Listen to the Cellphone Audio for Stop #15
spoken by Jerry Bransford

Cave Country. The very words hold a promise, an allure. Where does that passage lead? Will it open? Will it connect? Some people will stand and wonder, but others cannot resist. They have to enter. They are the cave explorers. Some of the earliest known explorers of nearby Mammoth Cave were enslaved African Americans like Mat and Nick Bransford, who helped to develop the cave as a tourist attraction and then led tours of eager visitors into the depths of the cave by torchlight. They were owned first by Mat Bransford’s white father from Glasgow and then by his brother (both were named Thomas Bransford), who lived right outside Nashville. They were leased to different owners of Mammoth Cave — first Franklin Gorin of Glasgow and then Dr. John Croghan of Louisville. Above ground they were slaves, but below ground they were leaders, responsible for the safety of the group and the experts in explaining the underground marvels. The last guide of color on the Mammoth Cave guide force was Lewis Bransford, who retired in 1939 before the park was established. Today Jerry Bransford (that’s me) has returned to Mammoth Cave to act as a tour guide and to proudly share the story of his family’s role in the history of Cave Country.

Next Stop: Stop #16
– Cave Music

Stop #15 – Cave Explorers

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Oral Histories about the
“Cave Explorers”

Jerry Bransford,
Mammoth Cave Tour Guide

“A Bransford returns to Mammoth Cave”

“A Slave Above Ground – A King Below”

“An Integrated Community in the 1920s”

“Beyond Stephen Bishop”

“But Remember You are a Slave”

“Henry Bransford, Guide”

“Jump the Broomstick”

“Light Show in the Cave”

“Looking for More Cave”

“One Hundred and One Years of Black Heritage”

“The Lost Children”

“To Make Sure the Story is Not Lost”

“Will Bransford Still Lighting The Way”

Dave Foster,
American Cave Museum

“Floyd Collins Fest”
(Missing Audio File)

David Lindsey, retired school teacher who worked at Mammoth and other local caves in his youth

“You Talk About Being Scared”
(Missing Audio File)