I was recently reminded of my father’s story of when he worked at Onyx Cave as a kid in the early 1950s. He was a tour guide and had a group of people deep into the cave when the lights went out. He left them in absolute darkness while he ran up the path behind the glow of his official tour guide flashlight to see what the problem was. The generator had stopped and he had to get it running again before returning to the huddled mass of bewildered tourists.
What reminded me of my father’s small adventure was finding the story of the discovery of Onyx Cave in an old email from Lee Mathis-Fancher. Her great-grandfather, Will Robbins, found Onyx Cave on his property while searching for lost treasure left by Spaniards of long ago. After using dynamite to blast away rock in his search he found a cave in the hillside. He wasn’t as happy with a cave as gold and jewels, but he was able to charge admission for people to explore his cave. It is said to be the oldest show cave in the state of Arkansas.
In the 1920s, my grandfather, Jack McCall, would ride by horseback with friends over to Onyx Cave to look around. He said they knew it was time to get out when there wasn’t enough oxygen for their pine knot torches to burn properly.
Years later, Grandpa would drive cattle over the mountain to pasture he rented near Onyx Cave. Along the way was a hole in the ground that if you dropped a rock in it there would be a splash. He said it was rumored Jesse James had put a raft down there so he could float to a shelf of rock where his gold was hidden.
Worried a cow might fall in the hole, Grandpa built a heavy wooden platform and covered it up. He planned to take me up there and show me that hole in the ground, but time got away from us and it’s too late now.
If you have a comment or story, write to me at P.O. Box 43, Eureka Springs, AR 72632.