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Old Stone Fort State Park

Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park consists of two discontiguous parcels of land along the Duck River west of the town of Manchester in Coffee County, Tennessee. Human occupation of the park dates back to at least ca. 6000 BCE, at which time the region was home to small, mobile bands of Native Americans. Over subsequent millennia the land saw the construction of ancient Native American earthworks, historic industries, and Civil War troop movements. Historic Euro-American interest in preservation of the area was piqued not only by the ancient ruins of the Old Stone Fort itself, but also by recreational opportunities afforded in waterfalls and pools along the Duck River. Together these natural and cultural features combined to attract both locals and visitors, and embed the area as a focal point within the early development of Manchester. In his thesis on the Old Stone Fort Park, Hobart Akin writes:

In 1911, the owner of the site, Frances [Fannie] H. Wooton, entertained the idea of selling the land to the State of Tennessee in an effort to turn the property into a game preserve. Later, her descendants, resisting efforts by developers from outside Manchester, pursued advancement of the site as a place for contemplation of the prehistoric past and for outdoor recreation. They consulted with representatives from the Department of the Interior and political figures in efforts to see the site become part of the National Park System.

While efforts to incorporate the property into the National Park System would not prove fruitful, the Wooton descendants attracted the attention of the State of Tennessee. Plans to develop the area into a State Park were formalized in April of 1966, with the purchase of 466 acres of what was by then the Chumbley estate (named after Wooton’s Grandson, John Chumbley) by the Tennessee Department of Conservation.

The historic centerpiece of the park is site 40CF1, the Old Stone Fort. This ancient Native American earthwork enclosure overlooks the confluence of the Duck and Little Duck Rivers, and originates in the Middle Woodland period of regional prehistory (ca. 100 BCE – 500 CE). During the eighteenth through mid-twentieth centuries the origins of the earthworks presented an enigma to scholars and visitors, leading to speculation that the site was constructed by Spanish explorers, ancient giants, Norse, Welsh, Romans, and the Lost Tribe of Israel, among others. Early interpretations of the site often focused on the possibility that the raised walls, position on the landform, and associated canal to the south presented the remnants of defensive fortifications. No archaeological evidence identified to date supports these interpretations, and today the site is understood to present an ancient Native American ritual enclosure.

For more information on the site, including activities offered and trail maps, please see the state parks page: https://tnstateparks.com/parks/old-stone-fort