History of DeKalb
County Alabama - A.A. Miller, Builder of DeSoto Dam
Arthur Abernathy Miller, a
brilliant self-educated electrical engineer built the twenty foot high dam above DeSoto
Falls in the mid 1920s. He built the dam to help supply power for his hydroelectric
generator which he constructed below the falls, on the West Side of the gorge. A square
concrete base still marks the spot where electrical power was generated for the Towns of
Fort Payne, Mentone, Valley Head, Collinsville, Alabama and Menlo, Georgia. Miller knew he
had found an ideal location for his plant at this picturesque spot atop Lookout Mountain.
Miller hired many local men for
the construction of his dam, which was first built to a height of 10 feet. Later various
people of the area contributed sufficient funds to raise the dam an additional 10 feet in
order to increase the size of the lake. A timber dam up to the river was flooded; the lake
enlarged and was stocked with bass and bream to provide better fishing as well as more
enjoyable boating and swimming.
Miller was born in 1872 in Lincoln
County, North Carolina and died December 26, 1943. He had 1 daughter by his first wife,
who died. His second marriage was to Pearl S. Callahan of Bedford County, Virginia. They
had 2 daughters. Electricity always intrigued Miller and was by far his most favorite
professional pursuit. He had furnished electrical power for two towns in Virginia and one
in West Virginia before coming to Fort Payne from Chattanooga in 1921.
At first Fort Payne was furnished
with electricity from dark until midnight. After a number of local women purchased new
electric irons, power was supplied on Thursday afternoons to enable ladies to iron. Later
electricity was made available all day and night. There were no central switches for the
street lights during this time so Ernest Wallis, a young school boy became Fort
Paynes equivalent of the "old lamp lighter", riding his bicycle up and
down the streets at dusk to turn the lights on and returning after dawn to turn them off.
On many occasions Miller jumped up from his evening meal and rushed through the darkness
from his home on the corner of third and Gault to restore electric service after incidents
of power failure.
Miller saw great possibilities
with the DeSoto Falls area and together with Phiffer Smith, purchased 300 acres of land
surrounding the falls. They formed the DeSoto Falls Development Company and built the
first road to DeSoto Falls where they had planned to build a community clubhouse and
tennis courts. A historical fortress area below the falls was to be preserved as a park.
They had created an attractive brochure describing the park but unfortunately the great
depression prevented development of the beautiful park they desired.