Local exhibit highlights dam's history

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

COVINGTON — An exhibit detailing the history of Lloyd Shoals Dam that formed Jackson Lake is on display at the Newton County Administration Building.

The exhibit, sponsored by Georgia Power Company, marks the 100th anniversary of the dam and includes archives and photographs from the construction of the dam.

"It was such a great project. It was innovative for its time," said Margaret Calhoon, senior archivist and curator with Georgia Power Corporate Archives. "It was the highest dam ever planned up to that time — 100 feet from the base up to the top. It received attention all over the country. Even Thomas Edison, the inventor, heard about it and contacted the company officials and contractor to discuss the construction method, it was so unusual a project."

The dam was built with cyclopean masonry, with irregular shaped rocks that never touched and concrete used to fill in the gaps. The exhibit explains the vision for the development, the construction and significance of the dam. It also gives a history of the entrepreneur who first envisioned it, Jordan Massee, a man some called so charismatic it's rumored that Tennessee Williams used him for inspiration when creating the character of Big Daddy for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Bibb Power Company was formed to build the dam. The name later changed to Central Georgia Power Company. Construction on the dam began in 1908 and was completed in 1910. Newton County residents helped with construction. There are records indicating three men were appointed by the Newton County Commission to decide where the bridges would be placed. Workers were paid $1 a day, good money at the time, Calhoon said. Power generation began on Feb. 23, 1911. Georgia Power Company bought the dam in 1928. Jackson Lake was the largest reservoir in the country until after World War II.

Calhoon and her staff researched the history of the dam for months, scouring newspapers, archives, conducting oral history interviews and tracking down descendants of original organizers. Many of the exhibits were acquired from residents of Newton County. Local resident Scott Fuss designed the exhibit.

Calhoon did not know the exact date the exhibit will be taken down, but said she expects it to remain in place for several months. It is located at the entrance of the Administration Building and is free to the public.