Cave-In-Rock, Illinois

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Cave-In-Rock is a village in Hardin County, Illinois, United States. Its principal feature is a 55-foot (17 m)-wide cave on the Ohio River. Cave-in-Rock was originally a stronghold for outlaws including the bandit Logan Belt, Philip Alston the Counterfeiter, the pirate Samuel Mason, and the Sturdivant Gang.

The population was 346 at the 2000 census.


The Cave

Cave-in-Rock's primary feature is a striking 55-foot (17 m)-wide riverside cave formed by erosion at Cave-in-Rock State Park 37°28′07″N 88°09′21″W / 37.46861°N 88.15583°W / 37.46861; -88.15583, just upriver 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".


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".

Other names for the cave include Rocking Cave, Rock-and-Cave and House of Nature.

In 1790 counterfeiters Philip Alston and John Duff (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 lived in the area of Natchez, Mississippi, at the start of the Revolutionary War.

By the arrival of Samuel Mason at the cave in 1797 Duff was living upriver a few miles either at Battery Rock, or across the Ohio River at what would become Caseyville, Kentucky. Mason had previously made Diamond Island and Red Banks his headquarters. In 1797 he moved his base of operations to the cave and made it the home of river pirates. Two of Mason's brothers had been business partners of Duff at Kaskaskia, Illinois, in the 1780s.

James Wilson is the next leader of the Cave-in-Rock band, and may have been the Wilson who married one of Capt. Mason's nieces. In 1799 he's remembered for installing a sign reading "Wilson's Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment" over the cave entrance. Rather than be the actual leader he may have simply been the front man for the operation.

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