Monday, December 15, 2008

Song of the Cove Creek Dam

Another request for a rerun:

“"He never did have worldly goods, because if they'd of had it, and seen someone else needed it, that's where it would have gone. He'd give a person the shirt on his back if they needed it worse that he did," said his daughter-in-law Anna Burnett, of Sharp's Chapel. Ruble Cleatus Burnett was 37 years old in 1935 when he wrote the "Song of the Cove Creek Dam." He had just purchased 50 acres of land, after having apparently rented it for some years, when the TVA land appraisers looked it over. He supported his wife and three children, his older brother, and mother in a three room house by the sale of chickens, eggs and a tobacco crop. His income in 1933 was $180, and his expenses on the farm just $30.75. He fed the family with two milk cows, two hogs, 50 chickens and 17 ducks, by TVA's count. The TVA interviewer also noted: "House is a small boxed one, and is equipped with very little furniture," indicating no car, radio, piano, phonograph, sewing machine, floor covering, or dining or living room furniture in the home. The interviewer considered Burnett "suspicious," and noted, "He said the T.V.A. was a bad thing for the people of this section," and, optimistically, "his conversation leeds altogether along the line that he believes the government will jip him But began to gather a different idea before I left him [sic]."

“"I believe what hurt him most was moving the graves," says Aundra Ditmore of Maryville, Burnett's daughter. He was hurt by the removal of his infant daughter, who died from meningitis, and his father's remains to a new cemetery, and he grieved for the families whom he felt would not be able to recover their loved ones in poorly marked or unmarked graves.

TVA may have left the graves underwater at the family's request.

“As it turned out, Burnett did not have to move his family's home. TVA leased a right of way from him, but did not force him to a new location. For a couple of years he owned a guitar, and, rarely, sang for friends and neighbors. His son, Milus, remembers hearing him sing the Cove Creek Dam song only three or four times, but learned a number of the verses himself.

“Norris Dam continued to affect his life. His daughter, Bonnie Sanford, remembered, "Someone asked Dad, 'what good are the C.C. boys?' He said, 'For son-in-laws.'" Both daughters married C.C.C. members from the nearby camp. He finally got electricity, around 1950, 14 years after the promise of it. He fished in Norris Lake occasionally, but more often scouted the banks for fishing tackle abandoned in the brush, which could be reused or resold.” --

Since Dr. Kirkland was unable to locate Cleatus Burnett, the song was by a Knoxville high school student named Eugene Wallace.


Check back in a couple days. Up next is a great post from old pal Jim C. And there's more Christmas music after that.


Blogger John Elderkin said...

Hi, this is John Elderkin from the Popes, now the Public Good based in Wash, DC. Sorry to comment here but didn't know how to contact you. We've kept your link after your kind words about the Popes. Anyhow, we are playing a big show in Charlotte opening for Mitch Easter on the 26th at the Milestone. Our first show there since 1994, though we'll only play new stuff. Just wanted to pass the info along. New songs (a new album should follow shortly) can be heard at Hope this doesn't sound like pure promotion, just wanted to keep people informed. Thanks.

16/12/08 1:40 PM  

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