Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Jack Bailey's latest book, "Murders, Mischief Mysteries, Mayhem, Madness, Misdemeanors, and Downright Meanness in Mercer."
As to the natural disasters to hit Mercer County, one of the strangest was the rain of knitting needles in 1856. After a night of heavy wind and rain, passers-by found an eight-acre lot on West Factory Street partially covered with brand new, iron knitting needles.
They were planted at a uniform angle, "their free upper ends swaying in the breeze like a field of steel grass." There was no ready explanation. Various theories sprung up, but the most logical one is that a tornado had torn up a knitting needle factory somewhere and they were carried by the wind and dropped in Harrodsburg. The story later became a feature in Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
During and after the Civil War, lawless bands of guerrillas terrorized the county and made robbery and murder an everyday occurrence. On Oct. 24, 1863, about 80 horse thieves and highway robbers entered Harrodsburg and robbed a great many individuals of their money, watches, and horses, if they had any that suited them. They stripped a silver shop of all the watches and whatever else they wanted. They took men's overcoats right off their backs. They did a great deal of harm to the citizens of Harrodsburg before leaving early in the morning for Danville. There were three or four of these marauding bands who did all sorts of fiendish acts. A great deal of property was destroyed by fire. Many of them were dressed in U.S. uniforms to deceive the good citizens when they demanded their money. Some of the citizens were threatened with having their brains blown out if they didn't turn over all their money to these scoundrels.