N&W and VGN in 1911--Iron ore and limestone at Narrows

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Nov 22 21:38:27 EST 2010


I suspected the Narrows cave photos might catch your eye. According to Caves of Virginia, Henry H. Douglas, 1964, the coordinates of Giant Caverns are 37 19' 10"N, 80 48' 37"W, and when those are entered into Google Earth the location turns out to be in a heavily wooded area near the south end of (naturally) Cave Street in Narrows. A 7/1/85 topo map has the word "CAVES" right at the south end of Cave Street. Other than those two references, I do not remember much about how we got to the cave, except I know we drove fairly close to the entrance. Inasmuch as the cave had been a commercial venture, it makes sense that there would be public road access to it, although one query I received after my original message on the cave makes me realize that I should have explained that the commercial venture was to provide public tours--not to quarry the cave. The owner listed in the above referenced book is Oscar W. Hopkins. The owners who initially commercialized the cave were Harold Hale and his son.

Inasmuch as you have seen the entrance pit to Giant Caverns (the commercial entrance caved in many years ago) I am attaching a photo (in glorious faded Anscochrome) showing it to see if you remember it this way. Note our group's car in the distance. Also, you may be able to make out three members of our group around the pit. The fellow on the right is securing the rope around a tree trunk for our rappel into the pit. This was about a 48-foot rappel. The longest rappel that I ever did was 180 feet in Alabama. Fun going down, work coming back up.

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Subject: RE: N&W and VGN in 1911--Iron ore and limestone at Narrows


If I recall from Boy Scout hiking trips that this cavern was on Angle's Rest (the name of the mountain between Narrows and Pearisburg). We never attempted to go down into the caverns but I recall the opening and being told stories about all that went on there when the caverns were open. Your pictures are amazing. Thanks for sharing them.

Ed Painter - Narrows, VA currently living in Russellville, VA

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Subject: N&W and VGN in 1911--Iron ore and limestone at Narrows

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
April 22, 1911



Walter Graham Writes to Manufacturers Record Regarding His Development

Referring to his iron-ore development in this section, Walter Graham, of Graham, writes to the Manufacturers Record as follows:

"I have developed at Narrows a vein of solid massive iron ore fifteen feet thick. An average across vein analyzed fifty-five per cent iron. I have proved the vein at points 200 feet apart on the dip and three miles apart on the strike. I control the whole range of eight miles, about 6000 acres. The Falls Gap iron mines are near the falls of New River at the gap of the mountains at Narrows, Giles county, Virginia. Both the Virginian Railway and the Norfolk and Western Railway can be reached by short wire-rope conveyor from the Falls Gap mines. Some wire-rope system may be installed. Limestone of purity is nearby, and the coke fields are about thirty-five miles from the Narrows. The mines are 700 fee above the railroad, 1200 feet back from the railroad".


[The mention of limestone near the two railroads at Narrows, Virginia, reminds me of my spelunking days when a group of us ventured into Giant Caverns on the mountainside just above the town of Narrows in December 1964. Giant Caverns had been a commercial caverns previously and some evidence remained, such as an old light or two and some wiring. Attached photo Giant1 shows how we rappelled in on a rope, which means that we had to prusik up the rope to get out (the tree limb in the photo had washed, or fallen, into the entrance pit). Photo Giant2 shows "giant" room with a massive block that had fallen from the roof at some unknown time in the past (We had to set off multiple flashbulbs for this time-exposure shot). Photo Giant3 shows "yours truly," proof that I was there.]

Gordon Hamilton


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