Take Shelter

Jones, B. - Root Cellar

Madison Township

Riley County

An arched cave once stood on this property about a half a mile south of Riley on what is now part of the Fort Riley reservation. It would have been underneath a wooden building the owners called the cave house. The house and the cave house were moved to Riley in the 60's after the fort had decided to expand. The owners remembrance are below. The site says B. Jones on the 1881 plat map but the most recent owners say that the Sours and Thomas Quantic were the previous owners of the property before the Walters family lived there. They were the last to occupy the property before Fort Riley claimed it as part of the 1960's expansion of the fort. It was supposedly quite large, approximately 18'(L)x10'(W)x7'(H) and opened out to the west.


The cave house was just north of the sidewalk going to the back door of the porch. It was a white building built over steps to a cave with some storage area to the east of the steps.
Mom and Dad had a wind charger mounted on top of the cave house when they first moved to the farm on 1943. It had a generator and it ran through a storage battery, and then the battery ran the radio. At one time Myrta and Glenn had one electric light that was hooked up to the battery also, even though we had electricity to the house.
Glenn bought a new green electric separator, which was placed inside the cave house door. The cave house was wired for electricity and there was a light upstairs and down in the cave.
Our Grandpa Jennings made sturdy bins for potatoes and onions and he made several shelves above the bins in the cellar for canned goods storage. The support posts in the middle of the bins were about 4-5” solid posts.
We used the south end of the shelves and bins more than the north end. The north end of the cave was suspect where there wasn't much light and there was more likely to be water on the floor. The cave had a cement floor, ceiling, and walls - there were some rough places in the cement on the walls, but the floor was pretty smooth.
If there was a bad storm with wind and hail, we went to the cave house. There was an unprotected air hole (a pipe) at the north end of the cave, so if it rained hard, water accumulated in the cave. Sometimes we had to walk in water but we could always get into the potato bins to get out of the water.
Sometimes our play hospital was in the cave house. Even though the shelves had some canned goods on them, we pushed them to the back. The patients lay on the shelves. Our shots (locust thorns) and bottles of medicine were stored in a narrow, tall chimney cabinet that had been our great grandmother's. There were some cute small antique bottles we used for medicine.
At other times, the cave house was our store and we had a storekeeper. We had our mother open cans on the bottom, so they looked like full cans. We saved cereal boxes, baking powder cans, and baking soda boxes. It was fun!
Mother purchased bushel baskets of fruit from Sikes Store in Leonardville, She'd buy a bushel of peaches, pears, or apples; half-bushels of purple plums and apricots. She kept them in the cave house where it was cool. We'd go to the cave and help ourselves to the fresh fruit. Sometimes we got diarrhea from too many plums or apricots.

Written by Glenna Walter Harrison

Audio: Excerpt from interview with Glenna Walter Harrison - 2013