HOG MOUNTAIN - A group of archaeologists believe they have located the site of Fort Daniel, one of Georgia's oldest frontier forts. Until now, Fort Daniel has lived on in tradition only because no one ever documented its location.
For two centuries, local lore said that Fort Daniel, built circa 1813, was located in the Hog Mountain area near the intersection of Ga. Highways 124 and 324. Families who have lived in the area for generations and whose ancestors were stationed at Fort Daniel confirm the story.
A historical marker stands nearby and an elementary school is named for Fort Daniel. As the highest point for miles around, it really couldn't be anywhere else, said James D'Angelo of the Gwinnett Archaeological Research Society and director of the Fort Daniel investigations.
The land believed to be the site of the historic fort is up for sale. Archaeologists are trying to determine its history and possibly preserve the site.
Historians' research now shows that Fort Daniel was constructed to replace an existing fort deemed "poorly constructed" and "inadequate for defense" in a hand-written military letter dated October 1813. The letter gives detailed instructions regarding Fort Daniel's construction.
"The Fort Daniel site is a lot older than we thought," said Shannon Coffey, Fort Daniel project historian. "It was not the original fort, although no map is showing it. We are calling it Fort X."
Search for Fort Daniel
Fort Daniel was built in 1813 to protect the frontier from American Indians angry at the British during the War of 1812. Construction wrapped up in only two months, from October to December, more than likely by soldiers in a hurry to get shelter established before winter set in, Coffey said.
The fort was named for Maj. Gen. Allen Daniel and was garrisoned by the 25th regiment of the Georgia Militia. Fort Peachtree was constructed on the banks of the Chattahoochee River 30 miles away and Atlanta's Peachtree Road was built to connect the two forts, the historical marker says.
Almost two centuries later, in 1978, Ann Grant bought 4 shady acres and built a house on Hog Mountain's highest point. The property was a former farm that had been subdivided into tracts.
"I always knew it was back in there somewhere," Grant said, gesturing toward the grassy area where for years she grew a vegetable garden. "My son dug up a pair of brass knuckles once," she said.
Nevertheless, the dozens of people armed with metal detectors who scoured Grant's homesite in 95-degree temperatures Aug. 18 came up with some exciting finds. If Fort Daniel itself was not on the site, something else was, D'Angelo said.
"We have confirmed the existence of a structure built from the 1790s to 1815," D'Angelo said.
Researchers found three mini-musket balls, several British-made copper alloy buttons that could be either civilian or military, numerous bits of bottle glass, ceramic and crockery from the period and lots of hand-wrought nails.
"We found nothing uniquely military, but it is from the time period and consistent with a fort," D'Angelo said.
Archaeologists will study the property into September. An investigation using ground penetrating radar to search below ground for pits, posts or wells was planned for this weekend.
Possible site for sale
When D'Angelo began researching the site, the property was under contract for commercial development. That contract fell through, and the property is once again for sale at $150,000 per acre, D'Angelo said, but Grant is enthusiastic about seeing the site preserved. If it holds archaeological significance, a group of private individuals have expressed an interest in purchasing the four acres, D'Angelo said.
About 300 forts housed Georgia soldiers between frontier days and the Civil War D'Angelo said. Some are preserved as state and national parks, such as Fort Pulaski in Savannah.
Gwinnett County's Department of Parks and Recreation officials said the government would have to consider several factors, including cash flow, before buying the property.
"It is not currently on any of our lists of properties to be considered, but if the opportunity came up we would take a look at it and see," Parks and Recreation Project Administration Director Grant Guess said. "We don't have any money sitting around to buy something like that. Access is an issue, and we would look at what other facilities could be put there, like bathrooms and parking."