Thomas Bishop

Thomas Bishop

Thomas Bishop was the son of Stephen Bishop and his wife Charlotte.  His name appears in two record books. The first is in the estate inventory of Mammoth Cave property prepared upon the death of Dr. John Croghan in 1849.  The second is the notice of the emancipation of Thomas, his mother Charlotte, and his father Stephen Bishop, among others in 1856.

The relevant comments below and transcription of the text are by Dr. Philip  Diblasi (1997):

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

Again, as with the Locust Grove probate listing, the males of majority are listed first, followed by the females and children It appears the adult males are listing in descending order according to their assessed value, as are the females and children.

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 However, it does not indicate which of the properties each of the individuals are located. Comparing the probates from each of the properties, one can determine on which of these property the individuals resided In addition, the individual listing provides a physical description of each individual, including their height, age, weight, and any distinguishing marks. In several cases, the relationship of the individuals and surnames are provided.

Because of the significance of this document, I have included the text of the entire document, below. Notes have been provided, following each description concerning which 1849 probate in which they are found.

Jefferson County Court Order and Minute Book #21, page 393, 4 February 1856

It is ordered to be certified that Stephen Bishop, who this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J. R. Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno Croghan dec’d, is 5 feet 10 112 inches high light mulatto – 39 years of age – long curly hair, 2 scars on his forehead & weighs about 160 pounds.

[Stephen is listed, simply as “Stephen” in the Mammoth Cave probate and his age is given as 27 years]

Jefferson County Court Order and Minute Book #21. page 394,4 February 1856

It is ordered to be certified that Charlotte Bishop, who this day by deed duly recorded emancipated by J. R. Underwood Trustee of under the will of Jno Croghan dec’d, about 29 years of age about 5 feet high, dark brown complexion and corpulantly built.

[Charlotte Bishop is listed in the Mammoth Cave probate as “Sharlotte” and her age is listed as 26 years]

It is ordered to be certified that Thomas Bishop, 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 13 years old, light brown Complexion.

[Thomas Bishop is listed in the Mammoth Cave probate as “Th. Bishop” and his age is given as 6 years ]

[DiBlasi, Philip J. 1997.  What is known in the historic documents concerning the enslaved individuals owned by the Croghans? Philip J. Diblasi. Staff Archaeologist, Program of Archaeology, University of Louisville, Lousiville, KY. (a working paper to train the docents at Locust Grove about the slaves that were owned by Croghan.) Unpublished manuscript on file at Locust Grove, Louisville, KY.]

Interestingly the emancipation process was not as straight forward as it would appear to be from these records.  A petition filed on January 30, 1856 outlines these problems:

In January 1849, Doctor John Croghan of Locust Grove died, entrusting Alfred and other slaves to Joseph R. Underwood and William F. Bullock. Croghan’s will directed them “to permit Col. George Croghan to use his said slaves during his life if he, the said col. George Croghan, should choose to reside at Locust Grove; and, if said col. George Croghan should not so reside, that the said Trustees should hire out the said slaves for seven years, and that said slaves should then be emancipated.” The petitioners state that seven years have expired, but Underwood refuses to free them unless they agree to leave the state, which they are “reluctant & unwilling to do.” The petitioners pray “that the defendants may be decreed to emancipate the plaintiffs as provided by the said will, & other proper relief.”

Thomas Bishop, Stephen Bishop, Charlotte Bishop and 24 other slaves are named as petitioners.  Their emancipation was ordered by the court on February 1, 1856.

[1856. Race and Slavery Petition Project: Petition 20785604 Details, January 30, 1856.]

The final record we have for Thomas Bishop dates from the 1860 census.  It shows Charlotte as head of the Bishop household after Stephens death in 1857.  Thomas was not residing with her at this time.  He was working as a laborer for William “Scott” Miller, son of the older Archibald Miller just across the county line on a farm in Hart County.

Joy Medley Lyons reports that in the early 1860’s in a land document Nick Bransford, who later married the widow Charlotte, indicated that Charlotte was widowed and that her son Thomas was deceased.  No other records of Thomas’s death have been found.

[Lyons, Joy Medley.  2006.  Making Their Mark:  The Signature of Slavery at Mammoth Cave.  Publisher:  Fort Washington, PA:  Eastern National, 71 pp.]

There are a couple more places where the name Tomas Bishop appears.  On August 7th, 2014 NPS Guide Jackie Wheet was leading our film crew on a trip to Echo River.  We were looking for another signature when he came across this scratched into the wall of Silliman Avenue:


There are two signatures circled.  The top one reads Tomas S. Bishop, the lower S. B. with a date of 1854.  So here was a Tomas signature back in the far reaches of Mammoth Cave, a mile beyond Echo River from the Historic Entrance.


Stephen Bishop researcher Greg Sorvig reports that the name Thomas Bishop is listed in a register of names found in Gothic Avenue, but I have not seen this signature.

Congratulations to Jackie Wheet for this significant find.

Edward Forrest Frank

September 21, 2014

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.
This entry was posted in Black Guides Blog, black history, documentary video, Mammoth Cave, slavery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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