Inside “The Mushroom Mines” of Carter County (18 photos)


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It was dark as midnight as we passed through Olive Hill at 6 p.m. on November 20, 2019 heading toward a place which holds special rank in local memories and history, commonly known as “The Mushroom Mines.”

Kyle Morgan relied upon a lifetime of memories, including many misadventures with friends, to serve as the evening’s tour guide.

“It’s easy to get turned around in there,” he said, during a journey which included Morgan preceding stories with, “You can’t print this, but …”

His knowledge of the former limestone mine which is better known for a time when mushrooms were commercially cultivated quickly became evident as he guided the group toward a semicircular structure which once served as a place of worship.

“They ran seven days a week in here when they were mining limestone, so they had a cross hung up there and had church in here on Sunday,” he explained as the group’s flashlights provided an effect similar to reflections from a mirrored disco ball.

Following Morgan, the expedition including Brody Morgan, Caden Hicks, Levi Fields, Alys Preston and a community journalist, learned details about practically every manmade wall, ventilation hole and concrete feature to be found.

The group, otherwise unrestrained as they explored and made noises to hear their echoes, briefly took a more somber tone as they learned they were standing near the scene where the bodies of two murder victims were deposited and later discovered.

Minutes later, the trio of young men posed for photos atop what remains of the former “port a potty” toilet used by limestone miners.

Before heading back toward one of the numerous “doors” back outside, Morgan brought the trio of teens to a crossroads where the hallways and pillars offered no indication of relative position.

“Which way do you go to get out?” he asked.

Confident in their sense of direction, one pointed left, the other right and the third was certain the road was straight ahead.

“Actually, it’s this way,” the guide said with a grin as he pointed toward the nearest exit and brought the evening’s adventure to a conclusion.

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A cross was once suspended in this spot, where limestone miners held church services on Sunday.
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A large roof fall created an interesting domed ceiling effect in this part of the former mushroom mine.
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Block walls and concrete structures in the old mine were constructed when the space was proposed for use as a secure data storage facility.
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Wooden racks used for mushroom cultivation remain in the mine.
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Filtered through limestone and typically undisturbed for long periods, the mine contains several crystal clear pools and standing water ditches.

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Toilets were once placed atop this structure.

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Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON 


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