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VIRGINIA CAVE SURVEY



The October 1995 issue of the News carried an article by Richard S. Sandersreporting that as of March I, I955, over 900 caves had been listed in Virginia. According to Henry H. Douglas, coordinator for the survey, members of the Wytheville Grotto began the ground work for the survey, and they continued to do more field work than other region Grottos after the Survey was adopted as a project by the Region.

A more complete report or the status of the Survey appeared in the January I956 written by Henry Douglas. By that time the VPI Grotto had completely covered Giles County, while the students at VPI, under the leadership of Colonel Robert Carrol, had almost completed a survey of caves in Rockbridge County. "During the summer of I954, work in the northern section of the state had really gotten going. Members of VA Grotto began working on Augusta County in I955. A list of counties and names of cavers working in these areas had been compiled, and Douglas further urged all NSS members to cooperate with the Survey so that accurate information on Virginia caves might be compiled.

Henry Douglasreported in the March I957 NEWS that the Virginia Cave Survey has recorded over 1,350 caves and had prepared abstracts on all the existing information for most of the counties with significant limestone rock.

During the I957 NSS Convention at Natural Bridge, grottos and members of the Virginia Region were able to meet and discuss regional activities, of which several were mapping trips. Douglas planned to make the maps and records of the Survey available at the April Convention in I958. In addition he planned an illustrated presentation on the survey at this event.

During I958 the survey added 300 caves to its records, with the grand total of known caves just under 1,650. A six day trip to Southwestern Virginia by Douglas and Peckhamnetted 112 caves for which there had been no previous information. No county is complete and vast areas of limestone remain unchecked. However, it was estimated that 2500 caves would be recorded for the entire state.`

Packing up to leave Elk Garden camp, 1947, working with Stablerand MacCordon archeological sites .Photo by S. A. Loyd


The Tazewll Indian Caves

The Tazewell Indian Cavesare proving to be of great interest to those studying early American Indian life. Dr. Jacksonof VPI assembled at least one skeleton from bones found in the caves. The second party to the area consisted of twenty-one persons including NSS President Stephenson, and Howard MacCord, who is being employed by the State to conduct archeological explorations in Virginia. The party also included two Maidenbrothers of Saltville VA, now NSS members, who dug down about two and a half feet near the base of a rock pile to reach the original floor of the cave. A skeleton of a young child was unearthed as was the skeleton of a young man estimated to be about eighteen years old. A considerable number of shell beads were found near the bones. There is evidence that the cave was flooded quite a few times since the burials were made, for the bones were scattered and isolated bones were found as high as ten feet above the floor of the cave in crevices. NSS NEWSLETTER, October I947.


. . . and rattlesnakes


"tab1" We caved with Cliff Formansome when he was living in the Roanoke area. Once Cliff, maybe Bill Cuddingtonand myself was up north of Roanoke in this little valley, dirt road and came to a country store and stopped to ask about holes in the ground. The store owner came out with another person and he had a rifle. I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "Come on. I'm going to kill a snake." We went across the road and started across a pasture. About halfway to a little old stable the man thrust a rifle up against my chest and said, "Here, can you use this?" Even before I could answer, the rifle was in my hand. They kept on down towards the stable. A horse there was running around the stable and whinneying like crazy. Just as we got to the stable, the store owner thrust a flashlight in my hands, and said, "Here, you'll need this.

I took the flashlight and stuck it in the door and flashed the light around the stall. Said, "I don't see anything." A woman said, "In the manger. In the manger. I thought it was a jawfly buzzing, but it was a snake in the manger. The cow just wouldn't stand still at all for me to milk." So I eased on over toward the manger with the flashlight with Cliff Forman and bill sorta trailing along behind me. I looked in the manger and there was the biggest snake I ever saw. It was curled up three or four times, just filled the manger from one side to the other. Great big head poking up, looking out. The head was broader than a fifty-cent piece, maybe it was as large as a silver dollar. I had the flashlight of one of the other cavers, took aim at the snakes head. When the gun went off, I never saw the snake's head any more. That was the biggest rattler I ever saw. The rattler was bigger than the large part of my arm. He had nine rattles left; I don't know how many had broken off. The smallest rattle was as wide as my thumb nail. Tried and tried to get Cliff Forman to touch the snake; kept telling him, "Cliff, it's not going to hurt you, feels like a piece of velvet cloth. I Finally Cliff got up enough courage to take the snake and rub it sort of gingerly.

Later on in the year at Old Timers at Franklin, Cliff came running up to me and said, "Roy. Roy, you know what? I've killed twelve rattlers since I've last seen you." Seems that the rocky ridge Cliff was living on outside Roanoke was just infested with rattlers.


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