Some Historical Information On Milk Cave
Lewiston, New York
By Scott A. Ensminger
In my search for information on Milk Cave I have found that very little information is available. The cave is briefly mentioned in a 1857 guidebook to Niagara Falls being described as an opening 10 feet high, 20 feet wide, and having a stream flowing from it. When it rains, the stream is kind of foamy. The cave is also known as Buttermilk Cave.
From the Niagara Gazette -- A Peep Into The Past, December 5, 1952. On December 5, 1937, the Outdoor Club (presumably of Niagara Falls) observed its first anniversary with a hike to the Lewiston bridge in which some members explored the famous Milky Caves.
From an article entitled Caves in Niagara’s Gorge Named for Milky Water in the the Niagara Gazette, December 20, 1952. George Cooley and Isabel Cornell supplied the following information to Virginia Miller.
The main one (cave), the said, is large enough that a 17-year-old boy can stand at the mouth. As he went back into the cave, which extends quite a ways he would have to stoop. They mentioned two caves. When it rains, a lot of water comes from the caves and is kind of foamy, which indicates, according to Engineer Cooley, that it is surface water. Maybe that is how they got they got their name.
The following is from an October 31, 1956 article in the Niagara Gazette entitled Buried Treasure Site, Old Railroad Cut, Milk Cave Are Explored at Lewiston. The article was written by Clarence O. Lewis, Niagara County Historian.
Milk Cave, as it is called, was quite a distance further up the river but we wanted to see it. Upon arriving at the spot where the rocky, almost perpendicular descent to the cave began, one look was enough for me. A single false step and a person would go rolling down the rocks into the river. Mr. McCarthy, however, guided and assisted by Mr. Barney Waldran, who despite his 77 years, could still classify as an Alpine Guide, went down to the cave.
Strangely enough even Mr. Waldran’s two dogs would not follow him down, but stood at the top whining until their master returned. The cave as they described it to me, has a bout a 10-foot opening and enlarges to about 32 feet in width, with a height of possibly 12 feet. It continues thus for 64 feet and then decreases to an opening of some three or four feet, into another cave similar to the first except that it may be considerably longer. Having no light they did not enter this second cave. On reaching the top again, Mr. McCarthy breathed a sigh of relief and said, Never again. He remarked that I had not better not give its exact location, as it is a very dangerous place to visit.
Mr. Waldran told us some years ago a woman in Lewiston was shot by a man and he hid successfully in this cave for several weeks. Smoke stains on the ceiling definitely indicate that the cave had been occupied at some time, possibly long before the Lewiston criminal hid there. By the way, he was captured in the cave and served 15 years in Auburn.
Other accounts of the cave tell of several lateral passages off of the main opening These passages were not high enough for a man to stand in and reportedly went as far as 1,500 to 2,000 feet to the east. One account mentions that the bulk of the cave was mainly small keyhole shaped passages in which an occasional railroad spike or golf ball would be found.
Because the entrance to Milk Cave was filled with concrete during the construction of the Robert Moses Parkway in 1962, the true extent of the cave system may never be known.
The following photos of Milk Cave are from the files of the New York Power Authority Photo Lab located in Lewiston, New York. The sixteen photos are dated March 29, 1961 and are accredited to A. J. Langto Photo. I believe these photos were taken prior to this date because photo number 57 shows leaves on the trees. The date may be when the photos were cataloged.
Several of the photos have scratches or overexposed areas. I used a photo editing program to remove some of the scratches and enhance the overall quality of the photos. Click on a photo to enlarge it.
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