Mark Twain Cave complex changes hands

Known simply as "Hannibal Cave" when this photo was taken about 1880, Mark Twain Cave hardly resembles the major tourist attraction it is today. Pictured here is the original cave entrance. The present entrance was opened up in the 1890s. The Mark Twain Cave Complex has been owned for nearly a century by the Cameron-Coleberd family, and change hands to Todd and Austin Curry, who have run the restaurant at the complex since 2015.
Posted: Apr. 3, 2020 5:00 pm

HANNIBAL | The Mark Twain Cave complex, a well-known tourist attraction, is now under new ownership.

Todd and Austin Curry, of Quincy, Ill., have bought the complex, which also includes Cameron Cave, a campground, winery, restaurant and shops.

“I've lived in the area all my life and having run the restaurant at the cave these past five years, I've gained a deeper appreciation for this historical site,” Todd Curry said.

The Mark Twain Cave, named for the author who immortalized it, was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1972. Visitors from around the world have toured the cave, and in 2019 the boyhood signature of former Hannibal resident and iconic author Samuel Clemens was discovered in an unlit passageway. Clemens published “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” under his pen name, Mark Twain.

The complex had been owned for nearly a century by the Cameron-Coleberd family.

“It is bittersweet, because the cave has been in my late husband's family since 1923, but there were no younger family members to carry on the management tradition,” Linda Coleberd said. “The Currys have been here since 2015 running the on-site restaurant, and I'm confident they will be careful and thoughtful stewards of this important landmark. We were determined that the new owner would be someone to preserve the legacy.”

The cave, discovered in 1819, gained notoriety in 1876 when Clemens released his book about the adventures of Tom Sawyer under his pen name.

Judge E.T. Cameron purchased the cave property in 1923. He and his wife, Mary, had five children: one son, Archie, and four daughters, Helen, Margaret, Amy and Sophie. E.T. and Archie ran the cave through times of war, depression and flooding.

After Archie's death in 1974, nephew Robert Bogart, a retired chemist, took over management. He was the son of Jim and Sophie Coleberd Bogart. Upon Robert Bogart's death in 1999, the only remaining family members who could take over were the two sons of Robert and Margaret Cameron Coleberd: Robert Coleberd (1932-2018) and James Coleberd (1937-2008). The brothers managed the cave until their deaths when their wives, Linda and Barbara, took over.

“Austin and I are eager to continue the good work of the Camerons and Coleberds,” Todd Curry said. “Linda has earned her retirement, but we are grateful to add that she will stay on in an advisory capacity during a transition period.”

Coleberd and Curry will host a celebration of the event with details forthcoming.

Mark Twain Cave has been open to the public for 200 years. The site is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The cave contains 260 passageways, spanning three miles. It is Missouri's oldest show cave. The temperature inside remains a steady 52 degrees year-round.

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