Dark River tells a fascinating, and not well known, story of an age of the Western frontier (1770-1850). Social pressures spurred on by rapid western expansion and years of warfare became the breeding ground for violence. This atmosphere brought about the creation of a unique type of person. Those who would use the Ohio River Valley to prey on their fellow man.
In the valley region, trust was low, life was hard and death was easy. Micajah and Wiley Harpe earned a grim reputation, often being called America’s first serial killers. From legendary outlaw hide-out Cave-in-Rock, Samuel Mason led a band of ruthless river pirates for whom murder was standard practice.
The Sturdivant Gang did their best (and worst) to ruin the local economy with counterfeit currency before they were driven out of the area. Later one of their number would narrwly escape with his life after challenging Alamo legend Jim Bowie and his infamous ‘Iron Mistress’ to a knife fight.
James Ford was a Southern gentleman and County Sheriff. He was also one of the earliest American crimelords, running a sophisticated operation going from highway robbery and river piracy to illegal slave-trading and murder. Distancing himself from the crimes his underlings committed, he was a godfather long before the Mob reached American soil.
Worse still was John Hart Crenshaw, whose racket was kidnapping free people and former slaves who he sold wherever there were buyers. Indicted a number of times for kidnapping, Crenshaw’s personal dungeon was reputedly the site of torture, abuse and habitual mistreatment. Crenshaw’s cruelty made him a local legend and his former home a national monument. His many guests and visitors, future President Abraham Lincoln among them, had no idea of the miseries of his unwilling guests shackled to the walls on the third floor.
Dark River will take you on a pleasant boat-ride down the Ohio River. Unlike many who made the journey, you will reach the end alive.