Tag Archives: Catawba River

The Great Flood of 1916

This weekend is the 97th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1916, which was caused by two Category 4 hurricanes converging over Western North Carolina over a period of six days causing massive flooding on the French Broad and Catawba River systems.  While the flooding did not affect the City of Charlotte; it did suffer damage due to the storm winds.  However, the resulting flood waters affected thousands of people from Asheville to Fort Mill, South Carolina as it washed away homes, bridges and business and killed 80 people. Among the victims were 13 members of a Southern Railway crew attempting to save a double-track railroad bridge between Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties by parking an engine on the span, but was swept away by the flood.

Asheville Flood, 1916. [From the Schandler Family Collection, UNCA Special Collections via Google Images]

Asheville Flood, 1916. [From the Schandler Family Collection, UNCA Special Collections via Google Images]

The flooding that not only washed away bridges linking Mecklenburg County with Gaston County to the west and York County, South Carolina to the South, but telegraph lines in the mountains and the Mountain Island Mill in Gaston County.  An article on the Mountain Island Mill by Dwight Frady can be found at HTTP://  The waters also damaged the dam at Lake Wylie, which was rebuilt in 1924 by the Southern Company (the forerunner of Duke Energy).

Bridge over the Catawba River at Fort Mill, South Carolina Inamge from via Google Images

Bridge over the Catawba River at Fort Mill, South Carolina Inamge from via Google Images

Railroad travel was not the only type of travel affected.  The burgeoning highway system, which was started as the North Carolina Highway Commission in 1915 was also affected.  Automobile bridges up and down the river was also washed away in the floods stranding motorists on their way to their vacation destinations in the North Carolina Mountains.

Bridge between Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties destroyed by the flood.  Photo by Cushman.  From the Book "The North Carolina Flood (1916) Published by William Bell via Google Images

Hwy 74 bridge between Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties wreaked during the 1916 flood. Photo by Cushman. From the Book “The North Carolina Flood (1916) Published by William Bell via Google Images

In 1916 there was no government agencies such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to help with disaster relief, and the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army were just starting to send help in disasters.  There are no records that indicate if they did assist in relief efforts in the region.

If you want to learn more about the Great Flood of 1916, please check out these sources:

The Great North Carolina Flood (1916) Published by William Bell, Charlotte, North Carolina

Catawba County, North Carolina: The Great Flood of 1916 ( The Great Flood of 1916 Changed Biltmore Village and Family Lives Forever (  This is an excellent source of first hand accounts of families that were affected by the floods.

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Posted by on July 14, 2013 in History, Places


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Have you driven on a “Ford” lately?

(With apologizes to the Ford Motor Company for swiping their 1984 slogan)

Visitors to our city have probably noticed the abundance of roads with with “Ford” or “Ferry” in the name and may have wondered how the road got their name.  Places such as Beatties Ford Road, Nations Ford Road and Rozzells Ferry Road are well known here in Charlotte and named for places on the Catawba River that early settlers used to cross the river going west.  Most of these names have been lost to history, but several still survive in the roads that were given their names.

Beatties Ford Road, which starts just north of Uptown at Johnson C. Smith University and runs north to what is now Lake Norman was named for John Beatty, who according to historians, was the first white man to cross the Catawba River while following the a trading path used by the Native American tribes of the area.  He is recorded as buying 944 acres on the west bank of the Catawba River on July 17, 1749 and establishing a ferry to take passengers across the river and became the main route between Salisbury and Morganton, North Carolina. 

Rozzells Ferry, which is south of Beatties Ford on the Catawba River was named for John Rozzell, who operated the only ferry between Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties before the Civil War. A descendant, Edward Rozzell built a house near the river that was the scene of the only skirmish in Mecklenburg County during the Civil War.  The road starts at the “Five Points” intersection which comprises of Beatties Ford Road, 5th Street, State Street, West Trade Street and Rozzells Ferry, the road parallels NC 16, locally known as Brookshire Boulevard.  The road changes names just  to Bellhaven Boulevard in the 1980’s but a small spur of the original road retains the Rozzells Ferry name. The road ends just before reaching the Rozzells Ferry Bridge on NC 16. 

Nations Ford Road in the southern part of the County, was on the main trading route from Charlotte to Columbia, South Carolina.  Like other roads in this part of the state, it was established along an Native American trading path.  The modern version of Nations Ford starts at the Billy Graham Parkway (named for the famous evangelist) and winds southeast through the Charlotte suburbs until ending at NC 51, known locally as Pineville Matthews Road at the South Carolina state line.  While it does not go into South Carolina, Nations Ford is remembered as a major trading path and Nations Ford High School in Fort Mill carries the name.

I will be going into more depth about these roads in future articles and I hope that you will enjoy them. If you want to know more about the old roads and ferries that helped shape Mecklenburg County, please check out the Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library on-line at If you are visiting Uptown Charlotte, please visit the main library at 310 North Tryon Street, the Carolina Room is located on the third floor.

A special thanks to Ms. Jean Johnson and Dr. Thomas Cole at the Carolina Room for their help and assistance in getting this article written.

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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in People, Places


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