News and Tribune

Clark County

January 8, 2009

The Madoc legend lives in Southern Indiana: Documentary makers hope to bring pictures to author’s work

A Celtic prince, refusing to fight his brothers for the throne after their father’s death, leaves 12th century Britain with 10 boats of Welsh men and women.

They sail across the Atlantic Ocean and come ashore on the coast of the New World at what is now Mobile, Ala., centuries before Christopher Columbus’ voyage.

The settlers followed the rivers north, founding settlements along the way, but repeatedly fleeing hostile locals. They eventually settled in Clark County, where a bloody, final battle virtually eliminated the race. Traces of their civilization and possibly some descendants survive today, but their connections to the past are lost.

This is a common variation of the legend of Prince Madoc, his fellow settlers and their descendants. The story has persisted for centuries, particularly in Britain and in areas such as Indiana where these pre-Columbian European settlers are said to have lived and built forts. New life is being breathed into the legend by filmmakers.

Legend saviors

On a morning last summer, documentary filmmakers Jon Haskell and Paul Barlow of Seanachie Interactive of Westfield braved nettles, ticks and drenching humidity to venture into Charlestown State Park with local author Dana Olson to film a site said to be a former Welsh, pre-Columbian era fort. This area unveils Devil’s Backbone, which sits on a high ridge on a peninsula formed by Fourteen Mile Creek and the Ohio River.

Rose Island Amusement Park and Resort once stood on the peninsula. The area now is inaccessible from the park except by boat, though future plans include a foot bridge across the creek.

Olson, of Jeffersonville, is the author of “The Legend of Prince Madoc and the White Indians,” originally published in 1987. Olson said he has sold approximately 10,000 copies of the book.

It was a trip several years ago to the Falls of the Ohio State Park and reading Olson’s book — found at the gift shop — which inspired Haskell to make the film. He has since traveled with Olson and archeologist Sundea Murphy to sites said to support the legend as fact.

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