In the 1970s, Savage Cave in Logan County attracted the attention of the Smithsonian Institution, but in recent history, it mostly got the attention of vandals.
Believed to be in use as long ago as 12,000 years, the cave is the property of Murray State University. That could change this summer.
“Murray’s lawyers are working on getting the deed transferred to Logan County,” said Wayne Stratton, who is helping spearhead the effort.
Stratton, who lives in Adairville where the cave is located, said Adairville first approached MSU about 10 years ago about taking over the cave.
“But they weren’t interested,” he said. “We went back to them about two years ago and they had shown some interest.”
After some back and forth on requirements that MSU wanted for the property, it now appears the cave will be deeded to the county. Once that happens, it would probably be leased to the Adairville Historical Society, which would begin cleaning up the property and searching for funding to do such things as installing a large metal gate across the cave’s entrance, Stratton said.
Myrisa Christy, executive director of the Mammoth Cave Resource and Conservation District, said she will help find funding to install the gate to help conserve the cave.
“It’s a very large entrance, so we are talking about tens of thousands of dollars if it needs to be a bat gate,” Christy said. “But right now, we really don’t have any documentation of there being any bat colonies in the cave.”
Bat gates let bats move in and out of the cave freely and keep out intruders.
The cave is named for Genevieve Savage, who in the 1960s bought the cave and surrounding property. She became interested in the property, Stratton said, after the property owner did bulldozing on the site and the city of Adairville stored its fire trucks and emergency vehicles in the mouth of the cave, sort of like a fallout shelter.
“I remember going in the cave probably 50 times as a kid and it ... was just a cave,” he said.
Stratton said Savage got archaeologists from museums and universities interested in the property.
“I think the Smithsonian came down and did a dig and found some things,” he said. “I think they turned those things over to Murray State.”
One scholarly paper said an assistant to famed British archaeologist Louis Leakey visited the site, as did representatives from the Carnegie Museum in addition to the Smithsonian.
Stratton said skeletal remains and other culturally significant items have been found in the cave.
“But it has really been vandalized over the years,” he said.
There are holes everywhere, both inside and outside the cave. Last fall, one man was caught trying to steal some of the items he had dug up on the property. Facing felony charges, the man saw his charges pre-trial diverted for five years, Stratton said. The man had to make $2,000 in restitution.
The property now has video cameras, which are regularly monitored. Stratton said he tries to keep the grass mowed.
The historical society wants the property to become sort of an outdoor classroom to be used by school groups and others to learn more about the cave’s history. Stratton sees the potential for tourism, particularly coupled with other historical sites nearby, including the site of the Jackson-Dickson dual, Red River Meeting House and others.
“At least for now, we would not be doing any tours,” he said.
There is a lot of work needed before tours could occur, Stratton said.
And there is the issue of liability insurance, which might be too costly.
Ultimately, it’s Stratton’s goal for the site to become a state park similar to what has occurred with the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site once owned by Murray State.
That site is along the Mississippi River in Ballard County.