Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Crystal Cave

Growing up in Fair Grove during the 1950s and early 1960s, I was well aware of Crystal Cave, located about halfway between Fair Grove and Springfield on old Highway 65. (The segment between Springfield and Crystal Cave is now part of Highway H, and the segment between Fair Grove and Crystal Cave is, I believe, now called Shelby Road.) I went by the cave ever time I made a trip to Springfield. However, I never actually visited it until a few years ago when I did an article about it for the Ozarks Reader.
Crystal Cave was opened to the public in 1893 by Englishman Alfred Mann, and his three daughters took over the cave when he died in 1925. They ran it for over forty years (including the time I lived at Fair Grove), until the last one died in 1969 and willed it a family friend, Estel Funkhouser. She ran it until 1982, when her sister, Edith Richardson, and Edith's husband, Lloyd, took over. The Richardsons were still running the place in early 2005 when I visited. However, as far as I can tell, the cave is now closed to the public. Apparently the Richardsons either died or got too old to continue running it and could find no one to take their place. They were in their mid eighties at the time of my visit.
Crystal Cave was never highly commercialized. No drive-through trams or anything like that. No colored lights to try to enhance the beauty of the cave. As Lloyd Richardson told me during my visit, the cave was beautiful enough in its natural state and didn't need any artificial enhancement. Also, the cave was not particularly accessible. It had narrow pathways, several fairly steep climbs, and so forth. However, I have to say that Crystal Cave was one of the neatest caves I've ever seen and my visit to it was the most enjoyable cave tour I've ever taken (not that I've taken all that many).
So, it's kinda sad to see the old cave closed. It had been open to the public continuously (except for a very brief period in 1969) for well over 100 years. But now it's gone. Maybe someone will acquire it and reopen it one of these days.


Blogger Unknown said...

Looking at Google Maps, you can go right up to the entrance. The street view image they use is from 2007 and there are cars in the parking lot. However, the satellite image they use is from 2012 and it appears to be abandoned.

January 2, 2013 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Angie Brushwood said...

Mr. Richardson died earlier this year (2014). He was a resident at Elfindale nursing home. I believe his wife Edith passed away before he did. I worked in Crystal Cave when I was in college, 1991. The Richardsons were amazing people. Lloyd was constantly digging out a new room, and he let me see a room that only a few had ever seen--filled with beautiful crystal formations. I don't know the future plans for the cave, but I do hope it reopens someday so my children can see it. It was a privilege to guide tours there that summer.

November 14, 2014 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Thanks, Angie, for the update. I'm sorry to hear that both Mr. Richardson and his wife have passed away, although I'm not surprised, since, as I said in my original post, they were already pretty old when I visited the cave over nine years ago.

November 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am trying to find out property ownership on Crystal cave and so far have hit a road block any information on that would be great. I went there as a kid, as did my daughter before it closed, we went out by there this past weekend and I would like to go about finding a way to get it reopened. Any help would be wonderful. Thanks

March 18, 2015 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

I'm not sure how one might go about finding out who owns the Crystal Cave property now other than to go out there and inquire of neighbors or perhaps through the courthouse in Springfield.

March 19, 2015 at 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Greene County recorders office would know

May 27, 2015 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger robert peace said...

I visited there when I was a kid on a field trip, Estel Funkhouser was my third grade teacher. I don't remember much about it but I would like to see it re-open so I could take my nieces and nephews to see it.

February 24, 2016 at 6:33 AM  

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