She can’t be tamed!
From a well-written family account by the Cavern’s longtime owner family, the Gray’s, the following are selected excerpts from Elizabeth Gray Hudson’s “Cascade Cavern”
The Lipan are first mentioned in Spanish record in 1718 when they raided Spanish settlements in San Antonio. It seems likely that the Lipan became established in Texas during the latter half of the 17th century. They moved southward during the 18th century where one Spanish mission was built in Coahuila in 1754 and another on the San Sabá River in 1757. Both missions were burned and deserted; the San Saba mission was destroyed by the Comanches and their allies. During 1757 the Lipan Apaches were involved in fighting with the Hasinais. Read Full Article
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 and his name became associated with the cave. 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!
THE HERMIT OF THE CAVERN
At the same time the German author AUGUST SIEMERING (1830-1883) published a story called Ein Verfehltes Leben (An Unsuccessful Life) in the Volksblatt, a German newspaper published in Cincinnati, Ohio. The author lived in this area between 1847 and 1853, so he knew the cave. The story tells about a hermit, who lived in a cave during the American Civil War (1861-1865). In the foreword he tells, that the story is based on events which happened in the early German settlements of the Hill Country. He does not tell the name of the cave, but many readers considered it was Hester’s Cave. We also read about a German immigrant, who used the cave as a hideout during the 1840s, after he had tried to kill his wife’s lover. We guess that is just a twisted version of Siemering’s story, or his story is based on the legend. The official website of Cascade Caverns and even libraries mixed up the title of the story, and wrote Ein “Verstehltes” Leben. The word verstehlt does not exist in German, and is most likely a misspelling based on the gothic font in which the German newspaper was printed. In gothic letters the s and the f look very similar. However, the story became widespread in 1932, when the English translation by MAY E. FRANCIS was published under the title “The Hermit of the Cavern.”
Cascade Caverns® Opens
In 1929 the ground was purchased by the family who still own the cave. Alfred Gray purchased the land and established Graymead Dairy which he operated until it was shut down by the Great Depression. At this time he remembered the cave at the far end of his ground, and wondered if this could become a source of income. He contacted Dan and Bernard Cartwright who explored caves in the area and had become quite knowledgeable. The cave was originally a round hole on the pasture, explorers descended into the cave by rope. Later the side of the cliff collapsed and it was possible to climb down the ramp of debris. Right behind the entrance there was a huge stalagmite blocking the main passage. Visitors covered this part of the cave with graffiti and names, but before anyone had returned at this point. Alfred Gray and Bernard Cartwright explored the cave with the goal to find more. They prepared well, with ropes, waders, flashlights, and a camera. Candles and matches were used to test the quality of the air. And they discovered passages, huge chambers, speleothems and the cascade.
Bernard Cartwright published a detailed article about the discovery with pictures in November 1931 in a San Antonio newspaper. Alfred Gray was poor, his dairy bankrupt, but Dr. Frank Nicholson (pictured above) read the article. He had worked at Carlsbad Cavern before, so he knew how to develop a cave and he found an investor, E. A. Drake from Canada who financed the development of the cave (Nicholson later helped commercialize Longhorn Caverns in Burnet, Texas). It was developed in a few months, opened to the public in April 1932. The last chamber contained a silent lake and seven little waterfalls forming a gentle cascade. The huge chamber looked even bigger as it was reflected by the surface of the dark lake. The wife of the owner, Edith Gray, named the chamber Cathedral Room and renamed the cave Cascade Cavern because of this cascade. However, regular floodwaters have changed the room completely since then.
The Flood of 1937
The Original Gift Shop
The Old Gift Shop was originally built in the early 1930s but has changed in appearance many times since then. In 2002, the Old Gift Shop was partially submerged under four feet of water and had to be abandoned. After that flood, a New Gift Shop was established further upstream which operates to this day. Hopefully, the Old Gift Shop will be renovated in the not-too-distant future.
Original Mapping of Cascade Caverns®
May 28, 1966, we were at Cascade Caverns® for a caver gathering and, having a little time on our hands, we commenced mapping Cascade Caverns®. I think it had previously been only roughly sketched. So it was A. Richard (Dick) Smith, Don Erickson, Charlie Loving, John Fish (not pictured) and Carl Kunath (at the camera and probably front tape).
Everyone is in street clothes. Smith and Erickson with street shoes; Loving wearing cowboy boots. Smith has no hard hat or light of any type. Erickson has a hard hat but the carbide light is clipped to his belt. It might be my light. Loving is wearing my hard hat but has no light. Brunton compass on a tripod and steel tape.
We made a credible map in a couple of hours. Three-four better maps were done in later years.
Cascade Caverns Parade Float
The Cascade Caverns Parade Float was designed and built in 1967 by acclaimed Hill Country artist Paul “P.B.” Kime (DOB: 1934). Paul had worked for John Bridges prior to John’s involvement with Cascade
Caverns (John purchased the business in 1966 and commissioned the float in 1967). Paul followed John to Cascade Caverns and opened an art studio in the Old Country Store building near the entrance to the Park which was called “The Rusty Shoe.” After Cascade Caverns, Paul taught for many years and was especially inspired by Dalhart Winberg, a well-known artist of realism in woods, water and country scenes.
The Float has appeared in numerous Boerne parades over the years including the first Berges Fest (“Party in the Hills”) Parade in July 1967 and first Weihnachts (Christmas) Parade in December 1987. Cascade employees typically don Flintstone-esque costumes and walk with the float as it proceeds down Main Street (a/k/a “Hauptstrasse”).
In 1992, the Walt Disney Company filmed a movie called Father Hood starring Patrick Swayze. They filmed for several weeks both inside the cave and out on the grounds. Several minutes of footage were used in the final version of the film. A prop in the film was a giant T. rex, which is still located near the gift shop today.
Rex The Dinosaur
Rex the Dinosaur is a gift from Hollywood and Walt Disney Studios. He is essentially a theatrical property or “prop” created by camera crews and producers aware of the appeal at the time of the PBS children’s show, Barney & Friends. A portion of the 1993 movie, Father Hood, starring Patrick Swayze, was filmed here at Cascade Caverns Park and Rex was constructed during the filming (the original Jurassic Park was released the same year). Rex is made of styrofoam and plaster and took three weeks to create. After filming was completed, the producers donated Rex to the park. Years of weathering took its toll on the dinosaur, he was restored back to prime condition in 2009. Although Rex had a minor role in Father Hood, he still remains a silent, yet fascinating token of the colorful history of Cascade Caverns Park.
90 Years of Tours
Cascade Caverns celebrates ninety years in business although its cave tour antecedents actually go back to the 1870s when August Siemering toured the entrance to the cave and was inspired to write the German-language novel “Ein Verfehltes Leben” which was later translated into English as “The Hermit of the Cavern.” Pictured here is the Old Ticket Booth which is the second oldest building on the property and probably the most interesting overall. It is built almost entirely of Glenrose Limestone and the original wooden window frames are still mostly intact. It has stood the test of time and is a testament to the craftsmanship of the German American masons who built it more than ninety years ago.