Robber's Cave


Useful Information

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska.
(40.77993486925674, -96.70770561046712)
Open: All year daily after appointment.
[2021]
Fee: Adults USD 14, Children (6-12) USD 7, Children (1-5) USD 3.
[2021]
Classification: SubterraneaCellar SpeleologyErosional Cave
Light: electric
Dimension: L=1,706m, T=12.7°C.
Guided tours: D=60min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Scott L. Underwood (1998): The History of Robber's Cave, NSS News, Volume 56, Number 6, June 1998. Worldpdf
Troy Taylor (2003): Robber's Cave Lincoln, Nebraska The Cave Conservationist, Volume 22, Number 2, September, 2003. Worldpdf
Address: Robber's Cave, Joel Green, 925 Robbers Cave Rd, Lincoln, NE, Tel: +1-402-975-0598. greenyj4@icloud.com
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1862 used as a shelter from winter and indian attacks by settlers.
1863 used as a winter shelter by members of Coxey's army.
1863 original entrance destroyed in a quarrying operation.
1864 used as a winter shelter by members of Coxey's army.
1869 Lincoln Brewery enlarged the existing cave and stored barrels of finished beer and beer-making ingredients.
1873-1876 beer cellars excavated by Jacob Andra.
1876 brewery was sold and later went out of business.
1876 Jesse James supposedly hid out here after a robbery.
1906 story about a treasure box found in the cave spread, cave opened to the public.
1920s concrete path constructed.
1970 closed to the public.
1986 opened to the public.
2000 closed and sealed up.
2016 reopened by the Blue Blood Brewing Co..
MAY-2019 Blue Blood Brewing Co. corrupt.
2020 added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Geology

The geology of Robber's Cave is as mysterious as imaginable. Some tell about a huge karst cave, others about a natural sandstone cave, and others about an artificial structure dug as a beer cellar. We guess the beer cellar was an extension of a small sandstone cave, probably dug by the local Pawnee Indians, who named this place Pahuk Bluff. They used the cave for spiritual practices like the initiation of young men, until they were relocated to reservations in the south by local settlers in 1858.

Description

Robber's Cave in Lincoln, Nebraska, has a rather central location in the middle of a big city. Located about four kilometers south of the center, its history is connected to the development of Lincoln. There was some kind of small cave in the sandstone which was used by the local Pawnee Indians, its unclear if it was a natural cave or probably a dugout. During the 1860s it was probably a stop on the underground railroad, which means it was a hiding place for slaves travelling north to escape slavery. It was also used as a winter time shelter for some years by local settlers and members of Coxey's army. There are also stories about quarrying, which destroyed the original entrance. However, all those stories are just legends and some of them seem to be contradictory. Then it was used by the Lincoln Brewery to store beer in the 1870s. They commissioned Jacob Andra, a Bavarian brewery worker, to enlarge the cave to its existing size. But the brewery was sold in 1876 and a few years later went out of business.

The abandoned brewery building above the cave became a brothel and was a popular meeting place for gamblers, outlaws and horse thieves. At this time it was supposedly used as a hideout by Jesse James and other outlaws, so it was later named Robber's Cave. From the main passage a short crawl leads into a huge chamber, named Robbers Roost because it is thought to be the place where Jesse James hid when he was in Lincoln. This seems rather logical, as this chamber is exceptional: it is dry and has a dry sandy floor, which makes it much more comfortable than the rest of the cave. There is also a fire pit with a chimney above. Nevertheless, the whole story seems to be untrue, Jesse James is said to have hid in the cave in 1876, when the brewery was still in full operation and the cellars not accessible for obvious reasons. The former brewery building was destroyed in 1885, the cave probably open.

There are various stories about miles of passages, including connections to the penitentiary and the State Hospital for the Insane. There is a story that one tunnel was used as an escape route by some prisoners. However, this is the rather common "Far Connection Legend", see SmileCave Legends. The correctness of those legends is disputable, and most likely this are urban legends - like the numerous ghost stories told about the cave. Stories about the sounds of indian drums are a good story for cave guides to amuse the cave visitors.

The cave was open freely for some time, later there seem to have been regular tours and electric light. Probably the year 1906 could be interpreted as the start of the tourist venue. In this year a story spread about a treasure box, which was found in the cave. This brought so many visitors that it became a tourist attraction. The cave was closed and reopened various times, it seems it was not very profitable in the long run. Most inhabitants of Lincoln know about the cave and the legends until today, but it is not possible to get hard facts about the cave. Even the articles published by the NSS seem to retell urban legends. According to some sources the cave was filled in some years ago. Other people on the net, so-called urban explorers, swear they have seen the cave recently and posted pictures in their forum. Some years ago the property was for sale, including the cave and a part of the park for US$ 150,000.

Today the cave is located in a small park, in the shadow of the huge storage silos of the AGP Grain Co-Op, behind the parking lot of a Subway and an adult store. Brian Podwinski, owner of Blue Blood Brewing Co., purchased the ground for his brewery in 2015. He built a restaurant and bar and reopened the cave as a highlight for his guests in 2016. Unfortunately the venue went bankrupt in 2019, but the cave is still open to the public. The tours are organized and guided by the author Joel Green. There are no open hours, it is necessary to book at least a few days in advance, but that has become quite normal since Covid 19.