For most of the last 250 years, the site of Fort Dobbs has been a relatively quiet place. In recent years however, the site has had an exponentially growing energy and many exciting plans are in the works which will profoundly change the perception and knowledge of its hilltop location in Iredell County.
The fort had been constructed in 1756 as a barracks for 50 soldiers whose mission was to guard the western settlements of the British colony of North Carolina during the French and Indian War. It was a substantial building, even by modern standards: a three-story blockhouse hewn out of stout oak timber which encompassed 8,000 square feet of interior space. Soldiers slept, cooked, and stored supplies within its walls. The fort served as a center of defensive efforts on the frontier and during its seven years of active service, was the scene of a battle (February 27, 1760) between colonial forces and Cherokee Indians whose lands bordered those of the British.
With the defeat of both the Cherokee and the French, North Carolina’s frontier expanded to the west, rendering the fort useless. The structure was abandoned and allowed to rot. During the succeeding decades, the remains of the building were scavenged for construction materials and the site was completely cleared for farmland by the turn of the 19th century. Part of the site was preserved by the Fort Dobbs Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution who convinced the State of North Carolina to conduct the first of several archaeological investigations which have unearthed thousands of relics of the past while shedding new light on the fort itself and the lives of those who lived there.
In 1976, Fort Dobbs opened to the public as a State Historic Site and is now part of the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Today, the site is open five days per week for tours and hosts several living history “re-enactments” among other events which serve to breathe life into the story of North Carolina’s role in the first global war.
Over the past decade, a major effort has been spearheaded by the non-profit Friends of Fort Dobbs to reconstruct the 18th century blockhouse. Architectural plans have been designed with the help of historians and archaeologists and those plans have been fully approved by the State. The Friends have successfully completed a new modern bathroom facility and are steadily working to raise the private funds needed to rebuild the fort. The reconstructed fort will serve as a full-scale living history “exhibit” which will allow visitors to interact with the soldiers, settlers, and American Indians of the 1750’s in a period setting and learn about their lives. Only 12 other forts from the war have been restored in the United States and very few are in the south-eastern part of the country. Fort Dobbs is the only State Historic Site in North Carolina which covers this tumultuous period of American history.
For more information about visiting the site, special events, and the reconstruction effort, please visit www.fortdobbs.org. A special event on February 27-28, 2016 will commemorate the Cherokee attack through displays of period camp life and weapons firing demonstrations.