Surprising as it is, human curiosity being what it is, the great cave under Carthage has never been thoroughly explored, even though its existence has common knowledge since December 1872. The most revealing exploration of all these years was conducted that month, shortly after the discovery of the entrance, now closed near the corner of Garrison and Tenth.
The event was described in detail by Avery Bigsell in a letter published in the December 12, 1872 edition of the Carthage Banner. His report follows:
“Having heard of the recent discovery in our city of an immense subterranean passage extending a great distance, I decided last week to explore this extraordinary freak of nature. Accordingly in company of C.C. Allen, H.F. Beebe, Timothy Regan, Mr. (D.S.) Chase, a member of the city council, and Captain Slauson, one of the ablest geologists of our city, we made our preparations for the survey.
“Taking with us plenty of rope, torches, rubber oversuits and such outfits as one naturally requires for like expeditions we commenced the descent about 10 o’clock. The opening is on the grounds of Mr. Simeon Mitchell and directly in front of Major Beebe’s house on…
…Dr. Mathews and at the drugstore of Young & Caffee.
“Near the end of this chamber we found a pit so dark and deep that the light of our torches failed to reach the bottom. Alderman Chase was determined however to see the bottom. Accordingly a strong rope was fastened about his waist and each of us taking a strong hold he was gently lowered into the yawning abyss.
“Our rope being only about 50 feet in length he was not able to descend more than 40 feet. He describes the sides as being of crystallized granite formation and in layers from one to three feet thickness. In the crevices he found most beautiful examples of stalactite formation taking in many instances the form of the human hand, heads of animals, etc.
“We regret exceedingly that we did not secure these specimens due to an accident which came near Captain Slauson losing his life. When we had drawn Mr Chase nearly out, Captain S., who was nearest the edge of the chasm, slipped and fell against Chase. The rope slipping they were only saved by the presence of Mr. Allen who seized Captain S., and drew him back. But the specimens were lost. We could plainly hear the rush of waters at the bottom and could hear the splash of stones pre-…
…finds that at its extremest length it is 583 feet. Here we found still other specimens of great value which may be seen at the Bank of Carthage. I regret that time did not permit our noting more particularly this beautiful apartment.
“We found that it was now nearly three o’clock and that many of our torches were nearly consumed, and Alderman Chase had lost his in the pit. So hastening on we found at a distance of about 300 feet from the entrance, and bearing to the north, another passage at the end of which we found a beautiful lake, clear as crystal and sweet to the taste. We held our torches far out over the water and beyond was dark and still as night. Stones thrown by the strongest arm failed to reach the opposite shore and dropped upon the surface of this subterranean lake.
“It is contemplated by the city council to bring this water to the public square and thus supply the town with sweet wholesome water.
“I am confident that could we pass this lake, which is walled in on both sides, still greater wonders would be developed. I am informed that a party consisting of Judge Koontz, Tom Buckbee and Israel Brewer have decided to send for a rubber boat and will cross this lake as soon as it arrives.
…partment used the cave as a storm sewer outlet. For 60 years all the rainwater from Macon to Chestnut on the west side of Main street, the east side of Garrison and all of Lyon and Maple streets was drained into this cave. None of these streets were paved and sand, silt and leaves were washed into it indiscriminately.
“By 1932, after a heavy rain, an outboard motor boat could be run up and down the streets at Tenth and Garrison and the basements in that area were flooded. But, given sufficient time, the water still drained away.
“However, the cave was by then stopped up to the entrance, so in 1933 a storm sewer was constructed which crosses Garrison diagonally in front of Cedar street, proceeding down the south side of that street, satisfactorily carrying the rain water away.
“The writer moved with his family to the house at 1010 South Garrison in June, 1907. The existence of the cave was common knowledge to all the small boys in the neighborhood and by 1909 all had been in it many times.
“On the north side of Tenth street from Maple street running west there is what was known as a ‘box sidewalk.” It is merely a storm sewer with a Carthage stone sidewalk on top. At its west end, which is about the middle of the filling station lot, it was joined at right angles by a storm sewer crossing Tenth Street. At this juncture was an opening where one could easily enter. The light in here was dim but after waiting until one’s eye became accustomed to the semi-darkness, one that could perceive that by taking half a dozen steps north one would walk off into a pit, the outlines of which were barely visible, and the bottom shrouded in complete darkness.
“This pit, about 25 feet deep was curbed with field stone much like an old fashioned dug well. The projecting stones gave just enough hand and toe holds for one to climb to the bottom. To make somewhat easier climbing the top was larger in circumference, tapering to a diameter of not over three feet at the bottom. About halfway down was a natural change in the limestone that had been hollowed out by water in ages past. One could comfortably sit there and let one’s legs dangle out over the pit.
“At the bottom the cave took directly off southwest. This passage was so small even a 9 or 10 year-old boy had to crawl on his stomach. It was not inappropriately dubbed “Fat Man’s Misery…