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Subject: The Great Southern Cave at Bangor, 1887
Date: Sun, 14 May 2006 07:39:03 -0600


The Blount County News and Dispatch, Thursday, September 15, 1887

Bangor Cave: Blount County's Natural Wonder

Special Cor. To Montgomery Dispatch.

Bangor, Sept. 3.-Bangor is a small station on the line of the L&N railroad
135 miles north of Montgomery. It is surrounded by mountains, between
which lie fertile valleys, which under careful cultivation yield to the
husbandman good crops of corn, cotton, wheat, and oats. The scenery about
Bangor is in some parts wile and picturesque. Hills grow into mountains
whose sides bristle with rocks of a dull grayish color, some of which are
immense in their proportions.

The climate is pleasant, the heat of the summer sun being tempered by the
cool breezes blowing through the mountain forests. The winters are mild;
from the hillsides about there gushes numerous bold springs of delicious
water which runs over rocky beds to form some one of the many mountain
streams that abound here about. The people who reside in the vicinity of
Bangor are such people as you would expect to find in such a place. They
are rugged, healthy, hard working men and women, boys and girls. They show
the effects of breathing the pure fresh air of the mountain home in their
ruddy faces; while their wiry frames, large hands and brawny limbs show
that they and toil are not strangers.

It is not on its fruitful valleys, its many mountain streams, its towering
mountains, or its hardy, happy, laboring people that the country about
Bangor rests its claim to the attention of the people of this State. Such
conditions, qualities and people are found in many other localities in
Alabama.
Just north of the station there stands a spur of Sand Mountain, rearing its
rock-crowned head high in the air. You follow a rocky and indistinct road
from the station, around the foot of this spur until it brings you to a
beautiful grove surrounded by a whitewashed fence, and which is used now as
a picnic ground. On the mountain side facing this grove an opening between
massive boulders, which leads into a cavern, or rather a series of caverns,
for there are five chambers extending into the heart of the mountain for a
distance of about one-half mile, which form what is known locally as the
Great Southern Cave, and is probably the most extensive known subterranean
cavity south of Kentucky's wonder.

The cave was visited in company with a gentleman from Montgomery. We
called at the house of Mr. James H. Chamblee, the owner of the property on
which the cave is situated, and his son, Mr. Tillman Chamblee, a
representative young man of this section, became our guide.

The cave is entered through an aperture about three feet wide by six feet
high, which was found closed by a roughly constructed gate, fastened with a
padlock and chain. The entrance sloped downward until, when the floor of
the first chamber was reached, we were about six feet below the level of
the point of entry. At this place Mr. Chamblee provided himself with
material for a light from a large pile of split pine, and with a flaming
pine torch in hand, he led the way through the first chamber, which is
about thirty feet long, closing at the further end to an opening about six
or eight feet wide, which is the entrance to the second chamber. The
ceiling of the first room is about twenty feet above the floor and is
almost a well-defined arch in shape, falling gradually to the floor at
either side.

The second chamber is probably a little larger than the first and except
that the ceiling is higher above head and its arch more symmetrical
presents no new feature until the point of entering the third cavern is
reached. Here the walls of the cave come within three or four feet of each
other bearing a narrow but high passway. The face of one side of this
passage attracts attention because it appears to be a series of massive
scalloped or shell shaped stones piled one on top of another until the
ceiling is reached. This formation was called by the guide, "Pompey's
pillar," and a littler further on in the passage there is a large opening
in one of the walls, in which hang numerous stalactites; this opening is
called "the Piano"-probably because it bears no resemblance in the world to
that instrument. It would be a stretch of imagination to think that the
pendant stalactites resembled the pipes of an organ, but it would be more
reasonable to call this point "the organ," than the name it now bears.

The third chamber is a little smaller than the first, nor is the ceiling
quite so high. To the right, entering, the ceiling slopes away close to
the floor for some distance and the guide says that a dark hole, which can
be indistinctly seen, is the entrance to an adjoining and unexplored cave.
In the pathway, before the entrance to the fourth room is reached, there
stands a rock round in form, about two and a half feet in height and 18
inches in diameter. This is known as the growing rock, and down its body
are well defined indentions or rings, showing its height at different
periods of its upward growth.

The top of this rock is something like the upper portion of a pear and by
many is called the "Pear Rock." In the center there is an indentation like
that in an apple from which the stem protrudes. This spot is the point
where a falling drop of water strikes the rock and this drop, which gathers
in its percolation, through the stone forming the ceiling, minute particles
of that stone will, in time, cause this growing stone to be a pillar
reaching to the ceiling of the cave.

Further on the ceiling lowers and the floor ascends, making the entrance to
the fourth chamber so low that you have to stoop almost double in
traversing the eight or ten feet dividing the two compartments. The fourth
chamber, which is the largest, is entered by descending a flight of ten or
twelve steps cut in the solid rock, after which a short bridge spanning a
muddy depression, is passed, and you are on the floor of a beautiful
natural room which a high ceiling almost a perfect gothic arch in form,
extending down its entire length, a distance of over one hundred feet.
The passage between the fourth and fifth chambers, is about five feet wide,
and at its farther end, one of its walls is hollowed out and in its face is
a circular aperture, which is known as the "Postoffice." The fifth and
last chamber is about thirty-five feed wide, and seventy or eighty feet
long, with a high ceiling in it center and almost perpendicular walls at
its sides. In the rear the floor rises and the ceiling descends until the
Great Southern Cave ends with a back wall of solid rock about three or four
feet in height.

On the right side of this room, near the rear, there is projected from the
top of the wall and suspended from the roof a mass of stalactites of
various sizes nearly resembling a canopy, and just under this there stands
a mass of rock, and the combination is called the queen's throne.
There is a pendant from the ceiling of the cave in every room countless
stalactites of all sizes, from the one just beginning to form, to a massive
pendant two or three feet in thickness, tapering down from the ceiling to
the floor, every one of which reflected a thousand flashes of light from
the scaly particles adhering to it.

The floor of the cave throughout was remarkably dry and firm, and in no
portion of the five chambers visited was there any sign of water except
from an occasional drop falling from overhead, and the thousands of drops
seen collected on the points of the stalactites suspended above.
The cave was visited on a cool afternoon for this season of the year, and
outside a cassimere coat was a necessity. The atmosphere within the cave
was many degrees cooler, but it was unnoticed until after returning into
the open air, when the difference became at once apparent, the air outside
being much warmer than that within.

The cave is visited by hundreds of people annually, it being one of the
favorite points of interest to the guests at the Blount Springs Hotel,
which is only four miles distant. It is rumored that the owners of the
Blount Springs property will build a good drive way from the springs to the
cave, to be ready by the opening of another season, and if this is done the
number of visitors will in the future largely increase.

Mr. James H. Chamblee has owned this property for the past thirty years,
but no effort has been made to inform the public of this natural wonder,
and it is safe to say that there are thousands in Alabama who are not aware
of its existence, and no doubt many Alabamians who have visited Mammoth
Cave had no idea that Blount County contained a cave which is, as a natural
wonder, well worthy of a visit from every citizen of the state.


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