History of the Lake Rabun Association

The Early Years

The Lake Rabun Association, Inc. was chartered on 25 October 1928 as a succeeding organization to the Lakemont Boat Club. The list of charter members reads like Atlanta’s Who’s Who of the 1920’s. 

An organizational meeting was held on 15 November 1928 with Mr. Rutherford Lipscomb elected the first President. The by-laws set the annual dues at $10.00. Annual meetings were the third Tuesday in May. Records indicate a meeting was held in May of 1929. No other records are found so it is believed the original LRA became inactive thereafter, possibly due to the Great Depression. 

The 1970s


The predecessor to our current Lake Rabun Association was formed as a non-profit corporation on 4 September 1970. The initial Board of Directors were John W. Lundeen, Jr., Ira Longino and Jack King. The first President was John Lundeen elected for the term year 1971–1972.

During the initial years the LRA leadership had property security as their primary concern. At that time the crime rate was so high on the lakes that Rabun County ranked second in property crimes in Georgia counties. Georgia Power hosted a meeting in Atlanta with Fred Stewart and representatives from the lakes to discuss moving Mountain Patrol from Highlands, NC, to service the three lakes here. Mountain Patrol opened in November of 1973 and in one year the property crime rate dropped by 90%. 

 For many years lake residents held church services (of many denominations) in homes and on top of boathouses. In 1972, after lots of coffee klatch conversations at Guy Hall’s, Boat Church was started in cooperation with Clayton First United Methodist Church. Rev. Hal Brady was the first Boat Church pastor. Guy Hall’s boathouse and a pontoon boat donated by Tom McNeely provided the first site. 

In 1975, the LRA membership had grown from 100 to 110 plus, remaining at this level for a few years until it grew to more than 130 in 1979, as more houses were built on the lake. Although previous maps of Lake Rabun had been created by Georgia Power and other individuals, including one in 1957 by Guy Hall and George Kollock, the first LRA map of the lake was published in 1975. The LRA map was updated in 1980 through the efforts of Norwood Griffin, Betty Ann Griffin and Jimmy Dunlap. Updated Lake Rabun maps were also published for LRA members in 1988, 1991, 1997, and 2004 thanks to the dedication of Frank Smith. Lisa Hinson headed up the effort to publish an LRA map in 2009 and Frank’s daughter, Jenny McClure, took this to the next level in 2012 by creating an interactive map that is accessible on the Lake Rabun Association website. 
 
The latter 70s saw a few other additions and changes. In 1977, LRA members began to receive a subscription to the Clayton Tribune. Beginning in 1978, it became evident that most of the membership wanted more activities, in addition to the continued purposes of protection and being a collective voice in Rabun County. President Stan Ashley organized the first annual Roadside Cleanup. Lib Kennedy started the Ladies of the Lake Bible class and The LRA provided clogging lessons. Early Thanksgiving gatherings were held by the Warrens, the Griffins and subsequently went on to other homes. 


The 1980s

 

LRA members began to get into the swing of creating new traditions. In 1980, Vice President Ray Warren, at the suggestion of Jud Laws and Jack Stroud, implemented a July 4th Wooden Boat Regatta. Jud and Jack organized and led the first Wooden Boat Regatta which has become an annual event showcasing Lake Rabun’s incredible fleet of wooden boats. Later in 2001, a special one day issue Commemorative Post Office Stamp was created by Libby Mathews honoring the Regatta. The John Lundeen Family still owns the oldest original “Woodie” on the lake, a 1936 Triple Cockpit Chris Craft. This boat was delivered by the Tallulah Falls Railroad to the Lakemont Depot for Preston Arkwright, president of Georgia Power, and then transported to the lake. 

During this same time, LRA member Gene Cofer found a copy in his Mother’s library of the 1926 Annual Report of the Georgia Railway and Power Company giving the history of the building of the chain of hydroelectric power generating lakes on the Tallulah and Tugalo Rivers. John Lundeen and Ray Warren, working together, had exact duplicates reproduced for all LRA members. 

In 1981 LRA identification plaques were first provided to members, the first LRA tee shirts were sold, and Dale Herndon built the LRA bulletin board that was installed at Hall’s Boat House. In addition, two major new traditions were started that year. Winnie Brown chaired the first annual Flea Market which netted $1,692 for the Lakemont-Wiley Fire Department. LRA’s first annual fireworks display was also begun that year as a part of the 4th of July celebration. The LRA budget for fireworks was very small at that time (about $1,500) so the initial displays were done v-e-r-y slowly so they would last for 20 minutes. Membership had grown to 170 plus. 

In 1982 and 1983, President Ralph Williams and President Charlie Arp, faced new challenges in the potential encroachment of commercialism on Lake Rabun Road between Whetrock Lane and Appaloosa Lane. The LRA took legal action against a lake property owner desiring to change a personal residence to a multi-unit rental lodge. Besides quality of life issues there were septic tank issues and water quality issues. Even though LRA did not win the case, the property owner dropped his plans, and a message was sent to all that the LRA would oppose any further commercial activity on the lake. 

LRA membership continued to grow reaching 200 plus in 1982, as more lake residents recognized the advantages of the LRA sponsored activities and the LRA community protection and preservation efforts. When a further commercial threat occurred in 1983, it was to the marina. Georgia Power stepped in and bought the land to insure that there would be public facilities, including docking and launching facilities. Charlie Arp organized Hall’s Boathouse, Inc., with the help of Stan Ashley and 18 other LRA investors. They leased the land from Georgia Power and then rebuilt and operated the Marina. The rebuilt Marina opened in 1983. 

In 1983 the Young Peoples Auxiliary was organized by Dale Herndon to help the young folks on the lake meet each other. The Auxiliary is no longer in existence but it did lead to the beginning of Saturday Night Bingo which continued for a number of years, was dropped for a while, and was revived in 1999 by Thad and Darlene Warren. Bingo Night is currently enjoyed by many families at the Pavilion. Other attempts have been made to provide opportunities for young folks to gather like Youth Night in 1999 that was begun by Nan Troutman and Steve Wright. 

In 1984, Brandon Mill Road on the backside of the lake was completed through a joint effort with Rabun County and Georgia Power. More lakefront lots were available and more homes built. LRA membership soon exceeded 250. 

Presidents Dale Herndon, Buz Stone and Denny Webb were confronted with a new multifamily commercial rezoning attempt during 1985-86, which required the participation and monetary support of the full LRA membership. The ruling from the initial Rabun County Zoning Commission meeting in December 1985 went against LRA but by the time the County Commission Meeting occurred about a month later, LRA members had all been contacted by phone or letter and the courthouse was packed. The rezoning failed and everyone felt good about it but they were worried about the possibility of a lawsuit. A $50,000 Contingency Fund to provide for future lake protection efforts was established the same year. This event proved again, the continuing need for a strong Association to protect the lake from high density development and emphasized the need to strengthen a positive visible community relationship in Rabun County. 

Later in 1986, President Pete Halter realized that the Lake Rabun Association had shown that it had a voice in the community but that it now needed to find a way to bring the community and the association closer together. Pete suggested that a scholarship be given to a Rabun County student and Buz Stone took on the job of establishing the LRA Foundation, known as the Lake Rabun Fund. The first college assistance scholarship was presented in 1987 and efforts to raise funds to give back to Rabun County ensued. The first Annual LRA Golf Tournament benefiting the Lake Rabun Fund was held the same year. 

 

In 1987 upon the death of Antonina Hansell Looker, her large estate of 38.726 acres with over 3000 feet of shoreline containing historical “Bluebird Cottage”, Hillhouse and the White House Lodge became the object of potential unwanted development. LRA officers realized this threat and successfully negotiated with the Looker Estate to sell to a developer, an LRA member, who came up with a low density plan that was the most amenable to all. That plan resulted in the creation of 20 lots that exist today across the lake from Hall’s Marina and Witham Point. 

Lake Rabun was not only growing in the 1980s, it was also becoming better known outside of the Lakemont community. Evidence of the growth and the recognition are seen in the following events. The Boat Church Boathouse was completed in 1984, the first fireboat was active on the lake in 1985 and Gay Davidson organized the first ladies Lake Brunch later known as Lunch Bunch in 1988. That same year the Thanksgiving Gathering had grown so large that it moved to Glen–Ella Springs and was hosted by owners Barrie and Bobby Aycock. Winnie Brown, Spring Asher and Tom Asher were instrumental in the publication of the LRA Cookbook entitled Lake Rabun Days in 1988. In the late 1980s a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie, Decoration Day, starring James Garner, was filmed at the lake home of Marilyn McNeely. In addition, Ben Noble, Jr. and Olin Jackson co-authored an article on Lakemont for the North Georgia History magazine and released their book, Take to the Hills: Lakemont, GA: The Early Years in 1989.

 

The 1990s


In 1991 the first annual Appreciation Award was implemented and presented to Stuart Witham. It was named the “Whippoorwill” after Stuart Witham’s boat and a carving of a whippoorwill was created by Norwood Griffin. Each year, a replica of the original carving is presented to the recipient. The award is given to an LRA member who has shown a spirit of volunteerism and demonstrated his or her love for Lake Rabun by many years of service to and involvement in lake activities, and not necessarily been recognized for his/her contributions. A list of recipients is in this directory. 

Mary Evans was elected the first female President of the Association in 1990. During that year, the LRA persuaded the US Forest Service to put a moratorium on clear cutting of forestlands near the lake. Also, Elaine Hughes and Frank Smith spent hours driving around the lake, both in cars and boats, to update the membership roster for the upgraded LRA map. In 1990, LRA membership exceeded 300 for the first time.   

A new fund raiser for the Lake Rabun Fund was added in 1993. The first annual Tour of Homes was held with Ann Webb as chairman and lots of member volunteers. After several years of playing with the timing of the Tour, sometimes doing both the Tour and the Flea Market in the same summer, the decision was made to begin alternating the Flea Market and the Tour of Homes on Father’s Day weekend in 1999 - 2000. 

 

The impact of technology emerges onto the lake scene in the mid-1990s. George and John Pope computerized the list of members to be used for the LRA directory and Betty Moore began the Lake Rabun Waves newsletter in 1995 .

In 1995, proceeds from the ever growing annual Flea Market allowed the Lakemont-Wiley Volunteer Fire Department to purchase a state of the art fireboat, setting a model for lake community fire and rescue services. The Flea Market netted over $30,000 in 1996, so in 1997 the Lakemont-Wiley Volunteer Fire Department installed twenty-two standpipes in strategically marked locations covering the lake. Several LRA members installed private standpipes as well. The installation of the standpipe system enhanced the ability to fight fires. 

In 1997, the Lake Rabun Association celebrated its 25th Anniversary Celebration in conjunction with the Glen–Ella Springs 10th Anniversary. Tables with green checked tablecloths and flowers dotted the meadow and a beautiful buffet of food was served on the decks .

In 1999, Betty Moore worked closely with Barry McWhirter and the Jet Ski committee he had formed in 1998, to address the member concerns regarding Personal Watercraft and Water Safety on the Lake. A successful program was set up to support the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with funds for additional personnel in an effort to be visible more often on the Lake. 

Also, in 1999, the Articles of Incorporation were restructured to bring the LRA into conformance with actions of the association, thereby making the Lake Rabun Association, Inc. a 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization. The Lake Rabun Fund continued as a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization. 

The problem of trash had long been an issue for lake residents and 1999 saw two improvements. The Adopt-A-Highway clean-up program that began with Lake Rabun Road was expanded to include Old Hwy. 441; however, the greatest accomplishment related to the problem of household garbage. Joe Hamilton worked with the County Commissioners to get approval for the construction of a trash/recycle center off Hwy. 441 just north of Tallulah Falls. Many LRA members affectionately refer to this center as “The Joe”. 


 

The 2000s


As the LRA moved into the new millennium, lake residents again faced the issue of Property Tax Assessments and subsequent increases – the last reassessment having been done in 1990. The key difference this time was Georgia Power’s decision to begin passing property taxes on to leaseholders. 

At that time, LRA had 491 members and a successful new party tradition of Pickin’ & Grinnin’ was begun at Fred’s Shed on Labor Day Weekend coordinated by Betsy Bairstow Morse. The Lake Rabun Fund expanded its philanthropy beyond worthy Rabun County Student College Scholarships. Funds were provided for projects such as: F.A.I.T.H., Rabun County Humane Society, Rabun County Library, Foxfire, Courthouse Landscape Beautification, Lakemont-Wiley Volunteer Fire Department, the Food Bank, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences and many other charitable needs in the community .

In 2001, President Carol Raeber worked to implement Libby Mathews’ idea of installing Memorial Plaques at Hall’s Boathouse to honor deceased members of the LRA and/or their immediate family members. Carol has continued to be the contact person for this popular project that honors many of Lake Rabun’s most dedicated citizens. 

LRA continued its move into the world of technology in 2003, when Alan Price coordinated with John King to establish the LRA website – lakerabun.org. In addition, DSL internet service was brought to the lake and some members were able to take advantage of the flexibility to telecommute with their jobs .

Another wonderful Lake Rabun cookbook was published in 2003 with Betsy Bairstow Morse & Nancy Pruitt as co-chairs. Lake Rabun Dockside Delights cookbook featured wonderful recipes, Bruce Schnaak’s boathouse photography and the beautiful artwork of Libby Mathews.

In 2004, property containing an old house behind historic Hall’s Boathouse was purchased by business men who wanted to build a dry stacked, boat storage facility. Neighbors and others on the lake were opposed and a zoning fight was imminent. The LRA officers: Alan Price, Dave Cowan, Rick Asbill, Kirk Knous, and Thad Warren discussed the situation and Thad threw out the idea that LRA acquire the land to construct a meeting place for the Association. They established a Pavilion Committee of ten people to investigate the possibilities. 

In 2004-2005, President Rick Asbill, working with the Officers and Trustees, the owners of Hall’s Marina, and the Pavilion Committee, coordinated the establishment of the Pavilion Project to acquire the land and build a new pavilion for use by the Rabun County community. Rick was very instrumental in putting together a unique ownership capability for the pavilion in conjunction with the North Georgia Community Foundation, so the donations would be tax deductible. As an attorney, he was also involved in the development of the supporting legal structure. Thad Warren was involved with the building facility -- overseeing the design, meeting with the architects and interviewing the builders. Kirk Knous was the finance and organization man .

During 2005-2006, President Kirk Knous led the Pavilion Committee in its fund raising and building activities for the new pavilion. The Pavilion was completed in 2006 and the inaugural event was the BBQ dinner during the July 4th weekend with over 700 people. 

In 2007 change was on the horizon. A new bridge was built below Seed Dam and LRA members were able to fully utilize the Pavilion to enhance many of the traditional activities and establish some new ones. In addition to all the traditional July 4th activities, Sandy O’Brien established a new fund raiser and family event - The Rabun Ramble Road Race. That year, laminated Boating Safety Bulletins were provided to be posted in each member’s boathouse, updated lake maps were printed and new LRA identification discs were distributed. In 2007 LRA had over 500 members .

By 2008, LRA was about $50,000 short of paying off the million dollar debt for the new pavilion so a plan was hatched for the Memorial Day General Meeting. It was announced that the mortgage burning would take place – but they needed a few more commitments to pay the final balance. Plants in the audience started the challenge, the remaining dollars were raised, and the “ceremonial mortgage was burned”. 

Also in 2008, Bob Voyles and Annie Westermann worked together to advance the restoration of downtown Lakemont. In addition, as president, Bob instituted the Beach Music Weekend, a wonderful new tradition that brings all ages together for dancing and singing. 

Advancing the scope of communication within our membership was a focus during 2008-2009. President Nan Troutman worked with John King to upgrade the LRA website. The same year, James Jernigan and Craig Kettles spearheaded an on-line membership survey that was completed by 76% of the members. The survey results showed that 96% of the members receive LRA emails and there was strong approval and support for Boater Safety classes, CPR/First Aid classes, and LRA sponsored social events. Furthermore, communication was enhanced with an improved LRA directory under the leadership of Warner Veal who took over the production of the directory with Felicia Lease and Clay Battle. 

Other special events occurred in 2009. Lakemont University (LU) was established by John King and Professor Emeritus Dr. Lea Richmond. Three programs were offered during LU’s first year: “Astronomy at the Lake”, “The Geology of Northeast Georgia”, and “Snakes and Other Neighbors”. Lakemont University was established to get lake residents together each summer for interesting programs related to the lake environment. 

In 2009 members also began to learn about a threat to our environment – the hemlock woolly adelgid – that was killing the native hemlock trees. Bob Pledger began providing information for members and started a program to train LRA hemlock facilitators who in turn helped their lake neighbors treat their trees. Volunteers had to become mountain goats on steep terrain in November 2011 and March 2012 when they treated a large stretch of hemlock trees in the narrows. Buz Stone and his dedicated LRA volunteers gathered again in 2014 to complete a second treatment .

The 2010s

During the winter of 2009–2010, Rabun County faced a terrible economic recession and a brutal winter. LRA and its members raised over $20,000 for Rabun County family assistance which included things like heaters, blankets, and food. That summer was marked by a renewed focus on boating safety. The Boating Safety Committee led by Ridley Williams did an outstanding job promoting safety through communications and training programs and developed and executed a “fireworks plan” for an orderly departure from the July 4th fireworks display. 

In 2010-2011 LRA continued to give to those less fortunate. The Labor Day meeting started with a “Food 2 Kids” effort that gathered food items and money to support the local program to help insure children have food for the weekends. An entire boat was filled with nonperishable food items for these needy children. 

LRA celebrated the Lake Rabun Foundation (LRF) passing the one million dollar mark in providing scholarships and charitable assistance in Rabun County in 2011. Under the careful stewardship of Buz Stone, the Lake Rabun Foundation grew from providing a single scholarship in 1987 to awarding 8 scholarships in 2012. Going forward LRF will be providing over $50,000 each year to Rabun County students in scholarship assistance. Having reached that milestone, Buz announced his intention to retire in 2012. Steve Raeber agreed to serve as Associate Director for one year and then take the reins as Executive Director of the Foundation from Buz .   

 

At the Labor Day General Meeting, Buz Stone was honored for his 25 years of service to the Foundation. Lisa Longino led a group of LRA members in a quiet effort to create a fund to honor him. Thanks to the generous response from hundreds of LRA members $77,000 was raised to endow the annual presentation of THE BUZ STONE “LAKE RABUN CARES” AWARD. The first recipient of the award was Buz, himself, who directed the $2500 award to Foxfire. 

In 2012 the LRA fiscal year was changed to a traditional calendar year and Bob Pledger completed the conversion of the financials to a QuickBooks financial structure compliant with the requirements for non-profit tax reporting. Anita Pittman, LRA member and certified CPA, assisted Bob in this transition and then volunteered in 2014 to take on the role of bookkeeper for the association. This “first” for the association insures the on-going accuracy and consistency of the LRA financials and tax reporting .

Other technology transitions also occurred at this time. John King was recognized for the development of LRA’s first website and 15 years of managing the service. Tim and Veanne Smith and their company, SolTech, took the website to the next level by developing, implementing and servicing the new LRA website which came on line in early 2013. More technology advances were realized when Al Battle oversaw the installation of DSL at the Pavilion. This feature allowed people to conveniently charge goods and services at the Pavilion. 

Lake residents living in the Narrows were delighted when Rabun Beach Grocery and Marina was acquired by Rabun Boathouse LLC (aka Hall’s Boathouse) in 2013. Plans included building six boat slips, remodeling the store and once again selling gas at that end of the lake. 

The Pavilion saw its first Lake Rabun Drama Camp and performance the summer of 2013. This same summer the lake community celebrated a milestone reached when the 100th student from Rabun County was awarded an LRA scholarship. A new program of named scholarships was begun this year, which are fully described on the LRA website . 

Under the leadership of Bob Voyles the planning for the Centennial Celebration accelerated in 2014. Stories and pictures were collected, inventoried, and formatted to bring to life the history of the lake in a Commemorative Book to be unveiled in 2015. In conjunction with the book, forty people were videoed to record days gone by in the words of people who lived them. A compilation of these stories is being produced in a Centennial DVD. As a salute to the upcoming 2015 centennial celebration, six historic homes were selected for the 2014 Tour of Homes and a teaser preview of the DVD was shown at the kick-off of the tour .

As a result of added activities for the general membership, 2014 dues were increased from $200 to $250. Past history indicates that dues were $125 through 2006 and were increased to $200 in 2007. 

In early 2014 a project was started to replace the 16 bottom hinged, steel framed, wooded spillway gates at Mathis Dam with pneumatic operated steel gates. Using temporary bulkheads, so as not to impact lake elevations, each gate was removed and new hinge mechanisms were installed prior to setting large rubber bladders and new steel gates. Work is estimated to be completed by May 2015. 

Recent years have allowed the LRA to continue to pursue its purposes to protect the Lake community, to support charitable organizations, to maintain a good relationship with Rabun County and to provide fellowship among the members



Initial LRA Charter Members

August Andreae
George Bellinger
S. F. Boykin
Mrs. A. W. Calhoun
Henry Collier
Dan Conklin
E. E. Crow
Beaumont Davidson, Jr.
J. L. DeGive
S. C. Dobbs
A. A. Doonan
Mrs F. S. Ellis
Ewell Gay
Hugh Gordon
J. R. Gray
Andrew Hansel
W. P. Heath
Lindsay Hopkins
Joel Hurt
A.A. Jamison
Casper Johnson
Earnest Kontz
Mrs. Lamar Lipscomb
Rutherford Lipscomb
Winship Nunnally
W. R. Prescott
B. W. Sinclair
W.R. C. Smith
F. O. Stone
E. D. Wright
J. R. Stuart Witham 

 


Whippoorwill Award Recipients

1991    Stuart Witham
1992    Herta Schartle
1993    Winnie Brown
1994    Roses Longino
1995    Ben Noble
1996    Lib Kennedy
1997    Patty Gray
1998    Clayton Rich
1999    Buz Stone
2000    Jack King
2001    Betty Moore
2002    Joe Hamilton
2003    Jean Sheldon
2004    Jim Funk
2005    Carol Raeber
2006    Ann and Denny Webb
2007    Jeanne and Dave Cowan
2008    Charlie Arp
2009    Felicia Lease
2010    Penny Burkitt
2011    Kirk Knous
2012    Libby Mathews
2013    Rick Asbill
2014    Mike Swink 

Lake Rabun Association, Inc. (LRA) is a nonprofit, social welfare organization dedicated to nurturing the beauty, serenity and quality of life on and around Lake Rabun.