The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home, 'Tis summer, the people are gay; the corn top's ripe and the meadow's in bloom, while the birds make music all the day. Lyrics and music from "My Old Kentucky Home," by Stephen Foster.In the mid-1700's, the French, Spanish, and English began exploring this land of green hills, mountains, valleys, and mighty rivers, and their collective journals indicate that there were no permanent Native American settlements in the region.
Scattered groups of Cherokee and Shawnee tribes did hunt the area, but as early scouts crossed this land, there were few initial problems with Indians. However, as the British and French fought for control of North America, the resulting French and Indian Wars (1754-63) temporally curtailed additional exploration.
Daniel Boone, an early frontiersman, began exploring the Kentucky area in 1767, and tales of his journeys and subsequent legend inspired many settlers to move in. As those pioneers crossed through the Cumberland Plateau, Indians began to resist as they were now losing their ancestral hunting grounds to uninvited visitors.
In 1772, George Rogers Clark left his family home in Virginia to work as a surveyor for the Ohio Company. Clark's journey took him along the Ohio River, and on into the Kentucky territory. Over the next four years he was a guide for settlers, and with family and friends established communities such as Leesburg, now a part of Frankfort.
In 1776, Kentucky was made a county of Virginia. Its scattered population needed protection, and with the American Revolutionary War in its early stages Virginia could not adequately provide it. Isolated settlers and hunters became the target of Indian attacks, and many moved out leaving only a handful of hardy souls behind.
Near the end of the Revolutionary War a fort was constructed at Lexington to defend against the English and their Native American allies. As it turned out, Kentucky's "Battle of Blue Licks" was one of the last major battles of the Revolution.
At war's end Kentucky wanted statehood, and a series of conventions were held (1784–91). Disagreements were commonplace as some attendees proposed secession from Virginia, and even (if needed) from the United States.
A constitution was finally agreed to, and on June 1, 1792, the United States Congress accepted the Kentucky Constitution and admitted it as the 15th state; Isaac Shelby was elected governor, and Frankfort was chosen as the capital.
Settlers returned in great numbers and farms sprang up across the state. With rich soil providing the base, successful corn, tobacco and wheat crops put Kentucky into economic overdrive. By the turn of the century bourbon distilleries were in operation, and the City of Bardstown would become the de facto capital of Kentucky's (world famous) signature drink.
In late 1811 and early 1812, southwestern Kentucky was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes, the largest recorded earthquake series (ever) in the contiguous United States. Among other damage, the earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to change course, thus creating the Kentucky Bend.
Across America, the plight of black slaves in the southern states was an on-going controversial issue. In the small farms across Kentucky slaves were not initially needed, nor used, and in fact, beginning in 1833, the importation of slaves into the state was forbidden. That attitude latter changed, and by 1850, Kentucky was an active slave state and a significant slave market for the southern states.
Kentucky Cities, Counties & Area Codes