Monday, July 19, 2010

Shavertown and Pepacton, New York

This is a great old humor card, but the back side of the card is really of greater interest.  There's a reason I didn't recognize the towns of the sender and the recipient; they have been submerged under water for over 50 years.  Here's the other side of the card:

Tom Miner sent this letter from Shavertown, New York to his wife in nearby Pepacton in 1917. I'm not going to correct his spelling. Here's the message:

We are going to the show to night. We worked 10 hrs to day but to morrow we are not going to work like that
We are going to chainge I tell you
latter (?)
your hisban Tom

New York City needed water, so they purchased the valley on the Delaware River in 1942, displacing 974 people, destroying four towns, and submerging nearly half of the Delaware and Northern Railroad. What that actually meant is that the property owners were served with notices of condemnation.  The property owner had a choice to accept half the assessed value of the property and vacate the premises or hire an attorney. Residents who hired attorneys had their cases heard before three commissioners, one from Delaware County, one from New York City, and one from the 6th judicial district. The commissioners ultimately decided what the award should be.

A special panel of engineers hired by the Mayor of New York City to look at alternatives, recommended the Hudson as a water source instead of damming the Delaware. They also recommended universal metering and fixing leaks in New York City as conservation measures to reduce the demand. The Board of Water Supply objected to the report, and New York City rejected it in favor of the original Delaware River plan.
The West branch of the Delaware River was dammed, and flooding was completed in 1955, creating a reservoir twenty miles long and about a half mile wide. Along with the displaced living residents, graves from the local cemeteries had to be exhumed and moved. The reservoir currently provides new York City with about 25% of its drinking water.

Alice Jacobson, a former resident, has written a book entitled Beneath Pepacton Waters, which tells about life and people in the area before the dam.


  1. Der arme Tom hatte wohl nicht viel Übung im Schreiben.
    Auf jeden fall hat er seiner Süßen eine bemerkenswerte Karte ausgesucht ( hihi).

  2. Have you read much about the waters of Southern California in the 20s? They inspired the film Chinatown. In short, Los Angeles surreptitiously bought up land and water rights in the Owens Valley north of LA, the built aqueducts to transport the water. The farmers of the valley resisted vigorously with dynamite and guns. LA prevailed, and the valley turned into a wasteland.

  3. What an interesting, sad history - and poignant message. I'm finding I like vintage postcards with interesting messages more than mint, unused vintage PCs.

  4. Janine,
    Ja, du hast Recht - und es ist besonders traurig, weil man doch denken muss dass es nicht passiert haette wenn die Leute viel Geld und Ausbildung haetten.

    Yes, I read Cadillac Desert, not a quick easy read, but enlightening - in a heavy sort of way. Water politics have always been interesting and ugly.

    I totally agree. I go to the postcard sales and rifle through the cheapest boxes, looking for the interesting and messages and the offbeat. Who cares about mint!

  5. What the big city wants, the big city gets... I assume Tom was working on one of the dams. My father drove hours thru a snowstorm to apply for a job on one of those construction sites, sounds like it might have been a blessing they didn't offer him one. Excellent card, I love the frying pan used as a collection plate!

  6. Once again you have a near-perfect mixture of postcard and description. It is always a pleasure to discover new additions to your blog - and I mean that.

  7. fascinating reading...i agree with aimee - a message on the back of a sent postcard is so much more rewarding in terms of postal and social history. by a strange coincidence you posted this on the day that china’s 'three gorges dam' is facing record flood levels...

  8. Alan,
    I so appreciate your comments. Sometime I wonder why I'm doing this and then I get a comment from you and it reminds me of the reason.

  9. Debs,
    I have noticed that you have a tendency to see details and pick up on things that other people miss...just like today. It's always enlightening to me and very much appreciated.



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