Historic Fort York Preserved

It is with the greatest pride that The Land Trust for Central North Carolina announces the preservation of one of North Carolina’s most significant historic sites. This project is one that has been in the making for 20 years – since the first months of the founding of this organization. “The Fort York site was identified in 1995 as one of the most important historic sites in our region, and has remained at the top of our list of highest priority potential acquisition tracts,” explains Executive Director Crystal Cockman. Thanks to private funding and a grant from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, The LandTrust was able to purchase the site in July of 2015.

Chris Watford, left, leads a tour of the Fort York site where one of the last Confederate victories of the Civil War was won. File photo from the Salisbury Post.

Fort York was the site of one of the last Confederate victories of the Civil War. Although the war had technically ended three days prior, the Confederate troops guarding the rail bridge over the Yadkin River had not received word of the surrender. General Stoneman of the Union, in his well-documented raid across western North Carolina at the end of the “War Between the States,” came to Salisbury to free captured Union soldiers held in the Confederate prison. After torching many buildings in Salisbury for more than a day, he marched westward to take the rail bridge over the Yadkin River. Confederate soldiers, under the leadership of Zebulan York, fought valiantly on the afternoon of April 12, 1865 to prevent the destruction of this bridge – an economic lifeline to the western and southern part of the state, and all points in the Southeast.

The fort consisted of a system of small artillery batteries connected by rifle-trenches for infantry. What remains of the site today is probably half of the original fort, the remainder having been destroyed by three generations of road-building on three sides of the property. Today an “inner line” includes about 720 feet of infantry trenches and three artillery batteries. An “outer line” includes about 1155 feet of trenches and four batteries. These earthworks are in remarkable shape after being left in a natural state by previous owners who valued history. “There is arguably no more important Civil War landmark left unprotected in the western part of North Carolina,” Cockman states.

This site fits into a patchwork of other historic areas nearby. From Native American use of the Trading Ford just below the Fort, to the crossing of Nathaniel Greene’s troops about 1/2 mile south as they escaped the pursuit of Cornwallis’ men, to the exploits of Daniel Boone who hiked and canoed all around this site, to the Civil War skirmish outlined above, to the Industrial Revolution’s impact of roads and factories and power plants adjacent, truly the story of America can be told from the high bluff overlooking the Yadkin River at this site.

The LandTrust has secured the funding needed to purchase the approximately 12.5 acres of property along the banks of the Yadkin River and Interstate 85 in Davidson County that houses approximately half of the historic Civil War fort used to protect the Yadkin River Rail Bridge. This funding includes a short-term loan while we work out the details with the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund to obtain the grant funds dedicated to the project.

The LandTrust is working with a consortium of interested parties (Davidson County, Davidson Historical Society, Historic Trading Ford Association, Davidson County Tourism and Recreation Investment Partnership, the Town of Spencer, NC DOT, NC Department of Cultural Resources, and others) to secure, interpret, and conserve the historic site in perpetuity. Ultimately, the site will be opened to the public for educational purposes and, along with other significant historic sites in the region, will be promoted as a historic and recreational tourist destination. Donations can still be made towards this project to The LandTrust for Central NC at 204 East Innes Street, Suite 280, Salisbury NC  28144.

*For more information about this project, please contact The LandTrust at 704-647-0302 or crystal@landtrustcnc.org.

©2012 The LandTrust for Central North Carolina | 204 East Innes Street, Suite 280, Salisbury, NC 28144 | Phone: 704.647.0302 | website design by LeGa Design Group