The Enslaved Community

Nicholas Bransford

Nick was the second man leased by John Croghan to work at Mammoth Cave.

John paid $100 a year to Nick’s owner, Thomas Bransford, for his labor. While he shared the same last name with fellow cave guide Mat Bransford, there is no known relation between the two men. They shared the same last name simply because they were owned by the same man.

The role Nick initially played after his arrival at Mammoth Cave is unclear. Stories of him as a guide largely emerge after the death of Stephen Bishop. Unlike the other guides, it appears that Nick was not literate, as his name only appears on the cave walls when it has clearly been written by others. Tradition states that Nick was able to purchase his freedom by selling eyeless fish that he caught in the underground rivers in the cave to tourists. Nick married Charlotte Bishop after the death of her first husband, Stephen Bishop, and they had several children together. Research is ongoing to locate and contact their descendants.

Nick was a generous man, and he donated the land for the Mammoth Cave School, where his grandchildren attended and learned to read and write. He continued to work at Mammoth Cave for the rest of his life. The exact location of his grave is unknown.