Lisa O’Steen searches for early Georgia fort in Oconee County.
Grant will fund dig at Oconee site || OnlineAthens.com
By Erin France, May 10, 2011
An archaeologist will use grant funding this year to pay for investigating what may be the remains of a fort along the Oconee River east of Watkinsville.
The Watson Brown Foundation Athens’ Junior Board of Trustees recently awarded Athens Land Trust a $6,250 grant for an archaeological study of a site near the Oconee River and Barnett Shoals Road that some experts believe once housed a fort on the border between United States territory and Native American lands.
Archaeologist Lisa O’Steen likely will launch the study this summer, though much of the work could wait until fall and winter after the area’s heavy vegetation dies off, said Nancy Stangle, the Athens Land Trust’s executive director.
“We’re glad it’s happening now,” Stangle said.
O’Steen will explore the site and likely will find artifacts from both early Georgian settlers and Native Americans, she said.
Stangle’s also curious about the fort’s name, she said.
The ruins could be Fort Matthews or Fort Henry – there’s not enough evidence to prove either name at this time, she said.
“We have the additional mystery that we are trying to solve with which fort it was,” Stangle said.
The property owner, Celestea Sharp, also is curious about the name and history behind the fort, and already has agreed to help preserve found artifacts as well as the site, she said.
Sharp directed and distributed “Carving Up Oconee,” a documentary about grassroots activism in development issues. She’s also written a book about the history of Oconee County’s town of Bishop.
“Having her historical expertise … it’s just an excellent asset to the project,” Stangle said.
Junior board of trustees member Glenn Reece toured the site and was impressed with Athens Land Trust’s enthusiasm for the project, he said.
“It shows that they’re really interested and they really care about what they’re trying to get money for,” Reece said.
Reece is a junior at Monsignor Donovan Catholic High School, and this is his second year on the junior board of trustees, he said.
Board members sometimes disagree about which projects they should fund, but most members agreed about funding the archaeological study, he said.
“It’s hard to divvy up who gets what because we’re on a limited budget,” Reece said.
This is the second time the Athens Land Trust received the grant, said Shannon Hayes, the junior board of trustees’ adviser.
“The original grant would have gone through with no problems, but the property owner (at the time) decided to put the property up for sale,” said Hayes, who also works as the program coordinator at the T.R.R. Cobb House in Athens.
Members awarded the grant in 2008, then took the money back when the archaeological study wasn’t completed, she said. Sharp bought the land after that and OK’d the study.