LETTER: History repeats itself

Mar. 01, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

To the Editor:

Ever hear the old adage "history repeats itself?" Pay attention, Lee County.

Back in 1852, Ebeneezer Emmons, the state geologist, published a glowing (and later proven highly exaggerated) report about the coal and iron riches along the Deep River in Chatham County. The prospect of "a Pittsburgh of the South" drew speculators from as far away as New York.

Big plans for development were moving along when the Civil War erupted in 1861. Efforts were redoubled to extract these much-needed resources for the Confederacy. It soon became apparent that even the inflated wartime prices could not make these ventures sustainable. The only profits derived were from one speculator selling property to the next speculator. Lax safety practices may have contributed to more than 100 mining deaths. The local populace profited nothing and was left with little but the slag piles and the tombstones of their dead.

The post-war Depression brought a new word to our lexicon: carpetbagger. Men moved in from other regions, often from the North, to exploit the broken and disillusioned population that had just suffered losing a war more devastating than anyone dreamed possible. It would take upward of 10 years before the local folks took control of their own destiny and rid themselves of the "scallywags."

Fast forward 150 years. Lee County has been carved out of Chatham. The newfound wealth is natural gas. The newfound technology to extract it is fracking. The speculators? Yeah, they're back, and again from who knows where. The locals are still here. Their suffering may be more widespread this time; smoking faucets and tainted water may be their next legacy. And the carpetbaggers, yep, they're back, too — rushing headlong to legalize fracking and line the pockets of their constituency before comprehensive regulation can be enacted; carpetbaggers swept into office this time by convincing the electorate that they would be better served by a party bringing jobs and "business" interests.

We can only hope that the gas resource is as scant as the coal and iron was, and the speculators take their chemicals and trucks and move on to their next" field of dreams" before they destroy our beautiful Lee County. I wish that I could say that they've gotten what they deserved.

Problem is, I've gotten what they deserved, too.

Edwin Patterson