In her book Heart Pine, McDowell County historian Anne Swann writes of the Cherokee people’s ancestors, ”…it was they who were the first to climb the peaks and drink from the streams that still exist here. It was their feet that found their way into this magical little place, their eyes which first looked upon its quiet splendor. They are the ones who accomplished the thing of which we can only dream. They were the first.”
In the video above, Anne talks more about the earliest inhabitants of what is now McDowell County and reflects upon the Cherokee way of looking at the world.
Anne continues the story in this next segment. She focuses on the Cherokee trails and trading paths that ran through the area, the relationship between the Native Americans and the earliest white settlers, and the forts that sprang up due to the conflict. She also relates the story of Lydia Birchfield, who was scalped during a Cherokee raid but survived.
"Pleasant Gardens" was built in the late 1780s by Hunting John McDowell's son Joseph near the site where Brown's Purchase was negotiated with the Cherokee. The house still stands today. (Photo courtesy the Carson House library.)
To explore this chapter of McDowell history, we join historian Anne Swann in one of the log cabins at the Mountain Gateway Museum to hear the tale of a wrestling match that laid the foundation for the development of the county. Anne also talks about how Hunting John McDowell came to play a huge role in the opening of the American West to European expansion.
Joe Williams (left) and Mark Hall (in blue) with fellow Fort supporters and re-enactors
In October of 1781, the Revolutionary War ended when the British surrendered at Yorktown. But, much of the groundwork for that final American victory had been laid at Davidson’s Fort, located near the present town of Old Fort. The largest volunteer militia of the war gathered there and many historians say that the grit and determination of that force turned the tide in the settlers’ favor in their fight for independence.
Davidson's Fort replica by Lissa Silver
In this segment, Joe Williams and Mark Hall of Davidson’s Fort Historic Park explain the historical significance of the fort, talk about the earliest origins of the town of Old Fort and discuss their organization’s vision for an interactive recreational and educational park.
.Joe and Mark refer several times to important information gleaned from soldiers’ pension applications. You can read some of those applications here.