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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 6, page 131, September 30, 1853

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Identifier: DX04149622

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 6, page 131, September 30, 1853

Description: Describes a visit to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.


start, for about the space of two hundred yards down a road mighty trees overhead and around, by the sloping hill-side, which being pursued straight onwards leads to Green River. But we, on the right turning sharply. are now gazing downwards at the Cave’s mouth. A great, oval-shaped cavern at the bottom of a ravine, rude rock-steps winding downwards from the front, under the overarching rock strata. From the arches centre, issuing forth from pendant verdure and tree shrubbery, plashes down a spring of bright water into a long trough below, behind which, and partially closing the entrance is a rough log hut. (Tis used for a larder during the summer’s heat.) All about & above, wild vines and creepers hang, their fresh sun-lit green standing out deliciously from the hell-black night within. A chill blast of air from the Cavern’s jaws welcomes us, as, our lamps having been procured from an adjacent, (formerly habited, but now discussed,) building, — downwards we go, Stephen [Bishop]; cigar in mouth, leading the way. We now spy stones piled up on either side of the way, and long wooden pipes, heretofore used in conveying water farther on into the cave to hoppers used by saltpeter makers. During the war of 1812 the profits of this manufacture set folks to extensive cave exploration; and the earth in the Mammoth Cave, instinct with nitre was used to good purpose; being purchased by government contractors, Gratz & Wilkins for that object. The war ending, prices fell, and for manufacturing ends, the Cave was disused. Later, however, old miners, desirous of raising a dollar or so, have done a little lixivating the nitrous earth, but they were solitary cases. Onwards we go, through a long low cavernous straight, hight the Narrows, passing, to reach it through a doorway in a rough stone wall, stretching cross wise athwart the cave. The cave breath is chill and strong, but slackens as we advance, until a temperately cold, tranquil atmosphere is around you, varying not much the twelve months round. Swinging our lamps, through the

Rights: NoC-US

Place: United States

Dates: 1853-09-30

Type(s): Diary

Maker/Creator: Gunn, Thomas Butler, 1826-1903

Subjects: African Americans
Mammoth Cave (Ky.)
War of 1812
Mineral industries


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