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Hazardous Zones at Thurlow
Courtesy of Alabama Power Company

Tallasseee in Pictures:

By Michael Butler

There is a classic song that I remember from Saturday morning cartoons. It played on ABC's "Schoolhouse Rock." It is titled, "Electricity, Electricity."

There was also a song by Midnight Star of the same name. The Schoolhouse Rock version was written by Bob Dorough and aired first in 1977.

"Current flowing to and from, makes a circuit of Electricity, Electricity. Voltage is the pressure that makes it go. It's pushin' uh... Electricity, Electricity."

W. E. Wadsworth wrote in his book, "A History of Tallassee," about early electricity in Tallassee.

"Back in the 1890's, what little electricity was in use in Tallassee was generated in a small plant that occupied a small space in the old machine shop building that straddled the race carrying water to the wheels of Mill Number One. This was used to light the mills, and finally street lights were installed in the village, being lighted by the current furnished from this little power plant. At this time the use of electricity for lighing was restricted to a few places of businesses and residences. It was not until after the new power unit was installed in 1920, that lights were placed in the residences of employees."

In Virginia Golden's book of the same name, the "new powerhouse" is covered.

1928 photo of Thurlow Dam under construction
Courtesy of Alabama Power Company

"The capacity was only sufficient for lighting and the machinery in the new mill was driven by a water wheel. The water wheels in both mills were controlled by governors which required that someone be in constant attendance on them in order to shut the water off promptly in case of emergency."

Flooding on the Tallapoosa did heavy damage to the Montgomery Light and Water Power Company on Dec. 9, 1919, Golden wrote.

"After several days of heavy rain, the dam above Tallassee collapsed. The resultant wave struck with a force that carried away portions of both forebays and the bridge at Tallassee, and the railroad to Milstead was left in such condition that no train service was possible."

The flood is also chronicled in the January, 1920 edition of the "Mill Briefs."

"The iron bridge across the river was completely washed away. The absence of the bridge necessitates crossing the river on a flat at the old ferry, which is run by "Bud" Sayers. We hope if the Montgomery Light and Power Company ever build another dam they will make it 14 times as thick as the one that washed away."

Mount Vernon-Woodberry Mills and the Alabama Power Company reached an agreement in 1923 for joint use of the power generated in Tallassee.

In the heart of the city, Alabama Power Company's Thurlow Plant continues to generate hydroelectric power for Tallassee today. In addtion to Thurlow, Alabama Power operates three other dams along the Tallapoosa; Harris, Martin and Yates.

Alabama Power Company's Thurlow Facility

Thurlow Dam, with one generator, was built in 1930. The reservoir is 574 acres. According to Alabama Power, there are nine hazardous zones including; "strong, unpredictable currents."

Yates and Martin Dams are just north of Tallassee. Yates went into service in 1928. Martin has been in service since 1926.

The Tallassee Falls, as it was known, is where Thurlow Dam was constructed. Postcards from the early days of Thurlow reveal, "The Niagara of the South" when the river was at flood stage.

The scene when the gates of Thurlow are open to rushing waters is always an attraction to locals and those passing through Tallassee. I posted a video on Facebook a little over a year ago of our version of Niagara. The post has been viewed more than 57,000 times.

1940s era postcard
Courtesy of Bill Goss - "Images of America - Tallassee"

Thurlow Plant under construction in 1928
Courtesy of Alabama Power Company

Page from handout at Thurlow dedication
Courtesty of Tallassee Community Library

Alabama Power Company President Thomas W. Martin, First Company President Capt. William Patrick Lay and Dr. Oscar G. Thurlow - chief engineer, vice president and director of APC.
Courtesy of Tallassee Community Library.

The official dedication ceremony of Thurlow Dam in 1939 included an unveiling of a tablet honoring the namesake, Oscar Thurlow, by his daughter Elisabeth Thurlow (above right).
Photos courtesy of Tallassee Community Library.

Thurlow Dam Provides the Backdrop for the Alabama Power Plant and Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge

Dedication pamphlet cover from Thurlow dedication ceremony

2016 fire behind the power plant on Thurlow Dam

Rails at Thurlow

Rear entry at Thurlow

Photo of Thurlow Dam from a booklet on file at the Tallassee Community Library

Open gates and flowing waters

Don and Anne Bryant at Thurlow

Turbine equipment inside Thurlow Plant

East Tallassee view to the west

Visitors lining up for the Thurlow Dam Tour at Tallassee Now event

A man shimmeys down the wall near Thurlow Dam

Thurlow Plant front entry

The Butler kids at Thurlow

Rock formations on the Tallapoosa below Thurlow Dam

Alabama Power's Kim Adams inserts earplugs prior to a Thurlow Plant tour

Gates of Thurlow Dam

1930s era photograph
Courtesy of Bill Goss - "Images of America - Tallassee"

Equipment used for extinguishing a recent fire

David Waites conducts a tour at the Thurlow Plant

Tallassee Now tours

Tallassee High School Science Club field trip in 1989

At the bottom of Thurlow

Alabama Power Company Thurlow Dam tour

The Tennysons at the Tallassee Now Thurlow tour

Aerial view of Thurlow Dam and the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge

Alabama Power Company's Thurlow Plant on the Tallapoosa River

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