Why Louisville, Colorado is pronounced “Lewisville”

Louis Nawatny’s 1863 Civil War draft record from Davenport, Iowa showing his place of birth as “Germany.” He’s listed as being 30 years old.

Is Louisville, Colorado pronounced “Lewisville” or “Louie-ville?” A clue to properly pronouncing Lafayette’s neighboring town can be found in Boulder County property records.

Born in Germany, where his first name would have been pronounced “Lu-ees,” Civil War veteran, surveyor and coal mine engineer Louis Nawatny founded Louisville, Colorado in 1878. Before coming to Colorado, Nawatny, worked for the Davenport & Saint Paul Railroad in Iowa. In Colorado, Nawatny worked for Colorado Central Railroad, which later became the Colorado & Southern Railroad. The railroad established the Welch coal mine, named for railroad tycoon C.C. Welch, in 1877. The Welch Mine, adjacent to what would later become Louisville, provided coal for the railroad and was later sold to the Union Pacific Railroad.

Nawatny platted 66 lots along Front Street and Second Street (now Main Street). By 1891, all 66 lots were sold, 47 to men and 19 to women. Future Lafayette residents Walter W. Moon and John H. Simpson both purchased Louisville lots from Nawatny.

Starting in 1878, property seller (grantor) and town founder Louis Nawatny’s name was recorded on property deeds as “Louis Nawatny.” After January 1880, his name was recorded as “Louie Nawatny” and a February 1881 deed has Nawatny’s name listed as “Louis,” “Louie” and “Lewis.” By November 1881, all Nawatny deeds return to the “Louis” spelling.

Deeds on file at the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s office show that, starting in January 1880, transcribers under the employment of county clerk Junius Berkley (who married Lafayette Miller’s sister, Alfaretta, in 1879) used “Louis Nawatny” when describing the property in the body text of the recorded deeds, but then signed Nawatny’s name as “Louie” on the signature line. Before the age of typewriters and copiers, government transcribers recording official documents often signed — in their own handwriting — the name of the grantor.

1880 Boulder County property deed showing “IS” underlined in Louis Nawatny’s name.

A May 24, 1880, deed recording, probably one of the few actually reviewed by Louis Nawatny, has the “IS” in “Louis” in bold lettering and emphatically underlined in a dark, prominent stroke. Meaning that his name was not spelled or pronounced “Louie.” A few months later, all Nawatny deeds returned to a consistent “Louis” in the body text and signature line of the deed. Later deed recordings spelled initially with an “ie” in Louis were changed to “is.”

Louis Nawatny definitely didn’t want anything to do with the name “Louie.”

Sources: The Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Aug. 24, 1870.