Civil War History



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Davidson's Fort built in 1775 to protect settlers from the Cherokee!

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Old Fort train depot in the center of town next to the arrowhead.

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Re-enactors staging fights outside of the fort.

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Town information

Town Bulletin Board

Davidson's Fort

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Floods of 1916


The lines of Southern Railway ' Company suffered unprecedented damage from floods during the months of July and August, 1916. On July 5th and 6th a tropical cyclone swept over the Gulf Coast of Alabama, accompanied by high winds, reaching a maximum of 107 miles per hour at Mobile on the fifth, and followed by torrential rains over a large part of the State, with somewhat lighter rains in eastern Tennessee and, the Carolinas, greatly damaging Southern Railway waterfront property at Mobile and interrupting traffic on the Company's lines in Alabama south and west of Birmingham, by washing out trestles and fills. A second tropical cyclone passed over Charleston, S. C., during the morning of July 14th, causing some local damage, and, moving northwestward, expended its full force on the watersheds in western North Carolina where the rain from the first storm had already saturated the soil and filled the streams bank full. All previous 24 hour records of rainfall in the United States were exceeded. The run off from the saturated soil was very rapid, streams rose high above all previous flood records; resulting in the death of about eighty persons and in property damage estimated by the United States Weather Bureau at about twenty two million dollars. The greatest single loss of property was that of Southern Railway Company, as, without taking into account the loss of traffic and the cost of detouring trains, the total loss to the Company on account of storm damage during the month of July is estimated at approximately $1,250,000.

The Floods of July 1916. How the Southern Railway met an emergency." by Southern Railway Company printed by The Overmountain Press.

Mr. Gatlin and his assistants on the job. Sunday, August 27. First train to pass after repairs were completed.


(Charlotte (N. C.) Observer, August 18, 1916.)

An example of the extraordinary in railroad reconstruction is to be witnessed at the present time between Old Fort and Ridgecrest on the western division of the Southern. Between these two points it is less than five miles air line, but following the windings of the picturesque line around and over the mountains the distance is 14 miles. Every mile of this has to be reconstructed. At some points it has been found necessary to relocate the roadbed and when service is resumed the trains will be carried over a route that is new in some sections. The Southern construction management has been calling for as many laborers as could be secured. At last accounts there were over 3,000 men at work, and it was expected that by the end of the present week this number would be increased to 4000. The "hands" are divided into squads covering every foot of the line from the small tunnel at the foot of the mountains to the famed Swannanoa at the crest. It is the expectation of the railroad men that this section of the line will be put in condition for the operation of trains by September 15th, but to that portion of the public familiar with the character of the undertaking no disappointment will be manifested in case this expectation fails of fulfillment. The rebuilding of the line to North Wilkesboro was child's play compared to the rebuilding, of the line up the mountains from Old Fort to Ridgecrest. At the time the Western North Carolina road was completed it was regarded as the marvel of railroad engineering in the United States. Since then there have been many feats in conquering the mountains by railroad engineers notably in the case of the Clinchfield road but the Round Knob engineering yet stands among the greatest achievements in the railroad history of this country. The seemingly impossible feat of running a railroad across the Blue Ridge at this point was accomplished by native talent. Major J. W. Wilson was the engineer and guiding genius. Colonel A. B. Andrews' efficient part in the undertaking has been commemorated in the construction of the Andrews Geyser, an aquatic wonder of the mountains, but Major Wilson's memory lives only in the almost forgotten history of his accomplishment. In the rehabilitation of this wonderful Round Knob line, it might be well for the Southern to establish at some point a token that would keep Major Wilson's name before the public. Some conspicuous boulder might be converted into a Wilson monument.

New Information:

Terry Wilson of Old Fort Elementary School, was kind enough to tell us where a memorial to Major Wilson was located, one mile from Hwy 70 on Mill Creek Road. The Ruritan Club of Old Fort has agreed to clean the monument which has been defaced and overgrown. We will keep you up to date on this project. The monument will now be moved to the depot after the renovation is completed, it will be a fine addition to our town.





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