Thursday, November 4, 2010

Indian Head Rock

For many years, a rock protruding from the middle of the Ohio River along Greenup County was a popular spot for swimmers and waders to venture out to and have their picture taken. The rock also became well-known for a petroglyph of an oddly simplistic face.

Not everyone agrees on the significance and origin of the face. According to Wikipedia:

It has been theorized that the face was carved by an Native American artist as a petroglyph, a boatman as a river gauge, or was carved by John Book from Portsmouth, Ohio who later fought in the Battle of Shiloh. Other theories include that a band of robbers used it to mark their nearby stash and that a quarry man carved the face with a metal device.

Seeking to preserve the rock from eventual destruction from erosion or defacement, Ohio historian Steve Shaffer took it upon himself to remove the rock from the river and haul it over to Ohio, where it was placed on display.

And then all hell broke loose.

The Greenup County Attorney declared that Shaffer's removal of the rock could be a violation of Kentucky’s Antiquity Act (a Class D felony) and the Army Corps of Engineers also opined that the rock was Kentucky property and its removal violated the Federal Rivers and Harborment Act of 1899. After three years of legal wrangling - which included having the Mayor of Portsmouth, OH dragged before the Grand Jury - the rock is finally being returned to Kentucky. Says the Courier-Journal:

Under an agreed order dismissing a suit filed in federal court, the city of Portsmouth, Ohio, will relinquish control of the rock and permit it to be returned to Kentucky.

The so-called Indian Head Rock will be taken to a Greenup County garage until a permanent home can be found and money can be identified to put it on display for public viewing, Greenup County Judge-Executive Robert Carpenter said in a release from the Kentucky Heritage Council.

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