Volume 8, Number 10, Winter 1985
Marvel Cave, now incorporated into Silver Dollar City, has been a marvelous cave for centuries, but it was left for some unknown spelunker to discover some one hundred fifty years ago. It is known to have been used during the Civil War days, probably to shelter bushwhackers, who preyed upon the countryside. Many more years passed before the so-called modern people took the great cave to heart and began to explore and appreciate what nature has so freely given to those who come and admire it.
While students at Marionville Academy, Marionville, Missouri, later renamed Ozark Wesleyan College, some of our professors suggested it would be wise for us to visit some of the scenic and historic spots in the Ozarks before our school days were over. Marvel Cave was about fifty miles away over some of the roughest hilly roads in Missouri, a long uncomfortable journey in the autumn of 1922. My roommate, Clyde Myers, of Sedalia, Mo. and I conceived of the idea of providing an "all expense tour" to the Ozarks. We engaged a man who had a Model T truck with slat sides and a flat bed, fitted the truck with benches similar to park benches, placed back to back on the truck so they would seat some twenty people, more or less, comfortably. The truck, along with an assortment of other Model Ts, made us ready to "head for the hills". We secured water containers, not only to assuage our thirst, but to fill the radiator at intervals. We engaged the college cook to provide sack lunches and we were off, in high spirits, to travel over rough, hilly roads to what is now called "The Shepherd of the Hills Country". Lores Ghan, now living in Boise, Idaho, recalls that when we reached a hill all the boys jumped off and pushed the balky truck to the top.
After much effort, including patching tires, we arrived at the top of the hill overlooking the objective of our expedition. I believe the Lynch Family then owned the cave. We were all outfitted with khaki coveralls to protect our clothing, equipped with candles and led down the steep slope at the bottom, of which we could see the opening to the cave, the top of an immense cavern. By a series of rickety ladders and wooden steps, at least one of which was dangerously loose, we descended into the depths, winding around the huge mound of earth on the floor of the cave, which had once been the top of the hill,
when the roof of the cavern collapsed and disclosed the tremendous underground chamber. We were told that at one time dances were held in that huge room. The floor of the cave was wet and muddy. If there were stalactites in that cave they had long since been taken away by souvenir seekers. There was one enormous stalagmite rising from the floor called "The Great White Throne". We were led through a twisting, corkscrew-like passage known as "Fat Mans Misery". Lucille Welch Brown recalls that her father, T.R. Welch, went through the cave about 1900, with a group which included a lady of ample proportions who really got stuck in that passage, Mr. Welch, being immediately behind the lady, pushed and the man in front pulled and finally extricated her. We traveled through the cave, saw thousands of bats clinging to the ceiling in one room, and stood on the brink of an underground body of water lying far below us.
After the long strenuous climb back up to the top, we went a few miles farther to Fairy Cave. They tell me it is now called "Talking Rocks" but it was a veritable fairyland back then. It was much easier to negotiate the entrance to this wonderland. We were filled with awe as we beheld the beauties of this gem of a cave. There, before our eyes, hung glistening pink and white stalactites like folds of a drapery. Eight of these forms when tapped with an instrument formed a perfect musical scale. Our music director, Professor Leon A. Wilgus, led us in singing "Dear Old M.C." our beloved college song.
After leaving the cave area the rest of the trip was an anticlimax. We went to Branson where we enjoyed a boat trip on the Sammy Lane Boat Line to Powersite Dam, where we were conducted through the dam and shown the turbines that generated electrical power. Different people who made that trip recall different side trips that were made. Lelah (Billie) Myers Willhite of Kansas City remembers climbing up the steps along the side of the bluff near Hollister to Presbyterian Hill. After more than sixty years our memories are dim and confused, but all of us remember, with awe and admiration, the beauties of the magnificent works of nature we beheld before tourism and commercialism became the order of the day.
Leg weary and tired out we sang our way back over the same old rough roads and treacherous hills to "Dear Old M.C." echoing the words of one of our group, Naomi Steckel Woods, "AINT NATURE GRAND!"
P.S. Otis Peebles owned the truck and we hired him to drive us on this "marvelous" trip to the hills.
Membership Roll Additions
November 1, 1984 to February 1, 1985
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX
Reeds Spring High School, Reeds Spring, MO
Joe Gimlin, Tulsa, OK
Helen S. Pauly, W. Palm Beach, FL
Patsy J. Baker, Forsyth, MO
H.E. Kimberling, Port Hueneme, CA
Zetta Reynolds, Taneyville, MO
Alice Edwards, Point Lookout, MO
Linnie Kyle, Isabella, MO
Betty C. Gill, Rowland Heights, CA
Mary Lou Branson, Richmond, KY
Mrs. Philip E. Brown, Overland Park, KS
Elena Porter, Pomona, CA
and two former members reinstated.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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