Maplewood History: The Barry and Johnston Caves – Part One

Articles on caves are always very popular. My previous posts about our Maplewood caves (Sutton, Ellendale, Cool Cave Tavern at the Bartold location) have drawn some interesting responses from readers that caused me to do a bit more searching through the old newspapers. Recently I discovered a fascinating article that I think many of you will be excited to learn about.

Let’s start with a comment that a Mr. Brian Peters posted in 2012 in response to an article I had run about the Sutton Cave.

Brian Peters

8:09 pm on Monday, June 25, 2012

I brought this story up to my father, and SURPRISE TO ME. As a child, my father and his friends used to play in these caves. This was likely in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. He told me some very interesting things about the cave. The article is correct, it is VERY large. My father said that they would enter at a certain place near Sutton and Manchester and that they would walk west towards Brentwood. (there was also mention about a former bank in Maplewood who’s vault backed up to the cave, so at a certain point you could see a smooth concrete wall…I don’t think it’s a bank anymore, but this is what my father told me) They would tie off a small rope, in case they had to go this way or that.

The cave as he knew it stretched all the way along Manchester Road into Brentwood (just west of the new Schnucks there) where they would exit. He recalls that the cave seemed to extend further west toward Rock Hill, but that they never went that way. They stuck to what they knew. He said that some places could narrow down to crawl spaces, and in other areas, there could be waterholes that you would have to wade or swim through. He said if it had rained recently, it wasn’t a good idea to explore.

He also noted several exit points along the way. Something about a house that used to be on a hill at Brentwood and Manchester. The entrance was in front of the house, surrounded by bushes, and you would have to crawl on your hands and knees through the bushes to find the hole.

Reply Doug Houser

12:31 am on Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brian, your comment is very interesting. Several points are nearly identical to ones in a story told to me by a retired Maplewood firefighter, Dewey Eberhardt, who was living in Shrewsbury when we last spoke.

According to Dewey a tunnel exists that runs from Citizen’s Bank in Maplewood to the NW corner of Brentwood and Manchester. There it surfaces and has a concrete cap. I’m fairly certain he was talking about a man made tunnel and not a natural cave. I forget what purpose this tunnel served.

Roughly midway between those two points was once the location of a roadhouse known as the Eight Mile House (8 miles from downtown St. Louis). It was later called Bartold’s Grove and was a popular hotel and resort. The hotel was located at the SE corner of present day Manchester and Hanley. The building was built in the 1840’s and survived into the 1950’s or possibly the early 60’s. The hotel was built into the hill below the present location of the Sunnen Corporation’s headquarters. It was 3 stories in front and walk out at ground level from the 3rd story in the rear.

I hadn’t thought about why it had been built in such a manner until the subject came up in conversation with one of the cavers mentioned above (Sutton Cave post). These passionate fellows search the historic record for mention of caves. He had noticed that the Bartold Inn had later been renamed as Cool Cave Tavern. There you have it. One of the features that made Bartold’s Grove such an attractive destination was its beer garden. The building must have backed up to a cave and may have taken advantage of the natural air conditioning as well as having a giant beer cooler close at hand.

Well, I was speculating.  The last sentence I’d edit today to read “might have” instead of “must have”.  It occurs to me that these three or possibly four caves are pretty much in line with one another.  It seems unlikely that they are all connected or ever were.  But it is definitely interesting how large or long they seem to be according to these accounts.

Doug Houser  May 4, 2016

Brian’s mention of a large cave near Brentwood and Manchester has stayed in my mind for these many years.  What follows is the amazing story I recently discovered thanks again to my subscription to Newspapers.com.

Exciting, ain’t it?  These caves were once well known but had been almost completely forgotten. This is a good place to pause because this is a heck of a lot of reading for most folks.  I’ll post the thrilling conclusion in a few more days. And thrilling is the best way to describe it.

The new year has just begun but I find that I’m optimistic.  After all, how could it be worse than 2020?  Let’s hope we don’t find out.

Thanks again to everyone for all of the support you give, the votes of confidence and what not.

Doug Houser     January 3, 2021

 

 

16 thoughts on “Maplewood History: The Barry and Johnston Caves – Part One

  1. This blog is a gem, thank you Dougs for all you do! Great writing and insight into the area.

  2. what a cliff hanger!

    As far as not being as much about some of the events around town, Doug can you find, train, teach someone or several someone’s who would take it upon themselves to report or the city hall meetings, politics, street parties, etc.

    • Hey Mark, That has always been Doug Miner’s purview. Mine has mainly just been the history part of the deal. In my mind that would be cool if there were someone that wanted to do that sort of thing. Find some volunteers. You might want to remind them that this work is pro bono. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Doug H., I find your contributions to be interesting, informative and, sometimes, pretty fun. I hope you keep it up – if not in this format, then one of your own. Unkind criticisms should be viewed for what they are, which is unnecessary and unkind.

  4. Dave, I am a contributor to this site not the owner of it. The owner, Doug Miner, is a friend of mine but I don’t feel entitled to speak for him. I expect we’ll hear from him shortly.

    To the regular readers of my Maplewood History feature, don’t worry. It will continue. I can’t yet say just what happens next. Stay tuned.

  5. For all intents and purposes, 40SouthNews has ceased to exist and is now Doug Houser’s blog. Please change the name. I’m deleting it from my favorites.

    • That’s up to you, Dave. I do what I can as editor, but now have a job that takes me out of town quite often, making it hard for me to go to meetings and prowl around town like I used to. Since folks know it as 40 South I think I’ll keep the name.

      • Thats kinda what I was thinking. Gezz 40S is good, clean entertainment during these difficult times.