Saturday, July 15, 2023

When a Lake Changes Your World


Happy July! Like most people I love summer. Not just because of the warm weather but also because kids are out of school, vacations, gardens, flowers, horseback riding, and beach time whether it's the ocean or the lake.

An 8 acre SC man made lake

Living in a state where there aren't a lot of natural lakes, I'm thankful for all the man-made ones we have here in South Carolina. We have the Catawba River that snakes through North Carolina as well as our state before becoming Wateree River. The Catawba River was named for the Native Americans that first lived in this area. The Catawba Indians called themselves Yap Ye Iswe which in their language means people of the river. The river has long been an important source of water to people for navigation, industry, and food.

With the growing of a nation there are needs that must be met. Eleven lakes have been forged on the river. Lake Catawba now known as Lake Wylie being the oldest of them. 

Dr. Walker Gill Wylie
In 1904 Dr. Walker Gill Wylie saw a need that the Catawba River could fill. He knew if he could harness the power of the water running down that river he could produce electricity. Electric power that the South could use to restore its livelihood. Having some experience from financing dam construction near Anderson SC, Wylie moved forward. 

With his brother Robert Wylie onboard, the two financed the building of the hydroelectric power station. Lake Catawba was created when the team built the Catawba dam and power plant. By building the dam they impounded the river, backing up the water and flooding 668 acres of land that created the new Lake Catawba. 

James Duke
The hydroelectric plant would supply electricity to the mills popping up in the Carolinas. With Gill Wylie's ambition of building dams, reservoirs and hydro plants all along the river to supply power to the mills, the Wylies needed more funds. The brothers soon teamed up with the wealthy, James and Benjamin Duke who owned Southern Power Company. Catawba Power and Southern Power merged and moved forward with the new dams. 

Jump forward about 15 years. Southern Power was producing more power than most companies, excluding Niagra Falls. They were supplying over 300 mills electricity. Mills that provided jobs for a lot of Carolinians. The south was bouncing back and people flooded in. 

By 1924 it was obvious electricity was where you wanted to be. The demand was there as well as the means. They just had to create more surface area. So they built a new hydroelectric station and raised the water level. This meant they had to flood more area. That was another 12,732 acres that had to go under water in order to create the 13,400 acres that Lake Wylie is today. The land had to be purchased. So, homes, farms and businesses were abandoned. Some were demolished but all were flooded. I can't say it is true, as I have not seen it for myself, but I've heard told that you can still see some of the old structures under the water when the lake is clear. 

By 1925 the new dam was up and running and producing electricity from the 13,400 acre lake. Just two years after the building of the new dam, Southern Power became part of Duke Power. 

If we jump forward another 98 years it puts us too today. Duke Power, now Duke Energy has merged with countless other power stations to become the largest publicly owned utility in the country. The company can boast of the vast ways they produce power. Nuclear, coal, gas turbine, hydro, pump storage, solar, and wind are all ways Duke works to supply electricity to its customers.

A couple fun notes. 

Mecklenburg County built a 'hard' road down to Lake Catawba. Buster Boyd, a politician, fought hard to get that road. His next project was to get a bridge that connect North Carolina to South Carolina. He won his fight. The Buster Boyd bridge was finished in 1923, one year before Lake Catawba would be raised to over the 13,000 acres. In knowing that was coming they had to build the bridge to accommodate the rise of surface water. The Bridge was named after Buster Boyd, the man who fought so hard to see it built. Governors from both North and South Carolina attended a celebration that was held in April of 1923 for the opening of the Buster Boyd Bridge. Acrobatic planes flew maneuvers underneath the center structure of the bridge.

In 1815 the surveyed states of North Carolina and South Carolina submerged a three-foot stone monument to show the exact location of the states' line. The problem is no one can find the marker in the lake today. They've been searching for the monument for over ten years. 

In 1960 Lake Catawba was renamed Lake Wylie, after the man who impacted the lives of so many, even people a hundred years later.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the Wylie brothers, the Dukes, or Buster Boyd had any idea how much their endeavors would impact the states for more than a hundred years? 

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Eager to find the traitor who caused the death of his brother, Duncan Mackenzie comes to America and attempts to fit in with Charleston society. But when the headstrong Charlotte catches his eye, Duncan takes on a second mission—acquiring the lass's hand. After being spurned several times, he uses unconventional ways of winning her heart.

A headstrong southern belle matches wits with a Scottish spy who’s searching for a traitor come to the states.

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She writes in the medieval/renaissance period as well as 19th century. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 4 dogs, 4 horses, miniature donkey, and 12 ducks. Life is good!


  1. Thank you for posting today! I think people like those you mention have to have some inkling of how impactful their visions will be. Otherwise it would be difficult to move through all of the challenges involved in making their thoughts into reality. Especially in the move of building a lake that would take over peoples' homes and land, your vision has to be strong.

    1. Hey Connie!!! I wonder what they would think of they could see today just how much we rely on his vision. Our states deeply depend on the lake in so many ways.