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Foster, W.T. - Root Cellar

Blakely Township

Geary County

This arched cave that was recently bulldozed was located on a piece of property a few miles northwest of Skiddy, KS. It was built mostly underground into a slight slope behind a house that is also long since collapsed and been cleared away. The arch cave was photographed in 1988 and was already looked like it was in rough shape. Its entrance was covered by a wood frame structure. It apparently opens to the south into the back of a house.

Caves, Root Cellars, Etc. - Remembrances of Lloyd O. Johnson - Riley, KS

Prior to the early 1940's there was very little electricity in the rural areas. Therefore, there was little or no cooling for storing milk, butter, meats, vegetables, eggs and etc.
Therefore, most farmsteads had either a cave or root cellar or some lucky ones had a spring house which was a laid up stone building over a spring that ran cool water through the building to keep it cool. Others had a hand dug well that was 6 or 8 feet across and as deep as to be in the water. Then it was layed up with rock and covered with concrete. There was a cover that could be removed to lower milk, butter, etc. on a rope to keep it cool in the 100 plus degree days of summer in Kansas.
The cave we had was on the farm south of Junction City in the Hardscrabble area about three miles north of Skiddy. We lived here from about 1942 to 1950. It was just V4 mile from the school so we walked to school. There was no electricity in the school so we had a hand pump well for water, a wood or coal stove for heat, and kerosene lamps for light. There was no bathroom but an outdoor toilet to the northwest comer of the property for the boys and an outdoor toilet to the northeast comer for the girls. In the winter some of the older boys had the job of keeping the fire going in the stove, water in the bucket and etc.
Our cave at the house was used to store canned vegetables and also potatoes and onions as well as keeping it cool and it items were kept from freezing. In the fall when we butchered hogs we would process everything but the squeal! The intestines were cleaned, scraped, turned inside out and cleaned and scraped again. Meat was then ground, the sausage made and stuffed in the casings. Lard was rendered. Meat was fried down and layered in crocks. The lard was poured over the meat in the crock and that sealed the meat keeping out the air so it didn't spoil. Meat was sometimes canned and stored in the cave.
As you can see in the pictures, the rock was exposed and falling in. When we lived there the rocks were covered with about two feet of dirt to hold it together and insulate the cave. Of course, my story with the cave is when it came fall of the year we would get new shoes for school and winter. All summer we went bare foot. Well, on a Saturday afternoon we needed to haul out of the cave the eggs, cream and whatever we were going to trade for groceries and feed for the chickens.
On my way down the cave steps with a pitcher of milk, my shoes got caught and I fell with the pitcher of milk, which then broke. When I fell I cut my hand on the broken pitcher and in 2013 I still have the scar to prove it.