The seventh generation of the same family continues to welcome visitors to an amazing cave at Valley Head, Ala.
John David Jones, great-grandson of pioneer settler James Ellis, lives in the old homeplace, and his son, Roy Lee Jones II, operates Sequoyah Caverns nearby.
Representing the seventh generation, Rebecca Jones leads tours of the cave and John Paul Jones works the farm.
James Ellis came from Tennessee in 1841 and accumulated hundreds of acres in the scenic location in the valley between Lookout and Sand mountains. He built a log cabin and later a frame house where a campground is today.
During the Civil War, James Ellis fought with the Union. He died from a camp disease in 1863 and is buried at the Chickamauga Battlefield. Four of his sons served in the war - three fought for the Union and one fought for the Confederacy. Only two of the sons survived the war. Another son, Abner, was too young to fight.
After the war, the Ellis family raised corn, cotton, wheat and oats, as well as making sorghum and raising sheep and cattle.
There are still goats on the grounds near the cave, and one "Houdini" goat can frequently be seen roaming around after somehow escaping from the pen. There's also a curious peacock who is likely to wander up to the cars of cave visitors.
Rock City leased Sequoyah Caverns for a few years in the 1970s, but mainly the same family has been in charge - as they are still.
The cave itself includes several large rooms and some fascinating formations and fossils. An albino crawfish, a bat, and an odd stone carving found by one-time operator Clark Byers at Ider, Ala., are among sights along the way.
One large room is sometimes rented for dances, campouts or other functions.
Rebecca Jones is a fount of information on cave lore, including the story of her father, Roy, going in to check out the cave just after Hurricane Ivan hit and having to swim out when the water was up to his neck after it suddenly began pouring in the cave walls.
To go to Sequoyah Caverns from Chattanooga, take I-24 toward Lookout Valley, then take I-59 leading toward Birmingham. The cave is located soon after you cross into Alabama from Dade County, Ga.