For over six decades, Lake Cherokee, with its relaxing lifestyle and natural beauty, has been home to generations of families and the place where lifelong memories are made.
The concept of creating a man-made lake located in the southeast Longview area was first explored and abandoned in 1931 by Dr. J.B. McKinnon of Longview, who planned to name it Cypress Lake. However, due to the high cost of the land needed, the project was abandoned. In 1945, a second effort was made by the Longview and Henderson Kiwanis Clubs, but again, the plan was quickly deserted.
The following year, 1946, Vern A. Clements, President of Longview National Bank, took up the initiative’s mantle, and began to recruit civic and business leaders, including Longview’s mayor and publisher of the Longview Morning Journal, Carl Estes, to the cause. The project, called “Operation Bootstrap,” began to gather steam. It became so popular that instead of the original 750 planned lots, the developers doubled it to 1,500. Lot prices were $500 each, but even with all lots sold, the $750,000 would not be enough.
So in 1947, when The Cherokee Water Company was chartered, the CWC entered into an agreement with SWEPCO (Southwestern Electric Power Company), who was interested in constructing a new electrical generating power plant in the area. CWC also signed a contract in 1948 with Longview to provide water to the city. Once the group had it finances in place, and with plans and designs completed by Major W.J. Powell, a consulting engineer from Dallas, work began April 13, 1948.
Longview notable R.J. LeTourneau assisted with construction through the donation of the heavy equipment needed to prepare the area for the new lake. With dam and spillway completed in November 1948, the actual filling of the lake began in 1949.
A drawing was held to determine the owners of each lot, unfortunately, as the lake was filled, some boundary stakes defining the lots disappeared under water, and it took a number of years before most boundaries were sorted out.
Next came the stocking of the lake, over 1.5 million fish were introduced to Lake Cherokee in addition to the native species already present and fishing was permitted to start on New Year’s Day 1950.
Following the success of Lake Cherokee, Robert Cargill, then President of the CWC board, explored the idea of creating a second lake in the late 1950s, but the project did not gain the needed support from SWEPCO or the city of Longview.
Originally considered a weekend/resort getaway, over the next few decades, Lake Cherokee became to be considered a full-time residential community and the value of the area rose, and it continues today to be a highly sought-after real estate investment.
Named after the proud Native American tribe who settled in the East Texas area for a short time in the 1830s, the CWC and its 1,500 shareholders will continue to hold, conserve, and protect the thousands of acres that make up Lake Cherokee and keep it in trust for generations to come. Explore this picturesque community yourself, and you may be finding yourself at home at Lake Cherokee too.
Thanks to Buddy Williams, author of “The Little Book About Lake Cherokee,” for information provided in this history.