Alabaster Cave
by Anthony Belli

image of a caveFor more than 150 years, people have been discovering subterranean caves throughout El Dorado County. Cave Valley in Cool had many caves that were connected by miles of underground tunnels. Several of the caves hosted church services and weddings, and some were even used as ballrooms.

While subterranean caves are not all that uncommon in El Dorado County, only a few survived mining operations into the present century. One cave that did survive, and perhaps the grandest of all, was the Alabaster Cave.

On April 18, 1860, George S. Halterman and John Harris, both employed by the Alabaster Lime Quarry, were quarrying a ledge of limestone rock at Rattlesnake Bar. After removing a piece of rock from the ledge, they noticed a small opening leading into a dark room of indeterminate size. Curious, the men enlarged the opening and entered the cave. Unable to see very far into the chamber, they explored only a few yards before returning to the surface. Excited about their discovery, Halterman and Harris went to see the owner of the quarry, Mr. William Gwynn. They told him of their discovery and after securing some candles the men descended into the cave where they spent several hours exploring its many passages and chambers.

Gwynn wrote to a friend, telling him of his discovery, and as word of the cave spread and people went to see it, some of the spectacular formations were lost to theft and vandalism. Angry, Gwynn closed the cave to the public.

A few days later, Gwynn agreed to lease the site to Halterman and two of his associates. Platforms and barricades were erected, coal oil lamps were installed, a second opening was added to serve as an exit, and a sketch artist was hired to draw the cave's interior before it was re-opened to the public on April 24th.

Toward the close of 1992, several friends and I had an opportunity to visit the Alabaster Cave. I carried copies of the original 1860 sketches with me and was very disappointed to see how much damage had occurred since the time of the original sketches.

Shortly after our visit, the Alabaster Cave was sealed closed by its owners.

Should you wish to know more about the Alabaster Cave, check with the County Museum, and ask to see Book # 103.

Note: the Alabaster Cave is on private property. Trespassing is a crime. To protect this site the location of the cave has been withheld. 

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Source submitted for publication by Anthony Belli, 2000
Edited by Stephanie Bishop, El Dorado County I.S. Dept. - 2003