A Mysterious Disappearance in Kentucky….

Many people know a little-bit about Kentucky and Kentucky History.  When I ask my friends what they know about Kentucky, they often mention the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Bourbon, Bluegrass Music, Daniel Boone and of course the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud.  But few people know that Kentucky is also home to the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains, Fort Harrod.  The Fort was founded in 1774, and is named after frontiersman and explorer James Harrod.  Located in Harrodsburg, just a short drive down the road from my little-piece of Kentucky property, the current Fort built in 1924 is a replica of the original.  When I’m in Kentucky, I pass the Fort regularly, but haven’t stopped in years.  Last week, I took advantage of a bright and sunny day to pay a visit.  The 20 degree temperature and gusty Winter-winds ensured that I was the only visitor at the Fort for the 2 hours I walked the grounds.  As I toured the Fort, I was especially impressed by the resourcefulness of the early inhabitants.  Many were experts in a wide-range of skills, including weaving, blacksmithing, butchery, carpentry and farming.  You know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention!  With no other alternatives available, the residents of the Fort were forced to learn the skills necessary to make life a little easier on the frontier!  James Harrod was one of those multi-faceted people, he was especially talented in hunting, fishing and trapping!  Born in Pennsylvania in 1746, Harrod’s life of adventure began at an early age when he volunteered for military service with “Captain Cochran’s Recruits” in 1760 at the age of 14.  He would later lead numerous expeditions to Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1770s.  Harrod first came to Kentucky to survey land promised to soldiers, like himself, of the French and Indian Wars.  He arrived by boat in 1774, with 37 other men, traveling first down the Ohio River, then up the Kentucky River and finally up the Salt River to the area that would eventually become the settlement.  I have kayaked on the Salt River numerous times and of interest to bourbon lovers, the “Salt River” provides the water to the “Four Roses Distillery.”  Even though life on the Fort was difficult, Harrod would eventually become a rich man, owning upwards of 20,000 acres across Kentucky.  This success was short-lived, in 1792, while on a “hunting” expedition, Harrod went missing and never returned to Fort Harrod!

There are 3 principle theories surrounding his disappearance,

One theory is that James Harrod was killed by indians or became ill and died in the wilderness?

Another theory is one of abandonment, that he left Fort Harrod to live with his “first” family he had before his days in Kentucky.  Some say his wife at the Fort had become “too friendly” with other men, forcing Harrod to take what was called a “frontiersman’s divorce” and just walk away!

Then there is the theory that Harrod was murdered!  Murdered by a fellow “hunter,” a man named Bridges.  Harrod’s family in Kentucky claimed that the men were not actually on a “hunting trip,” but were in fact on an expedition in search of a famous silver mine a man named Jonathan Swift had discovered years earlier.  Maybe they found the silver mine and since there is rarely honor among thieves, Bridges killed Harrod to get all the silver for himself?

A real “who done it”…..  for sure!

We will probably never know what happened to James Harrod almost 225 years ago…It would certainly make for an interesting episode of the popular program “Dateline.”  A visit to the Fort may not shed any new-light on Harrod’s disappearance, but if you are interested in early American History and want to see what life was like on the old-frontier, make sure you visit Fort Harrod and become a modern-day explorer of sorts!

The main-gate at Fort Harrod.
The 1924 replica of old Fort Harrod.
The inner courtyard of Fort Harrod.
A fireplace in one of the kitchens at the Fort.
A frontiersman’s bed at Fort Harrod.  Looks real “comfy.”

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I am an adventure-loving American man, with a severe case of wander-lust and a desire to experience as much of this wonderful world as humanly possible. Every place I have visited or lived has taught me something about life and helped me grow. For me, traveling opens my eyes to how similar the human race is, yet at the same time, how unique we all are. I hope this blog will motivate you to put down the TV remote, dust off your backpack and decide to take a chance on an adventure. It can be a walk in a new neighborhood 2 miles from home or a trip to a far off distant land. I have lived in or visited over 50 countries during my life and hope to see many more. I want to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the blog. -WAND3R3R, Somewhere on the Globe, 2014.