Libby Reuter and Joshua Rowan
The Libation Cairn stands at the edge of a historic quarry that provided the stone for many foundations and public buildings in the area from the late 1800s until the quarry began to fill with groundwater in the early 1900s. A fence separates hikers on the Whitecliff trail from the quarry pool and its two man-made caves piercing the limestone bluffs. The water is deep enough that scuba diving classes practiced here until the water became too cloudy. In spite of the sediment, the water is very healthy with few pollutants.
This Cairn was created for the nearby Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. “Libation” (“LIE-bay-shn”) is the term for water or other clear liquid that is poured on the ground in memory of the deceased. This Cairn memorializes the enslaved people who worked the Dent plantation that Grant later inherited. Because this limestone bluff is about a mile up Gravois Creek from the Dent property, it is possible that in the early 1800s before Grant owned the property, enslaved workmen came here to dig the stone for the farm’s hearths, chimneys, and foundations.