Old Fort


On the Kentucky Hills Opposite Madison

A PreHistoric Earthwork of the Indian 

 On the farm of Mrs. James Snyder in Trimble County, Ky., and at the head of Broadway Hollow, so called because it is directly across the Ohio river from Broadway in Madison, Indiana, is located a prehistoric fortification.  To a few people in the immediate vicinity this fortification is known as the Indian Fort, but to my knowledge it has never been described, although it is one of the most interesting remains of prehistoric people in all of that region.

 The hills in the vicinity of Madison are approximately 400 feet above the level of the Ohio River.  They are capped by the resistant Niagara and Clinton limestones, underlaid by the soft Hudson shale.  Hence bluffs and precipitous slopes are not infrequent.

 The fortification mentioned is situated about a half mile back from the bluffs and steep slopes facing the Ohio, and between two principal tributaries of the stream which occupies Broadway Hollow.  These streams have eroded deep but narrow valleys which, in the upper portions, are enclosed in part by perpendicular cliffs. 

The fortification is roughly triangular in shape and is bounded by cliffs some 75 feet high near the apex at the north end.  These cliffs become lower gradually as the south side of the fortification is approached.  At the southwest angle the height is still some 30 feet, while at the southeast angle the height of the cliff is at present no more than 8 or 10 feet.

 The neck of land between the 2 streams at the south was fortified by means of a stone and earth wall, with a ditch or moat on the outside.  The remains of the wall, except on the steeper slopes near the ends, form a mass of earth and stones, some 10 feet wide at the base and 3 or 4 feet high.  The ditch outside is still 6 or 8 feet wide and has a maximum depth of 2 or 3 feet below the original surface.  The wall was about 120 yards long and curved outwards.  The area of the fortification proper is about 1 and 1/3 acres, and as the site of the fort has never [!] been cleared of its forest growth, it is still covered with thick underbrush and small trees.

 The fortification is admirably located for the purpose of defense.  On 2 sides of the triangle it would be almost impossible for an enemy to enter the fort even if undefended, except, perhaps, at the southeast angle, where in all probability a supplemental wall was built.  The stone and earth wall across the neck may have been, and probably was, surmounted by a stockade, as was done in case of many of the prehistoric fortifications in Ohio.  There are, at present, however, no evidences of a stockade visible.

 Of the different kinds of prehistoric fortifications now known and recognized, viz., signal and observatory stations, stockade forts, hill forts, and stone forts, this one should probably be classified as a hill fort, and was intended as a place of retreat on the approach of an enemy.  The tribe or clan using the fort probably cultivated the fertile bottomlands near, and fled to the fort as occasion demanded. This fortification may have been used as an observatory and signal station also, but was not one of a series known to extend along either side of the Ohio, since from this point it is impossible to see or be seen from the Ohio at any distance up or down.  The site is an admirable one, however, for signaling across the headwater of Indian Ky. Creek, in Indiana, along which are found many evidences of prehistoric inhabitants.  There are no visible ash or charcoal remains in the vicinity of the fort, so the signal theory remains unproven. 


By Glenn Culbertson, originally in the Madison Courier, of August 19, 1912