Timeline of Kentucky history

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Timeline of Kentucky history

Early history[edit]

  • April 13, 1750 • While leading an expedition for the Loyal Land Company in what is now southeastern Kentucky, Dr. Thomas Walker was the first recorded American of European descent to discover and use coal in Kentucky;[2]
  • By 1751 surveyor-explorer and Indian scout Christopher Gist, representing the Ohio Company, together with a bonded African, mapped the Ohio River area from its headwaters (near today's Pittsburgh) and crossed into what is now Kentucky.[3]

Seven Years War / French and Indian War[edit]

  • 1754 The Piqua, of the Shawnee nation, abandoned Eskippakithiki, "place of blue licks" - or Little Pict Town as the European traders called it. This may also have been the town that the Wyandot (of the Iroquois nations) referred to as Kentucky[4] or "Meadow" and so the name for the nearby river came to serve as the name for the whole area. Eskppakithiki was probably the last permanent non-European town in the area that became Kentucky; later European-American settlers called the well-kept farmlands around the stockaded village location the "Indian Old Fields."
  • 1769 Judge Richard Henderson financed a venture proposed by John Finley to find the Cherokees' Warriors Path through a gap in the Cumberland Mountains; Finley convinced his friend Daniel Boone to lead a hunting party on a long hunt in Kentucky, including John Stuart, Boone's brother-in-law; they cleared a trail through the Cumberland Gap; on December 22, a Shawnee war party confiscated their store of pelts, warning them not to return, but Daniel Boone, his brother Squire and John Stuart remained in Kentucky for two more years, exploring and hunting - tales of these exploits drew the attention of easterners eager for new lands to settle.[5]

Lord Dunmore's War[edit]

Revolutionary War[edit]

  • June 1775 • Led by Major John Morrison, a small band of Virginia militia including Levi Todd and William McConnell camped at a spring near Elkhorn Creek. Upon hearing about the Battle of Lexington, a skirmish between the British and the Minutemen of Lexington, Massachusetts, the soldiers named their campsite Lexington in honor of the first military conflict in the American Revolution; McConnell built a cabin on the site (later called McConnell's Station); Lexington, Kentucky was one of the first permanent settlements by the English moving west into the frontier territory of what was then at the center of a colonial war between France, England and Spain.
  • 1777 • Levi Todd moved to Kentucky and settled in Harrodsburg where he became the first clerk of Kentucky County in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • 1779 • Lexington Station is established on the "Town Branch" of Elkhorn Creek; refurbished by Col. John Todd (Virginia) in 1781 as a blockhouse fort; the town of Lexington was established in 1782.

Between the wars[edit]

  • June 1, 1792 • Kentucky became the fifteenth state to be admitted to the union and Isaac Shelby, a military veteran from Virginia, was elected the first Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
  • 1795 • Free Frank McWorter builds and manages a farming settlement in Pulaski County, Kentucky while enslaved by his father, George McWhorter; his saltpeter factory becomes highly profitable during the War of 1812 and by 1817 he had earned enough money of his own to purchase his wife Lucy from her master, and in 1819 bought his own freedom from his father, earning the moniker Free Frank; he traded his saltpeter plant in 1829 in exchange for the freedom of his eldest son Frank and moved with his family to Illinois, continuing to purchase the freedom of his relatives.[8]
  • December, 1811 through February, 1812 • A series of Earthquakes, some estimated at near 9.0 on the Richter scale, strikes the New Madrid Seismic Zone creating a "Hell on Earth" scenario for Early Kentuckians, both Native and European.
  • May 27, 1830 • A veto by President Andrew Jackson prevented the federal funding of refurbishing of the Maysville Road from the Ohio River to Lexington since, according to Jackson, the bill only benefited the Commonwealth of Kentucky; this was a personal and political blow to Henry Clay and the Whig Party's American System.
  • February 2, 1833 • Kentucky's legislature passed the Non-Importation Act was part of a national trend to strengthen the laws regarding slavery and the rising efforts for personal liberty, including the increased efforts within the Underground Railroad freedom movement[9] in which the state of Kentucky focused as an important crossroads. The act was repealed in 1849 as part of the work in building the state's new constitution.
  • January 1856 • Margaret Garner led seven members of her family out of slavery in Kentucky, walking across the frozen Ohio River from the Covington side to Cincinnati, Ohio; but they are pursued by federal marshals and Archibald K. Gaines who surround the cabin where they are hiding; she tried to kill her two children and herself rather than surrender but succeeds only in killing her daughter Mary before being captured; her story became widely known and was immotalized in Toni Morrison's 1987 novel Beloved.[10]

Civil War[edit]

See Timeline of Kentucky in the Civil War

Post Civil War period[edit]

  • January 31, 1865 • The Constitutional Amendment ending slavery in the U.S. is passed and enough states ratify it by December[11] - Kentucky's legislature, not under federal "reconstruction," refused to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment until Kentucky woman legislator, Mae Street Kidd won this battle in 1976.

Twentieth century[edit]

  • 1954 • A twelve-year-old then known as Cassius Clay approached a Louisville police officer named Joe Martin to report that his bicycle had been stolen. Martin, then the coach of Louisville's city boxing program, tells Cassius that instead of "whooping" the thief, he should learn to box. The next day, the boy takes his first boxing lessons, the first step on a journey that would take him to a legendary boxing career.
  • December 1, 1997 • Heath High School shooting — Michael Carneal, an emotionally troubled freshman at Heath High School in McCracken County, opens fire on a group of his fellow students who were leaving a preschool prayer meeting. Three are killed and five wounded, with one of the wounded left a paraplegic. Carneal is eventually sentenced to three concurrent life sentences plus 120 years.


  1. ^ Teaching materials are available at the Kentucky Heritage Council website, http://heritage.ky.gov/kas/projects/curriculum+materials.htm
  2. ^ KY Coal Facts - History of Coal
  3. ^ Christopher Gist, Ohio History Central; read Christopher Gist's journals online via the University of Toronto's Roberts Library
  4. ^ "Kentucky," Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. ^ The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone, Formerly A Hunter; Containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucky
  6. ^ For more on this iconic frontierswoman, see Nuckols, Mrs. S.V., "The History of William Page and his Wife, Ann Kennedy Wilson Poague Lindsay McGinty," Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society 10 (1912). See an image of her gravestone at Digital Collections, University of Louisville Libraries
  7. ^ See the history of Old Fort Harrod State Park
  8. ^ Walker, Juliet E.K. Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983.
  9. ^ See more on this at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and see online the Kentucky Educational Television's documentary, "Kentucky’s Underground Railroad—Passage to Freedom."
  10. ^ Weisenburger, Steven. Modern Medea: A Family Story of Slavery and Child-Murder from the Old South. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998. See also the webpage on essays and articles for Margaret Garner: A New American Opera. Accessed 11 December 2010. www.margaretgarner.org.
  11. ^ See the Library of Congress primary documents


See also[edit]