#69 – The First Public Disclosure – The Second Phase Begins – 1991

Written by Fred Rydholm:

The Burrow’s Cave Executive Committee had several meetings in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a central location between Olney, Illinois and Marquette, Michigan, and was the home of the chairman, Dr. Jim Scherz, but that location imposed great hardship on Virginia Hourigan from New York.

At my invitation we decided to have a meeting in Marquette. Jim Scherz knew Marquette and the U.P. but Russell had never been there.

Russell asked if I knew of any group who would be willing to pay his expenses if he were to give a talk on the cave. I thought that it was very short notice, and the fact that no one outside of a small scientific community had even heard of the cave would make it difficult to find a group to sponsor him. I knew that a hundred and fifty dollars was a large sum to ask for at short notice from most of the organizations that I knew.

I suggested we rent a hall and open the lecture to the public. Other than a short television news blurb in Columbus the previous year there had been no public announcements or discussion about the cave. Maybe there wouldn’t even be much interest. We could ask for a small donation that would cover the cost of the hall, and then if any money was left over we could give Russell at least a part of his expenses. Jim Scherz said he would come from Madison for nothing, and of course I would be home. Virginia was on a dig in Arkansas and had to decline.

There were several places we could have chosen, but I thought nothing could be more pleasant in July than the large and airy lobby of the famous Thunder Bay Inn in Big Bay. The building has had its ups and downs over the years but it is one of the most historic buildings in our area. Built around 1911-12, it was first a company store and office building for the Lake Independence Lumber Company. Then in the early 1940s it was purchased by Henry Ford and converted into a hotel. It had a suite for Mr. and Mrs. Ford on the second floor, overlooking Ford’s mill with a beautiful view of Lake Independence and, in the distance, Lake Superior.

These things alone would make the hotel famous, but then Judge John Voelker of Ishpeming wove his story Anatomy of a Murder around a fictitious bar in the hotel and Otto Preminger filmed that story on location in the U.P. The bar was added to the hotel for the filming and Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, George C. Scott, Kathryn Crosby and other Hollywood greats descended on the U.P. in 1959 to film the movie.

I and Darryl Small, the present owner of the hotel, thought it was worth a try and we scheduled the meeting for July 19, 1991 in Big Bay. I had previously given several talks at the Thunder Bay Inn and we had had audiences that ranged in size from fifteen to fifty.

The local paper (the Mining Journal) ran the announcement on the front page along with a picture of me with some stones from the cave. I told Darryl we could probably count on a hundred people or even more.

It turned out to be the hottest day of the summer, but well over 250 people showed up. Some of them came from as far away as the Copper Country, and one all the way from Copper Harbor.

Burrows, Scherz, and I all spoke, and we showed a lot of slides and answered questions. The heat was unbearable and people who could not get in the building even for standing room went home, but we certainly found out that people are interested.

The many doubts of the scholars had to be explained in all fairness and of course this brought out some skepticism in the audience, but there were believers as well, and many more who took a wait-and-see attitude, which was to be expected.

Russell felt that this was one of the nicest groups he had yet spoken to and one of the most receptive. He vowed to return some day, with more information. Because of other commitments a suggested late fall meeting did not materialize.

The meeting was deemed a success, and the people of the Marquette area were the first outside of closed scientific groups to be informed of Burrows’ Cave and its remarkable contents.