Sites and Activities

Horsethief Cave

By Camp Bear Creek July 12, 2013

Almost every camper who visits Camp Bear Creek takes the hike out past P.J. meadow, past the labyrinth, through Cedar Point, and over the Swinging Bridge to Horsethief Cave.  It’s a cave filled with legends and stories that are told and shared each time the cave is visited.  Many groups have Bible studies in the cave or sing worship songs.  Some groups even camp out and spend the night inside, enjoying the refreshingly cool air within—a stark contrast to the summer’s heat.

The legend of Horsethief Cave is different each time you hear the story told, but here is the general story: Once, quite a long time ago (although no one knows exactly when), Horsethief Cave wasn’t a cave.  It was a tunnel that ran between Jones and Jackson Counties.  Horse thieves would travel at night to various farms throughout Jones County, gathering the horses while everyone was asleep and making their way to the tunnel before the sun began to rise.  As farmers awoke to find their barns and fields empty and the horses gone, the thieves would be making their way through the tunnel to Jackson County, escaping detection and avoiding the harsh punishment they would have received by the Jones County Sheriff.  Once in Jackson County, the thieves would sell the horses to unsuspecting farmers who knew nothing about the stolen horses.

Though the thieves continued escaping through the tunnel without ever getting caught for quite some time, the sheriff in Jones County wasn’t about to let the crime continue.  One night, he followed the thieves to the tunnel and watched as they slipped away at sunrise.  The following evening, he waited for the horse thieves to leave, and entered the tunnel alone.  He strung dynamite all through the tunnel, then gathered his best deputies and some nearby townspeople to wait.  When the horse thieves returned, the sheriff and his men stepped out of their hiding places and challenged the thieves to surrender.

Of course, the thieves weren’t about to give up without a fight.  They began shooting.  Some hid in caverns that snaked through the tunnel’s ceiling and fired down at the sheriff through small openings.  Others hid within the tunnel’s interior, using the rocks as shields.  After some time, the sheriff realized that he and his men were outnumbered.  They were never going to defeat the thieves this way.  So the sheriff made the decision to blow the dynamite.  The tunnel collapsed.  The thieves and horses alike were crushed within.

There were no more horse thieves in Jones County after that day.  If you travel to the cave now, you can see some of the remains of the battle—a calcified hand within a cavern above the cave, bullet holes that mark the exterior, and calcified horse bones at the very back of the cave.  Every time campers visit Horsethief Cave, the story is retold, and the legend grows.  It’s a Camp Bear Creek tradition and a favorite site for many.  Some say that all the money the horse thieves earned while selling the stolen horses was inside the tunnel when it collapsed.  As of yet, the treasure has not been uncovered.  Who knows…maybe you could be the one to find it on your next trip to Horsethief Cave!