Who ever thought that a man’s apple truck would ever become a center of Rutherford County folklore?
Well, it happened and for years there was a lot of talk about “Mr. Ledbetter, the apple farmer whose 1917 Reo Truck was at the bottom, stuck in the mud, of Lake Lure. Some people weren’t sure, others were positive that the truck was still there. Now Lake Lure has a surface area of 717 acres and its’ elevation is 911 feet! It is cuddled by some beautiful mountains. Mrs. Elizabeth Morse is credited with naming Lake Lure. She was the wife of Dr. Luciuis B. Morse who in 1902 together with his brothers Hiram and Asahel purchased 64k acres around Chimney Rock for the sum of $500. They later acquired 8,000 more acres. It was all about the healthful environment. By 1910 the town population was a mere 1,192.
An apple farmer, Barzellie Ledbetter had six sons, Charles, Carl, Sidney, Claude, Marvin and Billy, who two or three times a week would haul apples to Hendersonville. In 1917 he bought a Reo Truck to do the hauling. Being there wasn’t much transportation in the community, Mr. Ledbetter would also lend a hand delivering ice, groceries and other produce throughout the mountains. When anyone died he would take the time and go to Rutherfordton and bring back a casket.
When it was decided to build the lake, the Ledbetter’s homeplace was bought out. A man thought he might buy the Reo Truck and Mr. Ledbetter let him take it and try it out. After the family had moved, the man brought the truck back and was undecided about purchasing the truck. The good old apple truck was parked on the road near the old Ledbetter homestead. When the man didn’t buy the truck the road was already under water and it was a difficult task to move the beloved apple truck. Mr. Ledbetter thought it was too much work to move it and “just left it there and let them flood over it.”
The Ledbetter boys often talked about going back and find the apple truck now axle-deep in mud under 55 feet of water! Finally Charles Ledbetter, living in Shelby, decided to “give it a try!” He wanted to bring up his daddy’s 1917 Reo apple truck and restore it. With the help of the Shelby Skin Divers Club and a magnet, he found his dad’s truck! Finally, the truck was attached to a raft, raised and with the aid of two boats the Reo was floated down the lake a mile and a half and pulled out and up on land! It wasn’t much to look at but the second phase began. With determination and dedicated, the Ledbetter’s restored the truck to “like new condition”. With it’s 27.4 horsepower engine the famous “Apple Truck Of Lake Lure” hit the road. It was truly an amazing achievement. Where is the truck now? It has been loaned and displayed at the Bennett Classic Museum in Forest City. You can visit and check out this marvel of the past and Lake Lure!