The history of the area dates back to before the revolutionary war to a time when the Catawba Indians lived along the eastern banks of the river that still bears their name, and the Cherokee Indians lived to the west. The first bold pioneers known to settle this area were Adam Sherrill and his 8 sons, who migrated from Pennsylvania in 1747, and John Beatty who settled here in 1749. Both the Sherrills and Beatty settled along the west bank of the Catawba near shoals in the river that made it possible to cross. These crossing points or “fords” were thereafter referred to as “Sherrill’s Ford” and “Beattie’s Ford”, names that still live on in the area to this day. The early settlers of the area were primarily Scotch-Irish and Germans that came from the north. By 1750 a Scotch-Irish settlement covered both banks of the Catawba river.
The area holds a proud place in the history of the creation of the United States of America. A number of significant Revolutionary events took place here, such as the Battle of Cowan’s Ford. Located just a few miles south of what is now Denver, the actual location of the battle is now under water. Monuments near the site now stand as a memorial to the brave men who gave their lives in pursuit of America’s freedom.
The Denver area was settled ca. 1770 and, because of it’s location adjacent to a swampy area, was originally known as “Dry Pond”. In 1873 “Dry Pond” was renamed “Denver” by D. Matt Thompson, the local school principal. Legend has it that in the early 1870′s the people of “Dry Pond” were lobbying to persuade the railroads to route rail service through the area. Rail service held the promise of opportunity, prosperity and wealth. They worried that the name “Dry Pond” made the area sound unattractive and that it might hamper their chances with the railroads. The school principle, being respected for his education and learning, was asked to help choose a new name that would make the area sound more appealing and help improve their chances of obtaining rail service. It was 1873 and Colorado was then being considered for admission to the Union, so Mr. Thompson suggested renaming the area after the capital of Colorado, thus the name of Denver. In 1877 the town of Denver was officially incorporated in the state of North Carolina. Sadly, all their efforts were for naught as the railroads decided not to bring a rail line through the newly named town. Without the railroads the growth of the small town was stymied, the town became too poor to maintain even it’s own streets. In 1971 the little town of Denver lost it’s incorporated status when the State of North Carolina rescinded the charters of several inactive N.C. cities.
Today Denver sits on the west shores of Lake Norman, a very large lake created in 1962 when construction of the Cowans Ford Dam across the Catawba River was completed. Denver and Lake Norman are just a little north of Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina. Charlotte is a fast growing “world class” city that is home to NBA and NFL teams, NASCAR racing, theaters, cultural centers and corporate headquarters for some of the largest financial companies in the world.
The recent growth of Charlotte has fueled tremendous development of the areas surrounding Lake Norman. The lake has become a very popular recreation spot, attracting thousands of visitors every year for fishing, swimming and boating. Interstate route 77 runs along the east side of the lake and, because of the fast and easy access to Charlotte, the lake’s east side has developed very quickly. Where small summer cottages and pine forests stood only a few short years ago, million dollar homes now sit and look out over the water.
The west side of the lake, where Denver is located, has typically been quieter, with a “laid-back” and “easy-going” atmosphere. The town has centered around the old post office and stretches north and south along highway 16. Denver is probably best known for the historic Rock Springs Camp Meeting, an annual religious gathering that has been continued for over 207 years and held in Denver since 1830. Even today Denver maintains the appeal of a quiet and relaxed little town, but with future plans to widen route 16 from Charlotte to Hickory, development has begun to hasten. New homes and businesses are suddenly popping up throughout the area and several large development projects are underway. With a location that offers easy access to Charlotte and Hickory, yet still let’s you feel away from it all with beautiful lake views and a small town atmosphere, it’s no wonder that the area is predicted to grow quickly in the coming years. People are beginning to discover the charm of the “other side of the lake” and in particular, Denver.