This Information was submitted to establish Smallin Civil War Cave as a historical landmark in December of 2009.
In my printed documentation, I am including several printed documents from:
- The Ozark Headliner (our local newspaper)
- The 1923 edition of National Geographic which features an article about Missouri ( and includes a photo of the entrance of Smallin Cave),
- Excerpts from Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's book "Scenes and Adventures In the Semi-Alpine Region Of The Ozark Mountains Of Missouri And Arkansas"( which was first published in 1821) ,
- An excerpt from an online genealogy journal which documents the use of Smallin Cave during the Civil War as a hideout for a Union spy,
- An excerpt from a genealogy website documenting a fascinating legend concerning the use of the site to "host many Cherokees at Smallen Cave, which was once their home."This would more than likely have been in the early to mid 1800's.
- There is also a charming picture that we found online,( and for the life of us we can't find the documentation again!). The picture is supposedly a photo of a group of college students from Drury university in Springfield , MO, having a picnic at the cave.
- An article from the 1948 edition of a publication entitled "Ecological Society of America." The article states that Smallin Cave is "the cave selected for most intensive study" of its population of blind bristly cave crayfish. Even now, in 2010, Smallin Cave's well-established population of crayfish is the subject of a yearly study by professors at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO.
- A photo of a historic marker in the city park at Ozark. The Civil War history, the "Baldknobber" history, and information about the cave is documented on it.
As you can clearly see, Smallin Cave is remarkable in many different areas; ecologically, geologically, and historically. Smallin was the first cave to be documented in the Ozarks. The excerpt from Schoolcraft's book is amazing in its vivid description. We are hoping at some point to set up an archaeological dig at the entrance, where so many relics of Native American life have been found. The bluffs on either side of the cave's steep valley entrance show strong evidence of chert mining(for arrowheads and stone tools). I will also include a photo of the "Indian Marker Tree". We had the State Conservation Dept. out last fall to help us determine what trees would be best to plant on the property, and they confirmed what we already believed; the old black walnut tree that stands behind the gift shop on the hill was indeed manipulated by early inhabitants of the area to point the way to the cave, and to the stream which flows from its mouth.
- The Civil War history is more muddled, secretive, and unclear. As you folks know, some of the most passionate and bloody battles occurred in Missouri, a state which harbored strong southern sympathy, but was occupied by the Union. The Civil War was a time of fear, suspicion, violence, and confusion. Much information was either not documented and forgotten, or passed down later as folklore. Local history tells us that there was a Union encampment on the Finley river very close to the town of Ozark; according to the stories, many skirmishes occurred between local Confederate sympathizers and the occupying troops. A popular bit of folklore which we have chased after, but have never been able to nail down as documentable history or fact is the story of ammunition and artillery storage in Smallin Cave. The occupying Union troops supposedly did this to amass lots and lots of artillery equipment for the planned battle of Wilson's Creek, 12 miles to the west, and to hide it from the" dog gone Rebs " who kept stealin' them blind! It makes sense...the cave is huge, and the remote location could be guarded easily. Unfortunately, the only documentation that we could find that supports that story like a well-fitting puzzle piece is the Union spy (John Breazeales) who apparently wintered at the cave. With a friendly Union camp ,food, a warm fire, and company only four miles down the river, why would the spy stay at the cave by himself? Maybe he was guarding something, or waiting with a loaded gun to pick off someone who shouldn't be there... The violence reached a fever pitch during the 20 years following the close of the war as a vigilante group who called themselves the "Baldknobbers" starting exacting their revenge on the local southern sympathizers, and anyone else that they didn't like. Ozark has some unique history concerning the Baldknobbers' demise. The last 3 of the group met their gruesome end on the city square in May of 1889.(Believe it or not, a marker on the square by the courthouse still marks the spot!) They were executed by hanging, and one of them had to be hung twice because it didn't break his neck the first time. An elderly gentleman in my church whose family has lived here for generations told me and my husband that his grandfather talked about witnessing the hanging as a boy with his father. Apparently the boy's father was disturbed by the goings-on...he fell over in a dead faint when the Baldknobber was hung the second time!