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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Kentucky

State History

The land that is now Kentucky has been inhabited by different peoples for thousands of years. One of the earliest cultures to develop here was the Woodland peoples including the Hopewell and the Adena. Later, the Mississippian and the Fort Ancient people lived in the area.


The Kentucky state capitol building
Kentucky State Capitol Building by RXUYDC

Native Americans

When the Europeans arrived in the 1600s, there were no major Native American tribes that permanently lived in Kentucky. The land of Kentucky was mostly used as hunting grounds for tribes such as the Cherokee, the Delaware, and the Shawnee.

Europeans Arrive

Although British settlers were looking for new land to the west, few had ventured into Kentucky because it was so difficult to cross the Appalachian Mountains. In 1750, explorer Dr. Thomas Walker discovered a pass through the mountains. He called it the Cumberland Gap.

Colonization

After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the British promised the Indians that they would not settle beyond the Appalachian Mountains. However, the colonists didn't agree with this promise and started to settle Kentucky anyway. The first permanent European settlement was Harrodsburg which was established by James Harrod in 1774. Soon, more settlers began to move in around the area.

Dunmore's War

The Shawnee were not happy that the Europeans were building homes on their hunting grounds. They attacked the settlers and soon the settlers were at war with the Shawnee. In 1774, the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, declared war on the Shawnee. He defeated the Shawnee at the Battle of Point Pleasant. After the battle, the Shawnee and the settlers agreed to use the Ohio River as a boarder between the British colonists and the Shawnee.

Daniel Boone

In 1775, Daniel Boone led a number of settlers into Kentucky to establish the town of Boonesborough. He also widened and improved the trail across the Cumberland Gap so that wagons could travel through. This trail became known as the Wilderness Road. Many settlers over the coming years used this trail to settle Kentucky.


Portrait of Daniel Boone
Daniel Boone by Alonzo Chappel

Becoming a State

After the Revolutionary War, Kentucky became a part of the state of Virginia. Soon the people of Kentucky wanted to make their own government. They applied for statehood and on June 1, 1792 Kentucky became the 15th state.

Civil War

During the Civil War, Kentucky was a border state and also a slave state. There were people within the state who sided with the North and others that sided with the South. At the start of the war, Kentucky refused to take sides and remained neutral. However, when the Confederate Army invaded, Kentucky declared its loyalty for the Union. Major battles that occurred in Kentucky include the Battle of Mill Springs and the Battle of Perryville. It is interesting to note that both the leader of the Union, Abraham Lincoln, and the leader of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, were both born in Kentucky.


The Kentucky Derby horse race
1913 Kentucky Derby winner Donerail by Unknown

Timeline More US State History:

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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