|Entrance to the Courthouse Cave|
Please click here to see other items on the list as they are unveiled.
The story of the Courthouse Cave is very old and has been told in many different forms. Many if not most Jackson County residents, however, have at least heard the legend that an enormous cave runs from the Chipola River so far under the City of Marianna that even the Jackson County Courthouse stands atop it.
|Inside the cave, looking into a natural "forest" of formations|
The Courthouse Cave legend originates from a story that has been told around Marianna since at least the late 1800s. According to that tale, a pair of teenage friends were exploring the cave when their torch went out and they found themselves trapped in total darkness. Unsure of which way to go, they wandered deeper and deeper into the cave.
|Passage leading deep under Marianna|
So is the story true? Well, let's just say that it is one of hundreds of colorful Jackson County stories that result from a bit of exaggeration.
There is in fact a large cavern called the Courthouse Cave that runs deep under part of the City of Marianna, even though it doesn't quite reach all the way to the courthouse and worries of the building tumbling into it have no foundation.
I will be a little circumspect about its actual location, but the cave stretches for hundreds of yards beneath parts of Marianna. Experienced cavers have explored and mapped it, learning in the process that its myriad of passages connect to at least two other named caves.
|Inside the Courthouse Cave|
On September 27, 1864, the day of the Battle of Marianna, the cave provided shelter and a hiding place for many of the city's women, children and elderly. The Union troops arrived on the west side of Marianna so quickly that many of the town's people did not have time to evacuate. As the men and boys gathered on Courthouse Square to organize for the fight, noncombatants headed for the Courthouse Cave.
|View of a connecting passage in Courthouse Cave|
Another story that may or may not be legend holds that members of the Republican Party hid arms, ammunition and assassins in the cave during the Reconstruction era violence that swept through Jackson County in 1865-1876. Documentation proving the origin of this legend has yet to be found, but its proximity to the scenes of some of the most severe Carpetbagger-led violence adds credibility to the tale.
During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), the cave was used as a place to store secret stocks of bootleg liquor. While claims that a "speakeasy" or illegal bar operated in it do not appear to be true, folklore of private parties and midnight card games might well have a bit of fact behind it.
The cave today is well-preserved and its stories make it one of the 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.