Troxel's Fort

"'Horseshoe' Linked to Celtic Explorers"

Old Tales Retold
by Ken McCutchan
The Evansville Courier
Sunday, February 6, 1994

Along the Anderson River in Perry County, Indiana, not far from the town of Troy, Indiana, there was once a curious structure that the early settlers called Troxel's Horseshoe.

It was a stone fortification about 4 feet high built in the shape of a horseshoe some 200 feet in circumference.

Since this was not the type of structure that any of the Indians known to have inhabitied the area would likely have built, a fanciful legend credits it to early white travelers -- Spanish pirates who came up the Ohio River and built it as a retreat when they had to defend themselves.

Out of this grew stories of fabulous buried treasure, and for years the credulous dug and probed until the site was virtually destroyed. So far as anyone knows, no treasure was found.

In light of current knowledge, it seems entirely possible that this unusual structure was built at a very early date by white men, but not Spanish pirates.

There is a Welsh legend in verse and song about a prince named Madoc ab Owain Gwynnedd who sailed with two ships from North Wales in 1170, more than 300 years before Columbus, to explore the western ocean. He returned and reported that he had found a "pleasant and fruitful land" and had left 120 men behind to build a settlement.

The prince organized a second expedition with two of his brothers and set out with seven ships and 300 men, women and children to form a colony, but they were never heard from again.

As American history is generally taught, the first Welsh people came to this continent in the 17th century. They were followers of Roger Williams, who founded the Rhode Island colony in 1631. However, these Welsh people reported meeting Indians with whom they could converse in their native tongue.

In 1721, a Catholic missionary, Father Charlevoix, traveled from Canada to the juncture of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He was told by Indians there that three days' journey away was a tribe called Omans who had white skin and fair hair, especially the women.

George Catlin, the famous artist, later found a tribe called Mandan on the Missouri River that matched exactly this description, and he reported that many of the words in their language were Welsh.

When all the bits and pieces are put together, it seems possible that Madoc and his people landed in Mobile Bay, worked their way up the Alabama River to Lookout Mountain, then to Old Stone Fort, Tenn., which is supposed to resemble a Welsh fortification, then to Nashville, Tenn., and finally to the falls in the Ohio near Jeffersonville, Ind.

The landing at Mobile Bay is firmly enough believed that the Daughters of the American Revolution has erected an historical marker there that reads: "In memory of Prince Madoc, a Welsh explorer who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind with the Indians the Welsh language."

In Indiana, stories appear in the writings of George Rogers Clark of encounters with white Indians. A large burial ground near his home at Clarksville reportedly contained the bones of ancient white people.

In 1824, this account was left by an unknown writer: "In 1799 six soldier' skeletons were dug up near Jeffersonville. Each skeleton had a breastplate of brass, cast with the Welsh coat of arms, the mermaid and the harp, with the Latin inscription "Virtuous deeds meet their just reward'."

Legend has it that the land around Clarksville was at one time occupied by a white race, but Indians drove them out. According to legend, they went down the Ohio River and settled for a time on an island, but were driven out again. They went to the Mississippi River and up the Missouri River and were not see again until Catlin discovered and painted them.

Brant & Fuller's History of Vanderburgh County gives an account of late 19th-century hunters of Indian relics who unearthed from the riverbank, near the current West Franklin in Posey County,Ind., a bronze ax which appeared to be of Celtic origin.

So it seems entirely possible that Troxel's Horseshoe, similar to the stone fort in Tennessee, was built by the followers of Madoc as they moved from site to site in their journey down the Ohio River. Here is another of the great mysteries of our land that probably will never be satisfactory solved.