Stepping into Old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, Kentucky is like taking a step back into Colonial times. While not original, it’s a full scale replica of the original fort build in 1774 by James Harrod. When Fort Harrod was constructed, Kentucky was a dangerous frontier. This didn’t stop the pioneers from swarming into the settlement and soon the town of Harrodsburg, the oldest town in Kentucky, was formed. Today, the twenty-two acre park includes the reconstructed fort, the Mansion Museum, the Pioneer Cemetery and the Lincoln Marriage Temple.
Provided with a self-guided tour map, we began to work our way around the village, where workers dressed in period costume demonstrated how to make crafts exactly as they did in the Colonial Period. We stopped in the cabin where we learned the fascinating history of the use of rag dolls in the Wilderness. Because the fort was located on sacred Native American hunting ground, it sometimes came under attack. Men were often away from home, hunting or working, leaving the women and children alone. If the settlers were attacked, they would hide as best they could. To keep the young children quite and keep from being discovered, they would pull out the doll and allow the children to play. When the threat was over the doll was taken away and placed back in safe keeping so it did not lose its novelty.
The fort also describes the life of the Native Americans surrounding the fort with an encampment outside of the fort showing a typical dwelling for the summer and one for the winter. We also received a fascinating explanation of how the nursery rhyme “Rock A Bye Baby” was written. The Native Americans were also fearful of attack from settlers and the military. They placed their babies on cradle boards and hung them from trees. The babies learned no one would respond to their cries and soon stopped, helping keep the people safe from discovery. The writer saw the babies tied to the boards and gently being rocked to sleep by the breezes and a rhyme was born.
A short walk down the hill from the fort is the Lincoln Marriage Temple, the cabin where Abraham Lincoln’s parents were married. The cabin is located inside a lovely brick building and once inside, you can see his parents’ signatures on the wall of the cabin.
Across from the cabin is the Mansion Museum, dedicated to Civil War history. We could not take pictures inside the mansion, but the downstairs includes the Blue Room, dedicated to the Union and the Gray Room, dedicated to the South. Upstairs includes family memorabilia, different weapons used in the Civil War and more. The tour is self guided, but workers are available to answer questions.
When you have finished visiting Old Fort Harrod, take a few minutes to stroll through the Harrodsburg Historic District and visit their Arts Council. Local artists bring works of art, jewelry and other hand made items for sale and the cost is very reasonable. I snagged a hand crafted beaded bracelet for only seven dollars. You can learn more by visiting http://www.harrodsburgky.com/.