The story of Eldon French’s discovery of a beautiful cave reads like a young boy’s fantasy. It reminded me of those moments in my own childhood where I would read about pirates secreting treasure on some lonely shoreline or the discovery of ancient ruins. I would be out exploring the forests the next day in the hopes of making my own discovery. Eldon was one of the few whose love for exploration and keen sense of observation paid off. He had discovered what is still considered one of the longest caves in New England. Though my own childhood adventures more often met with great disappointment, this would be my chance to revisit those fantasies of my youth while living vicariously through Eldon’s story.
In the winter of 1875, 14 year old Eldon French was rapt in an article on the formation of caves. As he took a moment to reflect on his newly gained expertise, he began to wonder if there might be caves in his town. While peering out his bedroom window, he remembered a location where water issued from out of the hillside and created a pool that his neighbor’s cows drank from. Eldon grabbed a candle and ran across the field to the spot where the water exited the ground. Peering up the slope, he noticed a depression in the ground where water must have once run. Eldon concluded that if he followed the dimple up the rise and could locate where the water reappeared above ground, he might find a cave.
Not far up the hill Eldon located a ravine that contained a brook that seemed to vanish underground. Under the cover of forest debris within the gully, he found an opening large enough for a person to enter. At first it appeared to be only a small den. As he proceeded to the rear of the cave he soon discovered it took a hairpin turn into the hillside. Ahead he could see a shaft that penetrated deep into the bedrock. The cave had been carved out of beautiful marble and appeared to be endless.
Eldon spent the afternoon exploring his new discovery until his candle was almost exhausted. He returned to the cave several times with a much more reliable source of light. Eventually he traversed through its winding passages to its conclusion, later named “World’s End”. There over 800 ft into the hill behind his home was a chamber 13 ft wide, 15 ft long and 50′ high. Within this hidden chamber were remarkable examples of natural beauty. Several tiny water falls, recesses and grottoes with their own hidden treasures, and various forms of flowstone and stalactites; all beautiful marble sculptures created by millions of years of moving water. One interesting feature consisted of a shallow pool in marble with a marble seat at the end that was appropriately named “King’s Bath”.
In 1945 Eldon visited the cave for one last time along with a band of local cavers. Eldon only accompanied the group for a short distance. Though nothing more is mentioned of him after this, Eldon will always be remembered for his sharp mind, youthful sense of adventure, and bravery that lead to the discovery of one of the longest and most beautiful caves in New England.
>>> Stay Tuned for Part II Of Eldon French’s Great Discovery <<<
>> Please be aware that Eldon French’s Cave is now a closed cave <<
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~ Strange New England
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