The OES visited Tinker's Cave on April 27, 2002. After hiking down a very steep hill, we arrived to the cave, which was actually a large rock-shelter that was carved by an ancient creek beneath the overhanging rocks. Since its formation thousands of years ago, many animals and humans have taken shelter under the rock roof. It was said that the cave was large enough to hold two dozen horses, which is exactly what Seth (or Shep) Tinker used it for. Living in the area prior to the Civil War, the cave's namesake decided to use the cave as a large stable of horses. The only thing wrong was the horses were not his.
In the 1850s, Tinker began "borrowing" unattended horses and took them to the cave. Seth kept the horses hidden, letting them graze in a nearby field, until he herded them to the horse auctions 175 miles north in Sandusky. On his way back, Tinker "borrowed" horses in northern Ohio to sell them to farmers in the southern counties, mostly in the Athens and Hocking regions. When the Civil War began, Tinker's legacy varied. Some say that Seth Tinker was a good Union soldier during the war and didn't even entertain the thought of stealing horses. Others say Tinker continued his questionable business and profited from the war by rounding up loose horses and selling them to both Union and Confederate troops. General John Morgan, who's southern Rebels raided Ohio, was said to have outfitted his men with horses provided by Tinker.
Once the Civil War came to an end, Tinker continued his Sandusky route, stealing and selling horses for a few more years. Seth once fooled Dr. James Dew, the great-grandfather of a former Nelsonville mayor, by placing a white cloth over the nose of a horse he had just stolen from the doctor. Dr. Dew gave chase and when he approached Tinker, he asked if Tinker had seen an all black horse with a rider go by. Tinker stated that he had and pointed the doctor in a direction, then himself went the opposite way with the doctor's horse. Seth Tinker disappeared soon after this. Some say that an angry horse owner may have caught Tinker in the act of stealing horses and killed him. Others say that Tinker was found to have helped Morgan's Raiders during the Civil War and was hanged from a tree near the cave, convicted of treason. Whatever the case, legend says if you go to Tinker's Cave at night, you can hear the sounds of horses in the cave and can sometimes even see the ghost of Seth Tinker himself. Thanks goes to Shannon and Rodney for taking us to Tinker's Cave.