Organ Cave lies alongside the Old Midland Trail, which was as an ancient buffalo trail. We found a bison premolar in August of 2014 within the cave.
The success of the early settlers was due to the Old Satpetre Route. (A highway of nitre depots that supplied the government with the much needed ingredients for making gun powder). In his Notes of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson recorded that at least fifty nitre caves rested along the Greenbrier River and these were all used as a source of income. This was the beginning of a new attitude among settlers, who saw caves as a useful resource. They were used as refrigerators, large storage units, and even meeting places.
European pioneers had known of Organ Cave since 1704, but archeological evidence demostrates that Native Americans have been visiting Organ Cave since 800 BC. The ceilings and walls of Organ Cave are lined with nodule chert which is better known as flint. An important resource for the Native Americans. Organ Cave provided an ample source of flint that could be crafted into arrowheads, knives and fire making tools. The numerous arrowheads and cutting tools found in and on the grounds surrounding Organ Cave are an indication of the Native American activity. We have found writings on the walls, which we believe to be that of the Native Americans.
Above photos of arrow heads and large chunks of flint from the cave. Beside the flint are 3 small rocks that have patterns cut into them that we believe are from Native Americans. These same patterns have also been found cut into the cave walls. We have found 3 hubs from the stagecoach era. We have also found horseshoes and rasps.
We are told by historians that we are one of the most historic caves in the USA. We are a National Landmark of Historic Places, A National Natural Landmark and are on the Civil War Trail. Organ Cave is the 2nd longest commercial cave on the east coast. The caves houses the largest collection of Civil War Hoppers, V-Nats, left in the USA that are located in one place. We have remains of hoppers from the War of 1812. These hoppers are only accessible by an expedition tour. The cave is thought to have been used during the American Revoluntary War as well.
The first recordings of the saber tooth cat, nine banded armadillo, and grizzly bear to be found east of the Mississippi River was found here at Organ Cave.
Mapping of the cave started in 1948 by Robert Handley, now deceased. Thus far, it has taken over 400 men and women to map and survey the cave as we know it today. We still have over 200 leads that have not been mapped nor surveyed. When The History Channel was here in 2008, they stated that they found in their research over 70 miles of this cave. The Virginia and West Virginia Cave Conservatories say that the end of Organ Cave may never be found.
This kiln was built in the mid 1800s. It was used to make lime and potash. It took a skilled person to load the kiln with limestone rock and wooden logs. The rocks and logs had to be placed so not to form gas pockets and cause an explosion when lit. The kiln itself was made from sandstone rocks.
This was made like keystone. Every rock was placed to hold the other rock up without mortor or any other substance to keep it in place. The placing of these rocks took great skill and a strong back. This was filled with a layer of limestone then a layer of wood, then another layer of rock and so forth.
The wooden logs were used to start the fire. This fire would burn for about a week and it took another week for it to cool down. If the fire got too hot, the sandstone rock would turn to glass. This furnace had to be maintained to a certain temperature to break down the limestone rock but not destroy the kiln. The heat would cause the rock to crumble and become like sand. This, with the wood burning creating pot ash, was all used to spread on the farmer's field. This could also be used to make quick lime. Someone monitored the furnace day and night to maintain it while it was burning. They told tales of the workers stealing chickens off nearby farms and cooking them over the heat of the chimney while they were keeping the furnace going.
This kiln is in the shape of a bottle. The bottom of the kiln is about 12 feet across. At one time, it was about 3 to 4 feet about the level of the ground which served as a chimney. The arms are about 8 feet long.
There was an old building that once set in front of it. This is where they stored the cooled down lime. The walls of the building had writings where they bartered with other farmers for the lime. They would barter or labor for a certain amount of lime. Little money was transferred during those times. The walls of the building had sawdust in them to absorb the moisture in the air so the lime would stay dry and not become solid.
To our knowledge, this limekiln is the only one of its kind in West Virginia.
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