Remembering those who played a role

Mar 10, 2020

A powerful spot on the Grand River … The Pensacola Dam powerhouse, located on the west end of the historic, mile-long structure. All the way back in 1940, GRDA began producing renewable, hydroelectric power in this location. And all throughout 2020, GRDA will be recognizing the dam’s first 80 years of service to Oklahoma by sharing more about the dam, and the people that made it possible.

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

It would be difficult in a limited space like this to list all of the individuals who left an indelible mark on Oklahoma by bringing the Pensacola Dam from an idea to a reality in 1940. However, as the Grand River Dam Authority celebrates the dam’s 80th birthday all year long, we will continue to use this space to tell the stories of the people and the issues and interesting facts surrounding Oklahoma’s first hydroelectric facility.

During the free tours of Pensacola Dam offered by GRDA, visitors can learn more about Henry Holderman, the man credited with being the first to envision a dam across the Grand River Valley. A Cherokee, Holderman wanted to provide hydroelectric power to Indian Territory and he worked many years to try to make that dream a reality. In later years others, including a group of Grove and Vinita businessmen known as the Rainbow Chasers, would also pick up the cause and help secure funding for the project.

Along the way there were plenty of others as well, with names like Thomas and Rorschach, Schaefer and Babb, Butler, Disney, Langley and more. Some were the “Rainbow Chasers” and others were civic and political leaders who also supported the cause in Oklahoma City and Washington, D.C. and all across the region. There were also engineers, construction workers, early-day GRDA officials and citizens living near the construction site who helped bring hydroelectricity, recreational opportunity and, most of all, economic development to the region by playing some role in the completion of Pensacola Dam.

As we continue to celebrate 80 years in 2020, we look forward to sharing more and more stories, images, facts and figures with you here and on GRDA’s social media sites.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.