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The History of Denver

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 who lived to the west. The first pioneer family's 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 Sherrill's 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 Denver area was settled around 1770 and, because of its location adjacent to a swampy area, was originally known as "Dry Pond". The community of Dry Pond derived its name from a small pond, which once stood at what is now the corner of Highway 16 and Campground Road, now the site of the local Bank of America branch. The pond would dry up in the heat of the summer. 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. As the sign on the south side of town says, Welcome to "Denver of the East". In 1877 the town of Denver was officially incorporated in the state of North Carolina. All of their efforts failed 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 its own streets. There is a rail line which runs on the outskirts of Denver today, but there is still no service to Denver, and the only nearby stop is for delivering coal to the Duke Power steam plant. In 1971 the little town of Denver lost its incorporated status when the State of North Carolina rescinded the charters of several inactive N.C. cities.

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 from when the dam was built on the river to build Lake Norman. Memorial markers in the area acknowledge the brave folks who fought and died for America's independence. On February 1, 1781, British forces under the command of Lt. General Cornwallis clashed with North Carolina troops led by Brig. Gen. William Lee Davidson at Cowan's Ford, the southern-most limit of present-day Denver. The British were pursuing Nathaniel's Greene's forces following the Patriot victory at Cowpens, S.C. and Davidson's men had been sent to stall and harass his advance. With Davidson was Captain Joseph Graham, a local, who had raised 56 cavalrymen. He had promised that those who furnished their own horses and equipment and served six weeks would be considered as having served a tour of three months. Local blacksmiths made 45 rough swords for the new mounted troops. Only fifteen of Graham's men had pistols, but all had rifles, not the ideal weapon for horseback fighting. Davidson, charged with guarding the ford of the Catawba River crossings, had sent 500 men to Beattie's Ford, keeping only 25 at Cowan's. But the river was high and Cornwallis did not have access to his heavy guns. Led by a local Tory guide, Frederick Hager, the British began to cross the river early as the Americans were still sleeping. The sentry was not alerted until Cornwallis' troops were within 100 yards of the shore. The battle began, and the strong current was on the American's side. Greatly outnumbered the local forces were able to hold their own, slowly falling back into the woods while returning fire. The British finally took the ford and advanced. General Davidson was shot, and the militia, seeing this, fled. Major Graham's cavalry covered their retreat. The battle had helped a larger force under the command of Daniel Morgan reach the Yadkin River unopposed. It is said that Frederick Hager was the man who shot the gun that killed General Davidson.

Most of the early Scotch Irish were Presbyterians, and their first place of worship in what would become the Denver area was John Beatty's house, which was located about one mile west of Beatty's Ford, near the present-day Triangle community. Now known as Unity Presbyterian, the first meetinghouse for this congregation was originally built of logs. In 1808, it was decided to erect a larger building, and a plot of several acres was conveyed for the purpose. The Presbyterians were soon joined by early Methodists from Maryland who initially took up residence near what is now Terrell, NC. Longtime leaders of the Methodists in the region were Rev. Daniel Asbury and Rev. Jeremiah Munday, pioneer Methodist ministers. When he was younger, Rev. Daniel Asbury traveled to Kentucky with some family members and, along with their leader Daniel Boone, he and approximately 20 men were taken hostage by a band of Shawnee Indians. They were carried to the far northwest (presentday Ohio) and held in captivity for five years. He later was traded to the British at Detroit and returned to his home in Vrginia. In 1791 Asbury established in Lincoln County the first Methodist church west of the Catawba River, which is now known as Bethel United Methodist Church. These Methodists brought with them the institution of "campmeeting," which quickly became one of the most important traditions for the region. Interdenominational from the beginning, the local Rock Springs Camp Meeting grows out of these early meetings and traces its history to 1794 when Daniel Asbury, William McKendree (who would become a bishop), William Fulwood and James Hall, a Presbyterian, held the first gathering near present-day Rehobeth Church in Terrell. The historic Rock Springs Camp Meetings in Denver hosts annual religious gatherings which have continued for over 200 years, and since 1830 at the Rock Springs Campground, just outside the center of town.

In the years before the Civil War, North Carolina's elite in need of a break from the summer heat could escape to Lincoln County's Catawba Springs resort. The popular destination, named for the Catawba Indians living in the area, was built amidst seven mineral springs near Denver. Guests vacationed there as early as the 1790s.

During the Civil War, the local area would raise two units for the Confederacy. In March 1862, a group of local men, most of whom were related, formed a company known as the "Dry Pond Dixies" (Company G, 52nd regiment of North Carolina Troops) and joined the Confederacy. The other group was known as the Beatty's Ford Rifles (Company K 23rd Regiment).

For a brief period during the 1890s-1910s, Denver was home to small-scale gold prospecting, particularly in the area near the former Triangle School and the community now known as "Westport." The gymnasium at Rock Springs School was built as a part of the North Carolina Emergency Relief Administration, part of the economic stimulus package for the Great Depression 1932-1935.

Denver remained largely a farming community with cotton as the primary cash crop supplemented by "truck farming" vegetables to area towns (with tomatoes and strawberries being among the most often marketed vegetable crops). Members of local families began commuting to work in surrounding textile mills of Mooresville, Lincolnton, Cornelius, Maiden, and Mount Holly just before World War II and continued up until the early 1970s.

Highway 62 Lincoln County One of Denver's major features is its "main street," which is now known as "Old Highway 16." This road, once state highway 16, was one of North Carolina's first state highways, receiving that designation in 1928. During the 1970s, the town hosted one of the largest cross-country motorcycle races in the nation, "The Denver 100," which was a successful fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department. Participants rode through the center of barns, along creek banks, and through pastures--most of which have now disappeared under various housing developments. Up until recently, most African Americans in the area lived in the community known as "Little Egypt," which is the general area near East Lincoln High School along Saint James Church Road.

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Education in the Denver Area

Education in the Denver area is of prime importance to the citizens of Denver.  Below is listed some of the schools that a child in the Town of Denver may be assigned and their school reports, for private schools click here.  The first link is to the school's website and the second is to the school report card.



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