Chris Aswad, assistant editor for the independent publisher Sunbury Press, reached out to the Edmonson Voice and told us that his company had recently published a fascinating book, Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America’s Most Colorful Hermits by Marlin Bressi, which is a collection of short biographies of hermits from all over America.
Aswad said that one of the Hermits included in book was from Kentucky, and actually lived in Edmonson County. He was known as “Pig Jack", and his story is quite unique.
He included the following excerpt from the book:
"One of the most peculiar fellows to ever call Edmonson County home was a moonshiner known as Pig Jack, who earned his nickname because he lived in a cave with a herd of swine. Pig Jack’s cave was located several miles from Brownsville in a lonesome and wild part of the county. He had taken up residence inside the cave because, in his own words, he “liked animals better than men.” He occupied his time by raising the swine that furnished his two most pressing needs—companionship and food. Pig Jack had a marked distaste for fresh produce; smoked pork and bacon constituted the entirety of his everyday diet. His long, matted hair and unkempt beard, along with the ragged clothing that appeared to have been made by his own hands, lent him the outward appearance of a veritable wild man.
One day in 1886 the thirty-five-year-old hermit ran afoul of the law. Though Pig Jack was as harmless as a newborn kitten, he was also a moonshiner, and Edmonson was a dry county. The hermit found himself hounded relentlessly by Deputy United States Marshal John Rule, and the beguiled lawman had a devil of a time trying to capture the elusive hermit. Rule tried time and time again to apprehend the notorious moonshiner, but Pig Jack had exceptional hearing and knew every nook and cranny of the woods like he knew the hairs on his favorite pig’s chin. Whenever the deputy marshal managed to get within sight of the hermit, Pig Jack would take off running into the wilderness and remain expertly hidden until the danger passed. It was like trying to catch a greased pig (no pun intended). As a result, the long arm of the law always ended up getting the short end of the stick.
Deputy Marshal Rule was determined to apprehend the moonshiner, however, and it became an all-consuming passion. From behind his desk he gathered his men and planned and plotted his attack, drawing maps and devising traps as if he were a general staging an invasion of a foreign land. The fruitless pursuit dragged on until winter and when the snows came, Deputy Marshal Rule set out once again to bring the wily hermit to justice.
Rule and his men canvassed the area until they discovered the whereabouts of Pig Jack’s well-hidden cave. Rule knew that the winter would be the ideal time to hunt for the cavern since it would no longer be concealed behind lush, thick vegetation. The hermit’s cave was abandoned, but Rule and his officers were able to follow Pig Jack’s footsteps. They mounted their horses and followed the moonshiner’s tracks for quite some distance until they found the man they were looking for. Pig Jack had been out shooting squirrels and, stopping to rest, had dozed off against a tree. Rule raised a finger to his lips to hush his colleagues, and the lawmen slowly and stealthily approached Pig Jack. One of the officers pounced upon the hermit, but the moonshiner wriggled his way out of the lawman’s grasp and took off running. The authorities followed on horseback in hot pursuit, but the nimble hermit outstripped his pursuers since the ground was too rocky and uneven for the horses. The lawmen considered waiting for the moonshiner to return to the cave but soon realized that the hermit, who was far more accustomed to the cold weather than the officers, would be able to outwait them.
Foiled once again, Deputy Marshal Rule went back to the drawing board and, after much brainstorming, the lawmen believed they had finally thought up a way to catch the hermit. Since Deputy Marshal Rule knew that he couldn’t catch Pig Jack on foot, he decided that he would smoke the hermit out of his own hiding place. Rule returned a few days later and directed his men to build a large fire at the mouth of the cave. When the flames had grown to sufficient height, damp leaves and sulphur were thrown onto the blaze, producing a thick cloud of foul, noxious smoke. The officers fanned the smoke into the mouth of the cave. The strategy worked, but perhaps it worked a little too well. A few moments later the hermit darted out of the cave and into the waiting arms of the authorities. Unfortunately, the hermit’s hurried exodus from the cave was followed by a stampede of dozens of frightened razorback pigs. What a sight that must have been; surprised lawmen scrambling for their lives, some of them frantically climbing up trees in order to avoid being trampled by hundreds of pounds of maniacal pork.
Once the mayhem died down, Deputy Marshal Rule breathed a sigh of relief. After months of hard work, he had finally caught his man. On the 18th of December, the notable moonshiner and swine herder arrived at the county jail, in a state of wide-eyed amazement. Pig Jack had never been in a town before, and he marveled at the sight of Brownsville (pop. 1,000), which must’ve seemed like Midtown Manhattan at rush hour. Pig Jack, whose real name was Charles Meredith, was described as being “a genial, comical fellow” by his jailers, who also remarked that the hermit was full of reminiscences, and that, in spite his alleged disdain for humanity, he was a capital favorite among the prisoners at the jail."
Marlin Bressi is an author from central Pennsylvania who specializes in offbeat and quirky history. In addition to authoring two non-fiction books (most recently Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits in 2015), he is also the co-creator of the paranormal history website Journal of the Bizarre, and is the creator of the Pennsylvania Oddities blog.
Discover the hermit from Ohio who lived in a tree, the hermit from Iowa who shared a cave with a trained pig before becoming an elected judge, the hermit from California whose life was immortalized in a Nat King Cole hit song, the hermit from New York who shot Billy the Kid, the hermit from Massachusetts who went to school with King Edward, the hermit from Michigan who helped capture Jefferson Davis, the hermit from Washington who had an army of trained skunks as bodyguards, the hermit from Tennessee who was raised in the White House, the frog-eating hermit from New Hampshire who captured the emperor of India, the hermit from Kentucky whose name became a famous brand of whiskey, the hermit who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and more! Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits profiles the lives of 80 of the most eccentric hermits of the past three centuries. Published by Sunbury Press, it is the largest compendium of American hermits ever assembled.
You can order a copy of the book by clicking here.