About the Blue Ridge Grotto

What the Blue Ridge Grotto is all about, and some history



Dave Collings in Locomotive Breath by Dave Socky


About the Blue Ridge Grotto


The Blue Ridge Grotto is a social grotto, with politics taking a back seat to good trips, friendship, and good caving. We have monthly caving trips geared from the beginner to advanced project trips. We are not a large group, about 65 members, but we do have members from all over the state and the country. We are very active in the region (VAR) and the NSS.


Most of the BRG Cave trips are for sport, although we do have members that are into project caving – work in surveying, exploration, photography, videography, cartography, science, and others. We have members involved in WVACS, VSS, VAR, WVCC, CCV, and a number of other 3 and 4 letter acronyms. So, whatever your interests are, there is a place for you in the Blue Ridge Grotto.


History of the Blue Ridge Grotto

(From the BRG file cabinet)


The first meeting of the Blue Ridge Grotto was called to order by Albert W. Stewart, NSS 9695 at the Electrical Engineering Department of the Virginia Western Community College on December 12, 1969.  In attendance were 15 to 20 people who voted the following persons into office unanimously:


Chairman:       Gary Gray - NSS 8415

Vice Chair:      Joseph H. Fagan - NSS 10666

Sec./Treas:      Thomas G. Speers - NSS 10999.


Dues of $1.50 a year were also voted on and passed.


The program for the evening was a slide show of local cavers, Virginia Region Activities, and a recent NSS Convention by John Tichenor NSS 5670.  This was followed up with a showing of Paxton's Cave, the next day's grotto trip by Albert W. Stewart.


The meeting was adjourned to a party at the home of Marie and Gary Gray. 


Additional notes: 

Blue Ridge Grotto applied for NSS Internal Organization Status on January 10, 1970. The application was approved March 24, 1970, Bill Mixon welcomed BRG as an official internal organization of the NSS, and we became the Blue Ridge Grotto of the NSS, G-180. 




More History (lots of details)

By Mary Sue Socky

(And Thanks to Evelyn Bradshaw for finding all the historical stuff for me!)


(This was a report of the first BRG meeting, author unknown)


January 10, 1970

History of the Blue Ridge Grotto


The first meeting of the Blue Ridge Grotto was called to order by Albert W. Stewart NSS 9695 at the Electrical Engineering Department of the Virginia Western Community College on December 12, 1969.  In attendance were 15 to 20 people who voted the following persons into office unanimously Chairman Gary Gray 8415, Vice Chairman Joseph H. Fagan 10666, and Sec./Treas. Thomas G. Speers 10999.  Dues of 1.50 a year were also voted on and passed.


The program for the evening was a slide show of Local Cavers, Virginia Region Activities, and a recent NSS Convention by John Tichenor 5670.  This as followed up with a showing of Paxton’s Cave the next day’s Grotto Cave Trip by Albert W. Stewart.


The meeting was adjourned to a party at the home of Marie and Gary Gray.


The Charter Members of the Blue Ridge Grotto were:

Colin  Troll # 2”Ballard         NSS  10633

Robert D. Barlow                    NSS    9401

Joseph H. Fagan                      NSS  10666

Joseph F. “Joey” Fagan           NSS  11133

Susan R. Fagan                       NSS  11132

Jerry Lee Fink                          NSS    applied for       

Gary “Grasshopper” Gray       NSS    8415

Marie F. Gray                          NSS  11821

Gordon S. Hamilton                NSS    8049

Thomas D. Hale                      NSS    applied for (12024)

Robert B. Journell                   NSS  10558

Don Laffoon                            NSS  10177

Tomas W. Lamons                  NSS    6007

Elizabeth N. “Betty” Lamons  NSS    6705

John L. Sessoms                      NSS  11783

Margaret R. Smith                  NSS    applied for       

Thomas G.  Speers                  NSS  10999

Albert W. Stewart                   NSS    8695

John Tichenor                          NSS    5670

David Warrington                   NSS  11699


Don Laffoon signed as a charter member on Dec. 12, 1969, but was not present at the January 10, 1970 meeting.

John L. Sessoms, Thomas and Elizabeth Lamons failed to sign both copies of the NSS Application for IO Status.


The Blue Ridge Grotto applied for membership in the NSS on January 10, 1970, and was approved as a chapter of the National Speleological Society, number G-180, on March 24, 1970.


Bill Mixon sent the following letter.


24 March 1970


Dear Sir,


I welcome the Blue Ridge Grotto as an official internal organization of the NSS.  Enclosed is your charter and one copy of your application.


I am sending separately back issues of the Internal Organization Newsletter and the pages so far available of the new Internal Organizations Manual.  Also in that envelope are forms for the 1969 annual report.  Please fill out as much as it is appropriate for a new group and return to me.  This must be done to obtain votes at the Congress of Grottos and your complimentary copies of the News and Bulletin.


Good caving



(Sadly, the copy of the NSS Charter has been lost.  If anyone knows of its whereabouts, please let Al Stewart or Mary Sue Socky know.)


Elections for new officers for BRG were held at the December 1970 meeting with the result:


Joey Fagan                  Chairman

Bob Barlow                 Vice-chairman

John Sessoms              Secretary-Treasurer.


By January 1971, BRG had 33 members: 22 Regular members, and 10 Associate members.



The Blue Ridge Grotto’s “CARBIDE DUMP” was first published in March, 1970.   The co-editors of the Carbide Dump were David Warrington and Joey Fagan.  The Carbide Dump was a quarterly publication.


By October 1974 The Carbide Dump (still a quarterly publication) had Dave Wickersham as the new editor.  Dave published a nice booklet, and served as editor for issues 0 – 12 (through October 1977). 


October 1974.  Around this time BRG also acquired a large filing cabinet.  Carol Wickersham, the grotto librarian, requested that anyone having materials belonging to the grotto to please turn them in so they may be placed on file for future reference. 


By January 1976, BRG had 28 members:  John Balascio, Barb Balascio, Tom Beaman, Andy DeLeo, Joey Fagan, Joe Fagan, Sue Fagan, Barry Ferguson, Lynn Ferguson, Jerry Fink, Jim Dawson, Charles Maus, Janet Queisser, Gary Gray, Tom Hale, Gordon Hamilton, Rudy Jennings, Ben Johnson, Charlie Karpowich, Dot Lancaster, Leonard Rowe, Al Stewart, Bill Tanger, John Tichenor, Tommy Webb, Dave Wickersham, Carol Wickersham, Steve Winfrey.  Other local cavers: John Robinson, Ron Salmons, Norm Soskel, Terry Verduin.


Even then, there were closed caves, closed cave lists, cave owners fed up with inconsiderate trespassers, LOTS of environment and ecology issues, and boycotts of commercial caverns selling speleothems. Gating sacrificial caves vs. monitoring them and using a register to contact and educate “casual pseudo cavers” was another speleo-theme.  Two “hot topics” in the old DUMPS were controversy over a “Super Rack” and the discovery and impending destruction of Holy Terror Cave.


On May 16, 1976, Dave Wickersham and Bill Tanger sponsored the 1st Annual Blue Ridge Grotto Cave Rally.  The event was held at Glenvar Railroad Cave, Roanoke Co., VA.  (Glenvar Railroad has often been called “the ugliest cave in Roanoke County”; this was one of the reasons for its selection as a cave rally site.)  The cave rally involved timing how long each caver took to go through the cave, visiting 13 checkpoints while carrying a raw egg.  The egg had to be marked with a different colored marker at each checkpoint.  If an egg was broken the contestant was allowed to return to the start and get a new egg because a broken egg meant disqualification at the finish.  When he started again, however, his time kept right on going from his original starting time.    Dave Wickersham reported that “Everyone finished the rally panting and dripping with sweat.  Several threatened to smash their eggs on Bill and I.  Lucky for us that a broken egg meant disqualification”.  Results:  Dave & Lucy Jamison won with 121 points, and Tom Beaman was disqualified since he was so familiar with the cave, although he did have the best point total.


Many vertical caves were visited by BRG, and Dave Wickersham headed up the ROCKS project to map all the caves in Roanoke Co. What kind of pack to use, what type of camera worked best in a cave, and cave rescue call-down lists were other hot topics. Even decades ago BRG members volunteered to be a part of CRCN and NCRC (cave rescue organizations).


Tom Beaman took over as editor of the Carbide Dump for issue 13-16 (combined), published in October 1978.


The Carbide Dump, October 1979, combined issue 18-20, saw Jim Richards as the new editor.  Jim continued as editor for issue 21 and issue 22, which appeared August 1980.  The Carbide Dump went into hibernation after this issue.


1979: BRG listed the following grotto officers:

Dave Wickersham: Chairman

Terry Verduin:  Vice Chair

Al Stewart:  Secretary/Treasurer.



1980 BRG officers were:

Jim Richards:  Chairman

Bill Tanger:  Vice Chairman

Al Stewart:  Secretary/Treasurer


BRG had grown in ten years, having 40 members on its rolls.


BRG, like most grottos, had favorite caves and often made trips to them.  Here is a partial list of the caves (from trip reports):



Roanoke Co.: Glenvar Railroad,  Millers Cove, McNeils (gating) Eakins, Goodwins, Blankenship Cave, Garrison’s Cave, Bear Hole, Dixie Annex, Poor Mountain Cave, Shepard’s Cave, Anchor Grill, Highland Park, Bum’s and Wasena Park Caves, D.E. Custer, Newman’s Cave, Vass Cave. Walrond Cave,

Allegheny Co.: Paxton’s Cave, Warm River Cave,

Bath Co.: Breathing Cave, Crossroads Cave, Porters Cave, Withero’s Cave,

Bland Co.:  Newberry-Banes, Buddy Penleys Cave, Repass Saltpeter Cave.

Botetourt Co.: Bug Chaw Pit, Eagle Rock Quarry Cave, Henderson’s I & II Caves, Holy Terror Cave, Perry Saltpeter Cave.

Craig Co.:  New Castle Murder Hole, Rat-Coon Cave, Shires’ Saltpeter Cave,

Giles Co.: Clover Hollow Cave, Giant Caverns, Links Cave, Maybrook Sinkhole, New River Cave,

 Pig Hole, Smith Pit, Tawney’s Cave, Smokehole, Starnes Cave.

Montgomery Co.: Aunt Nellie’s Hole, Mile One Twenty Three Cave, Old Mill Cave

Rockbridge Co.: Zimmermans Cave.

Rockingham Co.: 3-D Maze Cave, Lyle’s Pit, Mad Steer Cave.

Others: Gilley Cave, I-81 Cave,


West Virginia

Greenbrier Co.: Bone-Norman Cave, Culverson Creek/Wildcat Cave, The Hole, McClung's Cave, Windy Mouth Cave.

Monroe Co.: Crossroads/Rimstone, Crowder’s Fletcher’s, Greenville Saltpeter, Haynes, Indian Draft, Mott Hole, Organ Cave, Pattons, Piercy’s Mill, Rehobeth Church, Union Cave, Acme # 5 Cave,

Pendleton Co.: Mystic (Luke Raine’s ) Cave, Nutt Cave, Schoolhouse Cave, Sinnett-Thorn Mountain, Smoke Hole Cave, Trout Cave, Hellhole,

Pocahontas Co.: Cass Cave, Friars Hole, Steam Cave, Carpenter Swago, Roadside Pit, Tub Cave.


Members of the Blue Ridge Grotto also kept in touch through a short monthly newspaper called the BLUE RIDGE GROTTO NEWS.  Some are still on file.  The 1983 (vol. 11) were edited by Linda Vest and Keith Goggin. 


By February 1984 there was enough interest to start up a new Carbide Dump.  Keith Goggin was editor.

The officers for 1984 were:

Keith Goggin   President

Dave Socky      Vice President

Bob Alderson   Secretary/Treasurer

There were 52 BRG members by February 1984.


1985:  The BRG officers were:

Randy Winoker           President

David Socky                 Vice President

Bob Alderson               Secretary/Treasurer

Al Stewart                   became Trip Coordinator


Dave Socky reincarnated the Carbide Dump, beginning with the Jan. 1985, Vol. 20 # 1 issue.  Dave, with co-editor Mary Sue published the Carbide Dump 11 times a year. 


Dave Wickersham took over the Roanoke County Cve Survey in the hopes it would be compelted by the end of the decade, and a book on the Caves of Roanoke Co. would be published.

A classy, royal blue T-shirt with the new BRG logo was designed by Chris Amundson (Alderson).


1986 BRG Officers were:

Bob Aldeson    Chairman

Linda Vest       Vice Chairman

Al Stewart       Secretary/Treasurer

BRG Dues were $5.00 per member  



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