Highlights of Cultural Heritage- NEVADA

Ruby Lake NWR

The Legend of Cave Creek Cave

The following story is reproduced from two separate letters to the editor written by a certain John T. Baker in 1887. By his own admission his story seems unbelievable, but it is the stuff from which legends are made. Both installments of the story are copied from copies of transcripts made of the original newspaper articles. (There will be typographical errors.)

A Thrilling Experience-A vistor from Eureka to Ruby Valley meets with an adventure-He has a talk with a soldier who has been dead many years. Cave Creek, Ruby Valley Elko Co. June 16, 1887

"Editor Sentinel: I wish to inform the editor of the Sentinel as well as its numerous readers of a very remarkable occurance, of rather two extraordinary events, which may by some incredulous or skeptical people simply fiction; but I assure you that what I am about to relate actually occurred. As preliminary to what I consider the marvelous part of this letter, I will state a few circumstances, which all old timers in this country know to be true. In 1862-3 the government built a fort at the south end of Ruby Valley, to protect the emigrants on the old overland road. The soldiers remained there for several years. Not long after being stationed there they heard of the wonderful cave, the sound of whose rushing waters I distinctly hear as I open these lines, and they at once determined to visit and explore it. About half a dozen of the men obtained a leave of absence of Col. Jerry Moore and visited the cave, ten miles distant from the Fort. but they found after going in a distance of about 50 yards that the cave got wider and the water deeper, so deep that they could proceed no further without a boat. So they went back to their quarters and immediately commenced the construction of a small boat. They made it in sections, and put it together inside the cave, as the hole by which entrance is gained is so small that there is only room for one man to enter at a time and a boat intact could not be got through. To get into the cave at all, or at least the main portion of it, a person must climb up a rugged rocky incline about 40 feet, and then go feet first through a small orifice, and then climb down the same kind of an incline the same distance to the water. After the soldier has completed their boat they went up again, launched it, and up stream they went. They had some whisky along, and elated at their success as boat builders, navigators and explorers, they, or the most of them, indulged quite freely. Upon going about 500 yards the cave apparantly came to an end-a perpendicular partition of rock came down from the roof, which stopped their further progress, and the water boiled out from under this partition. They tapped this rock,, and it sounded hollow,, and then all had no doubt that beyond this thin wall the cave continued. One of the men,, more daring or reckless and perhaps more inebriated than the balance, proposed that he would give into this seething torrent and gain the surface of the water beyond the wall. He was admonished not to make the attempt, but in vain,, he made the plunge. His comrades waited in breathless anxiety for about five minutes, when the water brought him back a corpse. Now comes my experience in this mysterious cavern. Last winter, I was out at Mr. Tom Short's a long time, and he and I used to come here frequently to hunt ducks and geese. One very cold day in January we were going out to hunt in different directions, but close together. I wanted the dogs to go with me, as he had rubber boots and I had none. This he would not permit, and I got "riled" and would not go at all, and went back to the house. I then took it into my head that I would go and explore the cave, which is only about two hundred yards from the house. I procured candles and matches,, and away I went. I knew the boat was in there and I carried a dry poplar pole to propel it. The outer opening of the cave is large, and the daylight penetrates to the place where it is necessary to climb to through the small hole. I lighted a candle and climbed to the hole. By considerable contortion I got my feet ahead of me and went down on the inside over the rough and ragged rocks backward like a crab, until I reached the water below. I had but little difficulty in finding the boat, and when I found it immediately embarked and poled up stream. It seemed to me there that I was out of the world. The glistening stalactites above snarkled and flashed like so many diamonds; the rushing water beneath me; the pitchy darkness beyond the light of my feeble candle., and the roar of the water ahead as it emerged from beneath the granite wall, 'thrilled me with fantastic terrors never felt before." I arrived at the wall and was intenty gazing on the spot where the infortmate soldier made the fatal plunge, and wondering what could induce a same man to he so inconsiderate, when to my terror a soldier stood before me. My hair stood on end,, and I could feel a heavy fur cap which I wear now perceptibly rise up, while shivers ran over my whole system. The soldier was dressed in regular regulation uniform and he said; -I ain't doing nothing.' He said, 'Get out of here, then;' I said, 'I will if you will give me a chance;, said he, "Go;" and I went,, and did not stand on the order of my going either. I said nothing to Tom about it when I got back, for I very well knew he would ridicule the idea and laugh at me. I told some few friends in Eureka about it and some of them thought I was joking, but to all such I will say that they are mistaken, as it is the exact truth. And to make myself satisfied that it was no hallucination I revisited the same place last week, saw the same soldier, and this time had a long talk with him, in which he told me the story of his life and how he was suffocated for want of air after he got to the surface on the surface on the inside of the wall, and that he was not drowned. (?) I will give you his story in another letter. Yours in truth and fact, J.T.B." Eureda Daily Sentinel June 22, 1887

GNOME LAKE CAVERN From Spirit Land. "J.T.B.'s" Conservation with the Soldier-Ghost of the Cave-Love, Jealousy, Tyranny and Suicide as told by the Soldier-Spook.

"As a sequel to the former communication in the Eureka Sentinel, John T. Baker, writing from Ruby Valley, Elko county under date of July I", tells the following extraordinary story. Whether John T. has gone daft or has imbibed too freely of Tom Short's " "Cruiskeen," we are unable to say, but one or the other ails him: Editor Sentinel: As intimated in my former letter, I now proceed to give you the result of my second visit to this somewhat notorious and very remarkable cave. I wish to state at the outset that my observation of, and conversation with this mysterious being, call him ghost, spirit or mortal as you please, have changed my belief in things spiritual or supernatural, which belief I consider as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar. As far back as I can remember, I have always treated with ridicule and derision any suggestion of things supernatural, but I find first by a somewhat frightful, and later, more pleasant experience, that I was wrong in my dogmatic ideas, and that spirits do exist. In my second interview the soldier told me that although he had all the appearance of a material being, that in fact it was only in form and appearance; that there was no tenable substance composing his form as it appeared. This I demonstrated to be true to my entire satisfaction by placing my hand on his arm, as I supposed, but my hand met no resisting substance, any more than passing your hand through a sunbeam, passing through an orifice into a darkened room. He went on to say that he had the power of speech, which is something very rare among the spirits: that some communicate to people on earth by means of raps, some by writing, and in various ways; that he had the power to speak, but did not know how long it would continue; that he had seen Tom Short, Gay Dawley and Nucky Smith in the cave together, and therefore did not make his appearance, but that I was the first man he ever saw alone. He stated further that he enlisted in the regular army in 186 1, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and supposed that he would be sent south, but was not; that he remained at Fort Leavenworth for a year or more, and was sent to Fort Briger, in Wyoming Territory; from there to Salt Lake, and then to Fort Ruby, or rather to help build Fort Ruby. After the fort was completed the soldiers had but little to do, and he frequently got leave of absence for a day or so at a time, and he spent the time thus obtained in visiting among the settlers in the valley, and finally got deeply, irrevocably and passionately in love with the beautiful daughter of a rancher in the vicinity. He was looked upon with favor by the lady's parents and with loving fondness by the lady herself, and his happiness was for a time complete, and he hoped and wished with a longing anxiety when his five years term of service would expire, when he would claim the object of his affections, the hope and joy of his life. But cruel fate decreed that this anticipated happiness was not in store for him. Said he: "Our Post Commander, Colonel Moore, leaming of the state of affairs, and being an aspirant for the lady's affections himself, and jealous of attentions in that direction, absolutely refused me further leave of absence for a sufficient length of time to enable me to see or speak to her, who was all on earth. I could not understand the reason for my long absence from her side without any work of explanation, and to can the climax, and to further an invidious design, it was reported to this poor confiding girl that I had been missing some two or three months, and that I must have been either killed by the Indians or deserted. The girl on hearing this was frantic with grief, to such an extent that her parents sold out the ranch and went east. This was all related to me by a scout, who visited our post sometime after the family had left. They left no clue as to where they went. On learnng this I was wild, maddened, crazed. I cared not whether I lived or died; the world was then but the dark outline of an unfinished picture. I came to this cave with some of my comrades for the express purpose of ending my existence, though I wished to conceal it from my companions, and have them think it was an accident. I drank some liquor to brace me up, but I feigned to be too much intoxicated to carry out my object. I made the plunge, knowing that I would not come back alive, neither would I if I could. John Mayhew will verify my statement in regard to Col. Moore's tyranny, and Nucky Smith was along with us the day this spirit took its flight. Since I have been in the spirit land I have learned of my lost love. In time she got over her grief and married a trapper, and low lives in the wilds of Colorado. I am doomed to stay in this solitary and lonely cavern for ages yet to come, as a punishment for the self-destruction of my body and human life, but at some time in the future I shall be released from this restraint, and wander with the happy spirits wher I choose". Here the spirit vanished. To those who doubt this narrative I will say that they must also doubt the Bible. See Job IV,-15." White Pine News July 16, 1887

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