Cliff over Counterfeiters’ Cave at Ha Ha Tonka
The wild scenery at Ha Ha Tonka was appreciated by our ancestors. The walls of the collapsed cavern defied development so they look pretty much today like they did a hundred years ago. The story is (and it’s on most websites about Ha Ha Tonka) that a ring of counterfeiters operated out of this region in the 1830s. We don’t know if they used the cave or not but the name has been affixed to this cave, which is currently off limits at Ha Ha Tonka State Park.
A Chicago Sunday Tribune, April 22, 1956, article about Ha Ha Tonka, “Rainbow Trout Brought a Castle to the Ozark Hills,” describes a driving getaway for Chicago readers at the then-relatively-new Lake of the Ozarks. About Counterfeiters’ Cave, writer Marge Lyon gives a few more details: “There a band of men had turned out excellent half dollars, quarters, and dimes until tracked down by one Augustus Jones, deputy sheriff, in 1834.”
In 1956, it cost a dollar to drive to the ruins and “see stones put together as neatly as books in a case, age-old wonders of nature that have remained unchanged despite dams, castles, hard roads, and all other human innovations that have been brought to this area.”
This is a real photo postcard, by Jas. Bruin, Linn Creek, Mo., postmarked Linn Creek, 1910. It was mailed to Georgia Heaton, Joplin, MO. The penciled writing on the correspondence side of the card is too light to read.
BTW – before the name Ha Ha Tonka, this area was called Gunter Spring, for John Gunter, an earlier landowner from Alabama. More on that later!
My family moved to Camdenton from Versailles, MO in December 1931. I have been in Counterfeiters’ cave several times.
Georgia Heaton is my paternal grandmother.