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Lincoln Herald | Lincolnton, NC

home : opinion : opinion June 29, 2022

4/5/2022 12:01:00 AM
Guest Column
Ft. Dobbs Offers Deep Dive Into Frontier Past

Tammy Wilson
Guest Columnist

My young granddaughter likes to build pillow forts. One day, as she was busy rearranging the cushions in my den, I suggested we visit a real fort.

Violet was all-in for the adventure as we headed to toward Ft. Dobbs near Statesville. The fort is a replica of the 18th-century blockhouse that guarded the western frontier of the North Carolina colony. After years of research by scholars from East Carolina University, Wake Forest and elsewhere, the site formally opened in 2019 before the COVID pandemic, so chances are you’ve missed this attraction.

The state historic site includes a log cabin visitor center and the fort itself, a 40 x 53-foot log fortification that’s three stories high. It was part of a line of defenses along the western frontier of the North American British colonies.

While Iredell County and the surrounding area were largely inhabited by Cherokee and a sprinkling of European settlers, Ft. Dobbs came as a response to hostilities that were part of the Seven Years War involving Europe. In case you’re a little rusty on that history, the conflict involved Britain and France—enemies for centuries—vying for control of lands in what is now Canada and the United States. Both sides recruited Native tribes to help, but the French were more dependent on Indians because they were greatly outnumbered by the British.

The conflict ended with a British victory 13 years before the start of the Revolutionary War.

The original structure served as a military post for a company of 50 men as well as a safe haven for neighboring settlers and their families. It was named for colonial Gov. Arthur Dobbs who supervised construction of the original fort.

I love visiting historic sites, and this one didn’t disappoint. The building has been reconstructed true to form and has some furnishings to illustrate period weaponry, stores of ammo and food, and living quarters. Costumed guides offer a thorough history.

To five-year-old Violet, the visit offered a chance to see how large real forts are and how soldiers lived and worked in them.

We happened to be the only visitors, so we had a personal guide to show us through the place and tell the story of the fort. It served as an outpost for soldiers, traders and officials and was surrounded by a shallow ditch later replaced by a palisade. It was the site of an engagement between he soldiers and Cherokee, with the colonials resulting in victory for the Provincials.

At times, settlers took refuge within the fort, but by 1770, the fort was abandoned. Timbers that remained were used to build other structures.

To visit, follow the directional signs from I-40 as you approach Statesville. Take Exit 151, then proceed north on US 21 and go about a mile and half. Turn left onto Ft. Dobbs Road and keep going. You can’t miss the big block structure in a bend in the road.

Admission is $2 per adult and $1 for seniors and children 5-12. The fort is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 to 5. Special re-enactments and events are scheduled. Check the website at for more information.

---Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Her latest book is Going Plaid in a Solid Gray World: Collected Columns, published by Red Hawk Publications. Contact her at

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