The Robet Harrell Story


A Place to Hang My Hat and
A Place to Think

 The Robert Harrill Saga
Searching For The Truth
G. Lee Hearl

A Shelter From The Storms of Life & Nature


The story of a man who sought peace of mind and found much more as the "Fort Fisher Hermit." A made to order movie! G. Lee Hearl

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Story Listing Page

A Documentary On Robert Harrill The Hermit Has
Been Produced and is
Available on Line



The Story  "Robert Harrill, The Fort Fisher Hermit" by Michael F. Edwards is available at Books a Million and at most gift shops in the area around Fort Fisher, North Carolina.
Also by contacting Michael F Edwards, President
The Fort Fisher Hermit Society.


Michael Edwards
 for Information
Click Here

Picture courtesy of Michael F. Edwards and Fred Pickler,
Copyright Owners


This Web Page Copyright 2002
by G. Lee Hearl






















I have been intrigued by the story of Robert Harrill since I first read about him a few years before he died.. I regret that I never traveled to North Carolina to meet him.
I am not sure where Robert was born, some say South Carolina while others say Shelby, NC. Early in his life his mother died and his father remarried and as a result, the young boy found himself in hostile environs.. Through it all, he managed to graduate from high school which in its self seems to be quite an accomplishment during that period.. Robert was born Feb. 2, 1893, Groundhog Day. Many people born during that period never learned to read and write.
After high school he studied to be a Baptist Minister but apparently his beliefs concerning evolution caused him to be expelled from the school in his senior year. No doubt, this caused him some agony, having failed to succeed in his chosen field at an early age..
He worked at many jobs in and around Shelby, NC, farming, textile mills, WPA and others but his independent nature seemed to keep him from succeeding working for others.
When he met and married Katie Hamrick in 1913 he was still unsettled but continued to work at various jobs to provide for his family.. He even tried his hand at selling craft items, traveling in a T-Model "bus" for a while. Apparently his wife became disillusioned with the life they were living, even after he built a log cabin in Shelby, NC. and she took the children to live in Pennsylvania.
It was about that time that Robert was committed to a state hospital and put under lock and key..
Being a natural craftsman, he fashioned a key from a spoon handle and along with several other inmates, found freedom!

While locked up in the State Hospital, Robert came across some writings by  Dr. William Taylor who ran a school which taught courses in Bio-Psycho-Genetics at Spruce Pine, NC. It seemed to be the answer to some of his problems and he made his way to Spruce Pine to meet Dr. Taylor.. He was soon involved in a course to obtain a degree in the field.. The pursuit of this degree continued for many years and the teachings of Dr. Taylor convinced Robert that he should try to discover his true self, go back and start all over in his life.. He surmised that the logical place to start over was near the sea, on a beach he had discovered years before during a vacation he had spent at Fort Fisher on the coast of North Carolina.. So, with only a little change in his pocket, he hitchhiked across the state..
At Fort Fisher he found a place where he could think and meditate about life and what it was all about.. He could find what he had been searching for, The Truth! 
Robert found an isolated piece of land at Fort Fisher which had been abandoned by the government after World War Two and the need for shoreline defense was no longer needed. He found oysters and other sea food in the nearby bay and berries in the marshland brush. This was really a new beginning for him, nature would provide much of his food and a tent would be all the shelter he would need! Now he was free from harsh bosses of the textile mills, the teasing he endured by his fellow workers because he was a small man and all the other distractions of every day life, he could concentrate on things which really mattered, life and a 'common sense' approach to it..
Life on the beach wasn't all he thought it might be, his tent soon disappeared and the hurricanes moving up the coast proved hard to deal with but he never lost his love for his surroundings. He soon discovered an old ammunition storage building and moved into it. He met another man living there also and soon made friends with him. Some of the people living nearby objected to this strange man who, it appeared, had come there to stay and soon they were complaining to the authorities about him and his friend.. He was hauled into court many times but stood his ground and even brought charges against others when he had been wronged.. Robert Harrill was gaining confidence in himself and soon started imparting his theories about life to others who would listen.. and  listen they did!  It was during this period of the late fifties and sixties that the "hippie" movement began and it seemed Robert Harrill had found the Truth! They came by the thousands each year to hear his lectures about "Life" and "Common Sense" approaches to it.. He unhesitatingly stated his opinions on all subjects and was interviewed quite often by reporters and writers.. Someone dubbed him the "Fort Fisher Hermit" and the title stuck.. He even erected a crude sign directing people to his old concrete bunker and supplied a "seeded" hubcap for their donations.. Robert had found happiness at last! Because of the publicity given him, his son was able to locate him and they found the bond that had been missing for many years and his son visited him many times afterwards.
Robert Harrill enjoyed his simple life and all the "friends" who visited him for almost seventeen years, but in June of 1972 four youngsters found him dead in his bunker and the mystery of his death is still to be resolved.. The Coroner ruled his death as a heart attack, others disagree and are still searching for the Truth! Robert E. Harrell is buried in a cemetery near the place where his search for the truth ended and today hundreds visit his grave and leave flowers and sea shells in memory of the "Fort Fisher Hermit".... The End..
Note: For the complete story read "Robert Harrill, The Fort fisher Hermit" by Michael F. Edwards. See information at left above.
Robert Harrill has been proven by DNA test and Research to be a descendant of the line of Housand Harrill of Bedford Co. Va and Rutherford co. NC. This group of Harrills has been traced back to Prince William and Fauquier co. VA.. G. Lee Hearl

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