Several years ago, I heard a family rumor of family members who discovered Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. I dismissed the idea and didn’t really give it second thought until my great aunt Clara (who is almost 90!) started posting old pictures on Facebook. So, being the journalism major that I was, I started investigating. In my hometown’s Barnes & Noble bookstore, there is a section on Kentucky history, and there happened to be a book specifically on Mammoth cave. I snapped a couple of pictures to aid in my investigation. Long story short, my dad’s maternal family really did discover one of the caves at Mammoth Cave; this is their story-
Picture: Courtesy of my aunt Clara via Facebook
Thomas Brad Bransford, a wealthy slave owner in Tennessee, had a son with Hannah, one of his slaves. The son was Materson Bransford; Materson and 2 other slaves were leased to Mammoth Cave to work as tour guides at the cave site. They were the first generation of tour guides at Mammoth Cave. Materson and his wife Parthena had a son named Henry Bransford. Henry became part of the second generation of tour guides at Mammoth Cave; he and his wife Alice had 4 sons. These sons became the third generation of tour guides at the cave and indeed, their son Matt helped to discover a previously unknown cave. My great-great grandfather was Matt’s brother, Charles. Needless to say, if we take the time to do some deep digging within our family tree. You are bound to find greatness!
More about their story, with pictures, can be found at Mammoth Cave’s website https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/historyculture/black-history.htm.