Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ozark County Bear Cave Scare

Ozark County, 1896

     The following story comes from the front page of the Ozark County News on the 9th of April, 1896. What caught my attention in this story was some of the main characters of the article were my great grandfather, Crawford Anderson, and his two youngest daughters, Abbie Gail Anderson Foster, age 2,  and Orlena Anderson Graves, age 8.Though this incident occurred in my family, I have never heard this story until I came across this old newspaper edition. After reading this following article in its entirety, I can't help but wonder what the conversation was like with my great grandmother, Dula Sims Anderson, was like at the supper table that evening. This story could have ended tragedy, but it leaves the reader with a with a sigh of relief and a chance to grin at the end. 

I hope you enjoy.

My Great Grandfather & Grandmother, Crawford & Dula Sims Anderson.

-  A large number of Gainesvillites enjoyed the day last Sunday exploring the big cave known as “The Bear Cave,” six miles southwest of town. Everybody went prepared for the occasion, taking with them torches, oil, matches and a good supply of twine as a guide. A very tempting repast was prepared by the ladies for the noon-day meal. Among those who went from Gainesville and upper Lick creek, we note the following: Charley Harlin, W. P Janney, T. Conklin, N. A. Beach, Luther Daniels, Wm. Wood and Thomas Hogard; Misses Ida Wood, Maggie Wood, Delphia Henegar, of this place, and Mr. Samuel Miller and family, Crawf Anderson and his two little girls, Misses Lubie Miller and Rillia Coffey, and Messrs Bert Miller and Pleasant Sanders of Lick creek. 

 Luther Daniels, Crawf Anderson and N. A. Beach, with Mr. Anderson’s little girls ventured too far without a guide and with only a limited amount of oil in their torch and were lost. They wandered about for hours in the cave seeking their way out. The oil in their torch was almost exhausted, and the men began to realize their situation; they were frightened! They knew not what they said. One of the little girls says she heard Luther say: “Oh my God, I wish some good friend would come hunt for us.” About that time loud shouts reached their ears. It was the shouts of a search party, who, growing tired of waiting out-side, became alarmed at their absence and started in search. When the little party found their way out they were all satisfied with their day’s experience, and were ready for their home journey. It was late when the Gainesville party arrived, all looking more or less dilapidated, and Luther still looking scared. 
 End of Article

 1965 USGS Map showing location of the Bear Caves.
Click to expand map.
Ozark Cave Lessons

Exploring caves in the region has always held a fascination for me while growing up in the Ozarks.  My uncle, Berman Anderson, once owned a house & land off Walker Road in Baxter County, Arkansas. On this piece of property was a small cave with an iron grate door. I remember playing around the entrance and venturing in to see how far we could advance without a light. Every so often, a flashlight would be secured, and we would delve further into its recesses. It was near this cave I saw my first phenomenon of foxfire.

        Over the years, the unknown situations & possibilities that could arise in going into caves seemed to be worth the risk. There was an adrenaline rush that kicked in when bats were flitting near one’s head. It's also a moment of realization of knowing how deep the exploration has gone when looking at a well casing & pump submerged in the small river I wading/swimming in. Many times I marveled at the spacious vaulted ceiling that points heavenward, and I stood in viewing the ripples & sheets of limestone formations cascading downward. Within a few yards of this majestic beauty, I could feel my breath constricted by wedging through narrow corridors & shoots as I inched my way to the next chamber.

Every time I had a chance to go into a cave, I would briefly extinguished my lamp and quietly sit in the remote darkness. As the light seemed to drown in the darkness of an Ozark cavern, it was times like these when I could truly acknowledge the scripture:

            Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

As I reached for the switch of the light, there was always an anticipation and hope to even see the smallest glow from the light. There were times when the cave’s remote darkness would seem to sink to the very quick of my mind and fear arose. It was in these times I was reminded that there is One who still knows where I am.

      If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. Psalm 139:8

I was once told in the Air Force that if I trained with my whole heart, it would prepare me for the mission ahead. Even after training, though the adrenaline rush would still be there, there was a phrase that would spur me on.
 “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.”

This phrase has nothing about being stupid or misinformed; ignorance is not bliss. It all had to do about achievement of a goal, to explore the unknown.

It seems lately I have been reminded of the delicate balance of life. Life is filled with unknowns. Life is fragile, temporary, and dangerous. Many times we convince ourselves that we are in our control. Yet all the while, we deceive ourselves with the possessions we amass & horde in believing it builds a monument to our endurance. As this deception grows, it leads us in believing in our infallibility and ultimately to our destruction. Monuments may hold historical value. Even in rugged or polished stone, they are temporary. I am truly convinced that real wealth is in relationships. The greatest relationship is with our Father in Heaven; and secondly, our relationship with others is a resource He has provided.

As I look around me today, I feel sadness for the current and future generations because I see some roaming in dark chasms. Some are trapped in their narrow world of technology, staring at a device in their hand. If they could only look around and see people, true wealth, placed in front of them. The wisdom, advice, and inspiration are amazing when it can be gleaned by face-to-face, personal interaction.  What have we missed in our lives? How many times have we refused wisdom because it did not come in a package that fits in our paradigm? It reminds me of a famous Mark Twain quote:

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

One of the main reasons I have come to love my native region of the Ozarks is the treasure of wisdom that was, and still is, in its people. The Ozarks has been somewhat geographically remote and isolated. This remoteness required families and communities to invest in each other. Even in the years with the struggles of feuds, war, leanness, and tragedy, I am amazed there were those who gave themselves to stand for what was right. Moreover, there were people who were willing to mend fences. These pioneers undoubtedly felt the fear and did it anyway.

So I challenge you, Dear Reader, take the time to listen or share your experiences with those you know & meet your life. Many of our Ozark pioneers rehearsed their experiences in the ears of the next generation on front porches, campfires, and the banks of cool springs. Amongst these personal chronicles, there are stories of hope, comical antidotes, and pillars of faith that still have the potential to inspire future generations of our Ozarks’ History.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 3 July, 2014), memorial page for, Abbie Gail "Anderson" Foster. Find A Grave Memorial no. 39281334.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 3 July, 2014), memorial page for, Berman Anderson. Find A Grave Memorial no. 36686347.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 3 July, 2014), memorial page for, Crawford Anderson. Find A Grave Memorial no. 39281287.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 3 July, 2014), memorial page for, Dula "Sims" Anderson. Find A Grave Memorial no. 39189599.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 3 July, 2014), memorial page for , Orlena "Anderson: Graves. Find A Grave Memorial no. 39281338.

Gainesville Quadrangle. Missouri-Ozark, 7.5 Minute Series.United States Geological Survey, 1965.

“Town and Country: Local News Items.” Ozark County News [Gainesville, MO.] 09 April, 1896.

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