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ROY DAVIS STAY OUT! A.W. Powell in Mcminnville

In 1952, an 18-year-old from Indiana made his way to Nashville to attend David Lipscomb College to become a minister. That college student, Roy Davis, would soon hear of a grand cave in McMinnville, TN and his life would be forever changed.

A novice caver at the time, Roy Davis, would eventually become a world-renowned expert on commercializing caves. But first, he would have to make it past the sign with big red letters on the cave door that read “ROY DAVIS STAY OUT! A.W. Powell.”

Beginning in 1952, Roy visited Higgenbotham Cave almost weekly. He never thought to ask permission or even inquire who owned the cave. Roy fell in love with exploring, discovering, and documenting the massive cave system until he came upon the sign in 1953 ordering him to “stay out.” Some would have given up at that point, but Roy decided to visit Mr. Powell and somehow change his mind.

Roy, accompanied by his good friend and fellow caver Dale Smith, knocked on Mr. Powell’s door and Roy began to plead his case. Mr. Powell, not knowing what a beautiful underground world his property hid, thought Roy with his frequent trips must be up to no good. Mr. Powell had never been very far into the cave and was interested in seeing what was further inside. He agreed to view Roy’s slides and was astonished at what an incredible cave he owned. He finally understood why Roy was making all those trips from Nashville and the two became lifelong friends.

It wasn’t long before Roy Davis would strike up a business arrangement with is new found friend and Cumberland Caverns would be opened to the public. Roy would open the cave on a “preservation by commercialization” mindset. What that means is, a small portion of the cave is opened to the world in order to protect the entity as a whole.

Historic - Cumberland Caverns
Historic – Cumberland Caverns

We welcome you to come and visit but we want to warn you first, you will fall in love.