Archaeology & History

From a well-written family account by the Cavern’s longtime owner family, the Gray’s, the following is an excerpt from Elizabeth Gray Hudson’s “Cascade Cavern”.

The land, where the cave is located, was first chosen by William H. Steele and Ludovic Colquhoun, on February 9, 1842. They were the land speculators, who bought the unallocated patent #64, which had belonged to Jose Ramon Arocha. Arocha was entitled to a Land Grant because he was the head of a household at the time of the Declaration of Independence of Texas in 1837, and had remained loyal to the Texian cause, desiring independence from Mexico. The Grant, most likely, was located by the Surveyor, John James of Bexar County. The two men sold the land to Sterling Neblett of Virginia. He sold it to James Claiborne of Tennessee, who sold it to Jesse Busby of Memphis. But these men probably never saw the land.

In 1875, Dr. Benjamin Hester, a well-known physician, and his wife, Jennie Knox, with one child, were moving to Texas from Memphis. They bought the land from Busby. Two years later, Dr. Hester, in poor health, turned the land over to his wife. After his death, Jennie Hester sold the acreage to L. W. Menn.

But Dr. Hester did not pass by unnoticed by the mysterious wonderland. He was the first local owner. So she took his name as her own. Hester’s Cave was known particularly to the adventurous young men of Kendall County. Some of their initials were visible until recent times carved on the giant stalactite which blocked the passage near the front of the cave. Some of the identities were carved by Charles Dienger and the two Howard boys of Boerne, and Charlie Bull of Van Raub …. Nineteenth Century graffiti!

During the time of Dr. Hester’s ownership, a prizewinning novel, entitled, EIN VERSTEHLTES LEBEN. written by Mr. A. Seimering, was printed in “Volksblatt,” a German newspaper published in Cincinnati, Ohio. Seimering lived in the Sisterdale area from 1847 to 1853. He resided in San Antonio after the War Between the States. It is believed that he was familiar with the area. The story tells of a hermit, who hid in a cave at the time of the War. The foreword states that the tale is based on events that occurred in the early German settlements of the Hill Country. The book was translated and published in 1932 by May E. Francis under the title, THE HERMIT OF THE CAVERN (PDF). Many people considered the cavern to have been Hester’s Cave.

In 1929, Alfred Gray, contracted with the Menn heirs to buy their land for the purpose of establishing a dairy. He did operate Graymead Dairy for several years before the “Great Depression” shut it down.

But there was always the great black hole tucked away on the back of the property, a place for a Sunday afternoon’s outing, a cave for the curious to explore. Read more …