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Share Your Kelpius Cave Stories

by on February 9, 2013
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Jacquelin Brough and Del Conner

Recently Del Conner and Jacquelin Brough went to the Wissahickon entering at Rittenhouse Town to search out the site of “the cave of Kelpius” that Del and his childhood friend Bob Moore used to visit in 1960’s. Bob, being from an old Germantown Quaker family learned of and had told Del the story of Kelpius, the Hermit, about Hermits Lane, the Hermitage, the root cellar that was said to have been the cave of Kelpius, and the long gone chamber of perfection.

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Del Conner at Collapsed Cave

As young boys the two would take many, many trips to the Wissahickon and their favorite hideaway, the cave above Rittenhouse Town that they thought was the true cave of Kelpius. Not as many people visited the Wissahickon in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s as do today, and few people would be encountered in the woods when Bob, Del and their friends explored the valley.

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View From Inside Cave Looking Out

Living eight doors from each other on Erringer Place in lower west Germantown, on a snowy day in 1960 or ‘61, with school closed because of the storm, Bob and Del planned their first visit to the carve during a snow storm. With their backpacks loaded with peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, a soup pan, milk, chocolate mix, a spoon, with matches and some newspaper to start a fire, they headed off to their Kelpius cave. Walking down Wissahickon Avenue from Manheim Street, they entered the Wissahckon at Rittenhouse Town then walked up the path at the western end of the town. At the top of the hill if you bear right the path takes you to Blue Bell field off of Walnut Lane. Bob and Del would take the path less taken, the one to the left that started downhill to forbidden Drive. Not far down the path from the top of the hill above Rittenhouse Town, and to the right was the cave. About eight feet deep and maybe about ten feet wide, it was tall enough to stand up in the front part and was big enough for a couple of kids to comfortably sit in.

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Remnants of Cave

Bob and Del knew of the Root Cellar that was said to have been the cave of Kelpius, where he would go to seclude himself form his brethren for his meditation. Crossing Blue Stone Bridge over the creek and heading back down stream while climbing the hill, they had explored the area around the Henry Avenue Bridge and the Hermitage. Although their cave was close to the busy Rittenhouse Town over the ridge, Bob and Del thought that their cave which faced southeast, looking toward the Kelpius site on the other side of the Creek just above its hair-pin turn, was a more secluded spot, and the one used by the Hermit.

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It took ten year olds Bob and Del almost an hour walking through deep snow to get to the cave that day. With the heavy snow still falling, there was a unique quite and peacefulness at the cave that touched them as had no other visit. It was as though they had stepped out of the city into a wilderness lost in time.
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Soon after arriving and feeling the cold, the two immediately set to looking under the snow for kindling and wood to burn.  Having brought matches and newspaper but no kindling, their efforts at starting a small fire in the cave was unsuccessful.   With the last match gone and no fire, they eat their sandwiches, drank the cold milk and set off for home.
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Sometime in the past twenty years Fairmount Park is said to have deliberately collapsed the cave above Rittenhouse Town, and it is today a pile of broken rock. However, in exploring the site it is possible to see that there remains a very small entrance into what appears to be a possible underground chamber between layers of rock.Image

Share your Kelpius experiences with us.

Story Recorded by Jacquelin Brough, Edited by Del Conner

Photography by Jacquelin Brough

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One Comment
  1. I thought as a kid that Kelpius’s cave was across the creek and upstream a bit. I’m going to look for your site. What a mysterious character Kelpius was and is!

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