Marengo Cave's Historical Timeline

A historical overview of the discovery of Marengo Cave and all the happenings since

Nested in the limestone hills of southern Indiana is Marengo Cave, one of the most beautiful show caves in the eastern United States. Designated a U.S. National Landmark based on it’s great beauty and extremely large classic trunk passage, Marengo Cave has long been known by speleologists and geologists as one of the midwest’s finest natural wonders. ;xNLx;This underground treasure has slowly been carved out by Nature. It provides a great opportunity for visitors of all ages to experience underground grandeur.

1700-01-06 00:00:00

Early Trappers and Settlers

Early trappers and explorers visited and established small outposts in Indiana during the 1700’s. However, large scale migration of setters into the area did not begin until after the Revolutionary War. The area near the cavern which is now a part of Crawford County began to be settled just after 1800. Most settlers came from North Carolina and Kentucky, crossing the Ohio into the Indian Territory of southern Indiana.

1814-01-01 00:00:00

Land Deeded to Hollowell

In July of 1814, most of what was to become the “Old Town” section of Marengo was deeded by the United States to Henry Hollowell.

1817-01-01 00:00:00

Stewarts Buy Land

In 1817, David Stewart bought out Hollowell. The Stewart family and their heirs were to remain in control of this land and the cave, as yet undiscovered, until 1955.

1839-01-01 00:00:00

Stewarts Plots a Town

In 1839, David Stewart laid out the plot for a town. It went by various names during its early history including Procterville, Springtown, and Big Springs.

1852-01-01 00:00:00

Marengo's Name Official

The town's name is finally settled as Marengo for the post office in 1852. Marengo was the name of a famous battle fought by Napoleon near the town of Marengo, Italy on June 14, 1800.

1858-01-01 00:00:00

Town Church Built

The Marengo church was build in 1858.

1869-01-01 00:00:00

The Marengo Academy

In 1869, Marengo became an educational center for the hill country of south central Indiana when Professor J.M. Johnson and the townspeople built the Marengo Academy. The Academy was a center of education for over forty years. Because of the rough dirt roads, which were often impassible in winter, students from outside the immediate area had to board during the school term. The Academy, due to its excellent reputation, attracted several boarding students from communities throughout the surrounding hill area.

1881-01-01 00:00:00

Railroad Jumpstarts County

Prior to the coming of the railroad in 1881, Marengo was just a cluster of log cabins, one or two stores, a saloon, a meeting house or two and a graveyard. With the completion of the Louisville & St. Louis Airline Railroad, the business district and main part of town shifted about half a mile south adjacent to the new railroad depot. After the railroad bisected Crawford County east to west, commerce in the county began to shift away from the Ohio River towns of Leavenworth and Alton to the growing railroad centers of Milltown, Marengo and English.

1882-01-01 00:00:00

Timbering Near the Cave

During the year or so before the discovery of the cave, most of the virgin timber on the hillside surrounding the cave entrance was logged. Mitch Stewart and the early geologists who visited the cavern theorized that the increased runoff from the hillsides into the sinkhole was a primary factor in opening a human-sized hole in the bottom of the sink.

1883-01-01 00:00:00


There is no documented evidence that man ever entered Marengo Cave before its discovery on Thursday, September 6, 1883. Curiously, though, there are some broken formations cemented into the flowstone at several places in the cavern. The cavern is located near the small community of Marengo, which had been homesteaded over sixty years earlier without the cave being discovered. This suggests that there was no cavity large enough for the cave to be entered before 1883. Whether Indians ever entered the cave hundreds or even thousands of years ago through some now closed opening will probably never be determined for sure.

Marengo Cave's Historical Timeline

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