AHGP Transcription Project

Edmonson County

Edmonson County, the 79th in the order of erection, was formed in 1825, out of parts of Warren, Hart, and Grayson, and named in honor of Captain John Edmonson. It lies on both sides of Green River; and is bounded north by Grayson, east by Hart and Barren, south by Warren, and west by Warren and Butler counties. The land is generally undulating, and in some places quite hilly. There are several sulphur springs in the county, with ores of various kinds, and an inexhaustible supply of coal.

Brownsville, the county seat, 130 miles from Frankfort, was established in 1828, and named in honor of Gen. Jacob Brown; it contains the usual county buildings, 2 churches, an academy, 2 taverns, 3 stores, and 9 mechanics' shops; population about 200.

Members of the Legislature since 1841

V. F. Edwards, 1873-75.

House of Representatives, from Butler and Edmonson counties:
Wm. N. Wand, 1841;
Jas. Oiler, 1842;
Lot W. Moore, 1844, '46;
Asa B. Gardner, 1845;
Nelson Harreld, 1848;
Wm. R. Dunn, 1849;
David Elms, 1851-53;
Richard S. Thornton, 1855-57.
From Edmonson county
Samuel Woosley, 1843, '47, '53-65;
John H. Woosley, 1867-59;
Jos. Hill, 1859-61;
Larkin J. Procter, 1861-63;
L. M. Haslip, 1866-67;
Mason Morris, 1869-71;
Wm. L. Haslip, 1873-75.

The Indian Hill lies one mile from Brownsville, is circular at its base, and one mile in circumference, its altitude 84 feet, and, except on one side, which is easy of ascent on foot, perpendicular. The remains of a fortification are seen around the brow, and a number of mounds and burial places are scattered over the area. A spring of fine water issues from the rock near the surface.

Dismal Rock is a perpendicular rock on Dismal creek, 163 feet high. The celebrated Mammoth Cave, the largest in the world, and perhaps the greatest natural wonder, is situated in Edmonson County. In no other place has nature exhibited her varied powers on a more imposing scale of grandeur and magnificence. From a letter written in July, 1841, and from other sources, we condense the following information captors could devise.

The cave is most accessible to visitors from two points, being 7 miles from Glasgow Junction, and 9 miles from Cave City, stations on the Louisville and Nashville railroad, respectively 91 and 85 miles from Louisville, and 94 and 100 miles from Nashville. Green River is distant from the cave only half a mile.

The cave abounds in minerals, such as the sulphate of lime, or gypsum, epsom and glauber salts, nitrous earth, sand, flint, pebbles, red and gray ochre, calcareous spar, chalcedony, crystallized carbonate of lime, polite, crystals of quartz, etc.

From a sketch in 1844 by Rev. Robert Davidson, D.D. (for several years president of Transylvania University) and from other sources, we have prepared the following, the most complete and accurate description of this subterranean palace which we have seen. It gives the reader a very vivid conception of that amazing profusion of grand, solemn, picturesque and romantic scenery, which impresses every beholder with astonishment and awe, and attracts to this cave crowds of visitors from every quarter of the world. The cave is about two hundred yards from the hotel, and is approached through a romantic and beautiful dell, shaded by a forest of trees and grape-vines. Passing by the ruins of some old salt-petre furnaces, and large mounds of ashes, and turning abruptly to the right, the visitor is suddenly startled by a rush of cold air, and beholds before him the yawning mouth of the great cavern, dismal, dark and dreary. Descend some thirty feet, by rude steps of stone, and you are fairly under the arch of this "nether world." Before you, in looking towards the entrance, is seen a small stream of water, falling from the face of the rock, upon the ruins below, and disappearing in a deep pit; behind you, all is gloom and darkness. Proceeding onward about one hundred feet, the progress of the explorer is arrested by a door, set in a rough stone wall, which stretches across and completely blocks up the entrance to the cave. Passing through this door, you soon enter a narrow passage, faced on the left by a wall, built by the miners to confine the loose stones thrown up in the course of their labors, and descending gradually a short distance along this passage, you arrive at the great vestibule or ante-chamber of the cave. This is a hall of an oval shape, two hundred feet in length by one hundred and fifty wide, with a roof as flat and level as if finished by the trowel, and from fifty to sixty feet high. Two passages, each a hundred feet in width, open into it at its opposite extremities, but at right angles to each other; and as they run in a straight course for five or six hundred feet, with the same flat roof common to each, the appearance presented to the eye is that of a vast hall in the shape of the letter L, expanded at the angle, both branches being five hundred feet long by one hundred wide. The passage to the right hand is "Audubon Avenue." That in the front, the beginning of the grand gallery or the main cavern itself. The entire extent of this prodigious space is covered by a single rock, in which the eye car detect no break or interruption, save at its borders, which are surrounded by a broad sweeping cornice, traced in horizontal panel work, exceedingly noble and regular. Not a single pier or pillar of any kind contributes to support it. It needs no support; but is "By its own weight made steadfast and immoveable."

At a very remote period, this chamber seems to have been used as a cemetery; and there have been disinterred many skeletons of gigantic dimensions, belonging to a race of people long since vanished from the earth. Such is the vestibule of the Mammoth cave. The walls of this chamber are so dark that they reflect not one single ray of light from the dim torches. Around you is an impenetrable wall of darkness, which the eye vainly seeks to pierce, and a canopy of darkness, black and rayless, spreads above you. By the aid, however, of a fire or two which the guides kindle from the remains of some old wooden ruins, you begin to acquire a better conception of the scene around you. Far up, a hundred feet above your head, you catch a fitful glimpse of a dark gray ceiling, rolling dimly away like a cloud, and heavy buttresses, apparently bending under the superincumbent weight, project their enormous masses from the shadowy wall. The scene is vast, and solemn and awful. A profound silence, gloomy, still and breathless, reigns unbroken by even a sigh of air, or the echo of a drop of water falling from the roof. You can hear the throbbing of your heart, and the mind is oppressed with a sense of vastness, and solitude, and grandeur indescribable.

Leaving this ante-chamber by an opening on the right, the visitor enters Audubon Avenue, which is a chamber more than a mile long, fifty or sixty feet wide, and as many high. The roof or ceiling of this apartment, exhibits the appearance of floating clouds. Near the termination of this avenue, a natural well twenty-five feet deep, and containing the purest water, has been within the last few years discovered. It is surrounded by stalagmite columns, extending from the floor to the roof, upon the incrustation of which, when lights are suspended, the reflection from the water below and the various objects above and around, gives to the whole scene an appearance most romantic and picturesque. This spot, however, being difficult of access, is but seldom visited. The Little Bat room cave, a branch of Audubon avenue, is on the left as you advance, and not more than three hundred yards from the great vestibule. It is a little over a quarter of a mile in length, and is chiefly remarkable for its pit of two hundred and eighty feet in depth; and as being the resort, in winter, of immense numbers of bats. During this season of the year, tens of thousands of these are seen hanging from the walls, in apparently a torpid state, but no sooner does spring open than they disappear.

From the Little Bat Room, and Audubon Avenue, the visitor returns into the vestibule, from whence, by another passage, at right angles to that just mentioned, he enters the grand gallery or main cavern. This is a vast tunnel, extending for many miles, averaging throughout fifty feet in width by as many in height. This noble subterranean avenue, the largest of which we have any knowledge, is replete with interest from its varied characteristics and majestic grandeur. Proceeding down this main cave a quarter of a mile, the visitor comes to the Kentucky cliffs, so called from a fancied resemblance to the cliffs on the Kentucky River, and descending gradually about twenty feet, enters the Church. The ceiling here is sixty-three feet high, and the church itself, including the recess, is about one hundred feet in diameter. Eight or ten feet above the pulpit, and immediately behind it, is the organ loft, which is sufficiently capacious for an organ and choir of the largest size. This church is large enough to contain thousands, a solid projection of the wall seems to have been designed as a pulpit, and a few feet back is a place well calculated for an organ and choir. In this great temple of nature, religious service has been frequently performed, and it requires but a slight effort on the part of the speaker to make himself heard by the largest congregation.

Leaving the church, the visitor is brought to the ruins of the old nitre works, leaching vats, pump frames, &c., &c., and looking from thence some thirty feet above, will see a large cave, connected with which is a narrow gallery, sweeping across the main cave, and losing itself in a cave which is seen above, upon the right. This latter cave is the Gothic Avenue, which no doubt was at one time connected with the cave opposite, and on the same level, forming a complete bridge over the main cave, but has been broken down and separated by some great convulsion. The cave on the left, which is filled with sand, has been penetrated but a short distance. The Gothic Avenue, to which the visitor ascends from the main cave by a flight of stairs, is about forty feet wide, fifteen feet high, and two miles long. The ceiling in many places is as smooth and white as if formed by the trowel of the most skillful plasterer. In a recess on the left hand, elevated a few feet above the floor, two mummies, long since taken away, were to be seen in 1813. They were in good preservation, one was a female, with her extensive wardrobe placed before her. Two of the miners found a mummy in Audubon Avenue in 1814; but having concealed it, it was not found until 1840, when it was so much injured and broken to pieces by the weights which had been placed upon it, as to be of no value. There is no doubt that by proper efforts discoveries might be made which would throw light on the history of the early inhabitants of this continent. A highly scientific gentleman of New York, one of the early visitors to the cave, says in his published narrative:
"On my first visit to the Mammoth Cave in 1813 I saw a relic of ancient times which requires a minute description. This description is from a memorandum made in the cave at the time.

"In the digging of saltpetre earth in the short cave, a flat rock was met with by the work men, a little below the surface of the earth, in the cave: this stone was raised, and was about four feet wide, and as many long; beneath it was a square excavation about three feet deep, and as many in length and width. In this small nether subterranean chamber sat in solemn silence one of the human species, a female, with her wardrobe and ornaments placed at her side. The body was in a state of perfect preservation, and sitting erect. The arms were folded up, and the hands were laid across the bosom; around the two wrists was wound a small cord, designed, probably, to keep them in the posture in which they were first placed; around the body and next thereto were wrapped two deer skins. These skins appeared to have been dressed in some mode different from what is now practiced by any people of whom I have any knowledge. The hair of the skins was cut off very near the surface. The skins were ornamented with the imprints of vines and leaves, which were sketched with a substance perfectly white. Outside of these two skins was a large square sheet, which was either wove or knit. The fabric was the inner bark of a tree, which I judge from appearances to be that of the linn tree. In its texture and appearance, it resembled the south sea island cloth or matting; this sheet enveloped the whole body or head. The hair on the bead was cut off within an eighth of an inch of the skin, except near the neck, where it was an inch long. The color of the hair was a dark red; the teeth were white and perfect. I discovered no blemish upon the body, except a wound between two ribs, near the back bone; and one of the eyes had also been injured. The finger and toe nails were perfect and quite long. The features were regular. I measured the length of one of the bones of the arm with a siring, from the elbow to the wrist joint, and they equalled my own in length, viz: ten and a half inches. From the examination of the whole frame I judged the figure to be that of a very tall female, say five feet ten inches in height. The body, at the time it was discovered, weighed but fourteen pounds, and was perfectly dry; on exposure to the atmosphere, it gained in weight, by absorbing dampness, four pounds. Many persons have expressed surprise that a human body of great size should weigh so little, as many human skeletons, of nothing but bone, exceed this weight.

"Recently some experiments have been made in Paris, which have demonstrated the fact of the human body being reduced to ten pounds, by being exposed to a heated atmosphere for a long period of time. The color of the skin was dark, not black; the flesh was hard and dry upon the bones. At the side of the body lay a pair of moccasins, a knapsack, and an indispensable, or reticule. I will describe these in the order in which I have named them. The moccasins were made of wove or knit bark, like the wrapper I have described. Around the top was a border to add strength, and perhaps as an ornament. These were of middling size, denoting feet of a small size. The shape of the moccasins differs but little from the deer skin moccasins worn by the northern Indians. The knapsack was of wove or knit bark, with a deep strong border around the top, and was about the size of knapsacks used by soldiers. The workmanship of it was neat, and such as would do credit as a fabric, to a manufacturer of the present day. The reticule was also made of knit or wove bark. The shape was much like a horseman's valise, opening its whole length on the top. On the side of the opening, and a few inches from it, were two rows of loops, one row on each side. Two cords were fastened to one end of the reticule at the top, which passed through the loop or one side, and then on the other side, the whole length, by which it was laced up and secured. The edges of the lop of the reticule were strengthened with deep fancy borders. The articles contained in the knapsack and reticule were quite numerous, and were as follows; one head cap, made of wove or Knit bark, without any border, and of the shape of the plainest night cap; seven head dresses, made of the quills of large birds, and put together somewhat in the way that feather fans are made, except that the pipes of the quills are not drawn to a point, but are spread out in straight lines with the top. This was done by perforating the pipe of the quill in two places, and running two cords through the holes, and then winding round the quills and the cord fine thread, to fasten each quill in, the place designed for it. These cords extended some length beyond the quills on each side, so that on placing the feathers erect, the cords could lie tied' together at the hack of the head. This would enable the wearer to present a beautiful display of feathers standing erect, and extending a distance above the head, and entirely surrounding it. These were most splendid head dresses, and would be a magnificent ornament to the head of a female at the present day. Several hundred strings of beads; these consisted of very hard, brown seed, smaller than hemp seed, in each of which a small hole had been made, and through the whole a small three corded thread, similar in appearance and texture to seine twine; these were tied up in bunches, as a merchant ties up coral beads when he exposes them for sale. The red hoofs of fawns, on a string supposed to be worn around the neck as a necklace. These hoofs were about twenty in number, and may have been emblematic of innocence, the claw of an eagle, with a hole made in it through which a cord was passed, so that it could be worn pendant from the neck, the jaw of a bear, designed to be worn in the same manner as the eagle's claw, and supplied with a cord to suspend it around the neck. Two rattlesnake skins; one of these had fourteen rattles; these skins were neatly folded up. Some vegetable colors done up in leaves. A small bunch of deer sinews, resembling cat-gut in appearance. Several bunches of thread and twine, two and three threaded, some of which were nearly white. Seven needles, some of which were of horn and some of bone; they were smooth, and appeared to have been much used. These needles had each a knob or whorl on the top, and at the other end were brought to a point like a large sail needle. They had no eyelets to receive a thread. The top of one of these needles was handsomely scalloped. A hand piece made of deer-skin, with a hole through it for the thumb, and designed probably to protect the hand in the use of the needle, the same as thimbles are now used. Two whistles, about eight inches long, made of cane, with a joint about one third the length; over the joint is an opening extending to each side of the tube of the whistle; these openings were about three quarters of an inch long, and an inch wide, and had each a flat reed placed in the opening. These whistles were tied together with a cord wound round them.

"I have been thus minute in describing this mute witness from the days of other times, and the articles which were deposited within her earthen house. Of the race of people to whom she belonged when living we know nothing; and as to conjecture, the reader who gathers from these pages this account, can judge of the matter as well as those who saw the remnant of mortality in the subterranean chambers in which she was entombed. The cause of the preservation of her body, dress, and ornaments, is no mystery. The dry atmosphere of the cave, with the nitrate of lime, with which the earth that covers the bottom of these nether palaces is so highly impregnated, preserves animal flesh, and it will neither putrefy nor decompose when confined to its unchanging action. Heat and moisture are both absent from the cave, and it is these two agents acting together which produce both animal and vegetable decomposition and putrefaction.

"In the ornaments, &c., of this mute witness of ages gone, we have a record of olden time, from which, in the absence of a written record, we may draw some conclusions. In the various articles which constituted her ornaments, there were no metallic substances. In the make of her dress, there is no evidence of the use of any other machinery than the bone and horn needles. The beads are of a substance, of the use of which for such purposes we have no account among people of whom we have any written record. She had no warlike arms. By what process the hair on her head was cut short, or by what process the deer skins were shorn, we have no means of conjecture. These articles afford us the same means of judging of the nation to which she belonged, and of their advances in the arts, that future generations will have in the exhumation of a tenant of one of our modern tombs, with the funeral shroud &c. in a state of like preservation; with this difference, that with the present inhabitants of this section of the globe, but few articles of ornament are deposited with the body. The features of this ancient member of the human family much resembled those of a tall, handsome, American woman. The forehead was high, and the head well formed."

In this chamber (the Gothic Avenue), there are to be seen a number of stalagmite pillars reaching from the floor to the ceiling, once white and translucent, but now black and begrimed with smoke. In this chamber, too, there are a number of stalactites, one of which called the Bell, on being struck, gave forth a sound like the deep bell of a cathedral; but was broken several years ago by a visitor, and now tolls no longer. In this chamber, also, are Louisa's Bower and Vulcan's Furnace. In the latter, there is a heap not unlike cinders in appearance, and some dark colored water. Here, too, are the Register Rooms, where on a ceiling as smooth and white as if finished by art, thousands of names have been traced by the smoke of a candle. In this neighborhood the visitor reaches the Stalagmite Hall or Gothic Chapel, an elliptical chamber, eighty feet long by fifty feet wide. Stalagmite columns, of enormous size, nearly block up the two ends; and two rows of pillars of smaller dimensions, reaching from the floor to the ceiling, and equi-distant from the wall on either side, extend the entire length of the hall. This apartment is one of surprising grandeur and magnificence, and when brilliantly lighted up by the lamps, presents a scene inspiring the beholder with feelings of solemnity and awe. The Devil's Arm Chair is a large stalagmite column, in the centre of which is formed a capacious and comfortable seat. Near the foot of the Chair is a small basin of sulphur water. In this Avenue are situated Napoleon's Breast Work, the Elephant's Head, and the Lover's Leap. The latter is a large pointed rock, projecting over a dark and gloomy hollow, thirty feet deep. Descending into the hollow, immediately below the Lover's Leap, the visitor enters to the left, a passage or chasm in the rock, three feet wide and fifty feet high, which leads to the lower branch of the Gothic Avenue. At the entrance of this lower branch, is a large flat rock called Gatewood's Dining Table, to the right of which is a cave, in which is situated the Cooling Tub, a beautiful basin of six feet wide and three deep, into which a small stream of the purest water pours from the ceiling and afterwards flows into the Flint Pit. Circling round Gatewood's Dining Table, which almost blocks up the way, the visitor passes Napoleon's Dome, the Cinder Banks, the Crystal Pool, the Salts Cave, etc., and descending a few feet, and leaving the direct course of the cave, enters on the right Annett's Dome, a place of great seclusion and grandeur. Through a crevice in the wall of this Dome is a beautiful waterfall, issuing in a stream of a foot in diameter from a high cave in the side of the dome, and passing off by a small channel into the Cistern, a large pit directly in the pathway of the cave, which is usually full of water. Near the end of this lower branch of the Gothic Avenue, there is a crevice in the ceiling over the last spring, through which the sound of water may be heard falling in a cave or open space above.

Returning from the Gothic Avenue, again into the main cave, which continues to increase in interest as he advances, the visitor is met at every step by something to elicit his admiration and wonder. At a small distance from the stairs which descend from the Gothic Avenue into the main cave, is situated the Bali Room, so called from its singular adaptation to such assemblages. Here is an orchestra fifteen feet high, large enough to accommodate a hundred musicians, with a gallery extending back to the level of the high embankment near the Gothic Avenue; and the cave is here wide, straight, and perfectly level for several hundred feet. By the addition of a plank floor, seats and lamps, a ball room might be furnished, more grand and magnificent than any other on earth. Next in order is Willie's Spring, a beautiful fluted niche in the left hand wall, caused by the continual attrition of water trickling down into the basin below. Proceeding onwards the visitor passes the Well Cave, Rocky Cave, etc. etc., and arrives at the Giant's Coffin, a huge rock on the right, thus named from its singular resemblance to a coffin. At this point commence those incrustations which, assuming every imaginable shape on the ceiling, afford full scope to the fancy, to picture what it will, whether of "birds, or beasts or creeping things." About a hundred yards beyond the Coffin, the cave makes a majestic curve, and sweeping round the Great Bend, resumes its general course. Here, by means of a Bengal light, this vast amphitheater may be illuminated and a scene of enchantment exposed to the view. No language can describe the splendor and sublimity of the scene. Opposite to this point is the entrance to the Sick Room Cave, so called from the sudden sickness of a visitor, brought on by smoking cigars in one of its remote nooks. Immediately beyond this there is situated a row of cabins for consumptive patients. These are well furnished, and would, with good and comfortable accommodations, pure air and uniform temperature, cure the pulmonary consumption. The atmosphere of the cave is always temperate and pure.

Next in the order of succession, is the Star Chamber. This is a very remarkable avenue, and presents the most perfect optical illusion; in looking up to the ceiling, which is very high, the spectator seems to see the very firmament itself, studded with stars, and afar off, a comet, with its long, bright tail. Not far from this Star Chamber, may be seen in a cavity in the wall on the right, and about twenty feet above the floor, an oak pole, about ten feet long and six inches in diameter, with two round sticks of half the thickness, and three feet long, tied on to it transversely, at about four feet apart. One end of this pole rests on the bottom of the cavity, and the other reaching across and forced firmly into a crevice about three feet above. It has been supposed that on this pole was once placed a dead body, similar contrivances being used by some Indian tribes, on which to place their dead. This pole was first discovered in 1841. Ages have rolled away since it was placed here, and yet it is perfectly sound. In this neighborhood there are Side Cuts, as they are called; caves opening on the sides of the avenues, and after proceeding some distance, entering them again. Some of these side cuts exceed half a mile in length, but they are generally short.

The visitor next enters the Salts room, the walls and ceiling of which are covered with salts hanging in crystals. In this room are the Indian houses under the rocks, small spaces or rooms completely covered, some of which contain ashes and cane partly burnt. The Cross rooms is a grand section of this avenue; the ceiling presenting an unbroken span of one hundred and seventy feet, without a column to support it. In this neighborhood are the Black Chambers, in which are to be seen many curious and remarkable objects. The Humble Chute is the entrance to the Solitary chambers, in going into which you must crawl on your hands and knees some fifteen or twenty feet under a low arch. In the Solitary cave is situated the Fairy Grotto; here an immense number of stalactites are seen at irregular distances, extending from the roof to the floor, of various sizes and of the most fantastic shapes, some straight, some crooked, some large and hollow, forming irregularly fluted columns; and some solid near the ceiling, and divided lower down, into a great number of small branches like the roots of trees, exhibiting the appearance of a coral grove. Lighted up by lamps, this grove of stalactites exhibits a scene of extraordinary beauty. Returning from the Fairy Grotto, you re-enter the main cave at the Cataract, and come next to the chief city or Temple, which is thus described by Lee in his notes on the Mammoth Cave:

"The Temple is an immense vault, covering an area of two acres, and covered by a single dome of solid rock, one hundred and twenty feet high. It excels in size the cave of Staffa; and rivals the celebrated vault in the Grotto of Antiparos, which is said to be the largest in the world. In passing through from one end to the other, the dome appears to follow like the sky in passing from place to place on the earth. In the middle of the dome there is a large mound of rocks rising on one side nearly to the top, very steep, and forming what is called the mountain. When first I ascended this mound from the cave below, I was struck with a feeling of awe, more deep and intense than anything I had ever before experienced. I could only observe the narrow circle which was illuminated immediately around me, above and beyond was apparently an unlimited space, in which the ear could catch not the slightest sound, nor the eye lind an object to rest upon. It was filled with silence and darkness; and yet I knew that I was beneath the earth, and that this space, however large it might be, was actually bounded by solid walls. My curiosity was rather excited than gratified. In order that I might see the whole in one connected view, I built fires in many places with the pieces of cane which I found scattered among the rocks. Then taking my stand on the mountain, a scene was presented of surprising magnificence. On the opposite side, the strata of gray limestone breaking up by steps from the bottom, could scarcely be discerned in the distance by the glimmering. Above was the lofty dome, closed at the top by a smooth oval slab beautifully defined in the outline, from which the walls sloped away on the right and left, into thick darkness. Everyone has heard of the dome of the mosque of St. Sophia, of St. Peter's and St. Paul's; they are never spoken of. but in terms of admiration, as the chief works of architecture, and among the noblest and most stupendous examples of what man can do when aided by science; and yet, when compared with the dome of this temple, they sink into comparative insignificance. Such is the surpassing grandeur of nature's works.''

"A narrow passage behind the Giant's coffin leads to a circular room one hundred feet in diameter, with a low roof called the Wooden Bowl, in allusion to its figure, or as some say, from a wooden bowl having been found here by some old miner. This Bowl is the vestibule of the Deserted Chambers. On the right are the Steeps of Time, down which descending about twenty feet, and almost perpendicularly for the first ten, the visitor enters the Deserted Chambers, which present features extremely wild and terrific. For two hundred yards the ceiling is rough and broken, but further on it is white, smooth and waving, as if worn by water. At Richardson's Spring the imprint of moccasins and of children's feet of some bygone age, are to be seen. There are more pits in the Deserted Chambers than in any other part of the cave; among the most remarkable of these, are the Covered Pit, the Side-saddle Pit and the Bottomless Pit. One of the chief glories of the cave is Gorin's Dome. This dome is of solid rock, with sides apparently fluted and polished, and two hundred feet high.

"The range of the Deserted Chambers is terminated by the Bottomless Pit. The pit is somewhat in the shape of a horse-shoe, having a tongue of land twenty-seven feet long, running out into the middle of it. Beyond the Bottomless Pit is the Winding Way, and Persico Avenue.

"Persico Avenue averages about fifty feet in width, with a height of about thirty feet; and is said to be two miles long. It unites in an eminent degree the beautiful and the sublime, and is highly interesting throughout its entire extent. For a quarter of a mile from the entrance the roof is beautifully arched, about twelve feet high and sixty wide. The walking here is excellent, a dozen persons might run abreast for a quarter of a mile to Bunyan's Way, a branch of the avenue leading to the river. At this point the avenue changes its features of beauty and regularity for those of wild grandeur and sublimity, which it preserves to the end. The roof becomes lofty and imposingly magnificent, itís long pointed or lancet arches, reminding the spectator of the rich and gorgeous ceilings of the old Gothic cathedrals. Not far from this point the visitor descending gradually a few feet, enters a tunnel of fifteen wide, the ceiling twelve or fourteen feet high, perfectly arched and beautifully covered with white incrustations, and soon reaches the Great Crossings. The name is not unapt, because two great caves cross here. Not far from here is the Pine-apple Bush, a large column composed of a white soft crumbling material, with bifurcations extending from the ceiling. The Winding Way is one hundred and five feet long, eighteen inches wide, and from three to seven feet deep, widening out above sufficiently to admit the free use of one's arms. It is throughout tortuous, forming a perfect zig-zag.

"Relief Hall, at the termination of the Winding Way, is very wide and lofty, but not long; it terminates at River Hall, a distance of one hundred yards from its entrance. Here two routes present themselves. The one to the left conducts to the Dead Sea and the Rivers, and that to the right to the Bacon Chamber, the Bandit's Hall, the Mammoth Dome, &c. The Bacon Chamber is a pretty fair representation of a low ceiling, thickly hung with canvassed hams and shoulders. The Bandit's Hall is a vast and lofty chamber, the floor covered with a mountainous heap of rocks, rising amphitheatrically almost to the ceiling. From the Bandit's Hall diverge two caves, one of which, the left, leads you to a multitude of domes; and the right to one which, par excellence, is called the Mammoth Dome. This dome is near four hundred feet high, and is justly considered one of the most sublime and wonderful spectacles of this most wonderful of caverns. From the summit of this dome there is a waterfall. Foreigners have been known to declare, on witnessing an illumination of the great dome and hall that it alone would compensate for a voyage across the Atlantic.

"The River Hall is a chamber situated at the termination of Relief Hall, which has been already mentioned, and through which the visitor must pass in approaching the greatest wonders of the cave, the Dead Sea and the Rivers. We despair of giving any adequate description of this subterranean lake and rivers. "The River Hall descends like the slope of a mountain; the ceiling stretches away, before you, vast and grand as the firmament at midnight." Proceeding a short distance, there is on the left "a steep precipice, over which you can look down, by the aid of blazing missiles, upon a broad black sheet of water, eighty feet below, called the Dead Sea. This is an awfully impressive place, the sights and sounds of which do not easily pass from memory. He who has seen it, will have it vividly brought before him by Alfieri's description of Filippo. Only a transient word or act gives us a short and dubious glimmer that reveals to us the abysses of his being, daring, lurid, and terrific as the throat of the infernal pool. Descending from the eminence by a ladder of about twenty feet, we find ourselves among piles of gigantic rocks, and one of the most picturesque sights in the world is to see a file of men and women passing along those wild and scraggy paths, moving slowly that their lamps may have time to illuminate their sky-like ceiling and gigantic walls, disappearing behind high cliffs, sinking into ravines, their lights shining upwards through fissures in the rocks, then suddenly emerging from some abrupt angle, standing in the bright gleam of their lights, relieved by the towering black masses around them. As you pass along, you hear the roar of invisible water falls; and at the foot of the slope the river Styx lies before you, deep and black, overarched with rocks. Across (or rather down) these unearthly waters, the guide can convey but four passengers at once. The lamps are fastened to the prow, the images of which are reflected in the dismal pool. If you are impatient of delay, or eager for new adventure, you can leave your companions lingering about the shore and cross the Styx by a dangerous bridge of precipices overhead. In order to do this you must ascend a steep cliff, and enter a cave above, three hundred yards long, from an egress of which you find yourself on the bank of the river, eighty feet above its surface, commanding a view of those in the boat, and those waiting on the shore. Seen from this height, the lamps in the canoe glare like fiery eyeballs; and the passengers sitting there so hushed and motionless look like shadows. The scene is so strangely funereal and spectral, that it seems as if the Greeks must have witnessed it, before they imagined Charon conveying ghosts to the dim regions of Pluto. If you turn your eye from the parties of men and women whom you left waiting on the shore, you will see them by the gleam of their lamps, scattered in picturesque groups, looming out in bold relief from the dense darkness around them."
"Having passed the Styx, the explorer reaches the banks of the river Lethe. Descending this about a quarter of a mile, he lands, and enters a level and lofty hall called the Great Walk, which stretches to the banks of the Echo, a distance of three or four hundred yards. The Echo is wide and deep enough, at all times, to float a steamer of the largest class. At the point of embarkation the arch is very low; but in two boats' lengths, the vault of the cave becomes lofty and wide. The novelty, the grandeur, the magnificence of the surrounding scenery here, elicits unbounded admiration and wonder. The Echo is three quarters of a mile long. It is in these rivers that the extraordinary white eyeless fish are caught. There is not the slightest indication of an organ similar to an eye to be discovered.

"Beyond the Echo there is a walk of four miles to Cleveland's Avenue, in reaching which the visitor passes through El Ghor, Silliman's Avenue, and Wellington's Gallery, to the foot of the ladder which leads up to Mary's Vineyard, the commencement of Cleveland's Avenue. Proceeding about a hundred feet from this spot, you reach the base of the hill on which stands the Holy Sepulchre. Cleveland's avenue is about three miles long, seventy feet wide, and twelve or fifteen feet high, more rich and gorgeous than any ever revealed to man, abounding in formations which are nowhere else to be seen, and which the most stupid cannot behold without feelings of admiration. But a detailed description of these wonders would not consist with the plan of this work. In this Avenue are situated Cleveland's Cabinet, the Rocky Mountains, Croghan's Hall, Serena's Arbor, &c. There is in this vast cave another avenue, more than three miles long, lofty and wide, and at its termination there is a hall which the guide thinks larger than any other in the cave. It is as yet without a name.

During the war with England in 1812-15, and for several years previous, the cave was extensively worked for saltpetre, at a point about one mile from its mouth. Fifty or sixty hands were employed inside the cave, for four or five years, during all which time not a case of sickness was known among them. Oxen were used in the cave to draw the earth to the hoppers. The prints of their hoofs imbedded in the hard floor are shown to this day (1873), and the ruts of cart wheels are still traceable. The corn cobs left where the oxen were fed were perfectly sound, thirty years afterwards; as also were the wooden pipes which conducted the water to the saltpetre vats. Nothing putrefies in the cave. Its temperature is (50 degrees Fahrenheit, summer and winter. It is never a degree above or below 60. Lamps burn with more brilliancy within than without the cave. This occurs in every part of it. No wild beast or reptile has ever been seen in the cave. In the Great Bat Room "countless thousands of bats cling to the walls and ceiling; like huge swarms of bees they nestle together in bunches of many bushels. Besides these bats, and the well-known eyeless fish and crawfish of the subterranean rivers, the only living creatures found in this magnificent and wonderful region are some large sluggish crickets, which never chirrup; a few slow motioned lizards, with great prominent eyes; and light-gray rats much larger than ordinary rats, and whose head and eyes resemble the rabbit. Miles from the entrance of the cave, traces of these rats may be found, but they are quite shy and keep generally out of sight." We may well wonder upon what these rats, crickets, and lizards support life.

The Bottomless Pit, mentioned at the top of the preceding page, from its very name excited the curiosity of thousands of visitors to know its exact depth. Its descent, perilous in the extreme, has been twice accomplished 1st, on September 11, 1852, by Wm. C. Prentice, eldest son of the great editor and poet, Geo. D. Prentice, afterwards major in the Confederate army, and who died of wounds at the battle of Augusta, September 27, 1862. He carved his name at the bottom, and was the first person who ever gazed upon its darkness and horrors; his measurement made it 190 feet deep. 2nd, on July 21, 1871, by A. D. Babbitt, a telegraph operator from Michigan, in the presence of 200 visitors. He found bottom at a distance of 198 feet from the opening in the main avenue. The rope with which he was lowered was so badly cut in several places by abrasion against the sharp rocks that a little longer delay in hoisting him out would have proved fatal.

On July 27, 1870, a wedding was solemnized in the cave. In September, 1871, Dr. Hall, of New York, one of a party of scientific gentlemen who visited the cave, and himself a distinguished geologist, by some means, with two of the companions, got out of the beaten track, and was for a time lost in the vast solitude of the cave. He discovered, while thus passing an untraveled fissure into which they had wandered, that a current of fresh air blew strongly in their faces, proof positive that there is somewhere a second entrance to the famous cave, the discovery of which might seriously operate against the already forty-years-old monopoly of the present proprietors. It is said that to prevent any such discovery, or the opening of any artificial entrance, no survey has ever been permitted of the cave.

The entrance to Mammoth Cave is 194 feet above Green River; hence it is extremely improbable that any avenues pass, as many suppose, under that stream. An appreciative idea of its vastness may be gathered from this statement in the Kentucky Geol. Survey I, 81: "In 1856, the known avenues of the Mammoth Cave were in number 223, the united length of the whole being estimated, by those best acquainted with the cave, at 150 miles. Say that the average width and height of these passages amount to seven (7) yards each way, which is perhaps near the truth. This would give upwards of twelve million (12,000,000) cubic yards of cavernous space, which has been excavated through the agency of calcareous waters and atmospheric vicissitudes." Hundreds of eyeless fish have been brought out of the Mammoth Cave," put up in spirits, and sold to visitors at from one to ten dollars each, the price varying with the size.

A well in Glasgow has been known to produce eyeless fish, similar to those found in the Mammoth Cave.

Capt. John Edmonson, from whom this county derived its name, was a native of Washington County, Virginia; settled in Fayette County, Kentucky, in 1790; raised a company of volunteer riflemen, and joined Col. John Allen's regiment in 1812, and fell in the disastrous battle of the river Raisin, January 22, 1813.

Source: History of Kentucky, Volume II, by Lewis Collins, Published by Collins & Company,
Covington, Kentucky, 1874

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