Pickens County at 150

Local professor and outdoorsman

reflects on a century and a half

By Dr. Thomas Cloer, Jr.

Special to The Courier

I can’t believe it! Has it really been 50 years since we celebrated the centennial birthday of Pickens County in 1968? I remember the old tie I wore for a picture. I remember the long beards the men grew, and the long dresses with bonnets that the women wore. The year 1968 really sticks in my memory, because the gigantic Keowee-Toxaway Project had started developing lakes Keowee and Jocassee. I think that I could make a good argument that nothing has affected the physical features of Pickens County more for millions of years, much less for 50 years, than that massive earth-changing project.

Looking Back to the Keowee-Toxaway Project

People first heard of the Keowee-Toxaway Project of Duke Power when it was announced at Clemson University. The announcement was made Jan. 2, 1965, by W.B. McGuire, president of Duke Energy. My fiancée, Elaine Kowalski, and I were in college in Kentucky, and were planning to marry after that sophomore year. It was not until 1966 that we got the word that

Above: Tom and Elaine Cloer pose with baby Tom III at the 1968 Pickens County centennial celebration.
Top left: The building of Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station, pictured in this early artist rendering, marked a major turning point in the history of Pickens County.
Top right: Tom Cloer and his father, Carl T. Cloer Sr., speak at the Pickens sawmill, which was built “to accommodate the treasures of timber to be removed for the gargantuan Keowee-Toxaway Project,” according to the author.
Top: Tom Cloer fly fishes in the Jocassee Gorges, one of the great natural features of Pickens County that dates back much, much farther than the county’s 150-year history.

the big steam band-saw mill that controlled our lives was to stop producing lumber on the bank of Stinking Creek, Tenn.

A brand-new sawmill was to be constructed in Pickens to accommodate the treasures of timber to be removed for the gargantuan Keowee-Toxaway Project. This would lead eventually to the damming of such national treasures as the Whitewater, Thompson, Toxaway, Horsepasture, Eastatoe and Keowee rivers in the Jocassee Goorges. Bearcamp Creek, Wright’s Creek, Laurel Fork and Mills Creek would all be backed to their highest falls. I fished them all. They had

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