Newly discovered Lake Lanier maps uncover submerged businesses

HALL COUNTY, Ga — Recently discovered maps are unlocking some of the mysteries of Lake Lanier.

The hand-drawn charts were created more than 60 years ago. They give a glimpse into long-gone communities submerged under the water’s surface.

Channel 2’s Diana Davis said the maps came close to ending up in the trash.

Lake Lanier is a North Georgia jewel: 38,000 acres of water for boating, drinking water and hydroelectric power.

The Buford Dam on Lake Lanier was a billion-dollar project. The groundbreaking was in 1950. The project was so big, it took an army to make it happen: the Army Corps of Engineers.

Now Army Corps rangers are seeing for the first time the maps of what would become the lake and surrounding area. They were discovered abandoned in a government warehouse near Washington D.C., about to be tossed in the trash, until Ranger Russ Lundstrum found out about them.

“I said, ‘Absolutely. Yes, send them to me.’ It was like Christmas,” Lundstrum said.

There are 44 maps in all, each one painting the picture of what the now submerged land was like before the dam went in.

Local farm homes, cemeteries and even a racetrack were submerged. During the extreme drought of 2007, the grandstands of the half mile track were uncovered.

The Corps of Engineers was given the Lake Lanier project in 1946, a year after the end of World War II. They didn’t make the first purchase of land until two years later.

Henry Shadburns’ Forsyth County farm and home were sold for $4,100. In all, 700 families were relocated along with local businesses and even railroad tracks. The maps detail it all, said Lundstrum.

“I have a great level of respect for the level of work that was put into these maps they all were hand-drawn with an ink pen,” Lundstrum said.

Lundstrum hopes the Corps will exhibit the maps one day. Not only for history buffs, but for the descendants of those who once lived on the land now under the lake.

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