Tuberculosis Hospital Remains in Mammoth Cave

Tuberculosis Hospital Remains in Mammoth Cave

One of the more macabre scenes found in the cave are a series of stone huts built by Dr. John Croghan to treat tuberculosis patients in the cave.  The idea came from the fact that people often seemed invigorated after a long hike into the cave.  The oxen formerly used in the saltpeter mining operation seemed to thrive underground.  Therefore he hoped dwelling in the cave would be effective in the treatment of this deadly disease.  This may seem strange today, but it was well in keeping with the thinking current in the time.


Wright in his Guide Manual for Mammoth cave writes in 1860, a description of the cottages:


There is an account by the slave “Alfred” who was an attendant who worked with the patients in the sanitarium.  He tells Bayard Taylor of his experiences:


There is much more that can be said about the experiment, but that is another tale than the one we are telling.  There is the black slave connection with Alfred who worked with the patients inside the cave.

For our video I will shoot general videos of the tuberculosis huts and general setting to be used as a backdrop to the story of underground hospital.  Narrative atop the will include an account of patients in the hospital as given by Albert to Bayard Taylor in 1859.  In addition Western Kentucky University has a photocopy of letter, 21 December 1842, from Oliver Hazard Perry Anderson, Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, to Orlando Brown, Frankfort, Kentucky, in which he relates his experiences as a patient dwelling in the cave as a treatment for consumption.  I don’t know what is in his tale, but it holds great potential for the video project.

Edward Frank

About Edward Forrest Frank

My name is Edward Frank. By training I am a geologist with published research on caves found in the United States, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. I am the webmaster, BBS administrator, and run the Facebook Page for the Native Tree Society and am involved with tree research with the group. I am the author, or coauthor, of a number of tree related articles and publications available for download from the NTS website and NTS BBS. I edit the monthly magazine for the group - eNTS Magazine. I write science fiction and fantasy stories reflecting a lifelong love of the genres. Most recently I published a fantasy role playing game Knarf 4, available through Amazon Kindle. I have an extensive science fiction and fantasy library and have long enjoyed table top role-playing games. Not satisfied with commercially available games, I started creating my own game variations in the mid 1980's. Knarf 4 is latest version best version of those games. I also write non-fiction. I currently am working on a book on "The Old-Growth Forests of Cook Forest State Park, PA" targeting older children and teens. I am suave, sophisticated, funny, kind, considerate, thoughtful, brilliant, devilishly handsome, and above all modest.
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5 Responses to Tuberculosis Hospital Remains in Mammoth Cave

  1. Joy Medley Lyons says:

    That was Alfred, Ed, not Albert. Ignore me if you’ve already made the correction!


  2. Joy Medley Lyons says:

    Ed, I have contact information for direct descendants of Oliver Hazard Perry Anderson. They have visited Mammoth Cave National Park a couple of times and went into the cave


  3. Edward Forrest Frank says:

    Joy, Yes that was just me mixing the names while typing. Alfred’s name is in the clipped text. I would like to get that information from you.


  4. Edward Forrest Frank says:

    I actually have the majority of the text of the letter from Oliver Hazard Perry Anderson from another article, but want to wait to post anything about it until I see a copy (or photocopy) for myself. 1970. Thomas, Samuel W., Conner, Eugene H., and Meloy, Harold. 1970. A History of Mammoth Cave, Emphasizing Tourist Development and Medical Experimentation Under Dr. John Croghan. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 68. No. 4 (October 1970), pp. 319-340.

    There also is this document which reflects the thinking at the time of Dr. Croghan’s experiment in the cave: 1840. Drake, Daniel. 1840. Subterranean Retreat for Invalids. The Western Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Vol. 1, pp. 379-380. and


  5. Pingback: Those Caving Croghans: Locust Grove visits Mammoth Cave | Locust Grove Louisville

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