NORWAY – It has been said that the name Pennesseewassee meant “beautiful waters” to the Native Americans who once fished along its shores.

Whether true or not, Norway’s largest body of water, 922-acre Pennesseewassee Lake, has endeared itself to a lot of people, both summer visitors and year-round residents alike.

A crowd of around 40 people attended a Wednesday night program on the history of the lake, and 20 people attended a similar program earlier in the day.

Many of those in attendance were longtime lakefront property owners who have researched the history of the lake over the years. One such person is Joy Moll of Shepard’s Lane, who has researched deeds and poured over town history books to learn more about the lake.

“My real interest was in the old Shepard farm on the east side of the lake,” she said Thursday. She said the land is actually a peninsula on the lake, through which Crockett Ridge Road now runs.

The 110 acres was originally gifted to John Shepard after the Revolutionary War.

“We need to do more about lake history,” Moll said. In the early days, she said, the land around the lake was traded for 37 and a half cents an acre. The lake was integral to the growth of the town, said Moll.

In 1789, Henry Rust bought 6,000 acres and started a grist mill and saw mill at the outlet to the lake, she noted. “The lake started the town.”

Moll noted that Bruce Cook encouraged more people to join the Norway Lakes Association, and become involved in lake-related projects.

Dick Denison of Norway told anecdotes related to his large collection of old postcards dating back to the early 1900s. Many of the images he displayed were of Pennesseewassee Lake and the Norway area. Denison remarked that back in the early days, a postcard sold for a penny as did a stamp to mail it.

The history of the lake’s islands is of special interest to Kay Felmeth, a summer resident for 55 years who lives right across from the islands, on the west shore.

Each island had a cottage built on it in the late 1800s, she said. There’s the cottage on Bass Island, originally a fishing camp, built in 1876. Since 1935, it has been owned by a doctor in New Jersey whose family still uses it.

A New Hampshire couple owns Middle Island, with “quite a nice house on it” built in 1887, Felmeth said.

The Partridge family, a local family, owns Cole Island, which has an 1876 cottage. Next to middle island is Dow’s Island, owned by local lawyers. It was originally called Rock Island, she said, because in the late 1800s the admiral from Pennsylvania who owned it had the land built up by hauling rocks in.

Dow Island, said Felmeth, has a “very nice house and boathouse on it.”

Most people driving by the lake from Route 117 cannot see the islands, because they are too far away, she said.

To Felmeth, the lake is a very special place. “My children all summered here. It’s very much a part of our lives.”

She keeps the old log books from her cottage, and was particularly touched by one entry from a visitor, written in 1907: “It is said that many a learned professor has sought for lands to locate the original site of the Garden of Eden and failed. No doubt the search began too far from Pennesseewassee, where the robust or the invalid can each profitably spend a day, a week, a month, or a summer.”

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