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History of Highland Lake, Alabama
One day in 1907, George Clements stood in the doorway of the house he had built in the Straight Mountain area of Blount County, Alabama, and looked out. What he probably saw, here in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, was a mostly undeveloped wilderness. There were a few scattered houses and dirt trails, a small farm or two, lots of trees, and a vast upland marsh through which flowed the Blackburn Fork of the Little Warrior River.
Today you can stand in the doorway of the “Anchor," located on the site of George Clements’ house, and see a beautiful 257-acre mountain lake, circled by a paved road, and a shoreline dotted with houses, piers, and trees. You probably will see a fisherman or two on the lake, testing their luck and perhaps some water skiers enjoying a cool escape from summer in the city.
This is the history of how a wilderness mountain valley became a lake community, providing recreational facilities for hundreds of people each year.
Hugh Shuff's Dam
Apparently no major changes occurred in this area of Straight Mountain during the 47 years following 1907. The people lived a simple life as they continued to till the soil, plant, and harvest their crops. Then in 1954, Hugh Shuff, an engineer from Oneonta, Alabama, developed plans to impound the waters of the Blackburn Fork of the Little Warrior River. The main purpose of this reservoir was to provide water for irrigation to the surrounding farmers, and, secondly, to provide a recreational area for the people of Alabama.
An earthen, stone, and concrete dam, measuring 80 feet high and 325 feet across at the base, and about 525 feet across at the top was built. The body of water formed was called Shuff Lake. It had a watershed of 31.5 square miles and, at 900 feet above sea level, became the highest lake of its size in the southeast. Shuff Lake was filled in 1955 and its limestone-free water was rated by engineers as an ideal water storage reservoir, with six million gallons of water available daily.
Plans to provide water for irrigation were abandoned when the City of Birmingham raised objections. Birmingham officials felt that this use would threaten the water supply for downstream Inland Lake, a Birmingham industrial reservoir. The development of the lake as a recreational and residential area was given top priority, and the community began to take shape.
Joe L. Moore & Company
In 1956, Joe L. Moore & Company of Gadsden, Alabama, assumed management of the real estate development of the lake. Shuff Lake was renamed "Lake Highland." Homes were built, a large park area was developed, and the lake was stocked with fish by the Alabama Department of Conservation. During this time the “Anchor” was built. It was first used as a sales office, later as a restaurant, and then as Town Hall/Community Center. Today the Anchor serves as our community center. Joe L. Moore & Company’s plans for development were not entirely successful, and the company had to file for protection under federal bankruptcy laws in the early 1960s.
Lake Highland, Inc.
On October 6, 1963, a special meeting of Highland Lake property owners, who had pledged to be stockholders in a new corporation, was held in Oneonta, Alabama. The corporation, to be known as “Lake Highland, Inc.” took title to the lake itself, The Anchor, and certain other undeveloped properties. A board of directors and officers, including William B. McCullough as president, were elected and corporation by-laws were approved and adopted by the stockholders.
For the next 14 years or so, the corporation maintained the lake and continued to sell real estate in the community.
Then, in April of 1977, a severe storm dumped eight inches of rain in the lake’s watershed area in one evening. The resulting flash flood caused considerable damage to the spillway at the dam. The cost of repairs proved to be more than the corporation was able to afford and the corporate assets were sold to Lake Highland Beach Club, Inc., on June 8, 1978.
Lake Highland Beach Club, Inc.
The new owner, Lake Highland Beach Club, Inc. endeavored to improve the lake over the next five years. The company was unable to produce enough profit from the property sales to justify continuing operations, however, and began looking for a buyer for the lake. There was some talk of the lake being sold to Blount County, but with the help of prominent residents and other interested individuals, the Town of Highland Lake, was able to purchase the lake, The Anchor, and remaining property on October 28, 1983. It was during this time that the spillway at the dam was rebuilt, redesigned, and widened.