Denver, NC - Information and Links
Denver, North Carolina is a small town located in the northeast corner of Lincoln County, in west central North Carolina. Yes, there really is a Denver in North Carolina! And it has a rich history.
History for Denver dates back prior to the Revolutionary War, when the Catawba Indians lived on the banks of the river which still bears their name, as does the next county to the north. Between 1747 and 1749, some of the pioneers who came to settle the area were Adam Sherrill with his 8 sons, and John Beatty. They settled along the banks of the Catawba near shoals in the river, where it was shallow enough to cross with a horse and wagon. The crossing points were called “fords” and names such as “Sherrill’s Ford” and “Beattie’s Ford” are still in use today.
Denver was originally called “Dry Pond” because of the swampy area, and residents wanted to make the area sound more attractive. They thought it might hamper chances for a railroad line with the name “Dry Pond”, so they asked the local school principal, D. Matt Thompson to suggest another name. Colorado was being considered for admission to the Union in 1873 and Denver was the territorial capitol. Mr. Thompson suggested changing the name “Dry Pond” to “Denver” to make the area sound more appealing and improve chances of obtaining rail service. In 1877, Denver was officially incorporated in the State of North Carolina. But, despite the efforts, the railroad decided not to bring a line through the newly named town. Without the hoped-for growth, the small town didn’t even have the revenue to maintain its 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In 1971, the small town of Denver lost its incorporated status, when the State rescinded the charters of several small towns. But, by and large, local residents do not want the town to be incorporated again.
Denver sits on the west side of Lake Norman, the State’s largest lake, created 1959-1964 by damming up the Catawba River. Denver is a half-hour’s drive or so north-northwest of Charlotte, which is known for several major NASCAR races. The speedway itself and the majority of the teams are located in the surrounding area, including a few shops in Denver. Charlotte also has NBA and NFL teams, cultural centers, theaters and is now the second largest financial center in the United States, with branch offices in other countries too.
Well known for the historic Rock Springs Camp Meetings, 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. Although it has grown, Denver is still a small town, but especially in the summer, is becoming a very busy place, as people come to the lake from elsewhere, to the camp meetings, or are just on their way through from Charlotte to towns farther up the highway.
The 2-lane N.C. Hwy. 16 through Denver is a more direct route from Charlotte to many other towns than the interstate, and a new limited access highway is in the works which will allow through traffic to pass by the town a few miles to the west.
Many significant Revolutionary War events took place in the Denver area, including the Battle of Cowan’s Ford. The actual location of the battle, a few miles south of town, is now underwater because of the Cowan’s Ford Dam which created Lake Norman. Memorial markers in the area acknowledge the brave folks who fought and died for America’s independence.
Also, Lincoln County and the county seat of Lincolnton were named for Revolutionary War Major General Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810) who presided over the British surrender at Yorktown. He also served as Secretary of War under George Washington.
It is quite interesting that Denver, North Carolina adopted the name of a city that didn’t even exist when people lived in the Denver, North Carolina area, and fought in the War for Independence! As the sign on the south side of town says, Welcome to “Denver of the East”.
A special thanks goes to:
Art Northrup, Jr.
for editing and correcting this text.
- Denver, North Carolina
- Lincoln County Government
- Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office
- Gaston-Lincoln Regional Library System
- Denver NC Weather