Huge Cave Beneath Heart of City
But Carthage Folks Are Not Much Worried, Since No Serious Sinking of the Surface Ever Has Been Reported.
Carthage, MO, June 17-
Few residents of Carthage realize that the heart of their city is built over a labyrinth of hollow earth, but an immense subterranean passage that has been explored only once lies beneath this city of 13,000 population.
The cavern was explored in 1872 by six local adventurers, equipped with ropes and torches. They entered the cave near where Garrison avenue and Ninth street intersect.
Because of superstition, fear of cave gas and inability to navigate a subterranean lake, which was believed to lie directly under the Jasper County courthouse, the cave was entered only once.
Only Opening Sealed.
Since the 1872 expedition, the only known opening has been sealed with concrete. Virgil Oldham, owner of the site of the original entrance, says the cave never will be opened as long as he owns the only entrance. Oldham operates a service station at the location. He says his gasoline tanks might fall into the cave if he permitted its opening.
In 1945 a section of basement floor in a 2-story frame house at 115 East Ninth street, four blocks from the original entrance, sank nearly five inches.
When large pieces of broken concrete were removed, Ferrel Tilton contractor, asserted he entered the cave, but no report of the venture was made. Tilton said he braced the floor with steel beams and filled the opening with six cubic feet of concrete.
Similar reports of sinking curbs and sidewalks have been made by residents in several sections of the city. The courthouse apparently was constructed on the solid limestone foundation provided by the cave’s roof.
Rare Bones Found.
According to a report by Avery Bigsell, one of the original party that entered the cave, several specimens of bones of animals not then known to exist were brought back from the 1872 expedition.
Some of these relics were on display for a time in a local drug store, but when the drug store were out of business the specimens were lost.
A Captain Slauson, reportedly a geologist, and H.F. Beebe, a president of the town board, along with three town aldermen and Bigsell, comprised the party which entered the cave.
Of two chambers explored by the group, one measured 583 feet wide and had a solid limestone floor, according to Bigsell’s report. It was bordered on one side by a huge fresh-water reservoir, estimated to lie beneath where the courthouse stands.
The cave may consist of four levels, with two levels of flowing water, Bigsell’s report said one of the men was lowered 40 feet into a chasm inside the cave estimated at 100 feet deep with running water below.
Coloring and floats once dropped through an opening behind Oldham’s station were recovered at the mouth of a spring in North Carthage. A river in the cave is thought to pass below the Spring river northeast of Carthage.