Fort Harrod and Its Pioneer Graveyard


Reproduction of Fort Harrod

I feel very fortunate to live in a small Kentucky town known as the “Birthplace of the West”.  Harrodsburg was the only colonial city, and first permanent settlement, west of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains.  Broadway Street has the distinction of being the oldest street west of those mountains.  It was settled in 1774 by James Harrod of Pennsylvania.  The fort was originally to be built much closer to what is now the small town of Burgin, but the huge number of bison that consistently ran through that area, made it impossible.

Harrodsburg was first the county seat of Fincastle County, Virginia, then Kentucky County, Virginia.  When Kentucky County was divided in three counties, Fayette, Jefferson and Lincoln, Harrodsburg continued to the be county seat of Lincoln.  In 1785 Mercer County was formed and retained Harrodsburg as the county seat.  Stanford became the new county seat for Lincoln.


Osage Orange Tree

Fort Harrod is now a reproduction that draws many visitors each year.  It has been a popular field trip for students from the far reaches of the state – and out of state – and even our own children make their way there at least once during their years of education.  And most take their pictures lined on the huge, sprawling limbs of the Osage Orange Tree.

My mother was a reenactor one year at the fort, sitting in one of the cabins weaving baskets, in her colonial costume, and sometimes making lye soap over an open fire!  She could certainly tell some stories!  In fact, the gift shop sold out of lye soap the days mom was there!


Pioneer Graveyard at Fort Harrod


The McAfee Memorial Stile, honoring The McAfee Pioneers, James McAfee, Jr., 1736-1811; George McAfee, 1740-1803; Robert McAfee, 1745-1795; Samuel McAfee, 1748-1801; William McAfee, 1750-1780, sons of James McAfee, Sr., and Jane McMichael McAfee.  The McAfee brothers came to Kentucky in 1773 and were the original founders of the Salt River settlement.  Several of the brothers were with George Rogers Clark on memorable expeditions.  They were in the vanguard of those civilizing agencies, which were to redeem the wilderness and make it a fruitful field and the home of a Christian people.  They brought with them not only the axe, the hunting knife and the rifle, but the implements of peaceful and beneficent industry and above the bible respect for law and order and reverence for the Sabbath Day.  They established a community in 1779 where the town of McAfee stands.  A posterity rises up and calls them blessed.  June 16, 1929.


Pioneer Graveyard – This graveyard was just south of Fort Harrod.  The original fort was located on the hill where our present day parking lot is.  Over 480 grave stones still remain in this pioneer graveyard.


This historic cemetery was used from 1775 when the fort was built, until about 1833.  Most of the graves up to 1800 are only marked by rough unlettered stones.  The different grave markings clearly define the progress of civilization at the date of burial, and the materials to be had at the time.


Ann McGinty

Noted pioneer woman Ann McGinty lies buried here.  She brought the first spinning wheel to Kentucky.  She died in 1815.  A Revolutionary Patriot symbol was placed on here stone by the Ann Poage Chapter of the D. A. R.


This is said to be the grave of Thomas Jefferson Head, a son of Jesse Head, the pioneer preacher who united the parents of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, in 1806.  Thomas Jefferson Head died in 1823.


An Unknown Grave


Jane, born August 14, 1810

James Harrod, who lead the first pioneers to Harrodsburg, is not buried in this cemetery.  He failed to return from one of his frequent hunting expeditions and his fate was never known.


Thank you for visiting Harrodsburg with me today!  Hopefully one day you can see it in person!




11 replies »

  1. Thank you so much for the lovely photographs and informative article. It is indeed a beautiful part of or heritage. When I was growing up we visited my mother’s family once and often two times a year. I kept asking to go and see the Old Fort but it never seemed to work out. We had so many relatives to see (and each one would be hurt if we didn’t visit them) so there was no time. As I got older I finally told my mother-please take me downtown to the fort – let me out and come back in two hours and pick me up. My visit to the fort and museum – alone for two hours- was a wonderful and exciting trip in space and time. (one I have never forgotten). Thank you for helping me remember old times. Marilyn

    • I can’t help with more names in the Pioneer Cemetery, but there is also an area adjoining the original cemetery called the Pioneer Memorial Acre. I believed was established for Revolutionary War veterans if they wished to be buried there. My 4th Great Grandfather, Mark McGohon and his wife, Elizabeth Dunn McGohon….also their daughter Nancy….are buried there. He was buried about 1848 in Washington County, KY on a farm where his daughter Margaret lived. I believe their graves were moved about 1930.

      • Thank you, Have Dunns in my line, have to check it out. Roslyn

        Sent from my iPad


  2. I love the history of Kentucky and its connection to Virginia, which reached clear up to the Ohio River & over to the Mississippi. Thank you for reminding us of interesting historical facts. Didn’t know that James Harrod never returned from a hunting expedition. An interesting mystery. You’re lucky to live in Harrodsburg, Phyllis. I wish I could have stayed in Danville my whole life.

  3. A very simple and humble thank you. Your posts like this are so nice for all of us that will not get the opportunity to see these wonderful places in this lifetime, anyway. The stories that could be told. The names of those that are there, perhaps someday will be known. Again, thank you from Montana. 😉

  4. One of the first relatives I found in World Book was said to be the first school teacher in Kentucky My great grandmother Georgia Coomes Thompson was a descendent
    The Fort Harrod entry in the Kentucky Encyclopedia reads: “Among the pioneers who arrived in 1776 were Jane Coomes, who started a school and taught for the next nine years….” But all sources agree that the Coomes family was in Kentucky by 1776, the year Kentucky County, Virginia, was created by the Virginia Assembly. Harrod’s Town served as the county seat.

  5. We visited here several years ago while searching for McKinney ancestors. We always visit Shaker Village also. Thank you so much for sharing this information and the photos.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I am a descendant of Ann and William Poague. Someday I would like to visit Fort Harrod.

  7. Is there a listing of the Revolutionary War veterans buried in Pioneer Memorial Acre at Old Fort Harrod any where? My many thanks Patrick Coovert. Descendant of Daniel Coovert.

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