Cave-In-Rock, IL


Cave-In-Rock is a village located in Hardin County, Illinois. Its principal feature is a 55-foot-wide cave on the Ohio River. Cave-in-Rock was originally a stronghold for outlaws including the bandit Logan Belt, Philip Alston the Counterfeiter, the pirate Samuel Mason, and the Sturdivant Gang.

As of the 2000 census, the village had a total population of 346.

The Cave

Cave-in-Rock's primary feature is a striking 55-foot-wide cave, formed by water. The first European to come across it was M. de Lery of France, who found it in 1739 and called it "caverne dans Le Roc".


Samuel Mason, a former militia captain and judge, came across the cave in 1797 and used it . He converted it into a tavern called Cave-in-Rock and used it as a base for his pirating operation, the Mason Gang. His cohorts would befriend unwary travelers upstream and then use various means to entice or force riverboats into the cave, where they would generally be robbed and killed. This practice, using this actual cave as a backdrop, was depicted in a scene in the movie How the West Was Won. It was also used in the Walt Disney movie "Davey Crockett and the River Pirates".

The Harpe Brothers also lodged at Cave-in-Rock during their murder spree in 1799, but were asked to leave by the Mason Gang after an incident involving a victim tied to a horse and driven off the cliff above the cave.

A band called the Sturdevant Gang lodged in the Sturdevant Forth, not far from the cave, in the early 1790's through the 1800's, and engaged in river piracy and counterfeiting, housing the counterfeiter Philip Alston the elusive coiner John Duff (Duff the Counterfeiter).

By the 1830's a steady flow of people westward eventually drove the bandits out and the cave and town became a refuge for travelers on their way west.


Cave-In-Rock is located at 37°28'12" North, 88°9'59" West (37.470050, -88.166297).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.1 km2 (0.4 mi2). 1.0 km2 (0.4 mi2) of it is land and 0.1 km2 (0.04 mi2) of it is water. The total area is 7.14% water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 346 people, 165 households, and 96 families residing in the village. The population density was 334.0/km2 (874.6/mi2). There were 201 housing units at an average density of 194.0/km2 (508.1/mi2). The racial makeup of the village was 98.27% White, 0.00% African American, 0.00% Native American, 0.00% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 1.16% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. 2.02% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 165 households out of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.8% were non-families. 41.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 28.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the village the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 24.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 81.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.8 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $20,694, and the median income for a family was $28,393. Males had a median income of $35,833 versus $18,125 for females. The per capita income for the village was $12,050. 28.6% of the population and 20.5% of families were below the poverty line. 43.8% of those under the age of 18 and 24.1% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

See also

  • List of cities and towns along the Ohio River


  • Otto A. Rothert, The Outlaws of Cave-In-Rock, Otto A. Rothert, Cleveland 1924; rpt. 1996 ISBN 0809320347
  • Illinois State history and information on Cave-in-Rock
  • Duff and Alston in Cave-in-Rock
  • Samuel Mason biography
  • The Harpe Brothers