“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Morgantown in Monongalia County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Strong Men and Horses Build the Basin

Interpreting History

Strong Men and Horses Build the Basin Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bradley Owen, May 13, 2021
1. Strong Men and Horses Build the Basin Marker
Clearing the overgrowth from 28 acres for a reservoir here was a major undertaking in 1911. Men used hand saws and axes to cut and remove trees and surface growth. Teams of horses or oxen pulled away the debris and any usable timber. A small contractor's ream then grubbed out the stumps - a difficult job. "The grubbing was done by means of a stump-puller and a two-horse team, excepting in very difficult places, where it was done with hand labor, using mattocks and shovels, aided by blasting" (The Cornell Civil Engineer, 1911).

A stump pulling device was constructed on-site under the guidance of Victor Hammel, who led the effort. The power of two horses, strategically placed chains, and the use of nearby stumps still anchored in the ground allowed the workers to systematically uproot any stump to which they could properly connect.

Every single piece of the entangled trees' root systems needed to be removed before horse-drawn scrapers could contour the loamy sand, clay and gravel. The grading process shaped the bottom of the impoundment area while also collecting the needed fill material for the main dam and embankments.
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Removal of soil also limited underwater decay of any leftover plant material once the reservoir filled. Some of the sand and gravel removed was used to make concrete which was later used to build the spillway.

The 30-foot-wide stepped concrete spillway, seen to your left, directed excess water out of the reservoir and back into Tibbs Run. Releasing the excess here in those rare times of extremely high water prevented erosion from occurring elsewhere. Because of the size of the pipes bringing water into the reservoir, during periods of high rainfall much of the water in the upper watershed remained in the creeks rather than entering the reservoir. A wooden walkway across the spillway allowed the reservoir caretaker to easily walk over it when needed.

Wanted: Strong Backs for Stump Pulling
Qualifications: Must be willing to endure hard labor, outdoors (mostly muddy), in all weather conditions; experience with hand saws, mattocks, axes and shovels required.

Preference given to those with dynamite blasting experience, or able to manage horse drawn soil scraping teams. Men also needed to operate and maintain horse-driven stump pulling device.

Pay: $1.50 for labor per nine-hour day
$5.00 for team and driver

Stump pulling
Strong Men and Horses Build the Basin Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bradley Owen, May 13, 2021
2. Strong Men and Horses Build the Basin Marker
device as drawn by Victor Hammel, project contractor. The stump to be pulled was attached to one of several hitching chains (A, B) depending on the force needed. The horses were attached at C and moved the lever back and forth between dotted lines as shown. Illustration source: The Cornell Civil Engineer, March, 1911.

Erected 2014 by West Virginia Botanic Garden and West Virginia Humanities Council.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceParks & Recreational Areas. A significant historical year for this entry is 1911.
Location. 39° 37.647′ N, 79° 51.972′ W. Marker is near Morgantown, West Virginia, in Monongalia County. Marker can be reached from Tyrone Road (County Road 75) 0.1 miles south of Quartz Drive, on the right when traveling east. The marker is located on the Reservoir Loop Trail at the West Virginia Botanic Garden. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1061 Tyrone Road, Morgantown WV 26508, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Prehistoric Garden (within shouting distance of this marker); A Small Dam and a Big "Bowl" Meet the Need for Clean Water (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Remnants of the Past: The Dam and Outlet Tower (about 500 feet away); Who Wants Clean Water?
30-Foot-Wide Stepped Concrete Spillway image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bradley Owen, May 13, 2021
3. 30-Foot-Wide Stepped Concrete Spillway
(about 500 feet away); Clean Water Comes To Morgantown (about 800 feet away); The Tibbs Run Reservoir: Then a Water Source, Now a Local Treasure (approx. 0.2 miles away); "Clean Mountain Water" Not So Clean (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ralph Lemley: Resourceful Caretaker (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Morgantown.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 30, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 27, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. This page has been viewed 108 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 27, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 21, 2024