By Beverly Belcher Woody
Patrick County is blessed to be surrounded by rugged, beautiful wilderness. Kibler Valley is one of the prettiest areas of the county. It was named for C. W. Kibler, who operated a large sawmill operation there in the late 1800s. In the early twentieth century, a railroad named the Mount Airy and Eastern Railroad (Dinky Railroad) was built to haul timber out of Kibler Valley. For sixteen years, the narrow-gauge railroad ran a daily trip from Mount Airy to Kibler Valley. Local author, Tom Perry, has written a book about the “Dinky Railroad.”
Tina Puckett’s grandfather lived in Vesta and cut timber down the mountain. When the logs were cut, they were floated down the Dan River to the sawmill in Kibler Valley, just like in those big logging operations out in Washington state.
Logging camps brought a need for mission work and in 1903, Miss Henrietta and Miss Nannie Rivers started the Danube Presbyterian Church. The little village also had a store and a post office.
In 1937, a dam was in the works for Kibler Valley as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal Program. In October of that year, eight inches of rain fell in the little valley in just a couple of hours. The water rose at tremendous speed and the whole gorge echoed with the roar of water. The cofferdams erected for the pouring of the footing were swept away, as well as two bridges on the Kibler access road. The whole Kibler valley was a seething mess of water, logs, and debris. The farms in the valley were badly damaged due to the raging waters pouring down from The Pinnacles.
The following spring, the land still showed scars of the devastating flood, but plans were underway to have the new hydroelectric dam online by May. Workers were housed at the Pinnacles Camp, at local farmhouses, or commuted each day to work on the new powerhouse. The Pinnacles Camp had segregated bunkhouses, mess halls, recreation rooms, and a commissary. The camp had hot and cold running water, electric light furnished by a diesel plant, purified drinking water system, and septic tank facilities.
The City of Danville built four small houses near the power plant to house the workers and their families. There was a resident superintendent and three workers to cover the three eight-hour shifts in a workday. Each home was provided enough land to have chickens, cows, and to raise a garden.
On June 7, 1938, the day finally arrived for the dedication of the new powerplant at Kibler Valley. A large delegation of officials left the city of Danville in thirty cars and stopped off for lunch in the town of Stuart; dignitaries included Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Howard Gray, Danville Mayor Harry Wooding, E.C. Brantley, Danville Utilities Manager, and Judge Thomas Oslin. Also on the program for the day were Congressmen Thomas Burch, Clifton Woodrum, and J. Murray Hooker, chairman of the State Democratic Committee.
It is hard to believe that this momentous event, one that provided electricity to many families for the first time, took place eighty-four years ago! Kibler Valley not only provides electricity, but is enjoyed by many today for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and hiking.
(Thank you to Charlie Bowman and Tina Puckett for assistance with the article. Woody may be reached at email@example.com.)