What’s in a name?
by Diana Gleasner
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
What’s in a name? Let’s start with Catawba. New comers may think they live on a lake, but they actually live in a drowned river valley. The river once carried a noble name. In the Indian’s language it was known as Eswa Taroa, the Great River. They called themselves the Kawahcatawbas, meaning People of the River. The river become known as the Catawba. Today several thousand descendants of the Catawba tribe live in and around their 640-acre reservation near Rock Hill, S.C.
And yes, they still consider themselves to be Catawba, the People of the River.
Lake Norman was created in 1962 by the damming of the Catawba River. The lake, owned by Duke Energy, was named in honor of former Duke Power president, Norman Atwater Cocke. Marshall Steam Plant and McGuire Nuclear station were also named in honor of former presidents of Duke Power-E.C. Marshall and William B. McGuire.
But what about Denver- the humble settlement with the classy name. Once upon a time, Denver was known as Dry Pond. This was a swampy area that dried up every summer and eventually dried up completely.
For a while this was a bustling trade center, but business dried up along with the swamp as paved roads led to increased competition. There was hope in the railroad rumors that buzzed around the community. Two branch lines were considering intersecting at Dry Pond. Speculators purchased several large farms with the intent of turning them into upscale subdivisions. Land prices began to escalate as the citizens of Dry Pond dreamed of boom times.
The local populace didn’t think the name Dry Pond had enough pizzazz for their burgeoning community, certainly not enough to attract the railroad to make this an important stop.
D. Matt Thomson, the local school principal, suggested the name Denver. It was 1873, and the nation was considering admitting Colorado to the Union. However, even this glamorous new name failed to impress the railroads, as they set their sights on that thriving town to the south named for European royalty – Charlotte.
The city was named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg who was consort of British King George III. Charlotte is in the county that still bears the name Mecklenburg. As for Carolina, it is the Latin word (Carolus) for Charles, 1 honoring King Charles of England who made the original land grant in 1629.
While Charlotte is often referred to as a world-class city, Denver, 25 miles to the north, maintains a quieter blend of suburban and rural characteristics. Those of us who have put down roots here value its slower pace and friendly atmosphere. As for beauty, its changing seasons offer an elegant tableau ranging from azalea springs to the blazing rich colors of fall color and everything in between.
As for Denver “of the East,” it was destined to find its boom, not in the dry pond of the past, but in a very wet 33,000-acre pond called Lake Norman.
Please forgive me if I have overstated my affection for this tiny corner of the universe. After all, this is the sanctuary where our souls find peace. This is our home.
Diana and Bill Gleasner have lived in Denver for more than 30 years. In addition to travel journalism, they have written and published two books on the Lake Norman area, “Lake Norman – Our Inland Sea” and “Lake Norman Reflections.”