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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fisher's Cave

Although I grew up in the Springfield area and lived in Springfield for several years during my college days, I was never aware of Fisher's Cave until recently. It is a river cave located in Sequiota Park near the old village of Galloway in what is now southeast Springfield. The cave has been known at various times as Brashear's Cave, Fisher's Cave, Springdale Cave, and occasionally even Sequiota Cave.
Apparently, the first white settler on the land that includes the cave was Jacob Painter, who settled there in the mid to late 1830s. Painter was later a prominent gunsmith in Springfield and had his shop on Olive Street just off the square. During the Civil War, the land was owned by Benjamin Brashears. Shortly after the war, a man named T.B. Fisher acquired the land and began developing it as a resort with the cave as the main attraction.
In 1881, P.F. Vaughan bought the land from Fisher with the intention of developing the resort even more. He planned to beautify the grounds with shrubs and trees and to construct ponds for fishing and boating. Some of the trees were to be planted in groves to serve as gathering places for picnics. However, the cave, renamed Springdale Cave, would remain the main attraction.
Apparently, at least some of Vaughan's plans materialized, because Springdale Cave, or Fisher's Cave as it was often still called, and surrounding grounds did become a popular resort during the latter part of the nineteenth century and into the early years of the twentieth. One of the main attractions was guided boat tours of the cave.
By the 1910s, however, Fisher's Cave had been given over mainly to agricultural use. Mushrooms were grown in the cave and sold in St. Louis for fifty cents a pound. The mushroom spawns were spread in the cave, and six weeks later the whole grounds would be covered with mushrooms, ready for harvest. Rhubarb and celery were also grown in the cave, producing, some people said, a better quality plant than those grown outside in regular gardens.
In 1920, the grounds of Fisher's Cave became a state park and a fish hatchery. In 1959, the fish hatchery was removed, and the grounds became a Springfield city park. Now named Sequiota Park, it and all the other territory around Galloway were annexed into the city of Springfield in 1969.
Sequiota Park is still a local attraction. I'm not sure whether the main cave (Fisher's Cave) is open to the public or not. At least one source I checked said it has a gate across the entrance and is closed except by special permission from the city, partly because of the endangered species that inhabit it. (There's probably a liability issue, too. City doesn't want to be held responsible if someone were to drown inside the cave.) Another source, though, indicated that people could enter and explore the cave at their own risk if they wanted to.
For the less adventurous, there are two other caves at Sequiota Park that are open (at least officially) to the public. The reason I say "at least officially" is that, although they are open, they are hard to access. One is called the Crawlway-Crawl-All-the-Way Cave, and as its name indicates it is very low. It's not very long either. The other is called the Walkway-Walk-All-the-Way Cave. It is, as the name implies, tall enough for walking, but it, too, is not very long.


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