In the 1940s, ‘between the rivers’ people living on the
Tennessee River side were told they had to move as
Kentucky Dam would impound the river, and much of
the river bottoms would be flooded. In the 1950s,
those on the Cumberland River side were given the
same message as Barkley Dam would flood that side.
Then in the 1960s, the remaining families were
informed that they’d have to move as the Land
Between The Lakes National Recreation Area was to
be created. Without choice in the matter, those who
were forced to leave questioned the justice of the
government. Many still do.

Ballad of the Greenwood People

The proud Greenwood people,
Livin’ with their land,
Between the two big rivers,
Before they built the dams.

Their daddies lived before them,
An’ fore that their daddies too,
Growin’ what would grow there,
An’ doin’ what they knew.

Their kinfolk way before them,
Came down the rivers there,
Settlin’ in the bottom lands,
Green grass and freedom’s air.

Livin’ with the white-tail,
The coons and bobcats too,
Greenwood people raised their families,
Strugglin’ hard years through.

Through days of pig-iron makin’,
An’ nights of white-mule brew,
Through a war where sons fought fathers,
Harsh happiness they knew.

The first straw was a towering dam
Raised on the Tennessee,
A backin’ up the waters
An coverin’ up the trees.

“Move out!” said the Federal men
“Or see your people drown.
We’re gonna’ flood the bottom land,
No man can stop us now!”

The first folk moved to higher land,
Some to the other side.
Was better moved than dying,
But still the women cried.

When things ‘bout settled down then,
An’ most folk livin’ good,
The second straw was loaded,
Where the river Cumberland stood.

A new dam in the makin’.
They added to the pain,
By namin’ it ‘fore it settled,
Takin’ from the Veep’s good name.

If he knew what they had named it,
From his seat up on high,
His heart would burst inside him
To watch the people cry.

Again the folk, they had to move,
This time to higher ground,
With big waters on each side now,
Was the only place around.

Can you blame the Greenwood people,
For a wish to live an’ die,
In green hollows ‘tween the rivers,
On Kentucky’s riversides?

But the final straw still faced them,
The one to end it all.
“Get out!” said the Federal men,
“Get out to one and all.”

We’ll pay you for your worthless land,
With bills from taxing’s fees.
How can you buy a man’s life,
Or kinfolk’s memories?

How can money trade for lifetimes,
Or coin for seat and tears?
Can you pay for the hard times,
Or buy a proud man’s years?

The Greenwood land was taken away,
And no one left to tell
The stories of the Greenwood land
Where a proud breed could dwell.

They’ve all been swept away now,
Like the leaves from their maple trees,
Dying apart from their homeland,
In our land of the brave and the free.


No part of this book should be copied, reprinted or reposted without permission or consent of Lynn M. Hodges.
Posted on Between The with permission of Lynn M. Hodges