1994 Town of Knox Comprehensive Plan: Caves in the Town of Knox

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Caves in the Town of Knox

Tenney and Howell report that "a mil e and a quarter north of Knoxville are two caves, supposed to be of considerable extent, which are objects of interest to many and about which cluster several picturesque but scarcely probable legends which have been handed down to present generations of r esidents through their ancestors, from the early settlers."

The Cockburn Map of 1787 designates a cave in the vicinity of Lot #47. David C. Palmer in Report #10 of the Northeast Regional Organization of the Speleologic Society states that Knox Cave has r eputedly been known to explorers for over 200 years. A 1935 issue of the Schenectady Union Star asserts that the cave was known to white settlers and to Indian tribes before them. It states that remains of pine torches, covered by a thin coating of deposi t, as well as arrowheads and fireholes, have been found; these were probably used by Indian explorers. The Underground Empire by Clay Perry, reports that in early Colonial times Dutch soldiers pursuing Indian marauders from Fort Orange (now Albany) 18 mil es to the east discovered that the disappearing Americans were vanishing into this cave.

The rocks of Knox Cave were once part of the floor of the inland sea; crinoids, brachiopods, coral and fossils have been found in abundance. The cave was uncovered o n the Burdell Truax property(27) in 1933 and was leased to D. C. Robinson of Esperance. After blasting cleared the entrance of debris, lights were installed and stairs put in. Knox Cave was opened to the public for the first time and the Big Room, Dungeo n, Indian passage, the first two fissure passages east of the entrance passage and the route leading to the Gun Barrel were exhibited. In the early 1930s the cave is reported to have gained such popularity that on some weekends up to 1000 people were repor ted to have been given the guided tour.

In 1935 Robinson began the construction of the Knox Roller Rink next to the cave, and in 1937, the rink opened for business, under the direction of Charles Zwetsch. For many years people came from a wide area to en joy the huge roller skating rink and to dance on Saturday nights.

The Underground Empire states the experienced spelunkers found the interior of Knox Cave disappointing because they had been led to expect too much by the "somewhat imaginative descriptions " of the owner. However, "this cave has been left in a far more natural state and although well lighted and paved in rough places there has been no shifting of formations or buildings of rooms by man. The visitors enter on the second and third levels; ther e are six levels that have been traveled and more than nine parallel sets of passages."

After World War II, Mr. Robinson leased the cave to the Weber Brothers who replaced the deteriorating stairs and added handrails and other safety devices. The princ ipal attraction at this time was the Rotunda Room, said to be "110 feet from floor to ceiling with calcite crystals and cave onyx, fossils and other interesting wonders".

In 1953 and 1954, Cliff Forman, Robert Kronsberg, and Warren Enck operated the cave and did an extensive clearing operation. Prior to this time all that was known was the section which extended to the "Broken Room"; in 1954 a large new area was discovered. The last attempt to commercialize the cave was in 1957 - 58, when guided tours were g iven. A wedding was held in the Big Room of Knox Cave in 1958, with 160 guests attending.

The cavern is still used by spelunkers; it is presently owned by the Northeastern Cave Conservancy. The Knox Volunteer Fire Co. has several times had to rescue unf ortunate spelunkers who were trapped deep within the cave.

Another cave of interest is called the Wynd Cave, located past High Point Cemetery(28). Mr. Warner, former historian for Altamont, provides the information that the Wynd family originally lived b y a crossroads tavern, known as Brumaghim Corners, near the Hamlet of Knox, but then moved to Thompsons Lake. Lewis Wynd stumbled onto the cave while hunting. He is said to have spent many weeks removing loose rocks and debris from the cave entrance, then building a cover with a slanting, hatchway door and padlocking it. His purpose was to attract the summer boarders and "city folks" vacationing at Thompsons Lake, charging admission and thereby availing himself of much needed cash.

Wynd did not own this l and nor did he receive permission for its use. His well - laid plans met with disaster when he expected on the Fourth of July to guide his patrons through the cave but instead found that the entrance shed had been smashed and the cave's mouth filled with loo se rocks. He never rebuilt; legend relates that he then began to "dig for gold or else bury his treasure".

Lewis Wynd died at the age of forty - six but legendary exploits of the younger Wynds persisted. Their apparent lack of steady employment led to the belief that they were thieving. "It seems," states Mr. Warner, "that at intervals they were even reported to the sheriff who would muster a posse and chase them, but they always eluded capture and were supposed to hide and live in this cave atop of the pl ateau." The legend of the Wynd brothers and buried stolen goods remains a memento of the Wynd Cave. It is still a spot for spelunkers.

There are several other Town of Knox caves in the spelunkers' repertoire which should be included, even though they do not boast the sagas of either the Knox or Wynd Caves. There is the Knox Fossil Cave, or Becker Cave, off Becker Road, the Reservoir Cave, the World's End Sinkhole Cave, Pryzsiecki's Pit, Tenant Farm Cave, Tunnel Cave of Pleasant Valley Lane and Devil's Ho le behind the Knox Cemetery.