The architecture of Jewel Cave, with its ceiling of stalactites, is suggestive of sparkling icicles dripping into dark spaces. Closer examination by visitors reveals natural formations – reminiscent of faces or animals – that took millions of years to sculpt. But the unique beauty and majesty of Jewel Cave were deeply hidden until 1885 when limestone miners drilled into nothingness, and then ran for their lives, fearing a cave-in.
The owner of the land, Tom Rogers, along with his daughter, Fannie, decided to go exploring inside the abandoned quarry with only the dim light of an old lantern to lead them. Following a trail of water from a spring, they crawled through more than 200 yards, over layers of rock and mud, before passing into three mysterious chambers of what is now Jewel Cave. Tom Rogers asked the county surveyor to locate the mouth of the cave. Once the cave was opened to the public, people came from miles around for a first glimpse of this “marvelous work of the Divine Creator.” Noticing the jewel-like effect of the moisture hanging on the ceiling presented under the powerful electric lights, the name “Jewel Cave” seemed to be the most fitting.
The cave was sold in 1824 to W.E. Lawson who made extensive improvements to the cave to accommodate visitors. Jewel Cave, with its 700 acres has changed hands several times and is now owned by The Jackson Foundation.