A private non profit history project.

Davidsons Fort 

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Dedicated to Living History

Davidson's Fort Militia group.

Civil War

Brother against brother, father against son feeling run strong even today.

Teaching the young

Our members take it upon themselves to train our young.

Attack on the fort

Our militia holding off the Cherokee.

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Around 1770 Samuel Davidson purchased a boundary of land, which included the present site of Old Fort, consisting of 640 acres or one square mile. A stockade was raised upon a portion of this land when and by whom is still not verified, most likely reinforced by the militia raised to attack the Cherokee. Read what the soldiers had to say about Davidson's Fort and their adventures during the Revolutionary War.

On April 19, 1775, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington, Massachusetts. For six and a half years, the American colonists fought the British for their independence. They won that independence on October 19, 1781 when the British forces surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia; this surrender would not have taken place without the brave North Carolina Militia. What had started as a fight for the rights of English people in the 13 colonies ended in the creation of an independent nation the United States of America. This war is also called the American Revolution and the American War of Independence. Old Fort’s place in history is unique because of its geographic location at the foot of the Blue Ridge, near the head of the Catawba River and close to the Continental Divide. The site of the furthest outpost and militia fort built to defend the colonials in the wilds of the frontier.

In August of 1776, about 2,700 men between the ages of 16 and 60 gathered at Davidson’s Fort (what is now Old Fort in McDowell County). They were put under the command of Griffith Rutherford, an Irish-born, middle-aged, newly appointed brigadier general who had served in the Colonial legislature and the Council of Safety, a newly formed military government that issued orders in lieu of a Department of Defense. Rutherford left about 300 of his militia to guard Davidson’s Fort and set out for Western North Carolina on Sept. 1, 1776, with 2,400 men, pack horses, a herd of beef cattle, and weaponry that included long rifles, hatchets and small cannons. Lacking official uniforms, militia members took along their own clothing and weapons. Also included in the regiments were Catawba Indians, foes of the Cherokee who allied with the Colonials. (Michael Beadle, Rutherford Trace) The Smoky Mountain News.


This was the beginning of a 6 year adventure of a small log palisades fort, and the men who served in its walls in the wilderness of North Carolina, “Travel Back in Time”, visit Davidson’s Fort in Old Fort, North Carolina.

Beginning as early at 1776, the Continental Congress recognized the benefit of extending pension and bounty land benefits to the men who fought for America's independence from Great Britain. Initially aimed at creating enticements to recruit and retain the services of the men serving in the Continental Army and Navy, over time the scope of these acts were expanded to extend benefits to more of the veterans of the Revolution including men whose served in the state militias and privateers and, eventually, to their widows. To avail themselves of the benefits of these acts, the veterans and their widows were required to file applications detailing their services and other information about themselves and their families. These applications tell the compelling stories of the men and women who risked their lives and property to lay the foundation of the United States of America. Unfortunately, most of the documentation relating to the earliest of these acts (those pre-dating 1818) was destroyed by fires in Washington D. C. in the early part of the Nineteenth Century. The documentation that survives and the documentation from the later acts, however, provide a wealth of information of interest to both historians and genealogists.

While most of our historical data comes from these pensions much of the information we obtain is from published material, we would like to thank the following people or websites for their historical publications:

Culture & Heritage Museums Historian Michael Scoggins Daily Life During The American Revolutions, Dorothy Denneen Volo and James M. Volo

Josiah Brandon served at Davidson's Fort

Josiah Brandon, a Revolutionary War Soldier

The Reverend Josiah Brandon was born in Burke County, North Carolina on June 26, 1761. Josiah has an elusive, if interesting background - he has the distinction of having one of the largest pension files for a Revolutionary Veteran.

When Josiah was between fifteen and sixteen years old, he enlisted under Captain Samuel Davidson to fight against the Cherokee Indians. He participated in the building of "Old Fort" and in 1779; he joined in the pursuit of Captain Cunningham serving in Captain Boykin's Company of Light Horse Cavalry.

He enlisted again in 1780 to fight the Cherokees who had recently butchered the John Davidson family, close neighbors to the Brandon family. However, on the eve of King's Mountain, Josiah's father (identified only as Captain in the Loyalist militia), "partly by persuasion and partly by menace" (to use Josiah's terms in a Testimony for a pension), forced him to join his father's company under Colonel Ferguson in charge of the troops of the crown.

During the battle at King's Mountain, Josiah's father was killed and Josiah was captured though released shortly afterwards by Major McDowell, who knew the family well since Josiah had served under him on several of the earlier excursions against the Indians. He was released to the custody of his widowed mother (also not identified by name) but shortly re-enlisted under Captain Boykin to march against Captain Cunningham who was marauding the settled areas of South Carolina near Ninety-Six.

Josiah's war record shows service under the Americans for some three years, and he was ultimately awarded a pension. Never the less, when he applied for the pension in 1832, his service under the crown at King's Mountain became an issue, which involved negotiations among his sons to correct the wrong impression that he, was sympathetic to the royalist cause.

Shortly after King's Mountain, Josiah married Rachel Brown, a childhood friend and neighbor, the daughter of Thomas Brown, a noted Quaker in western North Carolina. She was fifteen when they married and lived to eighty years of age after giving birth to some fifteen children.

Josiah was a landowner in North Carolina and in the 1790's could be found in Georgia where his son, William, was born. This is according to William's tombstone located at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama.

About 1805, Josiah decided to bring his family into Tennessee and by 1812, he had settled near Lynchburg in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Josiah died 5 Nov 1842 and both he and his wife are buried on the hill opposite his church, Brandon Chapel, near Lynchburg.

In 1981, the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal published an article written by William Bennett "Josiah Brandon's Burke County, NC, 1777-1800." This was an in-depth study, using land grants, to determine the name of Josiah Brandon's father. A successful study it was, as Thomas Brandon, Loyalist, emerged.

Some of the information for this narrative came from the James Record Collection found in the Madison County Public Library, Huntsville, Alabama.

“June 1776 volunteered and entered the service of United States under the following named officers to wit Captain Reuben White, Lieutenant Samuel Simpson. This company consisted of eighty two men and was ordered by Major McKisick & Colonel McDowell to march to Davidson's Fort on the Catawba River and was stationed at said Fort as a guard to keep the Indians off of the frontiers had been stationed & scouting & spying against the Indians until some time in August or July. When for the first engagement they met with the Indians who lay in ambush at the north fork of the Catawba River. They had engagement with the Indians & defeated the Indians in which engagement, Captain White was killed together with several other privates, we killed fourteen Indians dead upon the ground. General Rutherford shortly after this engagement came on with his Brigade. We then joined General Rutherford then marched to levee towns then marched to Big Tellico towns. Met General Williamson's [Andre Williamson's] Army at Big Tellico but had been in hearing of General Williamson's Army when he fought the Indians before he reached the Tellico Towns, took some prisoners at Big Tellico Towns. Was marched back to Davidson's Fort, was then honorably but verbally discharged having served this tour no less than six months. “ Richard Crabtree W8642

 “the next tour of service was at the upper Fort on the Catawba where we were stationed for some time as a ranging company under Captain Reuben White who was killed in the Battle of the Fork the 11th July 1776 Colonel Carson acted as Ensign. The next tour of service was under General Rutherford who marched a considerable force to the Cherokee nation in the fall of the year 1776 when Colonel Carson – volunteered as a light horseman under Captain Bartley of Rowan County.” S/ Jonathan McPeters,

“marched as an Indian spie to Samuel Davidson's Fort on the fork of the Cautauber River [sic, Catawba River] he was Stationed at said Fort until July ((1776)) Insueing When abody of Indians drove the Spies from said Fort, they then retreated to Kathys Fort [sic, Cathey's Fort]. Stayed at Kathies Fort one night then retreated from Kathies Fort Met by the Indians at the north Fork of the Cautaber River had a battle with the Indians defeated the Indians Captain White was Killed in the battle, then marched to the quaker Meadows Fort, and was Stationed at the quaker Meadows Fort until reinforced by General Rutherford's army then marched up the Cautauber River to Davidson's Fort from Davidsons Fort marched with the Army as aspie through the Cherokee nation. “ Joseph McPeters W1303

 “My memory being impaired from age I cannot distinctly recollect dates, or state the years – but after our return from the Cross Creek Expedition the battle of the Fork as it was called was fought near the mouth of North Fork of Catawba River, where Captain Reuben White and a Mr. Shelton was killed – my being sent off to bury several persons who had been killed by the Indians just before the battle prevented my being there, but I arrived at the battle ground soon after the battle was fought. This is known to have taken place in the summer of the year 1776”. S/ Thomas Lytle, X his mark

 “I volunteered to serve in the forts of upon the Catawba to guard the Country against the Indians where I was stationed in those different forts from 6 to 9 months – Before being stationed in the Forts, the Indians broke out, killed & scalped several persons Captain Reuben White who had the command of some of the forts marched with his party & met the Indians at the mouth of the North fork of the Catawba River and there fought the battle of the Fork (as it is called) and where he bravely fell fighting. I arrived in time to see the close of the action and to see Captain White killed. During my being stationed in the forts (to wit) Catheys Fort, Davidson's or Upper Fort, and Warfford's Fort [Wofford's Fort] I frequently saw Colonel Carson performing the duties of a soldier but as well as I recollect in the Upper Fort he performed the most service  S/ Isaac Thompson

 Davidson’s Fort was evacuated July 1776, retook in fall of 1776. Therefore fort was up already before Rutherford came. I think we can honestly say that the fort was built prior to Rutherford’s arrival.


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