Davis Nolan Underground: Ruskin Cave’s rich history dates back to 8,000 BC

Weekend Extra

DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) – Ruskin Cave in Dickson is on the grounds of “The Ruskin,” a 160-acre property surrounding the landscape of Yellow Creek. 

In modern times, The Ruskin has become a popular wedding venue, but the property and cave have a rich history that goes back as far as 8,000 BC.  

Former State Senator Doug Jackson and the Jackson Foundation now own and operate the cave. He told News 2 just how far back in time evidence of man’s influence in the area has been found. 

(Photo: WKRN)

“Not this cave, but a sister cave. I’ve got two hatchet heads,” Jackson explained. “And I took them to my Senate office in Nashville, and I called the state archaeologist. I said, ‘Would you come over and look at these? The Chickasaws used to live there. Did they make those?’ He said, ‘No these are pre-historic.’ And I said, ‘What does that mean?’ And he said these are 5,000 to 8,000 B.C.” 

Fast-forwarding to the 1800s, people utilized the cave, a spring and a creek that runs through the cave in several ways. 

“Pre-Civil War there was a big grist mill at the very mouth of the cave, and they built a lake,” Jackson explained. “They raised the water level up, and they built a flume that came out of the lake to the grist mill, and then the grist mill would grind their flour and they would farm the valley.”  

Inside of Ruskin Cave (Photo: WKRN)

In the late 1800s, a utopian socialist colony from Europe purchased the property and the cave. The “Ruskinite” socialist experiment ultimately did not work out, but during the time they were here, they were very industrious.  

“The Ruskinites built a cannery right up the mouth of the cave. And if you go on the internet, you will see pictures of their cannery and the Ruskinites working. So, they would bring their produce, and they would can their produce, and store it inside the cave,” Jackson explained. 

(Photo: Ruskin Cave)

In modern times, Ruskin Cave and The Ruskin property have become a popular place for weddings. 

There is even evidence of a small railway system that the Ruskinites used to transport their produce and ice back in the cave where it’s cooler. There is also a theory that the rail system was originally built by the Confederates during the Civil War to store ammunition in the cave.  

Regina Cathey is the events manager for The Ruskin. 

Man-made lake within the cave to feed water to the grist mill (Photo: Ruskin Cave)

“As you notice, when we walk into the cave here, you can feel a big change in the temperature from outside to inside. So, it cools off and everybody’s happy to have the cooler weather for summertime weddings,” Cathey said. “It’s a great dance floor. It’s a great area for catering to get right up in here. We allow food trucks to come in. We have weddings on the stage. Sometimes people decide to get married on this end of the cave so that this beautiful landscape is the backdrop.”  

“So, we have the luxury of having the natural air conditioning, as well as the huge space for weddings, and receptions, and parties,” added Cathey. 

(Photo: Ruskin Cave)

For more information on the cave and The Ruskin, click here.  https://ruskinvenues.com/ 

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