Sunday, August 23, 2015

Singleton describes ancient cave in Monroe County's Midway community

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Cave near Midway may be first settlement in county” was originally published in the Aug. 15, 1991 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

In my travels around this county, I have seen many places and strange events. I have visited many old Indian villages and various mounds of sorts that were constructed during the past thousands or so years.

But, if I had to choose the place within the area that I thought was early man’s first dwelling, I would have to give the credit to the old cave near the Midway community.

Not too long ago I visited this old cave for about the tenth time since I first heard about it. Each time I descended the embankment to the old cave, I am brought to the realization that perhaps this was the place where early man, when he came to this area, chose to live and protect his family from the elements.

As you enter the limestone cave that rests at the bottom of the ravine, the feeling comes over you that there is a certain amount of safety and protection in this place.

You can envision early man looking around and seeing that here he and his family would be warm and protected from the cold winter winds and snow. From the many smoke-stained rocks overhead, you can picture a cold winter evening, sitting around a warm campfire as the freezing winds howled overhead.

The blazing fires did more than warm a family; it also provided protection from the prowling wild animals of the area, seeking a warm and secure place to bed down for the night.

Even after all these many hundreds of years, the floor of the limestone cave is fairly clean. There is evidence that modern man has been this way because of the debris that he left behind, such as various cans and cardboard containers.

The areas of flat ground above the ravine could have furnished the squash and corn for the families who lived below. And, according to early records and research, wild game was plentiful across this area, long before DeSoto and his army journeyed this way and began to mess things up.

During the hot days of the summer you might picture several families moving west to the great river, where they fished and rested for a few days. Then, laden with their catch, they returned to this secure place of protection to await the harvest of the corn and squash, only a couple of full moons away.

As I stood at the bottom of the ravine, I thought of the many footprints that had once covered the limestone floor. I could imagine the small children playing around the cook fires as their mothers prepared the evening meals. I imagined the head of the family coming into the cave with a day’s hunt of wild game slung over his shoulder.

After dropping the game from the day’s hunt to the floor, his long hunting bow and selection of arrows were placed out of reach of the playing children. And when the evening meal was finished and the time of storytelling was over about the day’s hunt, the warm skin robes were laid out for a long night’s sleep. As the freezing winds and blowing snow howled harmlessly across the top of the cave, man was at peace with himself within the warmth around him.

Many winters have come and gone since the flickering lights of the cook fires danced across the walls and ceiling of this cave. But should research be done within this area, I believe that here in this ancient limestone cave, we would find evidence of primitive man choosing this place as one of his earliest places of residence.

In our quest for worldly goods, we tend to overlook many of the landmarks that are slowly fading from the scene. As I have stated many times before, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to locate and record these locations. How can our future generations know where they are going unless they know where they have been?

If you visit the other countries of the world, you will see that great care has been taken to preserve such landmarks. Our country is hardly 200 years old, and yet many of the landmarks that should be rich in our history are already passing from the scene.

I, for one, believe that we should hold on to our past, regardless how trivial it might seem at the time. The study of our mistakes and successes will one day enable us to look ahead with a greater assurance than if we had not been familiar with the years gone by.

Much too soon, the time will come when the old limestone cave near the Midway community will be destroyed by the heavy logging machinery working nearby.

If this happens, little or no attention will be given other than the bank of that old ravine, near the Midway community suddenly gave way. A kindling of new interest of our past would be like a good dose of medicine to our society.

We are spending millions of dollars, seeking for ways to harness the restless energy of our youth. Thumbing through the pages of our past can bring great rewards. The harvest would be great; only our future will know.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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