Draining the Swamp, Southern Style

North Carolina and Florida Wetlands and the Wright Report Scandal, 1896–1926


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About the Book

In 1912, a Congressional committee met to investigate allegations that the Secretary of Agriculture had suppressed a report by J. O. Wright on drainage in the Florida Everglades. The following seven months of committee hearings uncovered a veritable horror-show of corruption, self-dealing, misuse of government personnel and property for private gain, the tarring of reputations in order to protect high-level officials, and outright blackmail within the Department of Agriculture and the state governments of Florida and North Carolina.

The “Wright Report Incident” is most commonly understood in its connection to the Everglades, and few histories have included its effects on the North Carolina Pocosin wetland and other coastal plain swamps. This book seeks fills that gap. It details the timeline, intricate politics, and webs of corruption that make up the story of the Wright Incident and, specifically, its connection to land management practices in coastal North Carolina that continue to impact the industries of the state almost 100 years later.

About the Author(s)

Bruce D. Epperson is a retired attorney who has written technical works on urban transportation planning (including bicycles) for the Federal Highway Administration, the Transportation Research Board and the Institute of Transportation Engineers. He lives in Highland, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Bruce D. Epperson
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 234
Bibliographic Info: 47 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8464-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4244-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1. Sort of a Plan of His Own 13
2. This Country Is Not Good for Anything 30
3. Simply Fundamental Hydraulics 49
4. Land Richer Than the Valley of the Nile 65
5. It Looks Peculiar to Me 81
6. Adventures in Draining the Great Dismal Swamp 102
7. A Damned Lying Statement 120
8. The Best Photographs I Have Ever Seen 134
9. Vacillating and Deficient 148
10. Lamar’s Crying Cow 166
Chapter Notes 185
Bibliography 217
Index 225

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Epperson’s experience as an attorney and a writer of technical works on urban transportation planning is evident in his highly detailed examination… The depth of detail, including testimonies of persons supportive of Wright’s findings and description of the measures employed to facilitate the sale and distribution of the reclaimed lands, may be useful for researchers…recommended”—Choice
  • Draining the Swamp, Southern Style has an attorney’s eye for detail and the intricacies of law and government procedure. Well-researched…thorough analysis…Historians interested in the history of wetlands reclamation in Florida and North Carolina will find this book useful.”—The North Carolina Historical Review