This Is Man’s Deed

Getting a head start … A boat makes its way across the waters of a very young Grand Lake in the summer of 1940. In the background, work was still ongoing on the roadway across the top of the arches.

By late summer of 1940, Grand Lake was finally a reality. The major work on Pensacola Dam had been completed earlier that year and the waters of the Grand River had steadily filled the lake throughout the summer months. The dream of a hydroelectric facility across the Grand River Valley – first envisioned by Henry C. Holderman and then pursued by many others – had come true.

One of those present to see that dream go from blueprint to reality was Mrs. Francis Hope (Kerr) Holway. She was the wife of William Rea (W.R.) Holway, who was the longtime consulting engineer for the Grand River Dam Authority. Holway, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was also the lead engineer on the construction of Pensacola Dam.

When that massive construction project – which provided jobs for thousands of Oklahomans during the Great Depression – was completed, Mrs. Holway, who had been a school teacher, put pen to paper to celebrate the monumental achievement.

And truly it was monumental. After all, Pensacola Dam stretches out for a mile across the Grand River Valley and is defined by its multiple arches which helped land the impressive structure on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. But all that concrete, all that iron, all that blood, sweat and tears did not just happen. It took the effort of thousands of men and women, working long hours in the sun and heat, rain and wind, dust and smoke, to complete the dam that has benefited so many others throughout the years.

And 79 years ago at this time, many of them were celebrating the successful completion of all their hard work.

Mrs. Holway forever immortalized those efforts in her poem, This Is Man’s Deed, which can be found today on a plaque, located on the west end of the dam.

This Is Man’s Deed

Glorious and eternal

These towers and walls


Dreams of young men

Magnificent in hope

The long and crowded hours

When patient skill

Daring to create

Formed and shaped the plan

And labors heavy round

Brave constancy of toil

Making the vision real

The plan complete

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