A few years ago, I wrote an article about the history of Fantastic Caverns that was published in the Ozarks Mountaineer. Probably the thing that stands out most in my mind from the research I did for the article concerns the popular story about the twelve adventurous women from Springfield who comprised the first explorers of the cave. The reason I particularly remember this aspect of the story is because I learned from my research that it's not true. After John Knox discovered the cave on his land northwest of Springfield, he announced his discovery and opened it up for public exploration in early 1867. The first group to explore the cavern went out from Springfield on February 14 and contained no women. The group that included the twelve women from the Springfield Women's Athletic Club did not explore the cave until February 27, almost two weeks later. Contemporaneous newspaper reports in the Springfield Tri-Weekly Patriot
make these facts clear, but the idea of twelve adventurous women composing the first exploratory party makes a good story. So, it has been handed down as part of the popular mythology of Fantastic Caverns and is still perpetuated today, I believe, in some of the tourist attraction's own brochures. Why quibble over two weeks?
Labels: Fantastic Caverns, John Knox, Springfield