They marked trees around the Devil's Den with their danger sign a sideways V , and never returned. According to Silver Dollar City park legend, a local group of vigilantes who later turned into outlaws called the Bald Knobbers were known for throwing people through the sinkhole into Devil's Den around the mid 19th century. Though it's likely that roving Bushwhackers and outlaws would've undoubtedly chosen to dispose of their victims through this sinkhole, the Bald Knobbers did not form until starting-up in neighboring Taney County , were replaced by an unofficial chapter in within nearby Christian County, with unofficial chapters in other counties including Stone County where the cave is located later than that.
However, though there is no written evidence to substantiate it, it's possible that Stone County's unofficial Bald Knobbers used the cave for various uses sometime in , between the time the mining operations ceased and late October of that year when it was purchased for sightseeing tours. There is evidence that the Spanish explored the cave in , hoping to uncover riches and possibly the fountain of youth.
The first known expedition was in and lead Henry T. Blow of St. Louis , a lead mining magnate. He explored the cave with six other miners. They carried lanterns for light and spent hours studying the cave walls carefully searching for signs of mineral deposits. They went as far as the Shoe Room, because on one side was the Gulf of Doom, which they believed was the bottomless pit after throwing rocks down the Gulf of Doom and hearing no sound. On the other side was the Cloud Room, which was filled to the ceiling with bat guano.
The miners returned to the surface late that evening having failed to discover the lead ore they sought, but were convinced that the flat ceiling of the Shoe Room contained marble. Their report gained the interest of area locals who decided to name the cave, Marble Cave.
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No more expeditions took place until when another group of entrepreneurs, led by Mr. Hodges Jones and Truman S. Powell of Barton County, entered the cave in hopes of finding lead.
Jones and Powell found huge amounts of guano and the flat ceiling, which they also believed to be marble. In , Mr. Hodge Jones bought the property and, with several of his friends, formed the Marble Cave Mining and Manufacturing Company to mine the marble from the cave. The company hired a geologist, and it was proved that what looked like marble on the ceiling of the Shoe Room was really limestone.
The guano was used for gunpowder and fertilizer. The miners filled ore carts with guano, then the carts were pulled by donkeys to the Cathedral Room, and the carts were lifted out of the cave by a pulley system. In , after four and a half years,all the guano was mined out. Marble Cave Mining, Co. It was originally called Marble City. It was located on the rough hilltop near the cave and recorded a plat map at the courthouse in Galena, Missouri.
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Marmaros contained a hotel, general store , pottery shop, white oak furniture factory, and was rumored to have a saloon. The town turned into a ghost town in after the Marble Cave Mining, Co. When the Lynches bought the cave, the town was burned to the ground by the local group of vigilantes known as the Bald Knobbers.
Lynch, with the aid of his family, proposed to open the cave to sightseers. The Lynches began operation of the sightseeing venture in with a grand celebration and a few visitors. When William Lynch died in , ownership of the cave passed to his daughters. Shortly thereafter, the name of the cave was changed to Marvel Cave. A Chicago vacuum cleaner salesman, Hugo Herschend, purchased a year lease on the cave in , from The Lynch sisters.
After Hugo Herschend's death in , his wife Mary took over the day-to-day operations of the cave. With the aid of her two sons, Jack and Peter, Mary Herschend was able to make vast improvements to the cave.
They added concrete paths and stairs to the cave, and a tower from the sinkhole to the top of the debris pile. Before building the cable train, the Army Corps of Engineers said that it could not be built, because a cable train can not make a turn like the one the Herschends planned. The Herschends built it anyway, and it is still in operation to this day. Once the cable train was in operation, the Herschends decided to recreate the mining village Marmaros, for tourists waiting to go on a tour.
It opened in , and is called Silver Dollar City. The Herschends continue to operate the property under lease.
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The first guided tours in the cave were in run by the Lynches. They lasted 8 hours and were by candle or lantern.
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