Spies of Fort Harrod

With John Curry

Historic Background



Many thrilling incidents from the pages of our American history are notable — deserving to be commemorated and quite often — recreated. Nonetheless, every once in a blue moon, we run across something that sounds more like a multi-million dollar, made-for-Hollywood, movie script than it does an actual, real-life, historic occurrence. Renowned patriot, George Rogers Clark, along with the bold and daring spies of Fort Harrod, played a pivotal role in one such remarkable backwoods drama, straight from the darkest days of the American Revolution.

Surprisingly, near the end of the year 1776, the much besieged frontier settlements of Kentucky were essentially, out of gunpowder. Departing for Williamsburg, Va., Clark left his headquarters (located in the southeastern blockhouse of Fort Harrod) with an abbreviated “wish list.”

The old southwestern, colonial-era frontier stood in serious want of many things. Their nearly complete lack of gunpowder however, was about to destroy them.

Made aware of Kentucky’s precarious position, Gov. Patrick Henry formally notified Virginia’s executive council. Western Kentucky University professor of history, Lowell H. Harrison tells us: “Obtaining a favorable letter from the governor, Clark appeared before the executive council and requested 500 pounds of powder for the defense of Kentucky. His argument that the western settlements could not survive without it was accepted by the councilors... Shortly thereafter, Clark and Gabriel Jones were instructed to make their way north to Fort Pitt. Once arrived, they were to present Virginia’s official, written note to the commanding officer and thereby, claim their critically needed powder. At Fort Pitt, the pair recruited a small group of men to assist them in transporting said black powder down the Ohio and then up the wild Kentucky to Fort Harrod.

With nameless, faceless, unidentified Tories on all sides, conveniently disguised as patriots and no skulking Indians lounging about, feigning friendship; both the British and their hostile Native cohorts were in fact, well aware of this upcoming, desperate maneuver. Doubtless, young Clark’s every move was being subtly observed and critiqued by the enemy. Still, Clark was not a man to be easily predicted or out-foxed.

Inconspicuously slipping away from Fort Pitt, cloaked by the dead of night, into the massive, half-frozen, Ohio River, Clark’s little band silently began their long, journey downstream unobserved. Five hundred pounds of high quality, rifle-grade gunpowder in tow and the success or failure of Kentucky resting squarely on their shoulders, one can only imagine the tremendous responsibilities they surely must have felt.

Swiftly making their way down the big river, Clark and his companions were forced to play a chilling game of “cat-and-mouse” amidst numerous bands of determined Indian war parties. At that point, Harrison laments: “As they neared Limestone Creek on the Kentucky shore, Clark decided that they were about to be overtaken. Unwilling to run the risk of losing his cargo, he buried the powder in several spots and continued downstream for a few miles before abandoning the boats.”

Scrambling back down to Fort Harrod a bit before New Years Day of 1777, I always imagine Clark must have told the besieged settlers: “Well folks, I’ve got some good news and bad news. Good news is, Virginia gave us all the black powder we asked for. Bad news? I had to bury it up on the Ohio River — over 100 miles away.”

Nevertheless, and not to be denied so crucial a necessity; professor Harrison happily observes: “A week later, James Harrod and 30 riflemen recovered the powder ...” Once again, the stouthearted spies of Fort Harrod come through to save the day, relocating their expertly hidden cache — securing all that precious gunpowder and bringing it safely back to Fort Harrod through miles and miles of hostile, Indian-infested wilderness. Then rapidly and thoughtfully distributing it out among the various other hard-pressed Kentucky forts and stations. A perilous, difficult job well done — a potential catastrophe narrowly averted.

2016 Clarks Powder Run

Spies of Fort Harrod Today

Today, the "Spies of Fort Harrod", in group, visit the actual physical locations on the ground around Mercer County where significant historical events occurred!

While visiting the site, John Curry tells the story of the historical significance of that site. The schedule will be posted on this website.

The last Spies event was Clarks Powder Run on January 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm starting at Old Fort Harrod. The next event will be in April 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm called the "Grand Council". Gather around a huge fire inside the Fort and listen while important, 18th century frontier figures such as Black Fish, James Harrod, Simon Girty, William Whitley, Captain Pike, Benjamin Logan, Dragging Canoe, Nonhelema, Anne Pogue McGinty, and Esther Whitley air their grievances and directly question their antagonists.

The Spies are also gearing up for their Shawnee Run Event on November 4, 2017.

If you would like to join the "Spies of Fort Harrod" or for more information, contact John Curry at boone1773@yahoo.com

Spies of Fort Harrod

John Curry
Tommy Barnett
Larry Catlett
Andakwa Will
Steve Genglebach
Ron Turner
Gary Brooks
Michelle DeEsche
Tim Goldman
Steve Welch
Jerry Gilreath
Mike Miller
Henry Behr
John Bramel
Dwight Gallian
Jesse DeEsche
David Coleman
Jill Cutler
Mary Barlow
Patty Hall

Terrell Bryant

Byron Teater

Original Spies of Harrodstown

Squire Boone
Simon Kenton
William Whitley
Ben Logan
William Poague
James Ray
Hugh McGary
William Clinkenbeard
Jacob Wetzel
George Rogers Clark
Gabriel Slaughter
James Harrod
Bowman and McGowan families
And Many Others

2015 Clarks Powder Run

2014 Clarks Powder Run

2016 Grand Council

2020 Schedule of Events

More Park Information

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