Bransford Monument unveiled at Mammoth Cave National Park

Since the 19th century, the Bransford family name has become a household one at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Published: Oct. 15, 2022 at 6:27 PM CDT
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MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky. (WBKO) - Since the 19th century, the Bransford family name has become a household one at Mammoth Cave National Park.

The Bransford family’s history at Mammoth Cave began when Mat Bransford, an enslaved African American man, was brought to the cave in 1838 as one of the first black tour guides. He was also the first of five generations to work as tour guides in the cave.

Since 2004, Jerry Bransford has continued that long-standing family tradition, saying it is more than just a career.

“It gives me an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors, who were tour guides in the cave, 101 years before it became a national park in 1941,” says Bransford.

“It is a great experience. Not only have I read about it, I have got to experience it myself. The story and the legacy means so much more when I am in the cave with tour groups, and actually see their names on the cave walls.”

Today, the Bransford Monument was unveiled to honor the lives and legacies of those family members who worked at the cave for nearly 200 years.

In his 18 years as a tour guide, Bransford says his family’s legacy is one that he is proud to tell many visitors of when exploring the cave.

“Obviously, we can not go back and change anything that has happened. I feel so proud to tell their stories. Telling their stories is my favorite thing to do,” says Bransford.

“Again, we can not change what has happened, but maybe there is a fulfillment in giving folks due who were here for 100 years. They were sent away, and shortly after they left it was as though they were never here.”

When interpreting the history behind Mammoth Cave, Dave Wyrick says the Bransford’s have become a vital part of Mammoth Cave history.

“The Bransford name has been spoken every open day by someone in this park since 1848. And it will continue as long as there are guides in Mammoth Cave.” Wyrick says.

To find out more about the Bransford family and Mammoth Cave National Park, visit their website.