Submitted by Jim D’Angelo
GARS and FDF efforts at the Fort Daniel site in Gwinnett County have finally paid off. On December 21, 2012, Gwinnett County closed on the 4.5-acre tract within which the entire fort site is situated. The County shall, in turn, lease the property to the Fort Daniel Foundation, where it will be responsible for developing both the land and an educational outreach program. Details of the lease agreement are being worked out, and it is expected that the Foundation will assume its responsibilities by the end of March.
The Gwinnett Archaeological Research Society has been conducting historic research and archaeology investigations at the early 19th century site since the Summer of 2007. The Fort Daniel Foundation, an outgrowth of the Friends of Fort Daniel, was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2010. Prior to that, in 2009, the site was placed on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Places in Peril list. Soon after that, The Friends of Fort Daniel were awarded a matching grant from the GTHP and, with a generous match from the Atlanta-based landscape architectural firm of jB+a, were able to produce master plan for an archaeological research park that would preserve the historic site and provide for on-going educational outreach, particularly to students.
Jim D’Angelo, who is both the archaeological advisor for GARS and the site archaeologist at Fort Daniel, points out that several students from local schools have had the opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn something about archaeology and about Fort Daniel’s connection with our frontier history and the Creek Indian War. These schools include Fort Daniel Elementary School, Twin Rivers Middle School, Georgia Gwinnett College, and Georgia State University.
“It is important to not only involve these students,” says D’Angelo, “but to involve them with their teachers and professional archaeologists. We are happy to say that several Georgia archaeologists are participating, some of whom are also members of GARS and/or the Foundation. These would include: Siska Williams (DOT archaeologist), Leslie Perry (President of GARS and SGA VP), Catherine Long (SGA and GARS past-President), Garrett Silliman (FDF Board member), Scot Keith (GCPA President), Ken Johnson (GGC Anthropology Professor), and Jeff Glover (GSU Anthropology Professor). “Of course,” D’Angelo adds, “by now we have several members who have become quite proficient with archaeological method and historical research!”
“We have been especially blessed,” says D’Angelo, “in that the property owner, Mrs. Ann Grant, has graciously allowed us access to her ‘back yard,’ not only to dig it up, but to hold several public events like our popular 2-day Frontier Faire where upwards of 350 visitors have traipsed up her driveway and past her house to the site. If it were not for all that, I doubt we could have convinced anyone that the preservation and development of this site was important.”
The JB+a park plan anticipates a larger tract of about 15 acres, and Foundation members are hoping that the owners on the two sides of Ann Grant tract and the County can come to an agreement in the not-to-distant future. But for now, the Foundation will have its hands full just developing the Grant tract and growing its educational outreach program.