From the Archives, March 18, 2018

Montgomery Bell Tunnel

Before there was Boxwell Reservation, there was Camp Boxwell. Camp Boxwell had three previous locations: Linton, Narrows of the Harpeth, and Rock Island. This week’s photo showcases one of the highlights of Boxwell at the Narrows of the Harpeth.

Boxwell was at the Narrows from 1930 to 1948. In the early 19th century, somewhere between 1818 and 1820,¬†an earlier owner of this property, slaveowner Montgomery Bell, had his slaves excavate a 200 foot long tunnel through solid rock–a limestone bluff in fact. The tunnel was was 8 feet high and 15 feet wide and carved through the ridge by hand. The result was to create a waterfall that would power a water wheel, which would power a hammer to forge iron. It was a masterpiece of 19th century engineering built by slave labor.

It was also a highlight of the 20th Century Boxwell location.¬†Pictured here is the tunnel about 1940 while Boxwell was at the location. The site is worth checking out if you have the time. It is an easy hike to the tunnel. If you go, you’ll note that the Bluff Overlook trail will take you to where the VERY FIRST OA ordeals were held. The trail that takes you toward Cedar Hill Bridge takes you back to the original Waterfront. It is worth the visit!


The Montgomery Bell Tunnel in about 1940, as seen by Harry “Beany” Elam, who often taught “Scout School” there

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *