by Jackson Sveen

DAVIDSON – Before Lake Norman was created around 50 years ago by Duke Energy, there were homes, churches, farms and whole communities on sites now under water.

To uncover the rich history that lies underneath Lake Norman, the Archives and Special Collections group of the Davidson College Library has put together a project that uses community members as a main historical resource.

Called “Under Lake Norman,” the project uses crowdsourcing to gather documents, photos and stories of the places that once existed where the lake now sits. Crowdsourcing is a popular form of research in the digital age where large projects are divvied out to a group, in this case Lake Norman residents past and present.

The library has used crowdsourcing before with their ongoing Archives Transcription and Photograph Identification projects, where the community has an opportunity to transcribe hand-written materials, such as diaries and share any information about certain photographs in the library’s collection.

Through the project, residents that lived in the region, had family that did, or just know about the history of the area before the lake was built, can contribute information about structures or locations that were covered by water when the lake was filled in 1963.

The project website contains an interactive map that includes several sites that have been identified by research and public submissions.

So far, the areas identified include:

• Beatties Ford Bridge: “Carried the pre-Lake Norman route of N.C. 73 across the Catawba River was demolished during the construction of (the lake).” – James Alan Stenhouse

• The Site of the Battle of Cowan’s Ford: General William Lee Davidson, namesake of Davidson College, the town of Davidson and Davidson County, lost his life in this battle.

• Elm Wood Plantation: A plantation house built by John Davidson Graham between 1825-1828 situated above the Catawba River near the end of present-day Ranger Island Road in Catawba Springs.  John Graham was the brother of William Graham, who was governor of North Carolina from 1845-1849, a U.S. senator, Secretary of Navy and the Whig nominee for Vice-President in 1852. Graham’s grandfather was John Davidson, owner of the Rural Hill plantation.

• Old Highway 150 Bridge: After the lake waters covered this bridge, a new bridge was built approximately 100 feet north of this location and was 33 feet higher.

• Sherrills Ford: In 1747, pioneer Adam Sherrill and his eight sons to become the first documented white settlers west of the Catawba River. They crossed at a ford that would later be known as Sherrill’s Ford.

“This is something we hope we can leave up so if there is a class doing North Carolina history, or even someone across the county who is curious can learn about the lake,” said Jan Blodgett, Davidson College archivist and records management coordinator.

Visit the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections website at for information on these and additional sites available at the archives website. Families or individuals with information and photos are asked to contribute them to the project through the website.