Cave Regions of the Ozarks and Black Hills
by Luella Agnes Owen
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Membre titulaire de la Societe de Speleologie, and Fellow of the American Geographical Society.

Cincinnati. The Editor Publishing Co.


The illustrations for this volume are from photographs by the following artists:

The Views of Marble Cave, by Stone & De Groff, Warrensburg, Missouri.

The Tower of Babel, The Chimes, The Knife Blade, The Needle, The Bridal Veil, by Meddaugh, of Leadville, So. Dakota.

Top of Glacier, by L.W. Marble, Wind Cave, So. Dakota.

White Onyx Masses, Fairies' Palace, by J.W. Pike, Hot Springs, So. Dakota.

The Wilderness Pinery, by D. Benton Miller, Alton, Missouri.

Approaching Deadwood, by H.R. Locke & Co., Deadwood, So. Dakota.

Copyrighted The Editor Publishing Company. 1898.




I A General View 1

II Marble Cave 25

III Marble Cave Continued 43

IV Fairy Cave and Powell Cave 58

V Other Stone County Caves 73

VI Oregon County Caves 82

VII The Grand Gulf 95

VIII The Black Hills and Bad Lands 103

IX Wind Cave 113

X Wind Cave Continued 127

XI " " " 141

XII " " Concluded 151

XIII The Onyx Caves 162

XIV Crystal Cave 175

XV " " Concluded 183

XVI Conclusion 211

Cave Regions of




"O'er mountains bright with snow and light, We crystal hunters speed along, While grots, and caves, and icy waves, Each instant echo to our song; And when we meet with stores of gems We grudge not kings their diadems." —Thomas Moore.

The southern half of the State of Missouri, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, offer exceptionally delightful regions for the study of caves, or Speleology as it has been named, and the sister sciences of geology and geography at the same time. In fact it is impossible to study either without giving attention to the other two, and therefore, instead of being separate sciences, they are the three branches of a great scientific trinity.

The regions here referred to enjoy the advantage, and at the same time suffer the disadvantage, of being comparatively little known to the ever restless tide of tourists who naturally hail with pleasure the announcement that some easily accessible, and thoroughly charming spot, has escaped their attention altogether, with a marvelous store of attractions which are both extremely old and wholly new.

Each of these regions has a peculiar geological history not repeated in any other portions of the earth's surface: each is blessed with its own peculiar style of beautiful scenery: and each vies with the other and all the world besides for the supremacy of its truly wonderful caves. Yet it should be well understood that the claims are not based on an unworthy spirit of rivalry, nor any desire to deny the greatness and beauty of already famous members of the Cave family. It is simply an announcement that the family is much larger than has been generally supposed, and the more recently presented members worthy of the full measure of distinguished honors.

The geological authorities of both states have for many years mentioned the beauty and importance of these regions, and urged their claims to public attention, but have been prevented, by the pressure of other duties, from giving to the caves such careful study and full reports as they deserve, as it would have been a pleasure to give, and as has been possible in states of less extent where the general work of the department is more advanced, and the volume of tourist travel created an early demand for scientific explanation.

Without any great difficulty we can understand the process of cave excavation by the action of percolating acidulated water on the limestone, and its subsequent removal as the volume of surface drainage diverted to the new channel gradually increased. But it is not so easy to offer a reason for the varied forms with which the caves are afterwards decorated. Why is it the charmed waters do not leave the evidence of their slow passage only in plain surfaces of varying widths, and the stalactites and stalagmites whose formation we can readily account for? And why do not the deposits take the same forms in all caves with only such variations as would naturally result from differences in topography? The law is written, but in unfamiliar characters that render our reading slow and uncertain. Yet it is conspicuously noticeable that those caves showing the most delicately fragile and wonderfully varied forms of decoration are those traversed by the most sweeping and changeable, or even reversible, currents of air; which might lead to the conclusion that the moisture is sprayed or converted into a light, misty vapor, and then deposited in exactly the same manner as the beautiful frost-work at Niagara: the direction and force of the current determining the location of the frail deposits.

Since the largest and most important caves occur in limestone, a little special attention to the cause of their occurrence there may serve to show that although speleology has only recently received its name and been elevated to the rank of a separate and independent science, it is one of the earth's ancient institutions.

Our geologists, who have unearthed many secrets not dreamed of even in Humboldt's "good phylosopy," have settled the question of how the different kinds of caves were formed, according to the character of rocks they are in, or their location and depth, and the natural agencies to whose action they show signs of having been subjected.

Dr. H.C. Hovey, in his "Celebrated American Caverns," says: "In visiting caves of large extent, one is at first inclined to regard the long halls, huge rifts, deep pits and lofty domes, as evidences of great convulsions of nature, whereby the earth has been violently rent asunder. But, while mechanical forces have had their share in the work, as has been shown, the main agent in every case has been the comparatively gentle, invisible gas known as carbonic acid. This is generated by the decay of animal and vegetable substances, and is to a considerable degree soluble in water. Under ordinary circumstances one measure of water will absorb one measure of carbonic acid; and the eye will detect no difference in its appearance. Under pressure the power of absorption is rapidly increased, until the water thus surcharged has an acid taste, and effervesces on flowing from the earth, as in Saratoga water.

"Rain-water, falling amid leaves and grass, and sinking into the soil, absorbs large quantities of carbonic acid. On reaching the underlying limestone, the latter is instantly attacked by the acidulated water in which it is dissolved and carried away.

"It is agreed among geologists, amazing as the statement may seem, that the immense caverns of Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, including Mammoth Cave itself (the largest of all), were eaten out of the solid mass of limestone by the slow, patient, but irresistible action of acidulated water."

Professor N.S. Shaler says: "The existence of deep caverns is a sign that the region has long been above the sea."

Through the kindness of Professor C.J. Norwood, Chief Inspector and Curator of the Geological Department of Kentucky, it is possible to quote the first official report made on the caves of that state and published in 1856, in Volume I., Kentucky Geological Survey Reports. Dr. Norwood says: "Referring to the 'Subcarboniferous Limestone' (now known as the St. Louis group of the Mississippian series), Dr. Owen says: 'The southern belt of this formation is wonderfully cavernous, especially in its upper beds, which being more argillaceous, and impregnated with earths and alkalies, are disposed to produce salts, which oozing through the pores of the stone effloresce on its surface, and thus tend to disintegrate and scale off, independent of the solvent effects of the carbonated water. Beneath overhanging ledges of limestone, quantities of fine earthy rubbish can be seen, weathered off from such causes. In these I have detected sulphate of lime, sulphate of magnesia, nitrate of lime, and occasionally sulphate of soda. The tendency which some calcareous rocks have to produce nitrate of lime is, probably, one of the greatest causes of disintegration.'"

"Most extensive subterranean areas thus have been excavated or undermined in Edmonson, Hart, Grayson, Butler, Logan, Todd, Christian and Trig. In the vicinity of Green River, in the first of these counties, the known avenues of the Mammoth Cave amount to two hundred and twenty-three, the united length of the whole being estimated, by those best acquainted with the Cave, at one hundred and fifty miles; say that the average width and height of these passages amount to seven yards each way, which is perhaps near the truth; this would give upwards of twelve million cubic yards of cavernous space which has been excavated through the agency of calcareous waters and atmospheric vicissitudes."

Page 169: "On the south side of Green River the platform of limestone forming the descent into Mammoth Cave is two hundred and thirty-two feet above Green River."

"The entrance to the cave, being thirty-eight feet lower than this bed of limestone, is one hundred and ninety-four feet above Green River. In the above two hundred and thirty-two feet there are several heavy masses of sandstone, viz.: at one hundred and twenty-five, one hundred and forty-five, one hundred and fifty, one hundred and sixty and two hundred and fifteen feet, but it is probable that most of these have tumbled from higher positions in the hill, as no alterations of sandstone have been observed at these levels in the cave. From an elevation of from two hundred and forty to two hundred and fifty feet, the prevalent rock is sandstone without pebbles, which can be seen extending up to three hundred and twelve feet to the foundation of the Cave Hotel. The united thickness of the limestone beds on this part of Green River, is about two hundred and thirty feet, capped with eighty feet of sandstone. About midway of the section on this part of Green River, are limestones of an obscure oolitic structure, but no true oolite was observed. Many of these limestones are of such composition as to be acted on freely by the elements of the atmosphere, which, in the form of nitric acid, combine with the earthy and alkaline bases of calcareous rock, and give rise to the formation of nitrates with the liberation of carbonic acid; hence the disintegrated rubbish of the caves yields nitrate of potash after being treated with the ley of ashes and subsequent evaporation of the saline lixivium. The wonderfully cavernous character of the subcarboniferous limestones of the Green River valley, and, indeed, of these particular members of the subcarboniferous group throughout a great part of its range in Kentucky and Indiana, is due in a great measure to this cause, together with the solvent and eroding effects of water charged with carbonic acid. The 'rock-houses' frequently encountered both in this formation and in the limestones of Silurian date, are produced by similar causes; the more easily disintegrated beds gradually crumbling away, while the more durable remain in overhanging ledges. By the oxidation of other elements, sulphates of oxide of iron and alkalies result, which, by double decomposition, with carbonate of lime, give rise to the formation of gypsums which appears in the form of rosettes, festoons and various other imitative forms on the walls and ceilings of the caves. Crystallizations of sulphate of soda and sulphate of magnesia are not uncommon, both in some of the caves and in sheltered situations under shelving rocks."

The explanations thus given of the excavation and subsequent refilling and decoration of the limestone caves of Kentucky and Indiana apply equally well to those of other states; but it is to be remembered that at the time of Dr. Owen's report, onyx, the most beautiful and valuable of dripstones, had not yet been discovered in the United States; while now especially fine deposits are known in California, Utah, Missouri, South Dakota and Arkansas; the Missouri supply being exceptionally valuable on account of the marvelous delicacy and beauty of its coloring; nor can it soon be exhausted, as deposits have been found in eight counties and further exploration will no doubt discover more.

Concerning the Subcarboniferous, or Mississippian Series in Part I., Vol. IV., Missouri Geological Survey, Dr. C.R. Keyes says: "In the great interior basin of the Mississippi the basal series is exposed more or less continuously over broad areas, extending from northern Iowa to Alabama, and from Ohio to Mexico."

While this broadly extended series of limestone is honey-combed in many places and all directions by wonderful caverns, those of the Ozark regions in Missouri, although comparatively little known, are well worth knowing, and are possibly the most ancient limestone caves in the world. Of the region in which they occur, Dr. Keyes, in the volume last quoted, says: "The chief typographical feature of the state has long been known in the Ozark uplift, a broad plateau with gentle quaquaversal slopes rising to a height of more than one thousand five hundred feet above mean tide, and extending almost entirely across the southern part of the district. On all sides the borders of this highland area are deeply grooved by numberless streams flowing in narrow gorges. Against its nucleus of very ancient granites and porphyries the Ozark series of magnesian limestone was laid down. Then the area occupied by these rocks was elevated, and around its margins were deposited successively the other members of the Paleozoic. The Ozark region was thus the first land to appear within the borders of the present state of Missouri." He further says: "Although it has long been known that the Magnesian Limestones are older than the Trenton, and that they lie immediately upon and against the Archaean crystallines unconformably, their exact geological age has always remained unsettled. There seems to be but little doubt, however, that part of the series is equivalent to the Calciferous of other regions. It is also pretty well determined that certain of the lower beds, all below the 'Saccharoidal' Sandstone perhaps, are representatives of the Upper Cambrian or Potsdam. These conclusions appear well grounded both upon stratigraphical and faunal evidence. The rocks of the Ozark region have not as yet received the necessary detailed study to enable the several lines of demarkation to be drawn with certainty. This investigation is now being carried on as rapidly as possible, and promises very satisfactory and interesting results in the near future."

"The early geological reports represent the Magnesian Limestone series as made up of seven members. Following Swallow, these may be briefly described in the present connection. Beginning at the top, they are:

First Magnesian Limestone. First, or Saccharoidal Sandstone. Second Magnesian Limestone. Second Sandstone. Third Magnesian Limestone. Third Sandstone. Fourth Limestone."

"The Fourth" Magnesian Limestone, or lowest number of the Ozark series recognized, has its typical exposures along the Niangua and Osage rivers in Morgan and Camden counties.

Professor Swallow, in his Missouri Geological Survey Reports I. and II., 1853 and 1854, says: "Caves, natural bridges and subterranean streams occur in the valley of the Osage and its tributaries." The same authority of forty years ago also mentions that "Some of the grandest scenery in the State is produced by the high castellated and mural bluffs of this (Third Magnesian Limestone) Formation, on the Niangua and the Osage." Another reference to the scenery on these rivers describes it as "Wild and grand, beautiful and unique;" with "gaudy-colored bluffs." In the section on building materials he remarks: "One of the most desirable of the Missouri marbles is in the Third Magnesian Limestone on the Niangua. It is fine-grained, crystalline, silico-magnesian limestone of a light drab, slightly tinged with peach-blossom, and beautifully clouded with the same hue or flesh color. It is twenty feet thick and crops out in the bluffs. This marble is rarely surpassed in the qualities which fit it for ornamental architecture."

The Ozarks in the extreme southern portion of the state are even less known to the world, but the scenery is grand, the climate delightful, and the caves worthy of a visit for themselves alone. The State of Missouri being one third larger than England, and of equal size to Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Denmark combined, it is not surprising that interesting discoveries are still to be expected.

The climate is so varied on account of the range in latitude and altitude, and the natural resources are so great, the claim has been made that if the State were surrounded by an impassable wall, its citizens need not be deprived of any article necessary to a refined and luxurious mode of living: and according to Mr. Henry Gannett in "The Building of a Nation," the population in 1890 was 73.42 per cent. native whites of native parents, the colored a little less than 6 per cent., and nearly two-thirds of the balance, native born of parents, one or both of whom were foreign.

Although the Ozark region has not yet received sufficient attention to dull its charm for the explorer, the fact has been established that its earliest sedimentary rocks are of the Cambrian Age and still occupy mainly the position in which they were originally deposited. Therefore we need not be surprised to discover that some, at least, of the excavations are proportionately ancient; and that the Natural Bridges are the last remaining positive evidence of their former existence and final collapse. That the Natural Bridges of Missouri mark the destruction of more ancient caves than the one preserved to geological history by Virginia's grand attraction, seems quite evident. The greater age of the rocks indicates the possibility of earlier excavation while their undisturbed position suggests that destruction resulted, not from violent earth movement, but from the slow action of agencies requiring long periods of time.

Before proceeding to a discussion of the caves visited personally for the gratification of private interest, it is desirable to know what attention has been given to the subject, incidentally, in the course of regular official duty on the Missouri Geological Survey.


Although many unknown caves must yet be discovered in the imperfectly explored portions of the vast Ozark forests, these finds are already so numerous as to seldom attract attention according to their just desserts.

One of the comparatively recent of these discoveries is Crystal Cave, at Joplin, described on page 566, Vol. VII., Missouri Geological Survey Report 1894.[1] It was opened in the lower workings of a shaft of the Empire Zinc Company, and "The entire surface of the cave, top, sides and bottom, is lined with calcite crystals, so closely packed together as to form a continuous sheet and most of them of great size, and well formed faces. Scalenohedra as much as two feet long are sometimes seen, and others a foot or more in length are common. Planes or crystal ghosts, sometimes with pyrite crystals, marking stages of growth in the calcite crystals, are often distinguishable. The entire absence of anything like stalactites is noticeable, and together with the presence of the crystals, show that the cave was completely filled with water during their growth." In the same volume, all those counties in the extreme southwest corner of the state, whose geological age has not heretofore been considered positively determined, are mapped as Lower Carboniferous, and Lower Silurian, with the Coal Measures covering portions of Barton and Jasper and appearing in a few small, scattered spots in Dade, Polk, Green and Christian counties, and some scanty lines of Devonian fringing the edges of the Silurian in Barton and McDonald.

Other State reports make mention of many caves and fine springs, and also several natural bridges worthy of special notice. In Mr. G.C. Broadhead's report for 1873-1874, he gives a short but interesting chapter on caves and water supplies, in which he says that "Caves occur in the Third Magnesian Limestone, Saccharoidal Sandstone, Trenton, Lithographic, Encrinital and St. Louis Limestone."

"In Eastern and Northeast Missouri there have not been found many large caves in the Encrinital Limestone, but the lower beds of this formation in Southwest Missouri often enclose very large caverns; among the latter may be included the caves of Green County with some in Christian and McDonald. Those in McDonald I have not seen, but they are reported to be very extensive and probably are situated in the Encrinital Limestone."

Under the head of "Special Descriptions" he says: "On Sac River, in the north part of Green County, we find a cave with two entrances, one at the foot of a hill, opening toward Sac River, forty-five feet high and eighty feet wide. The other entrance is from the hill-top, one hundred and fifty feet back from the face of the bluff. These two passages unite. The exact dimensions of the cave are not known, but there are several beautiful and large rooms lined with stalactites and stalagmites which often assume both beautiful and grotesque life-like forms. The cave has been explored for several hundred yards, showing the formations to be thick silicious beds of the Lower Carboniferous formations."

"Knox cave, in Green County, is said to be of large dimensions. I have not seen it, but some of its stalactites are quite handsome."

"Wilson's Creek sinks beneath the Limestone and appears again below."

"There are several caves near Ozark, Christian County, which issue from the same formation as those in Green County. On a branch of Finly Creek a stream disappears in a sink, appearing again three-quarters of a mile southeast through an opening sixty feet high by ninety-eight feet wide. Up stream the cave continues this size for a hundred yards and then decreases in size, and for the next quarter of a mile further it is generally ten by fourteen feet wide. A very clear, cool stream passes out, in which by careful search crawfish without eyes can be found."

"There is another cave a few miles south of Ozark, and another ten miles southeast occurs in the Magnesian Limestone."

"In Boone County there are several caves in the Encrinital Limestone. Conner's, the largest, is said to have been explored for a distance of eight miles."

"In Pike and Lincoln there are several small caves occurring in the upper beds of Trenton Limestone, which are often very cavernous. On Sulphur Fork of Cuivre, there is a cave and Natural Bridge, to which parties for pleasure often resort. The bridge is tubular with twenty feet between the walls, and is one hundred feet long."

"At J.P. Fisher's on Spencer Creek, Ralls County, there is a cave having an entrance of ninety feet wide by twenty feet high. The Lower Trenton beds occupy the floor, with the upper cavernous beds above. On the bluff, at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards back, there is a sink-hole which communicates with the cave. Within the cave is a cool, clear spring of water, and Mr. F. said he could keep meat fresh there for six weeks during midsummer."

"The Third Magnesian Limestone which occupies such a large portion of Southwest Missouri, often contains very large caves. One of them, known as Friede's cave, is six or eight miles Northwest of Rolla, on Cave Spring Creek."

"It is said to have been explored for several miles, but I only passed in a few hundred yards. The stalactites here are very beautiful, assuming the structure of satin spar. A very clear stream of water issues out. West of the Gasconade, on Clifty Creek, is a remarkable Natural Bridge which I have elsewhere described in Geological Survey of Missouri, 1855-71, page 16."

"Mr. Meek speaks of a large and interesting cave on Tavern Creek, in Miller County. Dr. Shumard estimates a cave on Bryant's Fork, in Ozark County, to be a mile and a half long."

This description of Dr. Shumard's is in the Geological Survey of Missouri, 1855-71, page 196, where he says:

"The entrance is thirty-five feet wide and thirty feet high, and is situated at the foot of a perpendicular cliff, and far above the water-level of Bryant. Just within the entrance it expands to sixty or seventy feet, with a height of about fifty feet; and this part of the cave has been used by the citizens of the county as a place for holding camp-meeting. I estimated its length at not far short of one mile and a half. The main passage is in general quite spacious, the roof elevated, and the floor tolerably level, but often wet and miry. For some distance beyond the entrance there is not much to attract attention; but as we proceed, at the far extremity the chambers are quite as picturesque as the most noted of the well-known Mammoth Cave. The ceilings, sides and floor are adorned with a multitude of stalactites and stalagmites arranged in fanciful combinations, and assuming a variety of fantastic and beautiful forms."

Many of these caves contain niter, which occurs as a mineral and not as evidence of former animal occupation, it being found in the form of effervescenses on the walls. Dr. Shumard mentions several of this character in Pulaski County, the most noted being Niter Cave, in the Third Magnesian Limestone, with a wide entrance thirty feet above the level of the Gasconade. On page 201, he also gives a charming description of one of the immense springs that are numerous in this region and that I have never seen elsewhere. He says:

"Ozark County is bountifully supplied with springs of the finest water, and some of them of remarkably large size. The largest one is situated near the North Fork, in T. 24, R. 11 W., Sec. 32, and is known under the name of the Double Spring. It issues from near the base of a bluff of Sandstone and Magnesian Limestone, a few feet above the level of the North Fork. This spring discharges an immense volume of water, which is divided by a huge mass of Sandstone into two streams, with swift currents flowing in opposite directions to join the North Fork about one hundred and fifty yards distant from the spring. I estimated the width of these streams at not less than fifty yards. They are separated from the North Fork by a pretty wooded island one hundred yards long. The upper stream affords a good mill-site. I am informed that the quantity of water discharged by this magnificent spring is not materially diminished during the dryest seasons of the year. The temperature of the water measured at the edge of the spring, was found to be 56 deg.; the temperature of the air at the same time, 59 deg. Other springs of considerable magnitude occur in various portions of the county, giving rise to beautiful and limpid streams."

The descriptions of the Natural Bridge and Friede's cave, near Rolla, previously referred to as being on page 16 of the same volume, are as follows:

"On Clifty Creek found the chert bed of Sec. 21-5 occurring about sixty feet from the top of the Third Magnesian Limestone, with a road passing over its upper surface, presenting it very favorably for observation. It seemed here to be broken by vertical cracks into large rhomboidal blocks. Further up this creek in a wild and secluded spot, observed a Natural Bridge with six feet of this chert bed at its base, and Silicious Magnesian Limestone above. The span of this bridge is about thirty feet, an elevation of opening about fifteen feet above the water, the thickness of the rock above is about twelve feet, and width on top about fifteen feet. Two small streams come together, one from the west and another from the south-west. A point of the bluff on the south-west fork spans the northern fork, and terminates about sixty feet beyond in a sharp point; a few large masses of rock lie near the termination of the promontory, and fifty feet beyond, the bluffs of the opposite hills rise abruptly from the bottoms. The bluffs, both above and below, are very precipitous, the middle and lower beds of the Third Magnesian Limestone forming perpendicular escarpments, frequently studded with cedar, some occurring on top of the bridge. A perfectly clear stream of water courses through this valley. The bottoms near are overspread with a dense growth of trees and vines, among which latter I noticed the Muscadine grape. The valley at this part being shut in by its perpendicular cliffs with not a path to guide the traveler through the dense thickets, is wildly picturesque and romantic in its loneliness."

Of the cave he says: "This cave is a quarter of a mile east of Cave Spring Creek, and has a wide and elevated entrance; passing into it a hundred yards or more, the passage narrows, and in order to go further a stream of water has frequently to be waded through; this passage has been followed by some persons several miles without finding any object of interest; but a few hundred yards from the entrance, by diverging to the right, we enter a large chamber, studded with stalactites and stalagmites, many uniting and forming solid columns of support. Many of these are very beautiful, and often as white as alabaster. There are other large rooms, but they possess no peculiar interest. Found large deposits of earth on the floor having a saline taste."

Of the extensive pine forests in Ozark County, he says: "The size and quality of the timber will compare favorably with that of the celebrated pineries of Wisconsin and Minnesota."

In several other counties the pine is equally good, and other valuable timber everywhere abundant, although in a school geography published in 1838, the following descriptions of this region occur:

"The lowlands of the Mississippi are bounded by the region of the Ozark Mountains. With the exception of the alluvial tracts on the borders of the streams, it is extremely hilly and broken. The mountains rise from eight hundred to eighteen hundred feet above the streams, with rounded summits and often perpendicular cliffs, and have a rocky surface, which admits only a scanty growth of timber." * *

"Missouri is generally a region of prairies and table lands, much of which, as already described, is almost destitute of timber and water. It is crossed by the Ozark Mountains, which form a rugged tract of considerable extent. Earthquakes are not infrequent in some parts of this state. The soil is not generally productive."

A comparison of these curious views with the latest official reports is highly amusing, as well as suggestive that early impressions are liable to require modification.

In addition to the wonderful springs of pure water, there are numerous fine mineral springs, among which are a number of Epsom salt springs. At Jacksonville, in Randolph County, there is a large mineral spring from which it is said an over-heated horse may drink all he will without injury. Epsom-salts, or Epsomite, frequently occurs, as does the Niter, in a crystalline form of the pure mineral, as an efflorescence on rocks in many of the caves and in other sheltered positions.


[1] Lead and Zinc. Prof. C.R. Keyes.



Marble Cave, which is the finest yet explored in Missouri, is southeast of the center of Stone County, a short distance north of the picturesque White River. The nearest station is Marionville on the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad, and the drive of forty miles is delightful, but can be divided, into two of twenty each by a stop at Galena. The road, for the most part, is naturally macadamized and is through a most charming country whose roughness and beauty increase together as the journey advances. At first it winds along fertile valleys between wooded hills, crossing many times a shallow stream of water so clear as to afford no concealment for an occasional water-moccasin, whose bite is said to be not poisonous if inflicted under water, and which must be true because the horses showed not the least uneasiness.

The second week in May found the vegetation in its summer beauty; strawberries were ripe, and the weather without a fault.

Galena is pleasantly situated on the hills overlooking the James River, and is entirely invisible from the road by which it is approached until a slight curve in the line of ascent ends the first half of the journey with surprising suddenness. In the immediate vicinity there are several small caves which are worthy of attention and will be described later on.

To properly picture the twenty miles of changing and charming views between Galena and Marble Cave would require the light and skillful touch of a special artist gifted with a tangible perception of atmospheric values. Gradually the road forsakes the pretty valleys with their fields and streams, to take the summit of the hills and then be known as the "Ridge Road," which affords a wide range of vision not previously enjoyed, presenting scenes not to be found reproduced elsewhere with any degree of exactness. Looking into the depth of the forest as it slopes away on either side, the impression is of a magnificent park, undefaced by what are called improvements. This effect is produced by the scarcity, or entire absence of underbrush, and a beautiful surface covering of grasses or flowering plants of all kinds and colors, varied here and there with masses of ferns of unusual size and delicate beauty. The most unexpected and lavish feature of the rich display is the many miles of fragrant honeysuckle that grows only eighteen inches high in the forest shade, but if transplanted to a sunny spot develops into the familiar vine. The most beautiful portion of all this is called The Wilderness, and seems designed for a National Park. Such a park reserve, even if very small, could not fail to be a lasting pleasure, since it would be more accessible to large centers of population than other reserves, and its most delightful seasons are spring and autumn when the Yellowstone is under snow.

The distant view obtained through open spaces is an undulating forest in all directions, being apparently both trackless and endless. The great variety of greens observed in the foliage blends in the distance into one dark shade, then changes to dark blue, which gradually fades out to a hazy uncertainty where it is lost at the sky-line.

As long ago as 1853, the variety and abundance of the natural growth of fruits throughout the Ozarks was observed by Professor Swallow, who then advised the planting of vines.

Beyond the Wilderness is the Marble Cave property and the entrance to the Cave is through a large sink-hole in the top of Roark Mountain. This hole is said to be about two hundred feet long, one hundred feet wide and thirty-five feet deep. It is shaped like a great oblong bowl with sloping sides, divided irregularly near the middle, and having the bottom broken out in a jagged way that is very handsome and gives an ample support to the growth of ferns, wild roses, and other vegetation with which it is abundantly decorated. About half of the descent into the basin is accomplished by scrambling down the roughly broken rocks, and the balance by a broad wooden stairway ending at a narrow platform that supports the locked gate.

For kind and valuable assistance rendered to insure the success and pleasure of the visit to the wonderful cave, which they regard with affection and pride, very cordial thanks are due to Capt. T.S. Powell, former manager, his son, Mr. Will Powell, the first guide, and Mr. Fred Prince, who has made the only official survey and map. It may be stated here that the survey and map are far from complete, and many known passages have never yet been entered.

Being the first visiting party of the season, certain disadvantages were encountered in a great accumulation of wet clay and rubbish, washed in by the rains since the previous summer; but the gate was opened with considerable effort, and slowly and cautiously we descended the slippery, clay-banked stairs to the immense mound of debris forty-five feet below the gate, to behold, at last, the grandeur of the Auditorium.

The magnificence of that one chamber should give to Marble Cave a world-wide fame even if there were nothing more beyond. The blue-gray limestone walls have a greater charm than those of an open canon, owing to the fact that they sweep away from any given point in long, true curves to form an elliptical chamber three hundred and fifty feet long by one hundred and twenty-five feet wide, with the vault above showing absolute perfection of arch, and measuring, by the survey, from its lowest to its highest point, one hundred and ninety-five feet. These measurements are said to be indisputably correct, and if so, the Auditorium of Marble Cave is the largest unsupported, perfect arch in the world; it being one hundred feet longer than the famous Mormon Tabernacle at Salt Lake City. In addition to the artistic superiority of architectural form, its acoustic properties having been tested, it is found to be truly an auditorium. The curving walls and pure atmosphere combine to aid the voice, and carry its softest tones with marvelous distinctness to every portion of the immense inclosed space. As a concert hall its capacity has been tested by musicians who are said to have been enthusiastic over the success of their experiments. Several years ago a piano was lowered into the cave for use on a special occasion, and still occupies a position on the dancing platform, where it will probably remain indefinitely under the scant protection of a small canvas tent.

The chief ornament of the Auditorium is the White Throne, a stalagmitic mass that when viewed from the stairway appears to rest solidly against the most distant wall, and looks so small an object in that vast space as to render a realization of its actual measurement impossible. The height of the Throne is sixty-five feet and the girth two hundred. It is a mass of dripstone resting on a limestone base reserved from the ancient excavation to receive it, and on careful inspection the perpendicular lines, observed on the front, are found to be a set of rather large organ pipes. A fresh fracture shows the Throne to be a most beautiful white and gold onyx. The outer surface has now received a thin coating of yellow clay which was, of course, regretted, but later observations on onyx building reveals the pleasing fact that if the crystal-bearing waters continue to drip, the yellow clay will supply the coloring matter for a golden band of crystal.

The Throne is hollow and has a natural opening in one side by which it may be entered, but the space within is too limited to invite a lengthy stay. That portion of the outside which is nearest the wall is formed with sufficient irregularity of outline to admit of an ascent to the top, and the view obtained is well worth the difficult scramble up and the apprehensive slide down. Being raised so high above all objects that divide attention or in some degree obstruct the view, permits a freedom of outlook that sensibly increases the appreciation of the vastness of the enclosed chamber and its enclosing walls. Efforts to establish the age of the deposit by observations on the yearly growth, would afford little satisfaction, for the obvious reason that conditions governing the growth are dependent, in a measure, on each season's vegetation. Deposit began, of course, after the erosion of the chamber ceased, and therefore represents only a fraction of the age of the cave itself. About thirty feet west of the White Throne and against the wall, stands the next onyx attraction in the form of a beautiful fluted column nearly twenty feet high, tapering up from a base three feet in diameter, and known as the Spring Room Sentinel, because the Spring of Youth is just behind it although not directly connected with the Auditorium; it being the first chamber on the left in Total Depravity Passage, a wet and dangerous way of which next to nothing is known, but the entrance to which is a fine arch a few feet west of the Sentinel. The Spring of Youth is reached by climbing through a window-like opening, and is very small, very wet, very cold, and very beautiful. It is not more than ten feet high nor six in its greatest length and breadth, but every inch of its irregular surface is composed of dripstone of a bright yellowish-red and colorless crystal; and down the glittering walls trickles clear and almost ice-cold water, to the onyx floor where it is caught and held in a marvelous fluted bowl of its own manufacture. This is said to be the gem of the whole cave and seems to have been placed where it is for the consolation of those who are unable to enjoy the peculiar grandeur of the Auditorium, and leave it as some actually are said to do, with a sense of disappointment, because it is not the gleaming white hall of marble which some writers for reputable journals have allowed their imaginations to create.

In winter the Spring of Youth Room takes on a complete coating of ice, with icicles of all sizes hanging from the ceiling and projections. The effect is described as being wonderfully beautiful.

Further down Total Depravity Passage we were not urged to go, because at that season of the year it is wet and difficult, without any sufficient promise of a brilliant compensation for the achievement of such a journey. But the Spring of Youth Room, or as it is generally called, the Spring Room, is more than ample justification for the existence of the passage, and would still be if that passage were several miles in length and the attraction located at the most distant limit.

The various passages in Marble Cave are by no means alike or even similar; some having been opened by the action of water assisted only by acid carried in solution; while others are the unmistakable crevices of earthquake origin, afterwards enlarged, or perhaps only remodeled, as we might say, by the water's untiring energy in changing the position of rock masses without obliterating evidences of original design.

A glance at the map shows the sudden breaking off of the various passages represented; the end, however, is not of the passages themselves, but only of the exploration or the survey of them, and there is a possibility that future developments will lead to the discovery of more caves than are yet known. However that may be, the glimpses already had into the beyond are said to be alluring.

To the north of the Auditorium, which was until recently called the Grand Amphitheater, there opens out a kind of alcove extension known as the Mother Hubbard Room, and spreading out from this is the corridor, a room about one hundred and twenty-five feet long and seventy-five feet in width, with a low, narrow passage, or crawl, leading from the northeast into the Grotto, a dome-shaped room formerly called the Battery, on account of the great number of bats that used to congregate in it. It is about forty feet in diameter and fifty feet in height. On one side of this room is a narrow "squeeze" opening into a passage several feet lower than the floor level of the Grotto and leading to the Spanish Room, which when discovered bore indications of having been occupied by a human being who had tried to escape by tunneling, or by reaching a hole in the roof; which is said to be impossible for him to have done without outside assistance. As no bones have been found we may hope the assistance arrived in time. When the discovery of the room was made, a quantity of loose rock was piled before the entrance, so if he ever escaped it was not by that way.

After crawling back to the Corridor, through the same small, but dry passage of seventy feet length, we saw a narrow ledge of fine crystals, a deposit of Epsom salts, and a few bats that in the dim light looked white but are a light tan color with brown wings. A good specimen hanging on a projecting ledge of the wall remained undisturbed by us and our lights, giving an opportunity for careful inspection so that we presently discovered it to be a mummy; which naturally suggests that this portion of the cave, being dry and opening out of the great temple-like Auditorium as an alcove, could be converted into an imposing crypt.

Making our way across the room to its southwest extremity over a varied assortment of bowlders and down a drop of eight or ten feet, we crawled into another tight-fitting dry passage lined with beautiful glittering onyx like clear ice banded with narrow lines of red, of which broken fragments covered the narrow floor and made a dazzling, but distressingly painful rug to crawl over. This is the West Passage and leads to the Grand Crevice, of which only a small portion has been surveyed; midway of the passage are the Epsom Rooms, two in number, and well supplied with epsomite or native Epsom salts; this is sometimes called the Windy Passage, on account of a rushing current of air met suddenly at the first bend and, no doubt, due to the meeting here of fresh air coming in from the outside with that chemically changed in the Epsom Rooms.

The cave contains a great many dangerous places, as we correctly surmised on the morning of our introduction; when Mr. Powell's blessing on the breakfast was lost in so fervent a prayer for the safe and successful accomplishment of our undertaking, it seemed inconsiderate not to present the reassuring appearance of inexhaustible endurance.

In the Corridor can be seen one of the three old Spanish ladders found in the cave when it was rediscovered; but when and for what purpose the Spaniards used the cave there seems to be no means of finding out. It should be remembered that this part of the United States was occupied first by the Spaniards and then by the French, and is a portion of the Louisiana Purchase, a tract of 897,931 square miles, or 70,000 square miles more than the original thirteen states. The price asked and paid was $12,000,000 and the assumption of claims which citizens of this country had against the French Government for about $3,750,000 more. The French offered to make the sale on account of being thoroughly discouraged with constant troubles arising with the Indians, whom they had decided it would be impossible to persuade or compel to recognize any laws other than those established by each tribe for itself, or accepted by friendly treaty with the council and disregarded by individuals on both sides:—and the United States accepted the offer, not for any expected value in the land, but for the unrestricted navigation of the Mississippi River. Therefore Missouri was never under British rule and never changed hands by force of arms.

But to return to the Spanish ladder, it is a tall pine tree notched on the sides for steps, and the stump of a branch left or a peg inserted at considerable intervals, for hand supports to assist in raising the weight of the body.

Returning to the Auditorium, we entered a passage behind the Great White Throne and started on what might well be called the Water Route, for no dry spot is touched on the round trip; but if one goes prepared for such a journey it is well worth the effort and the mud. If the visitor is a man, the suit worn should be one he is ready to part with, or overalls; ladies receive the same advice even to the overalls, as some of the most beautiful portions of the cave, which we failed to see, can be visited only in that objectionable costume. To visit any cave comfortably a short dress is necessary and if any thing like a thorough knowledge of the ramifications is desired, the unavoidable climbing will soon prove the superior claims of a divided skirt; but if it is properly made, only the wearer need be conscious of the divide. Rubber boots and water-proof protection for the head and shoulders complete a costume that is not exactly an artistic creation, unless our ideas of art have been gathered in the school of Socrates, but it is suited to the requirements of the occasion and makes the explorations far more easy and profitable than they otherwise could be.

The passage back of the White Throne is called the Serpentine Passage, and most of it is sufficiently high for traveling in an erect position; yet there are several places that require crawling. The first stopping point is the Gulf of Doom Room, or as it is also known, the Register Room, because here visitors usually write their names in the peculiar dark red clay, which is moist but firm and cuts with a polish. This room is twenty-five feet high and fifty feet wide, and looks off into the Gulf of Doom, which seems rightly named when a rock is thrown into it and you note the lapse of time before any sound returns; and when the awful Gulf is made visible by lights thrown in, one involuntarily seeks a firmer footing and clings to a projecting rock. The height of the Gulf is ninety-five feet and the distant sound of falling water is not reassuring. The walls are not smoothly worn away, but have the rough and weird appearance of having been torn by a torrent in a narrow mountain gorge, and are stained with the dark clay.

Retracing our steps a short distance, if that style of locomotion could be called steps, we turned into Dore's Gallery, and surely that artist was in his usual working mood when he conceived this awful method of connecting the upper regions with the lower. Great bowlders have fallen down without helping to fill the black holes that received them, and into this real Inferno we proceeded to descend by narrow, ladder-like stairs provided with a light hand rail, and trembling slightly with the responsibility they assumed. If any one's courage trembled too, no notice was taken of it, and a record of exploring experiences does not necessarily include a confession of any doubts.

On all the ladders in this Gallery was a fine white fungus growth in the form of a thick, heavy mold, that the lightest touch destroyed. In caves where some care is taken to protect this mold, it attains a growth of six or more feet and assumes the forms of sea-weed.

Once down the first and longest flight of stairs, without any signs of a Dore dragon raising its huge body by heavy claws to a resting place among the rocks, awe divides more evenly with admiration; and being already well besmeared with mud, we climbed over the clay-covered bowlders and crawled through narrow holes with perfect satisfaction, enjoying each novel scene to the utmost.

Off from the Dore Gallery is a small chamber containing the Fountain of Youth, that must be seen, but the way, like that of the transgressor, is hard. Arrived at the entrance we hesitated a moment, for although getting in looked possible, the way out again seemed not so simple; but finally trusting to Providence, through the direct agency of our careful guardians, of course, we sat down on the edge of the large slippery bowlder on which we stood, and reaching out caught a projection of the wall on one side and a bowlder crag on the other, swung off and dropped into the soft mud below. This chamber proved to be a little gem; small but high, and beautifully adorned with calcite crystal. Down a wall of red onyx on one side clear water flows into a basin in the irregular, rocky floor, just behind the bowlder we had used for a hand-rest at the entrance; the perfectly transparent water in the basin appears to be only a few inches deep, but measures three feet, and is several degrees colder than the air, which in this portion of the cave is warm. The other wall of this room is an almost perpendicular bank of the soft dark red clay, in which small selenite crystals are sprouting like plants in a garden.

Suddenly we heard a heavy, rolling noise like distant thunder, and asking if it were possible to hear a thunder storm so far below the surface, were told it was the protest of angry bats against a further advance on the quarters to which they have retreated from the main body of the cave, and their orders were obeyed: so of what may be in that direction, we gained no positive knowledge besides bats, and the fact that, small as they are, their great numbers make them dangerous when angry. Returning to the gallery and continuing the journey down over slippery rock and slender ladders we came at length to the bottom of the Gulf of Doom, into which we had looked from the room now high above us; and we needed no stimulating help to the imagination to pronounce it a fit termination to an artist's troubled dream.

Then climbing over an assortment of bowlders of all sizes, going up a little, and swinging or sliding down, we came to a point in the narrow passage where the floor is a flat slab, like a large paving stone, tilted up at a steep angle against one wall and not reaching the other by about fifteen inches, with darkness of unknown depth below: about three feet above this opening the wall projects in a narrow, shelving ledge, and everything is covered with a thin coating of slippery wet clay. The only way to cross that uninviting bridge is to brace the feet against the slab, and leaning on the ledge, slowly work across. A little more rough work and the descent of the two short ladders, brought us, at last, under the beautiful Waterfall, where we stood as in a heavy shower of rain at the lowest point yet reached in the cave, which according to the survey of Mr. Prince is four hundred feet below the surface. The falling water has ornamented the walls, which in this portion of the cave expose over two hundred feet of Magnesian Limestone, with unique forms of dripstone; and the steeply sloping floor has received the over-charge of calcium carbonate until it has become a shining mass of onyx, retaining pools of cold, transparent water in the depressions. In the lowest corner there is only mud, and above it rises, to a height of at least fifteen feet a bank of miry, yellow clay, at the top of which a hole in the wall is the only known entrance to Blondy's Throne.



On account of the long "crawl" through mud and cold water, it was at first suggested and then strongly advised, that we should not undertake to make the trip to Blondy's Throne: and yearning to see what is considered the cave's chief beauty was not easy to overcome, but after careful attention to the deep mire of the approach the advice seemed good, especially as Mr. Powell kindly promised to write a description of its trials and treasures; which he promptly did, thereby making it possible for us to continue the journey now without a disappointing interruption, so we will proceed to wade that mud bank with him in his own way. He says: "As Mecca is to the Mohammedan, so is Blondy's Throne Room to the pilgrim who invades the chaos and penetrates the mysteries of Marble Cave. When the subject is mentioned to the guide, he shrugs his shoulders and assumes an imploring look, and begins at once to mention the difficulties of getting there. But if you insist upon it he will go. The passage by which this room has to be reached, if passage it may be called, must be entered from the Waterfall Room, and a steep ascent must be made until an elevation of fifty feet is reached above the bottom of that room. This ascent has been called Hughse's Slide, as a man of that name once lost his footing at the top and slid on the wet and very slippery clay all the way to the bottom, leaving a very sleek trail. The ascent is difficult, as the soft clay is deep and wet and the sides are reeking and covered also with soft yielding clay. When the top of the slide is once reached, a low passage six feet wide and two feet high is discovered, and stooping low, or actually lying flat down, you enter. The top of the passage is of smooth rock and the bottom is of wet clay with an occasional variation of sharp gravel. The air is good, and as a lizard, you start forward. In places the passage widens to ten or twelve feet and again narrows to six feet.

"In about one hundred feet you encounter a small pond of water filling the whole width of the passage and extending twenty to thirty feet, but the guide tells you it is only one foot deep, and calls attention to the fact that the water does not come within a foot of the roof of the passage and you can easily keep your chin above it, and with this assurance through you go.

"Within the next one hundred feet you encounter and pass in the same manner three more ponds of varying sizes. The guide calls your attention to the fact that you are not alone, and looking about you by the dim light of your candle you see numbers of small eyeless salamanders, from four inches to one foot long. They are peaceable and harmless, appear to have no teeth and are easily caught, if you so desire.

"Another hundred feet and the Rest Room, or Egyptian Temple is reached, and rising to your feet you may rest. The room is small, but contains beautifully fluted walls, resembling basaltic columns; and natural marks of erosion that resemble hieroglyphic inscriptions. From the other side of this room the passage goes on with the same characteristics, but as you enter to go forward a sound strikes the ear, and you pause to listen. It is a confusion of sounds, a babel of voices; and sounds like a distant conversation carried on by a large number of people. So striking is this resemblance that you instantly ask the guide if there are people in the room ahead, and hardly believe him when he says, 'No.'

"You hear voices of men, voices of boys, babies, girls and ladies, and occasionally loud laughter; but forward is the word and on you go, encouraged by the assurance of the guide that you are now over half way through the passage and that the sounds came from Blondy's Throne Room. Suddenly the passage divides into two much alike, and taking the right hand one, you make your slow advance until at last, with clothes soaked and covered with clay mud, and your strength about gone, you begin to feel desperate and tell the guide that you will go no further, when you see him rise to his feet, and he says: 'Here we are.' You step over a steep bank of clay and emerge into a large room. It is almost square in shape; about eighty feet long and sixty feet wide, and about fifty feet high, with white, smooth walls and a pure white ceiling, and sloping gradually downward on the left ends in a small, clear lake of water. This lake has a beautiful beach of white pebbles, and though shallow on the edge seems quite deep at the center; in fact it is believed to have there a concealed opening that gives exit to its waters. On the opposite side from you, a stream of clear water pours into the lake, and in doing so it gives off the sounds that in the passage you mistook for human voices; and this noble stream has been named Mystic River. It enters the lake from under a beautiful natural arch, about thirty feet across at the bottom, and six feet above the water at the center. The bed of the stream is eroded from strata of sandstone that is extremely hard, containing corundum, and so perfect is its continuity that it conveys sound distinctly for a distance far beyond the reach of the human voice, when tapped upon with a hammer. The top of the arch is studded with lovely stalactites, clear as glass, that extend to the outer edge of the arch and form massive and beautiful groups there. Above the arch is a large opening. In truth the side of the room is out, and a great dark space appears like a curtain of black. A natural path leads up over one side of the arch, and following the lead of the guide you go up above and learn that a room on the higher level extends off in that direction and gets larger and higher. The walls are stalagmitic columns in cream color and decked in places with blood-red spots or blotches of Titanic size. The ceiling you cannot see. It is too high for the lights you have to reach. On the left you are suddenly confronted by a stalagmitic formation so large and so grand that all others are dwarfed into insignificance. You think of the dome of the Capitol at Washington. You are standing at the sloping base but cannot see the top. Just here the guide announces in an awestruck voice 'Blondy's Throne.' And who is Blondy? Only a fair-haired, blue-eyed, intrepid and daring fifteen-year-old boy, named Charles Smallwood, who assisted the writer in exploring the cave in the early days of 1883, and going on in advance, reported back that he had found another and a greater throne than the Great White Throne in the Auditorium.

"Well, here we are at Blondy's Throne at last, and surveying the base, we find that it is actually only half in the room we are in; the other half forms the side of another room. In a word, the Great Throne divides the room into two parts and makes two rooms of it instead of one. Yet the one half of the base has a measurement, by tape line, of one hundred and fifty feet. The guide now makes preparations to ascend the Throne. A chain has been fastened up towards the top, and by taking hold of this the climb can be made up the sloping sides of the Throne. We pass on and up over the clearest and most ice-like formation, resembling the great icebergs seen at sea. Reaching an elevation of sixty feet an opening into the dome is found, and stooping, you enter. It is a room about twenty feet across, with a white ice-like floor, a roof or ceiling ten feet above, and from it hang thousands of brilliant stalactites and from the floor stalagmites rise up to meet them. They are in all sizes, from an inch to two feet across. The sides are of the same material joined and cemented lightly together. Strike any of them and clear musical notes are given off; a musician has found two full octaves. Water is dripping in many places, and in the center of the floor is a tank full of clear water. It is four feet wide, twelve feet long and of unknown depth.

"On the opposite side of the room from which you enter there is a hole or opening in the wall. It is large enough to go through but it goes into the great dark room on the other side of the Throne. An abyss confronts you, a sheer precipice which descends for many feet, perhaps hundreds. No man knows. This outer room of Blondy's Throne has been named the Chamber of the Fairies. Leaving it and continuing the ascent, the top of the Throne is soon reached and is about twenty feet across; and from several points still higher, rise stalagmitic spires.

"The actual height of Blondy's Throne is not known, but is probably about one hundred feet. Again look upwards for the ceiling from the dizzy height on top of the Throne; you cannot see it. Burn magnesium ribbon and look up, and you see a white ceiling spangled with groups of stalactites. It is surely one hundred feet away. Then look off into the unknown room which is called the Great Beyond. No human being has ever explored or even entered it, but fire balls thrown in reveal the fact that it is of great extent; and part of the bottom water and part land. No way of getting into it has ever yet been found, so its mysteries, lessons and revelations are still safe from human intrusion. How far it goes, where it stops, and what it leads to, are facts for some future explorer to discover. Bats and white salamanders are found in Blondy's Throne Room, and some larger animals have been heard to jump into the water and escape on the approach of man, but their species is not known.

"The arched passage of Mystic River has been followed up for a journey of an hour, but further than that its extent is unknown. It was hoped that a way would be thus found into the Great Beyond, but it did not prove successful. A well equipped party could find there a chance for some grand discoveries, and it would be one of the notable pleasures of the life of the writer to be one of such a party.

"The exit from Blondy's Throne Room is always made with deep regret that the waning lights and meager supplies will not allow a longer stay. The long crawl, the mud and the water are all forgotten, and notwithstanding the terror of the trip one feels well repaid."

We thank Mr. Powell for a charming journey without its discomfort and danger, and resume our travels at the Waterfall.

From the foot of the Waterfall we returned again to the Auditorium, in time to enjoy a sight such as we supposed could exist only in a brilliant imagination; and the return at that hour was not a lucky accident of fate, but the result of careful attention to a prearranged design that we should not fail to witness a marvelous display never surpassed by lavish Nature. The day outside was one of cloudless summer sunshine.

Our eyes having grown accustomed to the dim light of candles in passages where absolute darkness, unrelieved by the stars of midnight, always reigns, the great Auditorium appeared before us softly flooded with daylight diffused from a broad white beam slanting down in long straight lines from the entrance as from a rift in heavy clouds; only this rift displayed around its edges a brilliant border of vegetation that the rough rocks cherish with tender care.

As we stood lost in almost speechless admiration, and without the slightest warning of treasure yet in store, the white beam was stabbed by a narrow, gleaming shaft of yellow sunlight. The glorious, radiant beauty of the picture presented is utterly indescribable, but it was of short duration, and in a few seconds the golden blade was withdrawn as suddenly as it had appeared.

If the genius of Elkins had been granted the privilege we enjoyed, the artist-world of Europe that graciously yielded the highest honor to his "Sunbeam on Mount Shasta," would have knelt in rapturous humility. Speaking of his great work, as we stood before it only a few months before his death, Mr. Elkins said quietly: "It is no great achievement; I simply painted it exactly as it looked. Anyone could do the same." But no one ever has.

The white beam was more enduring and by its aid we were able to view the expanse of the great Auditorium far better than could have been done in the momentary glare of any brilliant artificial light. Every part of the cloud-gray walls shows a stratification as regularly horizontal as if the laying of each course had been done with the assistance of line and level; while in every direction are now seen hundreds of stalactites that had not been noticed before, and although they look small, the average length, taken with the surveying instruments, is fourteen feet. The Hill beneath the entrance is an accumulation of debris, drifted in from the outside, and rising to a height of more than one hundred and twenty-five feet; while the great circumference of its supporting base, revealed by the banishment of shadows, suggests the possibility of tragic history of which the only evidence lies buried there and may or may not ever be discovered; but let us step lightly, since our feet may press the covering that shields a final sleep; and also let a grieving sister in her old age take comfort in the knowledge that here, as in few other spots, nature provides a certain and gentle burial for the unfortunate, and for a few seconds each day lights the dim chamber with a heavenly glory—perhaps in appeal to the sons of one country to harbor no such feelings as deprived Abel of life and for all time and eternity tarnished the honor of Cain.

The chilliness presently recalled us from further indulgence in that great scene, to ordinary affairs; and consulting the reliable thermometer, it was found to register 42 deg., while in some of the lower passages the temperature is 58 deg.; but the variation is not in accordance with the accepted theory of one degree to the one hundred feet descent.

A return to the beautiful Spring of Youth Room was now a necessity, but we were careful to allow no drop of water falling from clay-stained hands to reach the purity of that lovely bowl, and then being happy and hungry, we retired to the piano's protecting tent for refreshment.

The atmosphere in Marble Cave has the peculiar bracing and invigorating quality common to the majority of caves, that seems almost to defy fatigue and encourage exertion that under ordinary conditions would be impossible.

After the exertion necessary in the warmer portions of the cave, the temperature of 42 deg. proved rather low for comfort and finally was admitted to be a sufficient reason for either leaving the cave or sending out for the wraps. Slowly and reluctantly the party walked up the long winding path to the summit of the Hill where the stairway finds support, stopping many times to admire again the perfect curves and fine color-tones of that wonderful high arch—within a mountain yet softly radiant with the light of day.

Still lingering regretfully among the fern-decked rocks before quite finishing the ascent to the actual outside world, the mercury lost little time in registering eighty degrees.

Since no official, or even approximately correct map of Marble Cave has yet been published, and the desirability of maps is particularly urged by Monsieur E.A. Martel, a special effort was made to secure one, which was accompanied by the following remarks from Mr. Prince in regard to its incompleteness:

"There are several passages and rooms which do not appear on the map, though some of them are well known, but have not been surveyed and platted.

"Much further exploration is possible in this great cavern. Lost River Canon ends abruptly in a bank of red clay, the volume of water being undiminished. The water from the Great Fall flows by a small serpentine into a passage which has never been followed up; its entrance being several hundred feet higher than the nearest water level."

Unfortunately the quantity of water in the cave at the time of the visit just described was so unusually great as to render the Lost River Canon trip impossible.

During the previous season the cave and its surroundings were visited by a prominent naturalist who appears to have been delightfully liberal in the diffusion of scientific knowledge and the explanations of methods of pursuing investigations. His practical instruction in snake catching is particularly interesting as it was never before introduced into this state, where the copperhead and rattler are known to have survived among the fittest. Seeing a snake hole and desiring information as to the family record of the proprietor, he inserted a finger, and while waiting for results explained that there is no better way to secure a specimen, as the enraged reptile will fasten its fangs into the intruding member and then can be easily withdrawn. It is a pleasure to state that even snakes recognize the claims of friendship, and no injury was experienced.[2]

In the vicinity of Marble Cave there are several choice varieties of onyx and marble, among them a rare and beautiful onyx in black and yellow. The coloring, tinting and banding of onyx seem generally to be regarded as one of the unexplainable mysteries of nature, but is in reality an extremely simple process that can be easily studied in any active cave.

When the percolating acidulated water passes slowly through a pure limestone it is filtered of impurities and deposits a crystal, either pure white or transparent; if it comes in contact with metallic bodies of any kind, it carries away more or less in solution to act as coloring matter; the beautiful pale green onyx in several Missouri counties taking its tint from the copper; in South Dakota, manganese in various combinations produces black and many shades of brown; in both states an excessive flow of water often carries a quantity of red or yellow clay which temporarily destroys the beauty of exposed surfaces, but in after years becomes a fine band of brilliant color.

Small wind caves are numerous in the Ozarks and being cold are frequently utilized for the preservation of domestic supplies. The entrance to one in the neighborhood of Marble Cave is high up on the hill-side south of Mr. Powell's house and being visible from the porch was too tempting to be ignored, and the walk up to it for a better view was rewarded with a most charming bit of scenery as well. All the quiet valley, divided by a rushing little stream, lay before us in the shadow of early evening, while to the north and east the hills were brilliant in summer sunshine, with one small open glade gleaming vividly among the darker shades of forest green.

The cave was a very small room at the bottom of a steep, rocky, sloping passage, and contained no standing water, although there had been a heavy rainfall the night before and the opening is so situated as to especially favor the inflow, which naturally indicates a greater cave beneath a hidden passage. Here, as in most of the caves of the region, is found a small lizard: it is totally blind but its ancestors evidently were not, as is shown by conspicuous protuberances where the eyes should be, but over which the skin is drawn without a wrinkle or seam to indicate a former opening. These harmless creatures are not scaly, but are clothed in a soft, shining, well-fitted skin, and the largest seen were little more than six inches long.

Those who love perfect Nature in a most smiling mood should hasten to visit Marble Cave while yet no railroad quite touches the county.


[2] The naturalist referred to is the late Prof. E.D. Cope.



Fairy Cave enjoys the reputation of being the most beautiful yet discovered in that cavernous region, and consequently a visit to it was contemplated with considerable eagerness, although the mode of entrance had been described with sufficient accuracy to prevent any misconception of the difficulties to be overcome or the personal risk involved. To go from our temporary abiding place it was necessary to pass Marble Cave, and when we had gone that far Mr. Powell left us to follow the road, while he, on his mule, took a short cut across the hills and valleys, to try to find men not too much occupied with their own affairs on a fine Monday morning, in corn plowing time, to join our expedition. As neither our small companion, Merle, nor ourselves, had any knowledge of the locality of our destination, we were carefully instructed to follow the main road to the Wilderness Ridge, and keeping to that, pass the Indian Creek road and all others that are plain, but turn down the second dim road and follow it until stopped by a new fence where we would be met and conducted. So long as points to be passed held out, these directions gave us no trouble whatever, even the first dim road offering no obstacle to the pleasure of our progress; but the second dim road proved so elusive we traveled many miles in search of it, finally bringing up against a place Merle was familiar with and knew to be a long way off the track of our intentions. As there was nothing to be done but return we naturally accepted the situation and did that; presently finding Mr. Powell and the Messrs. Irwin, on whose land the cave is, patiently waiting for us in what was really not a road at all, but rather, in this region of fossils, the badly preserved impression of one long since extinct.

The new fence was opened at two places that we might drive through and be saved the exertion of walking a considerable distance, then the horses were left in the shade while we scrambled down the steep hill-side covered with sharp-edged, broken rock, about mid-way down which is the mouth of the cave, yawning like a narrow, open well. Above this a stout windlass has been arranged on two forked logs.

A few feet below the surface the cave spreads out jug-shaped, so that in descending nothing is touched until the floor is reached, one hundred feet beneath the surface; consequently the only danger to be apprehended is a fall.

Each of the three men present kindly offered to go down and make the exploration with me, but that would have left only two at the windlass, and for a man's weight, safety requires four. Should an accident occur, assistance would be necessary, and some time lost in finding it; so, to the undisguised satisfaction of one and equally evident relief of the others, it was reluctantly decided that the trip must be given up, and therefore we are indebted to the kindness of Captain Powell[3] for the following description of Fairy Cave:

"The Cave referred to is situated in Section 24, Township 23, Range 23, in Stone County, Missouri, and is on the homestead of one of three brothers named Irwin.

"It was accidentally discovered in the year 1895 and up to the time of this writing (June 1896) only six persons have ever entered it. It is in a point or spur of the Ozark Mountains which runs to the east from the great Wilderness Ridge, and is three miles distant from the Marble Cave. Having been one of the first to enter the Cave, being called by the owner as a sort of cave expert, I will attempt to describe both the adventure and the cave just as they were. The measurements are simply estimated, though by long practice I have become expert in that line also, but the longest measurement here was correctly taken by the rope used.

"Having been invited by the Irwin brothers to come and examine and explore a new cave they had found but had only entered and not explored, accompanied by my eldest son, W.T. Powell, I reached the place one warm Saturday morning. We found about twelve or fourteen men waiting for our coming; some discussing the matter of whether we would enter when we did come, and others who had volunteered to work the windlass, which had been erected over the opening, by means of which, with a one hundred foot rope, entrance was to be made. The opening was like a small well, and situated under the edge of an overhanging cliff of marble, and on the southeast slope of the mountain, about one hundred and fifty feet above the bottom of a narrow valley, and about the same distance below the top of the mountain, which here is three hundred feet high. In order to rig a windlass the edge of the cliff had to be broken away. The well-like opening descended for about ten feet through strata of flat-laying rocks that formed a roof; then all appeared to be vacancy and a stone cast in gave back a distant sound.

"Having first tested the air and proved it good by dropping in blazing excelsior saturated with turpentine, a stout oak stick was attached to the end of the rope, my son sprang astride and was lowered to the bottom, just one hundred feet. He reported back 'All right.' On the return of the rope I took my position on the stick and was soon dangling in mid air. The sensation was strange and exhilarating. Looking up I could only see the small opening I came through, and a straggling stream of light poured down that, but on all sides profound darkness reigned supreme. A spark-like light my son lit, reminded me of the lost Pleiad. About twenty-five or thirty feet from the top I caught sight of a scene that made me call on the men at the windlass to stop.

"This caused them to think something was going wrong and one called out to know what was the matter: I heard him say 'He is weakening.' I assured them everything was right only I wanted to take a view; so they stopped. Off at a distance of perhaps twenty-five feet was an opening about ten feet or more wide and twelve feet high. The light from the opening struck it fairly, owing to the position of the sun at the time. Through this opening I saw into another room, large and magnificent. It brought to mind the White City. It was snowy white, and thickly studded with stalactites and stalagmites of immense size and in great numbers; some looking like spires of numerous churches, and many connected as with a lattice-work about the bottom. For a short time I gazed on that lovely scene, and examined the chances to reach it, but a great gulf intervened that we had no means of spanning, and I called to the men to lower me down. Approaching the bottom one of the walls trended in towards me and I stepped upon solid ground close to the wall, which half way up seemed fifty feet away. The opening above now looked like a small pale moon, and the next man who came dangling down to join us looked no bigger than a toy soldier. Gradually our eyes became accustomed to the twilight, and by the time our party was increased to six men, I could see quite distinctly.

"The room runs directly into the mountain and is about ninety feet high, and where we landed it proved to be twenty feet wide. It extended in both directions, but much the farthest towards the right hand. The outer room is encrusted in fine white water formations. It forms a Gothic ceiling from which hang pendant at all places brilliant and sparkling stalactites; some being of immense size and length, from ten to twenty-five feet. Others are not so large but are brilliant. We created a flood of artificial light with dozens of candles and lamps; and then and not until then, could we see the slope and contour of the roof. A few bats were flitting about, disturbed for the first time. To the left, a vast white pillar extended from floor to roof. It was pure white and about five feet in diameter all the way up. It was fluted, fretted, draped and spangled. I never in my life saw anything more chaste and lovely. I thought of the countless ages it must have taken to form that monument: of the streams of clear water that had fallen and left their calcite deposits, while it grew year after year, age after age, century after century, in this profound darkness, disturbed by no noises save the rhythmic sound of the falling drops and the dull flitting of the bats, who alone were the living witnesses of its construction. To the rear of this great pillar the room is divided into three galleries, one above another. With great difficulty and much danger we climbed into each of these. The floors were all like the pillar of pure white onyx, and extended back a distance of thirty or more feet. The floor of one formed the roof of another. They were brilliant with hanging pendants and the side walls were all veneered with the same white and crystalline formation. To entirely describe them is impossible. A day in each would still leave the observer short of words in which to tell of the wonders.

"Turning towards the right hand from the entrance we advance two hundred feet up an incline of dry clay, the room widening gradually until its width is forty feet, when we reach the top of an elevation thirty feet above the starting point, where a sudden steep descent brings us to a halt. A stone cast down strikes water and the sound of a splash comes back to us. With caution we seek our way down the hill and stand on the edge of a small lake or pond. Suddenly my son, who is in the lead, rushes back saying: 'Look out! I put my hand on a snake.' Some of us, being armed with hickory canes that had been thrown down, concentrated our lights and advanced. Sure enough, there is a snake a yard long coiled up on a section of rotten wood. It proves to be a copperhead, the most quarrelsome and vicious snake in this country; but his nature is changed so that he makes no effort to fight and is killed with a blow, and is sent to be hoisted up that we may examine him in daylight. No others were found, and probably he had fallen in at the opening, and spent a long, weary time in expiation of his upper-earth crimes.

"Examining the lake we find it to be about forty feet wide and the same long, and it fills the room from wall to wall. We cannot pass it so must either stop or wade through. We decide to wade, and on measuring the water find it only two or three feet deep, with a soft clay bottom, and in many places islands of stalagmite rise above the surface.

"On the sides of the lake there are formations in the shape of sofas and lounges, and they appear to be cushioned, but the cushions are found to be hard, solid rock. As the lights advance across the lake new wonders are revealed. Curtains and draperies hanging from the top almost touch the water and entirely cut off the view beyond. Passing under a curtain at one of the highest places, we emerge from the lake, and once more on dry land, advance up a slope. Here the water formations have taken human shapes of all sizes and several colors now appear and help to present a chaos of beauty.

"Two hundred feet more and the chamber ends in a vast waterfall, but the water has turned to stone. Above the waterfall is an opening, but it is twenty-five feet up a smooth wall and we have no ladder. The journey was at an end. Tired, wet and muddy, we started on our return trip; recrossed the dark lake, and retraced our steps to the place under the opening without realizing that we had spent six hours under ground. While the other members of the party, and the specimens, were being raised to the surface, the writer sought to learn the flora and fauna of this new region. The flora is blank. Even the white mold so common in many caves is absent; and no fungus grows on the poles, bark and rotten wood that have at some past time been cast in.

"In animal life the range is greater. I have mentioned the ever-present bats, and dozens of them were seen. There were also small, white eyeless salamanders, small, yellow, speckled salamanders, with signs of eyes but no sight; also a jet black salamander, which like the rest, was blind. The bats were of two species—the common brown bat and the larger light grey or yellow species. But this was not the time of the year to see many bats in caves. In the summer season most of them go out and remain until cool weather, and then return to the caves with their young; so I was rather surprised to see as many as we did.

"Down comes the rope for the last time, and taking my place, I soon feel myself spinning around and slowly rising. As I again pass the magic city I saw going down, a stronger wish than ever takes possession of me to go there, and I look for any chance to solve the problem of how such a journey can be made. 'Thou art so near and yet so far.'

"Suddenly I find myself emerging from the ground into a very hot world, with the evening sun blazing so that the air feels like the scorching heat of an oven; and my late companions are scattered about under the trees, no doubt wishing themselves back in the cool regions below the hot cliffs.

"My final conclusions in regard to Fairy Cave were that it was about six hundred feet long by from fifteen to forty feet wide and from eighty to ninety feet high: that in the upper story there are rooms that I could not reach, that will amply pay the scientist and explorer to investigate in the future: that probably we reached all the accessible parts in the level we traveled: that the temperature was fifty-six or very near that degree: that small as it is, it contains the finest formations and grandest scenery I have ever seen in a cave: and I have examined over one hundred of various sizes. I believe that for interior beauty its equal is not to be found in America, and I sincerely believe that the verdict of future exploration will establish the truth of the assertion, but as equally good judges differ on such matters, time will be required for a true and just decision. There are yet many promising caves to be explored in this region, and if my strength holds out a few years I hope to see them all.

"T. S. Powell."


As a measure of consolation for the disappointment of not seeing the beauty of Fairy Cave, Mr. Irwin suggested that only a quarter of a mile further on was another, recently discovered and worthy of a visit, although small.

In that region of steep hills and sharp-edged rocks, a great amount of travel can be added to the experience of a tender-foot in a short distance. The quarter of a mile seemed to stretch out in some mysterious way as we worked on it, but the variety and abundance of attractions are more than ample compensation.

The view was fine, including as it did the deep ravine and grassy, wooded slopes rising three hundred feet above, with here and there a handsome ledge of marble exposed like the nearly buried ruin of a forgotten temple of some past age. Scattered about in great profusion among the broken rock on the surface of these hill-sides we observed a water deposit of iron ore. It is a brown hematite and in some cases shows the structure of the bits of wood it has replaced. Since this region has from the earliest time produced a generous growth of vegetation, the decay of which has yielded a never-failing supply of acids to assist in carving the caves and then in their decoration, the presence of the ore is not difficult to account for. The whole Ozark uplift being rich in iron, the acidulated drainage waters coming into contact dissolved and took it in solution, to re-deposit where and when conditions should be favorable. These conditions were found in the basin among the hills and along its outlet.

In the Popular Science Monthly of January 1897, a short article by J.T. Donald, entitled "A Curious Canadian Iron Mine," describes the same thing going on at the present time in Lac a la Tortue, a small body of water in the center of a tract of swamp land, which produces the vegetation necessary to supply the acid required for a base of operation.

Of the manner of deposition he says: "The solution of iron in vegetable acid (in which the iron is in what the chemist calls the form of a protosalt) is oxidized by the action of the air on the surface of the lake into a persalt, which is insoluble, and appears on the surface in patches that display the peculiar iridescence characteristic of petroleum floating on water. Indeed, not infrequently these films of peroxide of iron are incorrectly attributed to petroleum. These films become heavy by addition of new particles; they sink through the water, and in this manner, in time, a large amount of iron ore is deposited on the lake bottom. It must not be supposed that the ore is deposited as a fine mud or sediment. On the contrary, in this lake ore, as it is called, we have an excellent illustration of what is called concretionary action—that is, the tendency of matter when in a fine state of division to aggregate its particles into masses about some central nucleus, which may be a fragment of sunken wood, a grain of sand, or indeed a pre-formed small mass of itself."

It is claimed for this water ore, which is gathered like oysters, that mixed with bog ore and magnetic iron, and smelted with charcoal, the result as obtained is strong, durable and high priced.

The curiously elastic quarter of a mile finally yielded to persistent toil, and the cave was reached. The entrance is sufficiently broad to give a good first impression, and is under a heavy ledge of limestone which breaks the slope of the hill and is artistically decorated with a choice collection of foliage, among which is a coral honeysuckle; the fragrant variety grows everywhere. Under the ledge is a narrow vestibule, out of the north end of which is a passage about twenty-four inches in width, between perpendicular walls, and as steeply inclined as the average dwelling-house stairway but without any assisting depressions to serve as steps. Mr. Irwin cut a grape vine, and making one end secure at the entrance, provided a hand rail, by the aid of which I was able to easily descend the stepless way and afterwards remount.

The first chamber entered is the principal portion of the cave, and by actual measurement is forty-nine feet in length by forty-eight in greatest width and the height estimated at fifty feet. On account of irregularities it appears smaller but higher. On opposite sides of the chamber, at elevation about midway between the floor and ceiling are two open galleries. The floor is extremely irregular with its accumulation of fallen masses of rock, and the action of water has given to portions of the walls the appearance of pillars supporting the arches of the roof. The whole aspect is that of a small Gothic chapel. Off to the northwest is another room measuring thirty feet in each direction, and out of this are several openings, too small to squeeze through, which indicate the possible existence of other chambers beyond, but they may be only drain pipes.

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