10 bits of Great Falls history

Great Falls has a rich and fascinating history. Here are 10 nuggets about our history:

  1. falls_sketchThe community was first known as Catawba Falls, which is what the falls in the Catawba River in this area were originally called.

  2. There was nothing equal to the Catawba Falls in South Carolina, according to historian David M. Ramsay. “They rush with noisy impetuosity – over 20 falls in eight miles to a depth of 178 feet,” he said.

  3. Three Revolutionary War battles and several skirmishes were foughtbeckhamville_marker in the Great Falls area.

  4. Rocky Mount in the Great Falls community was considered by a Congressional committee as a site for one of the nation's military academies.

  5. The roots of Duke Energy Co., one of the largest power companies in the U.S., are in Great Falls. Southern Power Co., the company that would evolve into Duke Energy, was organized in the early 1900s, when tobacco baron James B. Duke and Dr. W. Gill Wylie, a Chester native and New York physician, implemented a plan to harness energy from the roaring Catawba River here.

  6. The first electric dam in Great Falls was completed in 1907.

  7. In the early 1900s, General Electric Chemical Co. built a plant in Great Falls to extract nitrogen from the air for use in the manufacturing of fertilizer. The plan never worked.nitrolee_dam

  8. The Nitrolee power plant and dam, probably the best-known of Duke Energy's Great Falls plants, was named partly after this experiment with nitrogen. It's a combination of the words “nitrogen” and “Lee,” after William States Lee, the principal engineer behind the Great Falls power plants.

  9. The first Republic Cotton Mill was built in 1909. By 1923, two other mills were in operation in Great Falls. The Duke Foundation was the principal stockholder until 1946 when the mills were sold to J.P. Stevens and Co. The mills remained in operation until 1980.

  10. Images of the original falls before the dams were built are extremely rare. A sketch from the early 1800s (shown on this page) is one of only two that we know of.

– Primary source: “A Goodly Heritage,” compiled by Anne P. Collins