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The John Garrison Rock House on Black Mountain
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Harlan’s County’s Big Black Mountain, whose elevation is a towering 4,145 feet, is home of Kentucky’s highest point. Big Black Mountain is a historic and grand coal mining mountain. Long before the mountain was exploited for it’s rich coal deposits, many settlers in the early days of Harlan County called the slopes of this vast mountain their home.
The rock formation here is locally known as the John Garrison Rock House on Black Mountain, and was used by Native Americans and early settlers as a dwelling and camp site. "Over the years, a number of people have come and gone as residents in or near the Rock House, perhaps taking temporary shelter there until their circumstances could afford better or more comfortable housing.
Many residents just came and went, but others left behind a tragic ending to their stay at the Rock House. One of the earliest tragic stories about the Rock House is told by Lawrence J. Fleenor, jr. in his book about Chief Bob Benge, titled “Benge”.
Mr. Fleenor tells the story as follows: “The valley of the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River is a narrow and winding affair, and sends up numerous hollows into the western flank of Black Mountain. In 1794 a family of Breedens was looking for land along the western slope of Black Mountain, and found a hollow which afforded easy passage from the valley floor to the top of the mountain. They found a natural rockhouse near the top, sitting just beside the trail. It is a large overhanging outcrop bulging from the steep slope of the mountain, and under it is a sizeable area where a family could take shelter from the elements.
Most conveniently there is a spring of fresh water flowing out from the back reaches of the shelter. These features are now called ‘The Indian Rock’ on the ‘Indian Fork of Breeden’s Creek’. One evening in the early spring, as shadows began to fall in the hollow, the family was gathered together in the vicinity of their rockhouse, when from one side of the hollow they heard an owl hoot, to be answered by a hoot from the other side. One of the family said, “Listen to those owls.”
Mr. Breeden said, “Owls, nothing, those are Indians!” The family ran for cover under the rockhouse, but Mr. Breeden ran in another direction and hid in a hollow log. The Indians, who were “part of Benge’s bunch”, that is probably the band lead by The Tail, killed all the family under the rockhouse. They then looked for Mr. Breeden. They had seen the direction that he had run in, but had not seen what had happened to him. They beat on the hollow log in which he was hiding with their tomahawks, but did not find him, and left."
Another story that I found interesting was that of a man named Zed Garrison. He lived here and kept large dogs, rifles and bow and arrows. He wasn't afraid of bears or anything wild. He lived many miles from any people or houses. I can imagine that he just wanted to be left alone and lived here as a hermit.
Source of information: (visit link)
The geocache is a clear container with a locking top marked as a geocache with an official sticker and a log book. The Rock House is located along Black Mountain Ridge Road in Harlan County, and is a local ATV riders destination, and there are several trails that will bring you here.
The easiest route to access Black Mountain Ridge Road to the Rock House is from Highway 160 near Kentucky's High Point and Radar Dome at the ATV trailer parking area near N 36° 54.891 W 082° 52.280. It's a unmaintained dirt road from here to the Rock House, and there are plenty of parking once you reach your destination.
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- Spoiler imageThe geocache is in this crack of the overhang on top of the rockhouse.
- The John Garrison Rock House on Black MountainEarly settlers moving west from Virginia traveled into Kentucky by what is known today as Gap Branch. Traveling a path west along the ridge of Big Black Mountain, the early pioneer found a rock cliff over hang which could produce meager shelter.
Last Updated: on 11/10/2017 1:56:23 PM (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada) (9:56 PM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum