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Fort celebration gives glimpse of days gone by
Civil War skirmish re-enactment among activities at Hollingsworth White House
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Fort Yargo Living History Society member Juanita Alexander stirs an iron kettle of handmade brunswick stew cooking over a wood fire at the annual Fort Day sponsored by Friends of the Fort. - photo by Alexander Popp

Twenty-five miles outside of Gainesville stands a house with a past.

Surrounded on all sides by towering pine trees and weathered rough wood outbuildings, to an unobservant traveler The Fort Hollingsworth White House might seem like nothing more than a rustic remnant.

But for the White family and Civil War era historians, the Fort might be one of the last untouched pieces of history left in Georgia.

Fort Hollingsworth was built in 1793. It originally protected Georgia pioneers from a local tribe of Cherokees and is listed as a National and State historic place. 

“This is the only original pioneer fort left in the state of Georgia,” Willette White said, “It’s a miracle it hasn’t burned.”

White’s family has owned and protected the property since the end of the Civil War, and she herself was born in the house, living there until she graduated high school.

White’s family and nonprofit Friends of the Fort operates the property as a free museum, and each year they hold an annual Fort Day, to celebrate the rich history of the North Georgia area and educate people on the importance of historical landmarks like Fort Hollingsworth.

“I hope that the most important takeaway from today is history,” White said. “Everything has a history, and years down the road, it will be more important than it is today.”

This weekend marked the 21st annual Fort Day celebration at Fort Hollingsworth. Over the two days visitors were treated to food, live gospel music, living history exhibits and a Civil War skirmish re-enactment.

The living history exhibits at the events were provided by a collection of historical groups from across the South, including The Northeast Georgia Living Historians, The Fort Yargo Living History Society and The Georgia Volunteer Battalion, giving the event a mixture of perspectives from different time periods and lifestyles. 

Some historical re-enactors like Northeast Georgia Living Historians Founder Ronda Reno, were born into the community, growing up surrounded by friends and family. Others like Atha Dalton, an Alto local, slowly found their way into the community after years spent as a spectator. But both Reno and Dalton agree that their time spent doing re-enactments is time well spent.

“We do this because we have a love of history,” said Dalton. “You study, and you study, and you do everything you can to understand the way of life and the thought processes of people. And you replicate that, so people can get a better understanding of what really happened in history.”

According to Dalton, the flaw in many histories is that they gloss over the people in them.Living history exhibits and re-enactments give those people a face.

“You don’t hear about this in history books. You don’t read about this in history books,” Dalton said, motioning to the camp of costumed people around her. “History tends to focus on facts and dates, but it was the people who made history interesting.”

For more information about visiting Fort Hollingsworth visit them online at forthollingsworth-whitehouse.com.