Fort Hawkins, the birthplace of MaconBibb County, continues to make history at the site of the early American fort and frontier. The Fort Hawkins Commission has been dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich heritage found at the historic site off Emery Highway, just a stones throw away from downtown Macon and the Ocmulgee National Monument. The commission partnered with the Maj. Philip Cook Chapter of the United States Daughters of 1812 with the dedication of a War of 1812 bicentennial historic marker to remember and honor the forts importance during the Second War of Independence.
As both U.S. Army and Georgia militia headquarters during the War of 1812, Fort Hawkins was one of the most significant sites in the Southeast during this dramatic time in American history. When first established in 1806, the fort was the actual frontier of America with the Muscogee Creek Nation located on the west side of the Ocmulgee River. By 1812, the fort was playing a major leadership role in the successful defense of our new nation, the settling of the southeastern frontier and the developing of the first federal road in the country, which all led to the founding of Macon in 1822-1823.
Todays historic site continues to celebrate its grand heritage with a variety of year-round educational and patriotic public programs as well as diverse community events. It proudly flies the 15-star, 15-stripe Star-Spangled Banner, as does the more renowned Fort McHenry. It was just the beginning of a proud military tradition in Middle Georgia and the beginning of Every Day Is Armed Forces Appreciation Day In Middle Georgia. Recent developments have made this mission more exciting as new history has been made at the old fort.
Due to the generous support of the Peyton Anderson Foundation, the much-needed archaeological research has been conducted over the past several years, revealing a more significant and substantial Fort Hawkins than ever known. This research allowed the Fort Hawkins Master Plan to be developed that revealed the actual shape and dimensions of the fort for the first time since the early 19th century. This research further revealed the need for much more archaeology at the fort, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site.
This research has led to the rebuilding of part of the fort. The research grant allowed for a portion of the palisade wall to be recreated in a demonstration of how the original 10-foot-tall wall would have been constructed more than 200 years ago. The southwest corner of the fort has been re-created, a sight that has not been seen at Fort Hawkins since the 1820s. This successful rebuilding should lead to more of the palisade wall being reconstructed, thus further defining the real fort.
The Fort Hawkins Commission is an all volunteer, non-funded, nonprofit, mayor-appointed, official civic commission that has been meeting once a month since 1990, depending on financial support from local grants and the Friends of Fort Hawkins.
The commission is most thankful that local voters approved and included Fort Hawkins in the last SPLOST. Our handsome log cabin visitor center is under construction on Emery Highway, allowing for more history to be made. The new visitor center, to be completed in early 2014, will help the commission serve the visiting public and the sites impressive history even better.
We are extremely proud of the new Macon-Bibb County seal, and we would like to thank Mayor Robert Reichert and Fort Hawkins Commission Chairman Mike Cranford for their leadership in honoring Fort Hawkins on the new seal. We also thank the new Macon-Bibb County commissioners who voted unanimously to adopt this handsome and historical official seal. Our own dedication and hard work in preserving and promoting the rich heritage of our shared birthplace, Fort Hawkins, helped make this new history.
We have opened the fort site to the public on weekends for the past three years. The historic site is open every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., with no admission charge and tours of the three-story 1930s blockhouse replica and the archaeological dig site. The new visitor center will allow the Fort Hawkins Commission to expand and improve its educational and patriotic programming while providing more public opportunities to appreciate and participate in the sites living history experience.
While the commission is proud of its past and present accomplishments, the future of Fort Hawkins is even more exciting. You may follow our amazing developments on our Facebook page, on our official website, www.forthawkins.com, and by visiting the historic site. We will make more history to be sure, and it will be a fun and rewarding learning experience for everyone. However, Fort Hawkins will make you prouder to call Middle Georgia and the USA your home.
Marty Willett is the Fort Hawkins Commissions press officer and project coordinator. He lives in Macon.