|Birth: ||1822, USA|
|Death: ||Jun. 15, 1859|
Stephen Bishop was an early cave explorer and often considered the first guide at Mammoth Cave. Born as an African-American Slave, Bishop became world famous betwen 1838 and 1857 after he authored books and maps of Mammonth cave which were widely distributed, even spread overseas.
Many of the cave guides at that time were slaves but Bishop was considered the ultimate guide and many of his maps are still in use today.
People would travel for hundreds of miles to see Mammoth Cave, and to hire Bishop, who was considered to be articulate and honest. When visitors arrived they would often request Stephen by name, and often had to wait their turn.
Stephen was well known for exploring over 20 miles of cave passageways, being the first to cross the Bottomless Pit and also the first to see the Echo River and its eyeless cavefish. Stephen Bishop was owned by Dr. John Croghan, of Louisville, who also owned the Mammoth Cave Estate.
When Stephen Bishop died in 1857, his wife Charlotte had very little money. He was buried in what is now called “The Old Guides’ Cemetery.” It is said that Stephen was buried there to keep a watch on the entrance of the cave. More than 20 years after Stephen’s death, a visitor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, arranged for a tombstone to be placed on his grave. The stone was purchased by Mr. Mellon, a well known steel industrialist in the mid- to late 1800’s. The stone he purchased was an old Union soldier’s headstone. The soldier’s name was sanded off and replaced with, “Stephen Bishop, First Guide & Explorer of the Mammoth Cave, Died June 15, 1859 in his 37th year.” Stephen was 37 years old but he died sometime in the summer of 1857. The exact date of his death is not known. The symbol at the top of Stephen’s grave is the symbol placed on a Union soldier’s stone. Stephen was not a soldier during the civil war.
He so loved the cave that at one time, he was offered his freedom from slavery, but refused it as that meant that he would have to leave the cave he loved.
Many people claim that they have encountered Stephen Bishop's ghost within the dark corridors of the cave and he has become revered over the years as one of the resident ghosts.
This biography was compiled from infomation in the Mammoth Cave National Park website and other sources.
Old Guides Cemetery
Plot: Prominent marker near center of cemetery.
Created by: ky caver
Record added: Dec 05, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 10041751