From South Bloomingville on State Route # 56 at Ash Cave State Park. The Inn was once owned by the Iles Family. It was bought by the State of Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They used it to store picnic tables in until they tore it down completely.
The horseshoe-shaped cave is massive; measuring 700 feet from end to end, 100 feet deep from the rear cave wall to its front edge with the rim rising 90 feet high. A small tributary of the East Fork of Queer Creek cascades over the rim into a small plunge pool below.
Ash Cave is named after the huge pile of ashes found under the shelter by early settlers. The largest pile was recorded as being 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep. The source of the ashes is unknown but is believed to be from Indian campfires built up over hundreds of years. One other belief is that the Indians were smelting silver or lead from the rocks. Still another theory claims that saltpeter was made in the cave. No matter the source, several thousand bushels of ashes were found.
It is obvious the cave was used for shelter by early inhabitants. The recess shelter also served as a workshop for Indians where maidens ground corn and prepared meals, and where braves fashioned arrow and spear points and skinned and dressed game. The cave provided a resting place for travelers along the main Indian trail which followed the valleys of Queer and Salt creeks. This trail connected the Shawnee villages and the Kanawha River region of West Virginia with their villages along the Scioto River at Chillicothe. The trail was used after the start of the frontier wars to march prisoners captured along the Ohio River to the Indian towns on the upper Scioto River. The old Indian trail is now State Route 56.
More recent uses of Ash Cave were for camp and township meetings. Pulpit Rock, the largest slump block at the caves entrance served as the pulpit for Sunday worship service until a local church could be built. The cave lends itself well for large gatherings due to its enormous size and incredible acoustic qualities. In fact, two spots under the recess have the qualities
of a whispering gallery.
As you enter the recess of the cave, look for the huge rock formation on the opposite side of the creek. This is known as Pulpit Rock and was once used as a "preaching pulpit" for ministers of area churches having services in the cave.
Other little known facts are that there were burials found at Ash Cave. In 1876 Ebenezer Baldwin Andrews excavated the cave and along the back wall of the cave found one human burial in a sitting position in the sand with a bark covering. Evidence of one Indian burial was the markings on one large stone by the sunray symbol. Locals told of finding three to four bodies buried in the cave. In 1896 Smithsonian and Ohio University spent two days excavating the cave. Sacks of seeds , gourd vessels, corncobs, arrow shafts, broken pottery, sandals and bones were also found throughout the cave. Also in 1928 Robert Goslin spent time excavating in the cave and found one burial of an infant. Ash Cave is the only cave in the Hocking Hills area that revealed pottery and evidence from the time of the Hopewell culture.
Though the rock has been defaced from tourists carving their names there is still evidence of the groove worn in the large rock used for grinding of grain. The grain fell along the groove into baskets setting below.
On your next visit to Ash Cave look for the grinding stone and the burial stone.