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Alyson Pfeil Professor Presnell English 1102 1 April 2014

A History of Lake Norman Most everyone in the Charlotte area has heard of Lake Norman. Although, mostly only the people who live on or near the lake know that it has not always existed. Since I moved to Mooresville, North Carolina I have always heard rumors about what was at the bottom of Lake Norman. The most common story told was that a town was flooded to create the lake. As a child I always wondered if this was true. One summer I would not even swim in the lake because I was afraid of what was underneath me. I thought that I would be swimming one day and my feet would touch something from this town that I have heard about. For years I have wanted to do the research to find out what was at the bottom of the lake that I now spend all of my summer days on. The Great River In the mid-1700s Indians began to settle on the land along the Catawba River; here the settlers built their cabins and farmed on the fertile land. Unfortunately these Indians had no resistance to white mens diseases. Their population began to dwindle drastically. According to the book Lake Norman Our Inland Sea, in less than 175 years the population along the Catawba River declined from over 5,000 people to less than 400. (Gleasner) Not long after, these settlers were forced into a battle against the British Crown, which left the Catawba River area abandoned.

The Future of the Catawba River A young ambitious man, named James B. Duke, saw a future in the Catawba River. He knew the development of a textile industry would make the Carolina Piedmont grow. James and his brother Ben set out to learn everything about hydroelectric power so they could find an efficient power source for the textile company. During their journey James went to Dr. Gill Wylie to treat a case of erysipelasin in his foot. Dr. Gill and his brothers were also convinced that hydroelectric power would create development in the South. The Wylies already had power projects underway, but they did not have the funds to pursue their plans. Dr. Gill took full advantage of having James as his patient. Wylie told James about their plans because he knew the Dukes had the funds to pursue their project. While Wylie did check ups on his patient he told him about his engineer William Lee who was designing the Catawba Power Companies dams and power plants. James wanted to talk to Lee about his plans. Duke and Lee had a meeting to discuss the 8 million dollar project. This is now a historic meeting because it marks the beginning of the Southern Power Company. The demand for power quickly escalated. The company was running to keep up with itself. In 1927 the Southern Power Company merged with a local power company and was known as Duke Power. (Gleasner) A year later the company had created 10 dams and 12 powerhouses. Their dreams were still not complete. They believed there thwas still room for one more dam on the Catawba. Thirty-three thousand acres of homes and farms would be flooded by this lake. The village of Long Island would be completely underwater. The Town Beneath the Lake Now that I had found which town was flooded by the dam I had to research about this town. I hated this part of the research the most because it was difficult to find. I had to search

multiple search engines to find information about this town, but finally I found out that Davidson College was doing the same research that I was. The Davidson College website had many links to websites that talked about the village of Long Island. Long Island was established in 1854 for the sole purpose of giving Catawba County a good industrial town. It was a small town that consisted mostly of farmland.

Preparing for Norman James B. Duke started to buy land in 1901. Land was being sold for as little as 80 dollars to 1,000 dollars an acre. Some people sold their land then rented it back from Duke to keep farming until the land was flooded. Of course some of the landowners refused to sell their land. Wib Overcash, a resident of Long Island, says to the Lake Norman Magazine, Some of the land had been in these people families for generations and generations. Duke tried to buy all of the property, but only had the right to buy what was below the 760-foot elevation. Some people sold more land than that, but they couldnt force you to sell any more than that. The price was around $200 an acre. Most people back then did not have the money to fight it so they just accepted it. (Pressley) Others traded their land for land that would be waterfront on the future lake. An article

in the Charlotte Magazine states that others sold their land that would be flooded, but kept the land that would be future lakefront property. (McShane) To make way for the lake all the factories and even historical sites were knocked down or relocated. Duke had to scrub the land free of trees, homes, and other things that would be covered by the water. It was a necessity to scrub the land because Lake Norman was not going to be a deep lake. Duke needed to remove everything that could be an underwater hazard to boaters and swimmers in the future. The oldest burying ground in the area, Bakers Graveyard, was relocated to Iredell County. (Baker) Facilities that provided services to the people also had to be moved. Roads, bridges, water-treatment plants and other facilities all had to be moved. The N.C. 73 Bridge that now runs below the Cowans Ford dam was originally located in Long Island, according to the author of The Lake that Changed the Landscape. (Russell) The town quickly became deserted. September 28th, 1959 was the day the production of Lake Norman started. Bulldozers came in and started pushing red clay around. It took 4 years to complete the project the entire project. Two of those four years consisted of filling the lake with water. Lake Norman Today In March of 1963 Duke declared the lake full. The Cowans Ford Dam, 1,279 feet long and 130 feet high, created the largest manmade body of water in North Carolina. Duke Energy claims Lake Norman has 520 miles of shoreline and a surface area that exceeds more than 32,475 acres. ( Lake Norman). Diane Robinson now a resident of Cornelius, North Carolina once lived

in the small town of Long Island. Diane says, sometimes I wish my granddaughter could experience some of my childhood of riding bikes for hours through the countryside or sneaking watermelons from the neighbors farms. Nowadays that seems impossible to do. (McShane) Today, Lake Norman has thousands of waterfront homes, growing towns, and flourishing recreation industries People who live in the Charlotte area spend day in and day out on Lake Norman during the summer months. Personally my family and I moved to this area from New York because of Lake Norman. We spend our spring and summer jet skiing and boating on the beautiful lake. Lake Norman is not only for recreational use; it provides electricity to the Piedmont Carolinas. It also provides a reliable supply of water for 2 counties and 4 cities. Now when I splish and splash around Lake Norman this summer I will know what is truly underneath me. Before I started my research I did not believe they would flood an entire town just to create a lake. This summer there will be no more wondering is there are homes, stores, etc. still standing at the bottom of the lake. I will also be able to tell the people of Mooresville the true story of how Lake Norman was created instead of listening to the rumors.

Works Cited Gleasner, Diana. Lake Norman our Inland Sea. 1st ed. Denver: Peninsula Press, 1986. Print. Baker, Alison. "The Land Beneath the Lake." Davidson College Archives & Special Collections. N.p.. Web. 24 Mar 2014. Pressley, Leigh. "When Norman Was New." Lake Norman Magazine 08 2003, n. pag. Print. McShane, Chuck. "Lake Effect." Charlotte Magazine. 08 2013: n. page. Print.

Russell, Barbara. "The Lake that changed the Landscape." Lake Norman Magazine. 3 204: 1820. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. "Lake Norman." Duke Energy. Duke Energy Corporation. Web. 24 Mar 2014.

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