In the mid 1880's, a Coloradan miner by the name of Charles Griffee purchased land adjacent to the Smoky Hill river and just west of the old Fort Harker in Ellsworth county. With trees being scarce along the open prairie during this time, pioneers had to be resourceful. A practice not uncommon was to use dugouts along rivers and bluffs for shelter and housing. Griffee, using his pickaxe and mining skills hollowed out 3 rooms(roughly 12' square with 10' arched ceilings) in his Dakota Sandstone bluffs as a living quarter. Offering cool air and fresh spring water, I'd guess this was pretty good living to a person settling on the prairie.
For reasons yet unknown, Charles Griffee sold his land to the Faris Brothers(Winfield and William) in 1893. Their brothers Henry and Irwin were already established along the Smoky Hill Trail with a hunting ranch on the Clear Creek crossing.
The caves have served as a home, smithy, refrigerator and schoolhouse...
Members of the Faris family in front of the caves
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Hidden in dense vegetation and covered with inscriptions
Visiting the Faris Caves really opened my mind to a very fascinating history of Ellsworth county. Stories of gunslingers, murderers, gambling, prostitution, lawlessness and indian attacks are all things that made Ellsworth "The Wickedest Cattletown in Kansas"! If it strikes you fancy, check it out!