The United State Department of the Interior placed the Fort Hawkins Archaeological Site on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as a significant national archaeological site. The National Register’s official statement of significance and description of the site states:
“For almost half a century, Macon children have frolicked on a school playground unaware that, only a short distance below their feet, the ground retained evidence of Fort Hawkins, established in 1806, as frontier fort and Indian trading center or “factory” by the federal government. Nearby, stands a replica of the original southeastern blockhouse, erected by the Nathaniel Macon Chapter of the D.A.R. in 1937-38.Faithful in design form, if not material, the replica is located on the original blockhouse foundation, as verified by archaeologist Gordon R. Willey in 1936. Subsequent archaeological investigation in 1971 revealed evidence, which indicates that the original fort encompassed an area of approximately 1-˝ acres.Historical descriptions of the fort indicate that the fort had two blockhouses, on diagonal corners, and enclosed by a stockade of hewn timber.There were portholes for a musket in every alternate post . . .”
“Constructed in 1806, Fort Hawkins, was built under the direction and named for Benjamin Hawkins, United State Senator from North Carolina, who was as an Indian Affairs Agent very instrumental in dealings between the Government and the Creek Indians during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Fort Hawkins was designed as a trading center and for negotiations with the Creek Indians.By 1820, the fort’s primary military and trading function had been served and the fort was the center of a settlement, which was to become the city of Macon.As a frontier fort, Fort Hawkins was an instrument of national policy in the earlier nineteenth century and later became the impetus for development of the city of Macon.”
In 1993, Fort Hawkins was once again listed on the National Register of Historic Places by being part of the Fort Hill Historic District.The East Macon Historic District was also placed on the National Register in 1993, and although the district does not officially include the fort, there is a large sign on Main Street in East Macon welcoming everyone to the “Fort Hawkins Neighborhood, the Birthplace of Macon.” Today the 1930’s replica blockhouse is eligible for its individual inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and that effort should be pursued to honor the replica’s creation despite the “unfaithful materials.”Those dubious materials proved perfect due to the severe lack of regular maintenance of the blockhouse structure over the years.The blockhouse replica has become a major icon in Macon culture appearing in many community logos and even the Macon City Flag, but nevertheless has detracted from the public discovering the real Fort Hawkins.
Furthermore, the historical role of Benjamin Hawkins in the American Revolution and the new American Republic, as well as his close association with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, has often been overlooked.His work with
Native Americans was much more far reaching than the Creeks, being the Principal Indian Agent of all land south of the Ohio River and being called the “Beloved Man of Four Nations”- by the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Creek.His journals and letters provide a window into the early American frontier in the southern wilderness as he traveled throughout the Southeast and operated his Creek Agency on the Flint River.
Due to Benjamin Hawkins’ leadership, no military confrontations occurred at Fort Hawkins, although its military importance is documented in the War of 1812, the ensuing Creek Wars, and then the Seminole Wars.The growth of the U.S. Army and the spread of the American frontier are clearly evidenced at Fort Hawkins, and this concept of Manifest Destiny made the fort obsolete in rapid fashion.
The fort’s trading functions were moved to Fort Mitchell, Alabama in 1815 and army functions moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas by 1819, well before the opening of the Ocmulgee River western side in 1821. The village of Fort Hawkins that sprung up around the fort in 1806 and called Newtown in 1819, would provide the economic foundation for the successful birthing and flourishing of Macon, Georgia in 1823 on the western side of the Ocmulgee.
The actual physical location of the Fort Hawkins site is of supreme importance.
When the Muscogee Creek Nation ceded their land by treaty in 1805 from the Oconee to Ocmulgee River, a sacred 5-mile by 3-mile swath along the river, known as the “Old Fields”, was maintained by the Creeks on the eastern side of the Ocmulgee.Fort Hawkins was allowed to be constructed on the highest hill of these sacred “Old Fields” no doubt due to Benjamin Hawkins’ “beloved” nature.This is also provided a very strategic fort vantage point overlooking the Lower Creek Trading Path into the Muscogee Creek Nation westward, which became the first Federal Road in America in 1806 (Appendix I).Although the Creeks gave up their “right” to the Old Fields in the Treaty of 1821, they still maintain that this is where their ancestors “first sat down” and today part of the Old Fields is preserved at the Ocmulgee National Monument, which is just across the street from the fort.
The site’s formal recognition was furthered in 2007 when the Fort Hawkins Commission and Georgia Historical Society sponsored and funded the erection of a Fort Hawkins State Historical Marker on the site.The marker’s text reads:
“Fort Hawkins was established at this site in 1806 on the eastern bank of the Ocmulgee River at the border of the Muscogee Creek Nation.The location was chosen by the fort’s namesake, Benjamin Hawkins, who served as the U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs South of the Ohio River from 1796-1816.Located along the old Federal Road linking the Georgia frontier to ports at Mobile and New Orleans, the fort served as a military supply point and a frontier trading post.The fort was decommissioned in 1828 as the frontier moved further west.The replica southeast blockhouse was erected by the Nathaniel Macon Chapter N.S.D.A.R.
in 1937-1938.The community that developed around the fort would eventually become the city of Macon.”
The historical significance of Fort Hawkins has been well attested by a myriad of published accounts from its earliest days with U.S. Army records, individual letters and family histories.One of the earliest accounts of Fort Hawkins was in John C. Butler’s, Historical Record of Macon and Central Georgia, published in 1879. Despite being fraught with errors, as known by historians since then, it became the mainstay of Fort Hawkins information on into the 20th century.
Although various histories have added to the scope of information about Fort Hawkins (Appendix II), the recent archaeological research has finally documented the definitive history of the fort.These revelations have created this site development plan and rekindled interest and enthusiasm in the real Fort Hawkins.