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One of the most common inquiries received by Filson Historical Society librarians concerns the myth of Prince Madoc and the Welsh Indians. Of the myth’s many versions, the one most familiar to Ohio Valley History readers goes like this: Madoc, a Welsh prince escaping an internecine conflict over political rule at home, supposedly sailed to North America in the twelfth century. His force either landed at the Falls of the Ohio or made it there after landing further south and being driven north by hostile locals, possibly Cherokee people. Madoc and his contingent intermixed with Indigenous populations, whose fair-haired, blue-eyed, Welsh-speaking descendants are said to have resettled at Devil’s Backbone, a bluff overlooking the Ohio River on which, legend has it, they built a stone earthwork. Later, many were supposedly slaughtered by local Native people, possibly at Sand Island. The survivors retreated down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi River, joining local Indigenous populations, possibly the Mandan people.

Original Publication Information

Mattes, M.A. (2022). Colonial Prehistories of Indigenous North America. Ohio Valley History 22(1), 80-85.