Secret Caverns History
Outside of Cobleskill, New York, in the summer of 1928, on a rural farm owned by Leon Lawton, an amazing discovery took place. Two of Leon's cows (Lucky and Floyd), sought to escape their drole pastoral existence and find fame and fortune in the great outside world. Actually, they were star-crossed lovers on an ill-fated honeymoon that would end in shocking tragedy. OK, we made that up....
Really they were just two hot cows who got out of pasture and found a shady spot in the woods with a strong, cool breeze issuing from a mysterious abyss. Attracted by the cool air Lucky and Floyd became the first unwitting explorers of Secret Caverns Theirs was a very quick and dark tour which ended abruptly at the cavern floor 85 feet below ground level. The farmer found the original entrance and his not so lively livestock. He was less than enthused at the discovery of this cave entrance on his property, and probably would have fenced off or attempted to fill in the entrance for the safety of his cows.
Luckily, for us, word of his discovery spread through the area, and was heard by a local civil engineer named Roger Mallery, who was just finishing work down the road reopening Howe Caverns. Upon inspection of the sizable opening, Roger decided that the cave would be worth exploring. Two more of Leon's cows were given flashlights and helmets and lured into the hole by a matador. Not really..
For this mission five local teenagers whose hobby was spelunking, volunteered to plumb the depths. Sponsored by Albany's Bright Star flashlights, each descended on an 85 foot rope and crawled on their bellies for 200 feet through 42 degree water and mud before the inner chambers allowed them to stand. Soaring domes and winding passages unfolded before them until they came upon the cavern's main attraction, a thundering, spectacle of subterranean splendor that is the 100 foot underground waterfall.
The creation of the business:
The teenagers told Roger about their discovery and he took the trip himself, immediately purchasing the land. Later, in 1929 Roger started to let the public check out the cave. He charged a special rate of $0.40 for admission(a lot of money back then) .
If you had the money and were brave/crazy enough, you would receive 100 feet of rope, a helmet, a flashlight, and a bag lunch. It was an unguided tour that would take between four and six hours. In the early '30's Mr. Mallery began to make the cave more easily accessible to the public with the addition of wooden walkways and wet, swaying metal ladders. Soon a level concrete walkway was poured, 103 cement steps were installed, and lights were added. Roger believed in keeping Secret Caverns as natural as possible, and so it remains today.