AN INTRO TO DAVIDSON’S FORT

As newcomers to western North Carolina, we were excited to learn recently about Davidson’s Fort, a project in Old Fort that has been steadily building momentum since early 2006. The Davidson name is a familiar one in our area’s rich local history. In the 1700s, the Davidsons lived where the town of Old Fort now stands, on property owned by Samuel Davidson. The property also included a grist mill on Davidson’s Mill Creek, now known simply as Mill Creek (the Long Branch of which runs along our property and provides the water for the Andrews Geyser). Up until 1776, the Old Fort area was the westernmost outpost of colonial settlement. A fort was constructed in August of 1776, built by General Griffith Rutherford. From the Davidson’s Fort website: In the University of North Carolina Magazine, Volume 1, Number 4, an article appears by David L. Swain, dated 1852, speaking to the stockade at the old fort…Pension applications from members of Rutherford’s militia describe their duties including construction of a fort (on property owned by none other than Samuel Davidson). The fort was used as a staging area for General Rutherford’s Expedition agains the Cherokee, in which a band of 5,000 local militiamen fought against the Cherokee (who had sided with the British). This was the largest patriot militia campaign of the Revolutionary War.According to the Swannanoa Valley Museum, Samuel Davidson was the first-known settler to have taken his family across the Blue Ridge, when the North Carolina General Assembly opened all lands north of the divide between the Swannanoa and Toe Rivers to immigrant settlement shortly after the Revolutionary War. In 1784, Davidson built a cabin at the foot of Jones Mountain. He was killed by a band of Cherokee hunters but his family survived, escaped back to Davidson’s Fort 16 miles away, regrouped, and returned to the Swannanoa Valley, leading western settler expansion. Samuel Davidson and the Davidson family are often given credit for paving the way for the creation of western North Carolina cities such as Asheville.Fast forward to March 2006: Mark Hall, a McDowell County native, and Gary Jones, a retired military man with an interest in the Revolutionary War period, partnered together to buy 18 acres of land in Old Fort with the idea of constructing a replica of Davidson’s Fort (the exact original location of which is currently unknown). The fort, currently under construction thanks to donations, will be used for school education programs, visitor self guided tours and as a location for war re-enactments. (The annual Battle of the Blue Ridge, a Civil War re-enactment, took place here last year).We’re enthusiastic about the idea of having a great piece of history just down the road, and we look forward to posting updates on the fort’s progress.

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