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Mattamuskeet Foundation presents historic 1913 bond to Outer Banks History Center
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com - Lake Mattamuskeet, Mattamuskeet Drainage District, Mattamuskeet Foundation, 1913 drainage bond, pumping plant, drainage canals, land reclamation, Outer Banks History Center
Contributed By: Dr. Lewis Forrest
Website: http://www.mattamuskeet.org

Mattamuskeet Foundation presents historic 1913 bond to Outer Banks History Center
Photo caption (IMG_0576): Samantha Crisp, director of the Outer Banks History Center, accepts a 1913 Mattamuskeet Drainage District bond from Dr. Lewis Forrest, executive director of the Mattamuskeet Foundation. 

Mattamuskeet Foundation presents historic 1913 bond to Outer Banks History Center 

MANTEO, N.C.––Dr. Lewis Forrest, executive director of the Mattamuskeet Foundation and chair of the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, recently presented Samantha Crisp, director of the History Center a framed original 1913 Mattamuskeet Drainage District bond. This bond was one of 500 sold on June 1 of that year to the New First National Bank of Columbus, Ohio. The bonds financed the construction of the world’s largest capacity pumping plant at Lake Mattamuskeet and dredging of 83 miles of canals to move the lake water to the pumping plant and from the plant to the Pamlico Sound.

Mattamuskeet is North Carolina’s largest natural lake. In 1913, it covered nearly 50,000 acres. The drainage project was America’s most famous pump-supported land reclamation effort and an engineering marvel. The purpose of draining the huge lake was three-fold. First, it there was a common belief that draining the swamplands of America would reduce disease spread by mosquitoes such as malaria and typhoid. Second, the farmers of Hyde County needed relief from too much rain that destroyed their crops about one of every three years. Draining the lake would lower the water table and reduce flooding of their fields. Third, the value of the lakebed was about $2 per acre covered by water and at least $100 per acre drained. The lakebed was some of the richest soil in America.

At the beginning of the 20th century, North Carolina’s State Board of Education held title to Lake Mattamuskeet. On March 5, 1909, the General Assembly passed Chapter 509 of the Public Laws of 1909, authorizing the Board of Education to unite with landowners in Hyde County to establish the Mattamuskeet Drainage District. The plan was for the Board of Education and about 550 farmers with land around the lake to form a 100,000-acre district. The lake property made up about half of the acreage. Once drained, the Board of Education planned to sell its reclaimed land to support the cause of public education in North Carolina.

Before the Board of Education set its plan into motion, it accepted an offer from a small group of private investors to buy the lake for $2.04 an acre. The buyers took ownership in January of 1911 and incorporated as the Southern Land Reclamation Company. The new owners provided leadership to organize the drainage district and begin plans to build the pumping plant and dredge the drainage canals. Under the 1909 law, three commissioners managed the district. The new commissioners prepared for the bond issue and advertised the bonds in leading financial and industrial periodicals. It was from that advertising that the New First National Bank of Columbus, Ohio, saw the opportunity, contacted the drainage commissioners, and bought all 500 of the bonds at face value, at 6-percent interest.

With the funds in hand, the drainage commissioners granted contracts to build the pumping plant and dredge the canals. Over the next twenty years, the lake property changed hands twice. The district was successful in draining the lake three times. The third time, the district kept the lake drained for six years. Over the years, the commissioners repaid the bonds from the drainage taxes collected from landowners served by the district. The district repaid the last bond in 1926.            

According to Forrest, the Center will display the bond in a public space where visitors can view it and learn more about this important history of eastern North Carolina. The Mattamuskeet Foundation normally reserves these bonds for its Royal Patrons. For more information, contact Dr. Forrest at 252-341-7882, or by email at mat-lake@coastalnet.com.

Keywords: Lake Mattamuskeet, Mattamuskeet Drainage District, Mattamuskeet Foundation, 1913 drainage bond, pumping plant, drainage canals, land reclamation, Outer Banks History Center

Posted: May 2, 2018
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