Tale of Green-Harrison Tragedy haunts the hills of Putnam County

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Bridge over Eighteenmile Creek at Extra, WV
Bridge over Eighteenmile Creek at Extra

Eighteenmile Creek wanders gently through the green hill country of northern Putnam County, revealing not in the least any potential for tragedy along its banks. But tragedy visited a group of hunters camped out one night in a cave.

Where exactly this tragedy occurred is not widely known, though some speculate the cave was located near a bend in the creek in the valley near Extra, P.O., a former hamlet, the name of which is all-but-forgotten by a few.

Historians of the lower Kanawha Valley have cited the story in a number of publications, though I’ll defer to master story-teller Jim Comstock, who published this retelling of the incident at least twice in the West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia. I’ve excerpted this from supplemental volume four, page 12.

A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY

A history of Jackson County would be incomplete without a narration of the following. Not because it occurred within the present limits of the county, but for the reason that many of the relatives and one of the principal actors now reside within the county. The site of its occurrence is now in Putnam County, but near the Jackson line. It was one of the most heart-rending events, an account of which is recorded in the annals of the West. The facts as gleaned by the author from persons yet living are as follows:

Sometime about the beginning of the present century [the 20th], a man by the name of Charles Green settled with his family upon what is known as Trace Fork of Pocatalico River in Putnam County. About the same time a man of the name of Reuben Harrison settled upon the waters of Mud Lick Fork, a tributary of Thirteen-mile Creek in Mason County. He had several sons, among whom were Alexander, Josiah, and a lad of twelve years named Zebulon. These men were all hunters, and frequently engaged in the chase together; the Harrisons going to Green’s to hunt upon the waters of Pocatalico and he, in turn, visiting them for the purpose of hunting upon the waters of Eighteen-mile and Thirteen-mile [creeks]. It was in the spring of 1813 that Mr. Green came upon one of these visits, bringing with him his little son Edward, aged ten years.

One day during his stay, he and Alexander Harrison were hunting alone on “Eighteen,” and after having killed and dressed a deer, found a tree which, from the scratches upon it, they supposed to contain a bear. Leaving the deer they hastened to the residence of Mr. Harrison, distant seven miles, for the purpose of securing axes for the purpose of felling the tree. When they started to return, the two boys begged that they might be taken along to see the tree cut. Their request was granted, and the four arrived at the tree late in the evening. It was felled, but no bear was found.

Detail of Eighteenmile Creek Watershed
Eighteenmile Creek wanders from its sources in the east near Liberty to its mouth on the Kanawha River in the west.

It was quite common in that day for hunters to remain out overnight, and they, being weary, determined not to return home until morning. Accordingly, they set about to find a suitable place in which to lodge. A cave under a shelving rock was soon found, and here they kindled a fire and lay down to rest — the men upon one side and the boys on the other, little dreaming of the awful fate in store for them. During the night the rock overhead, from the combined effects of the frost going out and the fire beneath, burst, and a huge mass fell upon them. Both men were crushed from the hips down to the feet. The boys, though badly bruised, were able to crawl out owing to the fact that the rock upon that side of the fire was partially supported by the wood which they had carried in for fuel.

Morning dawned upon the awful scene — the men crushed beneath the weight from which the boys were unable to extricate them. They cried for water, and the boys poured the powder from their horns and brought it. The boys were bewildered and knew not the way home, the only source from which help could come. The day passed away, night came and no relief. Another day and night of the most intense suffering to which any human beings were ever subjected passed away. Their friends at home, alarmed at their long absence, were searching for them, and late in the evening of the fourth day, Josiah Harrison, a brother of one of the unfortunate men, found them.

What a sight met his gaze! Death had already relieved his brother from his suffering, and Green was speechless, while the boys were famishing and ready to die of wounds. He put them upon the horse, which he had been riding, and hastened home for assistance. As he departed, Green turned and cast one longing look of despair after him. He conducted the boys home, and, having secured assistance, hastened back to the terrible spot, but when they arrived Green’s spirit had taken its flight, and he, too, was no more. Only two masses, crushed almost beyond recognition, remained.

The rock was removed, and the bodies taken out. No useless coffins enclosed them. Logs were cut, from which slabs were split, then narrow graves were dug, a slab placed in the bottom, then two others were placed upon edge, the bodies were placed within another slab covered them, and all that was mortal of Charles Green and Alexander Harrison was buriedat the entrance of the cave where they now repose. Both boys recovered and grew to manhood. Subulon Harrison died a few years since, and Edward Green, familiarly known as “Uncle Neddy,” yet survives and resides upon the waters of Grass Lick Creek in this county.


Looking for more information on the Green-Harrison Tragedy

If any of our readers knows of the whereabouts of the Green-Harrison Cave, we’d like to know. Though not necessarily for publication, we think maintaining some record of the locale in our archives is important.



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