The legend of Wilson’s Cave 

I just read a weird story about a cave up in Miller County, Missouri.

The site is known as Wilson’s Cave, and as strange as the story is, eyewitness accounts seem to verify that it is at least mostly true.

There was a very early settler named John Wilson who came to what is today Miller County from Kentucky (the year he arrived is disputed, and widely divergent, so I won’t mention it here). 

At that time his only neighbors were Indian tribes, who helped him get along. 

In the first two years at his new home, John Wilson and his young family lived in a one-room cave that now bears his name, by the Barren Fork of the Big Tavern Creek. They later moved into a log cabin he built.

I should add that John Wilson was not a young man, though he married and started a family late in life. He was born in 1755 (some accounts say 1769) in Virginia, and had gone to Kentucky during the American War for Independence, which he may have later participated in, according to one tradition.

Wilson is also said to have participated in the War of 1812, and took part in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. 

A fiddle tune celebrating the American victory came of that, and was called “The Eighth of January.” It was said to be Wilson’s favorite.

Wilson continued to age while carving out a life for his family in the Missouri wilderness. On a return visit to Kentucky to visit relatives he came back with some peach seeds, from which he successfully grew trees.

Wilson developed a fondness for peach brandy.

More settlers started moving in, and his family extended as his children married and had children of their own. Some children and grandchildren died in infancy or as adolescents, which was all too common then. 

Wilson was getting very advanced in years, for that time especially, but he lived on. He outlived two of his adult sons, and another son moved away. Then his wife of many decades died.

John Wilson began making his own funeral arrangements. Nothing odd about that in itself. It was his instructions that were, shall we say, different.

He told his neighbors that they were to remove his entrails and bury them in the cemetery where his wife and other family members rested. 

He told them to pack his body cavity with salt and place him in the coffin he built himself. Then they were not to mourn, but throw a big party, with food and his kegs of peach brandy. 

Then they were to place fiddlers at the head of his funeral procession, sawing away on his favorite tune, “The Eighth of January.” 

The procession was to end at the cave where he and his family began their new life in the Missouri wilderness long ago. 

They were to place his coffin in an opening above and off to the right side of the cave entrance, where they were to store it with seven demijohns of peach brandy. 

Then they were to seal up the opening. In seven years they were to return, open up the tomb, put his petrified body on display, open the peach brandy and have another party in his memory.

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