About The Great Saltpetre Cave
First known as The Great Cave, the first documented discovery of the 3,588-foot cave was in 1789 by John Baker, an early settler of Rockcastle County. One of the caves first owners, James Kincaid, began mining for saltpeter in 1802. He produced 1,000 pounds of saltpeter a week, using slave labor. He lost the property to his debtors, and the land was sold at a sheriffs auction for $400..
In 1804 the 1,000-acre land was purchased by Dr. Samuel Brown of Lexington, who made improvements to the mining operation. He sent a paper on the manufacture of saltpeter and gunpowder to President Thomas Jefferson, and production soared to over 1,000 pounds a day. Mining continued after the cave changed ownership, employing as many as 70 workers during the War of 1812. After the war ended, the bottom dropped out of the saltpeter market and large-scale mining ended. The cave was said to be used briefly during the Civil War as a hospital for soldiers...Read more about the history of the cave.