McLib presents Virtual Evenings Upstairs: Cave-in-Rock Pirates and Outlaws November 18
The McCracken County Public Library presents its next installment of the Virtual Evening Upstairs series with author, historian, and Hardin County native Todd Carr. Tracy Ross speaks to Carr ahead of his online presentation, "Cave-in-Rock Pirates and Outlaws."
After the American Revolution, everything north of the Ohio River and west of the colonies became the Northwest Territory by Congressional Act. "For all practical purposes, it was no man's land," Carr says.
Carr explains that as Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana gained statehood, settled communities also brought law and order to the area. This forced criminals to move further west. When Kentucky was established, criminals moved to Red Banks, Kentucky, now Henderson.
"At Red Banks, a group, vigilantes is what we'd call them today—back then they called them regulators—got together and drove the criminals out." The criminals moved to and were pushed out of Diamond Island. They eventually settled at Cave-in-Rock.
Cave-in-Rock sits on the north side of the Ohio River, separated from law and order of southern settlements. From their vantage point on the bank, the outlaws could prey on the lightly armed flatboats transporting goods down the Ohio River.
Todd Carr grew up hearing the folklore surrounding the river pirates and outlaws that used to reside in Carr's native Hardin County. Carr became a southern Illinois historian, using the area's scenery and history to promote tourism. After publishing a book on the Shawnee National Forest's history, History Press asked Carr to write a book on Cave-in-Rock.
A similar book had been published nearly a century earlier, in 1924 by Otto A. Rothert. Carr used Rothert's bibliography to find primary sources, one of which was the Draper Manuscripts.
"A man by the name of Draper went around in the 1800s and talked to people who were just one and two generations away from some of the happenings that he was recording," Carr says. "A lot of those books [Rothert] used that were written back in the 1800s are available online. They're all out of copyright now and free access."
Carr also pulled historical sources from Springhouse Magazine, a local publication in circulation in the southern Illinois area since the 1980s. "Springhouse Magazine shares stories about the folklore and happenings of southern Illinois," Carr explains.
"Several local historians had gone over the years and done research over different things in southern Illinois. What I did was go and mine these articles for factual information. For instance, there's a lot of folklore associated with the river pirates. [The historians] have gone and searched for factual information. What can we prove? What can't we prove?"
Using these primary sources, Carr was able to add an 'Author's Notes' section at the end of each chapter. In this section, Carr points out any inconsistencies or supporting information found when comparing folklore with factual accounts.
Carr presents his findings in McLib's Virtual Evening Upstairs: Cave-in-Rock Pirates and Outlaws this Thursday, November 18th, at 7 pm. The presentation held via Zoom is free and open to the public. Click this link to access the Zoom meeting.
For more information on the McCracken County Public Library and its programming, visit the McLib website.