|Guided tours:||closed |
Scott L. Underwood (1998):
The History of Robber's Cave,
NSS News, Volume 56, Number 6, June 1998.
Troy Taylor (2003): Robber's Cave Lincoln, Nebraska The Cave Conservationist, Volume 22, Number 2, September, 2003. pdf
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|1862||used as a shelter from winter and indian attacks by settlers.|
|1863||used as a winter shelter by members of Coxey's army.|
|1863||original entrance destroyed in a quarrying operation.|
|1864||used as a winter shelter by members of Coxey's army.|
|1869||Lincoln Brewery enlarged the existing cave and stored barrels of finished beer and beer-making ingredients.|
|1873||brewery was sold and later went out of business.|
|1876||Jesse James supposedly hid out here after a robbery.|
|1906||story about a treasure box found in the cave spread, cave opened to the public.|
|1920s||concrete path constructed.|
|1970||closed to the public.|
|1986||opened to the public.|
|2000||closed and sealed up.|
|2015||possible reopening by the Blue Blood Brewing Co..|
The geology of Robber's Cave is as mysterious as imaginable. Some tell about a huge karst cave, others about a natural sandstone cave, and others about an artificial structure dug as a beer cellar. We guess the beer cellar was an extension of a small sandstone cave, probably dug by the local Pawnee Indians, who named this place Pahuk Bluff. They used the cave for spiritual practices like the initiation of young men, until they were relocated to reservations in the south by local settlers in 1858.
Robber's Cave in Lincoln, Nebraska, has a rather central location in the middle of a big city. Located about four kilometers south of the center, its history is connected to the development of Lincoln. It was first used by a local brewery to store beer in the mid 19th cetutry, and a few years later it was used as a hideout by Jesse James. He and other outlaws used the cave to hide, so it was named Robber's Cave.
Today the cave is located in a small park, in the shadow of the huge storage silos of the AGP Grain Co-Op, behind the parking lot of a Subway and a Burger King restaurant. According to some sources the cave was filled in some years ago, but this seems to be disputable. Other people on the net, so-called urban explorers, swear they have seen the cave recently and posted pictures in their forum. Some years ago the property was for sale, including the cave and a part of the park for US$ 150,000. And the latest development is the advertisement of a local micro brewery which plans to reopen the cave. Brian Podwinski, owner of Blue Blood Brewing Co., wants to build a restaurant and bar on the ground and reopen the cave as a highlight for his guests.
During the 1860s it was probably a stop on the underground railroad, which means it was a hiding place for slaves travelling north to escape slavery. It was also used as a winter time shelter for some years by local settlers and members of Coxey's army. There are also stories about quarrying, which destroyed the original entrance. However, all those stories are just legends and some of them seem to be contradictory.
From the main passage a short crawl leads into a huge chamber, named Robbers Roost because it is thought to be the place where Jesse James hid when he was in Lincoln. This seems rather logical, as this chamber is exceptional: it is dry and has a dry sandy floor, which makes it much more comfortable than the rest of the cave. There is also a fire pit with a chimney above. During the 1870s the cave was a popular meeting place for gamblers, outlaws and horse thieves.
There are various stories about miles of passages, including connections to the penitentiary and the State Hospital for the Insane. There is a story that one tunnel was used as an escape route by some prisoners. The correctness of those legends is disputable, and most likely this are urban legends - like the numerous ghost stories told about the cave. Stories about the sounds of indian drums are a good story for cave guides to amuse the cave visitors.
The cave was open freely for a long time, later there seem to have been regular tours and electric light. Probaly the year 1906 could be interpreted as the start of the tourist cave. In this year a story spread about a treasure box, which was found in the cave. This brought so many visitors that it became a tourist attraction. The cave was closed and reopened various times, it seems it was not very profitable in the long run. Most inhabitants of Lincoln know about the cave and the legends until today. But it is not possible to get hard facts about the cave. Even the articles published by the NSS seem to retell urban legends.
showcaves.com lists tourist sites accessible to tourists, so this site actually does not qualify for a listing. But because of its popularity and the good chance to be reopened soon by the microbrewery, we decided to list it anyway.