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The John Garrison Rock House on Black Mountain
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Manville Possum
N 36° 54.063 W 082° 56.064
17S E 327652 N 4085642
Quick Description: 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.
Location: Kentucky, United States
Date Posted: 5/21/2017 9:50:23 AM
Waymark Code: WMVR20
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member lumbricus
Views: 5

Long Description:
Early 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. Today this location is known as the "Rock House". There is a primitive cemetery nearby, known as the Garrison family cemetery. Just beyond this cemetery the path forks. Facing west the fork to the left is known as the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River and the path to the right is known as the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River.

Today, the walls of the Rock House are covered with graffiti, spray painted, scratched or chipped into the rock. Leaving a name on the walls of the Rock House is, however, not a sign of modern times. Those passing by the Rock House for over 200 hundred years have left a name, a date or other comments as evidenced from the following article published in the Big Stone Gap Post in 1902.

Visit to The John Garrison Rock House on Black Mountain
Correspondence of the Big Stone Gap Post
Crab Orchard, VA., May 12, 1902

“M. V. Worley and R. P. Morris, the Interstate Investment Company’s drilling men have been exploring the Big Black Mountain last week as they had a little wheel to the drilling machine broke and had to wait on a repair. They report as follows. They visited the John Garrison rock house on top of Big Black Mountain and took the following names engraven in the rock and dates of names, viz: James Russell, 1801; John Murphy, 1801; Mathias Tuckls, 1802; Polly Sutton, 1804; John Britton, 1814; Henry Farley, 1821; John Larkey, 1804; Samuel Powel, 1806; Peter Trett, 1821; Lewis Dutton, 1816. They saw many other names of later dates and many other curiosities in this famous Rock House.”

An article published in the Harlan Daily Enterprise, dated 31 March 1999, gives a few additional early inscriptions on the walls of the Rock House. The earliest inscription recorded is “C.A.S. 1739-901”. It is thought that this person may have been an early engineer who surveyed Black Mountain. A few other early inscriptions were Winston Huff, 1826; John Bailey, 1826; M. Baugh, 1801; Levi Shepherd, 1821.

Others found the Rock House more than just a place to camp and turned the cliff over hang into a crude home or a livestock barn, thus the name, Rock House. The presence of a natural spring behind the rock shelter made this location even more accommodating to those seeking shelter. Beulah Bobrosky described how the rock over hang was turned into a house in her book, “Leather Britches”, as follows:

“The rock formed a three sided room leaving the front to be enclosed. Another rock formation was used to keep the stock, enclosed with wooden poles. It was referred to as Garrison Gap or the Rock House.“

Regarding some of the people that lived in the Rock House, Beulah Bobrosky adds:

“After talking to a number of older citizens, I learned that Alph Blair was the first family to live there in the Rock House. He was the great grandfather of Alto Blair. ... Bethel McKnight lived there about 1912-15.”

“Other settlers built houses on the ridge out from the Rock House. Some of the people who lived there were: John Garrison, Jim Miller, Sherman & Goldie Bailey, Doctor Frank Morris, Daniel Clark, Henry Morris, and Bill Clark. There could have been others, as is always the case in trying to compile a list.”

Source: (visit link)

Recommended access: N 36° 54.891 W 082° 52.280

Parking: Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
  • At least one own photo of the place is required.
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Manville Possum visited The John Garrison Rock House on Black Mountain 5/23/2017 Manville Possum visited it