Davidson’s Fort is Reborn
The Eastern Continental Divide runs along a ridge of very high mountains fifteen miles east of present day Asheville. For centuries, it was a formitable barrier to any colonization to the west. Native tribes had long established their villages on both sides of the Divide, and carved footpaths over the mountains to trade with other villages. The first Spanish explorers probably arrived in the area in the 1500’s, followed in the early 1700’s by Scots-Irish pioneers who established a fort for protection from the “Indians”. By the mid 1700’s, the settlement around the stockade had become the westernmost outpost of Colonial civilization. Samuel Davidson purchased one square mile of land around the “old fort”, for a large plantation.
By 1776, the Revolutionary War was already underway, and the Colonists were convinced that the natives were on the side of the British because of constant raids and related massacres against the pioneer farms. Under the command of General Griffith Rutherford, 2,500 men were dispatched to the area with orders to drive the Cherokee from their villages on both sides of the Divide, and in 1776, they constructed a new fort near the site of the original structure.
For the next two months, these troops roamed all through the mountains, burning villages and salting fields so the natives could not return. As the base of operations, Davidson’s Fort, as it was then called, became the center of what would eventually be the town of Old Fort, located where the railroad would begin its climb over the Blue Ridge, to Asheville. That was 100 years after the original “Rutherford’s Fort” was built.
Passengers aboard the daily trains that stopped at “Old Fort” would always ask the location of the “fort”, but were disappointed to learn that the original stockade had been dismantled to make way for the growing town. In 2008, all of that changed. Even though the original fort’s location was unknown, it didn’t deter local volunteers from channeling some of that early American frontier spirit. Through their efforts and labor, and with grants and donations from the community, they constructed a replica fort in Old Fort. Open to the public since 2010, Davidson’s Fort Historic Park serves as a living history exhibit, showcasing how forts of that era might have looked, and representing what life was like for the Colonists who made this frontier land their home.
The two images below are from the non-profit group that maintains the fort…
Make sure you take the time to visit this amazing re-creation when you are driving to Asheville on Interstate 40, exiting at Old Fort. It will be well worth the effort.