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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.


Louisiana Purchase

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 Ildefonso.

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 Mountains.

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 first, receptive.

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 $15 million.

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 Upper Louisiana.

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 49th parallel.



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 ownership.


Mining Operations

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 Publication (CEGP).

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.


Early Exploration

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 Brothers years.

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 have cave”!

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 the cave.

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 be done.

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 trees.

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 look.

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.


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