Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

June 17, 2012







Why was its existence kept a secret from me for so many years?  My mother used to have picnics there when she was a teenager.  My father hunted in and around this unique piece of real estate when he was young.  When in junior high, I played baseball against a team from Neuville.  Yet, no one ever told me about the cave.  I found out about its existence about twenty five years ago by accident.

Since locating the cave I have taken my young grandchildren exploring several times and they had a blast playing in it.  This well-kept secret is located ten miles north of San Augustine off Highway 96.  A left turn on to county road 1012 for about a mile will get you in the vicinity.  It is safer to go in a four-wheel drive vehicle as the deep sand can snare a sedan.  One has to walk approximately twenty-five yards south on an old logging trail  to the cave, and it can still be missed because the road goes over the cave which is, in reality, a long tunnel.  Once located it is a rather steep drop to the cave entrance which must be negotiated with care.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s the Neuville (Gunnels) Cave  became a place for teens and young grown-ups to visit.  Rumor is that Sam Houston hid in the cave from Indians, and that Davy Crockett spent the night there on several occasions.  It is also said that the Declaration of Independence was drafted in this cave, and that the first sermon ever preached in Texas was done so directly in front of it.  Immediately over the cave is a large tree, it is said, under which General Robert E. Lee spent one night on his return from the Mexican war.  A rusty and blood-stained knife was found in the cave, and with this knife in this cave Sam Houston cut Santa Anna’s throat.  This was after Santa Anna had escaped from the field and was captured in this cave.

No one knows if any of these stories is real, but at least it makes for a good discussion.  At least, we know that the cave has been in existence for a very long time.  The cave is located on private property south of what once was the old Gunnels farm house.  The cave is a unique attraction for East Texas.

In 1935 the Center Chamber of Commerce was working for the designation of a State Park for Shelby county.  The Chamber wanted to include the Neuville cave as a state park.  However, the cave was bypassed as a state park and nothing more became of the proposal.

The town of Neuville was founded during the latter part of the 1800s, and was named for the Stephen de Neuville family, who settled in the area in the 1840s. A post office was opened in 1901 with  William J. Neuville as postmaster.  The Neuville community had a hotel, several stores, a large lumber operation, and a population of 450 by 1914.  By 1925 its population had declined to 300, and was reported at this level through the mid 1940s.  In 1938 the community had two schools, one for seventy-five white children, and one for thirty-five black children.

After World War II Neuville began to decline as much of the timber in the area had been cut over.  By 1949 the population was estimated at 100.  The local school district was consolidated with other districts by 1955, and the post office was closed in the 1960s.*

Back to the cave.  It is approximately 270 feet long and has two parts. One part tunnels through a hill and opens into an immense sink-hole covering an area of at least two acres, and an average depth of forty feet. In this area several springs have their origin and the small stream goes through the main tunnel of the cave and out the west opening.

The cave is actually one long room, approximately 20X40 feet.  The roof of the whole cave is arched, and the hard sand and clay deposits offer a solid wall that appears to be safe from cave-ins.  It is dark enough to warrant having a flashlight handy when wading through the shallow water.   It is truly an amazing thing to see right in the middle of the sand hills.

On our last trip to the cave our daughter had a close encounter with a bat  whose nap she interrupted.  In addition our vehicle got stuck in the shifting sands.  Out of nowhere a vehicle appeared on the road which we flagged down.  The driver happened to have one of those new “car telephones” and called for help to get us out.

I have been told that the cave is still private property and should not be entered without expressed permission.  I am still amazed that I never heard about this unusual cave when I was younger and more agile.  Perhaps some day the state will make a recognized park of it.  It is richly deserved.

*  Cecil Harper, Jr. – “Neuville, TX” –  Handbook of Texas Online


Outside the Cave


inside cave showing a bat on the ceiling


my daughter with grand kids playing inside the cave


About the Author

Neal Murphy resides in his birthplace, San Augustine, Texas, with his wife Clara. He has two children, Kay Fatheree, a pastor’s wife now living in Abilene, Texas, and Douglas Murphy, a police officer in North Carolina, and has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Neal earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master’s degree in insurance from the Insurance Institute of America. He also attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he studied religion courses. He is a deacon at a Baptist Church, has taught Sunday school classes, and directed church choirs for many years. He began his writing in 2005, and many of his short stories about his life growing up in a small Texas town have been published in Reminisce Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, Looking Back Magazine, and the Town Square Magazine. He had a story included in Memories of Mother, a book published by Xulon Press. Another story was published in the book Dear Old Golden School Days published by the DRG Publishing Group. He published a book, From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xulon Press in 2006. His second book entitled Those Were the Days was published by Xlibris Inc. in 2007. In 2008 he published another book, The Psalms—From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xlibris Inc. He is a founding member of the Deep East Texas Literary Guild of San Augustine, Texas, founded in 2009. He has weekly stories in the San Augustine Tribune and the Toledo Chronicle, an online newspaper. He has a monthly story in the Shelby County Today online newspaper.


1 Comment »

  1. Camping is one of the most appealing outdoor activity, it would be more perfect with family members. A fascinating climax, seems like you had a great time.

    Comment by Jessica @ Mobile Toilet Hire — June 22, 2012 @ 2:36 am | Reply

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