29 Jul The Passage of Time
Posted at 15:16h
I’m not a huge history buff, but I can appreciate being immersed in Mammoth Cave lore. From the artifacts left behind by the paleo-indigenous people, to the mining history, to the slave-led tourism, to the famous cave explorers, to the national park movement, and to today. Heck, even my house is a CCC-built single-family ranger cabin from the 1930’s. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places for crying out loud. The land around Mammoth Cave has been used in all kinds of ways by so many people. The gravity of stories of those who came before us, who walked on the same trails, who enjoyed the same sights, is astounding to me. History is still being made too. Mammoth is still being explored with no end in sight. In fact I took part in a sinkhole cleanup for a private landowner who donated a chunk of land containing an entrance into Mammoth. Slowly but surely the park continues growing. There’s a lot more that I could say, but I’d rather just share some pictures…
Joppa Church is an old Baptist church built in the 1900s to replace the original church which was built in 1862. Much like the other buildings within the park boundary, it serves as a reminder of the small communities which dotted the region before they were abandoned or absorbed by the park. There are several churches, graveyards, homesteads, and other places of historic significance throughout the region.
This is my home: a CCC-built single family ranger cabin. While federal funds could not directly be used to develop Mammoth Cave National Park in the 30’s, the government got around this by recruiting the CCC to develop trails and build infrastructure.
This stack of rocks is the Kentucky Monument: the largest monument in the Gothic Ave section of Mammoth Cave. Monuments were commissioned by guests and built by slaves and later tour guides during the pre-NPS era. These monuments could be dedicated to people, places, and organizations. It’s no surprise that the KY monument is the largest. Most of the monuments have indecipherable or missing signage, but a few I remember seeing are the Illinois, Minnesota, and Purdue University monuments. As for the graffiti plastered all over the ceiling, guests could pay guides to have their names written or etched onto cave surfaces. Graffiti like this was performed by holding a lit candle attached to a stick against the ceiling.
This is a recreation of Max Kämper’s 1908 Mammoth Cave map. Kämper was a mining engineer from Germany who discovered many new passages and created this comprehensive map of Mammoth Cave. Unfortunately Kämper’s work went unfinished as he returned home to fight in WWI, and subsequently died in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The final resting place for Floyd Collins. Collins was a famous cave explorer in the region who became trapped in Sand Cave. His story made national headlines as people flocked the area to help rescue him. Unfortunately the cave passage above him collapsed, and he died from exposure before he could be rescued 19 days later. His body was placed on display in Crystal Cave until it was stolen. It was soon recovered near the Green River, although his foot was mysteriously missing. He was re-interred into Crystal Cave with better security, but finally buried in 1989. I recommend reading Trapped! by Murray and Brucker if you’re interested in the whole story.
This is the site of the home and ticket booth of Floyd Collins. Collins lived here and sold tour tickets to Crystal Cave. Unfortunately this area was too far away for tourists to visit often. This led Collins to try exploring and developing Sand Cave as a tour cave closer on the road to Mammoth.
The unassuming entrance to Crystal Cave. Floyd Collins blasted open the entrance and offered tours here when he owned the property. Collins competed fiercely with Mammoth and other privately-owned caves for tourists, during the Kentucky Cave Wars.