Roanoke, Va., July 23, 2013 – A study funded by Appalachian Power provides a historic and fascinating account of the families that settled in the Pulaski County area known as Dunkard’s Bottom some 200 years ago. The study was conducted by S&ME, Inc. and Harvey Research and Consulting as part of the company’s federal relicensing process for the Claytor Hydroelectric Project and is available to the public on-line and at Claytor Lake State Park. 

Many of the homes and farms that dotted the landscape along the New River in Pulaski County from 1740 to the 1930’s now lie beneath the surface of Claytor Lake. Appalachian inundated the area in the late 1930s and first generated electricity from the hydroelectric project in 1939. The 35-page study chronicles the evolution of Dunkard’s Bottom by documenting the story of Samuel and Israel Eckerlin and those who settled the land after them.

In the mid-1700s the brothers were part of a religious movement in Eastern Europe. They were known as Dunkers, or Dunkards, who practiced adult baptism by immersion. To escape persecution, they fled and settled in Pennsylvania.

After a disagreement with the Pennsylvania church leaders, the deeply religious brothers decided to establish their own community in Virginia and they purchased several hundred acres on the New River. For years the brothers trekked between their original communities in Pennsylvania and their land on the New River before the settlement fell apart and the brothers moved west.

In 1770, the land was purchased by Revolutionary War hero and noted Indian fighter William Christian. Together with his wife Anne, sister to the famous patriot Patrick Henry, the couple built a plantation that included some of the Dunkard’s cabins. The family farmed the land while Christian continued to dabble in politics and further his military reputation. Like the Eckerlins, Christian would eventually leave the area in the 1780’s to move further west into Kentucky.

In the early 1800’s, the Cloyd brothers bought 1,500 acres that included the Dunkard’s Bottom property. The massive farmland remained with the Cloyd descendants for over a century. In his will which was probated in 1849, Thomas Cloyd actually referred to the land as “Dunkard Bottom” – a place that still bears the name despite being underwater. By the 1930’s, the estate had been divided up among a series of cousins who eventually sold it to Appalachian Power Company.

Dunkard’s Bottom is located at the northeast end of Claytor Lake, two coves back from the dam. Today, during low-water conditions at Claytor Lake, remnants of the brick foundation that was once part of a Cloyd family home are visible as well as remains from the Cloyd Cemetery. Photos and the complete study can be viewed at http://claytorhydro.com/history/.

           Appalachian Power has about 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is a unit of American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, which delivers electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a nearly 39,000-mile network that includes more 765 kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined.


Todd Burns
Corporate Communications Manager
(540) 985-2912

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