DVA History


(Excerpts taken from Mr. Ken Helmly’s speech at the Fishing & Boating Club of Doe Valley, Inc. meeting of February 10, 1980 as interpreted from original recording by Karen Hofmann, Secretary, F & B Club 2/15/2010)

“In 1950 Olin-Mathison moved to Meade County and started construction of their plant. With this company came some fellows – one of which was Jack Davania. It so happened that Jack and Earl McReynolds loved to hunt and fish in this valley and one day when the Ohio River had backed up in the creek it gave them the visualization of a lake and that possibly Olin would be interested in building a recreational lake for their employees.

It was not until 1955 that they formed a corporation and called it Kentuckiana Lakes, Inc. with eight stockholders (which later dissolved). They piddled with their plans for two or three years, and in 1957 (after Olin said they were not interested in building it) they went to Louisville looking for some backers. Earl McReynolds knew Olin was going to need water, and the large caisson wells were not sufficient. Consequently, Earl had the idea to build the lake and sell the water rights to Olin (as they used forty million gallons of water a day and would use up to one hundred million).

On their trip to Louisville, they were introduced to a Lawrence Callaway. It was at this time that I came into the picture as Lawrence Callaway was a former customer of mine (I was in the model home and construction business at the time). He said he had something I might be interested in – so in November 1957 I came to Meade County and met Jack Davania and Earl McReynolds. (Earl was the design engineer for the original plans which was about 125 acres.) They took me down to this barn (which is the one still standing opposite the tennis courts). People ask me today why we don’t tear it down – well, there’s a sentimental value to it as I lived there (later living in a trailer).

At this time there was no Hwy.1638, one had to go around to US60. There was a one-lane gravel road built by Louisville to Otter Creek, and when it rained you had to go to Tip Top and come in from there.

Well, they asked me if I could come up with something feasible. The idea of creating a lake was just delightful to me, as I loved being around water and I liked constructing things. So after taking a crash course in building lakes and dams and working with two friends of mine at the Corp of Engineers in Savanna, Ga. I became a 90-day wonder. (Incidentally, the Corp of Engineers were the authority in designing dams and still are to this day).

On February 10, 1958 another corporation was formed by Jack Davania, Earl McReynolds, Lawrence Callaway and myself. (These three; Davania, McReynolds and Callaway were later let out, bought out or left for other reasons).

We started buying and putting the land together – which was the most interesting experience I’ve had in my life. This land consisted of only four liveable homes at the time, but at one time had been inhabited by as many as fifty houses in this two or three thousand acre tract of land and was used mainly to hunt and fish, after the people moved out. They did not think this land was worth much – thank God. the original plots were bought for $75.00 an acre, but we had to pay a little more for additional land later.

The original plans of 1958 was to build a recreational lake with a subdivison and sell camp sites, but I said I would go into it only if the property was sold as permanent home sites and to develop a recreational park. It was at this time I approached Olin regarding the water supply from our proposed lake. So this is what we started with – our dream was to put this together for about $200,000.

In 1958 we bought the land. We farmed the bottom land, which was very rich land. We raised tobacco and sold cedar timber to pay the taxes and other bills. Then we started to negotiate a contract with Olin for the water rights which took from 1958 to 1960. (As a matter of record, Olin never had a nickels worth of interest in Doe Valley whatsoever.

A little history of the land negotiations: First of all, we could not have the land condemned as our project was a private corporation. Most of the land owners were reluctant to sell. They were satisfied with the way they lived – they didn’t have anything and didn’t want anything. I had to change their desires in life in order to get them to sell their land. In some cases, it took two years to convince them to sell.

Some of the main families at that time were Lucy Smith’s family, (Lucy ran Doe Run and was a most wonderful lady), the Coleman’s, the Allen’s, Curtis Brown, the Benham’s, Alfred Powell, etc. Talking with these people and looking through the deeds at the courthouse was an education in itself – I knew their family history better than they did and came to admire and adore many of them.

The original 114.83 acres was a patent granted to a man named Johnston and signed by Patrick Henry, who was then governor of Virginia. This area was a gas storage field and there were a number of wells in back of the lake. This was back in the early 1800′s before the Civil War.

When Olin built their plant and when we dug the dam a lot of arrowheads were found. The Indians migrated from Indiana and Illinois to hunt and fish, but did not live here.

Doe Run Creek was a very valuable piece of property then and was individually owned. Incidentally, it is fed by seven major springs.

There was once a tract called Factory Hollow where gloves were made during World War I (that’s where Factory Cove is today). There were also three mills on Doe Run – the mill which is still standing today on Hwy. 1638 was a hydroelectric plant and was still running during World War II. This piece of land, which is a 40 acre tract, is the only piece Doe

Valley does not own up to Hwy.1638.

There were only 43 main parcels of land that made up the 2769 acres.

We got enough money from Olin on the water contract, and 1.8 million was borrowed from an investment company in Cleveland on December 5, 1960. (We spent a little more than one million on the dam). We immediately broke ground on the dam. It took 55 men with mule teams, hand saws and other equipment to clear the timber. All through construction Olin’s consulting engineers were looking over our shoulders. These men and many others offered their knowledge and assistance, for which we are still very grateful. It took from January to November 1961 to clear the lake and on December 2, 1961 we topped out the dam – there was 30′of water in the lake at that time.

Some statistics regarding the dam and the lake: It is of solid clay and is a copy of the dam at Rough River, only smaller. This lake is 70′deep and consists of 360 acres. It contains four and one half billion gallons of water and is registered in the World Registry of Dams. To be registered in the World Registry of Dams you must average 17′depth – ours registers 43′and is 200′ wide. The spillway is also 200′ wide – - twice the size it should be. One reason being for the safety of Olin, another because we had to make some changes as the State had promised Olin they would build a road to their plant – the eastern approach, which is Hwy.933 today.

The lake was built without the first permit of any kind – neither State, Federal or City, etc. This coudn’t be done today as the EPA would have to approve same.

The dam is inspected each year, as the Corp of Engineers must inspect every dam where the water feeds into a public waterway, and it is also inspected by the highway deportment.

We had bets on when the lake would fill. As per computation by the Corp of Engineers it should have filled by June or July. We had a tremendous snow in December of 1961, then got a huge rainfall in January; and on January 17, 1962 the lake overflowed. My guess was April 15 – so I won the bet, which was $100,000.

How Doe Valley got it’s name: (It was originally called Evergreen by Callaway) In those days I had an office in Louisville and I would say well, I have to go down in the Valley and I knew we had to use “Doe” in some way, as Doe Run was so historic. (The newspapers would call it Doe Run Lake). I selected three names – “Doe Valley”, “Doe Valley Park” and another name which had “Hills” in it, but the more I wrote “Doe Valley” the more I liked it. So one day I had to write up an article for the newspapers and had to come to a decision; which was “Doe Valley”, and from that day it stuck.

We started to build the 193 lot subdivision and I said I would not build it without a sewer system. If you will think back, in 1956 and ’59 there was not one man-made lake built with a sewer system; many had to later as the lakes became contaminated. I said it would be a crime not to do it right and that’s the one thing that sent us into near bankruptcy.

One of the original plans was to have an amusement park and beaches on the east side of the lake, but through advice from friends I learned this would be a losing venture. We also had plans for a boys camp in the Pine Point area and an outdoor amphitheater.

In 1965 I built my home here and moved in Thanksgiving day. Ate dinner at a table from my trailer and used orange crates for chairs.

In 1970 I built Mr. Reitmeyerss home for $354,000 furnished. We had a deal together where I was using his money and buying up Doe Valley property for both of us. (His unfortunate drowning was a great loss, as he would have been a great impetus to Doe Valley.)

At this time, along came some men in the land business – called American Lakes and Land. They got some financing from a firm called Continental Investment Corp. and bought Doe Valley out from under

Dr. Reitmeyer and myself; making me a contract to stay here and develop it for them. This was the best thing that ever happened. We drew up a new master plan for Doe Valley which we built on land sales.

Continental’s first manager lasted about a year. Then they brought in another man by the name of Heineman, who lasted about a year and a half. He had the dream and hoped to see Doe Valley amount to what it has and every night I would have to look in the mirror and say “Ken, stick with it”.

Then, the second best thing happened: In 1977 Merrill Lynch became the manager and we were and are now owned by Seven States Realty, which is a general partnership of nine banks – mainly overseas – Switzerland, Paris and England – owned by Americans.

Our future plans consist definitely of condominiums, possibly an amphitheater and a forty or fifty room lodge adjacent to the Golf Club. Our future success depends on the condominiums which will bring in more people. We are so fortunate to have Merrill Lynch and Edward Kincade.

I’ve talked for an hour and a half now, but thank you so much or having me.

Ken Helmly, Chief Operating Executive, Doe Valley, Inc.

Retyped by Karen Hofmann, Secretary of Fishing & Boating Club of Doe Valley, Inc. on February 15, 2010. (Remember that this talk was given 30 years ago!)