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Researchers Survey Some of Mammoth Cave National Park's Many Cemeteries


Crews have been surveying cemeteries in Mammoth Cave National Park to make permanent records of the graves for the park's cemetery database. NPS photo.

While the main attraction is underground at Mammoth Cave National Park, there's quite a bit of history to appreciate above ground. Long before the park was established, homesteads dotted the heavily forested, rolling hills. The land that was acquired for the national park displaced small communities that left their mark in the more than 80 cemeteries, churches, and homesteads that can be found within the park's borders.

The Little Hope Cemetery, for instance, marks the final resting places of James Adair and James Robinson, two who fought in the War of 1812 and who traced their birth dates back to the late 18th century.

This past month saw the park's cemeteries receive quite a bit of attention, as researchers took the time to survey, photograph, and make measurements to accurately record marked and unmarked graves in 15 of the burial grounds that lie within the park's borders.

“Cemeteries are the most visible of pre-park structures left at Mammoth Cave,” said Superintendent Patrick Reed. “They document the rich cultural heritage of the people who lived here before it became parkland. We want to ensure they are well protected.”

The park is currently engaged in a project to improve the boundary marking of 15 cemeteries, map the location of marked and unmarked graves, and record the associated information. A local business, DDS Engineering of Bowling Green, Kentucky, has been recording the information on headstones, setting small unobtrusive markers flush with the ground at identified unmarked graves, and plotting the location of each grave on a map.

“The goal is to have this information available not only to park staff for preservation purposes, but to eventually be added it to the cemetery database, which is available on the park's website,” said Bob Ward, Mammoth Cave's chief of science and resource management.

“Our crews are experienced and very knowledgeable in surveying cemeteries,” said Don Pedigo, DDS supervisor, who has conducted surveys in Munfordville and Fort Campbell. “We want to assure the families that we are sensitive to the historic nature of cemeteries and also to preservation of the graves sites. The information we are assembling will be invaluable to future generations.”

The cemeteries in this project include: Old Guide, Good Spring, Joppa, Mammoth Cave, Little Hope, Adwell, Little Jordan, Locust Grove, Temple Hill, Wilkins, Holton, Davis, Sand Spring, Poplar Springs, and Brooks cemeteries.

There are a total of 86 identified historic cemeteries with the park boundary that vary in size from small plots of one or a few graves up to several acres in size. Mammoth Cave’s online cemetery database is posted at


I noticed "Little Hope Cemetery" on a visit and stopped to wander through it. Anyone know the origin of the cemetery's name? My assumption has been that it is not a reference to the eternal outlook of those buried there!

Little Hope Cemetery is named after the church that was there. The church is up the road outside where it moved into a new bldg after the park was established.

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