Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cave of Sighs

I made the name up a few minutes ago. I've not spoken to anyone who knows a name for this cave near Melbourne. I first heard about the site a couple of years ago. I didn't know much at all about it before seeing it today other than that it was frequented by artifact hunters.

It's an amazing cave...a tunnel...possibly even a natural bridge of sorts. It is located in a unique way. Rather than being along a hillside bluff, it is under a ledge of rock in a depression on a rather level plateau-like feature of the landscape. There appears to have been a spring just 150 feet or so from the large entrance which looks as if it flowed into the cave. The cave makes a perfect dwelling...water-fed and well-hidden.

It appears to have been well-used by early inhabitants...and sadly...well-dug by later ones. There are massive excavations inside the cave as well as all over the area in front of the large entrance. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to find an important stone artifact, but the random destruction of the history of this cave is enough to cause one to actively support the laws against it.

Personally, I think the Native-American history of this county has been neglected. Not only this county, but the whole of the Araknsas Ozarks. And...not only neglected...but abused. I often ponder as to why the State of Arkansas has not given tribute to the rich pre-historic and native-American cultures that thrived in this area because of it's abundance of water and well as natural shelter. I mourn the loss of all that history that has been dug out of the many caves in the county.

This cave is the victim of word-of-mouth advertising. It is a perfect example of why I am motivated not to give locations of caves...especially caves on private property.

You'll notice I have made a point of showing the abandoned tools of amateur archaeology. You may also notice that I've shown some of the broken tips and flint-knap tailings that are displayed atop flat rocks scattered all over the inside and outside of the cave.

A neighbor to this property told me as I questioned him about the place, that in the distant past he's heard of many, many artifacts coming from the cave. From what I can tell, there has been little let up in the digging...some digs were quite recent.

Every cave we show on this blog has evidence of's an inevitable find in each new cave we visit. Some caves are more disturbed than others. Other caves are often spotted with sizable pits. This cave, however, takes the proverbial cake.

Now you know why I've temporarily named the (probably historically important) cave "The Cave of Sighs".

If anyone visiting EIC recognizes the cave and knows its name, please let me know.

Until then...

Update:  After learning more about this cave and after studying the works of A.C. Jeffery on the subject of his uncle, Old Jesse Jeffery, We believe this cave to be what was known to the pioneers as "Chandler's Cave".

It was in this cave where Old Jesse and some cohorts made counterfeit currency. It's recorded by Augustus Curren Jeffery that the men would make a certain amount of fake cash, build a flatboat, float down the White and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, exchange their counterfeit money for hard cash in every town they stopped in before high-tailing it on downriver during the night. Upon arrivalat New Orleans, they would then dismantle the boat and sell it for lumber before returning to the White River Valley.

It was also in this cave that Young Jess, Old Jim Jeffery's  son (and A.C.'s uncle) hid out for several weeks while a fugitive after killing Old Bill Henderson in during a confrontation between families.

We have been told by people who know the cave well that there has been Spanish gold and silver coins found in the cave as well. This is a "rock house" - a shelter cave with openings at two ends forming an ideal living space. A.C. Jeffery described it as such:

From A.C Jeffery's collection of "White River Sketches":

"About the year 1824, the land office was first opened in the territory. There was a man settled in Lawrence County by the name of Henderson who was said to have left Carolina for killing a man. He was thought to be very dangerous. Henderson went to the land office and entered Old Jim's place and notified him to leave it. They met soon after and an affray took place between them. Henderson struck Old Jim across the head with a gun barrel which gave him a scar which he carried the balance of his life. Henderson, being pressed on by Old Jim, jumped back and snapped his gun at Old Jim's breast. Daniel snapped his gun at Henderson, and Henderson leveled his gun again on Old Jim; young Jess (who was about 16 years old) shot Henderson dead. Young Jess' friend s ran him off to White River to Jehoida Jeffery, who was then in the Legislature at Little Rock. His friends kept him concealed in a cane brake under a walnut bush near by. This bush, from this cause, has been allowed to stand till this day and now measures 10 feet and 3 inches in circumference. When Jehoida Jeffery came back, he moved Jess to a rock house, called Chandler's Cave, a short distance north of Melbourne --and Jim Darnell fed him. This cave had been previously used by Chandler while making counterfeit money. We never saw it; but once, while we were quite young, and could not
now give its exact locality. We know, however, it is north from the Big Spring on Mill Creek. Jehoida Jeffery then went to Lawrence County and bailed his father and brother; he then secured assistance of four lawyers -- Bob Odin, Bob Crittenden, Ambros Sevier, and we believe Townsend Dickerson. This composed the best legal ability in the territory. Izard was just then organized and a writ against young Jess was lodged in the hands of Sheriff John Adams (Major Wolf's brother-in-law). Jehoida Jeffery told him he would surrender young Jess when he got ready to go up, which he did. Sheriff Hardin conveyed the other prisoners from Lawrence County. Owing to a previous difficulty between Old Jim's younger boys and Old Jess, he had remained silent; but when he called out, he replied, "He would be damned if his blood ever hung from a limb." When Jehoida Jeffery went to Lawrence County, he found Old Jess ready to take the law into his own hands. He prevailed on him to keep quiet and allow him to run the matter through court, which he did. Old Jess, however, was present at the trial with his posse in disguise, ready to take charge of the prisoners if the verdict did not suit him. The trial was had before the Federal Court at Little Rock and created a great deal of excitement all over the country, the weight of public sentiment being largely in favor of young Jess. The best legal ability was brought to bare. Young Jess' lawyers pleaded justifiable homicide and the jury acquitted them."