History of Fort Defiance

William Lenoir

Engraving of William Lenoir taken from a pencil sketch, the only known drawing done from life.

Fort Defiance, named for a frontier fort that stood nearby, was the 18th century home designed by William Lenoir for his growing family. Construction began in 1788, with William Lenoir overseeing every step of the building process. He completed building the home in 1792.  Every aspect of the home was designed and constructed under the watchful eye of William.  From the rounded edge of the shingles to the bricks used in the “Winter Kitchen”. Each design had a purpose from function to aesthetics.






Fort Defiance - looking off front porch



Having received  a certificate to teach school at the age of 18, he calculated his school teacher’s salary would not be enough to raise his young family on. William Lenoir elected to  apprentice with a surveyor in 1772, thus learning the art of surveying and was certified in 1773. This would bring him to the North Carolina frontier. He began buying up large amounts of land in the area and quickly fell in love with the land, moving his family here just prior to the Revolutionary War in 1775. He settled first in Fisher’s Creek (present day Wilkesboro), then moved into a 2 room log cabin in Happy Valley on Buffalo Creek (approx. 1 mile west of present day Fort Defiance) and finally into his mansion in 1792 where he spent his remaining years. The home was occupied by the Lenoir Family from 1792 until 1961 when the site was signed over as a historic property.

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