Ennis Cave has a long and interesting history
dating back to the Louisiana Purchase to the present day ownership by
the Rose Brothers. This section presents the history of the cave
including ownership, mining, early exploration, and the Rose Brothers
years. Table 2-1 provide a chronology of the history of Ennis Cave.
In the early 1800's the United States was a young
nation on the eastern seaboard of a vast, unexplored continent. The
Louisiana Purchase, approved by treaty in April of 1803, transferred
from France to the United States over 800,000 square miles of land.
Overnight it doubled the size of the United States.
The land purchased eventually made all or part of
fifteen American states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North
Dakota, Texas, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming,
Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado and Montana.
In the late 18th century, the region west of the
Mississippi river was under the possession of France. The mostly unknown
and thinly populated territory was ceded to Spain from France in 1762
and then was transferred back to France in 1800, under the Treaty of San
During those years, the city of New Orleans, at the
mouth of the Mississippi River, has become an important port for
shipping goods to and from the parts of the US west of the Appalachian
With the port becoming more and more important to
American trade interests, the Jefferson administration came to the
conclusion that it would be in the best interest of the young American
nation to purchase the city of New Orleans and the nearby portions of
Louisiana east of the Mississippi.
In 1801 Jefferson sent Robert R. Livingston to
Paris to negotiate such a purchase, however the French were not, at
Early negotiations by Robert R. Livingston to
purchase New Orleans failed. However, when Napoleon lost of control over
Haiti and was in dire need of funds to support his war effort against
Britain in Europe, a window of opportunity opened.
James Monroe was sent to Paris and the American
negotiators were authorized to spend up to $2 million for New Orleans
and adjacent land. They were surprised when Napoléon offered them a much
bigger deal ・the entire French controlled North American Territory for
Although not authorized to make such a large
purchase, Robert Livingston and James Monroe took a chance, overstepped
their orders, and accepted the offer of the entire Louisiana Territory.
Final negotiations were carried out with the Marquis de Barbé Marbois,
Napoleon's minister of the treasury.
The Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed in Paris
France on April 30, 1803. Robert Livingston and James Monroe signed the
treaty on behalf of the United States and Barbé Marbois signed it on
behalf of France.
President Jefferson announced the treaty to the
American people on July 4 and the United States Senate ratified the
treaty on October 20 by a vote of 24 yeas and 7 nays.
On October 31 Congress made temporary provisions
for local civil government to continue as it had under French and
Spanish rule and authorized the President to use military forces to
maintain order. President Jefferson then authorized taking possession of
the territory and establishing a temporary military government.
The land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase deal
was divided into two parts, Upper and Lower Louisiana.
On Nov. 30, 1803 a ceremony was held in New Orleans
in which the Spanish have formally given up physical possession of
Louisiana to the French. The American flag was raised over New Orleans
for the first time on December 20, 1803 during a ceremony in which
French turned Lower Louisiana over to the United States.
On March 9, 1804 a ceremony was conducted in St.
Louis, near what is now the Gateway Arch Park, to transfer ownership of
The 'Three Flags Ceremony', as it was later named,
was a display of 19th century international relations. The Spanish
governor (who was actually a Frenchman) raised the Spanish flag, then
lowered it, to represent Spain's cession of the territory to France. An
American representing the French then raised the French flag which flew
overnight and was replaced by the American flag the next day buy the
same person who was now representing the United States. The residents of
the Louisiana Territory thus became American citizens.
On October 1, 1804, the purchased territory was
re-organized into the Orleans Territory, which later became the state of
Louisiana, and the District of Louisiana, which was temporarily under
the control of the Indiana Territory.
Via the Louisiana Purchase the United States
acquired more than 529,911,680 acres (2,144,476 Square Kilometers) of
territory. It paid $15 million for that land which if adjusted for
inflation, would equal about $190 million dollars 200 years later.
The land included in the Purchase more than doubled
the size of the United States and it comprises over one-quarter of the
entire territory of the modern continental United States.
The lands purchased included what is present day
Louisiana on both sides of the Mississippi River including the city of
New Orleans. It contained parts or all of present-day Arkansas,
Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska
and New Mexico. It included Minnesota west of the Mississippi River,
northern Texas and the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east
of the Rocky Mountains. It also included the portions of southern
Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta (now part of
Canada) that drain into the Missouri River.
The boundaries of the land purchased were not
defined, and the land itself was generally unknown. France actually
refused to specify what were the southern and western boundaries of the
territory as this was disputed with Spain.
What was known was that the eastern boundary of the
Louisiana Purchase ran from the source of the Mississippi to the 31st
parallel. The northern reaches of the territory extended up to British
possessions in the north. The northern boundary was only defined in the
Anglo-American Convention of 1818 that split Canada and the US at the
On May 1 1860, Henry Clay of Batesville Arkansas
purchased the land containing Ennis Cave from the United States
Government for $___. Henry Clay was born in 1841 in Mississippi moving
to the Batesville area while he was a teenager. Henry entered the
Confederate Army as a young man and after the war became a schoolteacher
at La Crosse, Izard County. He was elected in 1879 to represent the
Counties of Fulton, Baxter, Marion & Izard in the State Senate of
Arkansas. Henry was appointed Register of the Land Office at Harrison in
1885 and died on March 12, 1908.
Ennis Cave was purchased on October 13, 1900 by J.
H. and Martha Linsay from the Clay family. The Lindsay’s owned the Cave
until August 20, 1938 when Dessie Echart purchased the Cave.
Martha V. Tinsley (related to Echart) aquired
ownership of the Cave on June 20, 1985 and immediately sold the Cave to
Burt Alderson the same day. Kevin and Randal Rose purchased the cave on
July 8, 1985. Table 2-1 presents a history of Ennis Cave including the
The history of the mining operations dates back to
1939 to 1943. Approximately 70 tons of ore was mined from the first
1,200 feet of the cave from what is known as the entrance, mine, and
campsite passages. The first lease was obtained by G.O Harkleroad and
C.C. Sims who held the lease between April 13, 1939 to July
25, 1942. Approximately 16 tons of ore was mined on August 23, 1939 and
sold to Arkansas Manganese Co in Cushman Ark for $5.00/ton. In August of
1940, the shaft and rail line was installed. Once installed, an
additional 17 tons of high grade ore was mined and sold at $10/ton and 7
tons of low grade mined and sold for $5.00 ton late 1940 to A.B. Reither.
In 1940, information on what was called the Enos-Lindsey
Cave Prospect was published in the Contributions to Economic Geology
Three samples of the ore were sent to KC Testing
Lab on May 6, 1941 with the results showing 21.56%, 24.64%, and 14.74%
high grade manganese ore. After the test results were received, an
additional 16 tons of ore was mined and shipped to Sheffield Steel in KC
on May 28, 1941 and was rejected as low grade.
900 pounds of high grade and 25 pounds of low grade
was removed on June 7, 1941 and sold to Arkansas Manganese Co in Cushman
Ark. The final 12 tons removed and sold on August 26, 1941 for $4.23/ton
to Arkansas Manganese Co in Cushman Ark for $5.00/ton.
S.K. Bourne purchased a lease between July 25, 1942
to July 25, 1943, however no ore was removed.
A total of 45 tons of high grade ore was mined and
25 tons of low grade ore was mined. Table 2-1 details the history of
Ennis cave including the mining history.
The complete history of Ennis Cave is not known,
especially prior to the late 1950’s. It is assumed that the cave was
explored by the local people since the 1800’s and during the years the
cave was mined. However, the only documented exploration began in 1959
when MMV started exploring the cave and surveyed the first approximately
5,500 feet of the cave. Later in 1963, the Memphis Grotto became active
and continued the exploration.
It was not until 1970 when Lon Odell began to
explore the cave did it become apparent that Ennis Cave was no ordinary
cave. Lon discovered an area off the Cairn Room logically named Lon
Odell’s Lost Passage. The name was given to the passage in 1972 by
Robert Taylor and Mike and Susan Warshauer after the rediscovered the
passage. Robert Taylor and the Warshauer’s started a comprehensive
survey of the cave in fall of 1972. In July 1974 while poking around in
some holes, Robert Taylor made a big discovery, Avenue E.
On February 16, 1972, the School of the Ozarks
Troglophiles collected water samples from the cave and the Northeast
Arkansas cavers explored the entrance area of the cave. The survey
continued until February 17, 1972 when the entrance finally collapsed to
the point it could not be easily dug out. A total of 19,525 feet of cave
was surveyed. The cave remained closed until November 1985.
Rose Ownership Years
Randy and Kevin Rose purchased Ennis Cave on July
8, 1985 to the delightment of the caving community. During the 20 plus
years the Rose Brothers have owned the cave, many changes have been made
on the outside and many wonderful discoveries have been made on the
inside. The following section details these years in 5-year increments.
Table 2-1 details the complete history for Ennis Cave including the Rose
1985 to 1990
The period between 1985 and 1990 marked the
beginning of the development of the cave entrance and land above the
cave. Memorial Day weekend 1985 marked the first day that Randy saw the
property. Randy and his life-long friend and fellow caver Richard
Clements (RC) arrived at Ennis Cave on Friday night with a rough map and
lots of energy. Not sure if they were in the right place, Randy and RC
followed an overgrown trail of brush and small trees on a dark May
night. As they proceeded up the valley they came to a dark hole in the
valley floor and RC jumps out and declares we have arrived.
The first thing Randy and RC did was climb their
way down the sinkhole to the cave entrance and verified that the cave
was indeed sealed up. The air temperature in the entrance was still
noticable cooler than above. Randy and RC spent the next few days
enjoying the area and sinkhole.
Upon arrival back to Kansas City, Randy calls his
brother and shares his experience and the decision was made to “GO FOR
IT”! Randy and Kevin arrive at the cave with about 25 other cavers on
July 2, 1985 and begin clearing the jungle around the cave for some
primative camping. On July 8, 1985, Randy and Kevin travel to Memphis
and sign the papers for the cave becoming the legal owners.
The next step was to make a path into the sinkhole
so the vegetation on the sides of the sinkhole would not be disturbed.
Railroad ties were used to build steps straight down the sinkhole on the
opposite side of the sinkhole as the cave entrance. Additionally, the
entrance to the property was gated to limit access to the property. On
August 30, 1985, the steps into the sinkhole were complete and the
sinkhole readied for the big dig.
The first of the big digs occurred between October
3 and 9, 1985. Approximately 25 cavers were on hand to assist. The first
toilet was constructed to keep the land free of human waste.
Approximately 10 cubic yards of soil was removed by shovel, picks, and 5
gallon buckets. The operation consisted of 2 cavers in the hole filling
the buckets and a chain of cavers coming out of the entrance passing the
buckets up where they were dumped on the sinkhole floor. Luckily there
was lots of room on the sinkhole floor for the mud. The excavated
material consisted of wet and heavy mud and gravel. The work was slow
and tedious, not to mention dangerous with the overhead shaft containing
loose and falling rock.
The second dig occurred between November 1 and 4,
1985. Over 30 cavers were onhand and approximately 15 cubic yards of
material was removed. The process was the same as the first dig but some
shoring was required to keep the slope stable and allow access up and
out of the hole.
The BIG DIG occurred between November 28 and 30,
1985. We knew we were getting close. There were over 50 cavers on hand
the first 2 days and then the weather took a turn for the worse. Over
6-inches of rain fell overnight on November 29, 1985 and all but 7
cavers headed out as the digging had become very dangerous. The rain
slowed up and the adrenaline kicked in and the team of Randy and Kevin
Rose, Dave Parsons, Richard Clements, Denny and Ronnie Cronkie, Mike
Clifford, and Tim McClain decided to make a big push, beyond their
better judgement. We wanted in so bad and could taste it.
At 731pm on November 30, 1985 Tim McClain called up
out of the hole that we had broke into something. Tim proceeded into a
small opening on the left side of the dig and slid into a small room. He
then proceeded through a tight crawlway that circled back to the right
and into the cave. Tim returned about 10 minutes later and yelled “we
Excited and tired the team decided to get something
to eat and gear up to go into the cave. Knowing that no one knew we
would be in the cave and considering the weather conditions and the
entrance conditions, someone had to stay out for safety. Kevin
volunteered to stay out. At 930pm, the team of six entered the cave with
food and water and digging tools. The team explored the Campsite
passage, Main Stream passage, Breakdown Room, and Nightmare Gallery. The
team heard the 100 foot waterfall but were to tired to find it planning
to return in the morning to see it. The team exited the cave at 300am on
November 31, 1985. Upon exiting the cave, the heavy rains were again
coming down and the entrance collapsed as the last caver emerged.
It wasn’t until the following March, 1986 that the
entrance was dug out again. This time timbers were installed to secure
the entrance for additional digging. A team of about 10 cavers continued
to dig down toward the main cave.
Memorial Day 1986 marked the first anniversary of
the Rose Brothers owning Ennis Cave. It also marked the weekend that a
team of 30 cavers finally opened up the entrance into the main cave. You
could no climb down the timbers and crawl on your knees directly into
In September of 1986, a team of about 10 cavers
continued to dig and found the remains of an old vertical timber wall
that was buried in the mud and gravel. The wall was exposed and new
timbers were installed. The entrance was then dug open enough that the
cave was ready for its first gate.
Thanksgiving 1986 marked the first annual
Thanksgiving Day Weekend at Ennis Cave. Chris Miller was onsite with the
gate he designed and built and a team of about 8 cavers lowered the gate
into the cave, mixed up concrete, and using rocks from inside the cave,
installed the first gate! But the work was not yet done. The entrance
shaft above was still unstable and gravel would periodically fall
creating a hazard to those below.
During the fall of 1986, the American Cave
Conservation Association published an article on Randy Rose and Ennis
Cave followed up by an article in the Black and Veatch Engineers
publication called the Dimension about Randy and the cave.
In March 1987, the first platform was constructed
about half way down the entrance directly below the open shaft above.
The platform was equipped with a latch that cavers could access the cave
through and be protected from falling rocks above. For the next tow
years, the cavers enjoyed the second and third annual Ennis Cave
Memorial Day and Thanksgiving Weekends.
The new entrance was great but there was one big
problem. During the winter water would run into the cave and freeze the
gate shut. Several trips were canceled when cavers showed up and could
not chisel there way through the ice and into the cave. Something had to
Memorial Day Weekend 1989 (4th annual) a
team of 50 cavers conveyed onto Ennis Cave for a major task – digging
the cave entrance out and installing a 30 foot by 36-inch diameter
culvert pipe, removing the original gate, and installing a new one.
Approximately 30 cubic yards of mud and rock was removed over three days
and the culvert pipe was lowered into the cave. A wood platform was
built around the pipe about half way down to keep debris from sliding
into the cave. Doug (Digger) Feakes provided a gate he designed as a
giant spider and built at his home in Missouri. The gate was installed
and the cave once again secure.
Over the course of the next few years, the land
above the cave was cleared for camping to accommodate the growing number
of cavers visiting the cave. The on the 5th annual Memorial
Day weekend, The slab to the first cabin was poured and construction
began on the 5th Annual Thanksgiving Weekend. The cabin was
constructed out of a 2” x 4” wood frame and oak slab wood for the walls
and a composition roof.
1991 to 1995
Between 1991 and 1995, most of the work was
concentrated on clearing the land for camping and in exploring the cave.
A bulldozer was brough in and the valley floor was cleared. It was
during this time that Tim McClain made several great discoveries
including Crystals Room, Lost Paradise, and Timbucto. The cavers also
enjoyed the annual Memorial Day and Thanksgiving Day Weekends.
1996 to 2000
The years 1996 to 2000 marked some big changes at
Ennis Cave. Between May 1997 and May 1998, the bottom of the cave
entrance was enlarged to walking height and on the 12th
Annual Memorial Day Weekend, a team of 20 cavers dropped the original 30
foot culvert pipe to the bottom of the cave entrance and a new 15 foot
culvert pipe was added to the top. Diggers spider gate was transferred
to the top of the new pipe. Then using drills and steel braces, the team
drilled into the cave walls around the pipe and made a network of steel
re-inforcement. Then approximately 3.5 cubic yards of concrete was
pumped into the platform built around the pipe encasing the steel. The
entrance was now finally complete. The new 45 foot culvert pipe allowed
safe entrance into the cave including walking room starting at the end
of the pipe.
A new toilet was built by Digger in the spring of
1998 using a design out of Popular Mechanics. It was called a “Skycrapper”.
It was a vertical composting toilet that did not require pumping. The
water was simple composted and later removed for fertilizer for the
Tragedy happened in October 1998 when the original
cabin burned to the ground. No one knows for sure what happened but it
is believed that the wood burning stove caught some leaves on fire on
the roof. Nothing was left but the stove. On the 13th Annual
Ennis Cave Weekend, the old cabin remains were cleaned up and plans for
a new cabin were drawn up. Additionally, a concrete slab for a pavillion
was poured this weekend.
Then on the 14th Annual Memorial Day
Weekend, a new 2 story cabin was constructed and a 2 story pavillion was
also constructed. Ennis Cave was healing. The new cabin was built with
steel siding and roof and the pavillion with a steel roof.
2001 to 2005
The years between 2001 and 2005 were enjoyable
years with most work having been done and the first opportunity to just
enjoy the cave. However the work is never really done and in February
2002, a 504 foot deep well was drilled. It was amazing as the White
River is less than 200 feet below the level of the valley and everyone
thought we would encounter water there. However at 492 feet, we hit a
geyser. The was so much pressure when we hit the water that it
temporarily shot up out of the ground and then stabilized at about 187
feet. The water was a delight, as pure as it gets and with a great
taste. A pump was installed and a generator used to pump water for the
cavers to fill their jugs.
No that there was water, there needed to be a
shower so the cavers built a gravity feed shower. Greg Buckley did most
of the work and Tim McClain later finished the roof. Additionally, a
second skycrapper was built to accommodate the growing number of cavers.
In the summer and fall of 2001, Tim McClain built a
new set of stairs out of large flat rock on the north side of the cabin
that traversed easily into the sinkhole. Additionally, he used some of
the existing rock outcropping into the design making a very natural
On April 15, 2005, a new road was bulldozed up the
hill above the cave and several large open areas cleared for group
camping. This also provided lots of firewood for the cavers. Between
2001 and 2005, the cavers continued to enjoy the annual Memorial Day and
Thanksgiving Weekends plus many other new get togethers including an
annual halloween party and Speleoweekend.
Then on Memorial Day Weekend 2005, Ennis Cave was
host to the 20th Anniversary Party since the Rose Brothers
purchased the cave. It was a great event with 104 cavers from all over
the United States. It was also a reunion for many of the old Ennis
Cavers that had moved away from the area including Bart Rapp, Dean
Beauchamp, and Mike and Susan Warshauer. The Saturday night festivities
included a live folk band called Patchwork and a dinner feast that was
out of this world. This was truly the pinnacle of Ennis Cave history!
2006 to 2007
2006 marked a era at Ennis Cave with the addition
of a Annual Spring and Fall Festival. It also marked the first time
Ennis had running water. A water line was installed up and down the
valley and to the cabin and shower feed by a 300 gallon tank on the
hill. The water was pumped from the well into the tank and gravity feed
throughout the valley. This was truly a wonderful thing.