Alicia McGatha, wife of the late Harley McGatha, recalled that their granddaughter is now the same age as Harley when he cross the bridge to Cedar Bluff for the first time.
Guttery and McGatha were among many local citizens who were on hand for the recent 50th birthday celebration for Weiss Lake, which was held in conjunction with this year’s Liberty Day celebration in Cedar Bluff.
Scott Wright, author of The History of Weiss Lake shared a few words.
“I know a lot of us would rather be in Weiss lake today as hot as it is,” said Wright. “About three years ago it occurred to me that in all that time there really wasn’t a history of how it came to be here and how its creation changed the lives of everybody that lives in Cherokee County so I wrote I book called The History of Weiss Lake and even though I have lived here pretty much all of my life, almost every story that I heard, every person that I talked to told me something that I didn’t know.”
“As I went along, I talked to a lot of people,” said Wright. “Some of them are sitting here today as honored guests and told me what it was like to live in Cherokee County before there was a Weiss Lake on the Coosa River.”
“It is such a big issue for all of our lives and an honor for me to be with all of these people that represent Alabama power and Cherokee county and it is also an honor to be here with all of you today because just by being here thing morning, you have become a part of the first 50 years of Weiss Lake,” said Wright.
Thereasa Hulgan, executive director, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, noted that Weiss Lake was named after Fernand C. Weiss, who was born in Dallas, Texas, March 5, 1892. He was hired by Alabama Power in 1913.
“Because of his ability to get things done, he became a director in 1952,” said Hulgan. “Mr. Weiss retired from Alabama Power in 1958 and passed away in 1959 at the age of 62. He was present for the groundbreaking in 1958 but never got to see his dream come true. Today we want to present a plaque that will go on display in memory of Mr. Weiss and it will be on display at the power house.”
Hulgan presented the plaque to Ted Pyron, manager of Weiss Dam. Jerry Baker with WEIS Radio discussed the economic impact Weiss lake has had on Cherokee County.
“When I came here in 1977, Weiss lake was relatively young at that point and time,” said Baker. “Weiss Lake and I both have gotten older. It is hard for us to imagine what our lives would be without it. Before the building of Weiss lake more than 50 years ago, at the beginning point, the Weiss lake Economic engine brought money and wealth to this county. A lot of people say ‘well it took away some farm land, valuable timberland,’ but when it takes one thing away, it brings resources back many, many fold and that is what has happened with Weiss Lake. Weiss Lake is an economic engine that generates wealth and revenue for every citizen, not only in this county but in surrounding counties benefit that many people don’t realize.”
“There have been many studies conducted and the economic impact, Alabama Power has also done tons of research,” said Baker. “There is no way to come up with the exact figure because it is so far reaching, but the numbers we have found that we can share with you today. An average building lot generates $420 in property taxes in comparison. Also, there is the water taken from Weiss not only to generate electricity, but as an agriculture base to water crops. We have learned through the years that Weiss lake brings tourists. The latest figures we have show Weiss Lake generates $201 million a year for this community, $36 million in salaries from 4,001 jobs in this area. How do you put a total economic value on such a huge generation of wealth in this county? We are proud an honored to be able to celebrate Weiss Lake.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to be here to celebrate the 50th year of Weiss Lake,” said Cherokee County Representative to the Alabama Legislature Richard Lindsey. “I was a toddler when Weiss Lake opened. It has been a great asset to this community, this county and I know that we are all proud of it.”
“What do you think the population of Cherokee County would be today if it weren’t for Weiss Lake?” said Lindsey. “That is something to think about. Thanks all of you for being here and thank you for Weiss Lake.”
“On behalf of the Cherokee County Commission, I want to welcome you to the garden spot of Cherokee county, the Crappie Capitol of the nation,” said Cherokee County Commission Chairman/Probate Judge Melvyn Salter. “We are that because of Weiss lake and we want to thank Alabama power company that has already been mentioned for the partnership we have together because it is a partnership we entered into 50 years ago and with that partnership Cherokee County has benefited tremendously. Representative Lindsey just spoke about what would it be like in this county if we did not have Weiss Lake? It would be terrible.”
“I came in 1976 and I saw the population expand almost three fold,” said Salter. “Also I have watched how Weiss Lake has become an economic base for Cherokee County. So every time you have someone who says ‘Weiss lake how important is that?’ Stop and just tell them how important it is. It is our lifeline of our community. Thank you Alabama Power and all of you who have helped us become what we are today.”
To conclude the program, Alabama Power served a huge cake in honor of Weiss’ 50th Birthday to those in attendance.