The Enslaved Community

Stephen Bishop

Stephen Bishop was an enslaved cave guide at Mammoth Cave.

Stephen Bishop was an enslaved cave guide at Mammoth Cave. Dr. John Croghan purchased Stephen Bishop at the same time he bought Mammoth Cave in 1839. He was brought to Mammoth Cave c. 1838 by Franklin Gorin. Stephen had already been working at the Cave before it came under Dr. Croghan’s ownership.

Stephen Bishop is perhaps the most famous and celebrated of the cave guides at Mammoth Cave. He explored the Cave well beyond its known boundaries, becoming the first to cross the Bottomless Pit and discovering cave features such as River Styx, Fat Man’s Misery, Cleaveland Avenue, and Mammoth Dome.

In 1844, Stephen drew the first map of Mammoth Cave for the book Rambles in the Mammoth Cave, During the Year 1844 by Alexander Clark Bullitt. The map was considered to be so accurate that it was used into the 1880s.

Stephen gained his freedom in 1856 but died the following year at age 37. He was survived by his wife, Charlotte, and his son, Thomas.

Charlotte later remarried Nicholas Bransford, another guide at Mammoth Cave. Charlotte’s Grotto in Mammoth Cave was named for her by Stephen. Stephen Bishop is buried at Mammoth Cave in the Old Guides’ Cemetery.