Howell Cave (88.28)

Howell Cave, as seen from the towpath

Howell Cave, as seen from the towpath

Howell Cave is a large, but shallow, opening in the limestone cliff just upstream from McMahons Mill.  It’s a pretty easy find because the stream exiting from the opening is easily spotted due to the fact that the canal doesn’t resume for another .62 miles.  The area between the mill and Lock 41 is made up of a long line of cliffs and is actually an extension of the Big Slackwater section of the C&O.

Inside of the "cave"

Inside of the “cave”

The cave is relatively open and doesn’t contain much of a roof, unlike Dam 4 Cave and some of the others in the vicinity of Snyders Landing.  It’s a beautiful place, except for the usual graffiti and the fact that it is apparently regularly used by campers.  There is a relatively large pile of campfire embers at the base of a faux chimney of sorts, and it’s a shame that this tribute to the power of water can’t be kept in more of a pristine condition.

Stream in Howell Cave

Stream in Howell Cave

Perhaps the most impressive feature in the cave is a fairly large stream that emerges from a hole on the lower left side.  According to Thomas Hahn, it is believed that this is the same stream that enters into a sinkhole approximately 700 yards to the north.  If so, the reappearance is brief, as the water spills over a small fall before running under the towpath and emerging into the Potomac.  Today, the river was running high, and the stream actually entered below river level and created a “bubbling sensation” at the surface.

Stream exiting Howell Cave

Stream exiting Howell Cave

Be Sociable, Share!

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jackie Karban on August 9, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Does anyone know for whom Howell Cave is named? And possibly when it was named? My maternal grandmother’s mother was the daughter of a man named Howell, who was related to the person for whom the cave was named. Supposedly he was 18 when he married my great-grandmother’s mother in 1875 and died from a job-related accident circa 1880. My great-grandmother was born in Hyndman, PA in 1877.

    The family is not certain that the couple was ever married. Things ended poorly with my great-great grandmother moving with her family to Kansas shortly after my great-grandmother was born. My great-great grandmother married a man named Smith who raised my great-grandmother as his own. Four generations later and we are still trying to solve the mystery.

    Any help or other leads will be greatly appreciated.

    Jackie Gosset Karban–Eileen Boyer Gosset–LaReta Sill Boyer–Ruth Smith (HOWELL) Sill

    Reply

    • Posted by LevelWalker on August 10, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      My two best sources (Thomas Hahn’s Towpath Guide and Mike High’s The C&O Canal Companion) say nothing about the origin of the name. I have one more possibility. I will email you if I can get you a lead.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Mary-Ellen Rodgers on February 2, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Howell Cave was named after the Howell family who have owned the property since 1884. William Howell is the current owner of the property which was passed down to him by his parents, Mr and Mrs Joseph Howell. We’re told Joseph was one of many children, who purchased the property from the estate of his parents.My understanding is the property where the cave’s located belonged to the Howell family until sometime in the ’50s when the National Park Service purchased the land adjacent to the Potomac River and C&O Canal. This area was originally called Cedar Grove, and McMahon’s Mill was Cedar Grove Mill for most of it’s time in service. The property is currently being utilized as a Equine Facility. William Howell still lives in the Downsville area and is thought to be the last of the original Howell family.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary-Ellen Rodgers on February 2, 2016 at 12:38 am

      As a side note, the stream exiting from the cave stems from a natural spring on the Howell property at the other end of the cave. This can be seen from Dellinger Road. Additionally, when the Potomac River floods, the river back-flows thru the cave and empties into the fields surrounding the Dellinger Road opening and causes Dellinger Road to become flooded.

      Reply

    • Posted by LevelWalker on February 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      Awesome! I’m going to look back through older comments and try to contact Jackie. She may find this very useful. Even if she doesn’t, I’ll be sure to share this with any canal friends who are interested. Thank you, Mary-Ellen.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Jackie Karban on February 4, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Mary Ellen, thank you so very much for the information! I am thrilled to learn these names. I would love to correspond further with you personally. Am interested to learn how you knew all this. Perhaps Tom (last entry above) could arrange an exchange of email addresses. I have found a William J. Howell listed in Hagerstown. Checking ancestry.com, I believe his father was Joseph Roger Howell (whose father was Lee Hampton Howell, whose father was also named Joseph Roger Howell, who descended from James W. Howell). Per census reports only I had a found a possible ancestor in the family of Charles Grandison Howell who, it turns out, was the eldest brother of the first Joseph Roger Howell. Although I still do not know WHICH Howell fathered my great-grandmother, I feel confident now that I am looking at the right family. Some of the family trees take this family back to Wales and show them arriving in America in late 1600’s or early 1700’s. Even though the property was not purchased by the current Howell family until 1884, I believe the cave already bore the Howell name, because my great-great grandmother, who “married” into the family in 1875 and left her husband to go to Kansas in 1877, knew about it. I believe Charles Grandison Howell died not too awfully long after the 1880 census. His wife and two of his sons were in California by 1900, and probably by 1890. Many heartfelt thanks to Mary Ellen for the information. And to Tom–thank you so much for your wonderful website, without which the family of Ruth LeNora Howell/Smith would still be in the dark, groping their way in search of their ancestors!

    Reply

  4. Posted by LevelWalker on February 4, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    Jackie,

    That sounds like a plan. If your up for it, I can send her your email address. She did leave an interesting comment! The information pertaining to the stream and flooding is really good too.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Jackie Karban on February 5, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Yes, please do. She is very knowledgeable; I was quite impressed and interested in everything she had to say. Sounds like she may be a long-time resident.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary-Ellen Rodgers on July 24, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      My husband and myself are current residents of Cedar Grove Farm which was owned by William Joseph Howell until his recent passing. I am only familiar with one living relative to this Howell family who still resides in the area. You’re welcome to contact me at cedargroveequine@yahoo.com.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>