#26 – The Legend – circa 1840

Written by Russell Burrows:

Here is the story of the gentleman who discovered a cave on his section of land back in the 1800s. As to whether or not that cave is the same as Burrows’ Cave remains to be seen.

A family had, at that time, migrated into southern Illinois from Kentucky and taken up residence in what is now Marion County. There were several brothers, and by each taking his allotted quarter-section of land, they were able to settle on a full section.”

It is understandable that a man, when moving his family, would first be concerned with constructing a dwelling before exploring his property, and so that accounts for the fact that his cave discovery did not occur until he had been upon the land for a year or so. On the day of his discovery, he had, at last, found time to get out and look the place over. It was while he was in a deep valley on the back of his section that he found a cave. I suppose that he returned home and gathered together a lantern and whatever other gear he thought he might need to look the site over and explore the cave. It is also my understanding that he said nothing to his brothers, wife or children, but went alone to look the cave over.

After going into the cave some distance, he found several breast-plates, helmets and weapons. According to the story, he became very, very excited because those breastplates, helmets and weapons were made of gold and silver. Try to imagine, if you can, how he felt. He was a dirt-poor farmer with maybe two shirts and one pair of pants to his name and with nothing in his pocket but dust. Now here he was, staring at a fortune, even by today’s standards.

It is my understanding that he removed one of the gold breastplates, and set out for the city to sell it. After all, it came from his property and to his thinking, he owned it. The record does not reveal to whom he attempted to sell the breastplate, but whoever it was delayed him while he sent his son for the county sheriff. The sheriff promptly threw the farmer in jail, while the potential buyer and the sheriff attempted to discover from whom he had stolen the breastplate. The sheriff said to him, “Where did a dirt farmer get something like this?”

I am told that he sat in jail for a month or more before the sheriff released him. No one could discover from whom he had stolen the gold breastplate. Returning his property, the sheriff sent the farmer home with the warning that he had better stay in the woods and not come into town bothering the good folks and using up the county funds by eating jail food for a month.

It seems that this farmer was a little odd. Upon returning home, he showed the breastplate to his wife for the first time. (She had had no idea where he had been for a month or so, but had suspected that Indians had killed him.) Then, after telling her of his misfortune in dealing with civilized folk, he told her he was going to put the breastplate back in the cave because it had a curse on it, and that no one would ever see it again. He returned the plate to its exact place within the cave, and then, to make sure that no one ever saw it again, he exploded a ten-pound keg of powder in the cave entrance. He never told his brothers of the treasure, and his wife was instructed never to say anything about it.

Is that cave the same as Burrows’ Cave? I cannot say that it is. I can say that Burrows’ Cave is on the same property. I can also say that I have never seen anything to indicate the damage one would expect from a ten-pound charge of powder. But I must also point out that I have yet to find the main entrance to Burrows’ Cave. I can state, as well, that there are other caves in that valley. It is possible that one of those caves is the one containing those plates and helmets. One other thing that I can say with confidence is that the record which was in the old county archives has been removed.