Cave City is a state of The Commonwealth of Kentucky and was the base of a group of survivor communities in south-central Kentucky, including nearby Horse Cave, Glasgow, Mumfordville, Edmonton, Smiths Grove and communities along Nolin Lake and Barren Lake, as well as Mammoth Cave, where many area residents took shelter from radiation in the days and weeks following Doomsday. It is not a country per se, but a loose confederation of towns, with a total population of 7,000 people. The confederation also had alliances with fellow survivor communities around Lake Cumberland and in former Portland, Tennessee.
The information on this page comes from verbal interviews via ham radio with Cave City representatives by ham radio operators in Nebraska, Superior, Kentucky, and Virginia.
On Doomsday, the southeastern Kentucky area wasn't hit, but like every other part of the United States, was greatly affected by its aftermath. The evening of September 25th, residents in Bowling Green and Glasgow saw a bright flash to the south - in the direction of Nashville, Tennessee - that lit up the sky. After seeing a mushroom cloud off in the distance, nearly everyone knew that something bad had happened.
And chaos broke loose.
Over the next two days, in Bowling Green and Glasgow, the situation rapidly deteriorated as looting, violence and murder ravaged the two cities. Rumors flew that the mayor had ordered a mass suicide, that Soviet terrorists were creating the turmoil, that Moscow had taken control of the United States.
The 101st airborne out of Fort Campbell sent parties over Bowling Green, and left with a local family presumably back to Fort Campbell according to refugees who had hidden nearby at the Corvette plant; they were never seen again.
Those refugees took off on foot towards Mammoth Cave. They were soon joined by refugees from Glasgow, who on orders of the town's mayor and police chief "emptied every home and supermarket" of food and took off for the caves.
Flight to Mammoth Cave
Eight thousand refugees from Bowling Green, Smiths Grove, Cave City, Glasgow, Horse Cave and other nearby towns met at the entrances to Mammoth Cave. State and local police began to route the people into the cave, and trucks and horses brought in food and medical supplies. Amazingly, no one had to be turned away, although it was since learned that many would-be refugees were killed in the violence accompanying the aftermath of Doomsday.
The people stayed in the cave for one month. One refugee from WKU had taken a geiger counter from the university with him, and it was used to monitor the radiation levels outside; the radiation declined to an "acceptable level" in early November, and the refugees ventured out to whatever was left of Cave City, and the world
Returning to the outside
Cave City had not only been ransacked, but had people taking shelter in the local hospital and other buildings. Residents throughout the area had done the same.
The first order was to form some kind of government to keep the city running and manage essential services. Attention was then turned towards managing remaining food supplies, finding drinkable water, and how to manage farming (and plant new farms) to feed the people in the coming years. The leaders were doing all this on the fly, as nuclear war was bringing challenges and issues before them only alluded to in popular fiction, or not considered at all.
Fallout affected the soil, and made planting difficult for a number of years. Residents went back to ancient, non-technological methods of farming. Without electricity, they also reverted to an 18th-century lifestyle. Cave City became the center of civilization for the people, and while occasional expeditions were taken to outlying towns, for the most part people there kept to themselves.
The Scottsville warlords
Warlords from surrounding Scottsville and Edmonton made life difficult for Cave Citians beginning in 1985. Looking for food, the warlords and gangs began raiding Cave City like they had other nearby areas; though the raiders were significantly outnumbered, their viciousness resulted in some fierce battles and 93 Cave Citian deaths over the next few years.
In 1988, Cave City leaders decided they had enough of the raiders. Knowing where the raiders camped out, the Cave Citians drew up plans to go on the offensive. However, the raiders saw the Cave City parties coming a short distance out, giving them enough time to set up a defense. A battle ensued at the raiders' camp, with the raiders getting the upper hand, and two dozen Cave City fighters being killed. The remaining Cave Citians retreated to regroup, only to be pursued by the raiders.
The Cave Citians backed into a group coming from nearby Smiths Grove, another survivor community that had been terrorized by the raiders. The groups at first seemed ready to fight, but people on both sides recognized members of the other group they knew, went to school with, or worked with from before Doomsday. On that basis, and upon learning they had the same enemy, the two groups agreed to work together.
Both Smiths Grove and Cave City groups retreated into old Glasgow; they had enough time to set a trap for the raiders, luring them in, where they would be encircled by the Smiths Grove/Cave City fighters. The front flank of the Raider forces were mowed down by gunfire and arrows, and the battle was on. It was fierce, but despite 11 deaths on their side the fighters prevailed, killing 62 of the raiders and capturing the remaining 17.
The Smiths Grove and Cave City groups returned to the raider camp, and found not only five-year-old canned foods and stolen produce from both towns' farms, but the grisly remains of half-consumed cows, dogs, pigs, and human beings. Rumors of cannibalism had floated around the survivor towns for years, but were always dismissed; this was the first hard evidence that people had resorted to cannibalism to survive.
The 1990s and 2000s
The remaining raiders were interrogated by Cave City and Smiths Grove parties. Most were defiant, but a couple of the raiders gave information on the group's activities since Doomsday, and specifically on their strategies for raiding nearby towns and how they resorted to killing people for food over the years; the human remains included that of a local family and its farm animals.
The two raiders who talked were taken back as prisoners; the other raiders were shot in the head, on the spot.
Cave City and Smiths Grove leaders formalized their alliance, and soon decided to send out parties to explore the neighboring towns.
Glasgow was the first city visited, and scouts found isolated communities of squatters and refugees there.
The scouts then went on to Bowling Green - accompanied by some of the Glasgow squatters - and by scavenging homes and businesses, found plenty of tools and equipment that would be beneficial to both Cave City and Glasgow. Former WKU students who had escaped to Cave City searched the campus for, and found, material that might help them rebuild tractor engines. The issue was finding fuel - oil was a rare commodity, and the people didn't have the know-how to develop bio fuel - so while the knowledge, and parts, were there to build tractors, they had nothing to fuel them with.
From 1990 on, life was a matter of overcoming the issues associated with growing food and finding water sources. Other communities joined the Glasgow/Smiths Grove/Cave City cooperative, and exploratory parties ventured as far as Beaver Dam, Hodgenville and Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and Portland, in Tennessee just across the old Kentucky/Tennessee border, finding survivor communities in Portland and around Lake Cumberland.
Cave City built an extensive system of food, cotton and tobacco farms, and maintained presences in Smiths Grove, Glasgow, Oakland, Mumfordville, Hiseville and Brownsville while centering the population around Cave City and Barren River and Nolin Lakes. Breeding of horses that had been started in the mid 1980s paid off as an abundance of horses enabled the community to build an extensive transportation system based on horseback.
A breakthrough in transportation came in 1996, when engineers finally were able to restore two abandoned trains, which were then used to transport goods along the old Glasgow Railway.
The Cave City group of survivor communities had adjusted well to their 18th-century lifestyle, even though attempts had been made over the years to restore the electrical grid and radio station transmitters; there weren't enough people who survived with the necessary knowledge, and the parts needed weren't available.
The one thing from pre-Doomsday they found a way to restore was the sport of basketball; people found a way to make balls out of cow hides and animal bladders, and the sport resumed at an amateur level.
Contact with the rest of the world
In September 2009, a nearby survivor community in Portland, Tennessee, finally was able to restore a local power plant to operation. Operating on limited power, the community was able to build a ham radio, so it could see who else might have survived in North America. A few Cave City leaders were on hand when contact was made with a civilian operator in North Platte, Nebraska.
Over the next two hours the Nebraska operator informed the Cave City and Portland party what had happened in the known world over the past 26 years. The North Platte mayor was informed of the contact, and he spoke with the Portland sheriff and mayor.
Since then, contact has also been made with civilian and government operators from Superior, Vermont and Virginia. On November 11th 2009 members of a Kentucky Military expedition team finally reached the Cave City. President Bunning spoke via radio to the leaders of Cave City offering aid, assistance and even went so far as to offer them an opportunity to join the Commonwealth if they so choose. Virginia to has offered aid and assistance to both sets of survivor communities in the region, and leaders are said to be weighing the options. However, the Cave City mayor did insist that the communities be granted all rights and privileges as they enjoyed under the former United States and state of Kentucky; "we are not interested in being subjugated."
The End of An Era
On November 11, 2009, the Commonwealth of Kentucky offered Cave City annexation. After fours days of fierce nearly nonstop debate, the leaders of Cave City agreed to President Bunning's offer of annexation. In speeches the leaders of Cave City said that Kentucky has "Upheld the values and liberties of the United States since their founding." and are the "Clear choice for a new country to call home." Cave City officially became part of Kentucky at 12:01am EST on November 16th. Celebrations however, had begun in Kentucky and in Cave City even before the official annexation. At the ceremony in Knoxville on November 15th, President Bunning issued a brief statement welcoming the citizens of Cave City to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and said "This shows the power of diplomacy and good will. I am over joyed that we are finally reuniting with some of our fellow Kentuckians and more importantly our fellow Americans."
After annexation, Kentucky troops took expeditions into Bowling Green. They found no signs of life, but the city was mostly intact and seemed fit for human settlement. In 2013, 500 families were settled in the city, and this started a tidal wave of immigration to the city. Currently, Bowling Green is undergoing massive renovation works, but has a healthy population of 15,000.
Life in the region
Cave City and its associated communities operate at an 18th-19th-century standard of living. The local economy is primarily based on a barter system.
After Doomsday, the area lost its electricity and pretty much every other modern convenience the people were used to, and the transition to a simpler standard of living was quite an adjustment for everyone. However, the following factors aided the survivors:
- an iron will to survive
- memories of older residents who passed on how they lived without electricity, plumbing and other 1980s-era conveniences
- memoirs of Kentuckians from the 18th and 19th centuries; their description of everyday life was valuable to the Cave City residents as they adjusted to their new way of living.
- knowledge: not only did the community benefit from people who lived on farms and were still engaging, on their own, in trades all but taken over by modern technology, but it also benefitted from knowledge from students who joined the community after fleeing Western Kentucky University. They took as many resources - including science and historical textbooks - as they could with them. This aided the community, for example, in understanding the potential effects of radiation and fallout (particularly on crops).
Farming was by far the most important occupation after Doomsday, and still is today. Early on, other important trades more reflective of a 19th-century rural town took on importance: tanners, blacksmiths, woodworking. Other trades more familiar to a 20th century populace, such as teaching, law enforcement and farming, remained, though adjusted to the communities' new standard of living
Life in Cave City, Superior and Vermont operators were told, is best comparable to a 19th-century frontier rural town, or what people saw on the old Gunsmoke and Little House on the Prairie television shows. The major differences would be clothing (more comparable to the 1980s than the 1880s) and an interest in sports. Horseback and walking were the two ways people and goods got around, until the trains were restored to service recently.
Thanks to several expeditions into the ruins of Bowling Green, the Cave Citians were able to salvage textbooks from WKU as well as Warren Central and Warren East High Schools, and other middle and elementary schools in Warren County. These textbooks are used by students at the confederation's two high schools, Caverna and Glasgow.