History of Kentucky
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The prehistory and history of Kentucky spans thousands of years, and has been influenced by the state's diverse geography and central location. It is not known exactly when the first humans arrived in what is now Kentucky. Around 1,800 BCE, a gradual transition began from a hunter-gatherer economy to agriculturalism. Around 900 CE, a Mississippian culture took root in western and central Kentucky; by contrast, a Fort Ancient culture appeared in eastern Kentucky. While the two had many similarities, the distinctive ceremonial earthwork mounds constructed in the former's centers were not part of the culture of the latter.
The first permanent European-American settlement, Harrod's Town, was established in 1774. Kentucky was the 15th U.S. state, admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792, after the American Revolutionary War. Kentucky was initially neutral in the American Civil War, but joined the Union side after a Confederate invasion in 1861. The state remained under Union control for most of the war.
- 1 Pre-European habitation and culture
- 2 First Europeans in Kentucky
- 2.1 Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, 1669?, 1673
- 2.2 Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, 1673
- 2.3 Gabriel Arthur, 1673
- 2.4 Arnout Viele, 1693
- 2.5 Garpard-Joseph Chaussegroes de Lery, 1729
- 2.6 Charles Le Moyne III, Baron de Longueil, 1739
- 2.7 John Howard and John Peter Salling, 1742
- 2.8 Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville, 1749
- 3 Origin of the name
- 4 Early period of European settlement
- 5 Antebellum period (1792–1860)
- 5.1 Economy
- 5.2 Louisville and Lexington
- 5.3 Religion and the Great Awakening
- 5.4 New Madrid earthquakes (1811–1812)
- 5.5 War of 1812
- 5.6 Mexican-American War (1846–1848)
- 5.7 1848 – Largest "slave uprising" in Kentucky history
- 5.8 1855 – Bloody Monday: Know-nothing riots in Louisville
- 6 Kentucky in the American Civil War (1861–1865)
- 7 Reconstruction to World War I (1865–1914)
- 8 World Wars and Interwar Period (1914–1945)
- 9 1945–1980
- 10 1981 – present
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Pre-European habitation and culture
Paleo-Indian era (9,500 BCE – 7,500 BCE)
|History of Kentucky|
Based on evidence in other regions, humans were likely living in Kentucky prior to 10,000 BCE, but "archaeological evidence of their occupation has yet to be documented". Stone tools, particularly projectile points (arrowheads) and scrapers, are the primary evidence of the earliest human activity in the Americas. Paleo-indian bands probably moved their camps many times a year. Their camps were typically small ones, consisting of 20–50 people. Band organization was egalitarian, so there were no formal leaders and no social ranking or classes. Scientific evidence links indigenous Americans as descendants of Asian peoples, specifically eastern Siberian populations. Indigenous peoples of the Americas have been linked to Siberian populations by linguistic factors, the distribution of blood types, and in genetic composition as reflected by molecular data, such as DNA.
At the end of the last Ice Age, between 8000–7000 BCE Kentucky's climate stabilized, leading to a rise in population and technology advances that resulted in more sedentary lifestyle. This warming trend killed the Pleistocene big game megafauna, such as the mammoth, mastodon, giant beavers, tapirs, short faced bear, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed tiger, horse, bison, musk ox, stag-moose, and peccary. All of these were native to Kentucky during the Ice Age, and became extinct or moved north as the glacial ice retreated.
No skeletal remains of Paleoindians have been discovered in Kentucky, and while many Paleoindian Clovis points have been discovered, there's scant evidence that the Paleoindians at Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky hunted mastodons.
The radiocarbon evidence indicates that mastodons and Clovis people overlapped in time; however, other than one fossil with a possible cut mark and Clovis artifacts that are physically associated with but dispersed within the bone-bearing deposits, there is no incontrovertible evidence that humans hunted Mammut americanum at the site.
Archaic era (7,500 BCE – 1,000 BCE)
By 7500 BCE, a catastrophic extinction of large game animals at the end of the Ice Age changed the culture of this area.
By 4000 BCE, Kentucky peoples exploited native wetland resources. Large shell middens (trash piles, ancient landfills) are evidence of their consumption of clams and mussels. They left middens along rivers, but there is limited evidence of Archaic peoples occupying areas along coastlines prior to 3000 BCE. Archaic Kentucky natives' social groups were small, consisting of a few cooperating families. The large shell middens, artifact caches, human and dog burials, and burnt-clay flooring prove Archaic natives lived in permanent locations. The white-tailed deer, mussels, fish, oysters, turtles, and the elk were the dominant game animals of Archaic natives.
They developed the atlatl, which made it easier to chuck spears with greater velocity. Other tools Archaic natives used were grooved axes, conical and cylindrical pestles, bone awls, cannel coal beads, hammerstones, and bannerstones. Hominy holes were used too. Hominy holes were a depression worn in sandstone by a person grinding or pulverizing. They were used by women who ground hickory nuts or seed to make them easier to use for food.
The people buried their dogs within shell (mussel) mound sites along the Green and Cumberland rivers. At Kentucky's Indian Knoll site, 67,000 artifacts were uncovered, including 4,000 projectile points, and twenty-three dog burials, seventeen of which were well preserved. Some dogs were buried alone, others with their masters; some with adults, male and female, and others with children. Archaic dogs were medium-sized and stood about 14–18 inches (360–460 mm) tall at the shoulder. They are very likely to have been related to the wolf. Dogs had a special place in the lives of Archaic and historic indigenous peoples. The Cherokee believed that dogs are spiritual, moral, and sacred. The Yuchi are a tribe known to have lived around the Green River and they may have shared these beliefs.
The Indian Knoll site, located along the Green River in Ohio County, Kentucky, is older than 5,000 years. While there is evidence of earlier settlement, this area was most densely occupied from approximately 3000–2000 BCE, when the climate and vegetation were nearing modern conditions. The Green River floodplain provided a stable environment, which eventually supported the people's agricultural development early in the late Holocene era. The abundant food resources and nearby mussel bed made it ideal for Kentucky natives to permanently settle.
Woodland era (1,000 BCE – 900 CE)
About 1,800 BCE, Kentucky's native Americans had started to cultivate several species of wild plants, transitioning from a hunter-gatherer economy to an agricultural-based economy. The Woodland era represents the "middle" era between the mostly hunter-gatherers of the Archaic era and the agriculturalist Mississippian culture era. The Woodland era is a developmental stage without any massive changes, but is constituted by a continuous development in shelter construction, stone and bone tools, textile manufacture, leather crafting, and agricultural cultivation. Archeologists have identified distinctly separate cultures during the Middle Woodland period. Examples include the Armstrong culture, Copena culture, Crab Orchard culture, Fourche Maline culture, the Goodall Focus, the Havana Hopewell culture, the Kansas City Hopewell, the Marksville culture, and the Swift Creek culture. The remains of two distinct Woodland groups, the Adena (early Woodland) and the Hopewell (middle Woodland), have been found in present-day Louisville, and in the central Bluegrass and northeastern Kentucky areas.
The introduction of pottery, its widespread use, and the increased sophistication of its forms and decoration, first believed to have occurred around 1,000 BCE, is a major demarcation of the Woodland era. Archaic pots were thick, heavy, and fragile, but Woodland pottery pots were more intricately designed, and had more uses, such as for cooking and storing surplus food. Woodland peoples also used baskets and gourds for containers. Around 200BCE, maize production migrated to the eastern United States from Mexico. The introduction of corn is when Kentucky natives slowly changed from growing indigenous plants to a maize based agricultural economy. In addition to cultivating corn, the Woodland people also cultivated giant ragweeds, amaranth (pigweed), and maygrass. The initial four plants known to have been domesticated were goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), sunflower (Helianthus annuus var. macroscarpus), marshelder (Iva annua var. macrocarpa), and squash (Cucurbita pepo ssp. ovifera) (gourds). Woodland people raised tobacco in their gardens, which they used for smoking, especially for rital purposes. Woodland people still used ground stone tools, especially for processing nuts and seeds. They mined both Mammoth Cave and Salts Cave for gypsum and mirabilite, a salty seasoning. Shellfish was still an important part of their diets, and the most common prey was white-tailed deer. They continued to make and use spears, but late in the Woodland era, the straight bow became the typical weapon of choice in the eastern United States. This is shown by the reduction in size of arrowheads during this period. In addition to bows and arrows, some southeastern Woodland peoples also used blowguns.
Between 100 BCE and 450BC, the native Americans in Kentucky begin to build earthwork burial mounds, which indicates social change. The Woodland Indians buried their dead in conical, and then later flat, or oval-shaped, burial mounds, which were often 10 to 20 feet (3.0–6.1 m) high (like Serpent Mound). This practice resulted in the Woodland people being called the Mound Builders by 19th-century observers.
The increasing use of agriculture during the development of the Eastern Agricultural Complex meant that Kentucky natives' shifted from nomadic culture to living in permanently occupied villages. They then lived in bigger houses and larger communities, although intensive agriculture did not begin until the Mississippian era.
Mississippian era (900 CE – 1750 CE)
In 900 CE, the Kentucky's natives' variety of corn became highly productive. The Eastern Agricultural Complex was replaced by the maize-based agriculture of the Mississippian culture era. The Mississippian era natives' village life revolved around planting, growing, and harvesting corn and beans. Corn and beans made up 60% of their diet. Stone and bone hoes were used by the women for most of the cultivation work. They produced the "Three Sisters" (maize, beans, and squash), which were interplanted to take advantage of each plant's characteristics. Beans could climb the corn stalks, and the large squash leaves would shelter the earth and reduce weeds. White-tailed deer was the dominant game animal that was hunted. Mississippian clay pottery ceramics were more varied and elaborate than those of the Woodland period, including painting and decorations, and a range of vessel forms such a bottles, plates, pans, jars, pipes, funnels, bowls, and colanders. Potters added handles to jars, and they attached human and animal effigies to some bowls and bottles. The elite of the ancient Mississippians lived in rectangular houses, substantially built, on top of large platform mounds. Their houses contained burned clay wall fragments (daub), which demonstrate they decorated their walls with murals. They lived year-round in large communities, some which had stockades to protect their settlements, and had been established for centuries. An average Fort Ancient or Mississippian town had about 2,000 people living in it. Some people lived in smaller farms and hamlets. Larger towns, centered on mounds and plazas, served as ceremonial and administrative centers. They were located near the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys and their tributaries: rivers with large floodplains. These were sites of farmland, transportation routes by river, and backwater plants and animals.
A Mississippian culture developed in western Kentucky and the surrounding area, while a Fort Ancient culture dominated in the eastern portion of what became Kentucky. While the two cultures are similar in numerous ways, the Fort Ancient culture didn't have the temple mounds and chiefs' houses like the Mississippian culture had.
There are many Mississippian town sites in Kentucky, such as the Adams, Backusburg, Canton, Chambers, Jonathan Creek, McLeod's Bluff, Rowlandtown, Sassafras Ridge, Turk, Twin Mounds, and Wickliffe sites. The Wickliffe Mounds in far western Kentucky were inhabited from 1000-1350 CE. There were two large platform mounds and eight smaller mounds scattered around a central plaza. They traded with North Carolina, Wisconsin, and the Gulf of Mexico societies. The community of Wickliffe had a social hierarchy ruled by a hereditary chief. The Rowlandton Mound Site was inhabited from 1100 to 1350CE. The Rowlandton Mound site occupied a 2.4 acres (0.97 ha) site, which also a large platform mound and an associated village area, similar to the Wickliffe Mounds Site. It is probable that these civic sites were established originally by local Late Woodland peoples. The Tolu Site was inhabited by Kentucky natives from 1200–1450 CE. The Tolu site originally had three mounds: a burial mound, a substructure platform mound, and one other of undetermined function. It also had a central plaza, and a large, 6.6-foot (2.0 m)-deep midden area. A rare Cahokia-made Missouri flint clay 7-inch (180 mm) human effigy pipe was found as this site. The Marshall Site was inhabited from 900 to 1300CE; The Turk Site was inhabited from 1100 – 1500CE; and the Adams Site was peopled from 1100 to 1500CE. The Slack Farm was populated from 1400-1650AD. This had a Native American mound, and extensive village occupation. As many as a thousand or more people could have been buried at the seven cemeteries at the site. Some were buried in stone box graves. Native Americans abandoned a large late Mississippian village in Petersburg that contained "at least two periods of habitation dating to 1150 A.D. and 1400 A.D." French explorers in the 17th century documented numerous tribes living in Kentucky until the Beaver Wars in the 1670s.
The late Mississippian period overlapped with the tribes of the historic period who were encountered by the French, Spanish, and English colonists. Native groups known to have lived in Kentucky include, but are not limited to: Cherokee (in southeastern Kentucky caves, and along the Cumberland River); Chickasaw (in the western Jackson Purchase area, especially along the Tennessee River); Delaware (Lenape), Mosopelea (at the mouth of the Cumberland River); Shawnee (all throughout the Bluegrass State); Wyandot, and the Yuchi (on the Green River). Hunting bands of Iroquois, Illinois, Lenape, and Miami also visited Kentucky.
First Europeans in Kentucky
Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, 1669?, 1673
According to The Jesuit Relations, from about 1662–1672 the Shawnee were driven from their Cumberland Valley home by the Iroquois Five Nations in the Beaver Wars. Some Shawnee fled to South Carolina, but more migrated westward to Illinois. Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle was a French explorer who claimed all of the land along the Mississippi River Valley, including Kentucky, for France. In July 1669, Robert de la Salle organized twenty four men and six canoes for his expedition. During this venture, he met Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette, the first white men to explore and map the Mississippi River, in Hamilton, Ontario. The expedition eventually reached the Ohio River, allegedly, which it followed as far as Louisville, Kentucky.
At an Indian village in this neighborhood he met a party of warriors returning with a Pottawattomie prisoner. This prisoner La Salle ransomed on his agreeing that he lead the Frenchman to the Ohio. Tradition has it that the party then came on southward from Lake Erie until they reached a branch of the Ohio. This stream they descended to its mouth; thence down the Ohio as far as the Falls at Louisville. Here La Salle's men deserted him and turned back to the east, leaving their captain alone to find his way back to Canada as best he could.
Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, 1673
In the fall of 1673, Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary, and Louis Jolliet, a French Canadian explorer, passed a small piece of Kentucky by the mouth of the Ohio on their boat trip down the Mississippi River. Later, their boat capsized, and many of their papers were destroyed.
Gabriel Arthur, 1673
English colonists Gabriel Arthur and James Needham were sent out by Abraham Wood from Fort Henry (present Petersburg, Virginia) on May 17, 1673 with four horses and some Cherokee and other Native American slaves to make direct contact with the Tomahittan (possibly Yuchi.) They were traveling to the capital in Chota (present-day Tennessee) on the Hiwassee River in order to learn their language. The English hoped to develop strong business ties for the beaver fur trade, and to bypass the Occaneechi traders who were serving as middlemen on the Trading Path. On his return journey, Needham got into an argument with "Indian John", his Occaneechi guide, that became an armed confrontation resulting in his death:
From Aeno hee journied to Sarrah, with his companions ye Tomahitons and John ye Occhonechee accompanied with more of his countrymen which was to see ye tragady acted as I suppose, it happened as they passed Sarrah river an Indian lett his pack slip into ye water. Whether on purpose or by chance I canot judge, upon this some words passed betwine Needham and ye Indian. Occhonechee Indian John tooke up Mr. Needham very short in words and soe continued scoulding all day until they had passed ye Yattken towne and soe over Yattken river, not far from ye river Mr. Needham alighted it not being far from the foot of ye mountaines, and there tooke up theire quarters. Still Indian John continued his wailing and threating Mr. Needham tooke up a hatchet which lay by him, haveing his sword by him threw ye hatchet on ye ground by Indian John and said what John are you minded to kill me. Indian John immediately catched up a gunn, which hee him selfe had carried to kill meat for them to eate, and shot Mr. Needham neare ye burr of ye eare and killd him not withstanding all ye Tomahittans started up to rescue Needham but Indian John was too quick for them, soe died the heroyick English man. – "Letter of Abraham Wood to John Richards, August 22, 1674"
"Indian John" tried to get the Tomahittan to kill Arthur but the chief prevented this by adopting the Englishman. For about a year, Arthur, dressed as the Tomahittan of Chota, traveled with the chief and his war parties on revenge raids of Spanish settlements in Florida (after ten men had been killed, and ten captured during a peaceful trading mission several years before.)) They also visited Indian communities on the east coast, and returned north to raid Shawnee towns on the Ohio River in the winter of 1673/1674.
When the Tomahittan tribe attacked the Shawnee in the Ohio River valley, Arthur was wounded by an arrow and captured. He was saved from ritual burning at the stake by a Shawnee who was sympathetic to him. Upon learning that Arthur had married a Tomahittan woman ("Hannah Rebecca" Nikitie), the Shawnee cured his wound, gave him his gun, gave him rokahamoney (hominy) to eat, and put him on a trail that led back to his family at Chota. Most historians agree this road was the Warriors' Path that crossed the Ohio at the mouth of the Scioto River, went south across the Red River branch of the Kentucky River, then up Station Camp Creek and through Ouasiota Pass into the Ouasiota Mountains. In June 1674 (1678?), the Tomahittan chief escorted Arthur back to his English settlement in Virginia. Arthur's accounts of the land and the tribes who inhabited it provided the first detailed information about Kentucky. Arthur was also among the first Englishmen (preceded by Batts and Fallam) to visit modern West Virginia, and cross the Cumberland Gap.
Arnout Viele, 1693
In early autumn 1692, Arnout Viele, a loyal English-speaking Dutchman, and a party of eleven companions—Europeans, Shawnee, and a few loyal Delaware guides—from Esopus were sent out by the Governor of New York in order to establish trade relationships with the Shawnee to bring them into the English sphere of influence. Viele understood several Native American languages, which made him valuable as an interpreter. He is credited with being the first white man to travel and explore western Pennsylvania and the Upper Ohio Valley. Viele made contact with nations located as far west as the Wabash River border, in present-day Indiana.
Viele and company left Albany, traveling southbound, crossing portions of present-day New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. They apparently followed the West Branch of the Susquehanna River into the mountains, going through the Tioga River, and reaching a tributary of the Allegheny River. They floated down to the Shawnee towns along the Ohio River. Viele and his pioneer expedition spent most of 1693 exploring the Ohio River and its tributaries in northern Kentucky with their Shawnee hosts. In February 1694, Gerit Luykasse, two of Viele's Dutch traders, and two Shawnee reappeared at Albany on a mission "to fetch powder for Arnout [Viele] and his Company." Their party had been gone fifteen months, but Arnout was gone for about 2 years. In August 1694, Viele and his companions returned from the Pennsylvania wilderness, accompanied by hundreds of Shawnee who intended to relocate in the Minisink country on the upper Delaware River and by the diplomats of "seven Nations of Indians". These were seeking either trade with the English or peace with the powerful Iroquois nations of New York and Pennsylvania.
Garpard-Joseph Chaussegroes de Lery, 1729
In 1729, Garpard-Joseph Chaussegroes de Lery, a French architect and surveyor whose survey was the first reconnaissance charting of the Ohio River, led an expedition of French troops from Fort Niagara down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, as far as the mouth of the Big Miami by Big Bone Lick, and possibly to the Falls of the Ohio (where present-day Louisville is located). Chaussegros de Lery mapped the Great Lakes in 1725, and he was the engineer of the Niagara fortifications in 1726.
I am indebted for the topographical details of the course of this River to M. de Lery, Engineer, who surveyed it with the compass at the time that he descended it with a detachment of French troops in 1729.-Jacques Nicolas Bellin
Located inside Charlevoix's History of New France is the map of the Ohio River valley drawn by Bellin, developed from observations made by de Lery. The 1744 Bellin map, named "Map of Louisiana" (French: Carte de La Louisiane), contains an inscription at a point south of the Ohio River and north of the "Falls," written: "Place where one found the ivory of Elephant in 1729 (French: endroit ou on à trouvé des os d'Elephant en 1729). De Lery's men found teeth that weighed ten pounds (4.5 kg), with a diameter of five to seven inches (130 to 180 mm), tusks that measured 11 feet (3.4 m) in length, 6–7 inches (150–180 mm) in diameter, and thigh bones that were 5 feet (1.5 m) long. These bones were collected and shipped to Paris, where they were identified as mastodon remains. Today they are on display at the National Natural History Museum in Paris.
Charles Le Moyne III, Baron de Longueil, 1739
Charles III Le Moyne, second Baron de Longueuil, later the Governor of Montreal and Interim Governor of New France, who had commanded Fort Niagara from 1726–1733, led an expedition of 442 men, including Native Americans, from Montreal to war against the Chickasaw who occupied territory on the lower part of the Mississippi River, in the area claimed as La Louisiane. According to Gaston Pierre de Lévis, Duke de Mirepoix, this expedition used the Ohio River as a corridor to the Mississippi River.
The 1739 expedition of Charles Le Moyne III consisted of the following:
Among the officers who accompanied this party were Major de Lignery; Lieutenants, de Vassan, Aubert de Gaspe, Du Vivier, de Verrier, Le Gardeur de St. Pierre, Chevalier de Villiers, de Portneuf, de Sabrevious; Father Vernet, chaplain; Cadets, Joncaire de Closonne, Le Gai de Joncaire, Drouet de Richarville the younger, Chaussegros de Lery the younger, de Gannes, Chev. Benoist, de Morville, de Selles, and seventeen others. The rank and file consisted of three sergeants, six corporals, six lance corporals, twenty-four soldiers, forty-five habitants, one hundred and eighty-six Iroquois from the Sault, forty-one from the Lake of Two Mountains, thirty-two Algonquin and Nipissing, fifty Abenaqui from St. Francois and Bécancour, Quebec; Father La Bretonnier, Jesuit; Queret, missionary.
One of the first reported eyewitness accounts of Shannoah, a Shawnee town, was by Charles Le Moyne III in July 1739. While on their journey down the Ohio River toward the Mississippi, they met with local chiefs in a village on the banks of the Scioto.
John Howard and John Peter Salling, 1742
John Howard, a pioneer from Virginia, led a party of five—John Peter Salling (a Pennsylvania German), Josiah Howard (John's son), Charles Sinclair, and John Poteet (Vizt)—from the mountains in Virginia to the Mississippi River. The elder Howard had a promised reward of 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of land for a successful expedition from Virginia's Royal Governor's Council to reinforce British claims in the west. Howard offered equal shares of the 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) to the four other members of his expedition. On March 16, 1742, the party of five started at John Peter Salling's house in August County, and voyaged westwards to Cedar Creek, near the Natural Bridge. Crossing Greenbrier River, and landing at the New River. At New River, the Virginian explorers constructed a large bullboat frame and then covered it with the skin of five buffaloes they killed. The first Englishmen to explore that region then followed the New River over 250 miles (400 km) until the river became too dangerous to navigate, abandoning it at a major falls, traveling overland to the Coal River, then followed the Kanawha River, where they entered the Ohio River, 444 miles (715 km) above the "Great Falls" of present-day Louisville. The five Virginian pioneers traced the northern boundary of Kentucky for five hundred miles (800 km) and finally reached the Mississippi River on June 7. The Virginians were able to descend to just below the mouth of the Arkansas River, where, on July 2, 1742, they were ambushed by a large company of native Americans, Blacks, and Frenchmen. One or two of Howard's men were killed. The rest were carried them off New Orleans where they were imprisoned as spies. After two years of prison, Salling escaped on October 25, 1744, eventually returning by a southern route to his home in Augusta County, Virginia, in May 1745. John Howard's fate was different than Salling's. After he was arrested and imprisoned, Howard was extradited to France to stand trial. His ship was intercepted by the English, and as a free man, he reported his adventures after landing in London, but his account has not survived. Salling's detailed account of Virginia's adjacent lands was used by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson's 1751 map. Salling is credited with being the first person to have discovered coal in the United States when he was on the aptly named Coal River.
Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville, 1749
Comte de la Galissoniere, the governor of Canada, ordered Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville to strengthen the French claim on the Ohio Valley. Céloron carried out his "lead plate expedition" in the summer of 1749. Céloron set out from Montreal on June 15, 1749, in a flotilla consisting of large boats and canoes. The expedition included 216 French and Canadians and 55 Native Americans. In Shannoah at the Scioto River's mouth, he again encountered English traders. Céloron demanded that the English leave, but most refused.
Origin of the name
The origin of the name "Kentucky" is not known with any certainty. One suggestion is that it is derived from an Iroquois name meaning "land of tomorrow". Native America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia states that "Various authors have offered a number of opinions concerning the word's meaning: the Iroquois word "kentake" meaning "meadow land," the Wyandotte (or perhaps Cherokee or Iroquois) word "ken-tah-the" meaning "land of tomorrow," the Algonquian term "kin-athiki" referring to a river bottom, a Shawnee word meaning "at the head of a river," or an Indian word meaning land of "cane and turkeys." However, the name does not mean "dark and bloody ground" in any language." There were many variations of the word during early pioneer times, including Kentucke (as in The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke), Kaintuckee and Cantuckey.
The state's official nickname is the "Bluegrass State," which is derived from the famed species of grass grown in central Kentucky, Bluegrass, or Poa. "The nickname also recognizes the role that the Bluegrass region has played in Kentucky's economy and history."
Early period of European settlement
Pre-Conquest Native American settlements
Eskippakithiki, aka Indian Old Fields, was Kentucky's last surviving Shawnee village. It was located in present-day Clark County. A 1736 French census numbers Eskippakithiki's population at two hundred families. Blackhoof was born here.
Eskippakithiki had a population of eight hundred to one thousand. The town was protected by a stout stockade some two hundred yards in diameter, and it was surrounded by three thousand five hundred acres (1,400 ha) of land that had been cleared for crops.
John Findley/Finley, the man who showed Kentucky flatlands to Daniel Boone in 1769, piquing Boone's interest in Kentucky, showed him the flatlands where Eskippakithiki used to be established. John Findley/Finley lived and traded in Eskippakithiki in 1752. John Findley/Finley claims that he was attacked by a party of 50 Christian Conewago and Ottawa Indians, a white French Canadian, and a white renegade Dutchman named Philip Philips, all from the St. Lawrence River, upon a scalping hunting expedition against the southern Indians, on January 28, 1753, along the Warrior's Path, 25 miles (40 km) south of Eskippakithiki, near the head of Station Camp Creek in Estill County. Major William Trent wrote the letter that first mentions the word "Kentucky" regarding the attack on John Findley. Major Trent wrote:
I have received a letter just now from Mr. Croghan, wherein he acquaints me that fifty-odd Ottawas, Conewagos, one Dutchman, and one of the Six Nations, that was their captain, met with some of our people at a place called Kentucky on this side Allegheny river, about one hundred and fifty miles (240 km) from the Lower Shawnee Town. They took eight prisoners, five belonging to Mr. Croghan and me, the others to Lowry; they took three or four hundred pounds worth of goods from us; one of them made his escape after he had been a prisoner three days. Three of John Findley's men are killed by the Little Pict Town, and no account of himself... There was one Frenchman in the Company. -Lucien Beckner
The seven Pennsylvanian white traders with John Findley/Finley's crew consisted of James Lowry, David Hendricks, Alexander McGinty, Jabez Evans, Jacob Evans, William Powell, Thomas Hyde, and their Cherokee slave. The white Pennsylvania traders shot at the 50 Christian Indians, and the 50 Christian Indians (along with Philip Philips), took the whites prisoner, and transported them to Canada, and shipped some of them off to France, as prisoners of war. Findley fled, and the next time a white person went to Eskippathiki, the whole town was burnt down to the ground.
Shannoah, aka Lower Shawneetown, aka Chalahgawtha (meaning "principal place"), is the Shawnee village where Mary Draper Ingles was taken when she was kidnapped on July 30, 1755. Ingles was the first white woman to see Kentucky. She eventually escaped. Shanoah is located in Greenup County. Established in the mid-1730s at the mouth of the Scioto River as a center for commerce and diplomacy, this was one of the earliest known Shawnee settlements on both sides of the Ohio River. Although mainly a Shawnee village, the population included contingents of Seneca and Lenape. The town became a key center in dealings with other tribes and with Europeans, notably the French and the British, before it was abandoned about November 1758, perhaps because of a 1753 flood, or the French and Indian War, which began in 1755 in the Ohio valley.
Establishment of Harrod's Town
Before 1750, Kentucky was populated nearly exclusively by Cherokee, Chickasaw, Shawnee, Yuchi, Mosopelea, and several other tribes of Native Americans. Early British exploration of the area that would become Kentucky was made in 1750 by a scouting party led by Dr. Thomas Walker, and in 1751 by Christopher Gist for the Ohio Company.
Any French claims to Kentucky were lost after the British defeated them in the French and Indian War and signed the Treaty of Paris (1763) on February 10, 1763. The Iroquois claim to much of what is now Kentucky was purchased by the British in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix on November 5, 1768.
In 1774, Harrod's Town became the first white permanent settlement in Kentucky. Harrod's Town, named after James Harrod, was founded by the order of the British royal Governor of Virginia John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore. James Harrod led an expedition to survey the bounds of land promised by the British crown to soldiers who served in the French and Indian War. Leaving from Fort Redstone, Harrod and 37 men traveled down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers to the mouth of the Kentucky River, eventually crossing Salt River into what is today Mercer County, Kentucky. On June 16, 1774, the men established the first pioneer settlement in Kentucky, Harrod's Town. The men divided the land amongst them; Harrod chose an area about six miles (9.7 km) from the settlement proper, which he named Boiling Springs.
On July 8, 1774, Shawnee attacked a small party of Harrod's in the Fontainbleau area, killing two men. The others escaped to the camp, some 3 miles (4.8 km) away.
Just as Harrod's men had completed the settlement's first structures, Dunmore dispatched Daniel Boone to call them back from the frontier and into military service against some bands of Shawnee and Mingo in Lord Dunmore's War. Harrod enlisted in the militia, but arrived too late to participate in the war's only major battle – the Battle of Point Pleasant. His men arrived at the battle site at midnight on October 10, the day the fighting ended. The Treaty of Camp Charlotte, signed by Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, which concluded Lord Dunmore's War, ceded to Royal Virginia the Shawnee claims to all lands south of the Ohio River (today's states of Kentucky and West Virginia). The Shawnee were also obligated in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte to return all white captives and stop attacking barges of immigrants traveling on the Ohio River. On March 8, 1775, Harrod led a group of settlers back to Harrodstown to stay.
The defeat of the Shawnee in Lord Dunmore's War in 1774 emboldened land speculators in North Carolina, who believed much of what is now Kentucky and Tennessee would soon be under British control. One such speculator, Richard Henderson (1734–1785), learned from his friend Daniel Boone that the Cherokee were interested in selling a large part of their land on the Trans-Appalachian frontier, and Henderson quickly set up negotiations with Cherokee leaders. Between March 14 and 17, 1775, Henderson, Boone, and several associates met at Sycamore Shoals with Cherokee leaders Attakullakulla, Oconastota, Willanawaw, Doublehead and Dragging Canoe. The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, the "Transylvania Purchase", was not recognized by Dragging Canoe who sought unsuccessfully to reject Henderson's purchase of tribal lands outside the Donelson line, and departed the conference vowing to turn the lands "dark and bloody" if settlers attempted to settle upon them. The rest of the negotiations went fairly smoothly, however, and the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals was signed on March 17, 1775. At the same conference, the Watauga and Nolichucky settlers negotiated similar purchases for their lands.
Kentucky in the American Revolution (1775–1783)
After 1775, Kentucky grew rapidly as the first settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains were founded, with settlers migrating primarily from Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania; they entered the region via the Cumberland Gap and the Ohio River. It was claimed by Virginia as part of its territory. The most famous of these early explorers and settlers was Daniel Boone, one of the founders of the state. During this period, the settlers introduced commodity agriculture to the area. Tobacco, corn, and hemp were developed as the major commodity crops of Kentucky, and the hunting stage of frontier life faded away. Due to the ongoing violence, however, as Native Americans resisted white settlement, by 1776 there were fewer than 200 settlers in Kentucky.
During the American Revolution, 1775–1783, settlers soon began pouring into the region; Dragging Canoe responded by leading his faction into the Cherokee–American wars, 1776–1794, especially along the Holston River, at the height of the American Revolutionary War. The Shawnee north of the Ohio River were also unhappy about the American settlement of Kentucky. Although some bands tried to be neutral, Historian Colin Calloway reports that most Shawnees fought allied with the British against the Americans.
Kentucky's second largest city, and former capital Lexington, is named for Lexington, Massachusetts, site of one of the first battles of the Revolution. As the first "new" west for the Patriots, Kentucky was situated in the Western theater of the American Revolutionary War. Bryan's Station is the fort built there during the last year of the war for defense against the British and their Native American allies. Kentucky was a battleground during the war. The Battle of Blue Licks, one of the last major battles of the Revolution, was fought there; the Americans were defeated.
- George Rogers Clark – Brig General Northwestern Frontier 01/1781
- John Bowman – Colonel – County Lieutenant of Kentucky County, Virginia 12/1776 & 11/1779
- Anthony Bledsoe – Lieutenant Colonel
- John Todd – Captain – Virginia
- Benjamin Logan – Captain – Kentucky County, Virginia
- Daniel Boone – Captain – Boonesborough, Kentucky
- James Harrod – Captain – Harrodsburg, Kentucky
- David Robinson – appointed County Lieutenant but office was never filled.
- Fayette County
- John Todd – county lieutenant and colonel (killed at Blue Licks in 1782)
- Daniel Boone – lieutenant colonel
- Jefferson County
- John Floyd – county lieutenant and colonel (killed 1783)
- Lincoln County
- Benjamin Logan – county lieutenant and colonel
- Stephen Trigg – lieutenant colonel (killed at Blue Licks in 1782)
In January 1781, Governor Thomas Jefferson appointed George Rogers Clark as brigadier general, a special position created for an expedition against British and Native Americans at Detroit, but this never materialized, because of lack of money and soldiers. As a general, Clark was the highest-ranking militia officer in Kentucky and supervised the work of the three Kentucky County colonels.
Treaty of Hopewell
The westernmost part of Kentucky, west of the Tennessee River, was recognized as hunting grounds belonging to the Chickasaw by the 1786 Treaty of Hopewell, and remained so until they sold it to the U.S. in 1818, albeit under pressure. This region is still sometimes known as the Jackson Purchase in reference to President Andrew Jackson of the period.
1792 – Admission to the Union
Several factors contributed to the desire of the residents of Kentucky to separate from Virginia. First, traveling to the state capital was long and dangerous. Second, offensive use of local militia against Indian raids required authorization from the governor of Virginia. Last, Virginia refused to recognize the importance of trade along the Mississippi River to Kentucky's economy. It forbade trade with the Spanish colony of New Orleans, which controlled the mouth of the Mississippi, but this was important to Kentucky communities.
The magnitude of these problems increased with the rapid growth of population in Kentucky, leading Colonel Benjamin Logan to call a constitutional convention in Danville in 1784. Over the next several years, nine more conventions were held. During one, General James Wilkinson proposed secession from both Virginia and the United States to become a ward of Spain, but the idea was defeated.
In 1788, Virginia granted its consent to Kentucky's statehood in the form of two enabling acts. The second and operative act required that the Confederation Congress admit Kentucky into the Union by July 4, 1788. A Committee of the Whole reported that Kentucky be so admitted, and on July 3, the full Congress took up the question of Kentucky statehood. Unfortunately, one day earlier, Congress had learned of New Hampshire's all-important ninth ratification of the proposed Constitution, thus establishing it as the new framework of governance for the United States. In light of this development, Congress thought that it would be "unadvisable" to admit Kentucky into the Union, as it could do so "under the Articles of Confederation" only, but not "under the Constitution". Therefore it resolved...
That the said Legislature and the inhabitants of the district aforesaid [Kentucky] be informed, that as the constitution of the United States is now ratified, Congress think it unadviseable [sic] to adopt any further measures for admitting the district of Kentucky into the federal Union as an independent member thereof under the Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union; but that Congress thinking it expedient that the said district be made a separate State and member of the Union as soon after proceedings shall commence under the said constitution as circumstances shall permit, recommend it to the said legislature and to the inhabitants of the said district so to alter their acts and resolutions relative to the premisses [sic] as to render them conformable to the provisions made in the said constitution to the End that no impediment may be in the way of the speedy accomplishment of this important business.
Kentucky's final push for statehood, now under the Federal Constitution, officially began with a convention, again held at Danville, in April 1792. There delegates drafted Kentucky's first Constitution and submitted it to the United States Congress. On June 1, 1792, Kentucky was admitted into the Union as the fifteenth state.
Antebellum period (1792–1860)
Land speculation was an important source of income as the first settlers sold out their claims for cash to newcomers and moved further west. The great majority of Kentuckians were farmers. They grew most of their own food, using the corn crop to feed hogs and to distill into whiskey. They obtained their cash from sales of burley tobacco, hemp, horses and mules. The hemp was spun and woven for cotton bale bagging and ropes. Tobacco was labor-intensive to cultivate; planters were attracted to Kentucky from Maryland and Virginia, where their own lands were near exhaustion from tobacco cultivation. Tobacco was a labor-intensive crop, and plantations in the Bluegrass region used slave labor, but on a smaller scale than the cotton plantations of the Deep South.
Adequate transportation routes proved crucial to Kentucky's economic success in the early antebellum period. The rapid growth of stagecoach roads, canals and railroads early in the century drew many Easterners to the state. For example, towns along the Maysville Road from Washington to Lexington grew rapidly to accommodate the demand. Surveyors and cartographers had always made their fortunes in early Kentucky and especially by the antebellum period, such as David H. Burr (1803–1875), who served as geographer to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1830s and '40s.
Kentuckians loved horses, using them for transportation, mode of power, breeding, and racing. Taxpayers owned 90,000 horses in 1800, with 87% of all householders owning at least one, and two-thirds of the taxpayers owning two or more. Breeding thoroughbreds for racing is a Bluegrass specialty. Louisville began sponsoring the world-famous Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs track in 1875.
Mules were cheaper to own than horses, and were well adapted to small farms. Mule breeding became a specialty in Kentucky, and many of the mule breeders moved west to Missouri to expand their operations after 1865.
Louisville and Lexington
Kentucky was mostly rural, but two important cities emerged before the American Civil War, Lexington, the first city settled, and Louisville, which would become the largest. Lexington, was the center of the Bluegrass Region, an agricultural area featuring production of tobacco and hemp. It was also known for the breeding and training of high-quality livestock, including horses. It was the base for many prominent planters, most notably Henry Clay, the politician who led the Whig Party , and who brokered important compromises over the issue of slavery. Before the west was considered to begin west of the Mississippi River, it was considered to begin at the Appalachian Mountains, and young Lexington was the cultural center of the region. It later claimed for itself the designation of "Athens of the West."
Louisville, located at the falls of the Ohio River, emerged as the largest city in the state. The growth of commerce was facilitated by steamboats on the river, and the city had strong trading ties extending down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. It developed a large slave market, from which thousands of slaves from the Upper South were sold "downriver" and transported to the Deep South in the domestic slave trade. In addition, to river access, the construction of railroads helped solidify Louisville's role as the commercial center of the state, as well as strengthening trading ties to the east and west, including areas around the Great Lakes.
This central part of the state had the highest concentration of enslaved African Americans, whose labor supported the tobacco plantation economy. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, many families migrated from here to Missouri, carrying their culture, slaves, and crops with them, and establishing an area known as "Little Dixie" on the Missouri River.
From the mid-19th century on, the city attracted many Irish and German Catholic immigrants, particularly beginning in 1848. The Irish were fleeing the Great Famine, wherein the potato crop, the staple of the Irish diet, failed for multiple years. The Germans came after the Revolutions in the German states of 1848. The Germans created a beer industry in the city, and both communities were part of increasing industrialization. These cities became Democratic strongholds after the Whig Party dissolved.
Religion and the Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening, based in part on the Kentucky frontier, was the cause of a rapid growth in church members. Revivals and missionaries converted many previously unchurched folk, and drew them into the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Christian churches.
In August 1801 at the Cane Ridge Meeting House in Bourbon County, as part of what is now known as the "Western Revival", thousands of religious seekers under the leadership of Presbyterian preacher Barton W. Stone came to the meeting house. Preaching, singing and converting went on for a week until both humans and horses ran out of food.
The Baptists flourished in Kentucky. Many had immigrated as a body from Virginia. For example, the Upper Spottsylvania Baptist congregation left Virginia and reached central Kentucky in September 1781 as a group of 500 to 600 people called "The Travelling Church". Some were slaveholders; among the slaves was Peter Durrett, who helped Capt. William Ellis guide the party. Held by Rev. Joseph Craig, Durrett was a Baptist preacher and part of Craig's congregation in 1784.
About 1790 he founded the First African Baptist Church in Lexington, the oldest black Baptist congregation in Kentucky and the third oldest in the United States. His successor, London Ferrill, led the church for decades and was so popular in Lexington that his funeral was said to be second in size only to that of the statesman Henry Clay. By 1850 the First African Baptist Church was the largest church in Kentucky, black or white.
Many anti-slavery Virginians moved to Kentucky as well, making the new state a battleground over slavery. Churches and friends divided over the issue of the immorality of slaveholding; in Kentucky the antislavery position was marginalized both politically and geographically. Emancipationist Baptists created their own churches in Kentucky around antislavery principles. While emancipationists viewed their cause as one with republican ideals of virtue, the proslavery Baptists insisted there was a boundary between church and state; this allowed them to define slavery as a civil matter. The proslavery position, based on the importance of slave labor on many plantations, became the dominant Baptist belief in Kentucky. Emancipationist leadership declined through death and emigration, and Baptists in the Upper South healed rifts in their churches and associations.
In the 1830s, Barton W. Stone (1772–1844) founded the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), when his followers joined with the followers of Alexander Campbell. Stone broke with his Presbyterian background to form the new sect that rejected Calvinism, required weekly communion and the baptism of adults, accepted the Bible as the source of truth, and sought to restore the values of primitive Christianity.
New Madrid earthquakes (1811–1812)
In late 1811 and early 1812, Western Kentucky was heavily damaged by a series of earthquakes collectively referred to as the New Madrid earthquake. It included the largest recorded earthquake in the contiguous United States. These earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to change course.
War of 1812
Isaac Shelby came out of retirement to lead a squadron of Kentuckians into battle. Over 20,000 Kentuckians served in the various militia units. They played a major role in the west and in the victories in Canada.
Mexican-American War (1846–1848)
In 1846 Kentucky paid close attention to the Mexican–American War. Some citizens enthusiastically supported the war, at least in part because residents believed victory would bring new lands for the expansion of slavery. Others—especially Whigs, who followed Henry Clay, opposed the war and refused to participate. The quest for honor was especially important, as a rising generation sought their self-identity and a link with heroic ancestors. The state easily met its quota of 2500 volunteer troops in 1846 and 1847. Although the war's popularity declined after a year or two, clear majorities supported it throughout.
Kentuckian units won praise at the battles of Monterey and Buena Vista. Although many took sick, few died. Gaining honor and glory, as well as emotional maturity and a sense of the world at large, Kentucky units returned home in triumph. The war weakened the Whig Party (United States) and the Democratic Party rose to dominance in the state during this period. It was particularly powerful in the Bluegrass Region and other areas that were developed as plantations and horse breeding farms, where planters held the highest number of slaves in the state.
1848 – Largest "slave uprising" in Kentucky history
Edward James "Patrick" Doyle, was an Irishman who sought to profit from slavery in Kentucky. Doyle was a shady, mercenary character who, prior to 1848, had been arrested in Louisville and charged with attempting to sell free blacks into slavery.
Having failed in this effort, Doyle looked to make a profit by offering his services to runaway slaves. Requiring payment from each slave, Doyle agreed to guide runaways to freedom. In 1848, he attempted to lead a group of 75 African-American runaway slaves to Ohio. Though this incident has been categorized by some as a slave uprising--"the largest single slave uprising in Kentucky history"—it was not actually an uprising. The incident was an attempted mass escape. " The armed runaway slaves went from Fayette County to Bracken County before being confronted by General Lucius Desha of Harrison County, along with his 100 white male followers. After an exchange of gunfire, 40 African-American slaves ran into the woods, and were never caught. The others were captured and jailed, including Patrick Doyle. Doyle was sentenced to twenty years of hard labor in the state penitentiary by the Fayette Circuit Court for leading the largest mass escape in Kentucky History. The captured slaves were returned to their owners.
1855 – Bloody Monday: Know-nothing riots in Louisville
With the rise of Irish, German, and Catholic immigrants, the white Protestants of English origin of Louisville started to take matters into their own hands. August 6, 1855, Bloody Monday, happened in Louisville, Kentucky on an election day. Protestant members of the Know-Nothing political party attacked German, Irish, and Catholic neighborhoods, assaulting individuals, burning and looting.
These riots grew out of the bitter rivalry between the Democrats and the nativist Know-Nothing Party. Multiple street fights raged, leaving 22 to over a 100 people dead, scores injured, and lots of property was destroyed by fire. Five people were later indicted, but none were convicted, and the victims were never compensated.
Kentucky in the American Civil War (1861–1865)
By 1860, the population of the state had reached 1,115,684; of this number, 25% was slaves, concentrated in the Bluegrass Region and Louisville and Lexington. Louisville had been a major slave market, and shipped many slaves downriver to the Deep South and New Orleans for sale or delivery. Kentucky also had strong trade relations to both the east and western regions, reinforced by a shifting of trade from the rivers to the railroads and Great Lakes. Many Kentucky residents had migrated south to Tennessee and west to Missouri, creating familial ties to those regions. The state voted against secession and remained loyal to the Union, although there were disputes among numerous residents.
Kentucky was a border state during the American Civil War. The state was officially neutral until a new legislature took office on August 5, 1861 with strong Union sympathies. The majority of the Commonwealth's citizens also had strong Union sympathies. On September 4, 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk broke Kentucky's neutrality by invading Columbus, Kentucky. As a result of the Confederate invasion, Union General Ulysses S. Grant entered Paducah, Kentucky. On September 7, 1861, the Kentucky State Legislature, angered by the Confederate invasion, ordered the Union flag to be raised over the state capitol in Frankfort, declaring its allegiance with the Union. In November 1861, during the Russellville Convention, Southern sympathizers attempted to establish an alternative state government with the goal of secession but failed to displace the legitimate government in Frankfort.
On August 13, 1862, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith's Army of East Tennessee invaded Kentucky and on August 28, 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi entered Kentucky, beginning the Kentucky Campaign (also known as the Confederate Heartland Offensive). The Confederates won the bloody Battle of Perryville, but Bragg retreated because he was in an exposed position. Kentucky stayed under Union control for the remainder of the war.
Reconstruction to World War I (1865–1914)
Although Kentucky was a slave state, it had not seceded and was not subject to military occupation during the Reconstruction Period. It was subject to the Freedmen's Bureau oversight of new labor contracts and work to institute free labor. A congressional investigation was undertaken because of issues raised about the propriety of its elected officials. During the election of 1865, ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment was a major political issue. Kentucky eventually rejected the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments but had to implement them when they were ratified.
Democrats prevailed in the election, and one of their first acts was to repeal the Expatriation Act of 1862, restoring the citizenship of former Confederates.
After the war, violence continued in the state. Numerous chapters of the Ku Klux Klan formed as insurgent veterans sought to establish white supremacy by intimidation and violence against freedmen and free blacks. Even after its suppression by the federal government in the early 1870s, between 1867 and 1871, the Frankfort Weekly Commonwealth newspaper reported 115 incidents of shooting, lynching, and whipping of blacks by whites. Historian George C. White documented at least 93 lynching deaths of blacks by whites in Kentucky this period, and thought it more likely that at least 117 had taken place, one-third of the state's total number of lynchings.
While northeastern Kentucky had relatively few African Americans, its whites acted to drive them out of many areas. In 1866, whites in the county seat of Warsaw, Gallatin County, Kentucky, initiated a race riot. Over a period of more than 10 days in August, a band of more than 500 whites attacked and drove off an estimated 200 Blacks from the county, who fled across the Ohio River. In August 1867, whites attacked and drove off blacks in Kenton, Boone, and Grant counties; some fled to Covington, seeking shelter at the offices of the Freedman's Bureau there. In the 1870s, Willis Russell of Owen County, a US Marshal, fought against a KKK band who were terrorizing Black folks and their white allies in Franklin, Henry, and Owen counties. Similar hostile attacks greeted African Americans in western Kentucky, especially Logan and its seat of Russellville. Whites were especially hostile to black veterans.
Racial violence increased in the post-Reconstruction period, reaching a height in the 1890s and extending into the early 20th century. This is when two-thirds of the state's lynchings of blacks occurred, marked by the mass hanging of four black men in Russellville, Kentucky in 1908, and a white mob's killing all seven members of the David Walker family near Hickman, Kentucky in Fulton County in October 1908. In an era of violence near Reelfoot Lake related to expansion of cotton culture and the Black Patch Tobacco Wars, these outrages received national coverage by major newspapers.
Kentucky became internationally known in the late 19th century for its violent feuds, especially in the eastern Appalachian mountain communities. The men in extended clans were pitted against each other for decades, often using assassination and arson as weapons, along with ambushes, gunfights, and pre-arranged shootouts. Some of the feuds were continuations of violent local Civil War episodes. Journalists often wrote about the violence. Using stereotypes that city folks had developed about Appalachia; they interpreted the feuds as the inevitable product of profound ignorance, poverty, and isolation, and perhaps interbreeding. The leading participants were typically well-to-do local elites with networks of clients who fought on the local level for political power.
Gilded Age (1870s to 1900)
During the Gilded Age, the women's suffrage movement took force in Kentucky. Laura Clay, daughter of noted abolitionist Cassius Clay, was the most prominent leader. At the same time a prohibition movement began, which was challenged by the distillers (based in the Bluegrass) and the saloonkeepers (based in the cities).
Kentucky's hemp industry declined as manila became the world's primary source of rope fiber. This led to an increase in tobacco production, which was already the largest cash crop of Kentucky.
The first city to start using the Australian secret ballot in the United States was Louisville, Kentucky. The Australian ballot law was introduced by A.M. Wallace of Louisville, and enacted February 24, 1888. The act applied only to the city of Louisville, because the state constitution required viva voce voting at state elections. The mayor printed the ballots, and candidates had to be nominated by 50 or more voters in order to have their names placed upon the ballot. The blanket form of the ballot was used, with the names of the candidates arranged in alphabetical order according to surnames, but without any political party designations of any kind.
Other changes in statewide voter law were made that increased barriers to voter registration, disenfranchising most African Americans and many poor whites through a combination of poll taxes, subjective literacy tests, and oppressive record keeping.
1900 – Assassination of Governor Goebel
In 1860–1900 German immigrants settled in cities in northern Kentucky, especially Louisville. The most famous ethnic-German leader in the late 19th century was William Goebel (1856–1900). From his base in Covington, he became a state senator in 1887, fought the railroads, and took control of the state Democratic party in the mid-1890s. Goebel's 1895 election law took control of vote counting away from local officials and gave it to officials controlled by the Assembly, which the Democrats controlled. He used that power to be certified as governor in 1900. The apparent election of William S. Taylor as governor on the Republican ticket in 1899 was an unexpected turn of events.
The Kentucky Senate formed a special Committee of Inquiry packed with Democratic members. As it became apparent to Taylor's supporters that the committee would decide in favor of Goebel, they raised an armed force. On January 19, 1900, more than 1,500 armed civilians took possession of the Capitol. For more than two weeks, the United States watched as the Commonwealth of Kentucky slid towards civil war. The presiding governor declared martial law and activated the official Kentucky militia. On January 30, 1900, Goebel, accompanied by two bodyguards, was shot by a sniper as he approached the Capitol. Though mortally wounded, Goebel was sworn in as Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky the next day. He died from his wounds on February 3, 1900.
For nearly four months after Governor Goebel's death, Kentucky had two officials functioning as the commonwealth's chief executive: Republican Taylor, who insisted he was the governor, and Democrat J. C. W. Beckham, running mate of Governor Goebel, who was sworn in when the latter died. Beckham requested federal aid to determine Kentucky's chief executive. The U.S. Supreme Court finally reached a decision on May 26, 1900, upholding the Commission's ruling that Goebel was Kentucky's governor. Since his lieutenant governor (Beckham) had followed Kentucky's line of succession, Beckham was now governor.
Immediately following the court's decision, Taylor fled to Indiana. He was later indicted as one of the conspirators in the assassination. Attempts to extradite him failed, and Taylor remained in Indiana until he died. Realizing how close they came to civil war, Kentucky leaders calmed the voters and worked to finish the decade with less heat and little violence.
Growth of coal industry
The coal industry expanded rapidly in the state around the start of the 20th century and World War I. Many residents left subsistence farming to work in coal mining, particularly in the Appalachian region where large deposits of coal were found and jobs were plentiful. While coal mines provided new jobs, conditions were harsh for workers, and the mining created environmental problems for the land, water and air.
World Wars and Interwar Period (1914–1945)
Although violence against blacks declined in the early 20th century compared to the late 19th, it continued especially in rural areas, which were convulsed by other social disruption. African Americans were kept disenfranchised and as second-class citizens in the state. Many African Americans left the state for better-paying jobs and education in manufacturing and industrial cities in the Midwest as part of the Great Migration. Rural whites also moved to industrial cities, such as Pittsburgh, Chicago and Detroit.
World War I and the 1920s
Like the rest of the country, Kentucky experienced dramatic inflation during the war years. Much infrastructure was created; the state built many roads to accommodate the increasing popularity of the automobile. The war also led to the clear-cutting of thousands of acres of Kentucky timber.
The tobacco and whiskey industries had boom years during the teens, although Prohibition, beginning in 1920, seriously harmed the economy when the Eighteenth Amendment took effect. German citizens had established the beer industry in Kentucky, which already had a liquor industry based on bourbon, and vineyards established in the 18th century in Middle Tennessee. Prohibition resulted in resistance and widespread bootlegging, which continued into the middle of the century. Numerous Eastern Kentucky rural and mountain residents made their own liquor in "moonshine" stills, selling some of it across the state.
In the 1920s, progressives focused their attacks on gambling. The anti-gambling crusade sprang from the religious opposition to machine politics, led by Helm Bruce and the Louisville Churchmen's Federation. The reformers had their greatest support in rural Kentucky, with support from the chapters of the second Ku Klux Klan and Fundamentalist Protestant clergymen. In its revival after 1915, the KKK supported some general social issues, such as prohibiting gambling, as they promoted themselves as a fraternal organization concerned with people's welfare. In this era, their activities were largely concentrated in midwestern cities such as Detroit and Indianapolis, and western cities in Washington and Oregon.
Congressman Alben W. Barkley became the political spokesman of the anti-gambling group and nearly secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1923; he also crusaded against the mining special interests that had so much power in eastern Kentucky. In 1926 Barkley was popularly elected to the U.S. Senate, as he had established his name and attracted support for his positions. With seniority Barkley became US Senate leader for the Democrats in 1937. Active in the national party, he ran for vice president with incumbent President Harry S. Truman in 1948.
In 1927 former governor J. C. W. Beckham won the Democratic party's nomination as the anti-gambling candidate. Urban Democrats deserted Beckham, however, and Republican Flem Sampson was elected. Beckham's defeat marked the end of the Progressive movement in Kentucky.
The Great Depression
Like the rest of the country and much of the world, Kentucky faced great difficulty during the Great Depression, from the late 1920s to early 1930s. There was widespread unemployment and little economic growth. The people of Harlan County fought to organize unions in the first Harlan County Coal War, against the coal owners. Unions would eventually be established, and working conditions improved immediately.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs resulted in the construction and improvement of a great deal of infrastructure in the state. The construction of roads in rural areas, development of telephone lines, and rural electrification were significant developments. The construction of the Kentucky Dam and its hydroelectric power plant greatly improved the lives of Western Kentuckians. Flood control projects were also built on the Cumberland River and the Mississippi River, which also improved navigability of the rivers. Decades later, engineers have learned that some of these projects have increased flooding problems, as they increased the flow of rivers and reduced areas of floodplains to absorb the waters.
The 1938 Democratic Senate primary featured an intense showdown between Barkley, liberal spokesman for the New Deal, and conservative governor Happy Chandler. The governor was a gifted public speaker, combining voice control, emotionalism, and singing with an unusual ability to personalize his speeches. His ability to remember constituents' names increased his appeal through his campaign speeches. But Barkley's methodical campaigning was bolstered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's strong endorsement following federal investment in the state. Barkley handily defeated Chandler, with 56% of the vote. Farmers, labor unions, and city machines all contributed to Barkley's margin, and the vote affirmed the popularity of the New Deal in Kentucky. A few months later, Barkley appointed Chandler to the state's other Senate seat upon the death of US Senator Mills Logan.
Beginning in January 1937, the Ohio River was in various flood stages for three months. The flood led to river fires when oil tanks in Cincinnati, Ohio were destroyed. One-third of Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky were submerged, and 70% of Louisville was under water for over a week. Paducah, Owensboro, and other Purchase area cities were devastated. Damages from the flood (nationwide) totaled twenty million dollars without adjusting for inflation. The federal and state government made extensive flood prevention efforts in the Purchase area, including construction of the distinctive flood wall at Paducah.
World War II
World War II demonstrated stimulated industry in Kentucky and other states, making it increasingly important to the economy. Agriculture declined in relative importancey. Fort Knox was expanded, with thousands of new recruits coming to the area. An ordinance plant was built in Louisville. This city became the world's largest producer of artificial rubber. Shipyards at Jeffersonville, Kentucky and elsewhere attracted industrial workers to their numerous skilled jobs. Louisville's Ford manufacturing center produced almost 100,000 Jeeps during the war. The war also led to a greater demand for higher education, as technical skills were more in demand both during the war and afterwards.
Kentuckians in the war
Husband Kimmel of Henderson County commanded the Pacific Fleet. Sixty-six men from Harrodsburg were prisoners on the Bataan Death March. Edgar Erskine Hume of Frankfort served as the military governor of Rome after its capture by the Allied forces. Kentucky native Franklin Sousley was one of the men in the photograph showing the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. As a prisoner of war, Harrodsburg resident John Sadler witnessed the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Seven Kentuckians received the Medal of Honor. 7,917 Kentuckians died during the war; 306,364 served.
In the years afterward, federal construction of the Interstate Highway System helped connect even the most remote areas of Kentucky to one another.
Democrat Lawrence W. Wetherby served as governor during 1950–55. He was considered progressive, solid, and unspectacular. As lieutenant governor under Earle Clements, he had been out of the limelight. After Clements was elected as a US Senator in 1950, Wetherby succeeded to the office; he was elected to his own gubernatorial term in 1951. He emphasized themes of road improvements, and increasing tourism and other economic development. Wetherby was one of the few Southern governors to implement desegregation in public schools after the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Bert T. Combs as the Democratic primary candidate for governor in 1955, but Combs was defeated by Happy Chandler.
Agriculture, though still important, was supplanted in many areas by industry, which stimulated urbanization. By 1970, Kentucky had more urban than rural residents. Although decreasing in overall importance, tobacco production remains an important part of the state economy, bolstered by a New Deal legacy that gives financial advantages to holders of tobacco allotments.
In the 1950s, 13% of Kentuckians migrated out of state largely for economic reasons. Dwight Yoakam's song "Readin', Rightin', Route 23" is named after a local expression describing the route that rural Kentuckians took to find work beyond the coal mines. (U.S. Route 23 runs north from Kentucky through Columbus and Toledo, Ohio and to the automotive centers of Michigan.) Rather than the standard line that their elementary schools taught "the three Rs" of "Readin', 'Ritin', and 'Rithmetic", Kentucky residents used to say that the three Rs they learned were "Readin', 'Ritin', and Route 23 North".
In the postwar years, African Americans in Kentucky pressed for civil rights, as they believed they had earned them with their service during World War II and many other contributions, in addition to rights being provided by the US Constitution. During the 1960s, as a result of successful local sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, the Woolworth's Store in Lexington ended practices of segregation at its lunch counter and in restrooms. This was part of an era of activist efforts to achieve equal access to public facilities.
Democratic Governor Edward Thompson "Ned" Breathitt, Jr., took pride in his civil rights leadership after being elected as governor in 1963. In Kentucky's 1963 gubernatorial campaign between Republican Louis Broady Nunn and Democrat Ned Breathitt, the subject of civil rights and racial integration was a major campaign issue. During the campaign, Nunn attacked the Fair Services Executive Order signed by Bertram Thomas Combs (and three other governors, after conferencing with President John F. Kennedy). The Fair Services Executive Order had desegregated public accommodations in Kentucky, as well as requiring state contracts to be free from discrimination. Nunn, on broadcast television, promised Kentuckians that his "first act will be to abolish" the Fair Services Executive Order. The New Republic reported that Nunn ran "the first outright segregationist campaign in Kentucky." Breathitt vowed to support a bill to eliminate legal discrimination. Breathitt wound up winning the general election by 13,000 votes.
At the urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Breathitt led the National Governors Conference in supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Johnson later appointed Breathitt to the "To Secure These Rights" commission, charged with implementing the Act.
After Breathitt was elected Governor of Kentucky, the state civil rights bill was introduced to the General Assembly in 1964. It was buried in committee, and was never voted on. "There was a great deal of racial prejudice existing at that time," said Julian Carroll. A rally in support of Kentucky's proposed 1964 civil rights bill attracted 10,000 Kentuckians, as well as prominent leaders and allies such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, landmark athlete Jackie Robinson, and folk musicians Peter, Paul, and Mary.
In January 1966, Breathitt signed "the most comprehensive civil rights act ever passed by any state south of the Ohio River in the history of this nation." Martin Luther King Jr. concurred with Breathitt's assessment of Kentucky's sweeping legislation, describing it as "the strongest and most important comprehensive civil-rights bill passed by a Southern state."
Kentucky's 1966 Civil Rights Act ended racial discrimination in bathrooms, restaurants, swimming pools, and other public places throughout the Commonwealth. Racial discrimination was prohibited in employment and it empowered Kentucky cities to enact local laws against housing discrimination. The legislature repealed all "dead-letter" segregation laws, such as the 62-year-old Day Law, on the recommendation of Rep. Jesse Warders, a Louisville Republican and the only black member of the General Assembly. The 1966 Act authorized the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights to resolve discrimination complaints with enforcement for acts of discrimination.
Breathitt has since said that the civil rights legislation would have passed without him. He thought his opposition to strip mining had more to do with the decline of his political career than his support for civil rights.
1968 Black power riot
Two months after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Louisville's West End rioted. On May 27, 1968, a protest against police brutality, held at Twenty-eighth and Greenwood streets, turned violent after Louisville police came and had their guns drawn when leaving their vehicles. Protesters reacted and violence ensued. Governor Louie B. Nunn called out the National Guard to suppress the violence. 472 arrests were made, $200,000 in damages happened, and African Americans James Groves Jr, 14, and Washington Browder, 19, were killed. Browder was found with a fish sandwich still clutched in his hand, shot dead by a business owner. Groves was shot in the back, after supposedly looting during the riots.
1970 UK anti-Vietnam war riots
On May 5, 1970, one day after the Kent State shootings, University of Kentucky students burned down the ROTC building in protest against those shooting deaths by the National Guard and the Vietnam War. Governor Nunn called out the National Guard and the KSP to enforce a 7:00 pm curfew after activists failed to heed UK President Otis Singletary's 5:00 pm executive curfew edict.
Reconstruction amendments ratified
On March 18, 1976, to correct a historical oversight, Kentucky finally ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which are also known as the Reconstruction Amendments that provided rights to freedmen and persons of all races, with the signing of House Resolution 75 by Governor Julian Carroll. Mae Street Kidd, a legislator from Louisville, had campaigned for the state's passage of the three Reconstruction Amendments.
1981 – present
Martha Layne Collins served as Kentucky's first woman governor from 1983 to 1987. She co-chaired the Democratic National Convention in 1984. Prior to that, Collins had been a schoolteacher and party worker for the state's Democrats at all levels. She was first elected to office as lieutenant governor, serving from 1979 to 1983. In 1983, she defeated Jim Bunning for the governorship. Throughout her public life she emphasized education and economic development; a feminist, she viewed all issues as "women's issues." She was proud of winning the Toyota plant for Georgetown, Kentucky, which brought substantial jobs to the state.
In June 1989, federal prosecutors revealed that 70 men, mostly from Marion County but also two adjacent counties, Nelson and Washington, were arrested for organizing a marijuana trafficking ring that stretched across the Midwest. Authorities dubbed them as the "Cornbread Mafia" because members of their syndicate called marijuana, "cornbread".
The Kentucky legislature passed an amendment allowing two successive terms for the governor's position. Paul E. Patton, a Democrat, was the first governor eligible to succeed himself. Winning a close race in 1995, he benefited from economic good times and succeeded with most of his initiatives and priorities.
After winning reelection by a large margin in 1999, Patton suffered from the state's economic problems. He lost credibility as well from public exposure of an extramarital affair. Near the end of his second term, Patton was accused of abusing his patronage powers. He was criticized for pardoning four former supporters who had been convicted of violating the state's campaign finance laws. Patton's successor, Ernie Fletcher, was one of the few Republicans elected to the office in the state, serving from 2003 to 2007.
In 2000, the state ranked 49th in the percentage of women serving in state or national political offices. The traditional system has favored "old boys" thanks to political elites, incumbency, and long-entrenched political networks.
Democrat Steve Beshear was elected as governor in 2007 and for a second term in 2011. The state constitution limits governors to two succeeding terms.
First state to adopt common core
Kentucky was the first state in the U.S. to adopt Common Core, after the General Assembly passed legislation in April 2009, under Governor Steve Beshear, that set the foundation for the new national standards. In fall 2010, Kentucky's state board of education voted to adopt them Common Core verbatim. Since Kentucky was the first state in the US to implement Common Core, $17.5 million was received by the state government from the Gates Foundation.
First Southern state to implement Obamacare
Kentucky implemented "Obamacare"—expanded Medicaid and starting Kynect.com—in late 2013. "Kentucky is the only Southern state both expanding Medicaid and operating a state-based exchange," Governor Steve Beshear wrote in an OpEd letter to the New York Times, where he spelled out his case for the implementation of Obamacare in Kentucky.
"[Kentucky] ranks among the worst, if not the worst, in almost every major health category, including smoking, cancer deaths, preventable hospitalizations, premature death, heart disease and diabetes. Right now, 640,000 people in Kentucky are uninsured. That's almost one in six Kentuckians." He noted that a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville concluded that expanding Medicaid "would inject $15.6 billion into Kentucky's economy over the next eight years, create almost 17,000 new jobs, have an $802.4 million positive budget impact (by transferring certain expenditures from the state to the federal government, among other things), protect hospitals from cuts in indigent care funding and shield businesses from up to $48 million in annual penalties."
By October 2014, the number of uninsured Kentuckians had dropped by 42%. 521,000 Kentuckians signed up for healthcare using Kynect.com, Kentucky's state healthcare exchange website. Three out of every four people who purchased a private plan through Kynect.com got some kind of financial assistance, and about 75% of those who signed up had no insurance coverage before.
"It's probably the most important decision I will get to make as governor because of the long-term impact it will have," said Steve Beshear.
First state to legally raise hemp
On April 19, 2013, Kentucky legalized hemp when Governor Steve Beshear refused to sign or veto Senate Bill 50, allowing the state law to go into effect. Beshear had been one of the last obstacles blocking SB50 from becoming law. Under federal law, hemp is a Schedule 1 narcotic, like PCP and heroin, although hemp typically has only 0.3 percent THC, compared to the three percent to 22 percent usually found in marijuana. The Schedule 1 designation was exempted for Kentucky's pilot hemp research projects when the federal Farm Bill (a.k.a. The Agricultural Act of 2014) was passed. The state believes that production of industrial hemp can benefit its economy. 
On May 27, 2014, the University of Kentucky planted the second legal hemp crop in Kentucky. The first crop plot was planted earlier in May of the same year at Murray State University, using California seeds. With these plantings, Kentucky became the first state in America to begin hemp production. Katie Moyer, a farmer in Christian County raising hemp, boasted that hemp crops stop soil erosion. In 2015, Kentucky's Department of Agriculture received 326 applications. The Department of Agriculture is responsible for approving applications. All applicants must submit a business plan, as well as pass a background check to appease the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
- Timeline of Kentucky history
- Outline of Kentucky
- Thomas D. Clark (1903–2005) – Historian Laureate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
- The Filson Historical Society
- History of Louisville, Kentucky
- History of the Southern United States
- Kentucky Historical Society
- List of Kentucky women in the civil rights era
- Timeline of Lexington, Kentucky
- Timeline of Louisville, Kentucky
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- Williams, Horace Randall; Beard, Ben (2009). October 13, 1961 – Kentucky Civil Rights Commission Fights the Good Fight. This Day in Civil Rights History. Montgomery, Alabama: NewSouth Books. p. 311. ISBN 978-1-58838-241-2.
- "Welcome! Kentucky Law Requires" (PDF). Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
- Brinson, Betsey; Williams, Kenneth H.; Breathitt, Ned (January 2001). "An Interview with Governor Ned Breathitt on Civil Rights: "The Most Significant Thing That I Have Ever Had a Part in."". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 99 (1): 5–51. JSTOR 23384876.
- Kleber, John, ed. (2001). "Civil Disturbances of 1968". The Encyclopedia of Louisville. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 189–190. ISBN 978-0-8131-2100-0.
- Fraas, Elizabeth (July 2001). ""All Issues Are Women's Issues": An Interview With Governor Martha Layne Collins on Women in Politics". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 99 (3): 213–248. JSTOR 23384604.
- Blanchard, Paul (Winter 2004). "Governor Paul E. Patton". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 102 (1): 69–87. JSTOR 23386347.
- Miller, Penny M. (July 2001). "The Slow and Unsure Progress of Women in Kentucky Politics". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 99 (3, Special Issue on Kentucky Women in Government and Politics): 249–283. JSTOR 23384605.
- Butrymowicz, Sarah (October 15, 2013). "What Kentucky Can Teach The Rest of the US About Common Core". The Atlantic.
- Porter, Caroline (May 8, 2015). "In an Early Adopter, Common Core Faces Little Pushback". The Wall Street Journal.
- Beshear, Steve (September 26, 2013). "My State Needs Obamacare. Now". The New York Times.
- "Kentucky Gov. Beshear on why Obamacare will become like Medicare". Modern Healthcare. October 29, 2014.
- Lawrence, Jill (December 6, 2013). "How Steve Beshear Became Kentucky's Democrat Whisperer". The Daily Beast.
- Wing, Nick (April 19, 2013). "Kentucky Hemp Bill Becomes Law". Huffington Post.
- "Kentucky CBD: Back to the Future with Industrial Hemp". SFGate.com. San Francisco Chronicle. May 12, 2015.
- Dave, Paresh (May 27, 2014). "After DEA approves hemp seed import, Kentucky plants a landmark crop". Los Angeles Times.
- Hall, Gregory A. (June 26, 2014). "Hemp crop takes root in Kentucky". The Courier-Journal. Louisville.
- Bullington, Kathryn (March 5, 2015). "Farmers, Industry Leaders Excited About Future of Industrial Hemp in Kentucky". IVN.
Surveys and reference
- Abramson, Rudy; Haskell, Jean, eds. (2006). Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Nashville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 1-57233-456-8.
- Bodley, Temple and Samuel M. Wilson. History of Kentucky 4 vols. (1928)
- Channing, Steven. Kentucky: A Bicentennial History (1977); popular overview
- Clark, Thomas Dionysius. A History of Kentucky (many editions, 1937–1992); long the standard textbook
- Collins, Lewis. History of Kentucky (1880); old but highly detailed online edition
- Connelley, William Elsey, and Ellis Merton Coulter. History of Kentucky. Ed. Charles Kerr. (5 vol. 1922), vol 1 to 1814 online.
- Ford, Thomas R. ed. The Southern Appalachian Region: A Survey. (1967); includes highly detailed statistics
- Klotter, James C. Our Kentucky: A Study of the Bluegrass State (2000); high school text
- Klotter, James C. Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900–1950 (2006)
- Klotter, James C. and Freda C. Klotter. A Concise History of Kentucky (2008)
- Lucas, Marion Brunson and Wright, George C. A History of Blacks in Kentucky 2 vols. (1992)
- Morse, Jedidiah (1797). "Kentucky". The American Gazetteer. Boston, Massachusetts: At the presses of S. Hall, and Thomas & Andrews.
- Share, Allen J. Cities in the Commonwealth: Two Centuries of Urban Life in Kentucky (1982)
- Smith, John David. "Whither Kentucky Civil War and Reconstruction Scholarship?." Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 112.2 (2014): 223–247. online
- Tapp, Hambleton, and James C. Klotter. Kentucky: Decades of Discord, 1865–1900 (2008)
- Wallis, Frederick A. and Hambleton Tapp. A Sesqui-Centennial History of Kentucky 4 vols. (1945)
- Ward, William S., A Literary History of Kentucky (1988) (ISBN 0-87049-578-X)
- WPA, Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State (1939); classic guide
- Yater, George H. (1987). Two Hundred Years at the Fall of the Ohio: A History of Louisville and Jefferson County (2nd ed.). Filson Club, Incorporated. ISBN 0-9601072-3-1.
Specialized scholarly studies
- Aron, Stephen A. How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay (1996)
- Aron, Stephen A. "The Significance of the Kentucky Frontier," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 91 (Summer 1993), 298–323.
- Bakeless, John. Daniel Boone, Master of the Wilderness (1989) online
- Blakey, George T. Hard Times and New Deal in Kentucky, 1929–1939 (1986)
- Clark, Thomas D. (January 1938). "Salt, A Factor in the Settlement of Kentucky". Filson Club History Quarterly. 12 (1). Archived from the original on May 2, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Coulter, E. Merton. The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky (1926)
- Davis, Alice. "Heroes: Kentucky's Artists from Statehood to the New Millennium" (2004)
- Eller, Ronald D. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880–1930 1982
- Ellis, William E. The Kentucky River (2000)
- Eslinger, Ellen. "Farming on the Kentucky Frontier," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 107 (Winter 2009), 3–32.
- Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone (1993)
- Fenton, John H. Politics in the Border States: A Study of the Patterns of Political Organization, and Political Change, Common to the Border States: Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri (1957)
- Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010); scholarly biography
- Ireland, Robert M. The County in Kentucky History (1976)
- Kephart, Horace (1922). Our Southern Highlanders: A Narrative of Adventure in the Southern Appalachians and a Study of the Life Among the Mountaineers (New and revised ed.). Macmillan. ISBN 0-87049-203-9.
- Klotter, James C. and Daniel Rowland, eds. Bluegrass Renaissance: The History and Culture of Central Kentucky, 1792–1852 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2012),
- Klotter, James C.; Harrison, Lowell; Ramage, James; Roland, Charles; Taylor, Richard; Bush, Bryan S; Fugate, Tom; Hibbs, Dixie; Matthews, Lisa; Moody, Robert C.; Myers, Marshall; Sanders, Stuart; McBride, Stephen (2005). Rose, Jerlene, ed. Kentucky's Civil War 1861–1865. Clay City, Kentucky: Back Home In Kentucky, Inc. ISBN 0-9769231-1-4.
- Klotter, James C. Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900–1950 (1992)
- Klotter, James C., ed. The Athens of the West: Kentucky and American Culture, 1792–1852 (University Press of Kentucky, 2012)
- Marshall, Anne E. Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State (University of North Carolina Press; 2010)
- Pearce, John Ed. Divide and Dissent: Kentucky Politics, 1930–1963 (1987)
- Pudup, Mary Beth, Dwight B. Billings, and Altina L. Waller, eds. Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century. (1995)
- Reid, Darren R. (ed.) Daniel Boone and Others on the Kentucky Frontier: Autobiographies and Narratives, 1769–1795 (2009) ISBN 978-0-7864-4377-2
- Remini, Robert V. Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (1991); scholarly biography
- Sonne, Niels Henry. Liberal Kentucky, 1780–1828 (1939) online edition
- Tapp, Hambleton and James C. Klotter. Kentucky Decades of Discord, 1865–1900 (1977)
- Townsend, William H. Lincoln and the Bluegrass: Slavery and Civil War in Kentucky (1955); online edition
- Waldrep, Christopher Night Riders: Defending Community in the Black Patch, 1890–1915 (1993); tobacco wars online edition
- Cantrell, Doug; Holl, Richard E.; Maltby, Lorie; et al. (2009). Kentucky Through The Centuries: A Collection Of Documents And Essays. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-7575-4387-6.
- Chandler, Albert B. (1989). Heroes, Plain Folks, and Skunks: The Life and Times of Happy Chandler. Bonus Books.