The History of Tri-State Grotto

As of January 24 2006, Tri-State turns the ripe old age of twenty. It has been several years since I updated the History of the Grotto, so here goes. In the beginning there was Bob and Chuck. These two, then young and brave, were camping at Spruce Knob with their families. They found out about this place called The Sinks of Gandy. Armed with bowie knives, walkie-talkies, two used flashlights, and dressed in shorts, tennis shoes and wearing no shirts, they ventured forth into the unknown. The bug bit and two independent cavers were born.

During the 1980's, the number of cavers as well as the population of the Tri-State area was on an upward curve. By the end of the decade active membership in the National Speleological Society would approach 10,000, and the Tri-State area would become part of the Washington-Baltimore Metro area. Local caves were being closed by out of town landowners, fear of liability, and the need to protect the caves from vandals. For the local independent caver, this was not a good time.

Bob Bennett had contacted some Mid-Atlantic Grottoes in the early to mid 1980's, but didn't pursue his only response (Frederick Grotto). Bob was then caving with some co-workers and their friends (Chuck was off defending our country). Two of these co-workers - Terry Fox and Randy Strong - started to push the idea of forming their own Grotto. By November of 1985, informal meetings were being held. Evelyn Bradshaw had Bob Bennett to contact Terry Welsh of Frederick Grotto to assist in forming the new Grotto. Ads were placed in local newspapers for interested parties. Using Frederick's By-Laws as a model, Tri-State was chartered with sixteen (16) full members on January 24, 1986. The Grotto Newsletter, "The Dead Dog Dispatch" was also first published in January 1986. A Members Manual was ready by April.

The May 1986 Dead Dog contained a history of "Nestle Quarry" by Jeff Hollis. Surveying and vertical training were in place by June and the first Tri-State NCRC Basic Class was held in September. The Hagerstown "Herald Mail" ran an article on Tri-State in October. Officers in 1986 were Bob Bennett, President, Randy Strong, Vice President and Jay Sperry, Secretary-Treasurer. Meetings were held monthly in the "Liberty Christian Fellowship Church" in Charles Town, West Virginia.

Tri-State started out as a caving grotto with local weekday evening trips and weekend day trips to Greenbrier County. By year two, the Grotto was getting involved in more than just tourist trips. Members helped H. W. Godwin on a Fauna report of Dam No. 4 and Howell Caves. Clint Hogbin did a report on Joness Quarry. Gordon Cole of Frederick Grotto was helping with vertical training. The first Grotto picnic was held at John DiCarlos in 1988. The office of Secretary-Treasurer was split in 1988 with John DiCarlo the first Treasurer. Tri-State, Frederick, and Sligo Grotto jointly sponsored the Fall 1988 VAR, held at the Lazy-A Campground in Glengary, West Virginia, the attendance was 203. Clean-ups were done in Nestle Quarry and Benders. The Grotto started to lead Scout trips into area caves.

December of 1988 brought the first color cover of the Dead Dog Dispatch. It was a picture taken by Chris Bolt in the First Formation Room of Norman Cave. By the end of 1989, Grotto membership was to sixty-nine (69) and a caver by the name of Dave Hackley was digging a hole in Sharpsburg called Avey Hill. Membership went over the century mark in 1990. Tommy Shifflett presented a report and slide show on a recent Lechuguilla expedition. Jones Quarry was a major project. Working with two landowners and a grant from VAR, the cave was gated and the new discoveries of H3 and Hogbins Addition were surveyed and mapped. Dave Hackley's Avey Hill dig was completed.

In 1991, Dave started the Sharman's Run Dig project. Bucky Bennett wins first place in N.S.S.Convention rope climbing contest in the 12 and under age group. The Grotto had a large contingent at the 50th Anniversary Convention. The Blowhole survey project was started in October of 1991. The Grotto meeting place was moved from Charles Town, West Virginia to Rohrersville, Maryland.

1992 brought continuing work on Jones Quarry including additional work on the gates, clean ups and bat counts. The King Quarry Cave gating project was undertaken. A major effort to host the Spring VAR in Greenbrier County occupied a great deal of Grotto time. The event was held at the Greenbrier Youth Camp with total attendance at 205. Tri-State, Frederick, and Western Maryland Grottos worked on a major clean up of Flower Pot Cave's entrance pit. Vice Chairman, Art Hanson in conjunction with Hagerstown Community College and Washington County Parks and Recreation started organizing a series of caving classes. The intent being to give beginning cavers some background on different aspects of caving with a strong emphasis on safety and cave conservation. This series of classes were given three (3) times a year with an average of 20-30 students. The number of students de-creases during the course with a handful finishing. Boy's Life magazine did a feature article on caving using Vice Chair, Art Hanson's scouts. The Grotto assisted C 0 Canal Ranger Fred Viers on Bat Counts in several Canal Caves. The Grotto became involved in the route selection of Corridor H.

1993 brought a major change. Bob Bennett, charter member and long time Chairman, decided to step down. Art Hanson was elected Chairman. Bob agreed to continue as Dead Dog Editor. At the request of the Berkeley County West Virginia Isaac Walton League, Tri-State gated Isaac Walton Cave. Once again Tri-State, through Art Hanson, assists in another major magazine article, this time National Geographic's World Magazine. Several members continue to try and solve the sporadic problems of bad air in Schetromph Cave. The Grotto helped some scouts clean-up Donaldson Cave. Tri-State Grotto pledges a donation to the West Virginia DNR for Bat studies. Tri-State operated a food booth at the Hagerstown Mummers Parade as a fund-raiser.

In 1994 the Grotto pushed to publish a book and map of Jones quarry Cave. Hugh and Mellie Stabler received Grotto Life Membership Awards. Tri-State undertakes another conservation project with the Adopt-A-Cave Project with the CO Canal. The Grotto presented WV-DNR with Approximately $600.00 of equipment to continue their study of bats. We hosted the Fall VAR at Lazy A Campground. Members helped gate Lamberts Cave and Molers Cave. A fund raising booth was operated at the Hagerstown Mummers Parade. Our March Meeting was held at Crystal Grotto Cavern. Surveying was done on Bell Farm Cave and Blowhole Cave went over the mile marker.

1995 sees the election of Judy Fisher as Chair. Meetings were moved to the Martinsburg Library. The Eastern Panhandle Survey begins. Caves in Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Pendelton, and Grant Counties were surveyed. Members helped host the Howdy Party at the NSS Convention and the Fall VAR/MAR at Seneca Rocks, as well as an ER-NCRC Medical Mod in Berkeley Springs. Tri-State and The Adam Stephens Historical Society begin work on solving the mystery of caves under Martinsburg.

1996 Grotto meetings are moved to the Adam Stephens Property. At Hanson, Sr. and Sons take over editing the Dead Dog. A large cleanup at the Izaak Walton Cave Property Berkeley County and Cornwell Cave was started. Surveying continued in Berkeley, Morgan, Pendelton, and Hampshire Counties. By years end Bob Bennett had resumed editing the Dead Dog.

1997 was our Conservation Year. Tri-State has always been very conservation minded, but this year we out did ourselves. Art Hanson, Sr. organized a major cleanup of Whittings Neck Cave and discovered a Graffiti Remover which was adopted by Grottos over the entire Region. The Grotto did both a VAR Bowden and Island Ford cleanup. Tri-State organized a massive cleanup of Cornwell Cave with Friends of the Cheat, USA RAFT, WV-DNR, and The Nature Conservancy. We rafted down the Cheat to the cave, did a major cleanup, and rafted out the canyon. Tri-State started Cave Bucks to raise money to buy caves. Surveying continued in the Panhandle I Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, and Pendelton counties. The Jones Quarry Book is finally completed.

1998 was our vertical year. Many members got gear and started going vertical. The Panhandle survey continued in Berkeley, Hardy, Pendelton, and Hampshire Counties. Members led tours to the Adam Stephens Dig during Adam Stephen Day.

In 1999 Tri-State presented Ted Monger of Jones Quarry Cave and Mr. Mrs. Maurice Williams of Whittings Neck cave with the VAR Landowners Award. We hosted Spring VAR at Natural Chimney Campground. The Grotto helped gate Schoolhouse Cave. Work continued on the Adam Stephens Dig and the Greater Panhandle Survey.

The end or beginning of the Millennium, depending on your preference brought more conservation work with a major cleanup in Bowden. Several members took some serious ER-NCRC Training. A new dig in Maryland the Downsville Dig was started. Lots of members attended the NSS Convention in Elkins. To date, the Grotto raised over $3,500.00 in Cave Bucks. Members helped gate Minor Rexrode and Hoffmans School Cave. The Grotto assisted in rebuilding the man-made entrance to Boarhole Cave. We continued to work on the Greater Panhandle Survey.

Tri-State is somewhat unique from other Grottos in the Virginia Region. Most Grottos are centered around a specific place as their name implies - example, Baltimore, Frederick, D.C. etc. Tri-State has no population center. Active members at a typical meeting come from Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, West Virginia and Virginia. Driving times range up to 1 to 1 1/2 hours each way. Weekend caving trips cover the entire Mid-Atlantic area. In twenty years, this Grotto has grown from sixteen to over one hundred cavers. What started out as a small group who just wanted to cave has helped complete many gating projects, done miles of ridge walking, surveyed many caves, cleaned up tons of trash, and is always looking into new endeavors. The best is yet to come.