Weddings at Mammoth Cave

Did you know that weddings used to be held deep underground in Mammoth Cave?

The Kentucky Museum and WKU Department of Library Special Collections hold evidence of these weddings, including first-hand accounts of wedding planning and ceremony journeys. Additionally, the Museum holds this painting by Clement Reeves Edwards, painted in 1859:

Wedding at Mammoth Cave by Clement Reeves Edwards, c. 1859. Object No. 1979.2.2

After his wife died in 1857, painter and photographer Clement Reeves Edwards moved to Bowling Green from Cincinnati, Ohio.  While his portraits, of which the Kentucky Museum owns ten, and his photographs provided his main source of income, Edwards also produced a number of landscape scenes, including one of Jennings Creek (also in the Kentucky Museum’s collection).  This painting—dark, inky, and mysterious—may depict a wedding party gathered in what was called the “Bridal Chamber” along Mammoth Cave’s “Gothic Avenue.”  Nine weddings were known to have taken place in the chamber between 1851 and 1892.  The solemnity and grandeur of the setting would have proven a dramatic although unconventional backdrop for the exchange of vows.

– Dr. Guy Jordan, WKU Dept. of Art, Out of the Box: Object Lessons
Close-up detail of Bridal Altar formation and wedding participants.
Close-up detail of wedding observers.

Significantly, the Department of Library Special Collections holds the papers of the Helms-Lucas family, including written statements and a newspaper article about the double wedding in Mammoth Cave of Anna Moore to T. N. Moody and Jennie Lucas to J. W. Helm, November 12, 1879. Published in 1936, the Courier-Journal of Louisville interviewed Anna Moody (nee Moore), who returned to the site of her wedding after 57 years.

The bridal party consisting of 32 people left Bowling Green in 15 buggies, arriving at the cave at 4 p.m., where they dined and dressed for the wedding. They took the short route, entering the Bridal chamber at 8 o’clock where the ceremony was performed by Rev. James I. McCormack of Auburn, Ky.

The second day they took the long route and dinner was served the party at noon in the cave’s natural dining room, the food being carried down in baskets by their guides. The party returned to Bowling Green, the brides’ home, on November 14.

-Mrs. George Hobson, “The Bridal Chamber at the Mammoth Cave is Visited by One of Its First Brides,” 1936.

Though the Bridal chamber is no longer used for weddings, memories of its use remain in documents and Edwards’s painting.

Want to help preserve this painting? For $250, you can adopt the painting – and be recognized in the mask’s KenCat and exhibit labels. Gifts can be made in one-time or installment payments, as an individual or in groups. Your gift provides funding to care for our art collection, ensuring the painting receives critical conservation care and supplies to keep it preserved and on display in select exhibits.

To adopt the painting, please complete this form, using the Notes section to indicate “Object 1979.2.2”.

Have questions or wish to undertake a group adoption? Please email Tiffany Isselhardt, Development and Marketing Manager, at tiffany.isselhardt@wku.edu

Published by kentuckymuseumwku

The Kentucky Museum is located in the Kentucky Building on the campus of Western Kentucky University. The Museum houses several changing exhibits. There are a variety of partnerships, services, opportunities, workshops, camps and other outreach provided to the public each year.

%d