Rock flap has gone too far

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ironton historian Steve Shaffer wanted to preserve history, not make it.

Now, because of a misguided application of the law and a political battle, Shaffer literally understands the meaning of “between a rock and a hard place.”

The Ironton resident faces the possibility of spending 1 to 5 years in a Kentucky prison all because he tried to do something positive to preserve the heritage of southern Ohio and the Tri-State.

Email newsletter signup

Shaffer was part of a group that last year removed the 8-ton sandstone known as the Portsmouth Indian Head Rock that, as far as experts can surmise, has rested in the Ohio River possibly for centuries somewhere between South Shore, Ky., and Portsmouth.

The rock would periodically break the surface when droughts sent the water level of the river down. Because its appearance was so rare, crowds came to carve on the rock.

Since the Greenup Dam was built, the rock had remained mostly submerged for more than 80 years.

Until Shaffer decided to do something he thought was a good deed.

The whole thing has gotten out of hand, but it is no laughing matter for Shaffer, who faces a felony charge and warrants for his arrest for breaking Kentucky law by removing a protected archaeological object.

Ohio and Kentucky lawmakers need to put this thing to rest right now.

Greenup County Attorney Cliff Duvall says he is just upholding the law but everyone knows this is about politics. Jaywalking is a law too but no one is getting arrested for it.

The contention that “removing, excavating and appropriating an object of antiquity” just doesn’t hold water. Louisville-based Kentucky rock authority, Dr. Fred Coy Jr. came to Portsmouth, where The Rock resides in the municipal garage, late last year where he said the carving was not Indian.

This entire dispute could have been resolved out of court with diplomacy and class. Instead, a man who simply was trying to preserve history has been left in a position he wants to forget about it.