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My Recollection of Old Spanish Cave

with 9 comments

My Recollection

of

Old Spanish Cave

by Junior Warren

Tales of the Spanish Conquistadors making their way through Stone County, Missouri. They carried treasure chests of gold doubloons and rare jewels. This childhood folk tale has a real physical location: The Old Spanish Cave, near Reeds Spring, in Stone County, Missouri.

Old Spanish Cave is NOT an urban legend or Ozarks folklore.

The treasure of Old Spanish Cave ? Will have to be found to be proven.

Childhood Visit

I visited the cave as a child in the 1960s.

I was in the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade at Abesville Elementary. Thus, the years would have been 1964, 1965 or 1966.

My mother, Opal M. DeLong Warren, a farmer, and I went one afternoon to visit the man, who happily mentioned that the land he owned had a cave. As I remember the events, it seems the previous owner had told him about the cave, but had apparently never had any intention of opening the cave to the public.

My mother had went to see the couple about some farming matter and the cave owner brought up the topic of his new cave.

Southwest Missouri’s Famous Caves

At the time, southwest Missouri’s Famous Caves totaled two: Fantastic Caverns, near Springfield, Missouri. Fantastic Caverns gained fame with their ride through jeep tours of this amazing cave.

http://www.fantasticcaverns.com/

Silver Dollar City had only been up and running as a tourist attraction for a few years. Marvel Cave, which for a time was known as “Talking Rocks,” near Silver Dollar City, was beginning to attract visitors and became the other major southwest Missouri cave that attracted bus loads of tourists each year. (For information on Silver Dollar City visit the website http://www.silverdollarcity.com/ and to find data on Marvel Cave, check out Wikipedia’s article on Stone County, Missouri’s famous Marvel Cave http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvel_Cave )

Branson, Missouri had the Baldknobbers musicians and there was talk that people like Buck Owens and Roy Clark might open music theaters in Branson. It was the early -1960s and Taney County’s business optimism was leaking across the county line into Stone County.

Suspicious Stone County Folk Tales

Stone County, Missouri has a wealth of folklore. When I was a child there was the tale that famous Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon journey through southwest Missouri, in search of the Fountain of Youth and thus, Ponce de Leon, Missouri was named in his honor.

There was also the tale that Abraham Lincoln had once journeyed through southwest Missouri. Thus, Abesville, Missouri was named in Lincoln’s honor.

As a child, Old Spanish Cave and the tale of the vanishing conquistadors was told like the Ponce de Leon and Abesville tales – but, Old Spanish Cave had a real physical location to back up it’s story.

Coming Tourist Attraction ?

The man, who talked to us about his cave, mentioned his desire to try and open the cave to the public. The story, we were told is, essentially that Spanish conquistadors took refuge in the cave either from the weather or Native Americans. The story claimed the conquistadors had either one or three treasure chests of coins or jewels.

Mystery takes over and at that point, it seemed people weren’t certain what happened to the soldiers or their wealth. Naturally, Old Spanish Cave was the last supposedly confirmed sighting of the soldiers and the treasure. Folklore suggests that either the soldiers buried the wealth and never came back for it or left the wealth there with the intention to return.

Although it was late in the afternoon, my mother and I did have the opportunity to step inside Old Spanish Cave. There was no grand public entrance. Literally, it was a rough arch shape opening in the side of a rock hillside. To a farmer walking by, the opening would of looked just like a large hole at the base of a moss covered limestone cliff.

There was a small black yard gate at the entrance that the owner used to keep trespassers out. Traditionally, Stone County farmers usually didn’t talk about caves on their property to keep out trespassers and fortune hunters as well as not having to worry about liability issues of someone roaming around their property and falling into a cave by accident.

Unlike southwest Missouri’s famous caves, at this point, in the 1960s, the cave had not been as thoroughly explored or developed. There was still some sunlight, so the owner, momma and I stepped inside the first chamber.

Inside Old Spanish Cave in the 1960s

About 10 feet inside the opening there was a nice deep hole. When you are eight, nine or ten years old a 10 foot hole can look like it is 100 feet deep. My “knee high to a grasshopper “ mind measured the hole at about 20 to 30 feet across and probably about 10 to 20 feet deep – keep in mind – these were the measurements of an excited grade school kid looking down into a really deep hole, with the story of Spanish Conquistadors hiding their doubloons away in the Missouri hills.

I remember to the left of the massive hole in that center chamber was a pool of water about three feet wide and probably about two feet deep. The pool of water, supposedly kept the relative cool temperature throughout the year.

There were some tool shaped pieces of wood that could be seen in the bottom of the big hole, which could suggest someone might have at one time been digging in the cave.

My mother and I only went into the first chamber, while the landowner serving as the proud tour guide told us the story about the cave and explained that he had hopes to explore and open all the cave to the public. The entrance and chamber of the cave, actually seemed spacious. It had no lights, so the setting sun served as the persistent indicator that our time would be limited to look around the cave.

Missouri The Cave State”

Treasure hunters surfing the web and trying to find the location of Old Spanish Cave will be confused by other reported or suspected locations of this cave. One possible reason for the confusion on the location of the cave could come from the amount of caves in Missouri.

Around the late 1960s one of the popular tourism slogans stated: “Missouri The Cave State.” Growing up in Stone County I knew several kids and landowners who mentioned that they had caves on their property. Supposedly the entrances of some caves were wide enough you could easily walk into, while others were holes in the ground that a small dog would have problems going into or out of.

I remember Old Spanish Cave, was on private land, near Reeds Spring. The cave is near the Coon Ridge Coffee Shop before you reach a sign for the city limits to the City of Reeds Spring, as I remember.

Old Spanish Cave – A Tourist Attraction ?

In looking through my Galena Bears yearbooks from 1962 through 1976, I found there were advertisements for Old Spanish Cave for the years 1969, 1971 and 1972, which suggests the cave was open for a time to the public.

Photograph of the Old Spanish Cave ad in the 1969 Galena Bears yearbook

I found stories on Ancestry.com by people that also recount visits to the legendary southwest Missouri cave.

Could there be gold doubloons and Spanish jewels in Old Spanish Cave ?

The end of this tale will have to wait until some adventurous treasure hunter gets permission to venture inside the earth and see what lies hidden in the regions of Old Spanish Cave.

Me, I love to think the forgotten conquistadors are resting comfortably alongside their full treasure chest in the seclusion of Old Spanish Cave.

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9 Responses

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  1. My great grandparents (the Reddens on the ad) were the owners for some time of the cave and did indeed have it open for some time to the public. My father used to tell me stories of it as he used to stay out there during the summer months of his childhood. The gift shop and my great grandfathers car still sit there. They were both vandalized and are now just burnt out shells. My grandfather and father took me back when I was like 9 and we explored it. I would love to know who owns the land and maybe revisit it.

    Brian Wendelman

    July 9, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    • Brian,

      Thank you for your reply.

      Old Spanish Cave is one of those areas of Stone County that from time to time reawakens and causes people to ask questions. I surfed to a Treasure Hunter website and there was some discussion about the cave. But, the people in the discussion had more questions than answers and some thought it was located up around Fantastic Caverns, near Springfield. I know MoDot, the Missouri Department of Transportation, build the highway extensions around Reeds Spring, so I didn’t know if that caused any damage to the cave or caused it to collapse. Some of the Stone County Old Timers believed there was more to that Cave than just folklore and myth. I don’t know who owns the cave now. The Stone County government has a web page, if you email the Recorder of Deeds office they might be able to provide you with that information – I’m not certain what their Internet policies are.

      I take it your Great-Grandfather never found The Treasure of The Spanish Conquistadors ?

      Thanks again for your comment. If I can be of assistance, email me.

      Sam

      samwarren55

      July 9, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    • I wrote something about your grandparents here.

      Gary P. Clark

      May 6, 2013 at 9:57 AM

  2. For a few years my grandparents lived across the road and about 100 yards south of the driveway to the cave. My grandfather passed away in the winter of 1973. I remember my parents telling me that we would go to the cave that summer.It never happened because the cave didn’t reopen that year. I still want to see it.

    Randy Allen

    August 31, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    • Mr. Allen,

      Thank you for your comment. I hope you do get to see the cave someday. It was an interesting attraction in Stone County.

      If you are going to be in Stone County on September 24 from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., in Galena, the day’s activities center around celebrating Stone County’s 160th Anniversary.

      Sam

      samwarren55

      August 31, 2011 at 1:59 PM

  3. I was in the Old spanish cave about 10 years ago. (2000-2002) It was a popular spot for some of the high school kids ( in Springfield ) to go and drink, or whatever. I went a few times. But really do love caves so went back several times to really explore and clean up as much as I could. I didn’t know the name of the cave at the time and it was not until a few years when talking with an old friend who had also been there but at a different time, that it might be Spanish cave. He was not sure of the name and I could not find anything about it anywhere till now. It’s so hard to tell just on recounts of others as there are soooooo many caves in Missouri. I knew for sure it was the same after reading about the burnt car and gift shop. That really stood out in my memory, and it is a unique feature that you don’t see at many caves!!! At the time I was there it was obvious that it was a “Tour cave” but all the stairs were in disrepair and it was best to stay off them and hike down to the bottom of the ravin across the small spring on a large downed pin oak tree, then very slowly back up the other side to the mouth of the cave. The first chamber was large, but not very pretty. You could tell there had been a large cave in recently as the ruble of broken concrete stairs, not just rock, was everywhere. It is about knee deep in empty beer cans and other garbage, and there are bright orange and black cocks spry painted on the walls. It is really very sad as I am sure it was beautiful at one time. After about 150 200 feet the cave forks, to the left is a small but open walkway that lead to a small clear pool about 4 feet by 5 feet. There was man made piping and rock work at this end and the cave went no farther, at the time there was a small amount of litter in this area, but we got it all cleaned up:) hope it is still clean! To the right of the fork was a larger walkway that went about 30 feet till it ran into a rock blockade. If you are foolhardy enough like me in my 20s, you see there is a small hole about 30 feet up and to the left and you climb up the broken pile of rocks and stairs to check it out. The hole is about 4 feet wide all round, about 7 feet long, and completely horizontal. It’s a tight fit but it can be done. The other side of the blockade is is much larger and I saw less sings of vandalism, but to get to cave floor you got to go down a 30 foot hill of waist deep mud :(. This room had lots of little passages that didn’t go anywhere but might have in the past. I found some small paintings that looked old and genuine. A few broken arrow heads and small drip stones. Down the longest crawlway you hit another blockade that looks like collapsed rock. There was no way to get past it but I could hear a large volume of water moving on the other side. I had a lot fun exploring this cave. Since then I have explored much more beautiful caves. But this one had a energy to it that was almost intoxicating. Looking back on it, I was being very unsafe. No one should have been in there. I didn’t know at the time, but every sing was there. From the obvious collapse of the main room, to the lack of others exploring and the unseen rushing water. Of all the caves I’ve been in “Old Spanish Cave” was the most unstable! I don’t doubt for a sec it was home to Indians and Spanish alike. I also would not be surprised if it has collapsed completely, or been sealed up to keep kids out! I am so happy I found this post after all these years! If anybody else out there has info or story’s about Old Spanish Cave” please share !!!!!

    Jefferson

    August 17, 2012 at 4:25 PM

  4. I worked for the Redden’s from Kansas City and then also for a short time the Albins who bought the cave from the Reddins. Jim and Mac, real nice people. Jim had worked as a sales rep for Alice Chalmers tractors out of Sioux City in the 1950’s. He sold equipment to my aunt in Everly, Iowa in the late 50’s. In our introduction we made that connection. Through stories we both told, we even were in the same blizzard and my dad pulled him out of the ditch west of Everly in the early fifties. I owned a small house and lot up on 160 at Coon Ridge about a block north of the Coon Ridge Cafe. I was hiking on the property behind me and found an old road. It led to the cave and I stopped in. This led to me doing some work for them. I painted road signs and other art work for them. I kept a small gallery at the office for a couple of seasons where I sold rock carvings. They had a residence and Mac and the teenage son, a bright and energetic kid, stayed in the summer. Jim came down on weekends. They were great friends and made a real effort to make the cave a commercial success. I rebuilt railings and steps in the cave and even gave tours for them. Jim owned about 600 acres there. He built a block building across from the entrance. There was an old two story hotel at the entrance, said to be a hide out for gangsters in the thirties. A local sculptor from Galena, Lee Robertson, opened a gallery in it the last year the Reddins owned the property. Jim put in some roads, sewer and water connections and was sure this was going to be a great RV park. He was ahead of his time, it is now a funeral home. The cave is described in a Missouri Geological Survey book by Harlan Bretz and was mapped by a geologist from SMS named Ken Thompson, a friend of mine from the time he mapped it. I hate hearing it is in such disrepair. Caves of Missouri is out of print I think but is in a lot of university libraries if you are so inclined to read it. I could draw it from memory but the distances would be off. It is a fault derived cave, a crack runs straight back in the entrance. It had a path and a stream when I was there. About a block in the path bends to the right and up a debris breakdown. The damage is very old. Water had drilled holes in the rock slabs. It opens into a large room. The wall to the right is a sheer straight one following a fault. There is a large debris cone to the left or front of you as you get up the steps. There was a pit ther with the railings I rebuilt there. Said to be the pits left by the treasure hunters. There were three pits there I believe. The debris cone was covered in bat droppings. A smaller passage to the left of that took you to what was called “Rebecca’s Well”. It was the source of water in part of the cave. Another passage led off to the right to the path to the well. It dead ended but if somebody was small enough they could have gone farther and the sound of water was from a stream in that location. I think the Redden’s son did go there with Ken Thompson. The Reddens had a ingot mold said to have been found in the cave at one time. You can read the details about the Spanish connection in the Bretz book. I also worked for the next owners but we had a disagreement about construction methods. I don’t know what happened to them. Last I was there it was in disrepair and had been broken into. The lights didn’t work and I wasn’t about to go in there. The three big trees were still there that reportedly had crescents blazed in the trunk by the Spaniards. I have been met by a fox and a bob cat when I came out of the cave and a small brown bear before I moved away in 1976.

    Gary P. Clark

    May 6, 2013 at 9:55 AM

  5. hello, my father was born and raised in reed springs, he told me stories of being a tour guide for a cave, and also worked pumping gas with the old style gas pumps. He passed away in 2011 and while going through his things I found a coaster of some sort with a mirror on one side and a picture of a filling station on the back. The caption says “The wonder cave of the Ozarks- old Spanish cave filling station, near reed springs, mo.. The cars look to be 30’s or 40’s, 6 people in the picture 4 men 2 women. 2 pumps and trees for 2 corner posts. Thought one of the men could be my dad but not for sure(didn’t know if the people were employees or people passing through). Thought what I have may have been a souvenir from the gift shop that my father or his mother had gotten. any info on it would be great. My fathers name is Marion Clinton Barnes, he told me he was a hell raiser growing up and for some time was known as the town drunk. anyway my email is
    mdavidbarnes@yahoo.com. I don’t know who would have been the owners at the time.

    Marion David Barnes

    August 17, 2013 at 12:19 PM

  6. Hello, I know this is old, but I do know the location of the old spanish cave. There is a newer cave with a similiar name, but the one the article is about is a closed tourist cave. If you have questions contact me at:

    liesreality@yahoo.com
    Thanks.

    Jason

    July 9, 2014 at 9:27 AM


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