During the weekend of September 20th of this year a man and his son were searching the dry lake bed of Smith Mountain Lake in Giles County, VA looking for anything of interest when they found human remains.

The lake, which is featured in the movie “Dirty Dancing,” had not been completely dry in more than 100 years. Timmy and Chris Dalton were enjoying a fall day scavenging for old bottles when they came upon a pair of shoes imbedded in the mud. Closer investigation revealed some old coins, a silver cigarette case, silver belt buckle and a gold signet ring.

They called the local sheriff soon after they found what looked like a piece of a human skull.

From the investigation conducted so far, Giles County sheriff Morgan Millirons said, that the remains could have been in the lake since the 1930’s.

“We want to determine who this person was and how they died,” said the Sheriff.

Forensic experts determined the ring was most likely a South Carolina class ring because of a palm tree that appeared on one side. They contacted the Citadel and Clemson University to verify the information.

Nancy James, research analyst at Clemson University was contacted by Lt. Ron Hamlin of the sheriff’s office and asked to compare university records and photos of the ring to ones on display in the Clemson Alumni Center. The found ring matched rings from the year 1904.

The cigarette case has the monogram “SCF” or “SGF” on the lid in the scrawling script of the period. The shoes were made by a shoe company in New York City.

A check of the graduating class roster for 1904 revealed that Samuel James Farris, Samuel Ira Felder and Strother T Ford were in the 1904 graduating class of the Clemson Agricultural and Mechanical College.

On the sides of the recovered ring are the letters “CA” and “MC” indicating the college. The inside of the ring is engraved with the letters “CDCO”. James has found other Clemson class rings of the era with this engraving. She speculates that it could be a reference to “Company D, Corporal” indicating the cadet corps and rank of the individual.

A university investigation determined that Farris and Ford were alive in 1940 appearing in the alumni record of that year, while Felder was listed as deceased. Felder had been living in New York City. He is also listed in a 1921 alumni magazine as Samuel “J” Felder.

The investigation is ongoing and may take months to complete. How the apparent former Clemson student got in the lake and the cause of his death may never be known and could remain a mystery, according to investigators.

Vince Jackson reporting from Clemson University



  1. It has been brought to my attention that the name of the lake is “Mountain Lake” and not “Smith Mountain Lake” as indicated in the article. I have no knowledge of the specific names of mountains in this area of Virginia–maybe you do.

  2. Yes, “Smith Mountain Lake” is farther north near Roanoke & Salem. “Mountain Lake” is where _Dirty Dancing_ was filmed. Beautiful mountains in Washington National Forest.

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