Old Guides Cemetery

Photo added by Brandon A. Cowles

Old Guides Cemetery

Mammoth Cave, Edmonson County, Kentucky, USA
Memorials 10 added (30% photographed)

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Old Guide's Cemetery has approximately twenty-one marked graves dating from 1842 to 1857. It is a National Register site, representing the period of discovery and early uses of Mammoth Cave. Old Guide's Cemetery is the burial place of African American explorer Stephen Bishop. Two boxtombs and two single grave enclosure walls are prominent features of this cemetery. One boxtomb is made of mortared hewn fieldstones, stands approximately 2' tall and is covered with an engraved marble ledger. The other boxtomb is less than 6" tall and is covered with a natural fieldstone ledger. The remaining two enclosure walls are 2' tall mortared hewn fieldstone walls filled with dirt and grassed.

Four engraved marble and sandstone commercial tombstones mark Stephen Bishop, and three victims of tuberculosis. The marker commemorating Stephen Bishop is not contemporary with his death, but was added over ten years later by a Pennsylvania business man. One commercial marker faces north rather than the traditional east. Eleven fieldstones, two of which have with illegible writing, mark several unknown burials which may be those of other enslaved guides and Mammoth Cave employees.$1 The cemetery is wooded with light undergrowth and the landscape includes five large deciduous trees and several smaller trees.

The Old Guides Cemetery is a monument to the individuals whose lives contributed to, and were lost in, the commercial development of Mammoth Cave. The cemetery contains the 1857 burial of Stephen Bishop, a famous African American explorer and enslaved cave guide, who is best known for his discovery of Echo River and breaching of The Bottomless Pit. Stephen Bishop's skill and experience resulted in the exploration of miles of previously unknown passages in the cave. Three burials in Old Guides Cemetery mark patients of the tuberculosis hospital Dr. John Croghan operated inside the cave from 1842-1843. The experimental hospital was abandoned after several patients died. During its operation, eleven victims of consumption and some of their family members occupied huts built in the main avenue of the cave, believing that the stable cave environment would aid the patients.

Old Guides Cemetery is wheelchair accessible. From the Visitor's Center, cross the bridge which takes you to the Mammoth Cave Hotel. At the far side of the bridge, take the paved trail on the right as it goes past the Lodge. A portion of the trail is a boardwalk and the remainder is paved in concrete. Follow the path along the ridge until it forks. At the fork, take the dirt trail to the left, it is the entrance to Old Guides Cemetery. The cemetery is clearly marked with an iron fence and the entrance has a gate that is padlocked. A large plaque honoring Stephen Bishop stands just outside the fence at the northeast comer of the site.


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GPS Coordinates: 37.1867, -86.1053

  • Added: 2 Jan 2000
  • Find A Grave Cemetery: #75376