What Lies Beneath – Ghost Town Under Dale Hollow Lake

Ever heard of an underwater ghost town?  When the government was taking up land for civil projects like lakes and dams, sometimes whole towns got in the way.  One such example is the quaint town of Willow Grove in Tennessee.

Willow Grove was founded by five families from the Colony of New York who bought the land off Chief Nettlecarrier, one of the last Cherokee Chiefs in the area, around 1785.  Willow Grove has been cited as the first permanent white settlement in the Upper Cumberland due to their positive relations with the Cherokee.

The town grew until the Wolf River dam and Dale Hollow Lake were proposed.  All of the graves had to be dug up and moved to the St. John’s cemetery outside of the flood zone.   On July 18, 1942 the people of Willow Grove stood together in one last cathartic moment, to mourn the loss of their town.

There are several ghosts who frequent the now drowned town, but none so common as the Old Lady of the Lake.  There are multiple accounts of a whirling, rising white mist with unnatural movement coming off the lake, many of which believe is the ghost of one of the settler’s wives who is searching for her wedding ring.

You can still explore the school house of Willow Grove if you are a certified SCUBA diver – if you dare.


  1. I spent Memorial Day celebrations at Willow Grove during my early years. l930’s until time of the dam being built. Visited by boat later. My childhood home also rests being taken by the lake. Lots of beautiful memories.

  2. My grandparents homestead is also under the water at Dale Hollow, some days we can still see the foundation. Pea Ridge

    1. Max Depth: 121-130ft/37-40m
      Average Viz: 16-20ft/5-6m
      Entry Type: Boat
      Bottom Composition: Clay/Muck
      Aquatic Life: Might See Something

  3. My family was from this area, as well as Lillydale. My father, Rollie Hogan took care of the St. John cemetery prior to his death in 1990.

  4. My father, Benton Melton, worked moving the graves to St. John’s. I grew up around Dale Hollow Lake and later had a vacation home there. Visitors have no idea the sacrifice families had to make for the dam to b built.

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