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Cave-In-Rock, Illinois facts for kids

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Main Street of downtown Cave-In-Rock, Illinois in 2013
Main Street of downtown Cave-In-Rock, Illinois in 2013
Location of Cave-In-Rock in Hardin County, Illinois.
Location of Cave-In-Rock in Hardin County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Country United States
State Illinois
County Hardin
Founded by Earliest known permanent settlers arrived in 1816
Named for The Cave near the town
 • Total 0.41 sq mi (1.07 km2)
 • Land 0.37 sq mi (0.97 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.11 km2)
390 ft (120 m)
 • Total 228
 • Density 609.63/sq mi (235.65/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s) 618
FIPS code 17-11826
GNIS feature ID 2397577
Wikimedia Commons Cave-In-Rock, Illinois

Cave-In-Rock is a village in Hardin County, Illinois, United States. Its principal feature and tourist attraction is nearby Cave-In-Rock, on the banks of the Ohio River. In 1816, the earliest known permanent white settlers arrived and started building a town near the cave. The town was originally known as Rock and Cave, Illinois, with a post office under this name. On October 24, 1849, the town was officially renamed Cave-In-Rock. Cave-In-Rock was incorporated as a village in 1901. The population was 318 at the 2010 census.

Beginning in the 1790s, Cave-in-Rock became a refuge stronghold for frontier outlaws.


Cave-in-rock IL
The Cave at Cave-in-Rock State Park, the town namesake of Cave-in-Rock, Illinois

Cave-In-Rock is located in southeastern Hardin County at 37°28′12″N 88°9′59″W / 37.47000°N 88.16639°W / 37.47000; -88.16639 (37.470050, -88.166297). It is bordered to the south by the Ohio River, which forms the state boundary with Kentucky. The Cave-In-Rock Ferry crosses the Ohio from Cave-In-Rock village to Crittenden County, Kentucky, at a point 11 miles (18 km) north of Marion. Cave-In-Rock is the southern terminus of Illinois Route 1, which leads north from the ferry 326 miles (525 km) to its northern terminus in Chicago.

According to the 2010 census, Cave-In-Rock has a total area of 0.422 square miles (1.09 km2), of which 0.37 square miles (0.96 km2) (or 87.68%) is land and 0.052 square miles (0.13 km2) (or 12.32%) is water.

Cave-in-Rock is located in the driftless area of southern Illinois and features geographical differential erosions from the Upper Mississippian and Lower Pennsylvanian ages. Bluffs and ridges are generally sandstone, while valleys are from limestones and shales. Cave-in-Rock is near the Hicks Dome.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 306
1920 349 14.1%
1930 430 23.2%
1940 486 13.0%
1950 550 13.2%
1960 495 −10.0%
1970 503 1.6%
1980 468 −7.0%
1990 381 −18.6%
2000 346 −9.2%
2010 318 −8.1%
2020 228 −28.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 346 people, 165 households, and 96 families residing in the village. The population density was 874.6 inhabitants per square mile (337.7/km2). There were 201 housing units at an average density of 508.1 per square mile (196.2/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 98.27% White, 1.16% other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.02% of the population.

There were 165 households, out of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.8% were non-families. 41.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 28.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the village, the population was spread out, with 23.4% under 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 24.9% who were 65 or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 81.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.8 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $20,694, and the median income for a family was $28,393. Males had a median income of $35,833 versus $18,125 for females. The per capita income for the village was $12,050. About 20.5% of families and 28.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 43.8% of those under age 18 and 24.1% of those age 65 or over.

The Cave

Keelboat and flatboat
River pirates were some of the earliest settlers around Cave-in-Rock who preyed on the Ohio River flatboats, keelboats, and rafts, as profitable targets of goods.
Karl Bodmer Travels in America (7)
Cave-in-rock, view on the Ohio (circa 1832): aquatint by Karl Bodmer from the book Maximilian, Prince of Wied's Travels in the Interior of North America, During the Years 1832–1834
Fluorite mineral specimen from Cave-in-Rock area

Cave-in-Rock's primary feature is a striking 55-foot-wide (17 m) riverside cave formed by wind and water erosion and by cataclysmic effects of the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes. The cave is located at 37°28′07″N 88°09′21″W / 37.46861°N 88.15583°W / 37.46861; -88.15583, just upriver (east) from the village. The first European to come across it was M. de Lery of France, who found it in 1739 and called it "caverne dans Le Roc". Other names for the cave include Rock-In-Cave, Rocking Cave, Rock-and-Cave, House of Nature, The Cave, Big Cave, and Murrell's Cave. The cave is the main feature of Illinois' Cave-in-Rock State Park, established in 1929.


From the 1790s to the 1870s, the area around Cave-in-Rock was plagued by what historians as early as the 1830s referred to as the "Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers", and better known today due to Otto Rothert's history early in the 20th century as the "Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock".

In 1790, counterfeiters Philip Alston and John Duff (or John McElduff) used the cave as some type of rendezvous, though details are scarce. Although folklore printed in 19th century histories failed to establish a prior connection between the two men, both had lived in the area of Natchez, Mississippi, at the start of the Revolutionary War.

Duff was living upriver a few miles, either at Battery Rock or across the Ohio River at what would become Caseyville, Kentucky, when in 1797 Samuel Mason moved his base of operations from Diamond Island and Red Banks to the cave and made it the home of river pirates. Two of Mason's brothers had been business partners of Duff in Kaskaskia, Illinois, in the 1780s. Mason created a combination tavern, gambling den and criminal refuge. His men lured in gullible river travelers and then robbed and killed them.

James Wilson, also known as Bully Wilson, may actually have been an alias for Samuel Mason, the next leader of the gang after Mason's hasty departure, or possibly the front man for Mason's operation. He may be the Wilson who married one of Mason's nieces.

The infamous Harpe brothers also reached the cave region in the spring of 1799.

Mason and Wilson's time at the cave may have come to an end during the summer of 1799, when they were attacked by a group of bounty hunters/vigilantes under the leadership of Captain Young calling themselves "The Exterminators". No contemporary accounts attest to river pirates occupying the cave in the first decade of the 19th century. The Harpes retreated back into Kentucky, while Mason traveled downriver and began to focus on highway robbery along the Natchez Trace.

The next generation of outlaws in the region sprang either from the Sturdivant Gang, a group of counterfeiters based at Sturdivant Fort, on top of the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River at what is now Rosiclare, Illinois; or the Ford's Ferry Gang led by James Ford, based a few miles upriver from the cave at what became known as Ford's Ferry, Kentucky. Law enforcement officials led three raids against Sturdivant Fort in 1822 and 1823. Although it is not clear what happened following the raids, the gang had disappeared from the area by 1830.

Even after the death of Ford, outlaws remained. Isaiah L. Potts operated Potts Inn on the Ford's Ferry High Water Road in Illinois north of the cave. Travelers checked in, but sometimes failed to check out. This presumed frontier hotel was very similar to the Bloody Benders' Wayside Inn, which appeared fifty years later in Labette County, Kansas. The legend of Billy Potts, the returning son who was murdered unknowingly by his father, likely took place in the months following Ford's assassination. This tragic story of poetic justice has taken on folklorish proportions. Records show the elder Potts and his wife separated in 1834 or 1835.

Eson Bigsby (the first name sometimes spelled "Eason" or "Enos" and the last name sometimes spelled "Bixby") took up counterfeiting in Hardin County in the decades following the Sturdivants. His attack on his wife Anna in an effort to find out where her first husband's money was buried dates to the early 1860s and led to the legends of Anna Bixby, her treasure and her ghost. She survived running off a cliff in the dark. She is the namesake of the Anna Bixby Women's Center in nearby Harrisburg, Illinois.

Although not completely connected to the "Ancient Colony", Logan Belt and the Logan Belt Gang terrorized Hardin County in the 1870s and 1880s, until Belt was assassinated.

Cave-in-Rock Ferry loading
Loading a vehicle onto the Cave-In-Rock Ferry in 2013

In the middle of the 1800s, church services were being held in the cave. This earliest Christian congregation eventually formed the Big Creek Baptist Church. Founded in 1807, it was the first church organized in southeastern Illinois. Cave-In-Rock incorporated in 1839, in the same year that Hardin County was created from a section of Pope County.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, "in 1929, the State of Illinois acquired 64.5 acres (26.1 ha) for a park that since has increased to 204 acres (83 ha). The well-wooded, 60-foot (18 m) hills and the rugged bluffs along the river—commanding expansive views of the famous waterway—became Cave-In-Rock State Park".

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Cave-In-Rock (Illinois) para niños

  • List of cities and towns along the Ohio River
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