Friday, March 5, 1909, the North Carolina Legislature passed Public Law
509 authorizing the State Board of Education and Hyde County
landowners to establish the Mattamuskeet Drainage District to drain Lake
Mattamuskeet. The parties hoped to better the economic conditions of Hyde
County by reclaiming the rich 50,000 acre lake bed for farming and provide
drainage to an additional 50,000 acres of rich farmlands privately owned
outside of the lake. The law stated that a board of three commissioners
would manage the affairs of the Mattamuskeet Drainage District. The state
would have two representatives on the board and the landowners outside the
lake would have one.
The creation of the Mattamuskeet Drainage District
set in motion a plan that eventually drained and reclaimed Lake
Mattamuskeet three times––in 1916, 1920 and in 1926. The third time,
the drainage system kept the lake and adjacent farm lands relatively dry
for more than five years.
Since the lake bed was below sea level, the district
had to excavate canals to carry the fresh water to the Pamlico Sound, and
construct a pumping plant to lift the water from the lake bed into that
canal system. The parties patterned the engineering design for the
drainage project after the successful 1853 drainage of Haarlem Lake in
The drainage commissioners issued 500 six-percent
drainage bonds in $1,000 denominations and sold them at par to the First
National Bank of Columbus, Ohio, to raise the half-million dollars needed
to dredge the canals and build the pumping plant.
The project also involved three private
corporations that owned the lake successively from 1911 to 1934 and were
partners in the drainage project. The private companies developed a
community called New Holland around the pumping plant that was the center
of activity during this 25 year project.