THE ALPH COOK CAVE
By S. C. Turnbo
The head prongs of West Sugar Loaf Creek in Boone County, Arkansas, is a picturesque locality. The deep, rough hollows as they wind their way toward the creek and the hills as they loom up form a fascinating view. On the west prong of the creek is situated a noted cave and is a mile or more up this hollow and is something near three and one-half northwest of Elixir Springs. This cave was of considerable prominence among the old time hunters of that section and was more so in war times as a place of refuge for a number of the inhabitants. Its formation is an interesting study to those who love and admire natures art. A high rock wall extends some distance along the mountainside terminating at one end with the cave, which is near three-fourths of a mile north of the Lead Hill and Harrison wagon road.
Bill Treadway informed the writer that soon after the close of the war and while he was a little fellow, he and his brother Ben Treadway and Jim and John Wagoner, sons of John Wagoner who lived on West Sugar Loaf just below the mouth of the hollow that the cave is in, and Mark Bell and John Bell, sons of Mat Bell, Tom Keeling and Frank Keeling, sons of Abe Keeling, Carter Smith, son of Ira J. Smith., Bob Jackson, son of Jim Jackson, Green Jackson, son of Dick Jackson, and Albert Upton, son of Jim Upton, would meet at this cave of Sundays and romp all day. The Wagoner boys were very venturesome, for they would get on top of the precipice where it was the highest and sit down on the edge of it and let their feet hang over. I recollect on one occasion when we had started a big rock rolling down the steep hillside, we found a sledge hammer, a pair of tongs, nippers, and several other things of various descriptions that had been put under this rock by someone during the war for safe keeping. "I am told, continued Mr. Treadway, "that one day during the early settlement of the country, a deer, while being hotly pursued by dogs, leaped over this precipice and was killed."
In the month of February, 1865, when the war was at its greatest heat in this part of Arkansas, a few men were killed at this cave. Among those who met death here was Alph E. Cook, Ed Brown, Alph Dean, and Hiram Russell. I am told that there were several other men in the cave but their lives were spared. John E. Cook, son of Alph Cook, who was 16 years old at the time of this memorable incident informed the writer that his father and Mr. Russell were shot down in the mouth of the cave, but Brown run the gauntlet of armed men at the mouth of the cavern and succeeded in getting one-quarter of a mile from the cave before he was finally slain. After the men had been shot down a few of those who were permitted to live were allowed to take charge of their bodies and they buried them as best they could under the circumstances. In mentioning the interment of three of the bodies, John E. Cook said that an ox wagon pulled by a yoke of cattle was brought in to the hollow below the cave and the dead men were carried down the mountainside to the wagon and placed in the wagon-box and hauled four miles and stopped in one-half mile of the old Abe Keeling place where a grave was dug and a plain coffin prepared for the reception of the body of his father and a box each for the bodies of the others. "My father, Hiram Russell, and Ed Brown were buried in the same grave. My fathers body was placed between the other two." said Mr. Cook. Alph Cook was an early settler of Taney County, Missouri, and lived six miles northeast of Forsyth. For this reason and the way he was killed here, this cavern is known far and wide as the Alph Cook Cave. Twenty-nine years after the occurrence of that bloody scene of those troubled days, the writer visited this spot to examine the cave where the men took shelter and were shot down. But I did not tarry long. The opening into the cavern is large and roomy with an overhanging cliff of rock, and as I stood at the entrance of the cavern, thoughts of those sad and gloomy days of terror whirled through my mind. As I viewed the fragments of the once-fortified breastworks that a few southern men had constructed during the war to defend the mouth of the cave from attack, I imagined I could see the bleeding forms of the dying men that were killed here lying at my feet and feel their spirits hovering over me and I was overwhelmed with superstition and I turned around and fled down the mountainside into the hollow and went on my way. This was on the 22nd of June, 1894, and it was my last and only visit to this noted cavern.
Springfield-Greene County Library