The Origins of Ladshaw Day:
Hydroelectric power supplies a modest 6-8% of electric demand in the U.S. today, but following the installation of the nation's first hydroelectric plant in Wisconsin in 1882 there was a headlong public and private rush to develop the technology. By 1907 the level had reached 15% of electricity produced and by 1920 the number had grown to a startling 25%. Hydroelectric power was occasionally called "white coal", even --- and was seen as a boon to the rural southeast in particular. Dams were being built everywhere around here at a rapid clip. It's in this context and time period that the wonderful Green River was nearly taken away from us back in 1906.
Above is a tiny piece of one of the two large scale blueprints produced by George Ladshaw and his brother on December 12th, 1906. The creek in the bottom right of the blueprint is the micro-sized Johnson Branch, which joins the Green River immediately below the first drop below Frankenstein. Upstream to the left is one of the FOUR dams proposed by the Ladshaw brothers. Each of the four dams were to have accompanying penstock piping (the "trunk line") going downstream to individual power houses, with roads, power-lines, and other infrastructure. Two dams were recommended for the Upper Green and two for the Narrows, as described in the three page Ladshaw proposal. The dam shown on the blueprint fragment above is about halfway between the Big Hungry confluence and Bride, and their curvature is off a bit too when one views the full print.
The Upper Green and the Narrows as we know them today would have ceased to exist had the Ladshaw brothers' plan been enacted. Somehow we wound up with just the one dam that we have, creating Lake Summit and piping down to Tuxedo Hydro, built in 1918. Although they were hired to make the engineering study and proposal (and were paid $4200 for it), no amount of searching or contacting historical societies has turned up any reasons or information about why the Ladshaw plan was not accepted, and I have all but given up that part of my quest.
Regardless, it adds up to December 12th being Ladshaw Day. A day to raise our glasses to this mythical George Ladshaw and celebrate our dumb luck which became fine fortune --- because it is only but for an unknown whim by the powers-that-be over 100 years ago that we have our precious Green River to frolic upon today. Without the Green surely thousands of lives would be altogether different now, a few wonderful local businesses wouldn't be here or would be in different form. Some love affairs and relationships might never have started, some might never have ended, and three people who died on the Green would be alive yet today. None of us would have the countless hours of zen experience under a full moon or late afternoon light with our fine companions as lifetime memories to cherish -- memories occasionally intermingled with simple embarrassment or sheer terror. There would be no Green Race, no Fishtop at noon, no icicles in the cold eddies of winter. Man's mysterious failure to "advance" gifted to all of us a world class gem of a place, and one that's worth celebrating.
Arguably, mid-December is a tricky time to have another holiday. It's just a month-plus after the Green Race, hot on the heels of Thanksgiving, and tucked in there as people are putting up Festivus poles, having the Airing of Grievances, saying Happy Hanukkah, and whatever else one does during Saturnalia and Christmas proper. Nonetheless, whether spending the day by themselves, huddled in small groups for fellowship, or at elaborate and costumed dance parties, Green boaters the world over make time each December 12th to hold up their pints and speak aloud: "To Ladshaw!!".
More Green River maps and stuff are found here: Page of Maps. Go to the American Whitewater Green Narrows page for additional information about the Green.
Reproduction of the blueprint above was done with the kindness, permission, and help of Helen Wykle, staff librarian in Special Collections at UNCA's Ramsey Library in Asheville. When I looked at all the Ladshaw materials in 2009, Helen scanned some small sections for me so I could have a few digital images -- although we weren't able to capture a good impression of the whole operation in any way. Looking at the two large blueprints laid out on a table is most impressive, and I highly recommend it. The map numbers you want are 143 and 156 from this page if you go.
|Author:||Ladshaw and Ladshaw||Location:||@Green 2. Green Narrows, NC|
|Subject:||Dams on the Green||Rapid:||Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein|
|AW Photo ID:||882903||AW Reach ID:|
author of photo John Pilson