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Wednesday, December 16, 1998

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Corydon, Pennsylvania

Imagine looking at the disastrous remains of your hometown emerging from the mud after 33 years at the bottom of a man-made lake. "Since it was swallowed up in '65, it has been seldom spoken of," said Harry Tome, a 76-year-old retiree who remembers Corydon all too well. A recent, protracted drought has caused the Town to reemerge at the bottom of the lake.

In the late 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its intention to construct a dam along the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania. The building of the Kinzua Dam was highly controversial because it flooded one-third of the Allegany Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Nearly six hundred Senecas were forced to abandon their homes and relocate, despite a 1794 treaty that had guaranteed them those lands in perpetuity. Additionally, the Town of Corydon was inundated and 200 families lost their homes. Once the area was cleared, all properties were burned to the ground.

Mr. Tome said that he had put on his wadders, "Just to look things over." As though a forgotten murder from the past, back to haunt those who did the killing, Corydon is again having its day in the sun despite the sophisticated efforts of technology and progress to suppress it. Mr. Tome remembers, though. His hand sweeps across the expanse of sun-dried mud, cracking in the afternoon air. "The school house was right there. My church was there. George Black's house was right here where I stand. Over there is where the town used to set up a ferris wheel during the carnival. We had it made. A lot of people are still irritated that they built that dam and run us out." He kicked over some trash in the lake bed, trying to see what the items might have been.

"We not only lost our homes, we lost our lives, our friends, and our livelihoods," said Joyce Stoltz, another old-timer who remembers. "We didn't have a lot of options. People just scattered." Her husband, Edward Tome was looking down at a sidewalk where his friend used to grow flowers and vegetables, now just mud.

"It's kind of weird, really. I wish the town was here." He looks at the few grave stones scattered around where the town cemetery was. "James W. Marrihew," one says.

Corydon was a quiet farming town. A few lumber mills and factories were nearby in surrounding towns. Everyone ate at Carl & Emily's. Back around the turn of the century someone, name forgotten, wrote a history of Corydon for town officials. The sweet corn grown in the town is widely remembered. When the Corps of Engineers started tearing down homes and removing the bodies from the cemetery, people said, "It was like the end of the world was coming." Mr. Stoltz summed it as he kicked the cracked mud with the toe of his boot, "I was so used to Corydon. To have to get out and face the cruel world, it just seemed too much. It was just a nice town. I guess as I look back, I would probably still be here today."

Incidentally, because of the drought, authorities have asked millions of people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware to shorten their showers.

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