Concerts too have been held here, and the melody of song has been heard, such as would delight the ear of a Catalini or a Malibran.
Leaving the church you will observe, on ascending, a large embankment of lixiviated earth thrown out by the miners more than thirty years ago, the print of wagon wheels and the tracks of oxen, as distinctly defined as though they were made but yesterday; and continuing on for a short distance, you arrive at the Second Hoppers. Here are seen the ruins of the old nitre works, leaching vats, pump frames and two lines of wooden pipes; one to lead fresh water from the dripping spring to the vats filled with the nitrous earth, and the other to convey the lye drawn from the large reservoir, back to the furnace at the mouth of the Cave.
The quantity of nitrous earth contained in the Cave is “sufficient to supply the whole population of the globe with saltpetre.”
“The dirt gives from three to five pounds of nitrate of lime to the bushel, requiring a large proportion of fixed alkali to produce the required crystalization, and when left in the Cave become re-impregnated in three years. When saltpetre bore a high price, immense quantities were manufactured at the Mammoth Cave, but the return of peace brought the saltpetre from the East Indies in competition with the American, and drove that of the produce of our country entirely from the market. An idea may be formed of the extent of the manufacture of saltpetre at this Cave, from the fact that the contract for the supply of the fixed alkali alone for the Cave, for the year 1814, was twenty thousand dollars.”
“The price of the article was so high, and the profits of the manufacturer so great, as to set half the western world gadding after nitre caves—the gold mines of the day. Cave hunting in fact became a kind of mania, beginning with speculators, and ending with hair brained young men, who dared for the love of adventure the risk which others ran for profit.” Every hole, remarked an old miner, the size of a man’s body, has been penetrated for miles around the Mammoth Cave, but although we found “petre earth,” we never could find a cave worth having.
Gothic Gallery—Gothic Avenue—Good Road—Mummies—Interesting Account of Them—Gothic Avenue once called Haunted Chamber—Why so Named— Adventure of a Miner in Former Days.
In looking from the ruins of the nitre works, to the left and some thirty feet above, you will see a large cave, connected with which is a narrow gallery sweeping across the Main Cave and losing itself in a cave, which is seen above to your right This latter cave is the Gothic Avenue, which no doubt was at one time connected with the cave opposite and on the same level, forming a complete bridge over the main avenue, but afterwards broken down and separated by some great convulsion.
The cave on the left, which is filled with sand, has been penetrated but a short distance; still from its great size at its entrance, it is more than probable, that, were all obstructions removed, it might be found to extend for miles.