Alfred, The Guide
One of the more enigmatic of the early black guides at the cave was slave named Alfred. He is mentioned in a handful of accounts as being a guide. His name appears at several locations within the cave written on the walls as a mark of his explorations, but overall I know little about him at this point in time. The most notable description concerning Alfred is a passage from Bayard Taylor, dated May 1855:
[1859. Taylor, Bayard. 1859. At home and abroad: a sketch-book of the life, scenery, and men. Publisher: New York, G. P. Putnam. 528 pp. http://archive.org/details/athomeabroadsket1859tayl ]
It is interesting to note that Charles Wright (1859) in a Mammoth Cave of Kentucky. [Publisher: Louisville, Ky. : [s.n.] 66 pp. http://archive.org/details/101210597.nlm.nih.gov] with a preface dated July 1859 makes no mention of Alfred.
What documentation do I have about Alfred?
I have this listing from DiBlasi “What is known in the historic documents concerning the enslaved individuals owned by the Croghans?”
The estate inventory prepared by Josiah Mosian [?], Wm S. Miller, John G Maclung, J C Shakelford on 13 August 1849, also provides little insight into the lives and relationships of the enslaved individuals at Mammoth Cave. The inventory simply lists the individuals as-
- Stephen 28 years old
- Alfred 27 years old
- Ben 71 years old
- Sharlott 26 years old
- Heannah 22 years old
- Th. Bishop 6 years old
- Ellen 1 year old
“Undoubtedly, the most valuable historic document concerning the enslaved individuals owned by the Croghans is found in the Jefferson County Court Order and Minute Book 2 1, pages 393 to 397,4 February 1856. These four pages record the emancipation of 28 enslaved individuals from both the Locust Grove and Mammoth Cave properties.”
Jefferson County Court Order and Minute Book #21, page 393, 4 February 1856
It is ordered to be certified that Alfred, who has been this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J.R. Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno Croghan dec’d, is about 35 years old – dark brown complexion –about 5 feet 8 inches high – several scars on his forehead one [around or about] his left eyebrow & weighs about 160 pounds.
[Alfred is listed on the Mammoth Cave probate as being 27 years old ]
It is ordered to be certified that Hannah wife of Alfred, who has been this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J.R Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno. Croghan dec’d, about 34 years old -dark brown complexion – large scar on her right elbow, 5 feet 3 inches high & also a scar on her forehead.
[Hannah is listed as “Heannah” on the Mammoth Cave probate and her age is given as 22 years ]
Jefferson County Court Order and Minute Book #21, page 395. 4 February 1856
It is ordered to be certified that Ellen (child of Alfred and Hannah), who has been this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J R. Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno. Croghan dec’d, is about 7 years old & dark brown complexion -no scars visible.
[Ellen is listed as being one year old on the Mammoth Cave probate.]
It is ordered to be certified that Wesley (child of Alfred and Hannah), who has been this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J R Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno. Croghan dec’d, is about 5 years old – dark brown complexion & no visible scars
[Wesley is not found on either the Locust Grove or the Mammoth Cave probates Because of his age, he must have been born after 5 July 1849, at Mammoth Cave.]
It is ordered to be certified that Charles (son of Alfred & Hannah), who has been this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J.R Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno. Croghan dec’d, is about 3 years old dark brown complexion & no visible scars.
[Charles is not found on either the Locust Grove or the Mammoth Cave probates. His age, suggests he was born circa 1853, at Mammoth Cave ]
It is ordered to be certified that Charlotte (daughter of Alfred & Hannah), who has been this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J R Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno. Croghan dec’d, is about 8 months old dark brown complexion & no visible scars
[Charlotte, daughter of Alfred and Hannah was probably born in June 1855, based upon her age on 4 February 1856]
Forwood (1869, 56-57) states:
The present guides at the Cave are white men ; and the chief one in charge of our party, Mr. Charles Merideth, is a man of considerable intelligence, is well versed in all matters pertaining to the Cave, and, in common with the other guides, is fully qualified for the performance of the duties of his important office. The guidance through the Cave was formerly under the charge of colored men. Several of them —Stephen, Alfred, and Mat—attained great celebrity in this capacity; and all former visitors remember these names as a part of their Cave experiences.
Stephen, who was particularly famed for his qualifications in this respect, as has been seen in Mr. Gorin’s remarks, after a long and honorable career in exhibiting and explaining the curiosities of the Cave, with which his name has become identified, to thousands of delighted visitor’s, departed this life about eleven years ago.
Alfred is also dead. ” Old Mat,” as he is familiarly called, who has trodden the dark and mysterious paths of the Cave for more than thirty years, still lives, and may be seen about the hotel, but is no longer on duty, yet he thinks he is quite as capable of exhibiting the Cave now as he ever was, and believes that he possesses more knowledge regarding it than any other man.
One curious account is entitled “My Gropings Nine Miles Underground” (anonymous, 1858) talks of two individuals: one a slave named Albert, the other his wife Helena.
I have found no other mentions of these individuals and wonder if they might be Alfred and his wife Hannah instead? If anyone can clear this up, please contact me.
Basically, I have some documents showing he was born around 1821-22. He worked at the cave. He was married and had children, and that he apparently had died sometime prior to 1869. But what I lack is much of anything that would allow me to depict him as a person, as an individual. I am wondering if there are stories – supported by documentation or not – about Alfred that could be used to flesh him out?