The history of the Great Falls of the Catawba has its beginnings with Native Americans who saw the falls as an excellent fishing and gathering place.
Through the millennia the early peoples of North America were the only ones who contemplated the beauty of the series of cataracts that made up the great falls of the river. Into the 15th and 16th centuries the slow migration of European explorers came through the area, but it wasn’t until the early 1700s that trappers from settlements at the coast ventured north and west and “discovered” the area teeming with fish, beaver, deer and other wildlife.
Fleeing religious oppression, the Covenanters and Presbyterians from Scotland, via Ireland, began to settle around the tributaries of Rocky and Fishing Creeks. People of other denominations settled as well and the communities in the Piedmont of Carolina were established. The Catawba and its tributaries were the lifeblood of the communities.
Over the years, the area was important during the American Revolution with British and Patriot Generals looking at the area as important strategically for their war efforts.
In the early Federal Period, the area was important in the protection of the newly formed United States of America and the river was important for transportation and commerce.
During the Civil War, the area was touched by General Sherman in his relentless march across South Carolina.
Farmers and tradesmen chose the area to make a living during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Then James B. Duke began one of the earliest developments of hydroelectric power at the site of the falls, invested in textile mills, all which led to the creation of the Town of Great Falls.