• The Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave

    Mammoth Cave

    National Park Kentucky

Trading Cards

Kids! Collect stories about the Civil War and civil rights! The National Park Service is offering more than 500 trading cards to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Visit a park in person to earn a card (sorry, cards cannot be mailed). Ask a ranger or stop by the visitor center at a participating park. You can view all the cards online and discover stories from nearly 90 national parks in 31 states and the District of Columbia. You'll be surprised at what you will learn.

 
Mat Bransford

Photo of Mammoth Cave Guide, Mat Bransford

Filson Club

Although cave Guide Mat Bransford was the son of an affluent white man, he was still enslaved. President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves living in states that seceded from the Union. Kentucky did not leave the Union, so Mat remained a slave until the Civil War ended.

Four generations of Bransfords worked as Mammoth Cave Guides from 1838 to 1939 leaving behind over a century of guiding legacy.

 
William and Hannah Garvin Homeplace

William and Hannah Garvin Home Place

The first enslaved people living at Mammoth Cave worked in the cave digging dirt to get saltpetre used to make gunpowder. Less than 30 years later, other enslaved men explored the cave and guided tours. William Garvin married Hannah, daughter of former enslaved guide Nicholas Bransford who lived in the log cabin next door.

 
Stephen Bishop Headstone

Stephen Bishop's Headstone

Enslaved Stephen Bishop came to Mammoth Cave when he was 18. He became a famous cave guide and explorer. Stephen was freed in 1856, but died in 1857. Until the wealthy Mellon family donated an unclaimed gravestone intended for a Union soldier, his grave was unmarked. His year of death is incorrect on the stone.

 
Artistic sketch of the Mammoth Cave Hotel by Ferdinand Richardt

Artist drawing of the Mammoth Cave Hotel

Drawing by Ferdinand Richardt

January 31, 1861
Mammoth Cave proprietor E.K. Owsley, a unionist, heard confederate soldiers planned to raid and burn his hotel. Owsley quickly hid furniture, liquor and other valuables inside the cave and rolled the hotel safe out into the yard. The confederates spared the hotel, but raided the cave, taking everything of value and destroying the safe.

 
William Garvin at the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave

William Garvin at the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave

William Garvin joined the Union Army during the last year of the Civil War. Later, he went to Mammoth Cave and became a guide and explorer. William was almost deaf because cannon fire had damaged his hearing during the war, but he was still able to discover new passageways in the silent Mammoth Cave.

Did You Know?

Park entry sign.

Mammoth Cave is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America. Tours of Mammoth Cave have been offered since 1816.