Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Norfork Dam: The Price of Progress

The Flood Control Act of 1938 was literally a watershed moment for the future of Baxter County, Arkansas, and the surrounding region.  This Act of Congress, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 28, 1938, initiated the building of the Norfork Dam in Baxter County, Arkansas.  The overall cost in constructing the dam and powerhouse was roughly    $ 28,600,000, but with every improvement this Act brought, we sometimes forget the sacrifices made by people who built it.  

While the dam was under construction, eight men lost their lives in the process.  These deaths not only affected the other men working on the project, but communities were impacted across the region.  Furthermore, their tragic deaths affected local families for years to come.  Though theses few sentences briefly document their deaths, we should never forget their lives, families & contributions to our welfare.  They have given their lives in our Ozarks' History.

If links are provided, click on each name to visit grave-site on Find A Grave.  When visiting these links, leave a card of thanks or flowers.
Click on Pictures to enlarge.


Core Drill Rig No. 3 operating on hole No. 36, located approximately 200 feet downstream from proposed axis No. 1.

September 20th, 1939 - 3:25 p.m.

Wagon drill operating in dam axis area.

June 6th, 1941 - 8:30 a.m.
Mel Jack

On the 23rd of January, 1942, Mel Jack, 25, a new brakeman at the Norfork Dam, fell from a railroad car on a Saturday night and the wheels passed over his legs injuring him seriously.  He was taken to the hospital at the site and both legs were amputated. One at the knee joint, the other just above.  

This is the first major accident at the dam since work started April, 1941.  He passed away the following Monday morning, as a result of injuries suffered when he fell under a freight train the week prior.  Mel was taken to Tuckasegee, North Carolina, to the home of J. T. Smith, his father-in-law, for burial. 

At the time of this writing, the author of this post cannot locate his grave-site or photograph.  If there is anyone with this information, please contact me at: hebrew613@yahoo.com.

Contractor’s men laying ties on railroad during construction.

February 7th, 1941 - 12:10 p.m.

Charles Estalee "Estel" Frame 

"Estel" Frame died at the Norfork Dam Hospital on the 1st of June, 1942, from complications arising from a broken leg.  He sustained a broken left tibia and fibula on May 30, 1942, when a cable snapped and hit his leg.  He was working as a railroad switch-man at the dam.  After being hospitalized, a blood clot formed and an embolism passed to his lungs causing his death. 

Charles Estalee "Estel" Frame
 Used by permission: Max Parnell
Mr. Frame was born in Ada, Oklahoma, on September 12, 1910, to Charles Bennett Frame and Lula Murray Frame.  Charles married Janie Lillian Gay "Lillie" Best on November 26, 1940.  He was survived by his wife and three-month-old daughter, Laqueta.  The funeral services were held at McClure Funeral Home in Mountain Home with burial in the Norfork Cemetery.

Charles Estalee "Estel" Frame

September 12th, 1910 - June 1st, 1942
 Used by permission: Max Parnell

Harvey B. Whitehead

On November 27, 1942, Harvey B. Whitehead died when a bus overturned carrying workers going to work on Norfork Dam.   L. G. Clem, of Yellville, was driving a bus, which contained 20 men.  The bus was running about 15 miles per hour near the Arkana school house and hit a rut in the road.  The front wheels left the ground, went off a culvert, and the bus overturned.  G. A. Greenwell of Yellville suffered a compound fracture of one leg when the bus turned over, and 12 men received minor injuries.  Harvey Whitehead was sitting on the upper side of the bus, thrown as the bus overturned, and was killed.  Harvey had a wife and two children.  Harvey is buried in Arkana Cemetery.

Name plate of Harvey Whitehead
 Used by permission: Holt Ussery

Photo by: Vera Emeline Lane Reeves
Harold Hines

Harold Hines, a carpenter, was only 24 years old and was the first man to be killed on the Norfork Dam (although two others have died as results of accidents on axillary works). Mr. Hines fell 36 feet to his death at 8:15 p. m. January 5, 1944.  The accident occurred while he was stripping forms at the powerhouse.  His death was caused by a basal skull fracture.  Mr. Hines had apparently taken  the necessary precautions of fastening his safety belt according to regulations governing such work, but in some manner had rendered insecure the support to which his belt was attached, it was said in a release from the dam.  Mr. Hines was survived by his wife, Irene "Mabel" Durham Hines, and three children.  Harold & Mabel were married for six years, and he had been employed as a carpenter at the dam since October, 1943, coming here from Everton, Arkansas.  Mr. Hines is buried at the Crawford Cemetery in Boone County, Arkansas.

Harold W. Hines

April 29th, 1919 - January 5th, 1944
 Used by permission: Bobby &  Carol Babin Estes
Field Safety Meeting held with the carpenter crew and U. S. D. E. Safety Engineer.

July 10th, 1944, 12:30 p.m.

View looking toward left abutment from spillway bridge pier #16, showing general construction operations by carpenters.
Fred C. Fuller

Fred C. Fuller and his wife, Sallie J. Ford Fuller, were natives to the Ozarks and were married on a Stone County ferry on the White River on July 5, 1925 .  At age 41, Fred was killed February 12, 1944, at 2 o’clock Saturday morning on Norfork Dam, when he fell 180 feet through an opening in the dam from a concrete pour.  He was a foreman in cement.  He was also the father of seven children, and his home was near Norfork.  His injuries included a skull fracture, a compound fracture of the left leg below the knee, several ribs fractured and right shoulder blade fractured.  He is the second man to be killed on the dam proper.  He has been a member of the Baptist church for six years.  Besides his wife and seven children, he was survived by two sisters, one half-brother and one grand-daughter.  Funeral services were held at Norfork Sunday conducted by a WWI Navy veteran & Baptist Minster, Rev. Evander Tate "E. T." Baker, and services were in charge of the McClure Funeral home.  Fred Fuller was laid to rest in the Norfork Cemetery.

Fred C. Fuller

May 2nd, 1902 - February 12th, 1944
 Photos used by permission: Max Parnell

View of monolith #12 construction showing concrete pouring operations.

May 28th, 1942, 4:45 p.m.

General view of the concrete finishing operation on left side of pier # 17.            
 July 17th, 1944, 3:25 p.m.
Olen A. Hitt

Olen Hitt of the United States Engineers was killed in a fall on Brushy Creek, above the Norfork Dam Saturday afternoon, January 22, 1944.  He sustained a head injury.  Mr. Hitt, who was with a surveying party from the district office at Little Rock, fell into the lake bottom at the bottom of the bluff.  He was not missed by members of the surveying party until they returned to their boat for the trip back to the dam.  Mr. Hitt and family lived at Cotter.  He was survived by a wife and a three-year-old daughter.  Olen A. Hitt is buried in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Grenada, Grenada County, Mississippi.

Olen A. Hitt

May 5th, 1906 - Jan. 22nd, 1944
Used by permission: Cindy Tebbetts Germany

Paul Woodson Martin & Willard Zachariah Whitehead

On the 4th of August, 1944, the last two deaths occurred on the Norfork Dam. An electrical shock caused the death of Paul Woodson Martin,  age 17, and Willard Zachariah Whitehead, age 28, Friday while working at the Norfork Dam.  In moving the frame of a core drill rig in the grouting gallery, it was shifted over a 110 volt wire use for lighting and the insulation was broken, charging the drill rig and electrocuting the workers.  The accident occurred between 7:30 and 8:00 Friday evening. It is believed that the shock passed through the bodies from 20 to 30 minutes.  Artificial respiration was applied for several hours, but it was not successful.

Paul W. Martin
October 11, 1927
August 4, 1944
The funeral services for Paul W. Martin were held Sunday afternoon at the Methodist church and were conducted by the Rev. J. J. Clark.  Paul Martin would have been a member of the senior class of the Mountain Home High School within a few weeks. While in school, Paul was active in sports and was the Junior Class President at Mountain Home High School (MHHS).  He was survived by his father, Mac Warren Martin, one brother Mac Odell, with the armed services somewhere in France, and two sisters, Mrs. Joe Bill Hackler and Mrs. Gulledge Curry of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  Paul Martin is buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery along the side of his mother, Mary E. Martin, who preceded him in death on the 23rd of October, 1936.

The red arrow is pointing to the gravestone of Paul W. Martin.
His father, Mac, and mother, Mary, are buried of each side of their son Paul.

Photo by: Vincent S. Anderson

Funeral Services for Willard Z. Whitehead were held Sunday at the Holiness Church in Norfork.  Willard was preceded in death by two sons; J. L. Whitehead, who  died on the day of his birth on December the 27, 1936, and Harald Whitehead, a six day old son, died October the 9th, 1942, one year and ten months prior to Willard Whitehead's death.  Mr. Whitehead was survived by his wife, Lela Helm Whitehead Wheeler, a native of Cushman, Arkansas, and five children, Charles Eldon, James Robert, Kenneth, Dortha May and Carol, his mother Mrs. Finis Whitehead, three brothers, Alex, Troy and Bill, and three sisters, Mrs. Janie Beard, Mrs. Jule Perry and Mrs. Lurain Pivkett.  Willard Whitehead was born at Norfork and lived there most of his life.  Though his widow, Lena, remarried, they were buried side-by-side in the Norfork Cemetery.

Willard Z. Whitehead

April 11th, 1916 - August 4th, 1944

Used by permission: Annette Shaw

Ironically, Willard was the brother to Harvey Whitehead who died when a bus overturned carrying workers going to work on Norfork Dam on November 27, 1942. 

View along axis of dam, from left abutment, showing general construction progress.  Cofferdam #2, second diversion, may be seen in the foreground.

March 12th, 1942, 10:30 a.m.

View of concrete operations on left training wall, blocks one and three.

July 18th, 1944, 2:10 p.m.

View of spillway bridge span between monoliths #7 and #8 after removal of falsework and underneath forms.  Parapet forms are in place on top.

July 20th, 1944, 10:410 a.m.

View of intake structures, monoliths #20 and #23, inclusive.  Portion of reservoir, pool elevation 528.60’,may be seen in foreground.

July 20th, 1944, 10:40 a.m.
General view from ridge on left bank of river approximately one-half mile downstream from dam, showing general construction progress.              October 27th, 1944, 4:05 p.m.

Norfork Dam - December 21st, 2013

All construction photographs of Norfork Dam are from the Donald W. Reynolds Library-Local History Room Archive.  Over 640 photographs may be viewed at this location.