up, including a schoolhouse, a church, and several houses.
Unfortunately, the area was prone to flooding, as were the neighboring communities. As a result, the government in the 1940s decided to build Bluestone Dam in an attempt to prevent some of the floodings. The only problem was that the new dam was expected to leave the village of Lilly underwater. The residents of the village were forced to leave their homes, though they were given financial compensation for their land, with one farmer reported to have been paid $1,750 for his property. Buildings were torn down or moved and ancient cemeteries were relocated, with many graves being left unmarked in their new location.
In an ironic twist, the land was never actually flooded. It turned out that the engineers had miscalculated. However, there is little left of this once thriving community. Explorers of the old settlement may find foundations from the buildings or daffodils growing in the forest. However, the Lilly family has continued to grow, becoming one of the largest families in the world and hosting a family reunion which made the Guinness Book of World Records due to its size. A bridge built at the same time as the dam was named Lilly Bridge in honor of the town. It was torn down and rebuilt in 2015 but kept the same name.
While the remains of the village of Lilly are scarce, the same cannot be said for another West Virginia town that was sacrificed to prevent flooding. Located in Nicholas County, Summersville Lake is a popular recreational attraction, offering activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. However, it is also the home of the sunken town of Gad, which according to scuba divers is still intact.
It turns out that the lake is actually a man-made reservoir, created in the 1960s by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to prevent flooding in the neighboring communities. The village of Gad was a farming community dating back to the 1800s. The town consisted of a general store, a post office, and a school, in addition to the many houses of its residents. As with Lilly, the residents were forced to sell their land and move away. While dams are typically named after the nearest town, the powers that be opted to avoid the unfortunate moniker of “Gad Dam” and chose to name it after the next nearest town of Summersville instead.
According to scuba divers, the town appears to be “frozen in time” beneath the waters of Summersville Lake. The 2,700-acre reservoir has clear waters which allow the sunken town to be easily spotted. The Reese family posted pictures online of their scuba diving trip showing a house with blue shutters and a rope swing in the yard. The near-perfect preservation of the sunken town has led to it being nicknamed “The Atlantis of the Appalachians.”