Knox Cave history

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY

Where The Gentle Touches of Air And Water Work At Their Leisure

By FRIEDA SADDLEMIRE A frontier with massive shapes of flowstone following the contours of the walls. An underground world thousands of years in the making. A place where nature has given her strongest, finest, and most whimsical touches.

Fifty years ago these marvels were viewed by thousands of visitors at Knox Cave, but today the caverns are closed to the general public.

But these same caverns still hold a peculiar fascination to the National Spelunking Society. At present permission to enter must be gained from the Northeastern Cave Conservancy by contacting Robert Addis. T

The bold members of this society wade through mud and water, over and under rocks crawling through small passageways and give-positive proof that these caverns do exist and are worth the effort. Crinoids, brachiopods, coral, and fossils are also; evidence of the early existence of this rocky cavern.

In the 1930s when the cave was first discovered on the Burdell Truax property (now Stanley Busch) many newspapers reported that this cave would equal Howe Caverns.

The New York Times stated that it was part of a huge chain of underground passages that stretched from Haile's Cave in Thacher Park to Howe Caverns.

The mouth of the cave was located near the bottom of a 60-foot ravine and almost completely covered by underbrush and snowdrifts. After the Truax brothers had penetrated a short distance Cobleskill. The Schenectady Union Star proclaimed that arrow heads and fire .holes were found in addition to pine torches.

Two hundred feet below ground level a tablet bearing strange inscriptions was discovered. Much conjecture took place concerning the writing and also the tablets. Some believed that they were of Mormon origin since the markings were identical with sacred hieretic writings of the Egyptian prints in which the Book of Mormon was written. According to David Palmer's article about the history of Knox Cave, these inscriptions are just natural erosion marks.

Yet, it's understood that a cast was taken of this and sent to the Metropolitan Museum.

In "Underground Empire," Clay Perry claims that in early colonial times Dutch soldiers pursuing Indian marauders from Fort Orange (now Albany) discovered that the disappearing Americans were vanishing into this cave. Proof of the early existence of the cave is also given by the Cockburn map of 1787 that designates a cave in the vicinity of Lot 47. It is also believed that the cave was first explored in 1879 by Prof. Sias of Schoharie since fragments of rotted ropes and pieces of a ladder plus pine torches were found by the Truax party.

They encountered a 33-foot drop. By constructing a ladder the difficulty was overcome.

A second drop of 27 feet was made by use of ropes and a third of 12 feet-was-descended by climbing. Sloping floors took them downward to 200 feet, below the earth's surface.

They found dozens of small side passages and chambers. The largest chamber found measured about 40 feet square with a hundred foot (some writers say 70 foot) ceiling. A narrow lake with waist-deep water was encountered. Stalactites and stalagmites covered the sides and ceilings.

According to Herbert Campbell's report in the Feb. 2 1933 Times Union at the time of discovery thousands of bats hung to the rock walls, some cloistered in bunches as large as an ordinary hat.

In 1933 D. C. Robinson of Esperance who had accompanied the Truax brothers in their initial discovery leased the cave and opened it to the public after the sink and entrance were cleared of debris by blasting and lights were installed and stairs put in. The Big Room, Dungeon, and Indian Passage were first visited by the general public on May 30, 1933.

During this time the cave gained So much popularity that on certain Weekends it is reported that up to 1,000 people were guided through tours of the Big Room, Dungeon, and Indian Passage, the first two fissure passages, east of the entrance passage and the route leading to the gunbarrel.

In 1937 a roller skating rink was completed, and brought more popularity In 1945 stairs were replaced and hand rails and other safety devices were installed. In 1954 a large new area was discovered by a spelunker named Negley.

According to David Palmer in the Northeast Regional Report, #10, Negley is reported to have discovered a 2,400-foot passage leading from the fish pool. He further reports that Negley claimed to have found a passage rising behind a six-inch curtain east of the Big Room above the floor level, which led to a room so vast that he could not see the other side.

His fear of losing track of the entrance passage prevented his exploration of the room. He was later unable to locate this room and it is further stated that 10 years of exploration by other cavers have failed to uncover any of the latter areas.

Dr. Michael Nardacci (presently teaching at Bishop Maginn), an avid spelunker, is very knowledgeable of Knox Cave's beauty. He spent many hours in the cave, and was a friend of the Robinson. He wrote a poem about the cave that he dedicated to Mrs. Robinson. It was published in the Siena College Beverwyck.

His poem, not only gives a description of the Big Room", "the Fishpond", the famous "gunbarrel", "the Dome Room", and the "Alabaster .Room" but the thoughts evoked as one moves through the cave. During Knox's Sesquicentennial celebration he rededicated the poem, to all the people of Knox.

Mr. Nardacci makes good use of his love for caves. During the summer, he teaches a course in spelunking at the Helderberg workshop. Since he has received permission from Mr. Addis, he plans to use Knox Cave as an additional resource in his teaching.

Perhaps this summer's class will initiate more people in the techniques of cave exploring and bring to light more information about the cave that once made history.

Exploring-and studying are not the only activities carried on in the caverns. On Oct. 12, 1958 during a working trip of the Northeast Regional Organization, Robert Richter and Linnie Svenssen were married in the Big Room by Rev. Carl Hoeldthe of -the Calvary. Baptist Church in Albany. Because this was a working trip many of the 160 guests attending were comfortably dressed in helmets and coveralls.

The cave has also kept the Knox firemen busy at rescue work. Even though it is closed to the public, scientific zest lures many inquisitive inexperienced students.

A young university student lost her life as she became trapped under a huge sheet of ice. Her companion was also seriously injured. It is hoped that with the Northeastern Cave Conservancy in charge events in the future will bring helpful information to geology lovers and spelunkers, and prevent such accidents.

Although the community is seemingly unaware of the cave and its potential, deep within the bowels-of the earth, Nature's work is endless.

Drops of water fall from the roof stone and stalagmites and stalactites embellish the walls and ceiling. The flowstone with its ribbed and rippling sheets continues to make more beautiful stone tapestries.

As Thoreau states, "the finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time."

Will the future bring this mystic splendor to the public again?

Altamont Enterprise July 10, 1981
Note: The original article has some lines out of place.