Beneath Pepacton Waters plays Friday

Andes — This Memorial Day weekend the Pepacton Reservoir will officially open for recreational use. The Andes Society for History and Culture (ASHC) takes this opportunity to educate a new generation about what lies beneath the beautiful Pepacton Reservoir. As part of the weekend events, ASHC will screen the film Beneath Pepacton Waters on Friday May 25 at 7 p.m. at the Pleasant Valley Meeting House.

The Pepacton Reservoir is the largest of New York’s 23 reservoirs and consumed four villages to make it so: Pepacton, Union Grove, Shavertown, and Arena. Nearly 1,000 residents were displaced, some with lineage dating back to the settlement of the valley. Shot in the 1950s before and during the construction of the Pepacton Reservoir the film offers many of us a first time glimpse of lives gravely affected by the law of eminent domain, yet for many others it’s a record of a life they once knew, of the place where they once lived, that no longer exists.

Watching Beneath Pepacton Waters can have a haunting effect. The film was shot with an eight mm camera and is reminiscent of watching a “home movie” as it records children at play, farmers in the fields, and residents at church picnics; but what we soon come to understand is that the filmmaker is documenting the death of a place they once called home. The viewer experiences this as the residents did, as witness to the last days of life for the villages and surrounding farms that thrived from the fertile soil along the East Branch of the Delaware River. Like the wood siding stripped from some of the homes and barns, a community of people were dismantled. A community of people that farmed and prayed together, that survived through the worst and shared in good fortune were scattered apart as the world they knew and worked so hard to create was auctioned, bulldozed, and burned.

The film is an amazing archive of the sophisticated culture and well-established businesses that grew with time and hard labor. There is also footage of the actual flooding of the valley.
Gratitude is owed to George and Letha Hoag for having the foresight to capture this story on film, and to Bob and Alice Jacobson for taking the time to narrate the footage some 50 years later. It is the narration that personalizes the experience, moving us toward an intimate level of comprehension. This film was made so that we’d never forget these lost communities and the sacrifice forced upon their residents.

The Pleasant Valley Meeting House is located at the corner of county Route 1 and Bussey Hollow, Andes. Donations accepted. Call 676-3775 or log on to www.andessociety.org for more information.